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REVIEW + PICS: Oscar Key Sung | Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

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One-man shows are never an easy feat to pull off but on the same night Kanye West took to the huge Glastonbury stage solo, Oscar Key Sung graced a sold-out Oxford Art Factory with only himself, a laptop and a few synth-pads. Of course there are a number of differences between Kanye West and Oscar Key Sung. One fills a stage with a rampaging ego while the other is humble and one plays arena while the other is more comfortable with a personal atmosphere. We could go on but this comparison could get tired. The point is, they’re both capable of filling a stage with just themselves and that’s a profound feat in any scenario.

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Oscar Key Sung has made a career from little fuss. He’s quietly built a catalogue of finessed, considered post-RnB tracks and, while he’s gained plenty of accolades along the way, he’s only now starting to reap the rewards he’s always been deserved of. He nailed triple j’s coveted Like A Version only a few weeks ago and sold-out this Sydney show – the final show of his tour.

Shy as his stage demeanour may be, he more than made up for it with his musical mastery. His vocals effortlessly weaved around any beat he created and he impressed with his ability to create a wall of sound with so little. Live, his tracks were startlingly minimal but all bound by a thumping backbone that made for a groovy dance floor. It’s Coming was dropped earlier in the set – the first song that really struck a chord with the crowd. His hand movement mimicked his vocal runs as he orchestrated RnB perfection and simultaneously ushered in a slow groove that remained for the entire show.

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It became more obvious in the live arena that his 2014 EP Holograms was more straightforward than the more experimental Altruism but that only made for a more well-balanced show. There was something brilliant about a dancefloor banger like All I Could Do sitting alongside the darker, more industrial Premonition. In fact all the Altruism cuts played on the night casted a much darker shadow but also showed that Key Sung as a producer is becoming more bold and experimental. Inside Job even commanded from the crowd more violent dance moves – no slow grooves, just stabbing beats made for sharp, angular moves.

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Key Sung himself is a smooth-mover even though he’d probably play it down if ever asked. You get the feeling that he’s lived with the songs for so long that they run through his blood. As each song rolled to the next he would move from his instrumental workstation to mic and begin a few shoulder rolls with a bit of fancy footwork. In Brush, he looked like a true alt-RnB superstar sitting somewhere between Jeremih and FKA twigs. On Skip, he uses the space like twigs does – to freeze time before fast-forwarding it to catchup to the next beat.

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It was approaching 1am when he drew the set to a close calling Sydney the best crowd he’s had yet. It’s an overused sentiment in the live arena but like his music it felt entirely genuine. He doesn’t have a massive song yet, designed to close the set so it was a smart move calling upon his Like A Version cover of Jamie xx’s Loud Places. He invited supports Banoffee, Zuri Akoko and Habits to act as his choir as he launched into his slightly-skewed rendition of the track. “I go to loud places to search for someone to be quiet with,” he sung pretty much summing up the night. Over a chatting, excitable crowd, Key Sung managed to hush and create intimacy.

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REVIEW + PICS: Andy Bull | Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Andy Bull

Andy Bull

The weekend after the long weekend is always a quiet one, generally most are too busy metaphorically licking their wounds to consider venturing out for another hit of booze and social interaction. It takes a pretty special lineup to persuade people to leave their warm beds and Netflix but last Saturday night, Oxford Art Factory offered up said lineup in the form of a sold out Andy Bull show with supports from Cub Sport and Vigilantes.

Opening for the evening, Vigilantes take the stage and front woman Angela Ford immediately dazzles with a bejewelled forehead and a cool gaze. Her blend of candy coloured accessories, fur coat and foil print crop top lends to an aesthetic not dissimilar to a ’90s Gwen Stefani mashed up with Claire Boucher (of Grimes fame). The real shocker comes however when Ford opens up her mouth and begins to entrance the audience with the smooth as honey, dark as night vocals. While the songs are clearly pop-minded, there are  stabs of r&b and an overall indie vibe. Guitar work (manned by Dave Jenkins Jnr) sets Vigilantes’ indie pop hits apart from the masses and gives it more of an edge than its contemporaries. It’s a little RATATAT and sometimes a little Jack White… cross that with dreamy synths and a hybrid of sampled drum machines vs a live kit and you’ve created the really well orchestrated live sound that is Vigilantes. The duo breeze through their originals with a powerful hold over their audience (which doubles in size during the time of their set). A unique and sultry cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene is received warmly but the real highlight is the closing track in which an uplifting chorus allows Vigilantes to transcend a regular support slot and show this reviewer that this is the just the beginning for the band. This is a duo to keep your eyes on as next time they play OAF they may well be headlining.

Angela Ford of Vigilantes

Angela Ford of Vigilantes

By the time Cub Sport take the stage the space is all but filled, not surprising for a band as popular as these Triple J sweethearts. The young guns power through tune after tune with absolute musical precision, there is absolute familiarity between all members and all songs that make for a fluid performance. Singer Tim Nelson’s pure vocal tone is instantly recognisable even to this silly reviewer who thought she didn’t know who Cub Sport were (we’re blaming the name Change due to legal reasons). The songs are a mix of saddened lyrics against a bright indie pop rock background. Nelson gave fun anecdotes between songs in an almost burlesque manner where he shared some of the songs origins with the audience. Who knew Evie was actually about his dog? Following in the footsteps of the opening act, Cub Sport also treated the audience to a cover-a mashup of some of the greatest Queen Bey tunes. Starting with a rendition of Drunk in Love (not dissimilar to the treatment taken by The Weeknd) before then transitioning into Flawless and finishing on an enthusiastic Crazy In Love. Cub Sport had the audience wailing along and absolutely eating it up. The biggest challenge of covering great songs that are widely loved is not being able to do them justice… but by keeping to their own unique sound, Cub Sport managed to perform a rendition I’m sure they’ll be getting pestered to replicate for a long time to come. 

Cub Sport

Cub Sport

Anticipation fizzles through the crowd as the curtains are drawn and Andy Bull (presumably) sets up. As each filler song over the PA dies out and another begins-the audience groan in agony…it’s clear that everybody is champing at the bit to see Andy. When the curtains finally draw back fans are met with an empty stage and the opening drum sample from the Sea Of Approval album. The band takes the stage and jump straight into the soft Just One Expression, Just One Line. It’s understated and arguably one of the best songs on the album and its great to see its inclusion in the set which surely saw many re-drafts. A few songs in it’s apparent the set is designed to showcase Sea Of Approval in the truest sense possible and the crowd are loving it. It’s a real blend of people dancing around wildly (and probably drunkenly) and people standing in awe with giant smiles plastered to their faces. Call me part of the latter, because it’s hard not to be completely wrapped up in the sheer enormity of Bull’s voice. All at once and immediately in its own stratosphere, you’d be hard pressed to mistake him for anybody else. The control over such a huge and powerful range is also baffling and all the more impressive that Bull never feels the need to be virtuosic in every song. Sonically Bull never sacrifices a great melody or great instrumentation for a display of vocal acrobatics. That sense of “the producer knows best” may have been what kept us all waiting so long for the album but it was undeniably worth it as Sea of Approval arrived as the best version of itself…which is so beautifully being showcased live.

At the end of every song the band seemed overwhelmed and ecstatic about the thunderous response they’re getting. There is so much love in the room for this artist who has for so many years now been a constant in an ever changing Australian music scene. Bull’s backup absolutely kill every part of the set too, none more so than guitarist Alex Bennison who seems to play so fervently you’d think it’s the last show of his life. Bennison has also been touring with Andy Bull since back when you all fell in love with his Everybody Wants To Rule The World Like a Version. Which…don’t worry, he performed (probably for the thousandth time) to the collective squeals and sighs of the female percentage of the crowd.

In an encore that we definitely could sense coming, Bull took the time to slow down and thank every person who has been a part of the Sea of Approval journey. From the fans to the bands he’s worked with to his loving wife-Bull made sure not to leave a soul out of his moving speech. The genuine nature of his thanks are just one part of the big picture of why so many love this artist and upon closing with an extended Keep On Running it became hard not to have a real sense of pride in one of our best homegrown talents. 

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REVIEW + PICS: Carmada | Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

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There’s always something really special about homecoming shows. Carmada managed to successfully sell out Oxford Art Factory three times over this week and the excitement in the air Friday night was palpable. As LDRU & Yahtzel took the stage, a surge of already-sweaty (thanks to stellar support act, Kilter) bodies rushed forward, desperate not to miss a moment of the mayhem. From the world go the duo excitedly bounced around the decks with giant smiles plastered to their faces, intermittently letting off confetti cannons and a dry ice gun (shout out to Yahtzel giving me a heads up so my camera wasn’t in firing range of the arctic blast).

Maribelle made a special appearance three songs in to sing On Fire with the pair much to the delight of the crowd. The young songstress sauntered around the small stage absolutely belting the number out which almost seemed impossible as she was such a small sweet thing. To those in the know, it was glaringly obvious that these boys payed proud tribute to their new label mates over at OWSLA, dropping multiple Skrillex & Jack Ü tracks amidst some homegrown love for Flume. One thing I love to see is label mates and musicians alike who support one another this much-it’s an admirable quality that shows no matter how much Carmada are blowing up, they’ve still got their heads screwed on.

From beginning to end there was not a still body in the venue, the walls began to permeate a collective “scent” of a few hundred sparked up punters which I’m sure they’ll still be airing out today. As the set began to close the boys teased at dropping Maybe and the crowd absolutely lost their mind. No word of a lie, I watched on as three girlfriends got so excited they ran up the fire escape and proceeded to do multiple slut drops like it was a goddamn rain dance-calling forth their twerking powers in hopes the Carmada Gods would reward them with the song they so hoped for.

Before dropping said track, the duo gave a really heartfelt shout out to all their fans “From the South Coast all the way to Manly”. Really paying homage to their humble beginnings (most likely as the naughty kids who sat at the back of the Northern Beaches school bus). It was a genuine call of appreciation and if their already stellar set hadn’t won me over, that would have been the moment. In a bizarre twist of events, Maybe was not their final track of the night. The duo opted instead for blasting Rage Against The Machine’s classic Killing in the name of and I witnessed something I never thought I would…a full blown death circle at an electronic gig.

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REVIEW + PICS: Courtney Barnett | Metro Theatre, Sydney

CourtneyBarnett

A lot of Australians have had success overseas in the last few years but none have been more surprising than the international fascination with Courtney Barnett. With a thick Aussie drawl, she’s an unlikely success story but she’s won over the International market with her honest songwriting, dry humour and likeable personality.

Walking onto stage with minimal fuss you’d hardly be able to tell that this is the same girl that just charted in the top 20 in the US with her debut LP Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. She slung a guitar around her and fired straight into album opener Elevator Operator. It was immediately clear that what we were going to get was a no frills performance. She stood in a t-shirt and jeans and did her thing. Sounds beige, but an artist can only do this when they have songs that speak for themselves. And that she does. Elevator Operator features her narrative songwriting at its best alongside a drum-driven instrumental which immediately colours the stage.

She drew a mixed crowd. Looking around one punter was dressed in a System Of A Down t-shirt, another dressed all in black danced like he was at a hip-hop gig while an older couple stood nodding back and forth dressed in matching bomber jackets. Barnett’s storytelling resonates far and wide. There’s songs about weed-smoking, house-hunting and mental health. While she doesn’t advertise her life as being any more eventful than the average person (even though in the last year it most definitely was), she tells a story a lot better than the rest of us and that’s what makes her so fascinating.

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“I lay awake at night staring at the ceiling it’s a kind of off-white maybe it’s a cream,” she sings on An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In NY) recalling the most mundane detail of her overseas experiences.  Live, she colours that with vivacious guitar-strumming, throwing her head back and forth and sending her hair flying around her head. She sounds grittier than on the record, sometimes forcing her voice to a grunt.

What also became apparent as the set moved along was the hidden pop melodies in each song. She turns “don’t stop listening, I’m not finished yet,” on Debbie Downer into a rampant singalong while the chorus of Dead Fox sounds surprisingly anthemic in the live arena. That’s an impressive feat given that the latter centres around the line, “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you.” It’s hardly the kind of hands-in-the-air stuff that Coldplay have mastered but hers is far more real and a lot more satisfying.

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She even manages to captivate during the slower moments. She sarcastically introduces Depreston as a Paul Kelly cover (many journalists have compared the track to Kelly) and then launches into the most heart-warming moment of the night. Depreston is arguably her strongest display of songwriting to date and live it gets the hushed singalong that it deserves.

Avant-Gardener and History Eraser are crowd favourites but if anything they show that she didn’t peak too early with many of the tracks from her most recent LP trumping them. Kim’s Caravan, for example, is an anxious, creeping tale that expands with a crushing guitar line with challenged Barnett to push her vocals to the edge. It’s the least immediate song of the night but in many ways it’s the most electrifying.

It felt like she really hit her stride after that as the lights started to strobe and she launched into the more raucous tracks in her catalogue. Pedestrian At Best closed the main set and had people on shoulders and chanting to the obnoxious chorus. Barnett thrashed the guitar around the stage and delivered that chorus with an as-yet unseen confidence. She returned for the encore without shifting the energy level, slamming through covers of The Lemonheads and The Easybeats.

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In many ways, Barnett is to Australia what Alex Turner was to the UK. They both vividly tell relatable stories with acute detail, finding interest in the most minute detail while staying completely true to their cultural bearings. While it’s unlikely that Barnett will start slicking her hair back anytime soon she’s got the potential to be Australia’s first unlikely rockstar since Peter Garrett. Based on the way she’s conducted herself during her rise to fame, there couldn’t be a better musical ambassador for this country.

Gallery: Courtney Barnett at Metro Theatre, Sydney. Photos by Bianca Bosso. 

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Groovin

REVIEW + PICS: Groovin The Moo | Canberra

Groovin

In a climate where many of its fellow festival are dropping like flies, Groovin The Moo is an unexpected success story. Now in its tenth year, the festival has continually grown, delivering a better and better lineup each year. This year it has sold out four of its six legs and while Canberra was one of those that didn’t sell out, the grounds were packed with excitable punters ready to dip into all the goodness the lineup had to offer.

A$AP Ferg perhaps looked a little out-of-place on the lineup as the only international hip-hop act but it didn’t stop him from tearing the join apart. The trap-king had the Moolin Rouge pumping very early in the day, making a small but extremely hyped crowd very sweaty. While his set was mostly light-hearted he used part of it to address the situation in Baltimore saying, “I don’t give a fuck if you’re black, I don’t give a fuck if you’re white, I don’t give a fuck if you’re Puerto Rican or Asian.” It was good to see that behind some of his ridiculous lyrics, there was someone very willing to use his status for messages of equality.

The Preatures are worlds away from A$AP Ferg but both of them are masters of swelling the crowd into hysteria. With their gritty, Aussie rock aesthetic Isabella Manfredi and co delivered a stellar set of tracks mostly taken from their debut album Blue Planet Eyes. The band is tight but Manfredi is a phenomenal front woman with her effortless charisma recalling images of the late Chrissy Amphlett. In songs like Better Than It Ever Could Be  she adopts a vocal growl but then can switch it to a sweet trill on something like Somebody’s Talking. As she emptied a bottle of water on her head it was clear that Manfredi intended to leave everything she had on that stage. Closer Is This How You Feel? is still the crowd favourite but there are plenty others, like the funk-driven Cruel, which are just as pleasing.

As the sun began to set on what had been a rare warm day in Canberra, 11 year-old native Black Summer took to the stage for his first DJ set, warming up for Carmada. triple j Unerathed may be hyping him up because it’s a great story but there’s no doubt the kid has serious talent and will be a force to be reckoned when he’s the age of most of the producers on the bill. Around the same time we also spotted a kid wearing an RL Grime hat, confirming that kids these days have traded totem tennis for electronic music.

S/O to the coolest kid on the field at @groovinthemoo Canberra. @rlgrime @groovinthemoo

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Carmada had a tough job ahead of them to outshine Black Summer but they’re seasoned pros at this now and looked more comfortable than ever as a duo. They delivered essentially a party set with throbbing bass filling every corner of the Moolin Rouge. Their latest single On Fire received the biggest wrap from the crowd sans Charli XCX. That was until they dropped Blink 182’s What’s My Age Again and awoke the frustrated teen in all of us.

Charli XCX was probably one of the biggest drawcards on the bill. With plenty of hits and a number of all-star collabs in the bag, she’s perfectly tread a line between cult-hero and mainstream popstar. They’re the kind of acts that go down the best at festivals and Charli took to the stage, dropped a bag of hits on the crowd and left them in a sweaty mess. To go into a little more detail, Charli stalked the stage in a leopard print onesie and moved through everything from the punk-inspired Break The Rules to Icona Pop’s I Love It which she wrote herself. She said little more in between songs than the titles but she didn’t need to. She’s naturally charismatic with the charm of Josie (& the Pussycats) combined with rough and tumble of Joan Jett. It was interesting to see that Boom Clap was the one that really resonated with the crowd given that tracks like Gold Coins and Doing It have far more raucous energy. Her solo version of Fancy proved she was there to have a good time and give the crowd exactly what they wanted even without I.G.G.Y.

Canberra gets mighty cold when the sun disappears but the Moolin Rouge became suddenly steamy when Broods took to the stage. In 12 months the brother and sister duo from New Zealand have gone from shy newbies to confident highlights with frontwoman Georgia Nott killing it in a Rita Ora Adidas getup. Their mild debut album Evergreen is given a total facelift live with bolstered percussion and vocals with added grunt. Bridges blew the roof off with its dazzling electronic chorus while Everytime was aggressive and forceful. Nott’s smooth dance moves proved she’d successfully transformed into a fully-fledged popstar. The way she handled the chorus of closer Mother & Father showed she was perfectly capable of pushing things more and more. The crowd adored them and it really felt as if Broods had fully realised the capabilities of their music in the live arena.

Following Broods, Phil Jamieson warmed-up the crowd with party hits but nothing could have prepared them for the onslaught that was RL Grime. Word has spread around the country over the last few weeks about just how special his shows have been and he showed Canberra exactly why. The WeDidIt producer held nothing back as he absolutely tore the joint apart with pulsating track after pulsating track hitting every accent with a sharp hook and moving towards climaxes as if he had an army to conquer. He dropped everything from Drake to Kanye but nothing could beat the moment that Core created. The track, which has become a staple of many DJ sets over the past year, created a death circle and sweaty bodies moshing from the front row to the back. From there things just got crazier and crazier with the crowd descending into anarchy (safe, might we add). It had the aggression of a rock show and he orchestrated the whole thing masterfully. Just phenomenal.

RL Grime was always going to be an almost impossible act to beat, but leave it to local heroes Flight Facilities and their ability to make a whole crowd swoon to do it. They occupy a far calmer spectrum of the dance world to RL Grime but the crowd was just as adoring. As we took flight the boys infused funk, deep-house and retro pop together for a flawless hour-set. While they’re brilliant up there in their aviation costumes, they would be nothing without sex-kitten Owl Eyes up the front prowling around. Her voice is sublime and her dance moves are slinky and angular. She played the perfect host weaving her honey-soaked vocals through Crave You and her own feature Heart Attack. Flight Facilities have amassed so many great tunes and they rightfully deserve their place at the helm of most festival lineups.

Based on the strength of this year it seems as if Groovin The Moo will continue to be a main player in the Australian festival scene. It’s a great way of bringing business and music to rural areas and is also well-organised. It seems as if it has the formula down-pat. Now all it needs is a lineup better than this year’s to keep punters flooding back.

Gallery: Groovin The Moo, Canberra 3 May 2015 

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PICS: Charlie XCX| The Metro Theatre, Sydney

Klo

REVIEW: Klo | Goodgod Small Club, Sydney

 

Klo

Image: facebook.com/klomusic

This past Friday night, Sydney welcomed Klo to their first headline at GoodGod Small Club along with supports Anatole & Jack Grace. GoodGod was in usual fine form- hot and sweaty kids shimmied around the dance floor whilst suits from the CBD, looking to spice up their after work drinks, stood awkwardly in the shadows.

Opening act Jack Grace had a solid sized crowd who unwaveringly cheered on Grace between tracks. It was clear immediately that although this one-man band had not released anything online, he is already being watched. What was I’m sure a highly anticipated debut was impressive even to somebody who had zero expectations going in. Grace’s music walked a line somewhere between soul and electronica. With an impressive set-up and complex instrumentation, Grace bared his soul to the crowd with smattered electronic beats, sampled clips and his capable keyboard skills. His choice of sounds often left the taste of an early James Blake, but Grace is most certainly no copycat. He was at his strongest when he stripped things back and really just sung. While it was easy to appreciate his obvious skill as a producer, Grace could have commandeered the crowd with a single keyboard and microphone.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/klomusic/underlie[/soundcloud]

For the follow-up the growing crowd got real bendy to the fiercely danceable sounds from Anatole. Another one man show, Anatole falls under the umbrella of young bedroom producer, a clear love of Japanese video games lead to arpeggiator aplenty and some interesting sound production that felt like a cross between PC music and Porter Robinson’s Worlds. Where Jack Grace had been a lover of purposeful silence, Anatole worked diligently on never having less than a thumping beat blasting out. He was clearly a hit with the enthusiastic crowd however Anatole has some fine-tuning to take care of before his set really breaks through.

The basement of Goodgod was by this point absolutely packed to the walls, which made the non-existent ventilation that much more special (read: it was so freaking hot and wet and not in a good way). Klo gracefully took to the stage to set up their own gear and the dance floor immediately surged forward, eager to not miss a moment of the set to come.

From the first soft beat and singer Chloe Kaul’s soft flirtation with sampling her own voice, the audience was hooked. Bodies began to sway in directions I was not aware they could sway. The cousins shifted between facing the audience and facing one another as they effortlessly punched away at synths and sample pads that led to their signature blend of soft electronica. Producer, Simon, never missed a beat as he bopped to and fro, freeing up Chloe to focus on bewitching the audience with her captivating voice.

Age should never really be a factor when speaking about the talent of musicians but it’s astonishing to witness such a young performer who completely commands the attention of everybody in the room. Having already seen Klo (supporting SOHN some time back) I was aware of Chloe’s prowess as a leading lady but the last couple of months have definitely worked in favour of Klo as they have sharpened the set to a level on professionalism that is truly impressive for such a new act. 
Downfalls of the night would have to be the mix of the room really didn’t do justice to the duo (having something to compare to probably didn’t help either) but regardless the pair held their own and seemed unfazed by any sound issues they may have been having.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/klomusic/false-calls[/soundcloud]

The real treat of the night was the duo announcing they were going to share some not yet released material-the following two new tracks were a slick and somewhat more mature side to the duo. The crowd responded with adoration and you could feel that you were witnessing the beginning of something pretty special.

The night ended with a charming and sincere thanks by Kaul followed by crowd favourite False Calls. My final thought of the evening was that next time Klo headline a show in Sydney, Goodgod is not going to be big enough. This is a band on the cusp of great things.

REVIEW + PICS: George Maple | Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

GeorgeMaple
Future Classic has been developing George Maple for a while. The singer has only given a handful of performances and dropped out a smattering of excellent tunes in the meantime doing only a few press interviews. Now with a sold-out national tour and EP in hand, it makes sense why they have been hiding her away. That element of exclusivity is appealing and as fans going to watch her on her first headline tour, it felt as if we were meeting Maple for the first time.

Walking onto stage Maple looks every bit as mysterious as you would have imagined. She’s surrounded by illuminated smoke and dressed in a slinky black outfit, weighed down by gold cuffs. Immediately the guys fell in love with her and the girls wanted to be her. Before she even opened her voice, her presence was immediately felt. Her look was polished and her stance was confident. It didn’t feel like we were witnessing an artist’s first headline show in Sydney, it felt like she’d just released the best album of the year and was returning to Sydney for a victory-lap tour.

As soon as she opened her mouth, her allure only grew stronger. Starting with one of her early favourites, Fixed, she elongated her arms out over the audience and moved her body like silk. Her vocal alone is enough for her live show to be excellent but she’s really focussed on her movement too, marrying both features together to create an altogether fascinating image. Gripp popped up early in the set and collected everyone’s mouthes off the floor and loosened things up. For all her smooth, measured moves, Maple looked as if she was having fun.

Maple shares a number of qualities with British songstress Jessie Ware. Not only are their vocals breathy and refined but the pair share the juxtaposition between their approach to music and their onstage demeanour. Both deliver incredibly intense, focussed performances but split every song with jovial banter. It’s the type that makes you not only like their music but like them as a person. And that’s what makes punters continue to flood back to shows.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/futureclassic/george-maple-where-you-end[/soundcloud]

Throughout the set, Maple’s strongest moments come when the crowd is one hundred percent on board. A version of Gemini, her track with “a very special friend” What So Not starts a mosh, garnering a reaction that suggests the song will continue to get bigger this year. She amps the crowd up by challenging them to be better than Coachella – a stage in which she stood with What So Not only a week before. It’s a big ask for a cramped-in Oxford Art Factory but they do their best and the energy began to swell. Maple capitalised on the extra excitement, dropping her latest single Where You End And I Begin. The throwback RnB tune has the songstress pulling out her sexiest moves and has the rest of the audience doing their best to emulate.

What really confirmed the appeal of Maple’s voice during the night was the reaction to her new songs. As an artist with only one EP it’s often hard to captivate a crowd for close to an hour but Maple seemed to have no problem. The texture and sheer strength of her voice grips you from the get-go really making you listen to the new songs with intent. Slow Dance stood out as a particular highlight with its sultry, ’80s RnB vibes.

With the crowd firmly eating out of her hands, Maple ended the night with her most successful single to date – Talk Talk. It felt as if everyone in the audience had finally gotten to know the singer by this point and the track garnered the biggest singalong of the night.

After a few drinks we tweeted, “Calling it. the best Aussie act we’ve seen since starting this lil’ thing.” Now, in the harsh light of day we still agree. Maple’s show was electrifying from start to finish. It’s a hard-slog as a new female artist building a fanbase in Australia but Maple seems to be having more success than most of her peers at the moment. Our exports this year at Coachalla were entirely male (bar the wonderful Alison Wonderland and Julia Stone) but it feels like that heavy majority is set to change. Based on her display in Sydney, it’s very clear that Maple has everything she needs to become one of Australia’s strongest forces overseas and locally.

Photos: George Maple at Oxford Art Factory, Sydney | Photos By Bianca Bosso
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shamir

REVIEW: Shamir | The Echo, Los Angeles

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It’s hard to standout on the internet today. Every day Soundcloud is awash with new talent, many that could catch break with one single song. It’s easy to see why 20 year-old Las Vegas newcomer Shamir immediately caught the attention of many. Firstly it was his voice – high pitched and different to anything that we’ve heard, it commands attention. Secondly his songwriting is such that it’s shy and heartfelt while remaining sassy and in your face.

Sassy and shy are the best two words to describe the first show of Shamir’s album headline tour with the juxtaposition making you both relate to him and want to be him. Looming over the mic stand, Shamir looked awkward with a youthful charm when he first took to the stage. He seemed as if he had no idea what to do with his hands and was immediately overwhelmed by the strong turnout.

Those sound like the best way to preface a review of a train wreck show, but Shamir’s live show was quite the opposite. Once you watch for a while his awkwardness becomes part of his IDGAF charm.

Shamir’s songs, particularly the new ones he previewed, call for plenty of attitude. He mimicked the words with his hands and threw in plenty of eye rolls as he dealt with notions of being a hot mess and not being able to drink when you’re only 20. It may seem silly but the strength of the tracks that are set to make up his debut album Ratchet is that they are unashamedly party tracks. They’re groovy, bass-driven and elevated by euphoric chorus’. It’s not mainstream, cut and dry pop though, it’s the kind of pop that Nile Rodgers would trade in.

On The Regular was our first taste from the new album that we knew and it expectedly went off. For the first time Shamir pulled away from the mic stand and dropped the shy act to deliver lines like “Just so you know, yes, yes, I’m the guy.” Complete with cow bells, live, the song proved just how much energy that song can burst with.

He followed it up by bringing in the disco groove with early track I Know It’s A Good Thing. Unlike On The Regular, here, we really got to hear Shamir’s voice in all it’s crackling, high-pitched glory. It may be a voice that’s hard to make reason with at first but after a while you’re drawn in by its sincerity. At times it went slightly wayward and at times it was unbelievably on-point and that’s what made it so intriguing.

As for the new songs many of the them were driven by a deep vocal sample and there was more than a few that feature the cowbell (thank goodness). They oscillated between dance floor stunners and indie pop/rock venturing close to Bloc Party’s early, youthful aesthetic.

For second single Call It Off Shamir unleashed his long dreads, flipping the a round as he bounced from one end of the stage to the other. The song at first doesn’t seem as immediately appealing at On The Regular, but live it proved that it’s a slow-burner and more than capable of being a bigger hit than its predecessor.

You really get the feeling Shamir’s one step away from a radio hit that will blow his status up. In a world where kids are devouring half-arsed songs about living in the moment, Shamir sincerely captures youthful. It’s a little bratty, a little nonchalant and a lot of fun. Before he could even finish his final song he launched into the crowd giving out as many hugs as he possibly could before disappearing – here for a good time not a long time.

 

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