Astralwerks


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The best pop artists play God in big bang fashion. They create universes where their personae alternately come apart at the seams and assault the heavens with larger-than-life ambition. From D. Bowie to N. Cave to N. Case we become inhabitants and voyeurs of their worlds. Perth Australia’s Luke Steele satisfies many pre-requisites for next pop godhead. On Personality, his band The Sleepy Jackson paints sonic murals that skirt heaven and scrape hell. The album’s acoustic guitar-driven “The Devil Was in My Yard” surrounds Steele’s tortured tenor with dervish swirls of shimmering voice and steel guitar while he recounts Beelzebub’s most recent incursion into his personal space. On mini-epic “God Lead Your Soul” Steele banishes his “sleeping dragons,” resolving to “keep (his) head up!” “You Needed More,” “Work Alone,” and “Higher Than Hell” pull you further into The Sleepy Jackson’s sonic snow globe—a zero gravity paradise where sleigh bells soothe while diaphanous strings and female voices caress. Personality is not without excess, though. Sometimes you have to swim through song arrangements to find the actual songs, but with an otherworld this inviting who cares if we get a little wet?

Eric Anthony White

Band
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Paris natives Phoenix recorded and self produced their third album It’s Never Been Like That at Planet Roc Studios in Berlin. ‘There is a brutality to the record,’ says vocalist Thomas Mars,’This was about starting all over, making ourselves scared again and telling the truth.’

The album has a no fuss charm to it. Simplicity is the key. Guitars, bass, drums, vocals,
handclaps and tambourine, what more is needed really? If there was an anthem for my so called life this summer, it would definitely be the ultra-catchy “Consolation Prizes”. I should’ve charged that song rent for how long it’s been stuck in my head. “Rally” is another personal favorite. I think I had a different favorite every week this summer, that’s how much I enjoyed this opus.

While doing my homework for this review (and tiptoeing through numerous Strokes-light
comparisons), I stumbled upon information that didn’t directly pertain to the album, but was certainly worth sharing. The band’s involvement with director Roman Coppola (Coppola directed their videos for “Everything Is Everything” and “Long Distance Call”) further suggested that Phoenix could very well fancy The Strokes more than I initially expected…or did it? It’s hard to refrain from making such comparisions after listening to It’s Never Been Like That and then realizing the band are using the very same video director as The Strokes. Enter Roman’s sister Sofia…Sofia Coppola is such a big fan of the band that she gave their profile a little lift by weaving their songs into her movie Lost In Translation. ‘I love them,’ she told Entertainment Weekly,’so we used the song “Too Young” for the scene when Bill [Murray] and Scarlett [Johansson] are dancing.’

Sofia – now dating Thomas Mars – has gone one better for her next film. In spite of the fact that Marie-Antoinette is set in 18th-century Paris, Sofia has given the band a further boost by casting the boys as court musicians in the film. From the happy endings department: Sofia and Thomas are expecting their first child this November.

– Kip Gasparick

Band
MySpace

Discouraged with the direction of the bands he was playing in, Thomas D’Arcy returned to the basement of his childhood home determined to make music his Mother would be proud of. Equipped with a 16 track recorder, a Roland 707 drum machine, and several vintage Moog keyboards, he laid down the foundation of what would become the Small Sins album.

The Ladies and Gentlemen would initially release Small Sins on Vancouver-based label Boompa. The album was well received. After a sold-out showcase at Austin’s SXSW festival, the group signed with Astralwerks in 2005. They would change their name to Small Sins because of copyright issues in the States. Their self-titled Astralwerks debut (same tracks, new name) was released on June 13th, 2006.

Sounding like the bastard offspring of The Postal Service and The Magnetic Fields isn’t necessarily a small sin. Truth be told, it’s a very pleasurable experience. While not as clever as Stephin Merritt, D’Arcy’s wry lyrics hit home in similar fashion. The first single, “Stay” is definitely the cream of the crop.

“And when the right time comes, I’ll be what you’ve grown to hate,
Like your high school crush, Made you pass your papers in late.
Well you can stay if you want to, But you can’t sleep in my bed.”

Now, you might be thinking that’s cheesier than a block of pasteurized gouda, but l guarantee that cheese will lodge itself in your head after a listen or two. “She’s The Source” is a similar slice of not the right one. “That little junky girl, you’re playing right into her hands, you know.” If that doesn’t pump blood through your broken heart, I don’t know what will.

– Kip Gasparick

Band
MySpace