EG weekly music reviewsMusic
Memory Tapes (Pod/Inertia)
WHEN he arose amid the blogosphere's ''summer of chillwave'' in 2009, Dayve ''Memory Tapes'' Hawk was assumed to be the same as his purported peers: another Ariel Pink acolyte in love with lo-fi tape-sheen, washed-out production and half-remembered summers. In truth, he was a stay-at-home dad who lived in New Jersey's pinelands, hundreds of miles from a beach. Though a fan of bright synths and major keys, and an owner of a voice high and bright, Hawk's supposedly summery sounds cast dark shadows. Though 2009's Seek Magic sounded playful and 2011's Player Piano soulful, there's a mournful quality to Memory Tapes, which makes his electronic music sound sad even when it's cresting at ecstatic peaks. Grace/Confusion offers states of both as it moves away from Player Piano's analog organs to an armada of digital synths, which Hawk uses to construct psychedelic sci-fi odysseys. It's most successful as a piece of modern composition writ with twee keys, more impressive intellectually than engaging emotionally.
Meet the Misses
Lisa Miller (Inertia)
LISTENERS unfamiliar with the Melbourne singer-songwriter's first two albums - Quiet Girl with a Credit Card (1996) and As Far as a Life Goes (1999) - will come to this seventh album with fresh ears. Others may be tempted to compare the new versions of these 11 songs, recorded with guitarist Shane O'Mara at his Yikesville studio, with originals from those albums, track by track. Frustrated that she once signed away rights to the original recordings, Miller has set out to cover selected tracks as she has done others on her two Car Tapes CDs. The voice has not changed significantly in 16 years since the first release but the backing here is not so busy, the contrast between the two approaches perhaps most apparent on Safe as Houses from the second album. There are other instruments - Howard Cairns' double bass and percussion by Ashley Davies and Peter Jones - but they are never intrusive. O'Mara, co-producer with Miller, is her only accompanist on three songs. Whether or not you treasured the originals, Misses is a treat.
''I'M SORRY, but I'm just not sorry,'' Kesha Sebert sings on Love Into the Light, the 1980s-like power ballad complete with an In the Air Tonight drum sound that closes her second studio album. The disreputable pop star makes a decent fist of living up to her pledge on Warrior, a record that puts a feisty spin on Eurodance grooves and adds some rock'n'roll emphasis - both playful and vulnerable - by way of variety. There's less of the tottering conversational rap that made the party tracks on Kesha's 2010 debut, Animal, sound chaotically charming, and more declarations of intents where the 25-year-old makes the dance floor her pulpit and preaches to anyone who might inhibit her. It makes for daft pleasure on Die Young and Crazy Kids, but the monochromatic melodies tire by the halfway mark and her extensive use of auto-tuned vocals remains a negative. The Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney anchors the LA native's ballad Wonderland, while Iggy Pop duets on the dumb fun of Dirty Love, and there's just enough here to distinguish Kesha from pop's imperious princesses.
Nothing But Nice Things
Chris Altmann (Ridin' High Records)
IN THE days before the term ''easy listening'' took on negative overtones, singer-songwriters such as Jim Croce, Don McLean, Harry Chapin and others made great music that was - well - easy to listen to. They crafted songs they hoped people would enjoy. In that same vein, Chris Altmann makes fine, uncomplicated pop music, and he makes it sound simple. Melodies flow, lyrics feel true and unforced, and the instruments serve the songs, played with style and flair and never any showboating, Altmann on guitars, keyboards and drums, plus help from friends on bass, mandolin, lap steel and fiddle. From his days in the hard-rocking band the Vandas, Altmann knows the direct route is the best way forward. He also knows good pop songs liberally borrow ingredients. The title track swings like a radio hit, with classic woo-hoo backing vocals. I Told a Lie has cocky Stones swagger, Some People has lots of soulful grit, and Living It Up and Whole Wide World are easygoing country rock. I Know It Isn't Right, a straight-up country weepy about a broken family, is a string-puller that still rings true.
Bored Nothing (Spunk/Cooperative)
FORGET the superfuzzed guitars and lo-fi hiss: Fergus Miller is such a '90s revivalist he even looks like Lou Barlow. The cyclical nature of popular culture made this revival inevitable, but Miller's recycling of slacker tropes shouldn't be confused with the wasted pantomimes of Wavves or Fidlar. There's no such bombast on his debut Bored Nothing LP; distorted guitars doing little to obscure the persistent melancholy. Miller's antecedents aren't grunge populists, but insular home-recording types such as Sebadoh, Portastatic, Refrigerator and East River Pipe. Get Out of Here and Charlie's Creek are even dead ringers for Elliott Smith, filled with double-tracked whispers (''so the cops found me/that night in the park/I was drunk and tripping through the dark/I carved a tree with your name and mine/and the sentiment of cheap read wine'') that make barely numbed pain play like existential ache. It's on songs such as these that Miller justifies the '90s sound and Bored Nothing's local buzz-band status: wearing his period wardrobe not as revival, but as apt expression of his bruised self.
When I'm President
Ian Hunter & the Rant Band (Proper Records/The Planet Company)
IAN Hunter is an old geezer who doesn't know it. He's 73. He could be 23. Listening to this record is to go back to his Mott the Hoople days from 1969 to the '70s and his solo material from that decade. It wouldn't have surprised to hear a reprise of All the Young Dudes, Once Bitten, Twice Shy or All American Alien Boy. His voice has always been the sound of pebbles being pushed along by fast currents, so time's ravages mean little to it. When I'm President swaggers and rocks, swings to Chuck Berry guitar licks, slows down to let mandolin wind into the arrangement, then hits a huge blues-based riff. He has a clear-eyed view of his strengths and, lyrically, has an honesty, intelligence and humour (his book on the touring life, Diary of a Rock'n'Roll Star, is brilliant) to draw a connection to his audience. He knows how to rock, always has, and knows that that is what he does, and it's enough. More than enough.