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Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled (Album Review)

To listen to Angus & Julia Stone is to experience nirvana. The Australian sibling duo is astonishingly good, pumping out songs in the keys of indie-pop and folk rock while maintaining an acoustic-based singer-songwriter style that will leave you in pure amazement.

Teaming up with superstar producer, Rick Rubin, I was initially concerned that this Self-Titled release might be compromised as Rubin is known for his involvement in the loudness wars, producing low dynamic range albums such as Metallica's Death Magnetic and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Californication. While one has to acknowledge that this Self-Titled release is right on the border, sonically this level of compression and distortion works incredibly well with the style of music and the Stone siblings’, often lower chord, vocal presentation. That said, the soundstage is rather expansive, allowing all sonic elements space, in the mix, to breathe.

As I’ve listened to the Self-Titled Angus & Julia Stone release on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music, I can say conclusively that there is no sonic difference between the two as the lossy Apple Music stream matches the lossless CD-quality streamed via TIDAL Hi-Fi. This is yet another example that validates that if the master is the same, there is little-to-no perceivable difference.

A Heartbreak sets the tone of the album and you'll clearly hear the distortion on this song just teetering into the red. It would have been nice to have the master reduced by a couple of decibels as the song is louder than the following tracks. Nevertheless, it's a great song to commence the album on.

My Word For It has a killer psychedelic sound signature that is simply addictive. Julia's smooth vocal is absolutely captivating on this song as she's right there in the room with you. A fantastic mix!

Grizzly Bear has an offbeat beginning, but once the musicality picks up, the rhythm will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping uncontrollably. An absolutely beautiful song!

Heart Beats Slow is a great song that I’d love to hear Stevie Nicks cover with Neil Finn.

Wherever You Are has a stunning acoustic introduction that builds progressively with a beat that will connect with your inner soul. While there are a number of vocal shifts throughout, that may deter some listeners, I feel it works extremely well given this song is largely stripped down from a production standpoint.

Get Home is lovely!

Death Defying Acts is moody and I love it! One of the best songs on the album and that is difficult to declare as the entire album is a masterpiece. If there were one criticism to be made, it would be the drum track is not as spacious as I would like in some sections. That said, it does work with the darker tone of the song.

Little Whiskey has a fantastically compelling beat, but it is very much a song that is on the alternative side of the siblings’ offerings. That may not appeal to all listeners, but I feel it flows perfectly with the surrounding tracks.

From The Stalls is a great song. May I suggest you sit in a relaxing chair, with your eyes closed, and allow the musicality to involuntarily take control of your muscles as you'll be toe-tapping and swaying in no time.

Other Things shouldn’t work musically, as it is a little left of the centre, yet it absolutely does.

Please You is such a mellow song. Beautiful!

Main Street is pure sonic gold and in many ways leaves me speechless. Therefore, I feel it is only right to suggest you experience it for yourself.

Crash And Burn, as Ian McFarlane rightly suggests in The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop, invokes a memory of the sonic signature often associated with Neil Young and Crazy Horse. That is, of course, a compliment. Crash And Burn is the perfect song to close the album on as it encourages me to listen to this Self-Titled release again and stay within Angus & Julia Stone's catalogue.

This Self-Titled album is a masterpiece. Nothing more really needs to be said other than it’s worth the hour to just sit and listen. I'm sure you won't regret it, I know I haven’t.

Angus & Julia Stone's Self-Titled album is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Angus & Julia Stone's Self-Titled album is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

Few would argue about the influence of Melbourne's music scene in the 70s, for it was the mecca of the Australian Music Industry at the time. That said, I'm sure my Sydney neighbours would fervently disagree. While I’m Sydney born and bred, good music is good music and (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton validates that point. With a runtime nearing three hours, this compilation is an extensive trip down memory lane, but will also excite those of us that missed out on experiencing this wonderfully vibrant music scene during its heyday.

SkyhooksCarlton (Lygon Street Limbo) is the perfect song to open this compilation. Not only were Skyhooks one of the most successful bands on the scene, at the time, but Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo) incorporates the energy and musicality of the 70s. A sensational song!

The SportsWho Listens To The Radio? (Original 7" Version) is one of my all-time favourite songs, having heard it repeatedly, ironically, on the radio. Yet, until listening to this compilation, I never knew who the artist was. Now I do and I have this compilation and streaming music to thank for bringing me back to one of the coolest songs from the era.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSo Young is another sensational song and reminds me, in spirit, of Tom Petty. I love it!

The DotsLowdown is a little rough around the edges, but that adds to the character of the song. However, I’d argue that while Lowdown isn't a standout song, it is thoroughly enjoyable and the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

StilettoMiddle Of The Bed is a sensational classic with a killer vocal, rhythm, and an intriguing guitar tune.

The Bleeding HeartsHit Single has a disjointed musical style that surprisingly works perfectly. Hit Single is dynamic and never dull. I don't know about you, dear reader, but it’s a hit from my perspective. It also has a slight Skyhooks influence; what's not to like?

Mighty KongHard Drugs (Are Bad For You) is another rhythmic monster. Seriously, you have to listen to this compilation, it is hit after hit. Incredible!

Mondo RockPrimal Park is a solid tune but it has a little too much pop-influence for my liking. However, there are certain elements, such as the chorus, that are spot on and thoroughly enjoyable.

Mark GillespieSuicide Sister is pure perfection!

High Rise BombersFaster Than Light is a great song. That brass section undoubtedly makes the song and I could happily listen to Faster Than Light on repeat for hours.

The ToadsEudil is addictive. Yes, even that interesting near-pop-based backing vocal grows on you; the song would be lost without it.

The Pelaco BrosMechanics In A Relaxed Manner isn't a bad blues-based tune, but I find the mix confuses my mind as the vocal presentation is too forward and slightly offbeat to the rhythm. In some respects, it is as though two songs have morphed into one.

The Relaxed MechanicsTruckin' Casanova is a campy tune, but I can't help but love it. An absolute classic and arguably a song that only an Australian band could have conjured up.

MillionairesGossip has a shifting tempo that takes a little getting used to. It isn't my favourite song from the compilation, but there was bound to be at least one of the tracks that didn't connect with me.

The KevinsOut At Night is a great song. Yes, another campy tongue-in-cheek song, but such is Australian humour.

Martin Armiger & Buzz LeesonNo Reason is a killer classic rock tune.

ParachuteThe Big Beat isn't anything to write home about, but the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

Spare ChangeLet's Get Rich Together is one of those songs that takes repeat listens to truly enjoy. That said, once the connection is made, you'll be hypnotised by this exceptional song.

The Glory BoysThe Ballad Of Good & Evil is a fantastic song. The rhythm is amazing, but that vocal delivery is off-the-charts. So Good!

Eric Gradman Man And MachineCrime Of Passion is a solid song with an interesting vocal overlay. The sonic shift, mid-song, is also intriguing and while I'm unsure of how I really feel about Crime Of Passion, it suits the compilation perfectly.

Martin ArmigerI Love My Car is certainly reminiscent of the era, but I’d argue that it’s not quite worthy of this collection.

The Bleeding HeartsBoys (Greg Macainsh Demo Version) is a great track. It kinda makes me wonder what the non-demo version sounds like as this edition was already ready for prime-time in my opinion.

StilettoRozalyn is a killer song. The vocal delivery, in particular, is absolutely sensational, making for one of the best songs on the compilation. That said, there is a little sibilance in the vocal that can be distracting, especially when listening via headphones.

The DotsI See Red is rather rough around the edges, reminding me a little of the early Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan recordings. Overall, however, it isn't a bad song but it could have been great with a little more spit and polish.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsOnly The Lonely Hearted isn’t a song to write home about, but it's a solid addition to this compilation.

The SportsSuddenly is a great song that improves upon each listen. I love the vocal style and Suddenly is perfectly mixed.

Mondo RockTelephone Booth has a great rhythm that is full of energy. I dare say Telephone Booth would have been exceptional when played live.

Daddy CoolSaturday Night (GTK Live) is merely satisfactory as there are much better Daddy Cool songs that could have been selected for this compilation.

SkyhooksHey, What's The Matter? (Steve Hill Demo Version) is awesome! Although, the final master recording is even better. Regardless, it's Skyhooks, what is not to like?

Company CaineBuzzin’ With My Cousin is a little too left of the centre for me. That doesn't mean that you won't like it, but I just don’t connect with it.

Captain Matchbox Whoopee BandRoll That Reefer is different and feels out-of-place, but it’s certainly a compelling tune.

Stephen Cummings & Dave FlettThe Third Degree sounds too much like The Rolling Stones. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the song is excellent, but I do value uniqueness.

Rock GraniteYou Got Me Where You Want Me is a toe-tapper and a head-bopper. Great tune!

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSomeday It's Gonna Come To You (1976 Demo Version) is far better than the demo tag would make you believe. A sensational song!

Mark GillespieComin' Back For More is thoroughly enjoyable.

AutodriftersLocked Out Of Love is not my type of song, but you may enjoy it; especially if you're a Hank Williams fan.

Fabulous NudesI'll Be A Dag For You, Baby is daggy! It isn't the greatest song and should have been omitted from the compilation.

The Pelaco BrosTruckdrivin' Guru is a solid song, but nothing to write home about and again we have a song that is somewhat influenced by The Rolling Stones. I guess imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery.

Peter Lillie & The LeisuremastersHangin' Round The House is brilliant! An Aussie Classic!

The SportsLive Work & Play (Nightmoves Live) isn't a bad song but I'm more interested in the polish that often accompanies studio recordings. That said, this is a strong live performance with plenty of energy.

High Rise BombersRadio Show is a great song and that jam session mid-song is superb.

Eric Gradman Man & MachineBright Boy has an addictive beat and is overall an exceptional song.

SkyhooksThis Is My City is a great way to close this compilation. It ensures that I'll listen again as Skyhooks can do no wrong in my opinion.

For those of you calculating the track listing, some will wonder why there are only 43 songs reviewed, rather than the 45 included on the album. Sadly, likely due to contractual permissions, Daddy Cool’s Boy You're Paranoid and The Indelible Murtceps' Blue Movies Made Me Cry are missing from streaming services. This discrepancy is yet another reason why owning the CD is a good idea as you're not limited to accessing the music you love by outside influences that are out of your control. Despite this, (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is an incredible compilation of Australian artists from the 70s and the reputable Melbourne music scene. While there are a couple of songs that don't connect with my soul, the compilation as a whole does. Subsequently, every song, regardless of my subjective viewpoint, is essential.

(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes. It’s important to note that the aforementioned absent songs are available if you purchase the album.

If the omission of those two songs doesn’t worry you, you can also stream (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Hank Williams Jr. – 127 Rose Avenue (Album Review)

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Hank Williams Jr. – 127 Rose Avenue (Album Review)

While he may not be the original, Hank Williams Jr. is one of the most talented and engaging country music performers on the planet.

127 Rose Avenue is a sonically gorgeous album and I was amazed to learn that Williams Jr. also took on the responsibility of the mastering process. Normally musicians record, occasionally mix, and leave the mastering to others. That, at times, results in questionable outcomes and I would much prefer that the musician master the performance, or at the very least be present for the mastering sessions thereby ensuring their fans are going to receive a facsimile as close to the original intent as possible. While we can talk ad nauseam about high-resolution, vinyl superiority, and file formats, none of this is relevant to 127 Rose Avenue as the original recording was mastered perfectly for the 16/44.1 kHz Redbook CD format. Seriously, the results are incredible and if you truly want to hear what the artist intended, then look no further than 127 Rose Avenue.

Farm Song has a great toe tapping beat and the guitar soloing is spot on. Fantastic!

Red, White & Pink Slip Blues is a gorgeous slow song that while inherently different to Farm Song, blends in perfectly. When it comes to Country Music tempo, I absolutely love this style of song as I could listen to it for hours. The soundstage is massive and I encourage you to pump the volume. It is one of the best songs on the album and one of my all-time favourite country music songs.

High Maintenance Woman has an incredible drum performance. This is how drums should sound. None of that synthetic rubbish we hear so often in modern recordings. Yes, drum machines have their place, but they can never replace a proper drum setup, driven by a skilled musician. Overall, the song is superb and will have your body moving like all great upbeat country music should.

Mighty Oak Tree slows the album down for another ballad-style track, but the tracking is done so well that there is no jolt to the senses. Mighty Oak Tree really shows off Jr.'s vocal chops and has me swaying with eyes closed as I am left mesmerised by sonic perfection. Every element is spot on and I adore the guitar and intermingling fiddle performance.

Forged By Fire has a massive soundstage. There are no crushed dynamics here! The chorus is addictive and that guitar work is once again glorious. The meaning behind the lyrics is also very touching.

Last Driftin' Cowboy has a classic country feel to it, but I'm not sure it works well as my mind struggles to connect emotionally with the song. That said, I can respect the intent of the song, but I would class it as a B-side.

127 Rose Avenue is sonic perfection. I love it!

All The Roads is a good song, but it isn't generally the style of country music that I appreciate. It is, however, recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully. Perhaps my dislike for this style is the fact that it can often come across as jarring on the senses, thankfully that isn’t the case for All The Roads.

Sounds Like Justice returns the album to the county sound I appreciate most. The lyrics for this song are brilliant and while I generally appreciate music void of lyrical meaning, that is not the case when listening to 127 Rose Avenue.

Long Gone Lonesome Blues is a song that reminds me of Keith Richards’ Crosseyed Heart. Needless to say, I love this song.

Gulf Shore Road is a gorgeous song to close the album with. It is so good that upon each listen I am disappointed that the album has come to an end. For perhaps the first time ever, I really wanted the album to have a longer runtime. That said, I will take quality over quantity every time. As such, I find myself listening to 127 Rose Avenue on repeat for hours on end. It also encourages me to explore Hank Williams Jr.'s extensive catalogue.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) edition of the album.

127 Rose Avenue is available for purchase on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to the album on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Laura Michelle – Novel With No End (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Laura Michelle – Novel With No End (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

Over the past few months, I have once again become captivated by the pop music genre. It encompasses a style of music that was very near, and dear, to my heart throughout my teenage years. Although, as a musical discipline I feel pop music has been overexposed for years with too many substandard performers. I therefore find Laura Michelle’s debut album Novel With No End to be a most intriguing listening experience as she delivers a unique performance.

Laura’s vocals are gorgeous and shows a young artist who has plenty of potential, but I don’t feel the accompanying musical elements were pushed as far as they could have been. For me, some of the songs sounded predictable. That said, there are some standout tracks where the musicality is off the chart.

Novel With No End is an album that crosses both pop and country disciplines, with a touch of rock. Subjectively, I like this cross-styled approach.

As I listen to this album, I find myself recalling Delta Goodrem’s amazing debut album Innocent Eyes. I consider Goodrem to be one of the best female-pop artists in the world today. While Laura Michelle’s style is absolutely unique, her professionalism with the microphone is on par with the performances that Delta Goodrem made on her debut.

For this review I used TIDAL Hi-Fi and found the mastering of the album to be adequate for a pop release, but it has been mastered a little hot and subsequently the stereo imaging is limited and you tend to experience a wall of sound coming from the speakers, rather than being completely immersed in the music. Yes, I know that this is a modern style of mastering, but I really want more dynamic range from modern albums. I just hope that the album has been recorded with a full dynamic range, so that it can be re-issued at a later date. That said, it doesn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying Novel With No End.

Throwaway is a fun track but there is a little sibilance in Laura’s vocal that detracts me. As I always say in my reviews, don’t look for sibilance because once you know what to listen for, you’ll hear it on numerous albums.

Top Of The World has a beat and guitar riff that I absolutely love. It will get you head bopping and toe tapping from the first note. Seriously, turn this track up to 11. It is incredible!

Chameleon has a lovely synth and acoustic guitar introduction that continues throughout the song. It is an element that really appeals to me and one that I feel could be remixed perfectly. I’d love to see what Calvin Harris could do with this song, although it is already exceptional in this current rendition.

Cigarette is a moody song that has a great beat and guitar riff, although it is a little more pop driven, whereas, I feel the song would have made a perfect rock and roll track. Of course, that is just my subjective opinion, but I feel the song doesn’t quite know if it wants to be pop or rock. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy it and find that I’m turning up the volume and toe tapping along with this song.

Cougar has another great beat and again makes me think that Laura Michelle could quite easily move into rock and roll music like Fergie did with Slash on the song Beautiful Dangerous.

Chuck Norris is a song that I just don’t like. It is too teeny bopper for me. It immediately makes me think of songs that would appear on any coming-of-age film soundtrack.

The Credits returns the album to a song that I feel is reminiscent of the album as a whole and truly respects the quality of Michelle’s vocals. It is a lovely country-pop infused song.

Save Me is another song that truly highlights the remarkable voice of Laura Michelle. While the song has been recorded with a live string section, I would love to hear a version with a full symphony orchestra as I feel this song has untapped potential. Michelle's harmonic overlaps, towards the end of the track, are a perfect addition.

Ain’t Your Home is an enjoyable song that blends well with the entire album, but I feel the performance was held back a little. There is just something missing that I can’t quite explain.

Knocks Me Back isn’t one of my favourite tracks as I feel it is too safe in regards to simply ticking all the relevant pop music boxes.

My Baby Loves Me is a perfectly acceptable song, but I feel like it is a b-side to the album.

Novel With No End is an absolutely gorgeous song. This is the song that specifically reminds me of Delta Goodrem’s vocal style, but it also provides validation to me that Laura Michelle will be a female vocalist to take note of in the coming years as she continues to develop and refine her vocal capabilities.

Boy To Smell is a song that I feel should have been tracked earlier in the album as I feel Novel With No End would have been the perfect song to close the album on as it is, in my opinion, the highlight of the entire album. That said, Boy To Smell isn’t a bad song, it just doesn’t make me want to immediately play the album again.

Overall, for a debut album, Novel With No End is exceptional and I can’t wait to watch what I predict will be a very successful career for Laura Michelle.

Novel With No End is available for purchase on iTunes and the TIDAL Store. However, there is currently no physical release for this album, but the iTunes release does come with a digital booklet, if you're interested in liner notes.

Novel With No End is also available for streaming on Apple Music

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