It’s not often these days that I’ll buy a physical CD. I don’t even have a CD player that works, just a CD drive on my computer. But in this case, CD was the only option. No vinyl, no digital download. I liked the two tracks that I’d already heard online, so I ordered the new Occupants CD.
Brothers Luke and Flynn Gower have teamed up with Leigh Davies to form The Occupants, an indie/electro/rock project that has arisen from the ashes of Cog and Sleep Parade.
Cog and Sleep Parade were major players in the Australian prog-rock scene, along with the likes of Karnivool, Butterfly Effect and Dead Letter Circus. The prog elements are still present with The Occupants, but there is more of an indie vibe than hard rock. Two tracks are over eight minutes long, and all the songs are epic, sprawling beauties. And Flynn Gower’s recognisably haunting high vocals still permeate the music.
The EP version of first track “Hindsight” is almost twice as long as the single version that was initially released. The song could easily be far shorter and still sound complete, but the way it cycles and builds, spaced out with brooding bridges – it all adds to the experience.
“Streets” is carried by fast percussion and noodling guitars. This track showcases exactly why Flynn Gower’s voice is so vital for the band. His vocals are the highlight of the track. They range from deep to almost-falsetto, laden with hooks and ear-worms.
“Wonderland” is more melancholic, built on a repeated mantra. The song features an eclectic range of instruments. Electric drums and synths make give a drum and bass feel at times, and a banjo solo leads into extended instrumental progressions.
To start with, début single “I’ve Been Thinking” could almost pass for an old Genesis song. Phil Collins is channeled through the drums and vocals, but without the dated 80’s feel. This doesn’t last throughout the whole song, but the ‘power-toms’ drumming and the chirpy keyboard features here and there.
Hindsight is sublime. I’ve been listening to it every day since it arrived in the mail. It’s not heavy or soft, just a delicate blend of melodies and riffs. There are so many layered subtle parts that new details begin to shine through with each listen, like the usage of horns and banjo. The vocals are the highlight for me, with Flynn’s voice being used as an extra instrument to dominate the high-end. They echo and soar, planting the melody firmly in my brain. Hindsight may only have four tracks, but it provides half an hour of brilliantly crafted music that leaves me wanting more.
Despite having already stated that I have no CD player, I think it was a good move buying this EP. There’s an element of exclusivity, not because I got a signed copy, but more because this EP shows so much promise. I feel like I’m let in on a secret, owning the first release from a band that clearly has bright futures ahead. Although Cog were a fairly notable band, they never got much attention here in New Zealand. I wonder if this new project will garner different results.
It’s time to look back and remember some of the highlights on the year just been. Here are some of the best concerts, albums and films I saw/heard in 2014.
The year went by so fast. I was pretty busy with university assignments so didn’t always have time to write reviews. I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads of things that deserve mentioning, but here is what I do remember.
Although it wasn’t technically 2014, it was a year ago that my friend Sam and I flew to Sydney to see The Roots play at the Horden Pavilion. I was disappointed that Questlove hid his glorious afro underneath a beanie, but the show was still awesome. “Captain” Kirk, the guitarist, threw his sweaty towel into the crowd. I caught it and gave it to Sam. He keeps it as a treasured memento to remind him of the gig. We also went to the Broadway show of the Lion King and it was too good for words. I bought a CD of the songs of the show. The Australian cast I saw live were better than the recorded version, but I still listen to the CD more than anything else.
I was fortunate enough to tick three bands off my bucket list this year. I saw Nine Inch Nails in Christchurch co-headlining with Queens of the Stoneage. They were incredible. I even got to chat to Trent Reznor at the airport the following day. It was also great to catch up with school friends in Christchurch that I don’t get to see often.
I finally got to see Biffy Clyro live at the Powerstation. I was buzzing for days afterwards. I managed to get a guitar pick and an annotated copy of the set list as well. I also saw Jimmy Eat World at the same venue. I was considering going to Soundwave in Australia to see these two bands at the beginning of the year but couldn’t afford it, so I was rapt when they each got announced to play in NZ.
The Beards were a comedy band that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was nice catching up with my friend Jason from Melbourne, who was working as their follically gifted merch guy. Another funny gig was internet sensation and rapper Ur Boy Bangs, with local hardcore band Declaration AD opening. It was pretty hilarious, but surprisingly fun.
Other live acts that stood out this year include post-rock masters Jakob, pop starlet Ellie Goulding, and modern hardcore band La Dispute.
I’m seeing Shihad in a few days and I’m sure that will also be worthy of this list. I’ve seen them at least ten times in the past and they’ve never disappointed. I’m looking forward to seeing them play material from the new album, FVEY.
The gigs that I’m looking most forward to in 2015 so far include Frank Turner, Gary Clark Jr, and Foo Fighters.
Albums and EPs
There have been some great new music releases this year. Here’s some that stood out for me, categorised by genre but not in any particular order.
I’ve listened to it at least once every day since it arrived in the post. Sublime electro-prog-rock arisen from the ashes of Cog.
Biffy Clyro – Similarities (B-sides album)
It goes without saying that any release from my fave band will get a mention.
Queens of the Stoneage – … Like Clockwork and Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways were both major disappointments. Both bands are of high calibre and had lots of hype around the new albums, but the music just wasn’t good enough to make me want to listen to the albums more than once.
I only wrote two film reviews this year, but I saw plenty of great movies that deserve a mention
Housebound was by far the stand out film of the year for me. A Kiwi comedy/horror that strikes the perfect balance. The Dark Horse was another NZ film that impressed. Forget The Hobbit, New Zealand can produce some quality films without the need to sell out to Hollywood.
The follow-up to one of my fave movies came out in July. The Raid 2 was just as violent and intense as its predecessor, but with more varied and imaginative fight scenes. The sequel was pretty long, with a more complex plot. Fingers crossed for The Raid 3 in years to come!
The trailer was bad enough to put me off wanting to watch it, but Gone Girl was gripping, albeit unsettling. This was one that surpassed expectations. It also featured a soundtrack written by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, which earns it bonus marks in my book.
2013’s The Wolverine, was abysmal, but the X-Men franchise redeemed themselves with Days Of The Future Past. I was left with plenty of unanswered questions, but it was a clever way to tie in the two timelines.
Another sci-fi that I enjoyed was Snowpiercer, a futuristic dystopian film set on a train that contains the last of earth’s population. It was incredible right until the end, when it lost momentum in the last scene.
I enjoyed Frozen, although as a trainee early childhood teacher went a bit insane because of children singing “Let It Go” non-stop. Lego Movie was fun as well, but Big Hero 6 was my favourite children’s animated film.
The major let down was Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. It was long. It was grand. But it didn’t come together in a satisfying way. I fail to understand why people rated it so highly.
I’ve been blessed to have such a good year. Since launching Will Not Fade earlier this year I’ve had people from all over the world read my reviews. One review featured at Stereofox.com. I’ve had bands ask me to review their music and I’ve gained media passes to attend events. I really enjoy doing this and I plan to continue what I’m doing.
Please let me know what you think. What did you enjoy reading? Are there bands or films you want to see me write about? Did I inspire you to listen to a new band, or watch another film? Do you have any other suggestions?