Thursday, June 16, 2016

Follow Me Back by Nicci Cloke || Book Review

Title: Follow Me Back
Author: Nicci Cloke
Release Date: February 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Source: Review copy from the publisher

There was no sign of a struggle. She took her phone but left her laptop behind. Apparently, she'd met someone online. Did she leave? Or was she taken?

The first time Aiden Kendrick hears about Lizzie Summersall's disappearance is when the police appear at his front door. Aiden doesn't know it yet, but with Lizzie's disappearance his life is about to take a twisted and desperate turn.

I want to start by saying that I didn't hate this book. I didn't even not like it that much. It's just that it's forgettable. There seems to be something of an inundation of internet horror story based books, so to stand out is a tough call. And unfortunately, Nicci Cloke's Follow Me Back doesn't quite nail it.

Aiden was a likable enough narrator. He was completely unreliable as a protagonist and kept a lot of information from the reader, but his voice really did work for the story. It was frustrating, but Aiden's lying was possibly one of the most interesting aspects of the book. I really felt for him as Lizzie's friend but was simultaneously irritated by his behaviour. I really wanted to reach into the pages and shake him until he saw some sense. I found myself thinking HOW DO YOU THINK THAT'S A GOOD IDEA? repeatedly throughout the book.

I personally found the plot fairly easy to see through, my initial hunch was correct so it wasn't the greatest reveal. I don't know if I've just read too many thrillers and know how to pick a perpetrator or if it was down to the writing. I have read other reviews online where the ending completely stumped them, so I wouldn't let my experience put you off. I would say though, that if you want a book that will keep you guessing the entire way through maybe opt for something else. 

I don't know if I'd recommend you read this book, but I wouldn't discourage you either. It was an okay book, an okay story (if slightly over the top) but it just didn't come together for me. Maybe I'm just sick of the internet-is-scary-be-careful-of-anyone-you-talk-to plot line, but if you aren't then I'd suggest you give it a try. It mightn't stay with you once you've finished it, but it won't be too painful a read.

Friday, June 10, 2016

'This album is a monster' || TASTE

“I wrote [I Am God] based on a short story I'd written imagining life on Earth as The Sims game, played out by a not-so-benevolent God using events and disasters as ways of amusement.  He plays...we pay.”

Picture this: it's the 1970s and you're just about to hit the big time. America, sold out shows, headline tours. It's all in the bag. Done deal. Except, then it isn't. Mismanagement and family disputes brought the dreams of the then-fresh faced TASTE crashing down. But now, they're back and this time there's no way but up.

The 1970s were nearly TASTE's big time, why is 2016 your next shot at making it?
With Taste, Michael, Joey and I have known each other since high school. We were playing Festival Hall and touring Australia and the age of 16 and 17 but it sometimes feels like unfinished business. So we reformed in 2007 and released the + ROCK IS DEAD album which had some success here and overseas, but I always felt we weren't represented properly on that recording so this time we decided to do it ourselves and spent a year in the studio. This album is a monster. Big guitars, riffs, harmonies, brass and strings and a lot of heart!

For any doubters, why is progressive '70s rock still relevant today?
I've never really thought of ourselves as prog rock. I always think of bands like Yes and Pink Floyd when I hear that term. I think we are more music than most and we do put a lot of thoughts into our lyrics, but it's underlined by some pretty heavy noise.

You guys had some serious opportunities lined up before you disbanded, what stopped it from happening for you guys in the '70s?
Bad change of management. We were ready to sign to Sire Records in America and tour there but it all imploded just before it happened. I spent a day with Seymore Stein who was very excited about the band. After we broke up there were articles in Cashbox announcing our coming to America!

TASTE has been in the music business for over 40 years now, how has this extra experience helped you?
Really it's the chemistry between Joey, Michael and me that has warranted from that. We kinda know what each is thinking musically so that's something you can't learn. Also finding Damian Corniola on drums was a real blessing. We do tend to look at everything a little more deeply and seriously. We will have two hour discussions about the setlist! Everything is carefully planned without a need to rush.

And finally, what will TASTE be bringing to your new run of live shows?
We love to experiment and push the envelope. A usual 5 minute song like SANCTUARY can go for up to 10 minutes live. Songs in 13/8 or 5/4 over heavy riffs, operatic vocals and a rhythm section that'll slam your chest and forget the rest.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lake Loser || Jackie Brown Jr

Bringing with them a fresh-faced brand of music that demands attention, Jackie Brown Jr are back with more of their 'pulp fiction soul rock'. Or simply, good music by any standard.

With an easy guitar riff, enchanting vocals and lyrics to die for, Jackie Brown Jr's Lake Loser is a dream with a seriously outstanding backing track. It's a tune that'll make you want groove but it's not going to take you anywhere you wouldn't want to go anyway.

By the time the guitar and drums explode, the track is in full swing and completely ready for the refreshing pop of brass on offer. There's so much going on it's hard to believe it can be so seamless.

Everything about this one is a breathe of fresh air, which is admirable in a world where so many songs are written about growing up and trying new things. Lake Loser doesn't force you along for the ride, but if you want it to, it's gonna be there for you every step of the way.

w/Thunder Fox and Flexmami

Friday 3rd June Tokyo
Sing Song, Newtown, NSW

Friday, June 3, 2016

BROODS || Just A Gent || Dot

When BROODS releases a track, you stop what you're doing to have a listen. And the latest, Couldn't Believe, is a serious example of why. The dreamy track, lifted from their new album Conscious is a smorgasbord of everything that makes indie pop a genre to listen to. Comprised of a pair of siblings, BROODS is one of those acts you mightn't have paid enough attention to in the past, so I'm here to remind you that this talented duo is one to pay some serious attention to.

Just A Gent is a DJ/Producer I wish I was heading along to Splendour in the Grass to see. His impressive skills are perfectly demonstrated in new release, Loaded feat. Melissa Ramsey and it doesn't take very long to realise this is on act that deserves the attention it's been receiving (you don't get in excess of 1.4 million rotations on SoundCloud for just anything produced in a bedroom studio). This is one 19-year-old to keep an eye on. And maybe head along to his set at Splendour or tune into Triple J where it's on rotation.

"I tried to pluck this from the future. I went into this track with future beats on my mind, it took a few minutes and I had that lead synth down and it all worked from there."

The Gold Coast's newest pop darling Dot has recently launched her first single Weekend  from her upcoming debut EP. While she may have danced her way through several genres, it's clear that electronica is where Dot's talents are best put to use. With catchy synth and hypnotising bass lines, Weekend is a tune perfect for, well, the weekend - however you happen to be spending it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Haters by Jesse Andrews || Book Review

Title: The Haters
Author: Jesse Andrews
Release Date: April 2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Wes and Corey are convinced nothing cool can come of their lame summer at jazz camp, when along comes Ash - all blonde hair and brash words - and cracks their world wide open. Finally, something they can't seem to hate. When Ash convinces them that a great musician is made on the road, the three friends flee camp and begin an epic, hilarious road trip: The Haters 2016 Summer of Hate Tour.

Amid sneaking into seedy bars, evading their parents and the police, and spending every minute together in a makeshift tour bus, romance blossoms and bursts, and hygiene takes a back seat. Wes begins to realise the limitations of hating everything: it keeps you at a convenient distance from something, or someone, you just might love.

When you find something to hate about every band, how do you make a sound you love?

I've spent a long time thinking about how best to describe how much I wished I could've joined Wes, Corey and Ash on their seriously epic, potentially illegal, unhygienic, good-music-filled road trip. But I've come up blank every time. Basically, I wish I'd been there. Reading a novel is one thing, but wanting so badly for it to be real is something that only a few authors seem to manage.

I loved Jesse Andrews' writing since I first started Me, Earl and the Dying Girl and it's continued all the way through The Haters. Andrews has an insane ability to craft characters, rather than simply write about them. And while, so far, none of the characters are people I would actually particularly want to be friends with, it felt like I'd spent a whole life getting to know them. Even though it was actually just 325 pages. I loved them, hated them, wanted to hug them, and wanted to lock them in a dark room until they saw sense, but ultimately, Ash, Wes and Corey felt like three of my closest friends. 

Considering the concept of this book - 'escaping' jazz camp to play gigs in possibly flea-ridden pubs and travelling the country in a beat-up car - and it's implausibility (the far-fetched plot line didn't escape me...) Andrews manages a convincing story. By not even half way through, I was convinced I could just take off and it'd all work out (this was only part way through, no spoilers on whether it really did work out). 

Ash was probably the character that confused me the most. She was irrational, out of control, and seemed to have no real idea about boundaries or consequences. Which is all fine, but at times it felt a bit...well, over done. There were times where the way she had been written just frustrated me. I struggled to relate in any way and, considering we are supposedly of similar ages, I expected to see at least a tiny bit of her logic. It felt like a man writing about a teenage girl who's angry at life, but I wanted Ash to be more than that. I had a lot of empathy for her, but I couldn't find anything about her to relate to and I feel that this could be off-putting to some readers.

Ultimately, this is a book I wish I could slip into everyone's hands and make sure they read it. It's funny and frustrating and full of life. Andrews manages to combine so much into less than 400 pages without a wasted word or misstep. I'm impressed and, no doubt, so will you.