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Tunes for Spring 2014

Tunes for Spring 14

If you’re anything like me, spring time is a great time for road trips, and getting excited about summer! And both road trips, and lazing ’round the house, need great music to go with them.

The other day, I stumbled across a great band that will fit into both those categories. Tennis, a husband and wife song-writer duo from Denver, craft beautiful pop that has elements that remind me of some of the late 80′s music in my personal collection, while capturing a bunch of fresh modern sounds. I love the reverb dipped vocals on some of the tracks off the new album like I’m Callin’, and the light guitar parts mixed with warm synth’s like those on Never Work For Free that remind me of beautiful warm days in Spring.

Tennis’ third album came out earlier this month and was produced by Patrick Carney (Black Keys), Jim Eno (Spoon) and Richard Swift (The Shins). Unfortunately, I can’t find it for purchase in Australia yet (online or in store) but both of their earlier albums are available around the traps.

To add to the great spring vibes, Alt-J’s new album, This Is All Yours, which has been available for streaming online for a while now, comes out on the 22nd Sept. Like their previous album, it’s got a character which is different to a lot of what I’ve listening to of late. Joe Newman’s spectacularly unique vocal takes fit perfectly with the simple guitar, synth and drum tracks and result in great listening-to-while-driving music. I love the first track they released publicly to Australia, Left Hand Free, and particularly the treatment they gave the video clip.

Jake Berry EP - GlossolaliaFinally, a friend of mine has released an EP on Bandcamp titled Glossolalia. It’s also got a great spring time vibe, perfect for relaxing poolside in the sunshine, while reading a book. Jake spent some time recording with another Jake in the Blue Mountains and I’m really loving the product!

If you’ve got suggestions on what I should be listening to this spring, leave a comment below!

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Free Citizens Album and Eventide Plugin

Free Stuff - June 2014

Mars Hill Church band, Citizens, have their new album available for free on NoiseTrade. We’ve done a few of the songs off this album at church at youth and our Sunday night service and they’re great! Many are old hymns – including some of my favourites – done in a new, contemporary, style with new arrangements or melodies. If you like what you hear, NoiseTrade allows you to tip the artist a few dollars too.

Secondly, for the new few weeks, Eventide, who make some great hardware and software audio effect plugins are giving away their new UltraChannel VST plugin. If you’re a recording engineer, or a musician and use any software that supports VST plugins (like MainStage, which I use for creating and playing tones for our Sunday night church band, Legitified), download it now! It’s got a couple of compressors, a 5 band parametric EQ and some other nice extras. After early July, it will go on sale for about AU$300 – so it’s very much worth getting it for free while you’re able. As someone commented on Facebook, ‘Free Eventide is good Eventide!’.

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Unruly Vocalists? Give Them a Stand!

Two weeks ago, I was mixing my church Summer Camp and made a decision before we arrived that we’d put all 3 vocalists in each session behind microphone stands. This, I hoped, would combat some issues I’ve been experiencing all year with vocalists who can sing quite well, but either don’t have great microphone technique or lack a bit of confidence.

This decision really paid off compared to the problems I had with getting vocals to sit well in a youth context for a couple of reasons. The first reason, which was that our less confident vocalists (who would occasionally play guitar) seemed to be more comfortable actually singing into the mic! This helped me to get decent gain before feedback across the board.

Tadhg and Megan

Tadhg rocking the stand!

The lead vocalist across the week, Tadhg, made solid use of his mic stand both as a piece of equipment to play with and to experiment with different mic technique. During some of the louder songs (for example In Tenderness) he was able to get right up on top of the mic, which made the 160X compressor work hard, but allowed his vocal to get nice and punchy and a bit more aggressive, which suited some of the songs chosen for the week.

The last, and surprise, benefit came on the 2nd last day when I asked one of the guitarists if he’d like to sing some response parts in a couple of the songs to amp up the front line a little. I was very surprised at how much of a difference this made to the energy songs like Anchored Hope, originally by We Are the Outpost.

So, if you’re struggling to get a good level out of your vocals on stage – give them a stand! We tried this at church on Sunday in the band that I play in, and I got some good feedback from people out the front!

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Music Industry vs. The people of this generation

Many people would have read about the Australian music industries propaganda video that essentially blames the illegal downloading of music for their decline in revenue and sales. If you didn’t it was covered widely in the media — probably in most depth by this Sydney Morning Herald article.

Thankfully, a couple of blokes have come up with a very sensible response to the propaganda in the website tune-out.com. At the moment, they’re still working on a response in video format, but you can go and sign the online petition, which I encourage you all to do!

All this comes not long after some big name bands including Coldplay, Metallica (finally) and Matchbox Twenty are starting to break into the digital world, following bands like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead.

It really makes me wonder when the record industry will understand their users. Most technology journalists speak of the industry ‘not getting it’, but I think they do, but are completely lost in how to satisfy their market and their tastes in this world of the internet and portable music devices, among other technologies. I only pay for music I actually really enjoy and the stuff I don’t enjoy I simply just don’t purchase from iTunes or buy from a record store. Besides, music sounds horrible compared to what it used to be.

I hope Adam and Jared at tune-out lead a successful campaign. It will be great to see the real message displayed, rather than one that revolves around blaming consumers.

-james

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