Karen O's Tomb Raider Tie-In Is Part Bond Theme, Part Ad Jingle

5 November 2015 | 4:07 pm | Ross Clelland

...but not quite fully either.

The marketing plan used to be pretty simple. Put out the single to tell world the album’s coming. Go on tour to inform world there’s a new album. Put out another couple of singles to keep the album sales ticking over. And repeat to fade. While some persevere with that model, some have gone looking for other ways. Karen O, she once – and maybe still – of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, decides to go with the cross-platform cross-promotion. I Shall Rise (Cult) quite unashamedly ties in with the new Tomb Raider game resulting in something that’s somewhat more than just an advertising jingle, but probably somewhat less the would-be Bond movie theme they might have been after. 

Going for a more idiosyncratic approach, the perhaps deliberately eccentric EL VY – pronounced as if ‘the plural of Elvis’ according to their mission statements if you weren’t aware – seem to have been revealing their collaboration album almost by instalment. Silent Ivy Hotel (4AD) is the fifth song released in visual form even before the album is actually released. Much like his words with The National, Matt Berninger’s lyrics are a mix of the cryptic, mundane, and profane – but perhaps not ‘a waste of love’ as he sings here. This, like the previously exposed videos, falls somewhere between promotional item and Year 9 art project. You look at them a little askance, and they wink back. 

And never underestimate the worth of the celebrity cameo. Although, by getting Martin Freeman to get all artistically destructive through Pick It Up (Parlophone) you wonder what audience Paul Weller may be after. People wanting to watch hobbits have a nervous breakdown? The curiosity of what Tim does to exorcise the stress of working with David Brent? Meantime, the man I would never refer to as ‘The Modfather’ doesn’t even appear, while providing the soundtrack to the Ikea carnage. The music is of the model of that slightly meandering early-70s white r’n’b which he’ll stick to until he gets bored with that, and will then reinvent himself to no doubt broad praise from those who in the UK who treat him with due reverence.

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While Weller has certainly had his career ebbs and flows, the pendulum of Martin Phillipps’ life is altogether more scarily real – the illness of addiction leading to almost complete debilitation toward the end of last century, although the band name which defines him still has a near-legendary status, particularly in his/their New Zealand homeland. The Chills were a thing of wonder – Phillipps’ taut shimmering guitar and slightly strangulated vocals almost defining one form of Kiwi music of the era. So twenty years and myriad line-up changes, false starts, breaks - some enforced and some a little more sordid – and a new album is apparently coming. Silver Bullets (Fire/Mistletone) has all the blueprint ingredients in place, which leads to a sweetly nostalgic memory, if nothing else. 

That guitar noise we called ‘shimmering’ up there is certainly present and referenced – perhaps with some 21st angles to it – in Last Dinosaurs. Wurl (Dew Process) is an early contender in the ‘feel good hit of the summer’ field, although the downbeat vocals and feeling of loss in it add some contradictions that add a neat tension to it. There seems an inordinate amount of good music coming out of Brisbane in this cycle, add this to the list.

Meantime, straight outta Hurlstone Park, the pop of High-tails comes in the slightly shouty and scrappy conversations that have had them fitting well as support on the resurrection tour of the mighty Philadelphia Grand Jury. Might be quite a party (party). See what I did there? Oh, never mind. The background information to My Heart (StopStart) is the stuff of legend: backpacking in Europe, a girl, reading Catcher In The Rye – oh c’mon Nicholas Griffith, how much more young man indie can you get? Add handclaps, deliver with a falling-down-the-stair energy, and the kids are proving to be alright. 

If your preference is for something a little chunkier, may we offer the ‘killer stoner rock jam’ of White Summer. The self-explanatory, and just a tad self-mocking, Ode To My A.D.D. (Habit Music Company) unfurls with a real density and weight to it, while not forgetting there should be an element of getting to the point about it. Which it does. And then rolls right over you. Which you wouldn’t mind it doing again. Good result. 

Finally, from the ‘what is’ to the ‘what should be’. You’d be a hard marker if you didn’t rate You Am I’s Heavy Heart as one of the nation’s great alternative anthems. If for nothing else but you know you’ve felt like that waterlogged ball at some point. You’d also find an argument if you didn’t consider Courtney Barnett one of the most Australian of voices. Having just over the ragged glory of Courts and Paul Kelly’s ideally matched tones duetting on Archie Roach’s Charcoal Lane, for her recent appearance on the venerable and respected Austin City Limits concert series she trots out the perfectly self-doubting version of ‘her favourite song’. Somebody place her and Timothy Adrian Rogers in a room together before she wins that inevitable fistful of ARIAs she’s bound to, and make this song the all-consuming hit it always should have been. Until then, just enjoy this.