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Jen Cloher

Jen Cloher
Downtown boys

by Jen Cloher

Feature Records for the week beginning Mon 7 Aug 2017

Jen Cloher Jen Cloher (PBS Feature Record)
“It’s self-titled.” The three-word answer is all that Jen Cloher requires to describe her new album, a letter in triplicate addressed to themes of Music, Australia and Love. It’s the most honest album she’s ever written. Jen likes best to tell the truth.

Jen Cloher is the culmination of a period of artistic and personal growth in which the artist took her rightful place as the punk-rock figurehead of Melbourne’s famous DIY music scene. The NIDA graduate is now an outspoken advocate for artist rights, a label boss and band-leader. Cloher’s politics and her fascinating life-story are enough justification to take notice here, but it’s the music that will have you returning to this album again and again.

The bulk of Cloher’s album was recorded in October 2016 by Greg Walker amidst the rolling greenery of rural Australia. The band that first played together on Cloher’s acclaimed third album, the Australian Music Prize nominated In Blood Memory, are now bold and assured. These are songs of distance and songs of driving, they are split here and there by the melodic intricacy of guitarist Courtney Barnett while drummer Jen Sholakis and bassist Bones Sloane add weight and space, playing only what is needed, leaving room for the songs to breathe, transform and soar.

Downtown Boys Cost of Living (featured on The Breakfast Spread)
The position of Providence, RI’s Downtown Boys has been clear since they started storming through basements and DIY spaces with their radically-minded rock music: they are here to topple the white-cis-het hegemony and draft a new history. Downtown Boys began by combining revolutionary ideals with boundless energy and contagious, inclusive fun, and their resolve has only strengthened as their sound and audience have grown.

Cost of Living is their third full-length, following a self-released 2012 debut and 2015’s Full Communism on Don Giovanni Records. They recorded it with Guy Picciotto (Fugazi; producer of Blonde Redhead, The Gossip), one of indie-rock’s most mythological figures, in the producer’s chair. Picciotto fostered the band’s improvisational urges while pulling the root of their music to the forefront: unflinching choruses, fearlessly confrontational vocals, and the sense that each song will incite the room into action, sending bodies into motion that were previously thought to have atrophied.

Compared to previous efforts, Downtown Boys have shifted from a once-meaty brass section to the subtler melodic accompaniment of keyboards and a saxophone, coloring their anthems with warm, bright tones while singer/lyricist Victoria Ruiz spits out her frustrations and passions. Some might say it shows a sense of maturity, as Downtown Boys have undoubtedly smoothed down some of their earlier edges, but there is no compromise to their righteous assault and captivating presence. Like the socially conscious groups of years past, from Public Enemy to Rage Against the Machine, Downtown Boys harness powerful sloganeering, repetitive grooves, and earworm hooks to create one of the most necessary musical statements of the day.

This week's Top 10: 
Jen Cloher - Jen Cloher
Downtown Boys - Cost of Living
The Bombay Royale - Run Kitty Run
Shiny Coin/SPIT - Split CS
Ben Frost - Threshold of Faith EP
Miss Eaves - Feminasty
Various Artists - Tropical Drums of Deutschland
The Fall - New Facts Emerge
Davey Lane - I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright
Lloyd Spiegel - This Time Tomorrow

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