I am a huge fan of Luke Steele and his criminally underrated band, the Sleepy Jackson. Steele is one of those guys who forms a band, makes a really good record, then fires the whole band, hires a new one, and starts all over again, so I guess the Sleepy Jackson is really just Luke Steele. Anyway, his first record, 2003’s Lovers, was jam packed with what should have been Top 40 hits, but instead, the album came and went without much fanfare. Perhaps the record was a bit too schizophrenic for some, as Steele wandered through alt-country, disco, classic rock, sunny George Harrison-influenced wah-wah guitars, a weird spoken word piece, a song sung by a young child, etc. Yes, the album was all over the place, but it was still really freakin’ good.
The Sleepy Jackson – “Good Dancers” from the 2003 album Lovers
Fast forward to 2006. Luke Steele, after firing his entire previous band, releases his second Sleepy Jackson record, Personality (One Was A Spider, One Was A Bird). This album displayed more of the same strong pop songwriting sensibilities that Steele demonstrated on Lovers, and Steele apparently had a much higher recording budget for this one. I believe I read an article a few years back that said Steele overdubbed more than 80 vocal tracks on the record, all his own voice. It seems Steele had moved on from his George Harrison period and moved forward into his Brian Wilson phase. At first, I was thrown off by all of the vocal tracks, as I felt that they drowned out the rest of album, but once I got used to it, Steele’s gift for melody shone through, and I was once again enthralled by this talented Aussie.
The Sleepy Jackson – “God Lead Your Soul” from the 2006 album Personality (One Was A Spider, One Was A Bird)
I have to say that I have been waiting patiently for the last two years for another Sleepy Jackson record. Instead, I stumbled upon a Pitchfork reviewof a new album by a group called Empire Of The Sun, which I came to find is comprised of Luke Steele and fellow Aussie Nick Littlemore of the dance act Pnau. Mashing together Steele’s superb pop songwriting sensibilities with Littlemore’s mastery of electro beats, the two artists have found one of those “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter” moments, two great tastes that taste great together. The title track is a great little hypnotic dance pop/disco tune, and though I have not done so yet, this record is next on my list of albums to purchase. Also, the video is filmed in Shanghai, China, which I visited on a business trip about one year ago. They look like they’re having a lot more fun than I did, though. Of course the two weeks that I would go to China also happened to coincide with the first snowstorm to hit Shanghai in 54 years. That sucked. But not as much as the food poisoning…
Empire Of The Sun – “Walking On A Dream” from the 2008 album Walking On A Dream