1. “Avant Gardener” by Courtney Barnett
I love this song so very much and I love everything about Courtney Barnett. This is the sound of slacker pop music done right. Everyone else pretending to do this kind of sound in the modern landscape is a careerist pretender in comparison to Courtney Barnett. All the modern slackers follow the business plan and formula too closely; I just don’t believe what comes out of their mouth. Courtney Barnett on the other hand, I believe everything. She makes the kind of music that makes you want to ignore everything else you own and just go out and buy all her stuff and listen to nothing but her music.
Fuck Comparisons, but for those people who need some kind of reference point let me just say that this song is the most right on thing since The Breeders, that is how amazing and great this song is.
I can’t wait until she releases a full length album. Two artists thrill me in this new decade, EMA and Courtney Barnett.
2. “Prelude To Debut” by Pale Earth
I feel sorry for people in Brisbane, Australia and the World who don’t know the healing power of Benjamin Thompson and his amazing music. You may not know his name and if you don’t then you clearly don’t respect music enough. You should probably go back to your business plan and not even bother because you fail. Sorry to sound harsh and elitist but if you’re going to be a successful local scene dude you may want to invest in the history of your town and in Brisbane no one makes music cooler than Benjamin Thompson. Okay, so the name still doesn’t ring a bell you fucking thundercunt, well let me do the hard work for you – Benjamin Thompson played in the most radical band of the past decade, they are called “The Rational Academy” and before you move any further please go and visit this bandcamp page and buy everything:
You haven’t done it yet have you? Your laziness has gotten the better of you and you think you have heard all that is cool about cool guitar music. Let me tell you that you are wrong, now go and visit this link:
I’ll only tell you twice
Moving forward, I was thrilled to be sent an advanced link to the brand new Pale Earth 7 inch titled “Prelude to Debut.” The songs contained on this release are beyond fantastic. To divert for a second, I better let you know that Pale Earth is the latest creative vehicle for Benjamin Thompson, you know, that Kool as fuck dude who I mentioned above. I’ve loved everything that he has released so far under the Pale Earth name and “Prelude to Debut” is no exception.
There is so much hurt and loss buried inside these electronic mood pieces and it is perfect doomgaze. I can just relax into these songs, with the lights turned off and just be lulled into all kinds of landscapes. I can feel the beauty and ugliness of life all at once but I can also taste the regret dripping from these songs. It’s the kind of regret that one suffers in times of loss, regret for the suffocation of time and our lack of it. Considering the music is largely instrumental and basically two pieces of moodgaze electronic fuzz it is amazing how lyrical the noise is. Thompson’s manipulation of noise is where the story is told on “Prelude to Debut” – it speaks louder than any words and you can hear the pain pouring out of him even as you sink inside the rather blissfully cold electronic fortress that is surrounded by a halo of funeral drones. These passages of sound are drenched in loss, it is beautifully overwhelming how these two pieces of music send your imagination crazy with an inundation of life’s best and worst memories.
It goes without saying that Pale Earth is a very important project and one that I am following with a feverish fascination. Considering the amount of rapture shaped drones being communicated by Pale Earth it still affects and stays with me like great pop music. This music stays with me and is the special kind of top shelf stuff that I only share with very special human beings. Pale Earth deserve to be worshiped and Benjamin Thompson deserves his own chapter in the music industry textbook so that all of the little children can understand how to be an artist as opposed to a musician (trust me, there is a big difference).
The new 7 inch from Pale Earth “Prelude To Debut” is vital listening for those of us who respect music. If you don’t enjoy this, then I’m sorry, you are just into music for its entertainment value as opposed to the emotional release it can provide. I feel sorry for you, but you can always learn, this 7 inch is a good start.
3. “Heart Slice” by Go Violets
What makes a band like GO VIOLETS so special is the way they collide the pleasure and the pain. There is some real sadness swirling in and out of these songs lyrically and that is what I find fascinating about the music this band writes. There is a deep visceral roar waiting to explode from the sweetness of it all and part of the charm is the way the band balance the dark and the light. Some hearts were seriously broken for these songs to be written.
The real highlight of the Heart Slice EP however is the third track “Beside Me” which just explodes with all kinds of teenage angst and ached confusion. The intense backstory fuelling the sweet shine swoon of the song just destroys me every time I hear it. I found myself listening to the opening vocal sigh over and over again. There was some heavy hurt shaping that melodic communication and I felt like it really opened up some deep emotions inside of me, I know the exact kind of pain that went into make a song like “Beside Me” and it is without a doubt the standout track.
When I reviewed the band’s latest single “Wanted” I highlighted that dynamically GO VIOLETS music is heavily in debt to Kim Deal and if they wanted to classify their music as a genre then they should simply call it “Kim Deal Pop Music” because that really sums up what the band does. I also outlined that Carole King was the other artist that automatically comes up in my mind when I listen to GO VIOLETS and after listening to the band’s debut EP “Heart Slice” non-stop of the past 24 hours I’m convinced that Kim Deal and Carole King are still a big part of the reason why GO VIOLETS resonate with me. What the fuck that means to you I have no idea, I’m talking about my resonance.
I’m incredibly excited about the future of GO VIOLETS and “Heart Slice” is a perfect collection of pop songs for confused post teenage weekend hangover warriors and of course well-adjusted but occasionally unstable non-drinking adults like myself. The most exciting part about GO VIOLETS is where the future may take them. I personally wish for it to go to some deeper and darker places with totally washed out noise guitars and those wonderfully divine vocals weaving in and out of it.
GO VIOLETS are very now but they draw their sound from their own nostalgia for eras of music long since gone. There are glimpses on this EP of a band who’ll break free of the early twenties uncertainty to discover the joy of annihilating their pop skills with total guitar noise freakout weirdness. For now though, GO VIOLETS are an incredible pop band that are on a direct path to being full blown rock stars.
The beauty of “Heart Slice” is in all of that intense darkness swaying underneath the sweetness and it will be the evolution of that darkness that will keep me interested in the totally right on sounds that GO VIOLETS communicate as a band.
4. “Heavy” by Eves (formally Hannah Karydas)
There is something refreshing about the debut single from Hannah Karydas (now known as Eves) which is called “Heavy” – for a start it boycotts any standard pop song or sunshine agenda and communicates a deeper kind of hurt with a wonderful percussive gallop and vocal atmosphere. There is some serious heartbreak being discussed on this track with a reflective focus on the anger of teenage disappointment. It has some serious intensity which remains restrained which showcases the talent of Hannah’s songwriting. A lot of artists with this much angst would have found a way to reach some kind of distorted crescendo, but on “Heavy” we only get the subtle fuck you which is so amazingly fresh. Hannah is clearly a student of the “less is more” theory and this song is a clear example of when it is done right.
“Heavy” sounds like it is part of a bigger piece of communication though, a single in terms of its ability to resonate with you on a direct level but I can’t help but predict that Hannah’s upcoming debut EP will be a wonderful journey of youthful intensity and pain. I personally have become a massive fan just from this song and I can’t rave enough about the intelligence of Hannah’s writing. Underneath the atmosphere and strums of the acoustic guitar you can hear how much joy and pain relief Hannah gets from communicating through music. I also hear an artist that is giving us a small glimpse at her desire to experiment with sound, not just song structures but with the dynamics and atmospheres and moods of her compositions. Much like the amazing Emma Louise, while all the other humans in Australia spend time trying to write obvious radio fodder, Hannah Karydas will resonate with a larger audience by boycotting that path and creating music that is heavy on emotion and thick with sonic experimentation and “thank fuck for that” is all I can say.
I’m going to say that you’d be foolish to ignore Hannah Karydas because she’ll be a star. I hear so many awesome sounds in her song “Heavy” from M.I.A. to Patti Smith with hints of Radiohead and other right on artists like Emma Louise. That is just on the surface, as I’ve mentioned I’m convinced that Hannah Karydas is an intense disciple of music because from this song alone you can tell how much she respects music and how much she wants to honour her eclectic influences.
This song is perfect and if you don’t understand why then I guess you are one of those humans who believe in the power of coming first in a band competition, you fool.
Do your best to track down Hannah Karydas (Eves) and invest now.
5. “Leviathan” by Balloons Kill Babies
It’s quite clear upon listening to Balloons Kill Babies debut EP “Leviathan” that this is a band that is in love with music. There is a joy that radiates from the dark soundscapes and it is this joy that makes the EP so engaging as a listener. It is the relaxing factor that gives you the space to exist within it as a fan, the joy the band feels from playing these dark moodgaze songs is the ingredient that will allow for a greater resonance outside the niche instrumental “post” genre that most lazy journalists will place them in. Yes, this is indeed post-rock influenced metal but if you dig deeper you can hear genres outside of that influencing the dynamics pushing the sound to satisfying heights emotionally.
On the surface you can hear how bands like ISIS, Tool, Nine Inch Nails and Sigur Ros have shaped the sound and for the most part you’d be 100 per cent spot on but I also hear a lot of non-guitar music washed over the riffs and mellow passages. I’m talking about artists like Bjork, Fever Ray, Fiona Apple, Massive Attack, Portishead, Boards of Canada and Unkle. It’s these non-guitar rock / metal influences that give Balloons Kill Babies a unique flavour. It may not be the first thing you hear but with repeated spins you can start to hear it.
They mean this and that was the instant thing that I clicked with. From here I got such joy from the level of escape that the music provided me. I don’t care for hit singles or pop skills if you can’t make me feel something. I want to connect to the sound and I want it to allow me the space to escape. I want the sound to wash over me and manipulate my mood into a reflective state where I muse on that deep yearning that exists in us all. I want to think about romance and woman and that sigh that exists with living inside a secret tomb of the crush, you know that joy of staying home on a Friday night and thinking about nothing but her. I want music that will sound great in my car stereo after I leave my day job, so great that I just submit to the highway and drive that extra distance just so I can hear more. I don’t want to be comfortable, I want to be challenged but I want that challenge to be conquered but not resolved. I’m not looking for a hit and run lover with music I want a long term swoon that will always keep me guessing but secure in the fact that for all the darkness that there is light on the other side. I want music that allows the ugliness of life to evolve into something way more beautiful. I just want music that will make me feel something. It has to provide me with rapture.
The debut EP “Leviathan” from Balloons Kill Babies does all of this and more with the only flaw being that it is an EP, I want this band to make a full length.
On the surface this band makes music that has no commercial value. I’m glad about that, it’s nice not to hear a single or a pop song shoved in your face. This band will be incredibly successful because they are such passionate humans making deep intense music. As I’ve said this is pure moodgaze music for fans of everything “post” and for those who know the power of the riff. This band will be successful because they buck the trend of hit singles and all that trash. Bands who do that will always resonate deeper with music fans because they aren’t being sold a conveyer belt product. Mark my words, the word will grow and their career will be a slow burner but as bands like Karnivool, COG, ISIS, Tool and Deftones have proved, while other people are busy getting haircuts and sorting their collection of complicated shoes the real artists get on with it and make a commitment to being truly progressive and evolutionary.
God Bless Balloons Kill Babies, you have made a fantastic debut EP worthy of a perfect score. I thank you for doing something for yourselves as opposed to the saturated market of bands with business plans and although this is just the beginning I can see their sound escaping the genre they are currently rooted in and arriving at something truly out of this world mind-expanding.
6. “This Town” by Release The Hounds
On this EP the band doesn’t really break any creative boundaries or push any envelopes musically but with the kind of sound the key to communicating successfully is your use of intensity and dynamics to make the straight ahead feel resonate. Release the Hounds do a perfect job of that and are brilliant in the way they mix the aggression and song structures to keep you interested. They sound like a band that has spent years studying the Melvins and Black Flag handbook but I also hear Fugazi and The Nation Blue as well.
Look, bands like this will do two kinds of things to people – it will either make the closed mind non-respecter of music history go “it all sounds the fucking same” or it will appeal directly to human beings fed up with clean and neat music who want some fucking intense release. If you fall into the latter category you’ll end up following this band every step of the way because that is the kind of rapture Release the Hounds demand and reward their fans with and that is fucking exciting.
I loved this EP and it helped sell me on the DIY attitude of Release the Hounds and for that I’m glad. I’m so pleased to see young bands be so dedicated to the ethos of actually doing it themselves instead of competing in the dirty rotten pyramid scheme known as the music industry. Fuck it thrills me beyond belief.
If you’re young pissed off and in search of a band to be your saviours then Release the Hounds are the band you’re looking for, do your best to listen to their amazing second EP “This Town” it is all kinds of brill.
7. “Wake Up” by Foxsmith
I love the vocal texture of the song; the down tempo drawl gives this song a maturity level that connects it directly to a band like The National with a very small hint of Ian Curtis mixed with the explosive excitement of Karen O. The whole point of this song is that it is a vehicle to help communicate a specific emotional experience and I think the pop song background matches the wonderfully sombre tone of the vocals.
“Wake Up” is a spectacular display of why FOXSMITH are so amazing. I initially fell in love with the bands ability to write great sombre pop music that had hints of sunshine and Kim Deal Koolisms and as the journey of their sound goes on I’m becoming increasingly attracted to the creative risks the band are taking through the pop music medium. I can’t really say what I was expecting from this single when I first heard of its pending release but when I finally heard it I was surprised, excited and totally moved by what I heard. I cheered for what a great creative leap the band had taken and it has made me crave a full length album because I can just imagine how wonderful this song would sound amongst a full movement of music. I really hope we get that full length sometime soon.
FOXSMITH are the band I’m excited about most when I talk about modern Brisbane music and “Wake Up” is a prime example of why I am so in love with what this band creates. It is also a pleasure as a music writer to write such a joyous critique of what this band creates because it is always absolutely flawless.
Go on the journey and find space in your schedule to fall in love with FOXSMITH too.
8. “Let Yourself Be Free” by Dark Fair
The immediacy of ‘Let Yourself Be Free‘s opening guitar riff, coupled with stop/start drumming, and bouncing bass courtesy of guest musician Adalita Srsen (yes, that Adalita), are miles away from Kate Bradley & The Goodbye Horses’ introspective indie. ‘Let Yourself Be Free’ is sonically closer to bands like Franz Ferdinand and Editors than anything I had imagined would emerge from these two musicians. It’s not a bad thing, though, this approach suits their sparse guitar & drums attack perfectly. The bridge contains a mountain of handclaps, which would get even the most jaded of hipster crowds moving and shaking. This is definitely music to dance to.
As if getting lost in a great pop song wasn’t enough, the B-side ‘Year Of Never Knowing‘ turns out to be the real gem here. Its slower tempo and spindly guitar lines convey feelings that make ‘Let Yourself Be Free’ sound almost throwaway, rather than just carefree, in comparison. ‘Year Of Never Knowing’ never loses the ability to keep your foot tapping along, but will have you thinking about its spidery lyrical twists and turns hours later.
9. “Sife Lucks” by Babaganouj
I’ve been a fan of Babaganouj since the beginning. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them play multiple times and I’ve been hanging out for this EP for quite a while. How would I describe the sound that Babaganouj makes? Hmmm, I’d say it is rooted in the pop tradition that a band like Husker Du indulge in and is full of the fuzzy rock n roll warmth that both Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh deal with. Don’t be fooled though, this band isn’t an exercise in throwbacks and “hey remember way back when,” not at all. This is still a modern sounding band that salutes the original purveyors of great pop music and freaked out punk noise.
The band’s debut ep “Sife Lucks” is pure joy and everything I was hoping for. The album starts with “Somebody Turn Me On” which is a beautiful yet sullen movement of chords that help introduce the EP’s future slacker anthems. The wonderful boy / girl exchange in the chorus updates that wonderful Black / Deal dynamic and the song is the perfect length. Second track “Love Loathe Love You” is a lovely sway of Husker Du chords and Dinosaur JR. Rock explosion, it is the kind of song Lou would have been allowed to sing. All of the best pop music comes from that slacker template and this song is a fine example of how to be memorable and lo-fi slacker in one foul swoop. Moving into the third track “My Favourite Colour Is You” we arrive at the most modern sounding song on the EP. It instantly reminded me of the Smiths with that beautiful English pop hook without the misery and Morrissey lyrical wank. I don’t dance but if I did I’d do it to this song. Fourth track “Pilot Light” is well, a ballad I guess but in that anti-wank kind of tradition. I’ m a sucker for well executed “soft to loud” indie guitar rock dynamics. This sounds like Brisbane in a way that Brisbane hasn’t sounded since 1993. I love Harriette’s vocals in this song, she provides the swoon and it is pure divinity. On the fifth track “Cool Drinkin’” we see a nice a to b pop punk tune unfold until that wonderful Lou Barlow explosion in the chorus. I hear those 1988 punk rock chord strums and I’m just elevated to pure excitement. It resonates perfectly with everything I loved about the original lo-fi elite. Final track “It’s Rainin’ It’s Summer” beings with a Mascis style guitar solo and it is fucking perfect. The fuzzy Husker Du sweetness / harshness of this track leaves a smile on my face. The backing vocals of Harriette once again make this song powerhouse pop. The perfect ending to a wonderful collection of punk influenced indie pop songs.
Babaganouj have arrived and my patience has been rewarded. This band is a beautiful nod to the past with a foot largely planted in the future development of sophisticated guitar music. I can’t wait for this band to release a full length because the enjoyment I’ve felt from this EP would be elevated tenfold if we got a full record. Check this sweet slice of music out as soon as you can.
10. “The Ethereal Darkness Beyond Planet Earth” by Mega Ogre
It has that entire Doctor Who spook in its execution with some wonderful dream pop vocals courtesy of lead kool things Wailin’ George Alien and Average James who communicate with a delicious swoon. The emotional drama swirls in and out of some supreme pop sunshine ensuring that you allow just enough space for musical healing and indie pop dance floor rapturisms (for those who prefer a more aerobic approach to their catharsis). All in all it is one solid motherfucker of a tune that begs the question, when do we finally get a full length?
Mega Ogre should boycott the absurd unsure nature of release strategy and just launch straight into crafting a full length. An EP is a dandy pre-meal appetiser but when the flavour and emotional pulling power of song like “The Ethereal Darkness Beyond Planet Earth” hits you, you’re not interested in social meal etiquette – you want the fucking main course and with all the intelligence that drips from this song, Mega Ogre have the capacity to craft and intense and very interesting full length album full of shiver pop psyche Doctor who space rock.
You’re a fool if you don’t attach yourself to this band now, they will be fucking huge.
11. “Fishbowl” by The Mercy Beat
I love THE MERCY BEAT pretty hardcore, they are the best rock n roll band functioning in Australia at the moment and while you all fuss over the latest neat hype music with better haircuts and cleaner pants THE MERCY BEAT will reign supreme. I never really liked or enjoyed Violent Soho, DZ Deathrays or Dune Rats or any of the other rock n roll being offered to modern youth culture, I was always firmly of the belief that THE MERCY BEAT destroyed it all and their brand new single “Fishbowl” proves once again why some people drink pepsi and why some people drink coke because you know, I’ll take the “real thing” over the taste of a “new generation” any day of the week.
I’m not going to use any kind of journalism wankerisms to describe this song, fuck that any day of the week, I’m just going to tell you that if you like important bands like Melvins you’ll dig the kind of noise that THE MERCY BEAT offer. This is fucking brutal stuff but still showcases a brilliant songwriting skill that isn’t a product of all of the “retro” posers coming from our town.
Thank fucking god that THE MERCY BEAT are about to release an album (fingers crossed) to save us from all of the “brand aware” borecore / neatcore bands who totally destroy the true believers faith in music ever being a place where depth and intensity reign supreme.
Ugly music for Ugly people and the perfect soundtrack for the well-adjusted / open minded music listener.
By: Dan Newton
All Reviews Written by Dan Newton except “Let Yourself Be Free” by Dark Fair which was written by Clint Morrow