Entire bands have formed, broken up, reformed and changed their sound in the four years since Beirut’s last album, but Santa Fe native and band frontman Zach Condon seems completely unfazed by the frantic urgency of the industry around him, and it shows in his music. No No No is at once Beirut at their most mature and their most luminous; Condon has developed into a commanding songwriter, an upbeat confidence pervading each note he sings and plays. Written and recorded during a winter, both meteorologically and emotionally speaking, No No No is a summery release that finds comfort in uncertainty, and strength in weakness. Peering through the same indie folk lense that coloured earlier Beirut albums, the sextet’s familiar piano-based songwriting is in full flight on No No No, accompanied by harmonious vocal choruses, mid-tempo percussion and the occasional brass earworm.
Two premieres in a row?! Chiefly Sounds. is either blessed or cursed. In order to determine the nature of this blog’s spiritual endowment, I spent a few hours praying at the shrine of Pitchfork Senior Editor Ryan Dombal and I’m pleased to inform you, reader, that he who gaveth Yeezus a 9.5 also gaveth me a definitive answer, in the form of Fern.
It Comes Slow is Fern’s first release, out on Friday, September 4. It’s a palliative haze of longing dream pop that’s practically tailor-made to soundtrack an indie coming-of-age film’s emotional apex. Appropriately enough, it’s a slow burner of a debut, continually ascending to a manageable climax, whilst demonstrating some of Fern’s leading instrumental and songwriting abilities throughout.
Tender lead vocals usher you through the misty composition without detracting from the pensive arrangement established by surging synth lines and emotive guitar arcs. Rather, there’s a delicate instrumental balance captured on It Comes Slow that sets a favourable precedent for the future of this act.
It Comes Slow is out Friday, September 4.
I’m not sure that this blog has been around (or active) for long enough to justify a callback, but I came across Samuel Dobson’s music a few months back, stating that Aussie Hip Hop ‘has got another reason to expand its Wikipedia page’. I stand by that line, not only because I refuse to learn how to edit previous articles, but also because Sam Dobson has solidified my argument with his 2nd single Who You Run With? If Coda was the necessary introduction to Sam’s orchestral hip hop, then Who You Run With? is the project really testing its limbs, as it tells stories without the pretence of having to sell itself. Dobson weaves effortlessly through the reflective instrumental, relaying the innermost thoughts of our protagonist and fleshing out moments of instability with the precision of a slam poet. With careening string movements sighing beneath him, Samuel commandeers the contrast between the orchestral backing and his tale of urban grit. One of the scenes in what will be a full concept album centred around a meth dealer’s final 24 hours, Who You Run With is the second taste of Samuel’s forthcoming debut album, coming out late this year. Check out Samuel Dobson on Facebook
It might not feel like it to the band, who have been playing together for close to 2 years now, but these are the early days for Sydney four piece Wash. Contingent upon their continued existence, Wash will look back on this video and see something similar to what I’m seeing now – something protoplasmic but having potential.
The art of restraint is lost on many emerging acts, but Wash manage to pull it off on ‘Drive’. Watching this video, there’s no immediate sensation that the guitarists want to get laid based purely on the sickness of their solos, and I, for one, am thankful for their sacrifice. Frontman Anton’s vocals, whilst rough, do have a distinct character and warbling cadence that I find myself enjoying more after each listen.
The quality of the bedroom producer was always bound to skyrocket with the steady advancement of home recording and music composition technology, but back in the land before time before macbooks, where everyone wore drab shirts, wireframe glasses and seemed to enjoy office humour unironically, none of us could have anticipated how good it was going to get.
When Charlie Gradon previewed Excuses (ft. Lara King) to me, I was at once delighted and confounded. Delighted because… well, just listen to the Soundcloud embed below; if you still have questions, email me. And confounded because I realised that I was chatting with someone who was, if not already proficient, had begun to make meaningful contributions to the fields of folk, rock, psychadelica with his other projects, and now could add electronica to his laundry list of well-crafted genre ventures. His bedroom music made all the time I spent in my bedroom most likely educating others on the internet about the dangers of going outside seem like wasted hours.
Excuses ft. Lara King has a few strings to its bow that makes this electronica release as sturdy as the fabled (but as yet, unproven) cafe table that doesn’t wobble underneath the weight of food being placed on it. The vocals, chopped and changed and scattered within the piece are discerningly employed, Lara King’s saccharine harmonies serve to both guide and propel the listener through Bliss Fool’s rich instrumental. Small changes to the percussion, whilst complementary, don’t go unnoticed. Organic wooshes, clacks and tittering hi hats do well to not overstay their welcome.
Gradon has a penchant for creating an improvised atmosphere in his electronica, as demonstrated through his previous work as a member of NOWON, and revisits a similar vivid production quality here. The addition of memorable instrumental flourishes and hooks in future works will work wonders for Bliss Fool as he finds his footing as an artist, but Excuses is already demonstrating a considered sound that had got me on board with future releases.
I first saw Max Quinn perform his music around this time last year at a poetry night in Glebe. Though I wouldn’t go as far as to classify my distaste for the movement as prejudice, I’ve definitely got an active apathy towards the ‘dude with a guitar’ genre as a whole. Can you blame me? It’s a grossly over-saturated market! But Max Quinn isn’t just a dude with a guitar, I thought to myself that particular Winter evening; his wry, sardonic lyrics hit me first, his high register pop-punk vocals second, and a sturdy no-bullshit guitar backing third, by the fourth thing I was thinking as highly of Max’s music as I was of the delicious alcoholic fruit punch that helped to lubricate these thoughts that aforementioned Winter evening.
Max released a full album of these tunes back in November in last year, filling out these singer-songwriter pieces with drum machines, wailing electric guitars and MIDI xylophones to make for a hearty bedroom music debut that sounded leagues ahead of his garageband contemporaries.
Now it’s May: the leaves are turning brown, EOFYS is almost upon us, I alternate between sweatshirt and singlet more than a character on Housos, and Max has released another track to keep us at bay. Quinn’s lyrics are front and centre on Groceries and Rent, weaving the grievances of mid-20s financial mismanagement with a deft charm, dropping sleeper gems such as ‘I am Ernie in the body of Bert: a snickering dick in a plaid overshirt’. Max’s voice (which has developed quite a bit since his November release) sits steadily over a DIY power pop backing that wears a hint of mid-2000s indie rock influence, with restrained guitar solos and flashes of glockenspiel during the choruses taking me back to when the popularity of a song was measured by whether it was or wasn’t on one of those silhouetted iPod ads.
While it may not boast the sleek production of his 2014 debut album, Max Quinn’s Onomatopenis’ track Groceries and Rent is two minutes of concentrated power pop cleverness from an artist you’d do very well to keep an ear out for on the Sydney circuit.
Southes. writes his name with a period, much like Chiefly Sounds. does. Now, I’m aware that grammar nerds will be losing their minds right now, but Southes. and Chiefly Sounds. are goddamn linguistic pioneers and we won’t let something as simple as the fundamentals of syntax stand in our way. The mutual admiration stops there, however, as I have no stirring electronica releases to boast of, wheras Melbournian Lachie Anthony, well, he most certainly does. Taken from his debut EP tidal. which is due for release this week (!!!), Water’s considered production and immersive vocal work makes for a stunning track that reaches deep into your soul and plucks at your heartstrings. Presenting a voice like the venerated lovechild of Jònsi and Justin Vernon, listening to Lachie’s vocals on Water is an otherworldly experience, his stylish falsetto hitting that near-insurmountable range where many vocalists strive towards, but few reach. With simplistically emotive lyrics peppered throughout, Southes.’ track Water is a swelling debut that has more than enough dramatic appeal and contemporary production work to land on an indie flick soundtrack in 2015, but the pronounced songwriting potential to go much, much farther.
You might not know it from the opulent orchestral arrangement in the opening moments of Coda, but Samuel Dobson is a rapper, and though this fusion of symphonic sounds and rapping is completely new territory for the subgenre, this is indeed Aussie Hip Hop. Yes, the same genre that’s as dichotomising as it is currently thriving has now got another reason to expand it’s Wikipedia page. Formerly known as Shazza T, Samuel Dobson’s latest single marks a distinct change in musical direction as a platform for his poetry, drawing focus towards his vivid and emotive lyricism.
Whilst the accompanying instrumental is completely unlike the current trends in Hip Hop, Dobson’s flow is pleasantly familiar, his years of storytelling experience shining through on Coda. An insight into some of his darker moments, there’s not a single throwaway lyric in this track, with lines like ‘I’m tailspinning on failed wings and gale winds / the deal’s done and I fucked up, I’m nailed in’ demonstrating Samuel’s aptitude for accomplished storytelling. Instrumental flourishes throughout Coda keep this orchestral backing from touching the realms of novelty, the jazzy piano breaks, violin hooks and pizzicato strings all employed discerningly.
Already one of the more intriguing releases to come out of Sydney this year, Samuel Dobson’s Coda is just a single track from an entire album of orchestral hip hop that’s one successful Pozible campaign away from release. If you’re a legendface, go contribute to see this album released and to see more of Sam’s captivating storytelling heard by a wider audience.
I’ve been meaning to write on atOlla for months now. Sydney’s Matilda Stephanie and James Santos have been steadily building up their electronic music repertoire, each release without fail superseding the one that came before it. Part of this process has been trial and error and part of it has been intentional experimentation with different styles of production over the years, but on their latest track Bloom taken from their forthcoming 3rd EP Lucille, atOlla have finally hit on a perfect hybrid of synthpop and electronica, and I’m infatuated.
Hovering above the undulating synth chords, dynamic breaks and stylish ambience is frontwoman Matilda Stephanie’s elegant vocal performance, which strikes a rare blend of intimacy and authority. With a flair for narrative to back up her voice, Matilda paints rich and emotive stories with just a handful words, the result being striking lyrics like ‘Do not try to smother me / meant to be, it’s meant to be’. There’s a calculated unsteadiness to the instrumental on Bloom, with a shaky, sometimes deteriorating pitch underpinning the textured synthwork in a style reminiscent of fellow Sydney act Seekae.
Bloom is a lavish piece of synthpop that holds its own both instrumentally and lyrically as a unique and original work from this Sydney duo, and serves as a wonderful teaser for atOlla’s upcoming Lucille EP, which can’t come soon enough.
There’s nothing more Aussie than writing a heartfelt ode to our nation’s spread, Vegemite. Those marching band kids seemed quite passionate about the yeast extract back in the 1950s, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released a wonky tribute to the spread last year, and Amanda Palmer has already recorded two songs about Vegemite to date, and lord knows she’s been trying harder than anyone to become an Australian. As true blue as wearing budgie smugglers and drinking VB, Sydney’s own BJ Smith and Davo Voglis (pictured above wearing budgie smugglers and drinking VB) are the latest to pitch in to this sporadically patriotic trend, under the name Gay Rodeo.
The opening track on Gay Rodeo’s debut EP, Vegemite is a lo-fi journey through one man’s unquestioning love for the salty spread. Front-and-centre in this track, BJ’s slack vocals are definitely a cut from the same cloth as Peter Bibby, but with a charming mix of jangly guitar chords, resonant glockenspiel hits and thin drumming, Gay Rodeo manage to define themselves independent of the Melbourne artist’s music. Mrs Williams is one minute of concentrated teenage resentment, with the band’s former teacher Mrs Williams (who, in fairness, does sound like a bit of a dickhead) being berated to the sounds of abrasive punk guitar and curt vocal delivery.
Taking a distinctly slacker rock turn, I Ain’t No Green Machine’s tongue-in-cheek criticism of weed culture has an Ocker Aussie flavour to it’s lyrics, with clever lines like ‘I’d rather drink some wine, I’d rather *sniff* do an ounce of speed’. Final track Pocket Full of Cotton follows in the longstanding tradition of Country music dedicated to the working man. With pleasingly melodious harmonica solos, a galloping drumline courtesy of Davo Voglis and BJ’s laidback voice, this closing track flaunts Gay Rodeo’s strongest songwriting so far, and a keen eye for no-bullshit storytelling that has a Courtney Barnett-esque simplicity.
While Gay Rodeo might have a little way to go yet in terms of songwriting and instrumental finesse, their debut EP is a charming slice of dolewave with overtones of country and lo-fi rock, making this two piece’s music sound about as Aussie as vegemite on toast.