Laneway Festival’s Dom O’Connor picks out the best tracks of the month – from some emerging teen prodigies to a vital new voice in Aussie guitar rock.
Thom Rawle (formerly of Papa vs Pretty and now making music as Dreller) throws in the kitchen sink on his first release in two years. ‘Shape Of Love’ layers a walking synth-bass line; vocoder-ised voices straight out of a Parliament record; Thom’s earnest, high falsetto; and a Prince-like guitar break into a coda that explodes in cathartic ecstasy. ‘Shape Of Love’ aims as high as it possibly can, and Thom (playing every instrument on the track) hits the mark.
Florida pop-punk lifers Joyce Manor can essentially write a sweetly earnest, lightly chugging song in their sleep. Whereas in the past Joyce Manor was content to thrash it out (often in two minutes or less), ‘Think I’m Still In Love With You’ takes a strong influence from Big Star, in both the gentle sway and harmonies in the song’s chorus. It’s also the sound of a band (slightly) growing up, and revelling in the contentment it causes.
Young Thug’s new label compilation Slime Language isn’t all winners by any means, but ‘Gain Clout’ is the most obvious example of his singular star charisma on the record. Over a minimal beat, Thug offers some typically mush-mouthed verses, the bars less important than the percussive way he makes words sounds. ‘Gain Clout’ isn’t a remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime moment or performance from Thug, but when you’ve got enough verbal dexterity to keep up with a beat as unwavering as this, you’re on to a winner.
Preternaturally-talented Sydney teens Erthlings have been making music together since they were nine years old. Now they’re 16, and ‘Bridges’ is the first taste of music from them. It rides a strutting bass-line to create a palpable sense of cool, with singer Issy’s airy voice coming to the fore in the song’s chorus. What were you doing when you were 16? Probably not writing songs as considered, subtle and impressive as this.
Mason Lewtas (aka Benefits, also of Deep Sea Arcade and Matrick Jones) has hit on a strummy earnestness of ‘Waste My Time’, an endearingly catchy first single full of open-hearted emotion and sincerity. The gorgeous slide guitar matches nicely with Mason’s easy baritone, and the songwriting takes the best of early Ryan Adams and matches it with a power-pop tempo. As the first taste of a debut EP, it’s a fully-formed introduction to a promising young songwriter who innately understands a good pop song.
On their second single, Sydney upstarts Johnny Hunter hit pub-punk gold on ‘1995’. Frontman Nick Hutt’s sonorous, dramatic delivery ebbs and flows with twangy, sweat-soaked riffs peppered throughout. The innate irony of ‘1995’’s lyric sheet is tempered by the ferocity of the band’s playing, attacking the song with a fiery anger. ‘1995’ asserts Johnny Hunter as an energetic, vital voice within Australian guitar music.
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from Empress Of, and ‘When I’m With Him’ is a welcome return from the LA product. Matching Blood Orange-like guitar squiggles with a bilingual vocal take in English and Spanish, Empress Of manages to verbalise the constant inner-speak that comes with a new relationship. It’s the most immediate song she’s ever written, and it’s the way she externalises inward dialogue that makes ‘When I’m With Him’ both undeniably great instantly relatable.
Perma-mellow Dinosaur Jr frontman J Mascis has been cultivating a side hustle for the last few years making relaxed, acoustic-driven folk music under his own name. ‘See You At The Movies’ is a bit more hi-fi than recent solo excursions (and contains lots of his classic shredding) but also never loses sight of the sweet, quietly-longing melodies he can assumedly write in his sleep at this point. ‘See You At The Movies’ probably won’t convert any Dinosaur Jr/J Mascis agnostics, but for fans of his singular oeuvre it’s an example of his refusal to slow down more than 20 years into his career.
Laneway Festival’s Dom O’Connor picks out the best tracks of the month – from the return of Chance The Rapper to the continued rise of Compton rapper/producer Channel Tres.
As successful as Chance’s last few years have been, his transition into one of mainstream rap’s most likeable rappers has meant sacrificing the irreverent, druggy Chance that first charmed audiences on Soundcloud-only mixtapes ‘Acid Rap’ and ‘10 Day’. ‘I Might Need Security’ isn’t a back-to-basics return, but the pleasantly acidic “fuck you” sample and Chance’s acerbic one-liners might go someway to reminding lapsed fans of Chancellor Bennett of his considerable talents.
Brisbane’s Chakra Efendi meld twinkly, math-y guitar lines with sullen, deep-voiced affirmations of ageing on ‘Grow Up’. There’s a dash of American Football in the winding, spindly figure that makes up the song’s first half, but the catch-and-release that defines its second half is pure catharsis, never reaching all-out fury but remaining seethingly restrained until its final notes.
Channel Tres’s debut single ‘Controller’ came out of nowhere to be one of the year’s earworms, and ‘Jet Black’ is a further exploration of everything that made ‘Controller’ so successful – the deep-voiced, half-spoken vocals, fierce bass line and Detroit house synths all remain. However, ‘Jet Black’ trades in ‘Controller’’s immediacy for a bouncy groove that unfurls slowly throughout, an impressive follow-up that furthers and solidifies Channel Tres’ growing discography.
‘Make Time 4 Love’ isn’t a reinvention of the Goon Sax’s wheel, but it’s an adult refinement of everything that worked on their 2016 debut Up To Anything, released when the band couldn’t legally drink. It’d be remiss not to mention the heavy resemblance to the Go-Betweens’ ‘Love Goes On’ (member Louis Forster’s dad is frontman Robert Forster) in the lilting acoustic guitars and swelling strings, but ‘Make Time 4 Love’ is no mere imitation – it’s one of the year’s most beautifully sincere love songs.
The first single from the former Tigertown singer, ‘Wish You Were Here’ sways invitingly under Charlie’s breathy voice. It’s remarkably considered and developed for a first single, from the wistful guitars to the propulsive drums, making ‘Wish You Were Here’ a lovely, engrossing start to a new chapter for Charlie.
070 Shake’s career so far has been defined by a specific minute of music – her scene-stealing cameo on Kanye’s ‘Ghost Town’, her voice a clarion call of positivity atop that album’s mountaintop of anxiety and stress. ‘Accusations’ picks up where that song left off, the woozy beats providing her elastic voice with a bedrock in the chorus. ‘Accusations’ is a reminder that Shake has the charisma and voice to carry entire tracks on her own.
South Londoner Westerman has been around for a minute, however his golden run of singles in 2018 (‘Confirmation’, ‘Edison’, and now ‘Easy Money’) has solidified his warped, easy-listening pop as an exciting new sound. ‘Easy Money’ takes its sweet time to build, relying on Westerman’s innocent falsetto and buzzing guitars to create a palpable sense of mood and atmosphere. ‘Easy Money’ remains beguilingly catchy to its last seconds, refusing to go where the listener wants it to.
Indie rock trio RAAVE TAPES have become notorious in their native Newcastle for DIY parties and venue takeovers featuring some of their favourite bands.
The latest instalment will see 17 acts – including Haiku Hands, Press Club, Vacations, and Totty – play over three venues at local institution The Cambridge Hotel. It’s clear RAAVE TAPES have a deep affinity for their hometown, so we asked singer Joab Eastley to tell us about the city’s “seething creative underbelly”.
Newcastle is an interesting city. A place known for its pristine beaches and reliance on rapidly diminishing coal deposits. In some circles emphasis is slowly beginning to be placed on its seething creative underbelly.
Since the dizzying heights of our silverchair forefathers, our biggest musical contribution to the national dialogue has been the sound of waves crashing on the Pasha Bulka’s hull as it washed up on Nobbys Beach in 2007. While that statement may be delivered with tongue planted firmly in cheek, here’s our predictions as to which current Newcastle artists have the potential to make some proverbial waves of their own.
Roughly a year ago, a 17-year-old Tilly Murphy recorded a shoegaze dream pop album in her bedroom and chucked it up on Bandcamp. Flash forward 12 months and she can now legally drink a vodka pineapple cruiser and has just completed her first lap of the country. ‘YUK!’ documents Tilly’s hopeless mind-set while coping with a bout of glandular fever. We’re still so damned shocked at how much conviction and authenticity this young artist has managed to cram into two minutes, 30 seconds. I for one welcome our new FRITZ overlord.
I have lost track of how many times I’ve been locked in a warm embrace in the middle of a crowd with my closest friends belting out the lyrics to this song. We’ve watched Big Vac go from playing to 20 people in the pouring rain at a crammed Merewether house party, to dominating stages all across Europe – all with minimal backing from radio. They are a testament to the musical ecosystem in which they developed and poster children for the power of the playlist. Filled with hazy, romantic nostalgia for their hometown suburb, the lyrics of ‘Hamilton South’ become ever more poignant as their meteoric rise takes them further and further abroad. This one means a lot to me.
One of the most common revelations people have regarding PALS is, “…they’re all so damned lovely?” Their warm off-stage demeanour is far from the raw, introspective post-punk they convey on stage and their live show is simply enormous. Special mention must be made to their drummer Fraser Marshall. Not only is he one of the best skin slappers in town, he also produces a bunch of local bands in his DIY home studio – including all recent RAAVE TAPES singles. ‘Consumed’ sounds like a long lost b-side from Cloud Nothings’ Attack On Memory. It’s a frenetic take on dealing with social anxiety and showcases everything we love about PALS.
Grace has been carving out a glowing reputation as a soloist for many years, often found peddling heart wrenching folk ballads at The Hamo or The Lass. It’s scientifically proven you can’t have a conversation about Grace Turner without somebody in the room screaming, “THAT VOICE.” Her latest single ‘Dead or Alive’ sees her production step into a more pop-oriented direction, which all the more emphasises the bittersweet melancholy of her song writing.
Most Novocastrian experiences of live electronic music consist of dancing to So Fresh Hits Of Winter 2005 remixes in a series of dingy night clubs. I love The Veronicas as much as the next person, but will concede that Newcastle is left wanting when it comes to alternative electronic music. E4 is the outlier. Nobody in Newcastle is pushing boundaries quite like him and we have him on every bill possible. His 2007 EP These Waves is a best consumed whole, but ‘Bluewalking’ is a solid first taste. It bursts out of the gates with that huge chorus hook and effortlessly weaves between a sea of countermelodies and an intricate textural pallet.
At one point last year it felt as though dave were playing three shows a week in Newcastle and people always showed up. The three-piece doesn’t pull any punches with their brand of what-you-see-is-what-you-get Australiana-tinged rock. Combine that with their inarguably airtight live shows, you can’t help but nod your head and smile with everybody’s old mate – dave. Taste these ‘Eggiwegs’ and prove me wrong. Dare ya.
As his mattress-inspired moniker alludes to, sweet boy Bobby makes summer tinged bedroom pop. Combining lo-fi drum loops with understated guitar lines and tender vocals, ‘Step Back, Fade Away’ showcases King Single’s ability to convey emotive themes without overcomplicating things.
KP may have moved to Melbourne well before I had anything to do with the Newcastle music scene, but heck yeah, you know we’re going to claim her like an ARIA board member listening to Crowded House in 1987. Puru is one of the most celebrated voices in Australian music and ‘Tension’ is a straight-up disco pop earworm.
Four high school best friends start a punk band, sing a song about the pokies and next thing you know they’re on stage at Groovin The Moo. That’s the way these stories always turn out, yeah? Far from an overnight success, years of relentless touring and just being genuinely lovely people is beginning to pay off for these Kotara High rascals.
The scene that spawned RAAVE TAPES owes everything to our Gooch parents. We watched with wide eyes as they traversed the country, carving out a garage-rock DIY blueprint for us to follow. They proved to us it could be done. I still remember the jubilant screenshots and group chats lighting up each time one of our friends received an offer to support them every time their tour rolled into town. ‘You’ is as close as our scene will get to a national anthem. Thank you Kat and Leroy <3