Dom O’Connor picks out the best tracks of the month – from a mysterious outfit already being branded “London’s best band” to a mouth-watering Gibbs and Madlib collab.
It’s been five years since Pinata, one of the most eminently re-listenable rap albums of the last decade, and hearing Freddie Gibbs rap over Madlib’s twisting, unearthly beats remains one of life’s most simple pleasures. Like most of his verses, Gibbs brings the hard-headed, ice-cold fury here, matched by Jamaican dancehall DJ Assassin’s mush-mouthed closer of a hook/verse. Gibbs and Madlib intrinsically understand the space within each other’s output, and ‘Bandana’ is a fine addition to their growing pantheon of future old-head classics.
‘Enemies’ glistens with an invigorating confidence, both in the harmony-laden hooks and the twinkly guitar lines that pepper the song’s always-ascending choruses. It’s a sweetly written dream-pop song that sparkles through its all-too-brief runtime, a sign of this Sydney duo’s continued growth and successful matching of pop melodies with shoegaze-y instrumentation. As the guitars swirl like an endless abyss in the song’s coda, ‘Enemies’ goes for the jugular with a hook that actualises anxiety in a lived-in, authentic way.
If ‘Speedway’ is the sound of guitar music continuing to evolve as a form and move forward, then this mysterious London outfit’s polyrhythmic, dissonant bursts of guitar and competing layers of programmed and live drums exist as the band’s mission statement. With nothing but a live show to pin their hat on for the last year, Black Midi have quietly become one of the buzziest acts in guitar music – and ‘Speedway’ is a show of substance to go along with their formidable style.
An ethereal, slow-burn of a first single, ‘Collider’ is Queensland producer’s Borderland State thesis statement. There’s an innate sense of ebb and flow in the song’s many layers, from the shimmer of the piano notes to the crunch of the song’s beat once it all kicks in. ‘Collider’ also refuses to rest on its laurels, a sign of its composer’s skill at crafting gorgeous mood music. As beats drop out and new melodies are introduced, there’s a sense of satisfaction, of everything in its right place, that permeates every note.
‘Houseplants’ begins as a sprint, an energy-spiked romp through which singer/drummer Ollie Judge uses the titular household item as a way to explore millennial ennui. It’s got shades of early LCD Soundsystem in the manic, anxiety-driven delivery, and the discordant sax shrieks back up Judge’s mania wonderfully. ‘Houseplants’ exists on the margins of post-punk, but don’t let that fool you – it’s as far away from angular and po-faced as it gets. More of a frolic through restlessness than anything else.
Once the cognitive dissonance of hearing a Tierra Whack song longer than a minute wears off, ‘Gloria’ burrows itself in your head with a gloriously sing-songy melody and trappy 808s. It’s an insanely fun song – from the way Whack’s voice bounces to the ‘Broccoli’-lite beat; all joyous flute trills and buoyant hits. With three singles out in three weeks, ‘Gloria’ is proof that last year’s much-loved Whack World project wasn’t a fluke but an introduction to an endearingly strange and idiosyncratic new voice in hip-hop.
Precociously talented Sydney producer Ninajirachi has put together a playlist that tells the story of her musical upbringing on the NSW Central Coast. Her debut EP Lapland is out through NLV Records.
I GREW up on the NSW Central Coast and I’ve lived here my whole life.
My area is pretty much just one street in the middle of the bush with a bunch of houses, a Catholic church, a graveyard, a wharf and an acreage where cows are kept every now and then. It’s pretty random but really nice.
I went to a Catholic primary school but my family isn’t really religious. We live five minutes from the beach and my parents were both surfers in their youth, so I spent a lot of my upbringing in the ocean.
My parents are both massive music and arts lovers, but neither of them have had arts-related careers, so they’re stoked about my artist project.
They’ve been showing me music and encouraging me to create for my entire life. We used to have an iPod Classic that my parents shared and it stored all their music, so I discovered a lot of music when I was really young by just shuffling it.
My mum says this is her favourite song of all time. She’s been playing A Funk Odyssey through the house for most of my life.
Lou Reed is one of my dad’s favourite artists and he keeps the Transformer album CD on rotation in his car. I think this song is my favourite from the album, but his is ‘Perfect Day’.
Mum said my dad gave her this song when they were first dating.
Mum used to run fashion events when I was younger and I would always go with her. This song was on the CD she’d play at pretty much every single one and I have a vivid memory of dancing to it with a piece of fabric at one of the events.
This is another one from Mum. She loves Kylie Minogue. When I was in primary school I used to make music videos for my favourite songs in iMovie, and one of the best ones I ever made was a Kylie song.
Mum has an ABBA’s Greatest Hits CD that I got really obsessed with throughout my childhood. I learned so much about songwriting by listening to ABBA when I was little.
This was my FAVOURITE SONG in kindergarten. I got Mum to burn it to a CD so I could bring it in for show and tell because everybody needed to hear it.
This one is from my dad. I can’t really remember but I think I heard it for the first time at a family barbecue. Recently I saw Dizzee Rascal at Falls and I had to film a bit of this song for Dad.
I have a memory of Mum blasting this song in the car around when it first came out. I think if I’d been born five to 10 years earlier Gwen Stefani would’ve been one of my favourite artists.
Both of my parents love Timbaland and Shock Value was another album they’d play around the house a lot.
HANDSOME – aka Sydney artist Caitlin McGregor – has made a playlist of songs that mirror the sense of “boldness and an unapologetic vulnerability” she was trying to capture on single ‘No Cowards’.
After releasing acclaimed music for a number of years as Caitlin Park, she underwent a creative and personal transformation, embracing her queer identity and her experiences coming out in her debut EP as HANDSOME, No Hat No Play.
“The thing with these tracks,” she says of the playlist, “is their strength most likely came from the songwriter’s most vulnerable and raw moment, something that made them scared or made them feel powerless.
“Most people would hide from telling the world these stories, but these artists turned them into powerful songs. And that gives them grace.”
Mura Masa was on repeat while I was making No Hat No Play. There is something about the way he fuses organic sounds together with beats that really bring out the crisp moments – the licks, the top end of the drum stick snapping the rim. This track featuring Bonzai is a fucking nuts song, it’s not brash, it’s not loud – it’s all about capturing the attitude of the lyrics with the music. Dat bass.
To call this song unapologetic is an understatement. “Falling in love with avoiding problems” is something many of us have felt. The feeling of mania when you don’t know who you are, are confused with who you love – you can feel dizzy, and you can find a way to enjoy pain. Tim’s voice is direct, when he dares you to come at him. This song is triumphant, and it’s perfect. I feel everything when I hear this song.
Do not fuck with her. Okenyo is an artist with plenty of acclaim, but she deserves even more. Her writing is next level and deserves ears worldwide because she is making music like no one else. ‘Hang Your Hat’ is so bold af, where she encourages the listener to celebrate their unique self-expression and carry themselves with nothing but confidence. She challenges casual racism in Australia, and suggest a hint of the Time’s Up movement with the phrase “Tic Toc ya done”.
I was lucky enough to meet Fortune recently, jumping into the studio with him for an amazing afternoon. Fortune epitomises boldness and grace. Hailing from South Africa, he is often forced to defend his sexuality and carry his head high in harsh and dangerous environments. In fact, he had to defend himself recently after a show in Melbourne (congrats Australia!). His music exudes freedom, and that’s why he is such an important artist.
Hot goss. We were blasting this song in the video clip for ‘No Cowards’ in the scene where everybody is dancing on the roof. Robyn represents a release and a freedom to many queers around the world. She finds a way to capture a sadness or a regret in a dance song – and there is nothing more powerful that dancing away your pain. I’ve spent many a night on the dance floor with my friends screaming this song at the top of my lungs.
Bravery is a word that comes to mind when I think about HTMLflowers. He is hailed for creating great art out of a situation that feels so hopeless, and so he should. He doesn’t hide his illness, and has found a way of building a community around his art making, by creating a safe space for people in similar positions. He uses his most vulnerable moments, to instil hope in others. “I was easy to love once, wasn’t I?” makes me fall off my chair every time.
Kid Heron has really found himself with this new track, and it makes me so excited. The Kid plays drums in the HANDSOME band, and I’ve never watched someone blossom the way he has in the last year. And you can hear it in his music making, and the confidence in his lyricism. ‘Future Love’ is a blatant celebration of his sexuality – it is sensual, brave and affirming. And I love every moment of it.
I know she has just released a new album, Wanderer, but this one felt right to finish on. Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) taught has all to use our vulnerability to make art, didn’t she? Through stories of neglect and abuse and addiction, Chan revealed it all. I watched her play this song all around the world – Paris, Denmark, London, Sydney – and every time it is heart-stopping. Interestingly, she released this track on Moonpix and then again as a “cover” of sorts on Jukebox. She now performs it with power – motioning kicking, and scrunching up her face. A great example of a song that isn’t afraid of anything – it used to be about her hopelessness, and now its about her triumph over this. Cat Power, you’re worth everything.