LNWY Recommends: November’s Best New Music

Laneway Festival’s Dom O’Connor picks out the best tracks of the month including a revitalised Earl Sweatshirt comeback plus Genesis Owusu, Panda Bear, Girlpool, and more.

‘Nowhere2Go’

Earl Sweatshirt

On Earl Sweatshirt’s last album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, the spectre of death was an undeniable presence, permeating every song and verse and haunting the album’s dense, grim production. His new song ‘Nowhere2Go’ does start like this – it’s in the slow shuffle and skip of the sample, and Earl’s monotone first verse, where he’s “spent most of my life depressed/only thing on my mind was death”. But then he perks up – he namedrops friends in New York (‘Mike’ and ‘Med’, of the (slums) collective) and LA (‘Glen’, better known as renowned beatmaker Knxwledge) who have provided Earl with stability over the past year. Like that, ‘Nowhere2Go’ opens up as a respite from the difficulty of his last year. It’s a verbose and welcome return from one of the most innovative voices in rap today.

'Dolphin'

Panda Bear

Anytime a song uses water drops as its main source of percussion, I’m all in. ‘Dolphin’ takes a minute to get going, building on the aforementioned rain percussion with a simple acoustic guitar loop and Noah Lennox’s lightly Auto-Tuned tenor to create a beautiful, moving soundscape as tranquil as the best ocean swim. His last album explored ideas of serenity on songs like ‘Mr Noah’ and ‘Tropic of Cancer’ – ‘Dolphin’ takes it a step further, and it’s the most wilfully pretty Lennox has ever sounded on a record.

If I Die, Then I Die

Emerson Snowe

Brisbane musician Jarrod Mahon continues his strong run of singles this year with ‘If I Die, Then I Die’, a chamber-pop reverie with Mahon reaching full-throated ecstasy in the soaring chorus. Whereas previous singles ‘Could You Love Me’ and ‘Sunlight’ existed as insouciant psych-pop, ‘If I Die…’ goes straight for the jugular from the get go. Mahon sounds increasingly confident as he builds up to the song’s ebullient chorus, as the twinkling organs and strummy acoustic-guitars combine to create a fully-realised pocket symphony.

'Hire'

Girlpool

‘Hire’ has the chime and charm of an R.E.M song, as well as the pure sense of emotional intimacy. It’s bizarre to contrast their status as relative veterans to their age (they’re already on their third album!), but Girlpool continue to get better and better, growing in stature as composers as well as their voices in the most literal sense – Cleo Tucker’s voice has the sort of lived-in rasp that turns a good phrase into a great one. The shredding end of song guitar solo is the finest example of the winning combination of musicianship and sincerity that makes ‘Hire’ such an immediate listen.

'Better Than Before'

Chitra

Melbourne musician Chitra has been subtly refining her craft over a couple singles now, but she’s never sounded as confident as ‘Better Than Before’ does. Her voice has a Julia Jacklin-esque lilt to it, and the waltzing verses and higher notes in the chorus are beautifully rendered. The encroaching organs and harmonies in the second verse are a beautiful counterpoint to the mild crackle in Chitra’s voice, and ‘Better Than Before’ finds Chitra existing in a good space.

'Wit Da Team'

Genesis Owusu

There’s a restless creative spirit within Genesis Owusu – no two singles sound the same, and ‘Wit Da Team’ is a beguiling left-turn from the always interesting Canberra MC. Instead of the flow and wordplay he’s made his name on, ‘Wit Da Team’ is a smooth, rolling slice of future-funk with an effortless falsetto chorus. Owusu’s voice sounds great amid the slap-bass and trebly guitar lines, as he continually sprinkles hooks in the most honeyed of voices. It won’t be long now until Owusu is recognised as one of the leading voices within a new generation of diverse, endlessly creative musicians in Australia.

'Real Tight'

Methyl Ethel

Jake Webb and his Methyl Ethel project have already showcased a mastery of matching esoteric subject matter with danceable, instinctive pop songwriting instincts on songs like ‘Ubu’ and ‘Scream Whole’, and Real Tight is an even purer distillation of this aesthetic. Underneath the claps and Webb’s inviting, resonant voice lies a lyric fraught with anxiety and paranoia, but first-time listeners probably won’t notice due to the immediacy of the chorus. ‘Real Tight’ has the type of depth that is further revealed over repeat listens, continue to solidify Webb’s place as one of Australia’s most interesting songwriters.

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