Here we are in 2019, but before we can fully embrace the new year in all good conscience, we must first look back at this little gem from late last year, that somehow slipped under our radars.
Alex Badham has been a staple of the Melbourne music scene for a number of years, as the banjo-wielding frontman of freak popsters Aleks and the Ramps, and more recently as one half of sultry dream-pop duo Magic Hands, with the ever-talented Lucy Roleff.
Alex returns under his new solo guise, Victory Lap, a project that finds him further honing his pop tendencies into perfectly formed nuggets of lo-fi indie goodness. Following on from lead single ‘The Afterlife’, the new single ‘I knew that I’d regret it but I did it anyway’ has a similarly playful feel with its slinky bass line and infectious groove providing the counterpoint to Badham’s endearing deadpan vocal delivery.
At first glance, the cleverly edited clip could pass for some corporate video cliché, stitching together an innocuous collection of stock video footage…that is, until the digital ghosts start to creep in. There is something unnerving about the seemingly random jumble of footage. A feeling further heightened by the subtle warping of the images, leaving you questioning what it is you’re actually watching. And just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, the song collapses into a psychedelic guitar breakdown as the ghosts take control and the video boils over in a melting overload of digital disruption.
If the first two singles are anything to go by, Victory Lap’s forthcoming album, Bleakend at Blernie’s is one to keep an eye out for in 2019.
Shrimpwitch are the kind of band I wish I’d found when I was a teen – maybe it wouldn’t have taken me till I was 25 to start playing music. Cuz I don’t remember seeing girls be weird and funny like this, you know, not singing beautifully from behind the piano. These are the kind of heroes we need – ones fighting for a girl’s right to be messy and gross.
Their sound is extremely classic – rock and roll like the ’80s American bands who toured non-stop for twenty years; crusty, street smart, been-there-done-that-fucked-it-off. Surf rock guitar that went for a rollaround in the gutter. But with a thoroughly modern sense of humour, and outrage.
‘Leerers’ is a statement of personal fury that’s relatable to plenty of women, without preaching to the choir. ‘Mystique’ captures the specific kind of madness that comes from trying to maintain a cool and mysterious persona to keep ‘em all interested when you’re actually a leaking sack of blood and tears. They’ve also got that hip ‘trashbag, but make it fashion’ aesthetic, as shown in the very fun clip for ‘Digestion’.
Usually I prefer my rock and roll under two minutes, and songs like ‘Trouble’ and ‘Leerers’ deliver on the FUCK YEAH WE’RE PLAYING AS FAST AS WE CAN energy. But longer songs ‘Sever’ and ‘Digestion’ show enough of their more structured song writing skills to make it worth it. I like the messy, live-ish sound of the record in general, but sometimes I wish I could hear the vocals better, only cuz the lyrics that you do pick up are so good.
Considering how much energy and fun they’ve managed to pack into these ten songs, I can only imagine Shrimpwitch absolutely go off live. If you’re in Melbourne they’re playing a launch on January 19. But to paraphrase one hundred Shakira video commenters: COME TO HOBART.
You can buy the tape or digital album for yourself and any young girls you know right now here
Here’s another list to add to your…list. Following on from the self-proclaimed success of our ‘2017 in 10 tracks’ list from last year, we’ve decided to compile yet another list of tracks that gave us the feels in 2018.
Join us again in 2019 for another year of infrequent ramblings about great music.
Sarah Mary Chadwick – Bauble on a Chain
How to choose a song off Sugar Still Melts in the Rain? Probably not going to be the one that you tapped your toe the most to this year. Probably gonna be the one that still wrecks you for minutes after it finished, staring off in to space feeling that literal wrench that’s so rare in things that get called ‘heart-wrenching’. ‘Five Months’ is that song. But ‘Bauble on a Chain’ is the one I sent to people saying something eloquent like ‘FKKKKKKK!’ .It’s the best example Chadwick’s genius for capturing so much in a few biting lines, floating above this simple wandering piano line – a moment of almost lightness and total beauty.
Rebel Yell – Toxic
Rebel Yell’s other half Grace Stevenson is super prolific – this year alone she’s released an EP, a remix single, a Christmas EP, moved from Brisbane to Sydney and started a new seemingly more pop-focused project called Soft Touch. ‘Toxic’ is my favourite thing she’s done this year because she really seems to let loose – without the trademark harsh distortion on her vocals she steps into a new kind of persona, sneering at posers ‘bum-puffing durries in the line to TBC’ or buying Instagram likes. It’s an anthem for everyone who’s ever been creeped on or patronised with the chorus ‘back off don’t touch me get off my rave / back off don’t touch me get off my stage’. And, like all of Stephenson’s stuff, it absolutely rips.
Harmony – Love is a Chemical High
Harmony’s tremendous 2018 album, Double Negative, brims with a raw majesty, the songs are scrappy, vulnerable and catchy as hell. ‘Love is a Chemical High’ is quintessential Harmony, pairing stripped back guitar and drums with the band’s trademark vocal sound. The rag tag soul of backing vocalists Amanda Roff, Quinn Veldhuis and Maria Kastaniotis shift from punctuating oohs and aahs to devastating harmonies as the song boils over into full-blown rock catharsis.
Bitumen – Pound of Flesh
This song plays in my head every time I have to walk down a dark street late at night. It’s thrilling, it’s powerful, and it makes me feel TOUGH. Discipline Reaction was one of my favourite records of this year, and this track encapsulates everything I loved about it. The use of drama and tension is masterful, and makes the Go the Fuck Off moment at the end all the more satisfying. You can’t listen to this track online though, you’ll just have to buy the album.
Bilby – November Nights
Sydney’s own emo-rap prince, Bilby, is going from strength to strength. Kicking off 2018 with a slight left-hand turn in Walkin 2 the Lake, an EP produced entirely by U.S. artist Meltycanon, this was followed by his new full-length, Shade. The new album further hones the Bilby sound, all jangly guitar, trap beats and smooth af vocal hooks. ‘November Nights’, as the title suggests, is the perfect gateway to summer, the lazy guitar setting the scene for Bilby’s melodic sing/rap style.
Madboots – Headstone
Madboots have been one of the best live bands in Brisbane for so long, and their EP 2HARD from this year gives everyone else just a little taste of how cool their music is. It’s hip hop that sounds like you turned the radio on in 1994, with lyrics that are equally funny, dirty, sweet and tough. I picked this song because it’s about needing a huge headstone ‘Cuz I can see in the future / I’m gonna need room to / spread my legs in my tomb yeah’.
Liars – Murdrum
Now that Liars is essentially the solo project of frontman Angus Andrew, I think we can safely claim it as Australian, thus its inclusion here. After Andrew proved he could handle the weight of the project by himself with last year’s TFCF, he swiftly followed this with the companion album, TWTWF (Titles With the Word Fountain), a collection of indietronic abstractions and various musical bric-a-brac that is no less intriguing than its more fully formed sibling. ‘Murdrum’s’ propulsive beat, delicate synth arpeggios and Andrew’s unassuming falsetto are eerie and affecting, a mood captured beautifully in the accompanying video.
Tangents – Stents
In 2018 Tangents proved their breakout album, Stateless, was no fluke. Their follow up effort, New Bodies, is equally as rich while introducing new directions and elements further developing their already expansive palette.
If that wasn’t enough, they also gave us Stents + Arteries earlier in the year, an EP featuring an album cut and 2 new tracks. Opener ‘Stents’ is Tangents at their best, slowly building from drum scraps and flittering electronics, cello and piano parts are subtly introduced as the piece continues to grow before exploding in a cacophony of processed drums and whirlwind piano.
The Goon Sax – Make Time for Love / Love Lost
I found some of The Goon Sax’s second record a bit overcooked, but these first two tracks seem to hold on to some of the easy honesty that made their debut such an undeniable hit. Both songs bare the band’s early aus-jangle influences unapologetically, where in other parts they seem to be trying a bit too hard to show us something new. A classic second album thing from a young bands with heaps of ideas, but ‘Make Time for Love’ and ‘Love Lost’ appeal to me because they feel unburdened by irony or self-consciousness.
Air Max ’97 – Kermes
Elusive producer Air Max ’97 delivered on the promise of his earlier EPs with his killer debut full-length, Nacre. The skeletal percussion and capacious production result in an exciting electronic sound equally suited to the dance floor as it is to your headphones.
I’m such a dumbshit it took moving to Tasmania for me to discover what, apparently, all my friends already knew and were keeping from me as some kind of sick joke: All The Weathers are one of the most exciting bands in Australia. It’s true, before this year I had absolutely no idea that just one band could be fun, arty, weird, funny, catchy, smart, brutal and beautiful all at once. Must be that mountain air.
It’s been a while since the band have released anything, but a few days ago we finally got a taste of their third record, called For the Worms’, out on January 21st. This first track ‘Jobs for Dogs’ does the quiet-loud things with a frantic hysterical energy, dirty growling guitars and a video that combines a serious comment about animal exploitation with dressing up in broken wetsuits, dog masks and op-shop suits. There’s a lot going. You notice some new funny detail on every re-watch. Georgia Lucy’s voice is so good it wouldn’t really matter if she wasn’t that charismatic, but whether it’s on stage or on video (in this one she embodies a theatrical, mistreated greyhound or a villainous race-goer) she’s endlessly watchable.
The whole things brims with personality, charm, force and passion. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially for those times when it starts to feel like there’s not enough weird stuff happening in Australian music, when it’s all getting a bit too cool. Oh god I’m starting to sound like those Triple J dads asking why no one makes music like TISM anymore. Ignore/kill me.
All the Weathers are a band who write great songs which lets them be as wacky as they like and you always want to see where it’s gonna go. Hopefully the record brings a tour cuz their live shows are anything and everything but boring. Lucy, and bandmates Callumn Cusick and Gigi Lynn are all hectic multi-instrumentalists and make kind of a mix between the tightest band you’ve ever seen and wonderful chaos.
A second video, ‘Fast Lane’ was released on the same day but I didn’t find out about that until I’d finished writing this post. Ah-whoops.
We sent along Tessa Mansfield-Hung to MMF18 to capture our annual photographic review of What Goes On at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre. It is bloody fab as always, so without further ado, here it is:
“Oh yeah hey dog hey what’s up.
Whothehell let me pay tribute to Aunty Meredith once again for MMF18′. I was there with all of my people and my Pentax.
Let me sooth your post Meredith sorrows with some photographic kick ons.
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened (except if you didn’t attend, then wow, I am so sorry you missed out. Fucking devo.)” -Tessa
Canberra artist Sebastian Field shares the first glimpse of his forthcoming debut album with a lush take on the Bjork classic, ‘Unravel’.
Field’s spectral vocals and atmospheric guitar textures push the stripped-back earnestness of the original into an otherworldly realm. A realm hinted at in Field’s former band, Cracked Actor, whose occasional ventures into ambient territory can be heard on tracks such as ‘Ventilation’ (from the Upstructures EP) and ‘MYV/Light Year’ (from their criminally underrated 2015 full-length, Iconoclast).
This is fully embraced on ‘Unravel’, allowing it to disconnect from the original, adrift in its own constellation.
‘Unravel’ was recently included on Feral Media’s Covers Vol. 1, an EP of interpretations from artists including Bilby, Lucy Roleff, Reuben Ingall, and Aphir. The latter, a friend of Field who contributes a remix here adding beats and electronic flourishes resulting in an upbeat, almost danceable affair. Closing out the single is a propulsive remix from fellow Canberran Shoeb Ahmad, who introduces noisy blasts and choppy guitar parts which are the antithesis of the source material. If Field’s version is a celestial body in orbit, Ahmad’s is its explosive and fiery demise.
‘Unravel’ will appear on Picture Stone, Field’s ArtsACT funded solo album which explores the intermarriage between sound and space by capturing the reverberant qualities of various locations around Canberra.
Field will be launching the single in his hometown on December 1st at Smiths Alternative alongside Fossil Rabbit. Check out the full event details here, and lose yourself in the single via the player below.
Like every inner city nerd who couldn’t find a warehouse party with an event invite and maps, I love industrial music. Like every weepy romantic who stopped being cute ‘n’ tortured a long time ago, I love post punk. And, like every right-thinking person, I love metal. This deadly tough and dramatic record from Melbourne’s Bitumen is the best part of all three.
The album opens with the dance track, ‘Lash’, and there’s some beats here and there across the whole thing you could make a party out of if you were really committed. But at its heart this record is sinister. They play with the goth, old-timey references in the titles ‘Sicker Dowry’, ‘Pound of Flesh’, and keeping these songs out of a modern context is important. It wouldn’t work at all if these songs were about Tinder and Newstart and missing the bus. I think we’re maybe a bit sick of that anyway. I know I don’t want to hear about my own life in a song any more. Yuck. Give me darkness and depravity, power, violence, dangerous seduction. Not more constant niggling anxiety.
A lot of guitar bands are using drum machines now – it makes sense, give the people something different, don’t have to worry about a kit, hey, you’re playing clubs now. But it’s for this kind of music that drum machines were invented. Cold, precise, robotic, not a hint of swing or groove. The bass is tech without being distracting, guitars tense, tight and massive.
First single ‘Twice Shy’ comes with an unsurprisingly dark and moody film clip, it’s a good punchy single, but doesn’t quite do justice to some of the complexity of the rest of the record. But that is honestly some nitpicky shit. I’m trying to avoid slavish enthusiasm. It’s not working.
‘Pound of Flesh’ is my favourite song because it is drone and desire and it is absolutely huge. Until like a minute from the end it builds, guitars groan and rattle and shake the foundations. Kate Binning whispers ‘I’ve been watching from a distance I’ve been waiting for a signal…’. Then it opens up with her frenzied spat vocal. ‘Pound of Flesh’ and ‘At Bended Knee’ are both revenge horror movies, menacing anthems for the wronged; ‘I’m not quite who I used to be’ ‘I take back what you took from me’.
I think the secret to Binning’s power is how absolutely in control she sounds through the record. Plenty of vocalists could get lost in the sea of riffs and synth hysterics, but the vocals always do them one better, sounding a bit sicker, a bit darker, a bit more crazed. No monotone drone under reverb (well except in the obligatory atmospheric track ‘Wriggling Signal II’, but who doesn’t like a bit of atmosphere) the vocal melodies hit just as hard as anything else. Cardinalidae is the stadium track in an album full of stadium tracks.
This record, to me, is so extremely Melbourne, but without the bad parts. It’s that self-confidence, style, cool, with just enough edge, but it doesn’t try too hard at any of it. It’s dead serious, without crossing that thin sneaky grey line into being silly. Which is hard. Most bands wouldn’t even try, let alone pull it off this well.