A lot of great Australian music was put out this year. We won’t be making an end of year list about end of year lists. (If you want a leisurely round-up, sit down with a tinnie, roll up your sleeves and read our archives).
However, for the last hurrah of 2013 – a year of self-funded labels, concept festivals on hilly rural estates and an upsurge in pressed suits – we’ve frantically decided to compile a mega-post in the hope that you’ll resolve your new year by buying one of these records. We’ve included artists of sentimental value – some who we’ve already covered this year, some we haven’t written about yet.
We’ll keep low on the sentimental fluff, but it’s been a great year for WTH too. We welcomed a bunch of bright writers and photographers, started a monthly podcast with our blog friends from around the globe, hosted a number of warehouse parties and events, with one recently in Berlin. Our role in documenting Australian music took a visual focus this year. Instead of sending our photographers to photo pits, they’ve ended up in in Vietnamese restaurants, back-lot studios, tropical themed boats and parking lots scoffing chiko rolls with some of the country’s best (see our photo recap in full here).
We also recently said farewell to our assistant editor/ long serving photography contributor Dave Payne who’s hanging up his blog boots to focus on his career. Dave has been an incredible driver behind Who The Hell. For those needing journo/photography work, you can say nice things to him via here or heckle him over yonder. We wish him the best!
To the artists who’ve contacted us with your work, we’re getting through it all – thanks! You label folk and bookers who keep us in the loop are heaps cool too. Hugs to our friends, collaborators & blog perusers from our backyard and abroad – thanks for reading and listening. We’re 7 years on…and chugging along.
2014 will be fun.
End of year lists have always seemed pretty arbitrary to me, and so much great Australian music was released this year that rather than trying to narrow it down to three favourites, I thought I’d focus on some bands that didn’t get as much exposure in 2013 as they deserved. Shout outs to the always on point Crawlspace Magazine for keeping me abreast of these things and to the busy kids up in Brisbane – keep moving down to Melbourne, thanks.
Sadglint – ‘Sadglint‘ (Spartak’s Love Like Fire reduxxx)
Brisbane’s Rohan Cooper put out his debut EP as Sadglint in December 2012. Cooper is a multi-instrumentalist whose solo work is based on loops that spiral and float, with drums and horns provided by Jacob Hicks and Richard Thayil. Feral Media, which has had a swag of great releases this year, including the Winter and Spring instalments of its Seasons EP series and Nimble Animal‘s Bleak Moments LP – picked up the track ‘Sadglint’ for its remix compilation Strain of Origin III. The reworking by Canberra duo Spartak is expertly restrained, stripping back an already stately track and making a centrepiece of the horns that crest the original.
Primitive Motion – ‘Colours’
Another product of Brisbane’s lively experimental scene, Primitive Motion released their first LP, Worlds Floating By through Bedroom Suck in September. Comprised of Leighton Craig of Deadnotes and visual artist Sandra Selig, Primitive Motion describe their sound as ‘neanderthal pulsewave’. With drum machines ticking propulsively, the constant oscillations of euphonium, melodica and analogue synths, and Selig and Craig’s sub-lingual wailing, their music recalls the proto-punk of bands like Suicide and Silver Apples. Check out the video for single ‘Colours’ below.
Wonderfuls – ‘Change’
Cousins Robert Vagg and Danny McGirr have been making music together as Wonderfuls since about 2004 – around the time that Vagg began to undergo a series of psychiatric treatments, including hospitalisation, after moving to Brisbane from rural Queensland. Their first full-length release, Salty Town, can be tough going. The songs, built from McGirr’s scattered tremolo and tape hiss, have an icy sheen, and there’s a vacant, damaged quality to Vagg’s vocals that starts to burrow under your skin. ‘Change’ is a song that bursts from the record with a shimmering riff that, for me, has to be one of the standout moments of underground music in Australia this year.
The ever-prolific Wonderfuls have just put out a collection of tunes recorded in the period between 2004-07 which you can get on Bandcamp, and they’ll be releasing a 7″ of new material on No Magic Man Records soon.
The Gooch Palms – Novos (Independent)
Absolute Boys – Heavy Flow (Bedroom Suck Records)
Absolute Boys were one of those bands that I was always meaning to get on to, but never ended up listening to until something clicked. That moment was reading through front man, Will Farrier’s article in The Lifted Brow’s music issue. In it, he discussed their work alongside post-modern literary great, Jorge Luis Borges. While countless thesis topics have been spawned by his work, Heavy Flow seems to be an attempt to interpret Borges’ knack for ambiguity. Melodies here are opaque, while the functions of traditional instruments have been flipped on their head. There’s no doubting it’ll take a few rounds to understand this record, but doing so reveals the entirety of its sheer creative ambition.
DD Dumbo – DD Dumbo EP (The Blue Rider)
Come on. If you haven’t heard this already then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Oliver Hugh Perry (aka. DD Dumbo) makes music out of Castlemaine — about an hour out from Melbourne. And it’s this distance that I think is telling. This EP seems like it’s been made at an arm’s length from the rest of the local music landscape. It doesn’t necessarily fall into any scene, label, or really anything else that’s happening at the moment. Few Australian artists — this year at least — can match Perry’s vocal range. There’s no telling where 2014 could lead to for Perry, but rest assured that he’s going to be more than a big deal (if he isn’t already).
Rainbow Chan – Long Vacation EP (Silo Arts & Records)
Long Vacation has probably topped a lot of end of year lists. But hey, Rainbow Chan (no seriously, Rainbow’s her real name) deserves everything she gets. It’s a charmer, replete with nothing but blissful pop, including 2013’s breakout, ‘Haircut’. Out through Silo Arts & Records, this release signals some sort of change in the independent music landscape. As opposed to your beat bros, post-Tame Impala psychedelia, and electronica passing off as something organic, Chan alongside the rest of the Silo clan seem to be opening up a space for something that bucks the ‘safety’ of alternative Australian music.
perth – What’s Your Utopia? (Hidden Shoal Recordings)
Every part of this record coalesces together strangely, perfectly. And even among the towering, cinematic instrumentals – perth still craft a weird sense of sparseness that makes this sound like a bunch of opiate-swilling krautrock kings running down a sand dune. One of the guys seems to have just discovered a drum and bass sample. In this context anyway, I’m totally alright with that.
Hollow Everdaze – Hollow Everdaze (Eye On Eye Records)
I’ve given these guys ample loving on the blog before, so just control+V everything, okay. It took 6 years for Hollow Everdaze to release an LP. Admirable points on the band’s sleeve include their ability to rapidly switch from bratty, slacker-drag sounds (‘Selfish) – right through to grandoise pop waltzes (‘Ships’, ‘Still Raining’) that could easily serve as either bereavement or dancing music to some miscellaneous Sofia Coppola film. This album mirrors some parts of Girls’ earlier records to my ears, when Christopher Owens was pre-methadone, post prom.
Elephant – Silence With The Sun / Silence With The Earth (Independent)
Writing about music makes you form that sweet-sour critic’s conscience. It’s nice to listen to a piece of work that doesn’t hold vanguard to the groundswell. Sometimes I’m not overcome by the need to have an ‘opinion’ about a piece of music that moves me. Remembering I’m a ‘listener’ keeps me sane. I haven’t written about Silence With The Sun / Silence With The Earth on this blog, yet I’ve spent many a wistful afternoon in its company; thinking about borrowed love and feeling full, content with life. To me, this album is the opposite of amnesia. As a listener, this record reminds me of old friends, and the first time I listened to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. James Locke is a quiet underachiever. The lo-fi, alt-country delivery lends this album a purity, a magical ease that affirms why I love music – and secondary, perhaps why it is important to write.