Dark Fair is guitarist Ramona Moore and drummer Ellie Dunn, and they make rock’n’roll music. I mean properly: leather jackets and Chrissie Hynde hairdos. The pair met in Brisbane – where presumably they grew up on a strict regimen of Hole and Magic Dirt – on the live circuit, playing together in Ramona’s band Kate Bradley and the Goodbye Horses.
Via their own circuitous routes, both ended up in Melbourne in 2012 and promptly recorded the debut Dark Fair EP, Penny Universe. Second release, You Shouldn’t Be Mine, is due out in May, and they’ve just dropped the single ‘Poison’.
A driving ballad led by Ramona’s frayed vocal and insistent open strings, ‘Poison’ is punctuated by a sharp bass cameo from pal Adalita – who’s championed the band since catching them live at Yah Yah’s about a year ago. Check out the track below.
Dark Fair are launching the new EP at Old Bar in Melbourne on Saturday, 31 May. You can also catch them playing the final show of their April residency at the Tote tomorrow night, alongside Ohms and tinsmoke.
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Sydney trio Adults was formed in mid-2012 by former members of Step Panther and Joystick, and debuted last April with the coarse blues of lead track ‘Ominous’. A year later they have followed up with their first EP, Gronk City, which is out now on Bechamel Records – a Popfrenzy offshoot specialising in 7” releases and run by Adults’ own Greg Clennar.
The band’s sound sits somewhere between post punk and C86 jangle, the twee vocals underwritten by scouring guitar and a rhythm section that’s forever to the point. Thematically, Adults embrace a punk notion of the intellectual degenerate. On the lurching peripatetic fantasy ‘Freight Ship’, for example, the protagonist, stowed away with criminals and lunatics, has a taste for the high brow: ‘got me a copy of Rimbaud/got me a copy of Miller’.
In their mix of aesthetic threat and thoughtfulness Adults resemble the gentle punk of Television Personalities. Closer to home, their music has an affinity with the Stevens’ concise interpretations of the Dunedin sound – a relationship that’s particularly clear on Gronk City highlight ‘Rain’.
There’s some genre hopping on the EP, which skips from the twee pop of the opening track to aggressive closer ‘Snail Woman/Women’ with its Sonic Youth-inspired interludes. Adults’ work, however, is extremely satisfying in its bare bones construction, tunefulness and wit.
Stream Gronk City in full after the jump, along with the video for first single ‘Ominous’.
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It’s been 10 years now since Dollar Bar released their self-titled debut LP. In 2013 the band emerged from a six-year hiatus with the excellent follow up, Paddington Workers Club, named after ‘a shitty old bar room’, long shut down, that was a focal point of Brisbane’s Spring Hill scene.
The album could have been recorded back in the 90s, when Dollar Bar first formed, its sound falling somewhere between early Pavement and GBV. The band hasn’t lost its sense of humour, but these days the tracks (e.g. ‘Hipster Mental Ward’, ‘City Pricks Sitting Pretty’) take aim at the kids inhabiting the stages and the dives that Dollar Bar long left behind.
Dollar Bar sent us a track-by-track account of Paddington Workers Club. Check it out below:
‘Diff’rent 4 Gurls’
I’d formed a new band with my brother David, along with John and Cuffy from Dick Nasty. We did this song based on White Town’s ‘Your Woman’. Dollar Bar liked it and gave it a burl. After several attempts at re-recording and overdubs, we agreed that our original take, including guide vocals, was strongest. Basically it’s the poor man’s Strokes. (Dale)
‘Hipster Mental Ward’
This song was inspired by my time working in administration at a mental hospital in Toronto. Opposite the hospital was an arty stretch of Queen Street West – one of the hippest spots in town. I wrote the lyrics on my walks through the lush park grounds to purchase caffeine hits, and there were literally always tattooed girls riding bikes outside. The part about the guy putting his $20 bill in the microwave to sterilise it is a true story too. (Patrick)
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Dorsal Fins is brand new project led by Liam McGorry, trumpeter and songwriter for Melbourne soul collective Saskwatch. Initially conceived as a studio-only band, each track has been developed in collaboration with musicians from local acts Eagle and the Worm, the Bluebottles, New Gods and more.
Dorsal Fins have just dropped the video for latest single ‘Fell’, which features Ella Thompson (the Bamboos) on vocals. The track opens with a faded choral sample that could have been lifted from Walt Disney’s Snow White and lyrics that call up Lewis Carroll’s maniacal imagination: ‘All the doors were locked/too small to squeeze/you drank from a cup/that said “Drink me”’. Propelled by a clean piano line and rich, swooping bass, ‘Fell’ is fleshed out by gorgeous vocal loops and layers of synths and horns that sit low in the mix.
The video – a mishmash of vintage sci fi, foreign landscapes, rolling traffic and endless train lines – was made by Jason Galea of ZonkVision. Galea is also responsible for the distorted B-grade psychedelia of previous clip, ‘Nothing Left to Hide’.
Thankfully McGorry has dropped the studio-only conceit, and Dorsal Fins will be launching their upcoming 12”, Gripless, at Shebeen on Thursday, 3 April. Jacky Winter and DJs Martin King and Stu Mackenzie will be supporting. Incidentally, Martin King has just released his own reworking of ‘Fell’ – check it out here.
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Next month Nathan Roche will deliver the second instalment of his glorious ‘Newtown Trilogy’. It comes only five months after the release of part one, his first solo effort, Watch It Wharf. This guy is as prolific as he is self-deprecating: he’s played in seven different bands from Townsville to Sydney (most recently Camperdown and Out, alongside members of Royal Headache, Dead Farmers and Raw Prawn) and has described earlier albums as “shambolic, poorly recorded, unstructured and rapidly conceived”. He’s also written a couple of books (there’s a sterling promo video for the latest), with red pens provided at one launch party “for those who wish to personally edit” his work.
He may be underselling himself, but Roche’s breezy, piss-taking attitude sure is charming. It’s all over Watch It Wharf, a record packed with Lou Reed-channeling tracks set around the pubs and docks of the (formerly) blue-collar inner-city Sydney.
Follow-up album Magnetic Memories wears its influences proudly, drawing on Brian Eno’s early pop output and the Americana-laced oddities of post-Big Star Alex Chilton. Mind you, it’s still pretty dinky di, with tracks celebrating the Hollywood Hotel in Surrey Hills and contemplating the relative merits of Walsh and Gordons bays.
Magnetic Memories is smoother than the predecessor album, with woodwind from Millie Hall (Destiny 3000, Bridezilla) and Caroline de Dear (Day Ravies), and cello by 2SER’s James Newman. Roche seems stuck at a point on the cusp of the 1970s and 80s when old-style rock’n’roll was taking a second glance at the saxophone. So you can just relax and let the arrangements on the title track lick you behind the ear while Roche huskily croons, ‘Magnetic memories/I got a tropical disease’.
New single ‘Call Back’ is even better – a punchy number that rails against the lifestyle impositions of the modern mobile phone device. It’s got bouncy, Roxy Music-style keys and back up vocals drawn from Lou Reed’s seedy take on American soul music.
Magnetic Memories is coming out in April via Glenlivet-A-Gogh (which has taken over Roche’s own Fartpound Records imprint) on vinyl, CD and digital.
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Yet another band to have risen from the ashes of the dearly departed Yves Klein Blue, Babaganouj was formed by guitarist Charles Sale in 2011 – just months after YKB split due to ‘creative differences’. Named after a ridiculous 12-second song by Sydney legends Smudge (not to mention a delicious eggplant dip) Babaganouj has something of a Brisbane all-stars line up. Originally featuring Jack Gleeson of Inland Sea on drums and Harriette Pilbeam from Go Violets on bass, they’ve recently added a second Violet, Ruby, who’s also part of lollypop behemoth Johnny and the Fembots.
Babaganouj draw on bands that represent the rougher side of twee pop: the Lemonheads, the Pastels, the Vaselines. In fact, they’d just about pass as a Lemonheads tribute band, with their boy-girl harmonies, 90s hairdos and derpy sense of humour (the line ‘I fell for you and I hurt my knee’ could rival any of Evan Dando’s silly puns) – if it weren’t for Sale’s genuine knack for writing power pop hooks.
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There’s something uncompromising about Heart Beach. Their music is spare but rough, its few elements swiping at you from a blank background in the way a Malevich claws at your vision. The songs all feature Jonathon McCarthy and Claire Jansen’s intertwining vocals – his a caterwaul, hers a disarming coo; a guitar sound like shredded sheet metal; and the restrained, ever-patient drumming of Daniel Butcher.
So far the Hobart three-piece have four releases to their name. The first, 2013′s Holiday/Weather, has a hint of surf rock, but as though it were soaked through by the chilly Antarctic waters that creep up to meet the Tasman. The stark, droning vocals of ‘House’ sit atop an icy layer of feedback that gives the song an illusion of industrial echo. ‘Record’ is short and sharp, a punk tune that’s the closest Heart Beach have come to sounding optimistic. And, from January this year, the insistent, driving ‘Hours’ has to be the band’s most emotive track to date.
Heart Beach have just returned from a stint in New Zealand playing Camp a Low Hum. For now they’re taking a little time to recuperate, but we’re sure to hear more from them soon.
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