Posts By Annie Toller

Who the Hell’s Guide to Sugar Mountain

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Sugar Mountain comes to us revamped this year, after a 12-month hiatus. It has a new location at the VCA Southbank campus, where the extra space has allowed for a bigger line up than ever before. The festival’s profile is also at its highest level, with a push from the promoters at Mushroom Group, Sugar Mountain’s new partner in crime. This good fortune is well overdue for Sugar Mountain, which for years has been curating the most exciting set of acts of any festival in Australia, whether blockbuster or boutique.

While the Big Day Out flailed around trying to please everyone from Metallica fans to the triple j set and Laneway slavishly booked every band with a ‘Best New Music’ accolade, the closest thing to a ‘white whale’ that Sugar Mountain has bothered with is ESG – a cult act from the no man’s land that was South Bronx in the 1980s. Instead, these guys have displayed an adventurousness and a consistency of vision that’s brought  acts like Sun Araw, Prince Rama and John Maus together on the one bill.

This year is no exception, despite the event now catering to a larger audience. As if the promise of Swans, Nas, iceage and a Boiler Room stage weren’t enough, there’s also a huge array of local talent on the bill. These are some of the artists we’ll be going to see.

NO ZU + Sal P (Liquid Liquid)

Melbourne septet NO ZU have been bringing together cowbell, saxophone and happy pants in a frenetic post-disco amalgam for quite a few years now. On Saturday they’ll be joined by spiritual forebear Sal P of no wave legends Liquid Liquid in what’s bound to be an interesting collaboration.

Terrible Love feat. Kirin J Callinan

Kirin J Callinan has already caused his fair share of trouble for Sugar Mountain. A set at the 2012 event saw audience members streaming from the auditorium in confusion and disgust as the boundaries between concert, performance and reality dissolved. It was probably the best thing I saw all day. This time Callinan’s teaming up with Terrible Records, a US imprint founded by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. I have no idea what’s going to happen here, but the teaser is promising:

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GIVEAWAY: Baro + Milwaukee Banks

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Baro and Milwaukee Banks are Melbourne acts that have performed the minor miracle of creating Australian hip hop that actually sounds contemporary. Milwaukee Bank’s gauzy, sputtering production calls to mind A$AP Rocky’s debut LP – if you substitute MC Dylan Thomas’ good humour for Rocky’s gaping vacuity – while 17-year-old Baro’s jazzy beats reflect the current preoccupation with boom bap shared by young rappers like Joey Bada$$ and Earl Sweatshirt.

Baro and MB are playing a double headline show tomorrow night at Melbourne’s John Curtin Hotel, with rising producer (and Grimes lookalike) Stax Osset supporting. We have two passes to give away – email editors@whothehell.net for your chance to win.

10904503_768341513243254_633548476478950443_oFacebook Event / Tickets

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WATCH: Total Giovanni – ‘Can’t Control My Love’

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The video for Total Giovanni‘s ‘Can’t Control My Love’ is a pitch perfect Gen Y nostalgia epic. A coming-of-age story shot through a VHS filter, it’s packed with the little details of a 90s childhood – Mambo tees, flannel shirts, Nintendo, BMX and Vans. Moreover, with its disco trappings, prepubescent hero and the band’s own appearance as benevolent boogie demi-gods, the video’s also a pretty clear rip off of a certain 1998 French house hit. But cheesy homage is precisely the stuff that Total Giovanni is trading in; it’s what makes the band so much fun. So check this little dude out as he liberates his masculinity, wins love and conquers his enemies, all through the power of dance.

Total Giovanni will be performing shamanistic rituals at the Workers Club on Australia Day eve alongside HTML Flowers and Douglas Fir.

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MAP January 2015

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The first MAP of 2015 is here, featuring tracks selected by 18 blogs from around the world. Sydney’s AFXJIM is representing Australia this month with ‘Distant’, the lead single from his second LP, out now through Feral Media.

All 18 tracks are available below, to stream or download at your leisure.

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 18-track compilation through Dropbox here.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Mariana PärawaySirena

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Somewhere between Mendoza and the Andes, Mariana Päraway becomes a mountain siren who sings about entangled fates in her latest album, Hilario. Mariana’s music navigates through pop, folk and electronic landscapes resulting in a deep, refined sound exploration.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
AFXJIMDistant

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Sydneysider Travis Baird is a multi-instrumentalist who earns a living scoring video installations, playing as a session musician and performing on tour with the likes of Melodie Nelson and Sounds Like Sunset. AFXJIM is Baird’s solo project, which consists of home recordings pieced together from loops, drum machines and field recordings of everything from kindergarten classroom chatter to police radio transmissions. It’s a subtle fusion of experimental electronica and acoustic songwriting, falling somewhere between Tortoise-inspired post-rock and the folktronica of early Four Tet. Distant is the title track off AFXJIM’s second LP. Carried on a bed of slide guitar and rumbling percussion, the track’s centrepiece sample features singing “recorded to MiniDisc in a bus-top karaoke bar in the Costa Rican backwoods”.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
DuaniAproveita

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Aproveita is the first single from Duani’s debut solo album, which will be released this year. He became famous in Brazil in the 90s, playing forró (a very danceable rhythm strongly related to the Northeast culture of the country) with the band Forroçacana. In this single, he plays all instruments and sings. The lyrics are a manifest about comprehension in love and its different ways of desire, packaged with black music and soul.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo
Morning ShowI’m Listening

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Alt-folk trio Morning Show features members of Bed Of Stars and The Archers. The multi-instrumentalists show a pallet that is heavily influenced by Canadian peers such as Dan Mangan, Hey Rosetta! and Wintersleep. I’m Listening is a beautiful, balanced single you will have on repeat.

CHILE: Super 45
Tus Amigos NuevosParaná

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If we have to blame someone for why Chilean rock has been overshadowed by the pop scene, all darts would point to the extreme seriousness with which most of bands go on stage. Luckily, Tus Amigos Nuevos have been refreshing the idea that rock can be cathartic, danceable and, above all, very funny. This year they promise to be even more so thanks to their second album, from which Paraná is the first single.

More music after the jump
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LISTEN: Twerps – ‘I Don’t Mind’

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Twerps‘ second album is finally out next week. Its title, Range Anxiety, presumably refers to ‘second album syndrome’ – the fear, surely lurking in the heart of every buzz band, of not being able to live up to the promise of their debut record. This is something which Twerps frontman Martin Frawley openly admits to in interviews, and which he seems to be deflecting in the album trailers for Range Anxiety that depict him as some kind of crank auteur (and, later, a washed-up alcoholic).

The band’s made a few changes since their last LP. The talented Alex MacFarlane has been recruited on drums and has made his presence felt – the shift towards crisper tempos and a rather twee eccentricity on the Underlay EP and recent single ‘Back to You’ smacks of MacFarlane’s other band, the Stevens. Also, as has been evident in their live sets for a while now, Julia McFarlane is sharing more of the Twerps’ songwriting burden, having helmed two tracks on Underlay, as well as ‘Shoulders’, the second single from the forthcoming full-length.

Screwing with the formula is almost certainly a healthy thing for a band to do, but it’s a gamble. For Twerps, shared songwriting may have diffused some of the pressure of of making that difficult second album. Frawley has said he was left feeling exposed by the personal material on 2011’s Twerps, and he speculated last year that the new album would be ‘more of a joint record, less of one dude whinging about everything’. In fact, collaboration follows the shape the band’s life is now taking, with Frawley and McFarlane en route to getting hitched.

But while McFarlane is a decent lyricist, and her nimble guitar playing has provided the band with at least half its personality and pep since the beginning, her writing style feels unnaturally heavy alongside Frawley’s easygoing pop. She tends towards vocal melodies with a nursery-rhyme simplicity – albeit more of a nod to traditional folk than to Peter Combe – and with a sometimes grating circularity.

So after McFarlane’s anachronistic sounding ‘Shoulders’ (and the enjoyable but kind of dinky lead single, ‘Back to You’) it’s a relief to hear a track from Range Anxiety that genuinely lives up to the hype. ‘I Don’t Mind’ starts out lazily enough, swapping between Frawley’s slow drawl and McFarlane’s skipping guitar, with only the rumbling rhythm section and a hint of feedback to presage the thrill of the song’s frenetic final bars. As the tempo increases and layers build, the track culminates in a sense of urgency that utterly belies lines like ‘I don’t mind if you go / I don’t mind if you stay … let’s waste away … I don’t mind’.

Range Anxiety is out next Friday, 23 January, through Chapter. Twerps will play a backyard set at Polyester Records on the day, with limited tickets going to the first 40 people to preorder the album at the store or through the Polyester website.

They’ll be playing the new tracks for you again the very next day at the massive Sugar Mountain festival. Limited tickets are still available here.

Twerps’ Australian dates:

Jan 24 Melbourne­ – Sugar Mountain

Jan 28 Brisbane – The Tivoli *

Jan 29 Sydney -­ Enmore *

Feb 1 Melbourne -­ Palais *

Feb 3 Perth – Astor Theatre *

Feb 27 Melbourne -­ Melbourne Zoo #

March 7-9 Meredith – Golden Plains

* with Belle and Sebastian

# with Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks

You can see the band’s US tour dates here.

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STUFF WE LIKED IN 2014

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2014 has been another great year for Australian music, cementing the perception both here and abroad that there’s something very special going on down under. Courtney Barnett continued her project of total world domination, touring the globe, selling out show after show back home and putting out a lovely little mixer on her label, Milk Records.

We heard stunning new albums from Total Control and Blank Realm, which were utterly deserving of the international acclaim. Cut Copy gave the Melbourne dance scene a critical shot in the arm, bringing some terrific acts together on the Oceans Apart compilation. The managers behind Pond and Tame Impala launched their own imprint, Spinning Top Records, bringing the charming Peter Bibby into our lives, with his drunken burble and shifty grin. Sydney label Plastic World expanded its catalogue of stylish retro club music, curating EPs from the likes of Retiree, Savoir and GL. The local hip hop scene did what had hitherto seemed impossible and produced a number of very promising MCs and producers. And, in one of the biggest surprises of my year, old mate Chet Faker put out a track that didn’t make me feel nauseous (though it did sound quite a lot like James Murphy).

Faced with such an embarrassment of riches, we figured it would be unfair – not to mention too difficult – to fashion a definitive list of the year’s best releases. Instead, our contributors have come up with their personal top three moments of the year in Australian music. If you’re a real stickler for lists you can always check out our newest Spotify playlist, featuring 100 of our favourite tracks from 2014.

Read the team’s contributions below.

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MAP December 2014

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Melbourne garage rockers ScotDrakula are the Australian submission for this month’s Music Alliance Pact, the excellent ‘Shazon’ featuring alongside tracks from around the world – from Denmark to the Dominican Republic.

Check out all 17 entries below, and keep your eyes peeled for Robbie’s Mapcast, coming soon to Soundcloud.

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 17-track compilation through Dropbox here.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Pablo Dacal y Fer IsellaLos Caminos

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Singer-songwriter Pablo Dacal (MAP February 2009) invited fellow musician and friend Fer Isella to perform a concert together. In return, Isella proposed that they record an album. After years of conversations they finally got together, then the two artists visited Ulises Conti (MAP March 2009) at his Buenos Aires studio and invited him to produce the album. Right there, the newly-form trio recorded piano, vocals and other arrangements. The resulting album is called Los Caminos and here’s the self-titled first single.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
ScotDrakulaShazon

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Steeped in a love for fuzz and 60s rock’n’roll, Melbourne trio ScotDrakula transcend the novelty of their name with songs so catchy they make Gangnam Style look about as appealing as week-old haggis. The band has just released their debut album and it’s drowning in two/three-minute garage super-soakers. Shazon is irresistibly charming, enough to convert the stalest individual to a headbangin’ conqueror of the dancefloor.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo
LYONCut Me Loose

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Cut Me Loose is the latest track from Toronto’s Lauren Malyon aka LYON. It’s a difficult one to get out of your head once you listen to it, like the girl next door you can’t forget.

Hear the full list after the jump:

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