Sydney artist Joan Banoit delivers his debut album, Clerical, an impressive collection of splintered art pop full of moody electronics and longing vocals.
Following the hazy, neo soul of his self-titled debut EP, Banoit, assisted by producer Artefact, adds surprising dimension on Clerical pushing the music beyond any easily identifiable genre.
Single, ‘Bet Me’ is a masterful piece of songwriting, the rich arrangement drawing comparisons to genre pushers These New Puritans. Brass flourishes are punctuated by military drum bursts before opening up to make way for the devastating hook, an aching commentary on the internal struggles of a long distance relationship.
The complexity and minute attention to detail make the album even more beautifully difficult to pigeon hole. But this is pop music at its core, albeit not in the traditional sense. There are memorable vocal melodies and catchy rhythms but the treatments are intriguingly fractured, cloaking the more immediate moments in a haze of esoteric electronic soundscape.
Clerical is an arresting, multi-layered album that is as equally enjoyable listening to on the surface as it is going for a deep dive. Available now through Lazy Thinking Records.
Melbourne’s Lucy Roleff returns with another taste from her forthcoming album, Left Open in a Room, following on from whimsical lead single, ‘A Woman’s Worth’.
Roleff’s enduring, folk-leaning music draws comparisons with understated artists such as Vashti Bunyan and Nick Drake. Its ageless beauty is imbued with a sense of history despite its current context, even Roleff herself at times appearing to have emerged from some mystical time capsule. This is not to say the music is in any way passé, more so that it is impervious to the fleeting (and ultimately forgettable) tendencies of some contemporary music
The songwriting on the new album is refined and confident, exposing a vulnerability in the lyrics, adding to her already rich musical universe. Latest single, ‘Sometimes Do’, exemplifies this vulnerability; a delicate harp arpeggio cradling Roleff’s exquisitely elegant vocals that appear suspended atop the sparse, pin-drop arrangements.
Left Open in a Room is due out May 15 on Lost & Lonesome, Little Lake Records (au) and Oscarson Records (eu). If you’re in Melbourne, you can catch Lucy launching the album on May 26th at Eastmint, Northcote with supports from Mindy Meng Wang & Genevieve Fry, and Pascal Babare & Band. Full event details here.
Becki Whitton is an audio engineer based in Melbourne who records under her solo moniker, Aphir. Aphir’s debut full-length, Twin Earth, was released via Provenance Records in 2017 and since then Whitton has self-released a steady stream of singles and EPs, the frequency and quality of which, highlight a restless talent with plenty to say.
Although Whitton’s music as Aphir typically leans towards the pop end of the electronic music spectrum, her most recent outings are more exploratory. Last year’s Dyscircadian ventures into more ambient territory, while Ceci n’est pas une Popfrom earlier this year, is an effortless batch of smoky, downbeat electronica. Both EPs are collaborative efforts with Whitton working alongside some of her music pals including Happy Axe, KAIAR and Dear Laika among others.
Aphir’s Virtual Mixtape taps into her recent travels, including a handful of songs that would enter her subconscious while working. Over to you Becki…
“I’ve been travelling a lot this year – I’m an audio engineer and for the first half of the year I didn’t have a studio, which meant that I was often travelling to different places to record the artists I was working with. In September I had the opportunity to visit California for three weeks and there was a whole stretch of time where I was too busy to listen to Spotify, so it was really interesting to just listen to my mind singing whatever random song it reached for to suit the moment. The songs on this playlist are a small selection of those, I guess it’s essentially a travel playlist.”
Lupa J – Drift
This is one of my favourite songs that’s been released this year. It’s about hiding parts of your identity from yourself because you’re scared they might hurt you or hurt other people which, in the first place, is such a deep thing for a song to be about, and in the second place every nuance of the production and arrangement of Drift reflects that feeling so perfectly. This song has the perfect feeling for exploring a new city at night.
Freya – Cohabitation
I started getting this song stuck in my head a lot while I was staying in other people’s houses in the States. Freya’s music is amazing – her tracks sound like a five-piece band of killer songwriters teamed up with a very expensive producer but actually it’s literally just all her. She released an album called The Fifth recently and I really hope it ends up on some best of the year lists because it absolutely deserves that.
Buzzy Lee – Coolhand
I just got into Buzzy Lee this year and I really love her stuff. I met her manager by chance when I was overseas and I was so nervous that I literally asked him what his name was three times after already being told twice. I love how this song is lo-fi but in the most deliberate, satisfying way – every sound has been carefully chosen and sits in the best possible place. Listening to this song really changes my mood in the best way every time I listen to it (which has honestly been a LOT).
Eilish Gilligan – S.M.F.Y.
One of the things I’ve been travelling for this year has been to occasionally DJ for Eilish when her band can’t play a show for one reason or another. S.M.F.Y. is the song she finishes her set with mostly, and it’s the perfect way to close because it transforms this heartbreaking experience she had into a pure moment of energy and connection with the audiences she sings to. I think is one of the best things music can do, and I’ve never seen the people in the crowd not love it.
Ravyn Lenae – Spice
This song is so cute and sexy. Mostly when people say “oh that song is so sexy” (about whatever song) I don’t really relate, but I think this is my kind of sexy song because it’s also kind of weird. This is a good song to listen to after spending a whole day navigating a new place and getting super gross and sweaty, but then finally arriving where you’re staying that night – I would say listen to this song while you’re changing out of your sweaty clothes to go to some place nice in the evening.
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.
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.
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.
The trio’s unique brand of indietronica is as strong as ever, full of sardonic wit and subtle hooks that sneak into your subconscious only to reveal themselves when you unknowingly sing them to yourself in the shower, in the line at the post office (if this is in fact still a viable pursuit), or other such times when your mind is left to wander.
Opener, ‘Noise’, kicks up with some cosmic synth noodling before sliding into a typically bent pop number, the kind we’ve come to expect from the group. This is followed by the single, ‘Cardboard’, a song which relishes the schmaltz taking musical clichés from another time and turning them on their head within a clever indie pop framework. Lyrically, Andrew Kuo is at his candid best with his humorous and poignant commentary on the idiosyncrasies of the human condition.
‘Chinese Whispers’ explores the group’s love of hip hop, a fondness which has borne fruit in the past through collaborations with rap upstart and Yes Rave label head, Simo Soo as well as the surprise guest spot from former Das Racist member Kool A.D. on last year’s ‘Dolphin’.
The EP closes with the psychedelic ‘When I’m Freaking Out’, a song that harks back to older Yon Yonson material, albeit in a more restrained and ultimately successful way. A good example of how the group has matured even in their fairly limited time together.
Fermented Fruit is another notch on the metaphorical belt of this talented crew. Now off to the post office.