Mid Ayr is Brisbane’s Hugh Middleton – when he’s not playing guitar in alt folk bigshots The Trouble With Templeton. Debut single ‘My Mayhem’ is the first recorded taste we’ve got of his solo work, and it’s pretty sweet.
Anyone who’s got a passing interest in Templeton knows that Middleton is a talented guitarist, but the best part of this song is how measured it is. There’s a tendency at the moment for acoustic artists to rush into soaring, dramatic choruses without building an emotional core to carry them, and Middleton totally avoids that here. His lyrics are full of anxiety and tension, mumbled regrets and confessions, so that when the big cathartic chorus comes in you actually feel like something’s getting resolved.
‘My Mayhem’ keeps up a great pace, with handclap percussion all the way through. The song just skips by, leaving you wanting more.
‘Heave Ho’ is the second single off Mere Women’s latest album, Your Town. It’s a super dark and often sinister look into regret and our uncanny ability to make the same mistakes over and over again. Their last record, Old Life, came out around two years ago, and I’m really kicking myself for letting them pass me by for so long. This track, and the rest of Your Town, has so much to love: bad arse vocals, dark, post-punky synths, and off-balance but totally catchy guitar lines.
‘Heave Ho’ is the sound of someone begging to be bailed out. Singer Amy Wilson’s voice is powerfully beseeching when she sings, ‘This love’s too hard / this love’s too hard’. That line, repeated again and again in combination with the tight and stony drums, pounds her pain right into your heart.
We get a moment of respite in the middle of the track with a spiralling and spare piece of synth. The tight drums skipping along underneath make sure that none of the momentum is lost before a tough and striking guitar line comes in and it’s all hurt and struggle again. But then, another switch – in the last minute the song throws us a taunting hook: ‘It would be so easy / it would be so easy’. Wilson’s voice is stronger now, and more authoritative. It sounds like she really could make a change and leave this hard love behind.
The number of distinct parts to this song, and the record as a whole, is impressive. There are enough great melodies and beats on here to fill at least a couple more albums from a lesser band, but these songs never feel crammed in or suffocated. With Your Town, Mere Women have made it clear that they can’t be slept on any longer.
This single is the first chance anyone outside of Brisbane has had to hear the lovely Love Signs, who have risen from the ashes of girl group devotees Johnny and The Fembots and played some very impressive shows around town in the past few months.
‘Wish At Home’ has a kind of school dance vibe – if school dances were actually about locking eyes across a softly lit room with the love of your life rather than drinking too many Woodstocks and throwing up behind the bike sheds.
There’s a whole lot of sweetness here, but also sophistication – and most of it comes from Izzy Mellor’s voice, which can’t help but take centre stage, it’s so full and classically beautiful. The instrumentation is subtle but distinct, a guitar twinkling away in the background and the rhythm section mixed with a restraint that helps to give the song its gauzy aesthetic.
The romantic feel is complemented by sighing lyrics about heartbreak and loneliness, and it’s an excellent introduction to such a sleek nostalgia band. Hopefully Love Signs have a lot more where this came from.
Talented AND generous, Love Signs have made this track available for free download on Soundcloud.
Shedstock is the pretty genius brainchild of Donnie Miller and Innez Tulloch of Roku Music and recording studio Nowhere Audio. For the past few years it’s been running as the DIY festival to end all DIY festivals – a kind of pals-only thing on a family farm with a stage made out of wooden pallets. This year, with the help of some crowd funding, they built a real stage with a roof and walls and everything, and put on the biggest party northern New South Wales has ever seen.
There was music from the truly greatBlank Realm, Brisbane’s best sad-band Keep On Dancin’s, the always excellent Roku Music, local badarses Woodboot, cold synth queens and surprise highlight Pleasure Symbols, scrappy legendsCannon, the ‘90s-bush-doof-meets-shady-electro-pop of Multiple Man, and the seriously demented Unpeople and Cobwebbs, to name hardly any, all playing in the obscenely beautiful surroundings of the northern rivers.
A music festival with no dickheads, good music all the time and heaps of rad dogs and chickens to play with during the day? Heaven.
To get into the DIY spirit (and maybe because I don’t own a real camera) I shot some photos on disposable film – and hey, they turned out alright!
A couple of months ago we featured Tempura Nights’ first single ‘R.I.P Chix’ (spoiler: it’s excellent), and now we’re premiering the Brisbane trio’s first foray into video format.
Keeping up the dreamy theme that runs through the washed-out track, the video is like the daydream you have when you’re three hours into an eight-hour shift – the kind of fantasy where you lay around with your good-looking mates and smoke cigs and play music and have pillow fights and braid each other’s hair. It’s total wish fulfilment, but done with the kind of wink-and-nod, tongue-in-cheek attitude that makes Tempura Nights so likeable. (Look at those white cut-off shorts and tell me this is a band who take themselves too seriously).
The video looks a hell of a lot better than your average DIY clip, with some pretty, sun-drenched shots by director Jennifer Embelton of Somersault Visuals. It’s clean and striking; the perfect visual introduction to a band that’s well worth watching.
Look out for Tempura Nights’ first EP White Whine, which will be out in the coming months.
Contrast are from Melbourne and describe themselves as ‘a coupla blokes who like skateboarding and local music’. Of course. But as bored as you might be with all the ‘regular guy’ modesty going around at the moment, these dudes are making music that’s interesting enough to reveal actual underlying ambition and talent.
Listening to their new EP, Less Than Zero, you’d believe they were the latest English buzz band: a bit shoegaze-y, kind of punk, with smart lyrics and delivery that effortlessly transitions from snide to sincere. There’s Primary Colours-era Horrors in the expansive intros and atmospherics, echoes of Major Leagues in the sweetness of the guitar lines and apathetic vocals, and of course all the usual ‘80s shoegaze references – but with enough of their own pop smarts that it’s hard to care much about who’s done it before.
You can pick up a copy of Contrast’s EP Less Than Zerohere.
Popstrangers’ first record Antipodes made a lot of people sit up and pay attention to New Zealand music. They also released one of my favourite singles last year, the understated ‘Rats in The Palm Trees’. So when new stuff from them ambled onto my radar, I got psyched.
And they didn’t disappoint. Typically for these guys, ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ has the kind of vocal hook that runs around in your head for days, annoying if it wasn’t so bloody good. Where ‘Rats In The Palm Trees’ and previous single ‘Country Kills’ were pretty straight, kinda disillusioned slacker rock songs, ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ has so much going on it’s hard to know where to start.
What’s going on with that bass sound? I’m into it. And hey, it gets cool and dark with just bass, drums and vocals in the verse, and wow, then things go like full Grizzly Bear-pretty (which is ultimate-boss-level prettiness) with that guitar in the chorus. Hang on, I gotta listen to it again.
‘Don’t Be Afraid’ will be out on Popstrangers’ second album Fortuna, hitting shelves and the internet on May 27th.