Posts By Madeleine Laing

LISTEN: Brick Brick – Chip 4 Chip EP

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Brick Brick

Brisbane forever favourites Bent may have stopped playing a couple of years ago, but singer and multi-instrumentalist Heidi Cutlack has given us plenty of good music since then. Her solo project Scaredy Snake was breathy, stripped back pop, and now, with bassist Phoebe BMX (from Come Die In Queensland, who released a truly terrifying tape early this year) and Matt Kennedy (from Kitchen’s Floor, of ‘pissing people off at The Sydney Opera House’) on drums, Brick Brick is Cutlack moving away from cuteness or naivety into something more disillusioned, heavier and ah, more rock.

Cutlack might be channelling a bit of Kennedy’s downer-than-you lyricism in the opening track’s drawled, ‘everyone is boooooooored / everyone is saaaaaaaaaaaaad’, but then, that song’s called ‘Sooky’ so you know it’s more tongue-in-cheek than that. ‘Sooky’ is that belligerent brat we can all be, grumpy for no reason, picking fights with whoever, and it’s making no apologies – a ratbag song and a fun listen.

Cutlack’s voice on this EP is strong and expressive – pouting then powerful, sinister on ‘Fill Me Up’, then plaintive and desperate on ‘Houseshow Song’. ‘Houseshow Song’ is chaotic and catchy – one you could imagine shaking some floorboards and inviting noise complaints. Anyone coming to this record looking for Bent’s wonky pop savant won’t find it, but there’s plenty to like in this collaboration of Cutlack’s bare-bones poetry with BMX and Kennedy’s tough-as rhythm section. The bass especially fills up all the cracks with a deep kind of muck. Combine that with the thick, uncomfortable, production, Chip 4 Chip is the kind of tape that makes me pine for Brisbane.

You buy a digital download or cassette with secret track from Eternal Soundcheck.

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LISTEN: Sweet Whirl – Love Songs & Poetry EP

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Sweet Qhirl

From the first golden second of Love Songs & Poetry, I’m blissfully drowning in sweet melancholy, nostalgia, romance. I put it on in the background at work but it’s too beautiful to focus on anything else. Esther Edquist’s voice is so rich it’s rude. Like how dare someone sound so good when they’re saying ‘I don’t wanna be your girlfriend / I just want someone to hold you / give you all the love I told you you deserve’. Oof. That’s from the very first track, ‘Girlfriend’, and while that song hints at an irony in the EP’s title (also see: ‘some of us are made for coupling and suffering / but that girl ain’t me’), these are definitely love songs. More in how they feel than what they say – the way they build and shimmer and fill up your whole heart. The goddamn strings. The low-key intricately lovely base and guitar. Fucked me up.

Love Songs & Poetry is Edquist’s first release on Chapter Music, and it’s a perfect fit for their clever Aussie pop vibe. I loved O.K. Permanent Wavethat moody, intimate LP Sweet Whirl put out in 2016, but this release is so good in such a different way. Can’t believe I put off listening to it for a few days cuz I thought the first single ‘Strange News’ was a little too cute at first. I was wrong! It’s a gently swinging country-tinged gem, looking up under its eyelashes asking for a kiss, while warning you all the reasons you shouldn’t give in; ‘I’m not the kind you should be taking home / drunk and lingering’. That’s a trend across lyrics on this EP; they’re resigned, knowing, sometimes cynical, warning you to keep your eyes open the whole time the music is begging you to just let go. The music wins every time.

These are six songs for people who wish that Sharon Van Etten had could have resisted the synth a bit longer (… even if they’re still insisting they love the new direction). It’s emotionally generous; Edquist gives us plenty of material to get to know her, to relate to her hopes and mistakes. Final track ‘Rubber Heart’ is a perfect evocation of that ‘oh no, I’ve kissed every single person in this town’ feeling, ‘each ghost has a street name, each corner a voice I once knew’. It’s a movin’ on song, skipping along, shaking off the cold water ready to start again. Edquist, like the rest of us, is unable to resist the pull of another big, messy splash.

You can buy a tape or download this EP here

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LISTEN: Slumber – Body Crush EP

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slumber

‘Body Crush is Tasmanian solo artist Slumber’s first release; a collection of 2 years’ worth of work, made up of snippets, found sounds, and drowsily beautiful vocals from Tasmania’s Amber Perez. Perez also plays guitar in ferocious Hobart pop punk band Slag Queens, but with Slumber she’s turned her attention inward, making, in her words ‘dank sadgirl bops’ (and you’ll find no better description).

This EP came to me kind of like a balm against that constant low-level anxiety that we’re all getting, if not used to, bored of. Do you ever feel like there’s so much fucken blah blah everybody talking constantly out there that you struggle to even listen to music with lyrics in it? You’re like, oh god, please shut the fuck up? I do. But this EP is like restorative good company, like an afternoon spritz, like a friend who’s just as happy to spend the afternoon watching Seinfeld as talking deep stuff.

Dealing abstractly with ideas of romance with the self and others, the takeaway from these songs seems to be a kind of inner peace that comes from looking back at the past with a kind of forgiveness. With the inevitable backslide into wistful regret in ‘let u go’, a pretty highlight that brings glitches, birdsong and mumbled vocals together for a deep wallowing sigh. It’s the quiet acceptance in lines like ‘we are both the seas that we drown in / we are both our only way out’ that makes this EP more than breezy listening bleep bloops and more like a real document of progress and growth.

‘sick dank track #5’ is just what it says… kinda. An optimistic dance song to bring on the dawn ‘I’m getting better at being good to myself / I think I’m almost ready to let things work out’, Perez sings with a half-smile, multi-tracked vocals bringing the sense of euphoria to the only song I wanna hear if I ever go to the club again.

Listen to, or even buy (!) Body Crush on Bandcamp.

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LISTEN: Shrimpwitch – Gave Me The Itch LP

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Shrimpwitch

Shrimpwitch are the kind of band I wish I’d found when I was a teen – maybe it wouldn’t have taken me till I was 25 to start playing music. Cuz I don’t remember seeing girls be weird and funny like this, you know, not singing beautifully from behind the piano. These are the kind of heroes we need – ones fighting for a girl’s right to be messy and gross.

Their sound is extremely classic – rock and roll like the ’80s American bands who toured non-stop for twenty years; crusty, street smart, been-there-done-that-fucked-it-off. Surf rock guitar that went for a rollaround in the gutter. But with a thoroughly modern sense of humour, and outrage.

‘Leerers’ is a statement of personal fury that’s relatable to plenty of women, without preaching to the choir. ‘Mystique’ captures the specific kind of madness that comes from trying to maintain a cool and mysterious persona to keep ‘em all interested when you’re actually a leaking sack of blood and tears. They’ve also got that hip ‘trashbag, but make it fashion’ aesthetic, as shown in the very fun clip for ‘Digestion’.

Usually I prefer my rock and roll under two minutes, and songs like ‘Trouble’ and ‘Leerers’ deliver on the FUCK YEAH WE’RE PLAYING AS FAST AS WE CAN energy. But longer songs ‘Sever’ and ‘Digestion’ show enough of their more structured song writing skills to make it worth it. I like the messy, live-ish sound of the record in general, but sometimes I wish I could hear the vocals better, only cuz the lyrics that you do pick up are so good.

Considering how much energy and fun they’ve managed to pack into these ten songs, I can only imagine Shrimpwitch absolutely go off live. If you’re in Melbourne they’re playing a launch on January 19. But to paraphrase one hundred Shakira video commenters: COME TO HOBART.

You can buy the tape or digital album for yourself and any young girls you know right now here  

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WATCH: All the Weathers – ‘Jobs for Dogs’

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All The Weathers

I’m such a dumbshit it took moving to Tasmania for me to discover what, apparently, all my friends already knew and were keeping from me as some kind of sick joke: All The Weathers are one of the most exciting bands in Australia. It’s true, before this year I had absolutely no idea that just one band could be fun, arty, weird, funny, catchy, smart, brutal and beautiful all at once. Must be that mountain air.

It’s been a while since the band have released anything, but a few days ago we finally got a taste of their third record, called For the Worms’, out on January 21st. This first track  ‘Jobs for Dogs’ does the quiet-loud things with a frantic hysterical energy, dirty growling guitars and a video that combines a serious comment about animal exploitation with dressing up in broken wetsuits, dog masks and op-shop suits. There’s a lot going. You notice some new funny detail on every re-watch. Georgia Lucy’s voice is so good it wouldn’t really matter if she wasn’t that charismatic, but whether it’s on stage or on video (in this one she embodies a theatrical, mistreated greyhound or a villainous race-goer) she’s endlessly watchable.

The whole things brims with personality, charm, force and passion. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially for those times when it starts to feel like there’s not enough weird stuff happening in Australian music, when it’s all getting a bit too cool. Oh god I’m starting to sound like those Triple J dads asking why no one makes music like TISM anymore. Ignore/kill me.

All the Weathers are a band who write great songs which lets them be as wacky as they like and you always want to see where it’s gonna go. Hopefully the record brings a tour cuz their live shows are anything and everything but boring. Lucy, and bandmates Callumn Cusick and Gigi Lynn are all hectic multi-instrumentalists and make kind of a mix between the tightest band you’ve ever seen and wonderful chaos.

A second video, ‘Fast Lane’ was released on the same day but I didn’t find out about that until I’d finished writing this post. Ah-whoops.

Pre-order ‘For the Worms’  from good Tasmania record label Rough Skies here

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LISTEN: Bitumen – Discipline Reaction LP

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bitumen

Like every inner city nerd who couldn’t find a warehouse party with an event invite and maps, I love industrial music. Like every weepy romantic who stopped being cute ‘n’ tortured a long time ago, I love post punk. And, like every right-thinking person, I love metal. This deadly tough and dramatic record from Melbourne’s Bitumen is the best part of all three.

The album opens with the dance track, ‘Lash’, and there’s some beats here and there across the whole thing you could make a party out of if you were really committed. But at its heart this record is sinister. They play with the goth, old-timey references in the titles ‘Sicker Dowry’, ‘Pound of Flesh’, and keeping these songs out of a modern context is important. It wouldn’t work at all if these songs were about Tinder and Newstart and missing the bus. I think we’re maybe a bit sick of that anyway. I know I don’t want to hear about my own life in a song any more. Yuck. Give me darkness and depravity, power, violence, dangerous seduction. Not more constant niggling anxiety.

A lot of guitar bands are using drum machines now – it makes sense, give the people something different, don’t have to worry about a kit, hey, you’re playing clubs now. But it’s for this kind of music that drum machines were invented. Cold, precise, robotic, not a hint of swing or groove. The bass is tech without being distracting, guitars tense, tight and massive.

First single ‘Twice Shy’ comes with an unsurprisingly dark and moody film clip, it’s a good punchy single, but doesn’t quite do justice to some of the complexity of the rest of the record. But that is honestly some nitpicky shit. I’m trying to avoid slavish enthusiasm. It’s not working.

‘Pound of Flesh’ is my favourite song because it is drone and desire and it is absolutely huge. Until like a minute from the end it builds, guitars groan and rattle and shake the foundations. Kate Binning whispers ‘I’ve been watching from a distance I’ve been waiting for a signal…’. Then it opens up with her frenzied spat vocal. ‘Pound of Flesh’ and ‘At Bended Knee’ are both revenge horror movies, menacing anthems for the wronged; ‘I’m not quite who I used to be’ ‘I take back what you took from me’.

I think the secret to Binning’s power is how absolutely in control she sounds through the record. Plenty of vocalists could get lost in the sea of riffs and synth hysterics, but the vocals always do them one better, sounding a bit sicker, a bit darker, a bit more crazed. No monotone drone under reverb (well except in the obligatory atmospheric track ‘Wriggling Signal II’, but who doesn’t like a bit of atmosphere) the vocal melodies hit just as hard as anything else. Cardinalidae is the stadium track in an album full of stadium tracks.

This record, to me, is so extremely Melbourne, but without the bad parts. It’s that self-confidence, style, cool, with just enough edge, but it doesn’t try too hard at any of it. It’s dead serious, without crossing that thin sneaky grey line into being silly. Which is hard. Most bands wouldn’t even try, let alone pull it off this well.

Buy this good record from the good label Vacant Valley

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LISTEN: Sarah Mary Chadwick – Sugar Still Melts in the Rain

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Sarah Mary Chadwick cover

At an art show in a convict-built gunpowder warehouse in Hobart someone brings up Sarah Mary Chadwick. They’re telling a story about a New Year’s party where they’d turned off the party songs playing at midnight to belt out songs from 9 Classic Tracks. ‘Have you heard the new one?’, I ask. They say they haven’t. ‘It’s much much sadder’, I say ‘it’s really… hard’. Their eyes light up. ‘Oh fuck yeah.’

Is it unfair to call our love of public sadness a kind of fetish? We respect people who spill their guts in public because in real life it still feels kind of illicit. Like when you start to get into an unexpectedly deep conversation with a not very close friend and start telling them about an ex boyfriends dick problems or some mutual friend you actually hate or how you once took a lot of pills ‘just to see what would happen’, and then afterwards feel that rush of regret. Revealing ourselves feels good, until the shame hits.

But this record. This record is harrowing. It’s hard to look at right in the eye, real depression. When you’ve made so much of your life about being an unlucky sadgirl. Then you realise you’re pretty well adjusted and life is not bad. And THEN a record like this comes along and puts you on your knees with its power. That weak part of you hopes that it’s kind of put on, a bit of artistic licence to make a record. Maybe at shows she makes a couple of jokes about what a downer it is, says something ironic to lighten the mood. But right here and now all we have is this music.

Gone is the one-organ show and tinny dance beats. The minimalism and slight dinkiness that alleviated some of Roses Always Die’s darker moments. On first listen Sugar Still Melts… might have you begging for a hint of a drum machine. Something that takes you, if not to the dance floor than at least to the corner of the bar, swaying your hips and looking come-hither at whoever catches your eye. But instead it just builds and builds, the enormous weight. ‘It’s Never Ok’ is so dramatically catchy, the music sounds like she’s about to turn it all around and bust out some great empowering life affirming line that just never comes. The chorus is ‘I’ve got a lifetime of practice/ at keeping the hurting inside/ and tying myself to a lover/ who can’t tell I’m even alive’. I interviewed Chadwick once and she talked about the image of ‘Life Is a Cabaret’, this huge sad show tune at the end of the musical Cabaret. And even though she was talking about Roses Always Die at the time it feels even more apt for this record, especially in the beginning with songs like ‘Flow Over Me’ and ‘It’s Never Ok’. It’s full of showstoppers that leave you bruised but like you want to go back and feel it over and over again.

We (listeners, music writers, whoever) often want artists to grow and progress in a recognisable narrative. We like breakup albums followed by love albums followed by ‘mature’ records about life and art. We like stripped back acoustic records followed by balls-to-the-wall highly produced pop records followed by a nice middle ground. The way Sarah Mary Chadwick is growing is something hard to recognise. To say her records are getting sadder is reductive. Nothing comes close to the dewy sweetness of something like ‘Aquarius and Gemini’ off Nine Classic Tracks, but really it’s about diving deeper and deeper into the feelings that have been around forever. She’s rejecting another kind of narrative too, the one about grief, the ‘time heals all wounds’, the one that tells people to stop talking about it, to stop making people uncomfortable. ‘Dancing Slowly’ is a heartbreaking picture of how you can become trapped in moments that have defined you, getting stuck and watching the world pass you by, needing help but knowing no one can give it ‘I just need a lighthouse/ I just need some energy’.

She’s still a searing judge of character, the way she strips an ex-lover down on ‘Bauble on a Chain’ is not so much a ‘fuck you’ as a ‘fuck me for falling for it’. For real people grief can make you difficult, morose, hard to be around. God forbid, ‘negative’.  But when you can turn it into a kind of art it also makes you attractive to people who want to seem deep and understanding. Chadwick sees through this – on that song her lover reveals themselves as wanting something a lot prettier than anything she’s got to offer;  ‘you want a prop with only lines / that ask your favourite things to eat / and then enquire about your day’. And she’s realising how this all sounds even as she’s singing it ‘when I describe it / this has no semblance to love after all’. That familiar feeling coming to the end of a relationship or friendship and wondering what the hell that was.

All her world-weary knowingness is stripped away in the heartbreaking ballad ‘Five Months’ with its almost childlike rhymes ‘five months without you is too long / so come back when you hear this song’. This is one of the few songs on the album where it doesn’t seem like Chadwick is commenting on her own feelings while she’s singing about them. Every now and then she’s slip in some reference to second-guessing if she should be making these big statements, like in opening track ‘Flow Over Me’s’ lines; ‘some of us can take it / some of us don’t make it/ some of us are fakers only ever be heart breakers’ and ‘all tied up inside my mother / never really knew my father / this is boring to you’, but ‘Five Months’ she gives in to naked wishful thinking. It’s a delicate song, a dream world this close to falling apart.

I go back and forth over whether there’s something to take from this record. I don’t think there has to be, I think as a thing, as a document from a person who’s gone through more than any of us have or probably ever will, it’s beautiful and worthy and basically above analysis. But maybe there’s a hint in ‘Wind Wool’s slowly lilting piano ballad of fighting your own brain, giving up, memory and friendship. It’s one of the record’s shortest and simplest songs, and gives us the line ‘I’ll die/ you died/ we die’. But she also seems to rally something close to a knowing smile in ‘some people think skies should be blue all the time but me I love a storm.’ Maybe this is the sentiment that us great fetishists of sorrow identify, or desperately want to identify with, that feeling of getting a little thrill as the dark clouds gather, to love that cleansing destruction of a good hard rain.

Buy the record or forever live with that nagging feeling of regret.

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