Two things happened on 21 October 2015. First of all, every dodgy news outlet in the world scrambled over itself to find an original way to tell everyone that this was the day Doc Brown and Marty McFly travelled to in Back to the Future Part II. The result was a flood of increasingly depressing memes that sucked out the entire spirit of the film.
The second thing that happened was Sydney soul-poppers Lily & the Bellows released their latest track, ‘White Lies’. Now, at first, these two events don’t seem related at all. How could the degradation of a beloved 80s film and a swinging pop number from a group of Sydneysiders be connected?
Well, here’s a theory for you – Lily & the Bellows actually travelled through time with Doc and Marty. Their sound rings clear as a dance floor ditty from the 1950s of George McFly. Lily & the Bellows were meant to be playing a support slot for Bill Haley and His Comets. Just as they were about to step onstage, the troublesome duo whisked them off in that bloody Delorean of theirs. Now they’re stuck in 2015 with nothing to do but release that fantastic song they’d been working on moments before.
The signs are all there – organ, plucky guitar, serene melodies: Lily & the Bellows were destined to be the hitmakers of their time. Luckily for us millennials, we get to claim them as our own. Suck it, Baby Boomers – this golden oldie belongs to us!
Twelve Point Buck are some quiet achievers, slowly plodding away, developing their sound and consistently putting out releases every few months. The drip feed (although almost certainly unintentional) has the effect of building anticipation for future efforts and providing a neat moment to take stock of how they’re slowly but surely exploring every fuzzy-nook and garage-centric cranny of their sound.
As Warm as Toast, the second EP from the Sydney-based four-piece, sees them cultivate the heavier elements of their grunge sound, but always with a point of difference. The lead single, ‘Happy Djong’, is spliced with foreign-language samples that preface distorted licks and drum breaks. The four tracks succinctly summarise their ability to make blithe uptempo tunes and nihilistic slowburners with equal skill.
What really attracts me to their sound is their refusal to pander to indie rock conventions, taking pride in their brooding structures (see, for example, ‘Forte Piano‘, which is essentially a succession of verses seamlessly running into one another). Twelve Point Buck are good in a way that I can’t typecast, because they really just sound like they’re doing their own thing.
You can download As Warm as Toast for $0, and keep an eye on what they’re doing because it’s probably going to be something you won’t want to miss.
Our submission for this month’s edition of the Music Alliance Pactcomes from ‘fresh to death’ Adelaide four piece, Fresh Kills. The guys have just released a double album comprising We Are and The People – what they describe as a “sprawling collection of 22 genre-pashing soul-punk anthems”. It’s loose. Real loose. And don’t just take our word for it.
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.
“I’ll be damned if this perfect fruit is left to rot on the tree,” You Beauty singer Will Farrier proclaimed just after recording wrapped up on Illywhacka, the band’s second record after last year’s footy saga Jersey Flegg. It’s another pub-rock opera, about a Love Rat online scammer who falls in love with his target – and now it’s been let loose on the world, Farrier’s confidence is absolutely justified.
You know how boring and lame it is when the media try to talk about online dating or Tinder or hookup culture or whatever? This record has done something kinda genius, bypassing all that shit to make a love story between middle-aged people in (what seems like) the late 90s absolutely relatable. You know all the way through this record that the protagonist is a scammer, but you’re kinda tricked by him in the same way as Dee, the woman he’s scamming. He’s a conman and a fuck up but a charmer all the same.
Songs like ‘Strong Connection’ and ‘Romeo and Julie’ are, fuck it, genuinely sexy. They’re intentionally cheesy and over the top, and you know this is just a liar trying to buy time with platitudes so he can string his prey along – but try and stop yourself doing the tucked elbows, swinging hips, clicking fingers dance to the groovy rhythm section that pulses all the way through the first half of this record. That just magnifies the brutality of ‘Pin Drop’, a disjointed, off-kilter crisis for our confidence man, which leads into the dark, spiralling ‘Same Damn Thing’. With its rapid spoken-word verses and poppy chorus, I’ll admit this didn’t make much sense to me as a single. But in the context of the record, it absolutely works to transition from sleazy grooves, shining with sweat, to dark, grinding emotional rock’n’roll ballads – when our conman realises his terrible mistake and ends up on TV being berated by Tracy Grimshaw, then in court, then prison.
I didn’t think anything was gonna top ‘Illywhacka’ (which I went on about when it was released in July) for my favourite song of the year, but every time I listen to this record I find something else to love. You Beauty have given us an epic story, rich in lyrical detail, but never at the expense of a hook or a sing-along moment.
It doesn’t hurt that Farrier can absolutely belt it out. In ‘Fast and Scrappy’ he alternates between a fast-talking crim, dishing out advice, and a man totally redeemed by love, singing in euphoric, passionate verses – while Dee waits outside (but for how long?). His voice and character and confidence at the centre of this record are the secret to why it works. He’s also not afraid to get a little real, singing in a moment of reflection on ‘Flake and Chips’ that “all these books and things / they make you think you’re sick if you’re alone”. So under the fake surface of this love story there’s some real shit – or maybe I’ve been conned too. Either way, what an album.
Three years ago, a three-track demo appeared on Bandcamp credited to Palm Springs, a duo comprising Melbourne songwriter Erica Dunn and drummer Raquel Solier. The lead track was a dark country ballad called ‘Winning & Losing’ – a real heartstopper. Its gruff blues riff staggered through an ocean of cymbal crashes, matched by Dunn’s vocals, bellowing with the shock of rejection: “I never thought that I’d be the one who would lose / I never thought I’d be the one cut loose”.
The duo went quiet after that. Dunn travelled the US and played in a host of other bands – including Harmony and the SMB – while Solier focused on her experimental RnB project, Fatti Frances, and later had her first child. But last week Palm Springs’ official debut finally landed, in the form of twin seven inches 300 Acres / The Last Hour and Mexican Gem / Golden Dust, each with a complementary digital version featuring a handful of bonus tracks.
The releases were recorded at the same time, during a session held late last year at Melbourne’s Headgap Studios, and were intended to become a single album. The songs, however, were written at very different times in Dunn’s life and, after some thought, she decided they didn’t sit quite right together. So they were split into the sparse, pastoral folk of 300 Acres and the fuller, more diverse Mexican Gem – which ranges from the opener’s motorik hum (it sounds almost like the first Stereolab EPs) to the fingerpicking ditty ‘A List’.
Both collections are filled with aching dirges, guitar strings that buzz and bend, solos played down low, Solier’s loping drum beats and Dunn’s rich, dusty vocals. They call to mind 90s-era Drag City Records, traditional rhythm and blues, Sharon Van Etten and early Cat Power – even Paul Kelly, at times. These tracks are simple and strong; classic bare-bones songwriting.
Palm Springs are launching the seven inches this Saturday, 24 October, upstairs at the Tote with Sarah Mary Chadwick and Sweet Whirl. The vinyl’s out now via Rice is Nice and Dunn’s own (delightfully titled) Palm Springsteen Records.
Yoda said it best when he observed, “Do or do not, there is no try”. When it comes to friendships, that little green pile of wrinkles has never been more right. Either you commit to the electronic assault, or it owns you. No one dips a toe into their pool of jagged sound and emerges without a few scrapes.
Their latest track ‘P2M//DSK’ raises the bar for the Melbourne-via-WA duo, its stomping beats locking horns with eye-popping samples. There’s a sinister atmosphere hanging around, a plague to be flung at anyone within hearing distance. It’s an inescapable, twisted chant that puts friendships in contention for the insidious dance floor throne, vying with the likes of Black Vanilla, Dro Carey and CORIN.
friendships – formed by producer Nic and visual artist Misha – have dropped a new video for their scorched brand of jungle, and it’s just as intense as you’d hope. There is no way to easily explain what happens in this clip; I’d like to say it’s like David Lynch directed Tron, but that wouldn’t even be scraping the surface of the absurd Deep-Web-meets-mescaline nightmare on display here.
As iterated before, no one can afford to go through a friendships track without total dedication and focus, or they risk being spat out as a PTSD victim triggered by the slightest electronic tremor. Now, armed with a video that defies explanation and has the ability to rob the unsuspecting customer of their sanity, friendships have basically become the deadliest act in Australia.
friendships are currently at CMJ, where they’ve most likely been melting faces and stealing souls. Nic will be playing the remainder of their US dates solo, after Misha took a nasty tumble from a roof in Bushwick.
The duo is also booked to play Golden Plains next year, along with Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Royal Headache, and Sleater-Kinney. In the meantime, let’s hope Misha makes a swift and full recovery.
Not to too get personal, but this Ocean Party record came at exactly the right time for me. I’ve been in one of those drawn-out phases where everything you do seems shit and interacting with the world seems excruciating. Whenever I wrote anything positive about a band I sounded like a drooling fan, and anytime I wrote anything negative it sounded petty and pathetic, and I was like why the hell do anything at all? And then this goddamn band releases their fifth record in as many years – and it’s not Guided By Voices, Ryan Adams-style prolific-ness where you wade through shit for scant gems. Nah, every song is really good and together they make something more than really good. And suddenly stuff’s worth doing again, because there’s a chance one day you might do something that’s almost as good as this record.
There’s self-doubt here, sure, and defensive cynicism, but then moments of clarity and honesty that knock you over – like on subtle and delicate mid-record highlight ‘Anything’. This record is a balancing act that never falters. Whoever thought to follow the coldness of lines like ‘Every drag smells like a butcher’s knife’ and ‘you said can I stay with you/ I said I didn’t care’ with that jaunty little ‘do do do do’ guitar in the title track should get an automatic ARIA. And then to follow that up with the snarly groove of ‘Phone Sex’ – a song full of spit and regret – and then single ‘Guess Work’, with a chorus that comes readymade for mouthing along to at shows and verses political and pointed… I’m gonna stop just describing it song by song now, but you get the idea; there’s a lot going on and it all just works.
The most impressive thing about the Ocean Party for me is their refusal to be any one thing. With so many singers and songwriters, you get some songs that have almost no chorus and some that are all chorus, some that hit on lofty world themes and some that focus on day-to-day minutiae and interrogate tiny moments. A lot of the songs on Light Weight look back on mistakes, missed opportunities, the good that’s gone (‘here it comes… there it went’), but musically they’re always moving forward, pushing the boundaries of what a band has to be, what everyone keeps telling them they are, and making better and better songs for it.
Mouth along at one of the Ocean Party’s remaining shows on what’s been an EXTENSIVE album tour.
22nd October – Finbox, Wollongong 23rd October – Thyme To Taste, Yass 24th October – The Tote, Melbourne 25th October – Birdhouse, Wagga Wagga 30th October – The Eastern, Ballarat 31st October – The Metro, Adelaide 6th November – The Bird, Perth 8th November – The Newport, Fremantle 14th November – The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart 15th November – Fresh Cafe, Launceston