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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Retiree – ‘Gundagai’

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In this new series, ‘First Impressions’, we’re going to subject a bunch of songs to the immediacy test – getting our contributors to review a track they’ve heard only once. In this round, Jackson Rumble takes a listen to the new single from Retiree.

Retiree have drunk the Arthur Russell kool-aid big time with their newest minimal dance pop jam, ‘Gundagai’. With this track the band firmly aligns itself with Andras Fox’s appreciation of esoteric new age Australiana (if the title didn’t give it away), and the video – African dude gyrating in front of lush fields and reclining on a lilo – and Awesome-Tapes-from-Africa-styled cassette art put us on a bus straight to the beach bar of your dreams.

Comprised of tasteful analog drum programming, frolicking fretwork, Casio keys and a crisp vocal that really is doing its best to channel Arthur Russell circa ‘Get Around to It’, ‘Gundagai’ is a very pleasant five minutes of tropical electronic pop. Although the song could see out its run time on the strength of the arrangement, these chaps reach for something of a climax and come off like they’re trying a bit too hard to coerce mum onto the dance floor. On the whole, though, that doesn’t diminish the fact that Retiree’s latest would be a welcome accompaniment to most sun-dappled cocktail hours.

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INTRODUCING: Beef Jerk

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More Australian than getting workers comp for six months after spraining your ankle and then spending it all on Winnie Blues and schoeys at your local. Born in Sydney’s incestuous inner west, Beef Jerk drop the ‘y’ from everyone’s favourite chewy strap of cow, and induce a feeling of catchy ambivalence in whoever is lucky enough to be near the stereo when their music comes on.

They’ve just released their debut LP, Tragic, which is packed with dark humour, a constant backbone of off-kilter strumming and the occasional sax-breakdown courtesy of Millie Hall (Destiny 3000, Bridezilla). The songs come thick and fast, and at 15 tracks there was the possibility the music would become stale. However, Beef Jerk’s consistency is remarkable as they unnervingly inject their deranged, saturated pop sensibility into songs with titles like ‘Footy’, ‘The Last Chiko Roll’ and ‘Stay At Home Dads’.

Beef Jerk are destined to become a layman’s new favourite – their music is lackadaisical, but naturally so. There’s no force to it, the tunes oozing and grunting their way from Jack Lee and Mikey Branson’s mouths and fingers as naturally as a foreman yelling, “Tools down, boys!”.  Armed with just wry humour and a sweet but slightly out of tune guitar, Beef Jerk are gonna be on high rotation for a while.

Beef Jerk have some gigs coming up in Sydney and Melbourne:

12 June – Grace Darling Hotel, Melbourne w/ Black Vacation, Chook Race, and Gentlemane (RSVP on Facebook)

15 June – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, supporting Cool Sounds

27 June – Hermann’s Bar, Sydney

10 July – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The Coolites – ‘Growing Up in Australia’

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In this new series, ‘First Impressions’, we’re going to subject a bunch of songs to the immediacy test – getting our contributors to review a track they’ve heard only once. This time round, Annie Toller looks askance at the first track from the Coolites’ debut album.

So this is what Generation X sounds like in middle age: backward looking and out of ideas. The Coolites are a new band started by Simon Gibson of Sneeze fame. Their first single, ‘Growing Up in Australia’, is basically a list of landmark moments from the author’s childhood – and there’s no attempt to disguise the Paul Kelly impersonation here (nor any sign of that Aussie legend’s way with words). The clip – a sepia-toned montage of photos and newspaper clippings from 70s and 80s ‘straya – is charming enough. The song, however, has an irritating universalising impulse, where one guy puts on rosy glasses and tries to elevate the years of his youth to some kind of idyll.

It is understandable that Australians today are drawn to the age of Whitlam. There’s hope – not merely nostalgia – in looking to a recent past in which we had progressive leaders with vision. Hell, even the Liberal Party believed in some form of the fair go back then. But when Gibson gets to reminiscing about 20-cent bags of mixed lollies from the local milk bar, it sounds more like Grandpa Simpson (“I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time…”) than genuine historical reflection.

That’s a shame, because there’s actually a snappy (if retro) little instrumental underpinning this track, and a pretty grouse guitar solo. But, sadly, ‘Growing Up in Australia’ ends up sounding more like a eulogy than a living, breathing work of art.

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INTRODUCING: Twelve Point Buck

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Twelve Point Buck have been making beautiful fuzz rock for a hot minute now, but 2015 has seen them develop into a fully-fledged four piece, putting out their first EP Boris this March.

It was a long wait (they had me drooling over their sad-girl shoegaze track ‘Twenty Two’ for almost a year in the interim), but Boris made me forget the delay entirely. The Blue Mountain outfit’s debut EP is essentially what would happen if Kim Deal and Billy Corgan were mashed into one person and that person’s mouth made melodic noise whenever it opened, like one of those perpetually-gaping clowns at a fair. In fact Twelve Point Buck’s music has that kind of lingering, ethereal air that would make it the perfect soundtrack for exploring dilapidated showgrounds.

Despite delighting in the melancholy of it all, I was pleasantly surprised at the EP’s sunny turn when ‘Callie’ popped up two tracks in. I can’t tell if it’s the song’s title or the bright, jangly guitar line and almost mindless repetition that makes me think of a Californian road trip. The off-kilter vocal arrangement creates the dynamic the song needs to stop it from melting into the sound wall that comes with gals-just-wanna-make-a-pop-song (and have fun) guitar pop. It’s also a necessary break from the spread of luscious distortion and droning vocals that fills the remainder of the EP. (You don’t want to spend ALL of your time wandering around a terrifying showground, do you?)

Head along to the Oxford Art Factory on May 30th for the EP release party.

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PREMIERE: Head Clouds – ‘New Light of the Equinox’

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Head Clouds

There’s a place for articulate, indie pop music and the best-of is filed somewhere between the Decemberists and whatever happened during the blow-organ resurgence that was 2005.

If there’s one decent deed you do today to bring it back, give Head Clouds’ earlier EP, Up On Hellfire Ridge, a listen. It’s a sample of the band’s dreamy lyricsm that’s a bit early Augie March and akin to what Midlake might have penned after a weekend bender.

The first track from their new EP, ‘New Light of the Equinox’ is about “new perspectives”, which the band comparatively strings up against guitar flourishes and Jayke Maddison’s pastoral croon: “You rode me into the dust, I was a bull in the new light of the equinox”. 

All the machinations in the first part of the track are comfy, plodding on as you would with the ebb and flow of Satisfactory Indie Rock Song. The guitar syncs with the vocal; the vocal marries the guitar in the verse. This is until the bridge where the track scatters out into an instrumental waltz and the guys start waxing lyrical about telecomms et al. Head Clouds’ sound is incredibly polished for a band who’ve been releasing stuff independently. You get the feeling that the slight cowbell might be abandoned for some crash symbols, Win Butler style at any moment. Lucky, the band are good at showing restraint in song and form – and it’s working in their favour.

Head Clouds are releasing their new EP very, very soon. More info below:

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LISTEN: Angie – ‘Out of Age’

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Angie

It’s always kind of bugged me that not being able to really sing has never stopped dude musicians from giving it a crack, and being liked. Most of female-fronted bands, even the most underground, that get any attention have a ‘pretty’ voice front and centre. There’s nothing pretty about the vocal on Sydney artist and musician Angie’s newest single ‘Out of Age’. It’s monotone, almost tuneless and rubs up against the guitar line like steel wool. It’s attitude that’s important here – a stretched kind of desperation that keeps you on edge for the whole song, an uneasy balance between drone and hook.

‘Power Pop’ were never words I thought I’d be ascribing to Angie after her excellently dark and dogged first EP Turning, but she herself calls this a track “a pop tribute”, With a guitar line as huge as the one here, the shoe fits. But that guitar just repeats over and over – never breaking into the big sunny chorus that you’d expect from someone other than Angie. It drills itself into your head and stays there.

‘Out of Age’ is the first single off Angie’s forthcoming record Free Agent, due out later via Rice Is Nice this year. And an exciting one, because it tells us that anything could happen – throw your expectations in the trash.

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INTRODUCING: Low Lux

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Low Lux

Low Lux are an assortment of five Sydney musicians, including the vocals of Daisy Dowd whose string skills were honed in the now disbanded Bridezilla.

Their debut single is ‘Rivers Roll’. Aside from their neat use of alliteration, the track is the a brooding melodic statement that turns relationship goofs into smooth indie rock.

The dark undertones of ‘Rivers Roll’ are reminiscent of Warpaint, with Dowd’s sweet staccato voice flitting across the verses before agitating their way into the chorus where the band is allowed to lush-out. There is plenty of bass and guitar licks throughout the track, with layered instrumentation thrown in for good measure. 

The single is accompanied by a lovely clip which is great if you’d ever wondered what pretty musicians would look like under red and blue cellophane-wrapped light. Spoiler alert: they’re still pretty.

Low Lux are releasing their debut EP on the 21st June at Newtown Social Club in Sydney.

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