John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda: gunslingers. Forty years since the last time anyone saw a Wild West movie, these guys live on in the cultural lexicon as idols -chiselled, steel-gazed figures of masculine lore. The mere mention of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly is enough to turn anyone over the age of 50 into a mess of horny nostalgia.
Putting that gross imagery aside for just one moment, there is a new crop of youngsters looking to rip the title of ‘gunslinger’ from Clint’s bony, liver-spotted hands. Gunslingers are a Melbourne four piece that thrash with the fury and tension of a Mexican standoff and coat their tunes in a layer of fuzz thicker than the salt on the edge of the best Margarita in Tijuana.
They’ve just shared the new clip for ‘I’ll Always Be Waiting’, a tune that follows in the path of pop-soaked garage heroes Palms, Velociraptor and Dune Rats. The latter even gets a cheeky shout-out in the clip. Gunslingers continue their lo-fi garage approach in their videos, which feature patchy, VHS graphics. They keep the sun-soaked vibes rolling throughout, with gratuitous shots of beerz, poolz, and guitar soloz. Gunslingers? More like Funslingers, amirite? (please don’t hurt me).
Gunslingers will launch ‘I’ll Always Be Waiting’ at Melbourne’s John Curtin Hotel on 21 February, with support from Covers and Pretty City.
Michael Skinner hasn’t been to the Mallee. The region’s stately, arid plains, hidden beneath the ocean for most of the Earth’s history, are nevertheless a good analogue for his band, Mallee Songs. Their music is deeply influenced by the dark alt-country sounds of the 90s – particularly American artists like Jason Molina, Mark Linkous and Will Oldham. Those songwriters are present in Mallee Songs’ solemn lyricism, restrained feedback and vicious guitar solos.
Last year Mallee Songs released Gum Creek and Other Songs, a compilation of Skinner’s early home recordings. Cleaning out these scattered folk songs was a final step in his transition from bedroom to stage. He wrote the forthcoming album with a four-piece band, drummer Pascal Babare also producing.
‘Since the Kingdom’, a pretty, Silver Jews-like track, is the lead single from the new record. In the video – premiered here – Skinner wanders, jaded and sleep-deprived, through the Australian countryside, stalked by wordless strangers. Meanwhile, someone, somewhere is playing a lament: ‘All my brothers in a slow decline / I need a new feeling to describe / the arc of a mountain in a cloudless sky’.
New Zealand’s Nadia Reid sings about the catharsis that comes with about moving to a new town in ‘Call The Days’. While Reid stems from the same ‘nu-folk’ ilk as Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins), Aldous Harding and our own Laura Jean, Reid’s diction holds a great weight that surpasses her peers.
This track comes from her debut album Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs – the follow up to her 2011 EP Letters I Wrote and Never Sent. ‘Call the Days’ was recorded by Ben Edwards at Lyttleton Records (Aldous Harding, Marlon Wiliams).
Nadia says that the track was the first song she penned after moving from Christchurch to Wellington; spurred on by a “panic attack” and being “worried about making the right choices in life”.
On the surface, ‘Call The Days’ isn’t a difficult listen – the verses pace along steadily with Reid’s glowing resolve at the helm. There’s a string-like quality to Reid’s diction; her warm falsetto morphs in unison with the cello at times that you forget that both are entirely separate from each other. Reid deals with the misgivings of circumstance quite positively – in the same way that Laura Marling uses token steering-the-ship references and seasonal references (‘I threw out my winter coat / I cut the sleeves off all I’d known’) that same defiance remains here.
And like Laura, it still surprises me how some people still generally reference ‘age’ as an extraordinary justification to make a resonating folk track – as if youth’s poetic schitck these days is only capable of dropping bass and bad raps.
Reid lived and played music in Christchurch for many years before moving to Wellington, both pre and post the earthquake. Sure, the track happened in the midst of displacement and change, but it stays in the comfort of melancholia both in theme and arrangement. It always pivots back to the sane point, hovering around the same central chord.
Reid marks each verse with the phrase ‘I was so sure’, over and over again.It’s an honest self-affirmation, and an important one at that.
Nadia Reid’s debut LP Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs is out via Spunk on March 27th.
Your partner has just broken up with you. You’re lost, alone, depressed. No one in this world understands you, no one cares. The entirety of your existence is confusion, a strangeness that you will never be able to comprehend. Loneliness settles into your life like a dark storm. Comfort is a forgone memory.
Enter Jonny Telafone. This man is an ice queen. Sorrow is rife in his new tune ‘Inferno’ – the second single to be dropped from his highly anticipated new record, Romeo Must Cry. If the Catholic Church ever wanted to get a revamp, blast this shit in the Vatican, and wait for the accolades to roll in.
Percussion ticks over with unnerving precision and synths loom with an almighty presence while Jonny’s vocals get more auto-tune than a Kanye West B-side. Accompanying his track is a clip that’s like some sort of avant-garde introduction video to the cult of Jonny Telafone. There’s a sultry lady beckoning, Liam from the Ocean Party shredding guitar against a background featuring astronomy’s deepest secrets – and the man himself, Jonny Telafone, crooning with palms outspread, begging the audience to join him in his pain.
Jonny Telafone is going on tour to launch Romeo Must Cry. Catch him at one of the dates below:
Sat March 28 – Brisbane, The Underdog Pub w/ Lucy Cliche, Multiple Man, Workshop, 100%
Multi-instrumentalist Liam White (aka GhostNoises) crafts off-kilter bedroom pop of the above-average variety, presumably inspired by the intense boredom and existential angst resulting from, you know, living in Canberra. His debut album, Some Useful Songs, is an intriguing patchwork of musical ideas – with traces of country, hip-hop and chamber-pop all cropping up throughout the course of its nine tracks.
White comes closest to achieving his grand ambitions in the opening two tracks. ‘How They Sound’ mixes sonorous brass and woodwind with patchy, lo-fi drum machine sounds to intriguing effect (think a more-chilled out tUnE yArDs), and ‘The Procedure’ sounds like Sufjan Stevens being attacked by an impressive percussion ensemble.
While the album has its fair share of hits, a few tracks just miss the mark. ‘I Left A Champion’, is almost 10 minutes long and the pure 90’s R&B of ‘I’m Scared’ jarrs somewhat with the predominately organic sound of the rest of the release.
Overall, while Some Useful Songs has its share of flaws, it’s otherwise an intriguing and pleasingly schizophrenic introduction to an artist who has a lot to offer.