Ella Thompson has been seriously busy. You might recognise her sweet-as-custard pipes from Melbourne electro-funk duo GL, or Dorsal Fins, or you know, the days when she kicked it with the Bamboos. Thompson has just released ‘Arcade’ off the back of supporting Angel Olsen last month.
The single is a melancholy synth pop introduction to her debut album, Janus, slated for release later this year. Despite her impressive resume, ‘Arcade’ sees Thompson come into her own distinct sound, with gravelly synths, moaning melodies and vocals layered with harmonies and subtle distortion. The clip is generally what I want out of a synth pop track – blue-washed silhouettes pressed through a VHS time machine.
The cover of Sarah Mary Chadwick’s forthcoming album, 9 Classic Tracks, is a blotchy, lurid watercolour painted by Chadwick herself. It depicts three clothed men performing sex acts on a woman in high heels, her yellowing skin covered only by a bodice that’s been dragged beneath her drooping breasts and a shock of smeared red lipstick.
Chadwick’s Tumblr is covered in images like this one – tableaus from online porn (with a particular predilection for golden showers), blood-spattered animals wearing sinister expressions and washed-up models with nostrils blistered from cocaine abuse.
Sarah Mary Chadwick’s element, in music and in art, is one of self-abasement. Since moving on from Batrider, the Kiwi downer rock band she fronted for 10 years, her songs have been stripped of their fuzz and left sounding vulnerable and melancholy. Her new single, driven by chilly synths and a riveting, understated hook, seems to come from a place of creeping self-doubt – the kind that causes you to ask, over and over again, despite all reassurances, ‘Am I worth it?’.
9 Classic Tracks will be out on 27 March through Rice is Nice.
I got a big ol’ soft spot for the quaint acoustic diddy. A song that is stripped back to its basic elements, without excess flourish or pretension – just a well written song that cuts to the quick. Melbourne band Big Smoke has just come forth with this sweet tune that does away with embellishment and puts the musicianship first and foremost.
‘Try A Little Love’ is the name of the song, and it’s the fist piece to surface in the lead-up to the release of the trio’s forthcoming EP, Lately. Gentle acoustic plucking, relaxed and whimsical, is met with crisp and earnest vocals and harmonies that are swoon-worthy.
The whole song sounds like a bit of considerate advice. Pop and folk are often used to convey positive sentiment, but Big Smoke do it with such earnestness that you can’t help but buy into it completely. Last year saw Big Smoke release its debut EP, River Queen, and lead single ‘Colours’ was a similarly enchanting song. Throwback feelings litter the soft sounds of Big Smoke, but when the tune is good so is the reaction. This song is perfect to soundtrack the sun breaking through rain clouds (much needed up here in cyclone territory). It’s a reminder that compassion and love might really be all you need, rain, hail or shine.
The single launch is happening on 14th March at Old Bar, Fitzroy – more details here.
The Lately EP will be released through First Love Records/Shock.
Does anyone care about Craig Nicholls anymore? Some people used to, but I got the impression that the songs stopped coming out the same after he put down the orchy bottle. In more recent times, promo shots of a rejigged Vines have circulated, featuring Craig and a couple of fresh-faced Sydney fellas spruiking a new album, but it seems few people paid much notice. I didn’t. Sorry Craig, but it just seemed that by album number two you were rewriting the same couple of tunes over and over again (granted, they were good tunes) – and people switched off.
So… does anyone care about Craig Nicholls in 2015? It would seem that Nick and Sam Littlemore do – they of Pnau, Teenager, Peking Duk, Empire of the Sun and Elton John fame – which could be a real shot in the arm for our hero from Sutherland Shire. They’ve taken a bunch of Craig’s songs (ones that didn’t fit the latest Vines incarnation, which seems encouraging) and done their thing to them. I’m predicting anthemic synths, thin guitar licks, a huge, processed vocal surging over the top of some driving drum machines. The stuff that more than a few guilty pleasures are made of.
Which sounds like it could be alright. Well, at least more interesting than hearing Craig drawl his way though ‘Homesick’ part 7.
So here is ‘Give Up Give Out Give In’ by White Shadows. I have no idea how it sounds because I haven’t listened to it, but I dare say I’ll give it a go. Which is more than I can say for the last Vines album.
Itinerant, conman and genuine good bloke, Nathan Roche is one of the most prolific artists in the Australian underground right now – and he’s certainly the most flippant. He’s a self-published novelist, frontman of the now defunct Camperdown and Out, plus half a dozen other bands, and head of his own record label, Glenlivet-a-Gogh. Roche, however, harbours no romantic illusions about his creative endeavours. Speaking to Polaroids of Androids back in 2013, he described music as ‘a curse’ and claimed that there’s ‘no such thing as art. Like the food we digest and put into our bodies, occasionally we “pass gas” and a stench goes airborne.’
Well, in early 2015, an odour is hanging in the air again. The day after returning from a tour of Europe and the US, Roche went into the studio – via a trip to the Centrelink office – to record the third installment of his Newtown Trilogy: Cathedrals Made Outta Green Cards. The album’s 23 tracks veer from the brilliant to the ridiculous, replete with bad puns (‘S-Car Go!’) and spoken word interludes, including a woman enumerating the contents of her refrigerator in alluring French.
As always, the best moments on Cathedrals… channel the luminaries of 70s avant-rock – Lou Reed, Roxy Music, John Cale. I’m not sure if the second single, ‘In Dresden They’ve Been Dressin in Black Again’, is about Pegida, the vices of fashion or both, but it rollicks snidely along like something off Transformer, sounding less like pastiche than a skillful homage.
Roche has said that Cathedrals… is to be his final musical outing. (His Soundcloud profile currently reads ‘R.I.P.’). As a guy who somehow plays the role of piss-taker and straight-shooter simultaneously, I wouldn’t doubt him when he says there’s some sort of change afoot – but nor would I be betting on his disappearance. There’s far too much going on in Nathan Roche’s head for him to put down the guitar for good.
February’s MAP has landed, with music presented by 19 blogs from around the world. Brisbane’s Nite Fields – whose moody debut album, Depersonalisation, has just dropped on Felte – are representing Australia this month. Head over to our Soundcloud to hear Robbie’s January MAP podcast, as well as a special Australia Day mix of some of our favourite local MAP entries from the past 12 months.
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 19-track compilation through Dropbox here.
“January will be mine” is the translation of singer-songwriter Sol Fernandez’s artistic project. Her music is a perfect match of soft melodies and dream-pop with carefully crafted arrangements and sound landscapes. This track is from Enero3, her latest work, which is being released through Bandcamp.
Prescription is the second single from Brisbane four-piece Nite Fields’ long-awaited debut record Depersonalisation. While the intricate guitar work and broody vocals echo The Church, there’s a humid, curiously distant tone here that is something totally their own. Starting with sparse prickly guitars and splashy drumming, the song folds in on itself towards the end, becoming slightly claustrophobic but in an intimate, whispery way. Nite Fields keeps you at arm’s length – you have to squint through the haze of effects and layers to get a hold of anything solid, but once you do, you’ve already fallen hard for this moody and mysterious band.
Johnny McArthur and Eric Moore make up the electronic duo Willows. They venture into uncomfortable territory melodically. The swirling repetitive underlying of The Shape I’m In resembles the dizzying sensation of intoxication. The bursts of energy are like the highs that come back to the inevitable lows.
Sin Órbita is a duo formed by Paula Roa and Martin Perez Roa, who last year released their first record, Neón EP (Sudamerican Records). Flirting with electronica and soul, the band are a mixture of Massive Attack trip hop cadence and AlunaGeorge sensuality.
PONCHO is little collaboration between Melbourne rapper Baro and his mate Mitch, aka Ancentric, who worked on Baro’s breakthrough mixtape HOWGOODISGOOD?. The pair have just released a three-track EP called Awkward Love Songs on Soundcloud, featuring previous single ‘grab me as i fall’.
Baro touchstones like Mos Def and Erykah Badu are still discernible here, but this stuff is more King Krule than Joey Bada$$ – minus the UK youngster’s weary, streetwise barbs. Poncho songs are all sweet and breezy, as exemplified by the major sevenths and scattered handclaps on EP opener and standout track, ‘the Summer’s Over So Where Do We Stand?’.
Awkward Love Songs is here to tide you over till Baro’s new EP drops sometime very soon.