The trio’s unique brand of indietronica is as strong as ever, full of sardonic wit and subtle hooks that sneak into your subconscious only to reveal themselves when you unknowingly sing them to yourself in the shower, in the line at the post office (if this is in fact still a viable pursuit), or other such times when your mind is left to wander.
Opener, ‘Noise’, kicks up with some cosmic synth noodling before sliding into a typically bent pop number, the kind we’ve come to expect from the group. This is followed by the single, ‘Cardboard’, a song which relishes the schmaltz taking musical clichés from another time and turning them on their head within a clever indie pop framework. Lyrically, Andrew Kuo is at his candid best with his humorous and poignant commentary on the idiosyncrasies of the human condition.
‘Chinese Whispers’ explores the group’s love of hip hop, a fondness which has borne fruit in the past through collaborations with rap upstart and Yes Rave label head, Simo Soo as well as the surprise guest spot from former Das Racist member Kool A.D. on last year’s ‘Dolphin’.
The EP closes with the psychedelic ‘When I’m Freaking Out’, a song that harks back to older Yon Yonson material, albeit in a more restrained and ultimately successful way. A good example of how the group has matured even in their fairly limited time together.
Fermented Fruit is another notch on the metaphorical belt of this talented crew. Now off to the post office.
In the hubbub of year-end lists we’re keeping it simple with 10 great tracks released over the past 12 months. This list does not attempt to be definitive in any way, it is simply a bunch of great tunes created by some amazingly talented artists. If you’re not familiar with any of the music listed, do yourself a favour and give it a spin, consume it in your preferred method and hold it forever in your heart/mind/soul/other intangible essence incomprehensible to human beings.
Mere Women – Big Skies
Mere Women’s album Big Skies is a more sombre affair than its predecessor, the darker mood giving their distinct brand of post-punk a rich new depth. While tracks like ‘Tin Rooves’ and ‘Curse’ saw the band exploring a more spacious, restrained sound, the title track finds them in full flight. Murky guitars, driving rhythm, and a commanding vocal delivery which charts the full gamut of Amy Wilson’s range, from brooding baritone to urgent caterwaul.
Kirin J Callinan – Friend of Lindy Morrison
Kirin J Callinan delivered (at long last) his divisive second album, Bravado. Equally complex and simple, Bravado was an assured statement from an artist not content with repeating himself. While the tongue-in-cheek humour throughout the album makes it difficult to embrace at times, there are moments of sheer brilliance which transcend any questions of the artist’s intent.
‘Friend of Lindy Morrison’ is a stone cold classic. The music could be ripped from a 1980’s pop songbook with Callinan and guest Weyes Blood trading vocals in spine-tingling fashion.
Yon Yonson – Pattern Recognition 1
Yon Yonson’s quirky and eclectic blend of electronic indie pop hit a new high point with the release of their cracking album Yes No Sorry earlier this year.
One of the edgier moments from the album comes in the form of ‘Pattern Recognition 1’, with its sleek synth bass line and tough hip-hop beat giving Andrew Kuo a chance to deliver a punchy vocal performance.
Lovely head – Show Up (Rebel Yell remix)
This dream pairing fully lived up to expectation with Rebel Yell transforming Lovely Head’s dark experimental pop track ‘Show Up’ into a pulsing industrial stomper.
Rebel Yell and Lovely Head have each had a pretty flawless strike rate to date and the future certainly looks promising for both artists.
Shady nasty – Upwardsbound
Equally influenced by post-punk, hardcore, and jazz, Sydney-trio Shady Nasty make heavy, cathartic music punctuated by the searing vocals of front man, Kevin Stathis.
Lead single, ‘Upwardsbound’, is more melodic than the rest of the trio’s self-titled EP. Cascading guitar, crawling tempo and dramatic, soaring vocals. Exciting stuff from these newcomers.
Phile – Deadzone
Phile are Sydney duo Hannah Lockwood and Gareth Psaltis, whose harrowing techno creations are not for the faint-hearted.
‘Deadzone’, the final track from their self-titled EP, begins with a squelching, syncopated acid rhythm, but just as you start to get comfortable you enter the darkness. Sinister synth chords envelop the rhythm providing a suitably haunting end to the duo’s killer debut.
Total Control – Laughing at the System 2
In the death throes of the year Total Control managed to sneak a new (mini) album into the world. Much like 2014’s Typical System, the band continue to laugh in the face of conformity jumping from insistent post-punk, to modular synth experiments, to more conventional (in Total Control terms) garage rock.
The album is bookended by alternate versions of the title track, the opener a brash cacophony of clanging chimes, fuzzy guitar and synthetic drums. But it’s the album closer which finds the band at their scuzzy best. Urgent, scrappy and loads of fun.
Jikuroux – Cradle Bay
Hot on the heels of her Ruptured Pulse EP, Sydney producer Jikuroux aka Jess Lavelle returns with another solid effort on Cradle Bay.
There is something exotic about the music of Jikuroux, the melodic elements coming off like some mutant new-age music, while the hard-hitting beats keep it firmly rooted in the modern-day bass music landscape.
The title track captures this fusion nicely with sharp synth stabs and tight rhythms counterbalanced by a smooth melodic undertone.
Setec – Cotton Bones
The first single from Setec’s forthcoming album (due out next year) further refines the delicate intimacy of his debut, Brittle As Bones.
The melancholic ‘Cotton Bones’ opens on a minimal piano loop, with spectral echoes dispersed among pitter-patter rhythms. The song gradually blooms into a bright singalong moment, as vocal layers are added atop a typically gauzy and nostalgic sample.
Ptwiggs – Exuviae
Ptwiggs’ debut EP, Purge, is a provocative and uncompromising take on bass music. A white-knuckle ride through fierce sonic territory.
The second track, ‘Exuviae’, steps up the anxiety factor with a propulsive urgency that could soundtrack some futuristic chase scene, a scene where there is little reprieve for the poor soul being chased.
Sydney outfit Yon Yonson have been making music since 2010, and after a string of self-released EP’s and albums they have joined forces with local label TEEF Records for their fourth full-length, Yes No Sorry.
Continuing to mine their quirky blend of electronic indie pop, this latest effort is a joyous patchwork of soulful synth jams, funk-fuelled samples and stripped-back, contemplative ballads. At certain points the music could be placed alongside the tongue-in-cheek RnB experiments of Oscar + Martin or even Hot Chip, but just as quickly shifts into some sample-heavy mutant lounge, and it’s this effortless eclecticism that gives the music a certain charm.
There is much to love here, a personal highlight being ‘Figurine’ with its propulsive beat and infectious energy. Not to mention the killer opening line, “It isn’t easy being flesh, and piss, and blood, and spit, and ugliness, with most of the light taken out of it all”.
Balancing flippant humour with sincere introspection, the songs are at times polished and confident, at other times scrappy and vulnerable. The latter like scrawled messages, placed in bottles and cast away into the vast waters of internet music archives.
Another impressive entry from the band, and another exciting addition to the TEEF roster. Grab a copy from the TEEF bandcamp store here.
2014 has been another great year for Australian music, cementing the perception both here and abroad that there’s something very special going on down under. Courtney Barnett continued her project of total world domination, touring the globe, selling out show after show back home and putting out a lovely little mixer on her label, Milk Records.
We heard stunning new albums from Total Control and Blank Realm, which were utterly deserving of the international acclaim. Cut Copy gave the Melbourne dance scene a critical shot in the arm, bringing some terrific acts together on the Oceans Apart compilation. The managers behind Pond and Tame Impala launched their own imprint, Spinning Top Records, bringing the charming Peter Bibby into our lives, with his drunken burble and shifty grin. Sydney label Plastic World expanded its catalogue of stylish retro club music, curating EPs from the likes of Retiree, Savoir and GL. The local hip hop scene did what had hitherto seemed impossible and produced a number of very promising MCs and producers. And, in one of the biggest surprises of my year, old mate Chet Faker put out a track that didn’t make me feel nauseous (though it did sound quite a lot like James Murphy).
Faced with such an embarrassment of riches, we figured it would be unfair – not to mention too difficult – to fashion a definitive list of the year’s best releases. Instead, our contributors have come up with their personal top three moments of the year in Australian music. If you’re a real stickler for lists you can always check out our newest Spotify playlist, featuring 100 of our favourite tracks from 2014.
Our submission for the MAP March edition comes from Yon Yonson with their track ‘Culver City’. If you haven’t heard the full record, do yourself a favour and listen to the album stream, stat. Alternatively, if you like what you hear and would prefer to listen to the record set to photos of musicians in traditional Mongolian costumes trying to have it at each other, check it out Yon Yonson’s photo set from their Siberian travels on our blog.
On the subject of voyaging, if you know of any Australian bands residing in the general UK/EU region, we’d love to hear from you. Mail us – email@example.com.
FInally, if 28kbps isn’t doing you any favours and you ain’t got time to listen to the full MAP compilation this month, our very own Robbie Ingrisano hosts the MAPCAST podcast – a quick bite of the best from this month’s MAP list. Stream/free download the podcast at our Soundcloud.
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 27-track compilation through Ge.tt here.
Plein started almost seven years ago as an excuse for a group of friends to gather and play their favorite songs. After several years of playing live and participating in different compilation albums, this indie-rock band from Buenos Aires released their first record in 2012, with songs recorded using a method of pre-established rules inspired by Lars von Trier’s film The Five Obstructions. Madera & Fuego is taken from their 2014 EP Número Uno.
Childhood friends Andrew Kuo and Nathan Saad are Yon Yonson, an experimental pop duo from Sydney. Their sound is ambitious and unpredictable – listen no further than their latest release Hypomantra to understand. As the band designed the record to be played as a continuous set, each track on the record is incredibly malleable, both in sound and score. Culver City, with its origami beat samples, is a glimpse of Yon Yonson’s standout oddities which show that this talented duo’s output is just as diverse as their intention.
“We are a mercurial bunch,” says Casimir Frederic Coquette Kaplan, guitarist and vocalist for The This Many Boyfriends Club, since by the time you hear Only Trying, vocalist Veronica Danger Winslow-Danger will have sung her last lo-fi “dandy punk” show with the band. A new single will also be up for the offering, signalling yet another shift for this ever-evolving Montreal band. I’ll follow this club wherever they want to lead me. You will too.
Antonio Favero, Nicole L’Huillier and Tomás Vidal are Cóndor Jet, a trio that has refreshed the indie-rock scene in this country. They play psychedelic dream-pop, so they were a perfect fit to open for Tame Impala last October in Chile. Igual Que Ayer is taken from their debut album Anillos.
Goli is the project of Sara Rodas, born in Medellín, who is remembered for being the singer of synth-pop group Mr. Bleat. Now Sara shows us her other side, in which we perceive something more intimate and romantic. Tú y Yo is taken from her debut album released this month. Don’t miss the limited edition handwoven version.
This edition of MAP marks my fifth anniversary as Denmark’s representative in this great music blog alliance. It’s a special occasion so I’m happy to be able to mark it with a track from some of my all time favorites, Shiny Darkly, who will release their long-awaited (and excellent, I might add) full-length debut, Little Earth, in Denmark on March 31 and internationally on May 5. A MAP exclusive download, Dead Stars is the nine-plus minutes of awesome post-punk album closer.
Several hip-hop artists united to record a tribute album for Juan Antonio Alix (available as a free download on the link above), one of the most influential poets of the Dominican Republic and a master of “décimas”, ten-line poems that usually satirize social, political and religious themes. One of the poems, La Expropiación Legal (written in 1876), attacks communism directly, accusing the government of seizing private properties for their own benefit. Rappers Sin Fin, Realidad and Lugo Santiago add their rhyming skills to turn this song into one of the most memorable moments in the album.
Yon Yonson recently visited Mongolia, Russia and China – not for gigs though, more a family holiday. Andrew from the band has provided to us all the photogenic landscapes, Mongolian national costumes and soviet kitsch you can nuzzle up next to like fluffy white snow. Photos appear alongside tracks from Yon Yonson’s latest release, Hypomantra. If you haven’t had the decency to wrap your cheap mits around Hypomantra yet, I highly suggest you do. Listen and look below.
Andrew climbed a fairly perilous rock formation out in the desert and took this photo. He genuinely nearly died.
Lake Baikal is the largest lake in the world in terms of volume and it completely freezes over during winter. It just looked like a really cold beach.
Dog sledding isn’t a common traffic issue in Australia.
We stayed in a yurt in Mongolia, which is like a little hut out in the snow. This is us in the local get-up performing a ritual execution.
Yon Yonson seem like the band you want to hang out with at the end of a gig. Reading through their Soundcloud is a case in point. With lines like, ‘Sorry about the shit-stream of links but we be livin’ in crazy modern times’, it’s nice to know there are bands out there who don’t take themselves too seriously. The Sydney duo are Andrew Kuo and Nathan Saad, and they’re another one of those duos who are hard to pin down. Citing ‘the internet’ as their primary influence, there’s truth behind their self-deprecatory streak in saying that Yon Yonson was a way to ‘cope with musical ADHD’.
Hearing ‘How Bad Do you Want It’ proves to be a starker contrast to the tracks found on theirexcellent Antipodes EP. If you were to characterise an ‘aesthetic’, you’d be hard pressed to move beyond the handling of both their vocals. Sydney rap-bag Simo Soo’s layered harmonics proved to be a good choice. This latest track is a lot more interesting though. It’s something that certainly doesn’t grip you from the start, it’s more of a slow-burner. That’s of course until the track descends with a sequence of brash vocals and electronica. Samples chop and change, and vocals mirror that of the punk-styles of Coolies maybe.
YY have definitely carved themselves an interesting perch amongst a rather crowded ‘indie’ scene. Stay tuned.
While Yon Yonson are busy working on their follow up, Simo Soo will be playing around Australia through October & November on these dates: