Table of Contents
- Courtney Barnett – Rae Street
- Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks – Fire Eyes
- Teenager – Before the End
- Amyl and the Sniffers – Security
- The Oogars – Rapids
- Tiny Little Houses – Smartest Guy
- Tropical Fuck Storm – New Romeo Agent
- June Jones – Motorcycle
- Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers – AHHHH!
- Georgia Maq, Alice Ivy – Someone Stranger
Courtney Barnett – Rae Street
For fans of: the Twerps, Dick Diver, the Go-Betweens
Courtney Barnett’s days, like those of so many folks during this singular time, are largely confined to one house, one street, one calendar page that won’t turn over quickly enough. Rae Street is the first taste of her “pandemic” album, Things Take Time, Take Time and, true to its title, it finds Barnett making wry observations on life as she peers outside: dogs tangle leashes, bicycles wobble, a couple do yardwork – the type of tired suburban details that would usually blur in the background of a busy day but suddenly draw focus. “Time is money, and money is no man’s friend,” she sings in the memorable chorus, her laconic vocal matched by the pace of her day. Musically, Rae Street doesn’t move the needle much from 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel; aside from a Casio click track that counts the song in, and a slightly swoony sway to the song, it’s business as usual, and business remains very good.
For more: Things Take Time, Take Time is out 12 November
Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks – Fire Eyes
For fans of: Damien Rice, Bright Eyes, Neil Young
Jack Davies. Photograph: Annie Harvey
Jack Davies is a storyteller in the mould of Australian legends like Archie Roach and Paul Kelly. He gives himself the luxury of time because he knows you’ll stay to listen. He sings softly, deliberately. Fire Eyes is a gently burning folk song, with words wise beyond Davies’ young years, his arresting voice demanding attention. A barely there guitar, bushfire harmonica, a porch-bleached piano and a rusty drum kit – this song is the real deal. Davies has a firm command of space in this arrangement, letting seconds linger without sound, hanging off the final notes of a verse, allowing the piano to ring and reverberate into the corners of the room. If you pay attention to Fire Eyes, you will be captivated.
For more: Listen to the 2020 EP, Songs For A Long Walk.
Teenager – Before the End
For fans of: M83, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen
In 2006, a Sydney art-rock band named Teenager released their self-titled debut album, toured around a bit, then split up. Vocalist Pip Brown went on to become solo star Ladyhawke, while Nick Littlemore went back to his day job Pnau, whose own self-titled album the following year became Elton John’s favourite, shot them into the international limelight, and produced the seeds of what would flower into the even-more-successful Empire of the Sun. Close to 15 years later, after illness forced him into a six month sabbatical, Littlemore found his thoughts returning to his old band. Before the End is the result: a one-off track intended as the bones of a remix but sounding every bit the stadium-sized anthem. Like M83, this song takes the “feel” of teenage years rather than any specific reference points, synthesises it through a John Hughes soundtrack to arrive at something life-affirming and desperate, in the best sense of the word. By the sounds of things, this is isn’t a complete return for Teenager, but hopefully it sparked something that leads to more music from a band prematurely put to bed.
For more: Before the End will feature on Lab78’s debut compilation, Dimensions Vol. 1, out 13 August.
Amyl and the Sniffers – Security
For more: the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Bikini Kill
Amyl and the Sniffers. Photograph: Suzanne Phoenix
Sitting somewhere between Ballroom Blitz, Bikini Kill, and every Ramones song, Security is a fun, barroom brawl about attempting to gain entry into a pub despite being far too drunk. “I’m not looking for trouble, I’m looking for love” goes the desperate plea, and although you only half believe Amy Taylor when she sings it, you are on her side regardless. Amyl and the Sniffers don’t attempt to rewrite the rock and roll handbook here; in fact they don’t even flick the pages past 1977. With shards of guitars, a non-nonsense rhythm section racing along, Taylor doing her best Johnny Rotten-style sneer, and the eternal promise that once you get to the bar, everything else will work itself out.
For more: The band’s forthcoming album, Comfort to Me, is out 10 September.
The Oogars – Rapids
For fans of: Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Tess Parks
“We had a bag of peyote buttons, a bunch of trail mix, some tequila, a bunch of water and some blankets. And the seven of us set out for Joshua Tree.” That’s a quote from Don Henley, of all people, about heading out to an Eagles recording session. Despite the Eagles being the least psychedelic group since the German Army marching band, that quote jumps to mind when listening to Rapids, a darkly psychedelic song that seems just one bongo hit away from the abyss of a bad trip. This slithering, serpentine song is seductive as hellfire, a blissful five minutes that conjures up deserts, and blankets, and perhaps even trail mix if that’s your bag. Sydney label Third Eye Stimuli are quickly building a stable of like-minded artists, united in their stubborn adherence to music, art, and dress that looks and smells like it came from Mission Dolores Park in the summer of 1967. The Oogars seem like the most authentic distillation of this to date.
For more: Listen to their debut EP Waiting All Day.
Tiny Little Houses – Smartest Guy
For fans of: Built to Spill, Silversun Pickups, Modest Mouse
Tiny Little Houses. Photograph: Aneta Urbonaite
Tiny Little Houses built hefty rock songs out of intricate, delicate materials: spidery second guitar lines that weave webs around the main melody, choruses that rise and crash, vocals that skip and slide and turn in on themselves, parts that never seem to resolve. Smartest Guy is only the band’s second single since their anthemic yet insular debut album Idiot Proverbs came out in early 2018, and invited comparisons to lofty generational chroniclers like the Smashing Pumpkins and Modest Mouse. On the surface, Smartest Guy is a charming ode to suffering from foot-in-mouth disease. As should be the way with a second album, everything seems more assured: the guitars are louder and heavier, the production is bigger and brighter, and – judging by Smartest Guy – the songwriting is better, which is sure saying something.
For more: The band’s new album Misericorde is out 19 November. Until then, check out their excellent debut, Idiot Proverbs.
Tropical Fuck Storm – New Romeo Agent
For fans of: PJ Harvey, Rowland S Howard, Suicide
At this point, the Drones’ pause after their 2016 album, Feelin’ Kinda Free, is looking more like a full stop. Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin have since recorded three excellent albums with Tropical Fuck Storm, with High Tension drummer Laurel Hammel, and Harmony’s Eric Dunn making the rest of the racket. Dunn takes lead vocals on New Romeo Agent, a creeping, ominous tune with guitar harmonics that creep down your spine, and Dunn’s laconic vocal adding a dead-eyed danger to the whole thing. Tropical Fuck Storm are masters of tension and release, but this tune is all tension, a wild, bubbling energy threatens to explode numerous times but is kept in check. A brilliant mood piece.
For more: Tropical Fuck Storm are touring throughout September, pandemic-willing, and will release Deep States on 20 August.
Tropical Fuck Storm. Photograph: Supplied
June Jones – Motorcycle
For fans of: LCD Soundsystem, the Knife, Anohni
Single syllables stab through a whirling wall of icy synth, punctuating each note. “I regain consciousness with your thighs round my waist,” the song opens, a dark tale of dysmorphia, physical infringement, weird rituals with pentagrams, and unfilled wishes. Then, June Jones injects brake fluid into her veins. Motorcycle is a dark and unsettling electro-art piece, dripping with self-loathing. But, as Jones explains in a press release, it’s also “an ode to shedding one’s mortal coil and becoming a fucking cool motorbike instead”. The metaphor of wishing to be a motorcycle is made no less effective by the sledgehammer subtlety Jones gives it, zeroing in on the brand she wishes to be (Kawasaki) and the colour (lime green). The disconnect between the showy green bike and the child she once was, shy and hidden and hoping to disappear, is a powerful image, and the squelchy dance beats that build and build until they overwhelm add an unsettling rush.
For more: June Jones’ album Leafcutter is out now. Jones begins her national tour on 12 September at Tanswell’s in Beechworth, Victoria.
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers – AHHHH!
For fans of: the Vines, the Cribs, the Grates
There was a period in the early 2000s when it became clear that the Strokes didn’t represent the past glories of rock at all, but instead pointed the way forward for the next decade of bands who knew a three-minute song and an op-shop jacket could just be their lottery ticket. The land rush that came next seems almost quaint these days, in a time when magazine covers and radio play mattered, when classic rock station bands like the Killers and Arctic Monkeys were the newest thing. This is the world that Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers should have been born into. A decade-and-a-half too late, they write wordless hooks that burrow in your ears, command verses with a sense that suggests a huge chorus is coming, and swish guitars like swords. Plus, there’s a half-time bridge built for the mosh pit. It’s exciting to see a band this good still in its infancy, and given the recent label and management attention they have been getting, maybe they aren’t out of step with the times at all.
For more: Check out their previous single, Desk Chair.
Georgia Maq, Alice Ivy – Someone Stranger
For fans of: Charli XCX, Robyn, Sophie Ellis Bextor
Fans of Georgia Maq’s 2019 solo album, Pleaser, know that for every seething Camp Cope punk tune in McDonald’s brain, there’s an accompanying pop gem, dripping with romantic sentiment and skipping synths plucked from an 80s soundtrack. Written in “about three hours”, according to McDonald, from a demo Alice Ivy had floating around, Someone Stranger is a four-to-the-floor club banger, with a wide-eyed chorus that hints at using someone new to get over someone past, the rush of desire and dance mingling: “purging romance through movement.” At this point, it should be apparent that she can work deftly across any genre, but there’s an almost defiant euphoria at play here, as she leans into Alice Ivy’s disco production, singing “touch my body, I feel something.” Someone Stranger captures a similar slippery spirit as Robyn’s Dancing On My Own, the type of once-a-decade song that makes millions spin alone in empty rooms, eyes closed, necks arched.
For more: Listen to Pleaser, or Alice Ivy’s album Don’t Sleep. Georgia Maq will play the Opera House as part of the rescheduled Vivid.