Posts Tagged ‘aussie’

The Cigarettes – “The Sky’s Not Blue It’s Happy”

There’s no shortage of reissues houses that will dig into their designated corners of the forgotten landscape, but I’ve always admired Anthology for going deep in many directions at once. From surf soundtracks to soft-psych and Swedish legends, the label might not be as cohesive on the surface as others, but their dedication to quality remains a hallmark. This latest is seemingly the beginning of some digital only releases, and its marked as one of the only ones that doesn’t net a lavish physical package, though that shouldn’t reflect on the music itself. The name The Cigarettes was used before (UK punks reissued through Optic Nerve) and surely after this iteration, but this crew from Geelong is worthy of the moniker. The band had another life following the punk and post-punk trail from New York, but they split for the tail end of the ‘70s and wouldn’t reform until the ‘80s.

With few expectations heaped upon their return, the band’s Alan Wright and Mark Gove lead the charge on these recordings and its swerves away from the punk doldrums that might have clogged up their works had they stuck the path without a break. The album works an instrumental approach, slinking through a dirty neon pulse of ‘80s funk and smooth groove. There’s a plastic veneer over their playing that both dates this album instantly and yet also puts it into an odd spectrum of influence that feels reminiscent of recent bands looking to flirt with the past in unexpected ways. That ‘80s heat is all over it, but its not the FM band that we’re talking here. Think late night television, b-movie scores, and wood-paneled clubs with dismal cover charges. This is a nice retrospective from Anthology that speaks to their ability to dig up some of the best of the binned visions of the past.




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Pop Filter

It’s hard to think about The Ocean Party now without the specter of loss hanging over the band. The band’s Zac Denton was taken too soon and it seems that the band needed a break from their former name, leaving The Ocean Party behind along with Zac’s memory. Thus is born Pop Filter, a new nameplate, but with the same bittersweet heart beating underneath. Banksia is packed with rippling jangles, rhythmic twang, and a wealth of self-effacing lyrics that embrace a wistfulness that can only happen in your twenties. The band layers in a good dose of keys in combination with the shift to becoming Pop Filter and the slight twist of New Wave fits in nicely with their Aussie amble. The brightness is a welcome surprise, framing in a crop of tracks that pick at their scars with the kind of tenderness that forms a tightness in the chest.

“Open House” is a sparse, heartbroken track that anchors the midsection of the album. The scars don’t get much rawer than this. The feeling of betrayal, bewilderment, and disappointment is palpable and relatable. The band can often write songs that pull at doubt with a touch of underlying depression, but make it feel comforting. They swerve out of the ache before it becomes unbearable, but the feelings of melancholy never shake from the album completely, even when the melodies shine like blurred sunshine in summer. There’s happiness, but a feeling of guilt that hangs overhead, that nagging feeling that the brighter moments are undeserved. If The Ocean Party must be put to pasture, then Pop Filter is hardly a compromise for those who found solace in their works.



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Floodlights

The jangled goodness that rolls out of Australia never flags and Melbourne’s Floodlights have taken up the emotionally scarred mantle from many of their peers – echoing The Bats, The Chills, Goon Sax, and more specifically feeling like a less cheeky version of Scott and Charlene’s Wedding. Like the latter there’s a conversational, working stiff quality to the band’s debut. The songs act as pub rally points, but underneath the hooks, there’s a searching unsureness that’s looking to find where the band members fit into a world that seems daunting by any measurable standards. The discomfort bubbles through From A View giving the songs an itch even when their melodies sway towards earworms. On “Don’t Pick That Scratch,” and “Glory of Control” the band lays out a world that’s unforgiving, mired in wounds that won’t ever heal fully until they’re attended to properly. “Scratch’s” premise is perhaps a sentiment that engulfs 2020 more than any other, as each day pulls back a layer of systemic dysfunction and piles on a few more layers of dystopian atrocity.

While the lyrical content might get take the focus, the band’s not letting the underlying aesthetics fall by the wayside. While the references above might start to give you a picture of where the band is coming from they don’t stick to jangle-pop as a rote means. Goon Sax and Scott and Charlene act as good modern equivalents because like Floodlights they’re injecting a certain element of tension and Floodlights have that in tow. The more I listen this actually begins to cross this over into Billy Bragg territory. Though perhaps not as outright political in nature, there’s a bit of a Brewing Up feeling to Floodlights’ debut that can’t be completely shaken once its felt. After a soft lead in on their Backyard EP this debut establishes the band as ones to keep a watchful eye on in the coming years. It’s a grower that takes more than a few listens to latch, but I’d recommend putting in the work to let this get under your skin.



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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – “Honey”

Its been a little bit since I’ve had the Gizz on the site, which in King Gizzard years is something like a half-decade, I suppose. After the charred remains of Infest The Rat’s Nest stopped smoldering, they’re back with a new, more mellow feeling. The song recalls a pretty straight split between their microtonal temperament a few years ago and the acoustic sweetness of Paper Mâché Dream Balloon and its nice to have the band winding their way back to this niche. As much as most probably love the psychedelic blast that the band lays down, I’ve alway been fan of the softer side of the Lizard Wizard and this shows that off nicely. The video puts the chaos away for a bit as well, with the band’s Stu McKenzie solo and busking in the sunset. No full details yet, but if there’s more of this on the way, I’m game.



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Pop Filter – “Big Yellow Van”

The Ocean Party spent quite a bit of time on the turntable here, but after the tragic passing of member Zac Denton, the band has dissolved and reformed under the name Pop Filter. The same breezy bounce is in place here, through Zac’s songwriting is missed among the stars that have cropped up in pre-album singles. “Big Yellow Van” is rife with nostalgia for the road, the past, and another time that’s been lost forever. With bittersweet harmonies, a crackerjack bounce of drums, and chipper keys, the band nails this wistful tune to the wall for all time. There’s quite a bit of heartache in between the bars, but I’m smiling through the tears over here. The Aussie band’s debut record Banksia is out August 21st through Spain’s Bobo Integral.





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Vintage Crop – “Gridlock”

Brand new ripper today from Aussies Vintage Crop. The band’s been issuing records up to this point on Aussie Indies Weather Vane and Anti-Fade, but while they remain on the latter at home, they make a jump internationally to Upset The Rhythm for their latest, Serve To Serve Again. ‘Gridlock’ is indicative of the band’s tightly coiled punk — muscular, slightly paranoid, and pulsing with an energy that’s hard to ignore. The song’s full of frustration, and its grit-teethed delivery is a bit cathartic in weary weather. Jack from VC provides a bit of backstory, including the note that the song was inspired by actual traffic, though the feeling pours over into areas of stagnation in life elsewhere for sure.

“The title for the song came first;” he notes, “stuck in traffic and running late to a gig a few years ago. We laughed at the name and threw it onto a few different songs before it stuck, after Tyson finally penned the lyrics. Thematically, ‘Gridlock’ is frustrated, pushy & stressed, which are emotions that we felt that day when we were stuck in traffic. It’s one of the first songs we finished for Serve to Serve Again and is a perfect example of the band’s songwriting. It’s got everything that we do – unbalanced riff-work, tight drumming & sharp lyrics.” The LP is out August 7th on Upset The Rhythm / Anti-Fade.




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RVG

The debut from Aussies RVG (Romy Vager Group) came a bit out of the blue, at least around here. The album was short, precise, and poised, but its polish was offset by its equal attention to emotionally bare and ravaged lyrics delivered by Vager as impassioned pleas for understanding. As the band gained traction and eventually the backing of UK indie Fire Records, they’ve proven that a larger scale doesn’t diminish the impact of their delivery in the least. Feral slides onto the speakers like an instant classic – boiling the bones of the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, Patti Smith, Siouxsie, and The Go-Betweens into a haze of jangle, crushed velvet harmonies, and sneered sincerity. Between the heartbreak that haunts the bulk of these influences, Vager sets her sights on larger picture topics that give the angst a heft that reverberates throughout the album. Mental illness, transphobia, family estrangement, and the gnawing realities of modern living all find their way into Feral, molding it into a staggering work of modern misery and resilience that could easily have haunted the radio a few decades prior.

While baring the soul has become requisite in many genres lately, the band’s combination of 80’s jangle and a lived-in grandiosity is unmatched in rock of late. Bands can preen and pretend, but they can’t command a chorus the way Romy can. The magnetism of the band’s figurehead is unshakable. She’s a force, a fire that fuels the band. Her hurt marks the soul of the listener, leaving an impression that doesn’t fade soon after the last notes fade away on the air. Anguish, rage, depression, repulsion, resilience, redemption — they all play a part in the tapestry of Feral — and each new listen opens the laceration wider, but lets it heal harder the next day. For whatever knocks you down, RVG is there to lift you back up and put the pieces in order, or at the very least let you know that they’ve been rendered asunder and are still around to show the scars. This is a vital album for 2020, or any year for that matter.



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The Stroppies – “Burning Bright”

This is another Aussie export that’s just not getting the love it should over here. The STroppies hooked up with UK label Tough Love last year for their debut, Whoosh and it was a subtle suite of jangle-pop buttered with a bit of synth that kept pace with the best releases of the year. The band’s hitting back this year with a mini-LP of sorts that’s only eight tracks, but still packs that same soft slap that made the album a necessary pickup. “Burning Bright’ turns down the heat of their jangle and replaces it with a rambling guitar line and some rolling ripples of piano for a song that helps relieve the ache inside. The song’s about a couple trying to find common ground and realizing that they’re just not going to align, but the split seems to happen amicably. Though there isn’t a clash of sparks, the melancholy sighs still sting a bit. Look Alive is out June 5th.



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Floodlights – “Nullarbor”

This cut landed a bit earlier last year, but its being revived for a wider audience as the band settles into their new home at Spunk Records. Their EP, Backyard, which helps to highlight the plight of the indigenous population of Australia, is being given a re-release and a new LP issue. The Aussie outfit captures a weathered, worn-in vision of rock that’s shifted from a few of their hometown janglers. There’s less of a scrappiness to Floodlights’ sound, but even with the whiff of twang and bar-toughened riffs, singer Louis Parsons’ battered, but hopeful quiver gives the song an openness that draws the listener in. “Nullarbor” doesn’t loose the drawl that comes naturally to the singer, but its not pretending to be anything other than Australian, kissed with the soil of the continent and stuck through with a labored sigh from travel and time. The EP gets a new life in February.



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Dragnet – “Man About Town”

Another hard-hitting punk nug from Australia, this time pulling together forces from several RSTB faves. Dragnet’s debut cassette dips into the boiled and buckled pool of fried-nerve punks rounding out time in Jarrow, Vintage Crop, The Floaties & House Deposit. Vintage Crop’s Jack Cherry lends his nasal pipes to the mix, throwing the songs in his bent tin turbine until they come out almost as freaked-out and fraught as the last couple of drops from the Crop themselves. “Man About Town” blows out the door with a sweaty signature before dropping down into a wrecked and unspooling midsection. The band plays at skirting the rails perfectly, always seeming like they’ll just tumble if they stop, so they go faster with a wildly confident gleam in their eyes that says they’re more than serious about skidding through the stops and letting luck keep ‘em from getting crushed by oncoming traffic. The tape’s gonna be a hard one to come by (50 copies) so swipe them quick or pick up that digital if you’re overseas. Anything coming out of the collective camp of these folks is damn well worth putting down the dollars.




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