Posts Tagged ‘Bedroom Suck’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Good Morning

Aussie duo Good Morning graduates from the EP to the LP but shows no signs of ditching the band’s ramshackle, disjointed style with a larger overarching container. Good on ‘em too, because their “life stuffed in a knapsack” aesthetic is largely the engine driving their charms. The band is of and beholden to the new wave of Aussie indie that embraces substance over sheen, often recorded in fits and starts in kitchens and basements around the country. It is music by and for friends that just happens to trickle out when the right label gets an ear on it. So, it is that Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons birthed this album alone, with the hum of tape as constant companion and the image of a lone bare bulb swinging above a Tascam as mascot to its creation. The record is sparse, as are their previous EPs, but without so much as a coat of paint the record is primed for its revelry in anxiety’s ouroboros, melancholy’s sway and sighed choruses that don’t rely on hooks so much as commiseration.

Despite a decidedly laid-back veneer the record doesn’t leave itself open to easy entry points. Guitars find themselves whittled down to second-tier status on Prize // Reward, replaced by a rec room piano that sounds like it might have two generations worth of drink rings to buff out. The pair swoons and shuffles through their songs with a brilliant disheveled approach, the very aural image of Nilsson’s robe-clad cover of Schmilsson – blank-eyed, bleary and perhaps privately destroyed by tiny catastrophes like running out of milk. They encapsulate a detached cool that’s almost a private joke between the songwriters, scoff if you must but they’re not out to win you over.

They hint at aspirations of elevating the record from its dehumidifier din – flutes peck at opener “Plant Matta” and a gang of vocal interlopers can be heard before they’re melted by the easy bake warble that takes the track to its resting place. There’s a running thread of sax that finds its way through the record, provided by Blair’s dad, though his debauched skronk colors the songs with a lounge-light hangover that’s not pulling the curtains any time soon. Now, despite the milieu that all of this isolation brings to mind, the record is actually a stunner of slack, feeling unfussed with the preening rabble outside of their creative bubble. Good Morning has slyly slipped out the best dip into the pill cabinet dressed up like a ‘70s private press depression session you’re likely to hear this year.



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Good Morning – “For A Little While”

Aussie duo Good Morning have been steadily teasing the pieces of their upcoming LP for Bedroom Suck – a short but shambolic run of tracks that speaks well to the reputation they received in the wake of their domestically celebrated EPs. One of the best peeks behind the curtain on the new album is “For A Little While.’ The song ambles along with a smoke ring saunter before blossoming forth into the rainy day cool of Glenn Blair’s sax stabs. The cut is unhurried, a feeling that hangs over most of Good Morning’s work, but more so it’s oddly lush and comfortable. That quality’s hard won in a song largely built on skittering drums, tape hiss and piano, but there’s something enticing about their execution. The song’s got a hungover haze that sucks the listener into the couch like quicksand. The hiss coupled with the detached delivery give the song a narcotic effect that lends itself well to multiple listens. While Good Morning’s sound isn’t all in this pocket, “For A Little While” sands as a prime cut from their growing catalog.




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Dag

Dag’s debut album captures a time and a place in one’s life, the kind of extended adolescence that verges on adulthood. These days that period seems to stretch well into one’s thirties. Though several of the LP’s themes are universal – isolation, loneliness, aimlessness – they take on a more significant feeling with songwriter Dusty Anastassiou’s setting his odes on the outskirts of town, far from the bustle and bright lights and further from the reach of scenes. Finding oneself aimless and alone in small town life kicks up it’s own kind of dust and offers it’s own distinct brand of hopelessness. But Anastassiou doesn’t only focus on physical isolation here, he’s picking through the human slide towards mounting digital isolation; alone in life, alone online, truly alone. The themes are pervasive on Benefits of Solitude and while that may seem like downer territory, Anastassiou treats his subjects with an air of reverence and a lack of self-pity.

Aiding to his lyrical journey is a particularly stringent brand of Aussie jangle that stands out from some of his peers’ more affable forms. While the album shares much of the self-reflection and idiosyncratic analysis of labelmates Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, it steers shy of their wit and jovial air. The underlying music wobbles between the lounge lit confessions that should attract Mac Demarco fans like flys and a sour catharsis that brings to mind RSTB favorites Wireheads. The band, in fact, includes Matt Ford who runs Wireheads’ Aussie home of Tenth Court, so it’s certainly possible that he’s picked up a bit of their curdled delivery and passed it along. Having led with single “Staying Up At Night,” gave the impression this might be a lighthearted affair, but that song winds up an outlier in deeper waters. In a strange way, though, the claustrophobic din that the band creates, winds up much more fulfilling; a hefty meal rather than just a thoughtless snack.




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Lower Plenty

The fourth album from Lower Plenty sees the band still locked into a grab bag of styles tied together with the nervy swagger of Al Montfort’s songwriting. Lacking a bit of the bite and snap of Montfort’s release with Terry earlier in the year or the emotional punch and pop sheen of Dick Diver, his work with Lower Plenty still finds a way to burrow under the skin. Sister Sister‘s mixtape appeal is probably its greatest strength rather than a knock on its lack of cohesiveness. Shifting on and off between vocal duties, Montfort and Sarah Heyward both have a penchant for leaning back into a song, delivering their takes from an apparent reclining position and captured to a fortuitously rolling tape. Perhaps the band’s notion as kind of a respite between other projects, recording takes in a kitchen studio when they chance to meet up, gives light to some of its true appeal. The songs don’t sound like a vacation from anything in particular, but freeing themselves from projects with more expectations allows ideas and styles to flow freely from breezy jangle to avant squawks of strings and horns.

As such the album winds through calm eddies and tense moments. The easy jangle of “Bondi’s Dead” and “So It Goes” crumble under the tinfoil toothache of “Ravesh,” one of the record’s definite highlights. Elsewhere they embrace their home recording ethos completely with some hum flecked moments that feel so close mic-ed that they practically sing from your ear canal on “Cursed By Numbers”. The atmosphere of the surrounding house is felt on most tracks though, as if the band might halt and discuss takes at any moment, and it gives the record an intimate electricity that’s more purposely confessional than (the now dreaded) lo-fi. Lower Plenty isn’t as polished as many other Montfort projects, but in lifting the veil of the studio and inviting the listener in, it still hits hard enough to leave a mark on the skin when it claps to a close.

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Dag – “Staying Up At Night”

From the always reliable Bedroom Suck roster, Dag is a new Brisbane band that employs a fair share of jangle, mottled with a bit of wistful indie pop, that brings in swooning violins and the kind of shuffled and shaggy delivery that wouldn’t be out of place sandwiched between Hamish Kilgour and Silver Jews on a mixtape found cleaning up your teenage bedroom. There’s something grander about singer Dusty Anastassiou’s voice though. It’s flecked with a deeper sigh and the right kind of lilt that makes this song hit home just a bit more than the average jangler. The video, by Helena Papageorgiou pairs Anastassiou’s drawings with the band hanging in a drab practices space, showing a world of wonder flying by outside. The album’s out in February and with this first taste, I’m definitely listening.

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Lower Plenty – “Bondi’s Dead”

Al Montfort may well be in every good band in Australia these days. The man behind Terry, Dick Diver, Total Control and UV Race is back with Lower Plenty for another round of jangled, bittersweet bliss that comes on slow and leaves with a sigh. The track’s the first taste of their upcoming album Sister Sister on the always consistent Bedroom Suck. It breezes in with a wisp of autumnal hues in it’s bones and lasts just long enough to ache when its over. Though they share members with a cadre of top tier Aussie talent, the band’s sound shares more sonic DNA with the sorely missed Bedroom Suck alumni Boomgates, than most of the bands its members spend their off days running with. So, to salve the wounds of no new Boomgates LP on the horizon, its doubly good to hear Lower Plenty hitting similar highs on this one.


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Scott & Charlene’s Wedding

Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, and more directly songwriter Craig Dermody, has been touted as being the voice of a generation. That’s a hard nut to swallow and quite a lot of pressure for someone who seems more likely than anyone to scoff at such assumptions. Dermody has a deft ear for melody though and a shaggy countenance that does makes his day-in-the-life stories seem a bit more profound than they are at base level. The songs on Mid Thirties Singles Scene are slightly refined from their past efforts, but never self-serious. Its the kind of album that can make a song about eggs and shit jobs feel like a shoulder to lean on and a light teasing at the same time.

2013’s Any Port In A Storm had a loose hopefulness to it. Craig Dermody had decamped to New York, setup with a new band and found a kindred spirit in the city’s ability to absorb newcomers, deflect responsibility and crash from couch to couch. As Dermody readied Mid Thirties Singles Scene, he returned to Melbourne and has rather amiably captured the current wave of youth that’s tied to jobs that pay enough rent, nights at rehearsal and the smaller comforts of a few friends, pints and football. The past years’ hopefulness has slid into a crooked grin and a laugh punctuated with sigh. In that light, maybe he’s not the voice of a generation, but he’s certainly got his particular demographic well pegged.

Dermody has a perfect knack for imperfection. He’s found a home in the shaggy squall of Pavement’s shambling delivery paired with pop-freckled noise. The general relaxed exterior can sometimes let down the listener’s guard, leading to a wry smile when Dermody drops sparkling pop nuggets in the mix like “Distracted” or “Don’t Bother Me.” There aren’t many that can find enlightenment in repetitive stress careers, delivered weed and a few beers and wrap it up without cliche but Dermody finds a way to make it seem enviable. The rest of the world isn’t immune to its own packs of directionless youth, but somehow the Aussies have been nailing the finder shading on the class portrait. Dermody’s pulled it all off with an air of wearied charm that’s pushing him to the top of the heap. Maybe he’s not the voice, but he’s getting pretty damn close.



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