Vika and Linda – I miss you at night
For fans of: the Black Sorrows, Paul Kelly, the SeaChange soundtrack
Over the past 15 months, the Bull Sisters have landed three albums in the top two on the Aria charts, which is all the more remarkable given that they last entered the top 10 in 1994, with their eponymous debut. New album The Wait features songwriting contributions from the cream of Australia, as the first did, including this gem by Cold Chisel craftsman Don Walker, whose candle in a candle is transposed into a soul stirrer, anchored by a whiskey-colored piano. Vika and Linda in perfect vocal harmony may be one of the most joyful sounds in Australian music, but when put on a heartbreaking tune like this, they can also make you feel the pain of missing someone and not knowing what you are otherwise have to do but write about it, sing about it or howl after the moon.
For more: The wait is out now.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Jordboere
For fans of: Will Oldham, Johnny Cash’s American Recordings, Rachael Yamagata
I am a big believer that the meter for an artist is not their finest opus, it is all the ill-fitting, insanely perceived, shoulda-coulda-woulda-been-hits that pop up on their B-side collections. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released the mammoth’s 56 song B-Sides and Rarities collection in 2005, and given Cave’s activity over the past 16 years, it’s time for a new vault digging exercise. Earthlings open with funeral keys and end with a solemn Kumbaya song. “I thought these songs would one day set me free,” Cave laments, as if writing them was therapy enough. “I think they sing to be free,” he adds later. Upon release, Cave called Earthlings “the missing link that binds [2019 double album] Ghosteen together ”, and it certainly carries the same weighty grief as that album. “A lovely song that just slipped away,” Cave adds, and it certainly is. We are fortunate that it has finally found its place in the world.
For more: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: B-Sides & Rarities Part II will be released on October 22nd. Or check out Ghosteen for more context to this song.
Headland feat Maanyung – Nguura
For fans of: Bright Eyes, Damien Rice, Karen Dalton
The human voice is a remarkable instrument capable of expressing so much sorrow and depth without the complications of language. Maanyung (Michael Laurie) has one of those special voices as he glides over a slowly swaying melody delivered by longtime Tex Perkins collaborator Dr Murray Paterson performing here under his musical cover, Headland. Maanyung uses vocal vibrato in a truly influential way, from the subtle wobble that cracks in the first first lines, to a strong and rich second verse where it foams across the note like a rock on a quiet pond. This is beautiful, moving music, a waltz that dances for a quiet five minutes without building or losing. “The weightlessness of a lullaby and a force of gravity that evokes deep emotions in the listener,” is how Paterson describes Maanyung’s gift, and I can only agree.
For more: This is Maanyung’s debut single. Headland’s album from 2019 What Rough Beast is out now.
Pluto Jonze – New Morning High
For fans of: MGMT, Sleepy Jackson, Portishead
Fans of Pluto Jonze’s kaleidoscopic pop may be surprised to find the “weird” call right back in this reflective piano ballad. New Morning High flashes like the new day it describes, with Jonze’s lamenting vocals in the center amidst fluttering mellotron flutes and the insistent, lovely piano line that opens the song. The only time this track threatens to break out of the contented, early morning ride comes towards the end when guitars flare up and Jonze’s voice rises in intensity. However, it is a short outburst that is quickly muted by the piano. Given Jonze’s recent run of varied music, it’s hard to pinpoint what his second album, coming eight years after his debut, will sound like. In other words, business as usual on the planet Pluto.
For more: Pluto Jonze’s second album, Awe, will be released on November 5. Check out the B-side of this track, Rumschpringe.
Hatchie – This enchanted
For fans of: Primal Scream, Telescopes, Chapterhouse
“It’s washing over me,” Harriette Pilbeam sings in the chorus of This Enchanted, a breathtaking throng of musical ecstasy, and it’s hard to say whether she’s talking about the sudden wave of shoegaze guitars hitting her vocals or the joy by a new infatuation. There’s no real reason to analyze the two, as this dancing, dream pop song perfectly encapsulates the tumble dryer of a moving heart with its baggy drums, chiming guitars and a roaring wall of noise that overwhelms before disappearing under Pilbeam’s wide-eyed verse. Between his Sugar & Spice EP and debut album Keepsake, Hatchie has created some of the most beautiful music of the last few years with an aesthetic that bowerbirds from fixtures like MBV, Slowdive and Cocteau Twins to Cranberries and Deborah Conway like. That type of song to turn around to, eyes closed, arms out.
For more: Hatchie’s second album will be released next year. First album Keepsake is out now.
Mod Con – Teacher of an alpha
For fans of: B-52s, Beat Happening, Hives
In 1962, the Beach Boys released their breakthrough single Surfin ‘Safari, which kickstarted two musical trends: surf rock and thanks to its 409 flipside, hot rod craze. Kids have been singing about the beach and about cars ever since, and Learner in a Alpha uses a surfer stamp on a freewheels post-punk tune, where all cars look like corpses and status symbols shine when the ground burns. “There’s only one voice when you speak so loud,” Erica Dunn spits, as a simple surrife breaks into a sinewy bridge that divides the difference between the B52s and the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Learner in a Alpha follows Ammo, the nervous first single from Melbourne’s three-part forthcoming second album – the two tunes point to a hell of a record coming down the pipes later this month.
For more: Against Con’s second album, Modern Condition, will be released on October 22. First single Ammo is out now.
Baker Boy – Butterflies
For fans of: Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar
Since 2017, Baker Boy has released enough hit singles to qualify for an impressive biggest hit collection, won the Young Australian of the Year, received an Order of Australia medal and recently appeared in the AFL Grand Finals. But here we are, and he still hasn’t released his debut album. Talk about pressure! Fortunately, Baker Boy’s upcoming Gela already features five bona fide hits, and now Butterflies – perhaps his most confident and carefree single to date. As a rapper, Baker Boy has a similar dexterity and ability to language as Kendrick Lamar; here he lays his bilingual bars on top of a gold-era hip-hop beat that combines real-world and boxy programmed percussion and a twangy low-stringed bassline with hints of Cypress Hill. The chorus melody borrows liberally from Chance the Rappers Cocoa Butter Kisses – another modern rapper who could take tracks from Baker Boy. Butterflies is the latest in a long line of Baker Boy classics.
For more: Gela will be released on October 15 and includes this song plus hits Cool As Hell, Meditjin, Move, Ride and My Mind.
Ben Lee – Born for this bullshit
For fans of: Ben Folds, Bob Evans, Randy Newman
I have had the pleasure of watching this song completely kill the audience in numerous settings throughout 2021, including a seated and socially distant concert at the Sydney Domain and at a small event filled with comedians, musicians and Russell Crowe’s mother. The hooky first single from his upcoming album I’m Fun harnesses Lee’s optimistic energy and celebrates his penchant for jumping off rocks (and a weird adherence to cults). As with Catch My Disease and We All in This Together, Lee has once again written an unintentional Covid-19 anthem, this time about resilience to an increasingly insane universe. Bands in the title and a single chorus, combined with Lee’s varied recent promotional techniques (appearances on The Masked Singer, a bonkers video clip with free nudity and Web 1.0 graphics, and a public spit with Kyle Sandilands) should see him land another not-so unlikely commercial radio hit here. That’s definitely the way I want it.
For more: Ben Lee’s next album I’m Fun will be released on April 8 and can be pre-ordered now.
Lisa Mitchell – Zombie
For fans of: Holly Throsby, Sarah Blasko, Ben Harper
When 16-year-old country girl Lisa Mitchell appeared on Australian Idol, she was impossibly shy, sang with a Sarah Blasko lilac and got enough fans in the unlikely frame that she was able to crack Triple J and community radio with a variety of rustic , acoustically-based EPs that focused on her supernatural songwriting skills and warm vocals. Fifteen years and three increasingly techno-colored albums later, she has returned to this simple, timeless formula: an acoustic guitar, an amazing song, and a confident, if fragile, vocal melody. Mitchell has also lost the weight of a major brand, and you can almost hear the pressure release in this windy, light tune. Zombie marks the first single from her fourth album, her first in five years, and a very welcome home for Mitchell.
For more: Zombie single launches take place on December 2 at The Factory Theater in Sydney and on December 9 at Melbourne’s Corner Hotel.
Pond – Take Me Avalon I’m Young
For fans of: 1980s Bowie, Niles Rodgers, Roxy Music
Of all the various art projects spawned from the centrifuge of the Tame Impala Experience, Nick Allbrook and Jay Watson’s Dam is the most difficult to capture; by design, it works on a loose system that shifts from Grateful Dead crooked, eight-man jam to tightly wrapped funk training and farm-born folk songs. On Take Me Avalon I’m Young – from their appropriately named ninth album, 9 – Pond throws everything after the mixing board and sees what’s caught in the dials. There is dull brass that sounds removed from soft-core VHS porn, lashing blue-eyed soul and an opening section that is too weird to slowly dance to on an 80s ball, despite threatening to venture into John Hughes area. The groove is reminiscent of a slowed-down You Know My Name (Look Up the Number), and during one of the beat-driven crashes, Allbrook interpolates AC / DC lyrics, throws a quarantine reference, and makes a decent argument for returning the saxophone conductor.
For more: 9 is out now.