Category Archives: Australia

June 21, 2016 — “Crash” by Ultra Material

Ultra Material

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Crash” by Ultra Material (2016, from the album Double Date).

Ultra Material is a shoegaze/indie rock/dream pop quartet from Brisbane. I learn about a lot of Australian bands via Happy, but I didn’t find them there. I have no idea how I first heard about them, and I know virtually nothing about them, but I had a sticky note with a different Ultra Material song stuck to my laptop.

I know that they are Sarah Deasy (vocals/bass), Nick Skepper (guitar/vocals), Zuzi Kovar (keys), and Matt Deasy (drums). I know that Sarah and Matt used to be in a band called Do The Robot. Nick and Zuzi met whilst studying architecture at University of Queesnland. I think all four members used to be in a band called Sunshine State. They’ve been playing as Ultra Material since about 2013. They put out a cassette single that year, and an EP called EP in 2015. Last month, they released their debut album Double Date via Black Wire Records. Tonight’s song also appears on that 2015 EP, but it’s really the album we’re talking about.

There’s a whole lot of glorious noise, and there are a ton of layers to peel back. At a few spots, it sounds like there might be multiple finished tracks laid on top of each other. This might be distracting to a lot of listeners, but I love it. Actually, the first time I listened, I literally thought that there were two or more media players going at the same time.

“Crash” by Ultra Material

There’s something about this that reminds me a lot of the wonderful Baltimore shoegaze band Wildhoney, who knocked my socks off on the first night at last year’s Hopscotch Music Festival. Read all about that here. Also, that Wildhoney album was my #4 record last year. We’re not here for Wildhoney, though.

As I said before, I love the different layers, even if it’s a bit confusing. Drum fills where you think there might not be drum fills. There’s a bit of a false stop halfway through, and I always love that kind of thing. Above all, it’s just a lovely bit of noise that we want to keep listening to all day long.

You can buy a digital download of the album via Bandcamp here. You can also buy a vinyl copy of the album here.


12.12.2015 — “Fine Friend”, as covered by vhs dream

vhs dream

If you only listen to one cover song tonight, make it “Fine Friend”, as covered by vhs dream (2015, from the The Language of Flowers: A Tribute To Pale Saints compilation tribute). The song was originally done by Pale Saints on their third and final album Slow Buildings (1994).

vhs dream is a dream pop/shoegaze duo from Melbourne. I’ve written before about a different band called VHS Dream. That band is Norwegian, and they’re also very good. The Norwegian band definitely took their name from the title of a Deerhunter song, and I’m guessing that the Australian band did too.

I really don’t know anything about this band. They are Matthew Hosking (vocals/guitar) and Mayzie Wallen (vocals/guitar). It began as a solo project for Hosking with some help from Gabriel Lewis, out of Lowtide. He released an EP called Wonderfully Hopeless in February of last year, and Wallen joined the band in late 2014. The good folks at The Blog That Celebrates Itself asked them to contribute to the latest tribute album. The Sao Paulo-based TBTCI started a little label, and they’ve released some great stuff. They’re known mostly for their beautifully curated tributes to some of the giants of shoegaze, dream pop, and indie rock. Take time to peruse these:
A Tribute to Cocteau Twins
The Brian Jonestown Massacre in Other Voices
covers of songs by 60s girl groups
Leave Them All Behind: A Tribute to Ride
A Dreaded Sunny Day: A Tribute to The Smiths
Got That Feeling: A Tribute to Skywave
Kill Your Idols: A Brazilian Tribute to Sonic Youth
Psychocandy Revisited

This tribute to Pale Saints has been eagerly anticipated, and it finally came out on December 8. As usual, the compilation features some deeply underground bands from all over the globe, and only a couple that I’ve ever heard of. I’ve listened to at least a preview of every song, and I like most of them very much.

As much as I love Pale Saints, I never really loved Slow Buildings even half as much as the older stuff. The band just wasn’t the same without Ian Masters. The original version of this song never really excited me very much, compared to the back catalog.

“Fine Friend” is about the agony of being trapped in the “friend zone”. The original version is made extra sad by the slow, jangly acoustic guitar and the slow, dark bass. It’s devastatingly sad, but somehow sexy. That’s why we listen to Mazzy Star, but that’s not why we listen to Pale Saints. We want the sadness in Pale Saints songs to be overshadowed by a wall of sound. Instead of bright illumination, we want clouds and haze to hide some of the sadness. That’s sort of what vhs dream has done here. They put tons of effects on the guitars and made it murkier. It changes the tone a little bit, and I love that.

“Fine Friend” as covered by vhs dream

You can get the Language of Flowers compilation via Bandcamp by naming your price here.


09.24.2015 — “Home” by Little May

Little May

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Home” by Little May (2015, from the forthcoming album The Company).

Little May is an indie folk trio from Sydney. Because of their vocal harmonies and their somewhat dark take to whatever folk/rock they’re doing, they’re often compared to First Aid Kit. Other people mention Haim when they talk about Little May. I can get behind the First Aid Kit comparison, but I’ve never taken the time to familiarize myself with Haim, so I don’t know about that. Unlike those bands, though, the girls in Little May are not sisters. They are Hannah Field (guitar/vocals), Liz Drummond (guitar/vocals), and Annie Hamilton (bass). So far they don’t have a permanent drummer, but they’ve been using Catriona Hunter on tour.

They’ve been at it since about 2012, and they recently started to gain a ton of momentum all at once. They put out a couple of singles in 2013 followed by a self-titled EP late last year. It got unanimous high praise, and they did extensive tours of the world. They played small stages at big festivals, but turned a lot of heads, and many publications, even some mainstream ones, have been calling them a “band to watch”. They also managed to land a contract with Capitol Records.

During their travels, they hooked up with Aaron Dessner of The National, who invited them to New York so he could produce their debut album. The album is scheduled for release on October 9, and it’s been getting a ton of praise, and a heavy push from their promotional team. I started getting emails about this in June, even before the album had a name or a release date. Now that we’re getting close to the release date, it’s time for me to do my small part.

The album is full of “very good” songs, and most of them do have something to remind people of First Aid Kit. This one is probably my favorite, and it happens to be the one that they’re using to push the album. It reminds me a little bit of Jessica Lea Mayfield.

“Home” by Little May

I don’t know which of the girls is which, but the singer here has that raspy, smokey, sultry quality that delivers something that’s both mysterious and alluring. I love the vocal harmonies, but they don’t show up until late in the song. I wish it had much more of that. And that’s my only complaint (if you can even call it a complaint) about the song.

Here’s the video, which was also shot in NYC.

The album is available for pre-order now. Go here for details. For fans in the US, please understand that the prices listed are in AUD, and you can use 0.7 as the multiplier to convert to US dollars. That lightens the blow a little, but the bad news is that this ships from Australia, and it’s almost prohibitively expensive to ship here from there. It comes out to be about $43 USD for the vinyl once the shipping is added. My advice, then, is to wait until it comes out and buy it in a bricks-and-mortar store.


08.08.2015 — “Magnetic North” by Soviet X-Ray Record Club

Soviet X-Ray Record Club

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Magnetic North” by Soviet X-Ray Record Club (2015, from the album Wake).

Soviet X-Ray Record Club is a post-punk/shoegaze/dream pop quintet from Ipswich, Queensland, Australia. For practical purposes, they sometimes list Brisbane as their base. The band got started in 2012 and have earned somewhat of a cult following in their homeland, and they finally released their debut album on April 25 of this year. It’s said that their live shows bring to mind much noisier acts like Swans and A Place to Bury Strangers. That’s my kind of thing, and that’s what grabbed my attention in the emails I’ve gotten about this. After I listened for a short while, the music spoke for itself.

A couple of months ago, I got an email about a different song from this album. That was followed by another email about the album. My interns have been lazy, and when I was doing some much-needed mailbag maintenance a couple of days ago, I finally got around to downloading the album and listening to the whole thing. While SXRC isn’t as dark as APTBS, I can certainly understand the want to compare the two. To be fair, though, there is a song on this album “Good Things [I Only Think Of]” that sounds just like an APTBS song.

For my money, today’s song reminds me of something much different from that. Steven Appleton’s vocals on this song remind me a lot of Ian McCulloch. And one of the guitars sounds just like something Will Sergeant would have played. Yes. This sounds like mid-80s Bunnymen. I’m thinking specifically of “Bring on The Dancing Horses”.

“Magnetic North” by Soviet X-Ray Record Club

I also really like the driving bass and the drums, which are almost motorik. It’s that bright guitar in the bridge between the first and second verse that reminds me of Sergeant. It only lasts a few bars, but that same bit shows up later in the song after the vocals are done.

Even the lyrics in the second verse seem a bit Bunnymen-esque:

I’m breaking down inside
she’s slipping from my heart
And I don’t feel the way she does
When we are apart

I don’t know whether they intentionally set out to make an Echo & The Bunnymen song, but they sure accomplished that.

You can order a physical copy of Wake via bandcamp here

You can also go to the band’s website here for directions on how to get a digital download.


08.07.2015 — “I Don’t Think You Like Me” by Tired Lion

Tired Lion

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “I Don’t Think You Like Me” by Tired Lion (2015, from the Figurine EP).

Tired Lion is an indie rock/grunge revival quartet from Perth, Australia. I’ve written a good deal about bands from Brisbane and Melbourne, especially the shoegaze bands from those cities. This is the first time I’ve written about a band from Perth.

Frontwoman Sophie Hopes sounds a little bit like Juliana Hatfield, but with a bit more growl and a band with more bite than The Blake Babies. I got something in the mail bag a few months ago, and I was reminded of it a couple of days ago. The EP came out in mid-July, and this is the standout track.

“I Don’t Think You Like Me” by Tired Lion

The guitars are super-fuzzy. There’s an innocent charm to Hopes’ voice, even if she herself may not be so innocent. There’s some snark. There’s a big hook in the backing vocal “A-Wooooooo-oooh”. All of this means that this would have been a massive hit on American college radio and “120 Minutes” in 1992. They probably would have toured the US east coast as Helium’s “special guest”. Suffice to say it’s going to be in heavy rotation at my house right now.

You can buy a download of Figurine via bandcamp here. At current exchange rates, $10 AUD is $7.42 USD.

For a little bit of extra credit, and a lot of fun, here’s the official video for the song:


06.21.2015 — “Dryve” by Waving

Waving

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Dryve” by Waving (2015, from the album Waving).

Waving is a fuzzy indie pop/dream pop/shoegaze band from Melbourne. I know absolutely nothing about them, and they don’t have any web presence to speak of. They showed up in my soundcloud feed today, and I instantly liked what I heard. I’m reminded a bit of some of the early 1990s UK male-fronted alternative/shoegaze bands like Ride and The Catherine Wheel. You know. Before the “lad culture” and Brit-pop took over. I’m sort of transported back to 1990 as I listen to this new band’s new record.

I say this a lot, but this time when I say “I know nothing about them”, I really mean it. I don’t know how many people are in the band or any of that ordinary biographical information. I only know that their self-titled album came out on Friday and that it’s very good.

So far, I haven’t found a song of theirs that I don’t like, and this is perhaps my favorite:

“Dryve” by Waving

I like the way the fuzzy guitars are sort of muffled and the vocals buried under the wall of sludge. Right around 3:00, there’s a lot of synths. Almost too much. They knew exactly when to pull back on those.
I really like that right around 4:45, there’s a bit of piano underneath the guitar solo. And that guitar solo blends right into a synth solo which takes over for the rest of the song. There’s quite a lot of subtle little things going on, and I really like that.

The drums are not to be overlooked. I really like what he’s doing there. Not a lot of flair, but the fills and the crash hits are really expressive. And the style is part of what reminds me of Ride.

You can download Waving via bandcamp by naming your own price here.


06.19.2015 — “Heart of Ice” by Forevr

Forevr

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Heart of Ice” by Forevr (2015, from the Demonstration EP).

Forevr is a shoegaze duo from Brisbane made up of Sam George-Allen and Donovan Miller. Yes, there’s an e missing from their name. I have to assume that this is done for the purposes of making themselves more “googleable”. You want to name your band something that’s a pretty commonly used word? Just omit a consonant, or spell it in an unorthodox way, or use a V where a U should be, or a pair of Vs where a W should be.

Anyway, Miller and George-Allen met some time last year when Miller recorded some stuff that George-Allen was doing with one of her previous bands. It’s worth mentioning that Miller is also in the brilliant Brisbane shoegaze band Roku Music. Miller and George-Allen recorded their debut EP in April 2015 and released it a couple of days later.

It’s also worth pointing out that George-Allen is more than just a shoegazer. She’s also a very gifted writer and storyteller. Take the time to read some of her stuff.
Here‘s a story about when she briefly worked at a strip club.
Here‘s one about using witchcraft to cast a love spell on a guy she liked.
She’s also an editor and co-founder of a feminist on-line literary magazine called Scum.

The Brisbane shoegaze and dream-pop scene is absolutely exploding right now. Just to name a few with new or forthcoming records this year, Brisbane has Kigo, Roku Music, Deafcult, and J Francis. Deafcult and Roku Music are related to each other, and J Francis to Kigo. It’s like a big collective. I love it.

The thing that’s usually said about Forevr is that they sound a bit like MBV and the Cocteaus. When asked to make a “top five albums of all-time” list, here’s what Sam George-Allen told The Blog That Celebrates Itself:

Cocteau Twins — Heaven or Las Vegas
My Bloody Valentine — Loveless
Kate Bush — Hounds of Love
Björk — Post
Warpaint — Warpaint

I’ve never been a Kate Bush fan (I know, I know), but I love the rest of those albums. And it’s easy to hear the influence of the first two in this four-song set.

I hadn’t heard of this band until they started following me on twitter the other day, and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with their music.

The EP has four songs, and they’re all great. This is song #2:
“Heart of Ice” by Forevr

It may be winter in Brisbane, but it’s hot as hell here, and it’s perfectly fitting that this is all gooey and swirly. Like melted ice cream. George-Allen’s vocals are sort of cloaked by lots of reverb/delay on the guitars, by the synthetic drums, and also by the reverb on the vocals themselves. It makes it mysterious and dark, though she has a nice dreamy, airy voice. It definitely sounds like it’s influenced by early Cocteaus.

This EP is something that they threw together very quickly, and I think it’s fantastic. I can’t wait to hear more from these two. I also can’t wait to see what happens when they have better production values. Their future looks very bright, as it does for the whole Brisbane shoegaze scene.

They released the EP on black cds and gold cassettes. My disdain for the cassette revival is well documented, and I won’t delve on that, but I do think it’s cool that the cassettes are gold and they come in a black o-card. They also released it digitally. You can buy your choice of format via the bandcamp page. The cassette and the CD each go for $10 AUD, which is about $7.77 USD. You can also download the EP by naming your own price. Do it. You won’t be sorry.


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