Category Archives: Australia

January 10, 2018 — “Sleepy Jane” by Corniglia


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Sleepy Jane” by Corniglia (2018, from the album Corniglia).
Corniglia is an indie rock/psychedelic/dream-pop duo from Perth. Matt Irwin is the primary songwriter, while the Italian-born Chloe De Paoli is the singer. They just released their self-titled debut album yesterday, and I got a thing in the mail bag about it. The great Australia-centric indie music magazine Happy has also really been pumping their tires a lot, which drew my attention even more.
To be fair, the email promised “psychedelic infused shoegaze”, which got me really excited. There’s a lot of wonderful shoegaze coming out of Australia these days, and I thought this would be an addition to the ever-growing list. I’ve listened the whole album, and there just isn’t much about this that makes me think of shoegaze. I like it a lot, but it’s dream-pop at best. I definitely get a lot of psychedelic and some ethereal vibes. Classify it however you want: it’s still pretty damn good.

Thanks to the organs/synths and the delay on the vocals, it’s a little hazy and a little cloudy. It may be Australian summer, but this song doesn’t make me think of driving around with the windows open, the birds singing, and the sun beating down on my shoulders. This makes me of driving around at night with only the moon and the stars above. It it makes me feel good.

“Sleepy Jane” by Corniglia

I’ve just listened to this song a few times in a row, and I like it more with each listen. Chloe’s vocals remind me of someone, but I can’t quite figure it out. No matter what, I like it and I’ll look forward to more from this group in the future.

You can buy a download of Corniglia via Bandcamp here.

December 8, 2017 — “Youth Large, Size Small” by Scarp


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Youth Large, Size Small” by Scarp (2017, from the EP Like a Dog).

Scarp is a Trans-Tasman dream pop/shoegaze/emo quartet with members from Sydney and Auckland, including a transplanted Englishman. They formed in 2016 as an emo five-piece, and they’ve changed the lineup a little along with changing their style. In an effort to shift away from emo, they recently started incorporating elements of shoegaze and dream pop.

I had never heard of the band until I got something in the mail bag the other day. The band has just released its debut EP, and they expect to put out a full-length album in the first half of 2018. Today’s song is the first song from that EP.

“Youth Large, Size Small” by Scarp

I like the lo-fi quality of it. It makes it sound somewhat exposed and vulnerable. And that works since that’s what they’re going for thematically. They say that the songs are about “the experience of coming to adulthood, experiencing loss and eventually finding serenity in life”. Today’s song is certainly about being in love and being unsure of a lot of things:

It hurts to be and see myself
Comparing myself to the person you want…

You prefer me when I’m naked
I prefer me when I’m alone

These are, after all, young adults. With fickle, fragile hearts.

In the last minute of the song, the tempo picks up a bit, and there’s a weird moment where the timing is a little (perhaps by design) awkward. During that section, in a weird sort of way that I wasn’t expecting at all, I’m reminded of Gala-era Lush. If Lush was on Quaaludes.

You can download Like a Dog via Bandcamp by naming your price here.

December 6, 2017 — “Sure” by Hatchie

Harriette Pilbeam (Hatchie)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Sure” by Hatchie (from the 2017 standalone single).
Hatchie is the stage name of Brisbane-based indie/dream pop singer/songwriter Harriette Pilbeam. She’s been in the Brisbane music scene for a few years as a member of two other bands, but this is her first project that she’s been the front of. She released a shimmering indie-pop single called “Try” over the summer, and followed that with “Sure” a month ago. She’s set to release her debut EP early next year, and it’s probably safe to assume that this song will be on that record.

I recently got something in the mailbag about this rising star, and the email promised similarities to Slowdive and Cocteau Twins. Those kinds of handy references are thrown around pretty frequently, but it’s not often that I find the lofty comparison to actually work. “Try” doesn’t remind me of those bands at all, but there’s definitely a Robin Guthrie-like quality to the guitars on today’s song. In general, there’s a Milk and Kisses-era Cocteaus feeling. While Milk and Kisses is generally regarded by anyone with any frame of reference to be “lesser Cocteaus”, it’s still a very good album compared to the majority of stuff that passes as “rock music”. There’s also quite a bit of jangly guitars that remind me of the indie rock of the early 90s.
There isn’t a sharable Soundcloud or Bandcamp file, but here’s the video:

Right off the bat, the intro to the song is eerily reminiscent of the intro to a gem from the pre-Copacetic Velocity Girl days. The song “Forgotten Favorite” was on the band’s 1993 self-titled debut EP. It’s absolutely my favourite VG song. In fact, that whole EP is incredible, but it often gets forgotten in the catalog of a band that few people remember anyway.

The video seems to be a deliberate glove-tap to the indie pop videos of the early-mid 1990s. The stripey shirt worn by the guitar player. The jangly acoustic guitar. The bank of TVs with horizontal TV noise and video feedback/recursive image. The classic 8-eye Doc Martens worn by Pilbeam. This is all stuff that takes me back to the golden age of indie pop, when Pilbeam and her mates probably weren’t even born yet.

The song, according to what I’ve read, is about a couple who keep breaking up and getting back together. They’re giving it one last go because they can’t live with or without each other.

All I know about the forthcoming EP is that it’s called Sugar and Spice and that it’s due out “early next year”.

July 24, 2017 — “Forgot Myself” by Jen Cloher

Jen Cloher

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Forgot Myself” by Jen Cloher (2017, from the forthcoming album Jen Cloher).

Jen Cloher is an indie-folk/rock singer/songwriter from Melbourne. She has released three albums and a couple of EPs and singles, but I didn’t know much about her until recently. Actually, I did, but I didn’t. She has been dating indie darling/rising superstar Courtney Barnett for several years, and they’ve collaborated on each other’s records before. On August 11, she’ll release her fourth album —Jen Cloher— via Milk Records, which is the label that Cloher and Barnett run.

I got something in the mailbag about a different song from the new record, and I knew right away that I like this record. Tonight’s song is about “the sacrifices and difficulties of maintaining a long-distance relationship with a high-profile partner”. They live together, but Barnett spent a long time touring with her brilliant debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, so I guess they’ve spent a lot of time apart from each other. We’ll get to that later.

The album was recorded in a one-room studio in a rural Australian town, then mixed in Jeff Tweedy’s studio in Chicago. Barnett contributed guitar and vocals to the entire album. Their friend Kurt Vile also played guitar on one track, and Andrew “Bones” Sloane (bass) is a full-time member of the band. Both are also frequent collaborators with Barnett.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s song:
“Forgot Myself” by Jen Cloher

It’s a great song that reminds me of a lot of things. There are bits that remind me of The Breeders and bits that remind me of Bettie Serveert. In a weird way, the bass and drums remind me of Butterglory. There are obviously bits that remind me of Courtney Barnett. Despite how catchy and toe-tap inducing it might be, it’s kind of a downer. The words to the last verse tell the whole story of dealing with being apart from her love:

You’re riding round the world
You’re doing this and you’re signing that
The facts are that you’re there and I’m here
When you’re gone too long I become an idea
I’m driving in my car
Your song comes on the radio
And I remember what I always forget

That’s kind of intense. But it’s about to get better. Jen Cloher will be touring with this record. Courtney Barnett will be on tour with the album she made with Kurt Vile. For a few weeks in the United States this autumn, they’ll all be touring together. I don’t know who headlines those shows, but it sounds like a badass show. If I’m honest, I’m not wild about Kurt Vile, but that would be an amazing show.

The eponymous Jen Cloher album comes out on August 11, and you can pre-order it via Bandcamp here, or via the label here.

Also, there’s a great video for the song. And it’s packed full of people who have something to do with Milk Records or the Melbourne music scene. You’ll easily recognize Courtney Barnett. “Bones” Sloane plays the guy making art with his food. Jen Sholakis, who plays drums in the band (and a couple of other Melbourne bands), is drinking coffee. Tain Stangret, who sings on a couple of songs, is the waitress. You may recognize her from Courtney Barnett’s incredible video for “Elevator Operator”. The dishwasher is played by Anika Ostendorf, who makes dream-pop under the name Hachiku. The cook is played by a guy called Tejo D’Cruz. It took a bit of internet research, but I figured out that he used to be in a Singapore pop-punk band called Aspectrum. Now he lives in Melbourne, and does a decent Elliot Smith cover.

Anyway, now that you’ve got the cast and all their bios, here’s the video:

The video is worth watching multiple times because there are lots of really subtle and cool things going on. It’s weird, but it’s fun.

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.

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