Tag Archives: Australia

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

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
Loneliness.

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.


January 31, 2017 — “I Don’t Feel So Alive” by Gabriella Cohen

Gabriella Cohen

Gabriella Cohen

If you only listen to one song today, make it “I Don’t Feel So Alive” by Gabriella Cohen (2016, from the album Full Closure and No Details).

Gabriella Cohen is a psychedelic/surf-rock/folk musician from Melbourne. She’s in a band called The Furrs, but she released a highly acclaimed solo record called Full Closure and No Details last year via Dot Dash Records. Dot Dash is a label exclusively for Australian artists, and the very good album got limited recognition outside of Australia/New Zealand.

Last week, Captured Tracks announced that they’ve signed Cohen and will be reissuing her album on March 3. They’ve also released a bunch of videos to promote the album. They sent me the announcement and a preview copy of the album, which I’m liking very much.

Most reviews of the album point to The Velvet Underground as a reference point, and I can understand that, but I prefer to say that this reminds me of a slightly quieter, slightly down tempo Best Coast.

It’s said that this album was written and recorded in a matter of ten days, and that it’s about the dissolution of a relationship. It’s melancholic and it’s brooding. It’s dark and gloomy at times. But it’s well-crafted and it’s real. And we really like it.

Today’s song even has a vaguely Mazzy Star feeling to it. Maybe it sounds like Mazzy Star doing an imitation of VU.

This is that song:
“I Don’t Feel So Alive” by Gabriella Cohen

I like how it picks up some steam in the last bit of the song, and that’s where it really does sound like the Velvet Underground.

People point to the

This could be the last time we get together

line and call it “sad” and say that it’s the end of something. I think it’s something different . While the first half of the song is about crying and not putting forth much effort, I think the whole thing might actually be about the exciting beginnings of something. Or at the very least, it could be about throwing fears and caution to the side in favour of one last go. Or one first go.

Did you find out what I’m all about
Or should I tell you
I’m gonna tell you
I’m gonna tell you

This could be the last time we get together

It’s now or never
Let’s get together
Why don’t we get together

That “It’s now or never” line is whispered, so it sort of makes me think that it might even be about doing something with someone with whom there’s never been any intimacy and with whom there can never be any intimacy except on this one night.

Whatever stage of a “relationship” it’s about, I really like this song. And I really like the album.

Here’s the video, complete with a very subtle nod to ABBA:

You can pre-order Full Closure and No Details via Captured Tracks here. In the EU/UK and AUS/NZ, you still order it from Dot Dash.


October 10, 2016 — “I Don’t Mind” by Twerps

Twerps

Twerps

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “I Don’t Mind” by Twerps (2015, from the album Range Anxiety).

Twerps is an indie-pop/jangle-pop quartet from Melbourne. They formed in 2008 and have released two albums. Their latest album Range Anxiety was released via Merge Records last January, and it ended up making some year-end lists. I didn’t hear about the album until just a few days ago, and it didn’t take long for it to muscle its way into my listening space. I haven’t listened to the whole album yet, but I’ve listened to this song and a couple of others a bunch of times. And I like it very much.

Like just about every Australian indie band, they claim The Go-Betweens as a big influence. Like just about every Australian indie band, lots of people say that they are reminiscent of The Go-Betweens. Maybe “The Go-Betweens” is an easily recognizable signpost, but I’ve always thought it to be a lazy and clichéd reference when writing about Australian bands. If writers insist upon comparing them to another Australian band, I just wish they would say that Twerps sound a bit like what might happen if you took The Lucksmiths and removed all of the puns and clever wordplay from their lyrics. That’s kind of what I hear. That said, I have to reveal an embarrassing truth: I’m not very familiar with The Go-Betweens.

I like that while they all contribute vocals, the band has two lead vocalists. I like that they use a lot of coed vocal harmonies. I like that they often use call-and-response vocals. I like that the harmonies are often imperfect. I really like that there’s something unmistakably Australian about the mathematics of their songs. Something that I can’t explain, but I know it when I hear it.

“I Don’t Mind” by Twerps

That Je ne sais quoi quality that I was talking about makes me a little giddy. And that’s great.

You can purchase Range Anxiety via Merge Records here.


July 29, 2016 — “Surround” by PURS

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Surround” by PURS (2016, from a standalone single).

PURS is a fuzzy indie rock/noise rock/shoegaze quintet from London. I didn’t think that I knew anything about them when this song popped up in my Soundcloud feed a couple of weeks ago, but it turns out that I already know some of their backstory. I was waiting to see if I could learn something about them, but there’s nothing about them on the interwebs other than a few terse write-ups and this interview from the good folks over at the inimitable The Blog That Celebrates Itself. When I read that interview, something sounded a little familiar. It took a little while for me to put the pieces together, but when I finally did, it felt like finally getting the really tight lid off a jar.

A lot of people will say that PURS reminds them of the poppier side of Lush. The band says that they’re inspired by the likes of MBV, Cocteaus, Lush, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth, and even The Smiths. It’s probably no surprise that a lot of people have written that PURS reminds them of “alternative rock” from the 90s, and I totally get that. So far, PURS has only released two songs, and I like them both a lot. It’s hard for me to get my own analogy going, but I was sort of reminded of something much more contemporary than that. I was reminded of their fellow Londoners The History of Apple Pie.

Here’s the backstory that I was already familiar with. Serra Petale (vocals/guitar) and Mattias Bhatt (drums) are also in a band called Kid Wave. Petale is Australian and Bhatt is Swedish, and they ended up playing in a London band with another Swede and an Englishman. Last October, I wrote about Kid Wave, and you can read that here.

Without further ado, here’s tonight’s song:
“Surround” by PURS

There’s definitely some Sonic Youth in that intro, and there’s also definitely some 90s pedal effects going on there. I can certainly understand why people compare them to bands from that golden age of indie rock. This is, though, slightly sexier and considerably less grimy than Sonic Youth. Less eccentric than Pavement. More fun than PJ Harvey.

Whatever the comparisons may be, I really like the two songs that I’ve heard, and I hope there’s more to come from this band.


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.


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