Album of the Week

Armlock

Seashell Angel Lucky Charm
July 19, 2024

Like its title suggests, Seashell Angel Lucky Charm is a treasure. Glittering trinkets strung on a bracelet in the form of six songs, their raw intimacy inviting you to clutch them close.

Longtime collaborators Simon Lam and Hamish Mitchell bring a depth of experience to their band Armlock. Their 2021 debut Trust channeled bedroom indie à la Alex G: guitar parts straightforward in execution but fine-tuned for maximum feeling. Seashell Angel Lucky Charm is knotted into an even more beautiful latticework, nostalgic Casio-piano keys intertwined with dual vocals as close and warm as a hot breath on your ear. 

Wistful, but also emotionally vulnerable and nervy in the way the world of emo music is. You can almost picture lead singer Simon’s mouth pressed as close as possible up to the mic, open only the smallest amount necessary, the most internal of thoughts, ever just slipping out into the world.

The tracks on Seashell Angel Lucky Charm often threaten to break out of their perfectly calibrated binding, adorned with digital noise that shimmers but takes slightly anxious turns. It tracks with the lyrical concerns of the record, flickering song to song between giddy yearning and spurned hurt. Armlock deliver both extremes with the same driving steadiness, not dispassionately but deliberately, understanding that the masks we wear are not always reality.

On ‘Guardian’, Liam sings of looking for signs: of angel numbers, and running a bath “just to watch it flow.” Look closely, and maybe you’ll see those signs in Seashell Angel Lucky Charm too.

SPEED

ONLY ONE MODE
July 12, 2024

ONLY ONE MODE is not just a debut album, and not just a coronation for Sydney hardcore. It’s also a confidently delivered thesis statement for a band on a furiously accelerating ascent. Take a seat, or be yanked along by the scruff of your neck; you’re along for the ride either way.

SPEED: all caps, one word. An identity fully realised in name alone. It’s music for a dancefloor of complete catharsis. The gleeful, high octane fun of hurling yourself body first, brain second into a sticky-floored mosh pit. Riffs of titanic size transform any prim-proper bowling club into a gladiator pit promising ultimate glory. Not in a sense of competition with fellow dancers, but one that we’re all in this together, swinging limbs in beautiful uncoordinated-coordination – SPEED orchestrating with beautiful, driving relentlessness. 

So, yes, it’s ONLY ONE MODE, and not one that lets up in any way. But crucially, as an interlude at the end of ‘DONT NEED’ reiterates, SPEED have style. Not only visually with their memorable music videos, and now iconic logo and merch designs. But musically as well, as they draw upon the lineage of beatdown hardcore’s ancestors in metal – dramatic change ups, transitions, breakdowns, and sure, why not a flute solo. There’s no need to invent the wheel when it’s already so strong, but a little chrome plating can’t hurt.

In a scene often crowded by gatekeepers with contradictory expectations of genre legitimacy and understandings of “community,” SPEED are able to cut through with a blunt, uncompromising authenticity. As if they understand that part of the reason hardcore is awesome is because it flippantly disregards irony as a concept. Bluntness and genuineness are its methods of choice; the same furious snarl that lead singer Jem Siow reserves for gronks and posers, also professes the ‘real life love’ of the band, of their scene that ‘you can’t fake.’

And it’s perhaps this that explains their incredible, increasingly global rise. They radiate complete confidence in themselves, in their real sense of community actually rooted in action – ONLY ONE MODE being released on Last Ride Records, a Newcastle label they’ve been with since the start. Remaining totally uncompromising, SPEED bend mass appeal to themselves, not the other way around.

ONLY ONE MODE is a landmark release for hardcore music at large, but also, as importantly, for Sydney music. For a city often haunted by phantoms of impostor syndrome and cultural servility, SPEED are an example where Being Yourself and repping your city is never cringe, never to be watered down. Just do the thing. And make sure you do it hard.

Grasps

when will you be here again?
July 5, 2024

when will you be here again? is Sydney artist Grasps’ sophomore album. It is an almost-36 minutes of reverb, muted piano, luscious strings, and vocals that feel like a breeze against a harsh soundscape.

‘7 Hells’ is the preface to the album. Featuring the vocal talents of BAYANG (tha Bushranger), the track is explosive, expansive and gruesome – feeling much like a genesis, or the opposite: a utopia on the cusp of falling. Echoing the lyrics, “Fall on the blade like crop,” this is the beginning of an epic. 

‘The Bridge’ ascends from the ashes of the opener and introduces a secondary sound to the album, characterised by Grasps’ auto-tuned vocals and crashing percussion. Moments of reprieve are offered through yearning strings, building momentum as promised into what feels like the true opening of the album. 

A sobering recording of Blackheath opens ‘Sniper Rifle’, a track that primarily indulges in wavering pulses, elongated synths and shattering glass. Grasps dips further into the ambient, unfiltered and raw in ‘As I Draw My Final Breath’ – hearing the rush of wind on a field recorder feels more ghostly than ever. The album features two more artists, Marcus Whale and Wa?ste on tracks ‘Ex Nihilo’ and ‘Extend1’, respectively. ‘Ex Nihilo’ is beautiful; credit to the harmonies that bleed and bleed and continue to bleed like a hymn in a mourning falsetto. 

The latter half of the album sits in a recurring sound of dulled harmonics, felted piano, explosions, eruptions, static played forwards, backwards, inverted and forwards again. Grasps’ exploration of sound manipulation falls seamlessly together in a fated sigh of relief; nothing feels out of place.

when will you be here again? is the score of a dystopia, though it feels hard to explain why. Somewhere between the sincere fear and uncertainty of death and the sonic qualities of metallic tones and organic rustles, drips and chirps, peeks something else: a sense of sublimity, or accepted inevitability and responsibility – renewing the meaning of falling on one’s sword.

skaiwater

#gigi
June 28, 2024

Describing new rap artists in 2024 can be like arguing over a sprawling cork investigation board, multi-coloured strings overlapping in a jumbled spider web: “they’re clearly influenced by this rapper – no, actually this artist actually did it first.” Or you know, you can just give up and assert that Lil Wayne/Chief Keef/Lil B did it first (usually not entirely untrue). 

Does classification even matter anymore? We’ve long run out of genre names (trap, dubstep and EDM mean radically different things to different people), especially since the internet has exploded any sense of musical rules and conventions. Yet, there’s still some joy in untangling that nexus of influences, especially in a genre as alive, as ever-changing as hip-hop. 

Some of those coloured corkboard strings lead to more obvious, defined clusters; the melodic trap (again, probably not a real genre) school of hundreds of forgotten Soundcloud rap pioneers. The current meta of this sound has spawned a new strand: the, apocalyptic sound of ‘rage beats’, influenced by Playboi Carti Whole Lotta Red-era baby voices and gleefully overblown, ear-splitting 808s. 

Nottingham rapper and producer skaiwater is an obvious alumni of this school, and their new album, #gigi is a worthy entry to its canon. skaiwater has the razor-sharp, whiplike flow of their best contemporaries; rapping alongside the beat like a rollercoaster threatening to veer of the tracks – not totally out control though, but a measured chaos, like the interplay of a free jazz band continually pushing each each other in and out of the pocket. At times skaiwater is swallowed completely by waves of distortion, only coming up for air in gulps; other times, that same distortion flickers just ever so gently, like gentle shadows around their crooning voice.

There’s a interesting and intentional bent to #gigi that sets it apart from others in the genre. It’s exhilarating in the way the best internet deep dives are, but with a level of polish to it – not that polish is always necessary, but there’s something fascinating about using a major label budget to squeeze the most out of these often bootleg sounds.

It also gives the record a thrilling, kaleidoscopic range – like the thundering, brazilian funk beat of ‘richest girl alive,’ which slides seamlessly into the ballroom-influenced ‘choke’. Any influence is up for grabs, be it sweaty jersey club, or even old school, waltzing soul. Choirs and broadway string sections are steamrolled by booming bass that sounds like it was summoned from the earth’s very core – yes, it’s silly, but it works. Especially so when you view #gigi as a breakup album of sorts. Again, distortion creatively helps skaiwater to cathartically navigate these messy feelings: heartbreak, scorn, and ‘crying in the shower, 100 degrees’, burying them all under walls of sound, free to cry out to their heart’s content.

Other artists tinkering with rage beats push this sound to its limit; skaiwater instead approaches it with a curiosity, ready to upturn any convention on its head. Whether #gigi will inspire a new, branching string of its own is too early to say – but its place on the board, worthy amongst its peers, is undeniable. 

DOBBY

Warrangu; River Story
June 21, 2024

Warrangu; River Story is not only DOBBY’s debut album, but an important piece of storytelling and documentation. The Filipino and Murrawarri musician has assumed various roles over the years; musically he’s a composer, rapper, producer and drummer, and within the community a broadcaster, educator and activist. DOBBY unites all of these mantles on Warrangu. It’s a portrait of his home Brewarrina; the River Story as such being the Bogan River to the South, the Culgoa River to the North, and the Barwon River to the East.

Through field recordings and interviews with Murrawarri elders & community members, Warrangu; River Story is a keepsake of cultural knowledge, of Murrawarri connections to Country and the importance of environmental stability. But it’s also an investigation of the water theft rampant across the Murray Darling Basin over the last decade and beyond. It’s a crisis that went beyond simple government mismanagement, as large agricultural corporations deliberately redirected water flows away from the river and from floodplains, leaving them at dangerously low levels. A recent scandal yes – but also endemic of a deep, systemic imbalance, the terminal endpoint of a colonial system where food and commodities are not created and grown in accordance with natural ecological frameworks, but instead at an endless, all consuming thirst for profit.

DOBBY understands this well, and this album is his rallying-cry against it. Warrangu; River Story is justice from the grassroots up, a sweeping, cinematic, and deeply defiant understanding that, like the future, this River Story is not yet complete.

Tems

Born in the Wild
June 14, 2024

Born in the Wild may be Tems’ debut album, but she’s no newcomer. Two strong EPs and a number of well placed features have already brought her near-household fame. Born in the Wild is, instead,the most complete offering of Tems as an artist so far; songwriter, producer and, of course, a once-in-a-lifetime voice.

It’s that voice which centers the record. Tems sings effortlessly but never without emotion, a deep intention stirred deep from her being. Impossible vocal ranges are plucked gracefully from thin air, wisps of nostalgia sprinkled like magic dust on the most yearning of lyrics. On the breathless anticipation of ‘Ready’ Tems draws each word, each line, out as if she’s exhuming every last bit of oxygen from her system, poured entirely into each heightened vocal enunciation.

Tems has often spoken of being frustratingly boxed in as simply an ‘afrobeats’ or ‘afro-pop’ artist; thus, Born in the Wild is a vividly wide musical offering, a jukebox for a new generation of Tems songs. There’s the heartbreakers: the hopeless flamenco guitar of ‘Freefall’ personifying the same broken relationship she sings of. At the other end of the spectrum there’s the teasing confidence of ‘Gangsta,’ the smoky, rimshot-driven brag of ‘Turn Me Up,’ and even nods towards muscly, Timbaland-like RnB on ‘T-Unit.’

And of course, that wistful, punch-drunk, dusk-on-a-warm-summer-nightness that she does better than anyone else. Lead singles ‘Me & U’ and ‘Love Me JeJe’ being prime examples – it’s musical serotonin fast-tracked straight to just that right spot in your brain, designed equally to move bodies and break open smiles. It’s the mark of a special artist, where one person’s experience becomes universality, that we’re in this together’ feeling that pop music can uniquely offer. On Born in the Wild, Tems offers just that.

doris

four trees
June 7, 2024

There is something special knowing your favourite emo band lives down the road. For those who have been to any Doris show in the past few months, the tracks on four trees may not come as a surprise, but perhaps an official release means you’re able to put a name to that song that they played in the middle of the set, or maybe the end. If you’ve been lucky enough to go to one of these shows, scream the lyrics, maybe even sit on the stage while you fear for your life, guitars inches over your head, and the threat of an amp teetering on the edge, one mosher’s push away crushing you – count yourself as just that: lucky. 

Evident in their first EP Birthday Cards, and confirmed on this debut album, Doris are unconcerned with album relevance and longevity. Yet, longevity is exactly what they achieve; four trees is an album that feels as though it came out twenty years ago and today at the same and likely will feel the same twenty years from now. They have found the peace of aching and quiet moments, sombre whispers, and cries of the sincerest lyrics. 

On ‘fairfield’, Doris are in no rush, sitting in discomfort and taking it as it comes – a flawlessly kept tempo that leaves every note hanging over your head as you bow to each blow. ‘i want to grow’ marks a cathartic break in the tension of the album – roughly also the song where vocalist Ziek might launch themselves into a crowd, nurturing the best of a pit, or invite the entire mosh on stage. In one of the most humble and understated tracks of the album, ‘quinn’ they take cues from midwest staples like Everyone Asked About You – bassist Bronte’s lines call on the twee vocals perfected by Hannah Vogan or perhaps Emily Yacina’s feature on Alex G’s ‘Treehouse’, and also more contemporary counterparts like They Are Gutting A Body Of Water.

four trees is an album looking to uphold the intimate responsibility that emo bands have to reach forward and hold your heart as you grow. It’s also undoubtedly an album that will serve as an artefact of the rich history of emo and DIY in NSW, for listeners and bands of the like to look back on and marvel.

Mach-Hommy

#RICHAXXHAITIAN
June 2, 2024

The Atlantic Revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries are often aligned with core enlightenment ideas of freedom and liberty – the American and French revolutions their most popular associations. The Haitian Revolution, however, is often shelved to a lesser tier of history. Unlike its Western counterparts, it was not a revolt of nascent capitalist-bourgeois interests. It was instead the only successful slave revolt in history that led to an independent, slave run state. This was an unprecedented and paramount moment in modern human history, a revolution from the periphery with true freedom at its core. 

The liberal-capitalist powers of the West never forgave Haiti for this. Counter-revolutionary warfare, economic embargoes and hundreds of millions of dollars of reparations leveled by France towards Haiti hobbled and eventually bankrupted the emerging state. It’s a shameful legacy that continues today: neo-colonial labour exploitation, assassinations of state leaders and ruinous debt arrangements by the United States and the Western World have kept Haiti always, precariously on the brink.

Based in New Jersey, rapper Mach-Hommy spent much of his childhood in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. As far as biographical details go, that’s about it – he’s deliberately coy about his identity, concealing his face and real name in public. The most consistent thing about him is his continual centering of his home country as a crucial part of his music. His newest album #RICHAXXHAITIAN was released one day before Haitian Flag Day; the subject of which covers his face on the album’s cover. 

More than previous works, #RICHAXXHAITIAN pairs Mach-Hommy’s breathless, technically head-spinning flow with a cinematic sweep of strings and choirs, taking his panoramic view of world affairs to new heights. It’s epic in scope but with certain clarity; Mach-Hommy’s understanding of Haiti’s history of Western intervention allows him to explain how white phosphorus being used on Gazan civilians and IMF structural adjustment programs are intrinsically connected. It’s perhaps why he so closely guards his music: refusing lyrics to be posted online, often selling physical copies for high prices. His music is his alone, not to be exploited by any record company or streaming service.

#RICHAXXHAITIAN covers all bases – old school ‘conscious’ rap à la Mos Def or Black Thought (the latter featuring on the record) with a new-school sheen. The bouncy title track, produced by Kaytranada and with a hook by 03 Greedo fits more than comfortably alongside the rest of the album’s soulful loops and crunchy drums. Deeply respected in underground hip-hop and with a fiercely loyal fanbase, Mach-Hommy’s motives prove correct. Fiercely independent, and made decisively his way, #RICHAXXHAITIAN is as good as he’s ever been.

death's dynamic shroud & galen tipton

You Like Music
May 24, 2024

You Like Music is a controlled explosion, a collision between two artists both inspired by the possibilities of technology and the internet for modern music making. death’s dynamic shroud, with their hauntological, nostalgic vaporwave, and galen tipton’s distinctly tactile bubblegum bass combine for a supremely maximalist experiment. The title could be read almost as a teasing prompt – “Oh, you like music? Well here you f**king go!”

It’s foot on the gas from the very start, an ultimate auditory overload of chattering samples, skirting synths, and an array of rubbery squelch-adjacent sounds. The latter are likely directly from galen tipton, who has a history of exploring hyper-physical ‘brain scratch’ textures (in 2022 they released an album designed to be played with your phone inside your mouth). 

The overwhelmingness of You Like Music could easily prove to be too much – giddily though, it’s anchored with a propulsive sense of rhythm. It’s the fringes of the internet meeting the peak time of the club. These songs kick hard: chopped vocal samples flutter alongside breakneck jersey club, hopeful synths stomp alongside kickdrums that are as full and tall as the sky.

The second half of the album builds on that sense of possibility, of high drama. It corresponds to the genuine wonder in death dynamic shroud’s music, transcending the (at times) hopeless nostalgia of vaporwave to instead suggest something beyond, towards new utopias. It’s an ethos of paradigm shifting that the band takes even with regard to the distribution of their work. You Like Music was originally available exclusively as part of a monthly mixtape club shared with the bands fans, an attempt to foster genuine community and non- transactional/platform-capitalism-defined musical commerce.

For all its technical brilliance and cheeky obtuseness, You Like Music works because it understands why we do like music. It’s a physical experience, an emotional experience – best made with others, best shared with others; whether on the dancefloor, over the internet (or on the radio! 🤭)

00_

May 17, 2024

The new 00_ is a whirlwind, fitting to the symbol that represents the album. ∞ is their first extended release since their debut Ca\yptra, and with it, 00_ certainly have a way of making me more familiar with my keyboard and question my pronunciation. Poking fun, though they care very little in reality.

This sophomore release is everything to love about DIY experimental sound – guitars, strings, melancholic moments and abrupt, unexpected thrashes – as I stated, a whirlwind. The album encapsulates a sense of impulsivity. It is non-conformist and tumultuous in every sense of the word – whining, tossing, twisting, turning. The way in which each song rolls into one another errs on improvisational, an immediate expression that collapses into the next and onwards. In fleeting sections of the album, everything locks together in a groove –like on the latter half of ‘Fainting at a Punk Squat’ and ‘Thin-film interference.’ 

00_ are exceptional at instrumentalising vocals, accenting and articulating vowels, verbally dotting “i”s and crossing “t”s, with the effect of making lyrics feel the most alive. In the latter half of the album, 00_ dabble in the electronic. On singles ‘Bath Water Baby’ and ‘Ivy (crystallised damage)’ lazy drawls and delays echo as a spectre of their earlier sound., After all this, I’m not sure I really know what ∞ is about – regardless, 00_ raise a beautiful ruckus.