Album of the Week
March 27, 2020
Snowy Band deliver their spacious and meditative debut, Audio Commentary. After spending the better part of a decade crafting some of the most beloved music in the Melbourne indie scene as a member of The Ocean Party and No Local, multi-instrumentalist songwriter Liam Halliwell begins afresh with his self-recorded and self-produced new project. To assist, he assembles a line-up of longtime friends and collaborators, including Emma Russack, Nat Pavlovic of Dianas and Dylan Young of Way Dynamic. The songs on Audio Commentary allow the foursome to indulge themselves in the comfort of their familiarity, flitting between tight pop structures and more protracted, exploratory passages with ease, building space for the various talents of each individual member to breathe. With swirling, subdued guitars, poignant melodies and hushed, interweaving vocals, it feels as though you’re looking in on something intensely private, as Halliwell’s sincere lyrical content touches on love, grief and the passing of time. Audio Commentary is one of those albums where every element is placed exactly where it belongs, its restrained and delicate pastoral folk counterbalanced by the strength of the songwriting. Intricate without ever feeling overwhelming, Snowy Band’s sprawling arrangements unfold elegantly and captivatingly before you, crafting a debut record that seemingly exists outside of place and time.
March 20, 2020
A perennial mainstay of the Sydney music scene, Nick Griffith channels the spirit of mid- to late-aughts indie-pop on his debut solo record, 7am. Written, recorded, mixed and mastered entirely by Nick alone in his bedroom, 7am is an eccentric and joyous explosion of homegrown possibilities, an exploration of building character through limitation. Every musical knick-knack of the record comes alive with this sense of personality, feeling as though it’s been playfully pieced together via its DIY recording into a curious, affectionate whole, from retro drum machines to op-shop purchased microphones and buzzing, analogue synths. A member of Big White, Bored Shorts, High Tails and more, Nick assembles tracks written over the better part of a decade for his debut solo release. In the process, he packages up different versions of himself throughout his early twenties into the tracks on 7am, capturing the uncertainty, bewilderment and sometimes-fatigue felt at the prospect of a new world opening up to you.
March 13, 2020
Experimental Melbourne quartet Big Yawn compress the various sides of their far-flung stylistic influences on their breathless debut LP, No!. A constantly evolving fusion of hypnotic krautrock, cavernous post-punk, industrial hip hop and club-ready dub and UK bass, the sound of Big Yawn explores and exploits the undefinable, in-between spaces of genre. Dynamic and unpredictable, No! refines their creative process, capturing a snapshot of the group’s live, freestyle jam sessions that drips with the sweaty spirit of their DIY approach. No! is the sound of four musicians pushing themselves to the outer limits of their studio alchemy, throwing everything together to find music that forces their bodies to move with it. Along the way, Big Yawn articulate an unmistakable collective personality, crafting one of the most electric and esoteric debuts of the year so far.
March 6, 2020
Nashville singer-songwriter Soccer Mommy returns with her second studio full-length, Color Theory, an unflinching self-portrait of everything that has slowly eaten away at her. Knottier, darker and more confrontational than her debut, Color Theory centres stories of mental illness and physical sickness, detailing Sophie Allison’s experience of growing up with a mother with a long-term, terminal illness across a three-act, episodic structure. She cloaks these emotional daggers inside poignant lyricism full of witty couplets, vivid imagery, heart-wrenching metaphors and an astonishing level of detailed precision. A homage to the music of her childhood, Color Theory marries the textures of late 90s alt-rock with Allison’s expanded studio capabilities and a newfound maturity present in her arrangements, intertwining her fuzzy guitar lines with strings, keyboards, drum machines and samples. Color Theory offers few answers for how to cope with death, trauma and the possibility that life is a series of losses, but Soccer Mommy’s honesty in confronting her own past is comforting and stunning. She emerges from her second record sounding resolved, with a clear-eyed statement on how love can outlast death and why you should keep on living anyway.
February 28, 2020
On Grimes’ latest record, Miss Anthropocene, the Canadian auteur cloaks her most inward-facing and honest work yet inside a vision of the world where personal, social and ecological disasters seem imminent and forever intertwined. Beneath the narratives and concepts of her fifth full-length, Grimes engages with these real-life concerns through her polished production prowess and the lens of her idiosyncratic obsessions: fantasy, science fiction, the world of pop music. But Miss Anthropocene is not a record about these issues so much as it is laced by the pervasive nervous energy, dread and anxiety that comes with them. Veering between dark and moody, manic and fun, natural and unnatural, it hits upon a kind of celebratory nihilism. In the five-year gulf between albums, Grimes has evolved into one of the world’s more challenging artists as she’s grown increasingly famous. Her return LP can be a sometimes frustrating but always fascinating experience. Like all Grimes records though, Miss Anthropocene is a beautiful mess, overflowing with imagination and her ability to constantly defy expectations, representing the point where her decade-long, multimedia art project reaches its apex.
February 21, 2020
Youthful habits come up against the impending responsibilities of settling down on King Krule’s third record, Man Alive! Inspired by his move away from the restless creativity of London to the North West of England and the birth of his first child, Archy Marshall’s latest offering charts his evolution from drink- and drug-soaked urban ennui to domestic bliss. Subterranean and murky, coloured by Marshall’s gruff drawl, poetic storytelling and South London swagger, Man Alive! is everything you’d expect from a King Krule record. But compared to previous releases, he sounds renewed by his fresh perspective, ushering in a more welcoming and tender interpretation of his typically formless blend of jazz, no wave, post punk and hip hop. Archy Marshall might still be riddled with angst, chronicling his battles with loneliness, self-doubt, nihilism and depression, but you can feel the gloom beginning to lift on his third LP. Rescued from his exhausting lifestyle, Man Alive! is a compelling document of pre-fatherhood and King Krule’s most absorbing distillation of his inimitable sound to date.
The Slow Rush
February 14, 2020
Five years after his world-conquering third record, Kevin Parker returns with his full immersion into pop on the The Slow Rush. A culmination of his previous albums, Tame Impala’s fourth outing revels in Parker’s brand of kinetic psychedelia, folding elements of disco, soft rock, funk, R&B and the ear of a modern day hip hop producer into his ever-rotating kaleidoscope. Parker buries this free-flowing approach to musical cross-pollination beneath his layered psych-pop symphonies with a breezy touch. More than on any other Tame Impala record, the songs on The Slow Rush are entire worlds to lose yourself in. Luxuriant and lavish, the seemingly endless sonic pleasures of his fourth record dreamily unspool themselves. The Slow Rush finds Parker in a contemplative mood, obsessing over the passage of time. Floating above in his Lennon-esque falsetto, he decries getting lost in nostalgia, reflects on his unlikely career trajectory, reckons with his relationship to his father and meditates on the uncertainty of the future. Kevin Parker has spent a decade now in a constant state of metamorphosis, continually redefining the Tame Impala sound while never losing grip of its essence. With his rich and inventive fourth album, he pulls it off again.
February 7, 2020
Middle Ouest is the amorphous, personal second LP from one of the New York underground’s most prolific figures, Bergsonist. A self-styled “sonic autobiography”, Middle Ouest voyages across cultural barriers and histories, connecting Bergonsist’s North African roots to an exploration of the history of dance music. With an unwaveringly genreless approach, the songs on her second record move fluidly from throbbing acid to sultry synth-pop to psychedelic sound design to icy techno and back again. Blending Moroccan drums with grainy, disorienting electronic pulses and Arabic melodies with hushed, mutated vocals, Bergsonist hits upon an incredibly tactile form of musical expression. An album which is in constant conversation with its creator, Middle Ouest is an attempt to fully capture her identity at the moment of becoming, an ode to her past, present and future self. In doing so, it also becomes Bergsonist’s most accomplished, vibrant and illuminating full-length statement to date.
January 31, 2020
Years after he helped pioneer the renaissance of British hip hop music, J Hus returns with his second full-length, Big Conspiracy. After a tumultuous personal year, Big Conspiracy is an altogether more introspective, smoother and self-assured release than his debut, balancing undeniable hooks with sombre meditations on race, street violence, colonialism, crime and identity. On his second record, J Hus embodies the sonic melting pot of modern Britain, sharpening an undefinable style that pulls on afrobeat, drill, dancehall, grime and garage, condensing and defining UK music while blazing a trail ahead for others to follow. Threading together these sounds of the African diaspora, Big Conspiracy is a record that could’ve only come out of a city like London. It’s an album distinctly about J Hus’ experience of being the child of African immigrants raised in a country where he feels adrift and misunderstood, growing up surrounded by a diverse array of influences and cultures, and then absorbing all of this into his own art. Along the way, Big Conspiracy becomes the record that solidifies J Hus as one of the most influential artists working in UK music right now.
Watch This Liquid Pour Itself
January 24, 2020
New York-based, Norwegian-born songwriter Okay Kaya returns with her second studio record, Watch This Liquid Pour Itself, an album that embraces the mundane ugliness of everyday life while perfecting her downbeat brand of pop music. Undercutting her breathy voice with blunt, sardonic, plaintively delivered lines that deal bluntly with sexuality, online living and mental illness, Okay Kaya comes across like a version of Sade for nihilists. With velvet, jazz-inflected melodies and pillowy synths, the self-excavations on Watch This Liquid Pour Itself pack a peculiarly blindsiding and resonant punch: The blows might land soft, but they sting. Never content, Okay Kaya suffuses her songwriting with a restless angst, colouring her bedroom productions with interpolated samples, manipulated vocals and looped drums. Watch This Liquid Pour Itself is an odd, emotionally varied record. In its weirdness, Okay Kaya’s second album captures the fluidity of modern living, the numb rush of living in a constantly connected-slash-disconnected world, and the anxiety of giving yourself over to someone else.