Album of the Week

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.

Milan Ring

Mangos
May 10, 2024

Mangos is a crowning moment for Sydney RnB, and one that arrives with the triumph of an artist that has long been a master of her craft. Milan Ring has been undeniably woven into the fabric of this city, and so FBi sounds the way it does because of her. The trajectory of being named Independent Artist of the Week in 2019 to winning the SMAC Award for Best Live Act in 2021 shows how much her music has meant to this city. This connection continues with Mangos, an outpouring of emotion. 

It’s an album grounded in her trademark instrumentation – percussive in a way that’s organic, melodic in a way that’s euphoric, every element injected with emotion. It elicits an intimacy that feels as if Milan was playing the record for you by candlelight in her home. There are songs grounded in forthright declarations of love, liminal instrumental moments afloat with spoken word recordings, flirtatious groove-driven numbers, and of course, Milan Ring guitar lines – soaring. You need only recall the beautifully expansive pink sky backgrounding Milan’s street stage set at FBi Turns 20, the sun setting on a perfect day, but forever rising for a Sydney artist whose music is made for the world.  

 

Bladee

Cold Visions
May 3, 2024

If anyone is to make me believe in God, it’s Bladee. His latest album Cold Visions is a surprise album that isn’t a surprise at all; quite fitting really. It’s a final victory lap, an ode for all there is left when there’s nothing left at all, expelling every little terrible thought into a flickering nightmare, a plea for atonement.

The album plays like an infinite scroll, reference after reference, after reference after reference… punctured only by echoes of depression, anxiety, paranoia, overthinking but also thoughtless dissociation. Vapid comments that usually feel extraordinarily empty are shared in such a way they seem extraordinarily profound. At some point, Bladee’s collaging of designer brands begins to exceed my vocabulary. G-Shock, Eastpak, Havianas, Prada Sport – that scrapes only the first half of the album.

Cold Visions is a blurring together of fleeting scenes, so you hear everything but remember nothing. Though a second hour committed to the album reveals a little more by way of narrating a familiar doom-soaked human decay – high buying smurfs off eBay, sponsored video ads and YouTube Shorts (‘ONLY GOD IS MADE PERFECT’), McDonald’s Happy Meals (‘SAD MEAL’), and cyclical isolation (“I don’t like people, I really don’t like people”). Perhaps also a few moments of intertextuality weaved in; Blade (1998) samples, and lyrics about shopping in Gucci stores.

To make a one hour album split into thirty tracks is to bid farewell to traditional song structure, favouring tracks bleeding into one another, only marked by redeclarations of “cold vision” echoing over rage beats, gritty mumbling, sweet samples, and soul-sinking hollow laughter. A minute passes and I’m already ten tracks deep, and peaking at the twentieth. Bladee’s back-and-forthing between sincerity and ludacris humour suspends Cold Visions in perfect uncertainty. Vocals, as tuned as they are tinged with an flawed off-centredness, aching for a little empathy in his one-liners. The production credits on the album are endless and, as expected, flawless – F1LTHY, Whitearmor, Yung Sherman, Skrillex all contribute, and the album is scattered with (multiple) verses from Yung Lean and members of Drain Gang.

Cold Visions is Bladee’s plunge of a cliff or leap of faith (two sides of the same coin), an unfaltering example of silly dry humour soaked in chilling fear. Bladee is entering Revelations, coping, grounded, either to ascend or to fall.

Still House Plants

If I don't make it, I love u
April 26, 2024

The cover art for If i don’t make it, i love u, the third record from London band Still House Plants, is somewhat amorphous. A rorschach-like blob of warm yellows, oranges and browns, it gives the impression, somehow, of moving, flowing outwards. It’s apt, because the songs it contains don’t always feel like songs, but more like sonic pulses; a jagged riff, a repeated drum pattern, a mantra-like phrase sent out across the canvas of the record. Carefully, patiently they’re built upon, until something closer to a “song” takes place, slowly unspooling itself.

But these songs never stay completely still. They take surprising left turns, slipping into uncertain trapdoors. The three members of Still House Plants sometimes bump and trip over each other – not messily, but almost deliberately. In these moments If i don’t make it, i love u feels closer to jazz than rock in spirit. Vocals, guitar and drums are all their own main character, telling their own story; combining in an interlocking, somehow congruent chaos. 

When viewed in full, back cover and all, that pulse-like cover art takes a more obvious shape: a heart. If i don’t make it, i love u is, yes, challenging, but also deeply sensitive. There’s an obvious beauty to singer Jess Hickie-Kallenbach’s voice. It’s soulful in the most literal sense of the word, as if she’s conjuring her entire body and soul; excavating both its deepest recesses and most immediate human thoughts. “I just want my friends to get me / I just want to be seen right.” But this beauty also manifests more subtly in David Kennedy’s hypnotic, heartbeat-like drumming and Finlay Clark’s quivering guitar: a minor chord often teetering forebodingly at the end of a longing riff.

It’s not so much that Still House Plants walk a line between aching love and anxiousness, but that the sum of these feelings is their constant. If i don’t make it, i love u is strange and at times confusing, but also warm and comforting. Ultimately, and most importantly, it evades real description. The music itself is its description. Like all great music, isn’t that the point?

1300

GEORGE
April 23, 2024

1300 need little introduction when it comes to their place in Sydney music. Since the release of their earliest singles ‘Brr’, ‘No Caller ID’ and ‘Smashmouth’ in 2021, and their Foreign Language mixtape in 2022, their latest mixtape GEORGE follows in natural progression and marks their first full release since signing to Eastern Margins. Three years has done a lot for the five-piece – Rakoh, Nerdie, Goyo, DALI HART, and pokari. sweat – but the mixtape offers everything you would expect from a perfect 1300 classic: unrelenting, furious energy and production that seeks to give a taste of every genre.

At just under half an hour, GEORGE is a tongue-in-cheek tape that offers a bit more edge than past releases and a release that keeps you catching your breath. Each track offers a new beat and genre, spinning variations of hip-hop, industrial and trap at each drop and featuring talents of sokodomo, EK, Easymind, and oddeen. The singles – ‘Ape Shit’, ‘GANTZ’ and ‘Lalaland’ – are now contextualised by their surrounding songs: ‘Follow Me’ is a slick, darker synth driven track, providing steady repetition – a welcome break from an exhilarating start. ‘Rock Lee’ leans into an earlier sound, grounding the mixtape firmly as a 1300 release. Spinning industrial, trap and K-pop is nothing new for the group however ‘Levitate’ stands as a remarkable highlight on GEORGE. Adding distorted, thrashing kickdrums to the mix, the track leans into gabber to take the tape through to an all-or-nothing, euphoric finish. 1300 are, at once, both a staple of hip-hop and a glimpse into its genre-bending future.

 

Nia Archives

Silence Is Loud
April 12, 2024

On Nia Archives’ debut album, Silence is Loud, she’s taking cues from the past – Britpop, punk, pop artists, and Amy Winehouse, to name a few. The album art itself – close up portrait, bright lids, union jack grills peeking out from behind glossed lips – puts a face to jungle music in a way it hasn’t had in a very long time. 

Despite this being her first full release, Nia Archives has long been one to watch. It’s been a steady incline for the Bradford artist since the release of her debut track ‘Sober Feels’ and the support it garnered over lockdown. Since then, she’s openly shaped dance and electronic music appreciation on an institutional level with MOBO awards, released two exceptionally-received EPs and, most recently, has added opening for Beyonce as one of her accolades. There’s much to love.

Opening Silence is Loud is its title track: a frantic energy of breakbeats with a note of loneliness makes its entry and is carried throughout the record. Tracks like ‘Cards On The Table’ and ‘Out of Options’ are earnest and easy-going surprises, marrying poppy acoustic guitar and piano progressions with relentless breaks that push and pull at the same time. Nia’s vocals are bright, almost scatting lightly over breaks and sometimes indulging in more soulful harmonies. Production remains exceptional across the album. Sounds ranging from synths, guitars, vocal lines, and every percussion remain articulate, never hidden. 

Silence is Loud is timeless and a testament to the impact Nia Archives is having and has already had over the past four years; an incredibly promising debut album.