Fiona Apple remakes music in her own image on her extraordinary fifth full-length record, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Recorded entirely within her Venice Beach home, cabin fever percolates the raw, percussive sound of her eerily prescient fifth LP as Apple builds makeshift orchestras out of her surroundings. Across the record, she switches up tempos, time signatures and keys with a fearless urgency, creating bold experiments in song craft that contain almost no recognisable pop forms. Adhering to a logic that only she herself could articulate, the songs become a wild, impassioned attempt to mirror the chaos flying around in her brain. Lyrically, she details the multitude of ways that societal systems injure women and calls out the endless ways men find to fail them, with precise vignettes and conversational poeticism. It’s music which rages against conformity, the rules of songwriting and the patriarchy, not just through the deeply-felt stories she tells of young women growing up beneath these rules, but in every fibre of its being. Fetch the Bolt Cutters sounds as though it could collapse at any moment. Miraculously, it doesn’t. Amidst the record’s eccentricities, Apple produces an album which is compulsively listenable yet allergic to easy listening, full of catchy melodic hooks that gradually reveal themselves to you over time. Intense, claustrophobic, humourous, angry, heartbreakingly vulnerable, disarmingly joyous and profoundly human: Fiona Apple’s fifth album is all these things. Above all, Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a liberatory album, a refusal to be silenced anymore, an urgent desire to be heard.
Melbourne producer Roza Terenzi arrives with her futuristic and bombastic debut album, Modern Bliss. Following releases on Butter Sessions, Salt Mines, Dekmantel and more, Roza Terenzi’s first LP completes her transition from mainstay of the Australian electronic scene to ascendant star of the global underground. Transplanting the all-encompassing, genre-fluid approach of her immense DJ sets to the canvas of a full-length record, Modern Bliss is a playful yet cohesive collection that showcases Roza’s agility as a producer. Along the way, it journeys through hypnotic prog house, extraterrestrial techno and lush breakbeats amid Terenzi’s constant tinkering with unconventional combinations of sound. Simultaneously dreamy and driving, cerebral and physical, hard and soft, Modern Bliss is a study in contrasts, locating the commonalities between opposites through sound, texture and rhythm. An ethereal electronic universe suffused by her technicolour atmosphere, Modern Bliss is the most fully realised release from Roza Terenzi to date, a summary of the many diverse and evolving sides to one of Australia’s most exciting producers
Arriving in the midst of a global crisis, WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던, the first full-length project from Korean-American producer Yaeji, is a timely ode to the blisses of community and the simple joys of domestic life. Carried along by a hazy wistfulness and the diffuse energy of a mixtape, WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던 straddles the lines between dream pop, woozy hip hop and spacious, DIY house, making some surprising detours from Yaeji’s signature introverted club music into industrial, breakbeat and ambient. With its richly textured bed of chilled-out beats, sparkling melodies, Yaeji’s cozy production style and her ASMR-esque bilingual vocals, WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던 is more insular and inward-looking than her previous releases, adopting a diaristic quality that spotlights the emotionality of her songwriting. For Yaeji, making music has always been a deeply social and therapeutic exercise, and, with the help of a hand-selected cast of collaborators that reflect the communities she’s built in New York and beyond, she uses these moments of connection to counterbalance the mixtape’s moments of anxiety and loneliness, making the former all the sweeter. Ultimately, it’s Yaeji’s appreciation of community that distinguishes her debut mixtape from other prescribed self-isolation listening during this time. WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던 is her celebration of all the small pleasures we used to take for granted: family, friendship, routine.
Yves Tumor reintroduces themselves on their jarring and immediate fourth record, Heaven to a Troubled Mind. Stripping away the avant-garde pandemonium of their earlier work, Yves Tumor’s latest form is the most accessible incarnation of their persona yet, revealing a mercurial genius who buries brilliant pop songs beneath ever-increasing sonic tumults. With boundless creative imagination, Yves Tumor channels blues, funk and R&B into psychedelic soul and rock anthems for the chaos of the 21st century. For all its musical bedlam, though, Heaven to a Tortured Mind is a richly melodic and punchily concise record, adorned with resplendent guitar solos, dazzling brass sections and immaculate grooves. Swaying and raging, it’s the sound of pop history refracted through a contemporary mindset, earning comparisons to Bowie, Parliament or Funkadelic at their most revolutionary and whacked-out, pushing rock music to apocalyptic extremes. Emotionally and sonically, Yves Tumour’s fourth LP rarely lets up, a viscerally thrilling experience that compulsively defies expectations at every turn. In a career marked by transformation, Heaven to a Tortured Mind is their most audacious release yet, a strident move to the middle that never sounds like a compromise.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.