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Donny Benet: The Don

Article originally appeared on The Music Apr 6th 2018

Don’t despair, Donny Benet’s latest album contains the same mix of self-deprecation, satire and synth you’ve come to expect – sort of like the soundtrack to an ’80s summer coming of age comedy at the intersection of arpeggiation and assonance – but over the course of four albums Benet has polished his shtick so much that it’s almost impossible to hold on to.

Most of Donny’s charm comes from his simplicity and sincerity, the anachronistic auteur delivering droll woes over dubious loops. But there’s only so much mileage you can milk from the sad-boy romantic sound before the appeal starts to droop and Donny seems more like a Reddit brand ‘Nice Guy’ than a stand-up comedian with a backing band.

Maybe the world has changed in the four years since we spent the Weekend At Donny’s or maybe Donny hasn’t. All the tracks on The Don are individually bouncy things, rife with potential giggles and nostalgic beats, all delivered with an oddly well-kempt joie de vivre. But it’s a little too clean and manufactured, a bowl of refined sugar where one or two spoonfuls might be nice but anything more than that and you’re probably doing yourself a damage.

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Jaala: Joonya Spirit

Abridged article appeared in The Music (April 2018)

Jaala’s Joonya Spirit feels like a concealed middle finger held in the pocket of an oversized op-shop jacket worn by someone much cooler than you. There’s a prickish quality that’s intriguing rather than alarming, even if you know getting close might hurt a little. 

Tempos flare between slam dance, soul, and social dissonance. Tracks are quickly irreverent and seditiously relevant, bounced along by Cosima’s quirky delivery and salty, kawaii-killer attitude. It seems sort of grubby and immediate, but wipe away some of that oddly glamorous grime and there’s a thousand facets to be seen. Most of the song are restless with purpose, the sort of cohesive flux brought out in zoetrope, and it makes the schismatic timing all the more admirable for the cohesion it brings.

More Mangelwurzel than Hard Hold, Joonya Spirit manages to straddle both scenes, splicing the saccharine with the incisive. Schofield’s new synths slot seamlessly into the existing synergistic dissonance Moles and Jaala create together, adding a pop-ish quality akin to an unexpected balloon explosion. The overall effect is a compelling kind of propulsion, jagged and smoothly erratic.

Innocently itself, cool without care, Joonya Spirit is a confident release that deftly sidesteps the second album slouch.

Evelyn Ida Morris: Evelyn Ida Morris

Abridged article appeared in The Music (April 2018)

Evelyn Ida Morris’ debut step away from Pikelet fame invokes an incalculable amount of things; Amanda Palmer’s piano, Nick Cave’s film scores, a score of Guillermo del Toro films, classical parlour performances, performance art; punctiliously avant-garde and profound, most notably it is and isn’t any that, hewing closer to the calm heart of a maelstrom in the eye of a needle, something almost impossible to see and almost certainly unheard of.

In (re?)claiming Evelyn Ida Morris as an artist and not merely a member of a growing concern, Morris has dived directly into the heart of individualism in a frankly startling and perversely intimate way. It’s welcoming yet obtuse and certainly not for everyone, which is subjectively the heart of it and the gnawing appeal it wields. 

Every piece carries something cascading and desperate. A haunted timbre like an infectious susurrus blowing through the eaves. Everything is tuned to a maddening key, somewhere in the range of knife sharp, and the percussion does pierce but it’s the occasioning of Morris’ voice, dabbed selectively throughout, that truly captivates.

Evelyn Ida Morris has made something starkly, unexpectedly special, a melodious manifesto  that offers an unadulterated glimpse into a single soul.

Flowertruck: Mostly Sunny

Article originally appeared on The Music Mar 12th 2018

Flowertruck hauls around a pretty particular kind of sensibility. Something not quite akin to irreverence or satire, it’s a brand of impassioned nonchalance that has less to do with apathy and more to do with a sort of lackadaisical confidence drenched in a summer pop malaise that feels just as Australian as lead vocalist Charles Rushforth’s Strine patois.

The group’s debut LP seems to have grown directly from their first EP Dirt, deploying the same mixture of buoyant melodies and melancholic deliveries, but the overall sound is fuller and more mature without losing the seed of what made it worth cultivating. Mixed and mastered with a light touch by some notable names, the compositions are polished but not overproduced, allowing every element a chance to shine, whether that’s a kicking snare, banging tambourine, or lyrical bon mot.

Starting with Enough For Now – a song that can be summed up as saying “you’ll do” (in the best possible way) – and winding up with Come Across, a cheeky self-deprecating treatise that has the band apologising for itself with a smirk and a wink, Mostly Sunny feels like some bloke you know spinning a year’s worth of yarn.

Clear, confident and considerately paced, Mostly Sunny is the start of a bright future.

Special Guests …and More

Lowtide: Southern Mind

Article originally appeared on The Music Jan 15th 2018

Lowtide’s latest is a feet-first affair, like a few crushing seconds of free falling stretched into an afternoon of self-reflection.

Gabriel Lewis’ chords burst into the atmosphere with cotton-wool softness, simultaneously surrounding and supporting Anton Jakovljevic’s almost-absentminded percussion and Lucy Buckeridge’s languid strumming and wistful incantations. Full of more body and texture than a luxury latte, Southern Mind is outwardly facing shoegaze at its finest, even if that feels like staring through a foggy window.

Much like meditation, it’s not about turning the volume up but rather turning everything else down and, consequently, it carries some of the same pitfalls for the perennially restless.

Ayla: Let’s Talk Monday

Article Originally appeared on The Music Jan 12th 2018

Welcome to Ayla, the Sunshine Coast sequel to Lorde and Florence Welch (sorry, but the comparisons are going to get made). Ayla exhibits one of those classically expansive voices that seems to reach five years deep into the solar plexus.

For her second EP, Ayla has revisited two of her earlier tracks and brought forth four more. Experimenting with new recording techniques, there’s salon-style volume added everywhere but most of the compositions are not rudimentary exactly just discreetly layered and somehow demure, consistently yielding to their mistress’ voice. It’s perfect in a supplicating way, set dressing for soliloquy, but it means the instrumentation never quite feels like an equal partner.

Ayla’s voice is always centre stage, yet each of the tracks has its own set of supple hooks, literal and figurative, and searches endlessly for a way under the skin. Particularly, the balladic quality of New Furniture provides some meaty emotional resonance by leaning a little into country composition and Porcelain Doll displays a cascading and hypnotic choral lilt.

Like the ball that hops across karaoke script, Let’s Talk Monday is a fun and bouncy little distraction, but no matter how high it bounces you always know where it’ll land.

Miss Blanks: Diary Of A Thotaholic

Article originally appeared on The Music Nov 15th 2017

Diary Of A Thotaholic is not your average Adelaide hills skip-hop or suburban-boi cyphering, this is international grade, female-focused, dis-rap, borderline hip hop erotica from an artist pulling triple duty to rep a trio of disastrously underrepresented community facets.

It would be easy to say Miss Blanks is reading her cues from previous fem-power archetypes, but it would be reductionist in a way that runs counter to the revelrous freedom on show. DOAT basks in its explicit nature but doesn’t rely on it. While it is unabashedly graphic and deliciously brash, none of it feels excessive nor does it court pointless controversy. It doesn’t ask to be a think piece about empowerment, sexual awareness, body positivity or any other topical discourse. Instead, it straight up takes creative parity as a surety. In that regard, Miss Blanks is just doing what the bulk of her ostensibly cis peers have been doing for decades. Let her go, let her keep killing it, those misconceptions should be dead by now anyway.

Miss Blanks has her own tongue pressed firmly to cheek, it’s up to you to throw down this album and consider your own tongue placement.

The Bear Hunt: Fallen On Deaf Ears

Article originally appeared on The Music Oct 13th 2017

The obvious problem with The Bear Hunt’s new EP is that it’s not an LP. Any issue you have beyond that should evidently be with society, because Fallen On Deaf Ears doesn’t actually feel like an EP so much as an open letter to the See You Next Tuesday’s of the world. There’s an unrequited rage seething inside every chord, vocal or otherwise, a furious and frenetic yet thoughtful rhetoric delivered with percussive punch and incisive timing. It’s the audio equivalent of winning an argument you didn’t start and never wanted. Here’s hoping the world keeps sucking enough to get a full-blown album soon.

Weezer: Pacific Daydream

Article originally appeared on The Music Oct 24th 2017

By now you either like Weezer or you don’t, or you did and now you really don’t.

Their eleventh album, Pacific Daydream, sounds suspiciously young, the audio equivalent of a couple kids in a trench coat or one adult band wearing a teenager’s T-shirt. Honestly, the bulk of the tracks feel more like a Weezer musical as written by One Direction, like they were aiming for top of the pops by way of paint by numbers construction and bland overproduction.

Despite a few classic Rivers Cuomo compositions, QB Blitz and Sweet Mary through the middle, the hooks aren’t catchy so much as insidious and you could easily mistake them for any number of one-off festival headline fade-aways that dominate for a crucial week or two before dissolving back into the primordial musical ooze that spawned them. It’s not the sort of sound that usually happens at the end of a band’s lifecycle.

What was once a boyish proto-geek genuflection is now a group of 40-somethings crooning over pyrrhic rhythms about beaches and heartbreak while the world gently burns. The results feel accordingly off-putting, not nearly as vast or grand as the Pacific Ocean, roughly as valuable as a daydream and just as memorable.

Various: Twin Peaks (OST) / Twin Peaks (Music from the Series)

Article originally appeared on 4ZZZ Sep 29th 2017

Have you heard about Twin Peaks? Well the internet has and it’s gone ahead and explained it far more lucidly than David Lynch’s shrugs ever could. It’s back, anyway, peak Peaks hype. Well, been and gone, actually, and left the soundtrack behind, a twin disc release that’s part nostalgia bomb, part zeitgeist heist, part curatorial curio. It’s an official score and a diegetic OST that hangs its entire value on the chasing and cataloguing of ungraspable Tulpa.

So, if you aren’t part of the cult then why the hell would you want to drink the Kool-Aid? Oh, maybe it’s because Angelo Badalamenti has been an instrumental composer for some of screen’s finest achievements: National Lampoon’s Christmas VacationHoly Smoke!The Wicker Man, not to mention Law & Order, the film that birthed 70 years of procedural pleasure and a sting that just won’t quit. On top of that noise, David Lynch is actually a badass curator and odd little experimental artist in his own right; the kind of presence that people flock around to applaud while asking their neighbour, “What the heck did that mean?”

Well, the meaning has to be about the value in each track right? Sure. Anything that can smash around between Blunted BeatzEddie VederZZ Top, and Otis Redding is worth at least a little look right? Yes, of course, but then maybe you get a little more curious, you’re saying, what the heck do these songs have to do with a show that everybody claims to understand but everyone including the creator is dubiously vague about even at their most verbose, then the next thing you know you’re twenty-five years deep in an unresolvable circular goddamn art piece screaming helloooooooooo at the world with a big damn smirk feeling smug that you’re in on a joke nobody gets but claims the journey of not getting it is actually the joke. So um, RIP Bowie, RIP Log Lady, RIP pop culture man, because here we are, neck deep in the event horizon with no idea what year this is and a glowing ball of light ready to burst out of our collective faces.

Bonus points for keeping your copy wrapped in plastic.

Ibeyi: Ash

Article Originally appeared on The Music Sep 25th 2017

Singing in mixed English, French and Yoruba, Ibeyi have a unique voice, but their position as a potential voice for an ostensibly outsider perspective and the dignified potency they wield it with makes them distinct. Ash is both persecuted and powerful in equal measure, something that feels less like balancing than soaring. Sparse and otherworldly percussion interspersed with found sounds and hypnotic harmonics, it’s sonically sumptuous but thematically sharp enough to cut you from the first chord. This isn’t just good music, it’s important.

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis: Superscope

Article originally appeared on The Music Sep 25th 2017

Rolling around in their antiquated sounds, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis have landed far more than they’ve missed, and they’ve always played with distinctive mirth, but their fourth time out feels flat as hell, almost as if they had nowhere else to go after Smoking In Heaven.

Pinpointing that lack in Superscope is as easy as finding a hole in the dark, all you can do is say that something’s missing. Structurally the pieces are there, but they lock together with the dry joie de vivre of a Swedish construction manual.

Despite a few standout tracks, and the Durham girls outshining their brother, most of the songs feel dutiful rather than doting. Oh, Lewis still lets out the odd exceptional wail and there’s a whole lovesick redemption through-line to enjoy if you care to construct the narrative, but Kitty, Daisy & Lewis really make you work for that emotional oomph, then they even spoil that by serving Broccoli Tempura as the last track. It sounds roughly as delicious as it sounds and works wonderfully as something for venues to play while rousting patrons after last call.

Superscope lacks some intangible element, but still serves a small plate of passable tracks. Unfortunately just having the right ingredients doesn’t default to making meals taste great.

Jordan Rakei: Wallflower

Article originally appeared on The Music Sep 18th 2017

If you’ve woken in a sweat worrying about Jack Johnson putting down his acoustic and picking up a Korg, don’t worry, Jordan Rakei already has you covered. After shedding his debut, Cloak, Rakei has picked up a collection of sensitivities to add to his soul style, steering away from the rougher auteur elements that originally endeared or intrigued – ambient deviations and break-beat constructions – sliding instead into an introspective funk. Rakei’s rhythms are skin-rakingly soothing and his voice is anachronistically attenuated to an evaporated era, singing Wallflower as a shy piece of work, a current-smoothed river stone sparkling in a bed of thousands.

Kedr Livanskiy: Ariadna

Article originally appeared on The Music Sep 7th 2017

Where last year’s January Sun carried strange warmth wrapped in cold Siberian grit, Ariadna radiates light without giving off heat. Kedr Livanskiy’s latest is dangerously indistinct at times, walking you through a synth-based tundra where any distinguishing landmark is a meagre joy celebrated simply for being distinct in its surrounds. The halfway mark holds a small spoken word beacon that hasn’t respite, revelry, or revelation but is rather a reminder you might want to visit more hospitable climes. Maybe it takes patience to traverse, though there doesn’t seem to be enough payoff for it to matter unless your desire for indecipherable Euro-gaze pop is unusually high.

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