The best new music from around Melbourne, the whole of Australia, and even the world, expertly reviewed each fortnight for your listening pleasure.
Last week in our best new music reviews, we had spots for Arca and Sia, GRAZER, Keli Holiday, San Joseph and many more. Check it out here if you missed it, otherwise, read on…
Alex Lahey – ‘Spike the Punch’
There’s a line towards the end of Alex Lahey’s new lockdown-ending pop rock tune, ‘Spike the Punch’, that speaks to the anxiety some will be feeling as the opportunity to socialise is reinstated: “It’s always been you and me and that’s the only thing I’ve ever known,” sings the Melbourne songwriter.
In the context of the song, Lahey is speaking from a place desire, of wanting to keep her lover all to herself. But it’ll resonate with anyone who’s attained a unique sense of equilibrium and ease in cohabitation through these many months of lockdown.
There’s no hint of hesitation in Lahey’s delivery, mind you. Working with songwriter Gab Strum (aka Japanese Wallpaper), ‘Spike the Punch’ is equipped with the sort of power pop chorus that’d make Rivers Cuomo jealous and chord changes that’d go down a treat in a Troye Sivan song.
The Buoys – ‘Drive Me Home’
The Buoys aren’t keeping their cards close to their chests on ‘Drive Me Home’, the closing track on the Sydney quartet’s new EP, Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster.
The song is delivered from the perspective of someone who knows their relationship is all but done. Things have become “stale”, there’s distance between them, and while they might dream of “better days”, the reality is miserable.
But the band’s performance is anything but apologetic or regretful. It’s an effusive send-off, made up of major key progressions, pop-punk energy (more Undertones than Blink 182) and loud-loud-louder dynamics. As a consequence, the repeated refrain, “I’ll figure it out, without you around,” feels considerably more hopeful than it might’ve had done were it couched in a subtler arrangement.
SO.Crates – ‘Fresh Gold Bloom-Age’
(Bedroom Suck Records)
Jazz-rap duo SO.Crates have never received the cred they deserve, at least not from the wider listening populace. As for whether ‘Fresh Gold Bloom-Age’ will be the release to remedy that, I’m not my holding my breath. But that has nothing do with the quality of the song itself.
The pair’s new single is a luminous and breezy Native Tongues homage, with vocalist Cazeaux O.S.L.O. offering a circuitous and occasionally psychedelic embrace of love. We don’t mean love in the romantic sense; but rather, love as a choice, as a world view.
O.S.L.O hasn’t put his blinkers on – the song still includes references to “Black Wall Street”, Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu and “a tribe of witches that blend wombs from private stock.” But O.S.L.O. and his partner in crime, Skomes, use this mellow groove to assert the dignity of all people: “Seven billion plus, each a universe.”
Jesswar ft. Erica Banks – ‘Bad Like Riri’
“Fuck all of y’all. Y’all motherfuckers better pay. You all make enough money off of me, bitches. Whatchu talking about free tickets? Free ticket these nuts.” Footage of a young Rihanna yelling these words at a pack of salivating paparazzi while leaving a Hollywood nightclub in a chauffeured SUV can be found on YouTube.
A looped sample of this indignant refusal can also be heard throughout Pasifika rapper Jesswar’s new single ‘Bad Like Riri’. Jesswar uses the titular simile to demonstrate the style and esteem of her posse. “All my girls are bad and boujee,” she raps towards the end of the song. “All my girls are bad like Riri.”
The track was put together with Melbourne-based producer R.F.P, who pulls off a slightly garish ‘00s throwback that’s bang on target. Big kick drums and programmed bass notes provide an apt platform for Jesswar’s offhand boasts, such as “Uh, feelin’ buzzy, feelin’ cheeky, I don’t need you, but you need me.”
By the end of the song, however, the production begins to lag, having not lifted off from its initial high velocity. But it’s not enough to poison the thick vibes created by Jesswar and guest MC, Texan rapper Erica Banks.
Briggs ft. Troy Cassar Daley – ‘Shadows’
(Island Records Australia)
Move over ‘Old Town Road’; there’s a new country rap song vying for the crown. Though, while Lil Nas X’s criticisms of colonialism and the legacy of the slave trade were largely confined to the subtext, Yorta Yorta MC Briggs pulls no punches on his new collaboration with Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr songwriter, Troy Cassar Daley.
Where to begin? Perhaps with Briggs’ opening line: “I see the shadows, I see the gallows.” This is a song about murder, about genocide, and about bad faith portrayals of national identity. “They don’t wanna speak about the first battles,” Briggs says, referring to the settlers’ ongoing equivocations.
One of Briggs’ great gifts as a rapper and activist is that he knows there’s no such thing as meeting half-way when the rules of the game are rigged against you. “Who the fuck are you to civilize?” he asks the perpetrators of brutal and sustained subjugation.
Briggs isn’t the biggest commercial name in Australian hip hop, but his work is certain to stand the test of time.
Damon Albarn – ‘The Tower of Montevideo’
Damon Albarn’s upcoming album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows, is just his second as a solo artist, following 2014’s Everyday Robots. Much like that LP, Albarn’s new single, ‘The Tower of Montevideo’, is delivered with such a light and loving touch that we wish he’d devote more time to his solo work.
‘The Tower of Montevideo’ is a somewhat whimsical song, written about a historic tower in the titular Uruguayan capital. It’s a place where “hours slide off the page like clouds,” and the light from the tower shines all the way to neighbouring Argentina.
Albarn seems to float in and out of the tower’s rooms, while a baritone saxophone gently carries listeners towards a more romantic and less burdened place.
Check out this week’s best new record releases here.