Best New Music Reviewed: Springtime, Emma Donovan, Acid Safari and more
23.09.2021

Best New Music Reviewed: Springtime, Emma Donovan, Acid Safari and more

Emma Donovan
Words by Augustus Billy

We search far and wide to bring you the best new music from Australia and around the world each fortnight, expertly reviewed for your listening pleasure.

Last week in our best new music reviews, we had spots for Drapht, Mike Noga, MOD CON, Troye Sivan and many more. Check it out here if you missed it, otherwise, read on…

Springtime – ‘Will to Power’

According to Nietzche’s concept of the “will to power”, you can desire something, but you ought to also desire resistance to having your primary desires satisfied. In this way, not only will you never achieve permanent satisfaction, but you’ll be in a constant state of becoming.

How does this relate to ‘Will to Power’, Gareth Liddard, Jim White and Chris Abrahams’ first single as Springtime? In their work with Tropical Fuck Storm, Dirty Three and The Necks, the group’s constituents have never followed a straight path to amassing pop cultural capital. Creatively, they’ve actively looked to overcome boundaries that had otherwise rarely been challenged. 

This continues on ‘Will to Power’. Though, if you’d have told me Liddiard’s partnership with the drummer and pianist from Australia’s two premier avant-garde and rock-adjacent instrumental combos would result in one of his catchiest songs in years, I’d have laughed out loud. That’s what we have here, however, and it’s an addictive one too; all but removing any barriers to listener satisfaction.

Emma Donovan & the Putbacks – ‘Home’

Emma Donovan & the Putbacks tuck into a nasty G-funk groove on ‘Home’, taken from their second LP in 12 months, Under These Streets. It’s probably more Budos Band or Badbadnotgood than Dre, but there is something badass about the band’s commitment to repeating the same three chords for five minutes. 

Of course, they’d struggle to do so with such satisfying results were it not for Donovan’s always-engaging lead vocals. Emma Donovan does not know how to sing without putting her whole body into it. I mean that physically, in the way her voice sounds, but also in terms of where the song comes from spiritually.

‘Home’ is not an outwardly cheery song, but this lends further credence to its core message of having found durable, rewarding love. The sort of love, Donovan says, that makes her want to “live my best.”

Emma Russack & Lachlan Denton – ‘Done My Time’

If we’re to view the lyrics of ‘Done My Time’ as exposition, Emma Russack is moving back home. She fled the sleepy vibes of her remote coastal hometown long ago, seeking the flashing lights and dense social networks of the city, giving little thought to whether she’d ever return. But now, she’s “done [her] time” and “want[s] to hide.” 

How true to life this is, I don’t know, but that matters little when it comes to assessing the impact of this song. ‘Done My Time’ is a wistful pop song, with Russack tangibly communicating the feeling of being torn between two poles. But while it’s a patient account of Russack’s journey of acceptance and return to simplicity, she never sounds completely convinced it’s the right move.

Phil Fresh ft. Rissa – ‘On the Low’

‘On the Low’, Phil Fresh’s team-up with Sydney neo-soul singer Rissa, is a cruisy sex jam with co-production from Phil’s regular collaborator, Kwame. The title refers to a couple who’re keeping mum about their frequent hook-ups. “We don’t even talk girl, we just light it up,” sings Phil in the chorus.

It feels a little bit like listening to the sex fantasies of a guy with commitment issues and too much confidence, but the track’s easy-going nature and Rissa’s integral presence prevent it from seeming coercive or downright arrogant. 

Phil has great flow and much aptitude as a singer, too, while the music video – filmed in lockdown – shows he’s not afraid to be the butt of the joke. It also helps that he and Rissa have genuine chemistry. If you’re nostalgic for the days when ‘Kick, Push’ was one of JTV’s most played, this’ll scratch the itch.

Grace Sanders – ‘Scrolling’

‘Scrolling’, the latest from Perth artist Grace Sanders, could appear on a soundtrack album for Sally Rooney’s new novel, Beautiful World Where Are You. In its opening verse, Sanders sings of “seeing something that I wish I hadn’t” while scrolling on her phone in bed. It mirrors the behaviour of Eileen, one of Beautiful World’s central characters, who’s prone to tracking the online movements of her ex more than six months after they split. 

In both cases, the protagonist doesn’t seem driven by a self-destructive impulse, but by a desperate urge to discover whether they ever really mattered. “Am I just a reminder of the things you thought you used to care for?” Sanders sings in the chorus of ‘Scrolling’, borrowing a melody from Beyonce’s ‘Sorry’ while she’s at it. 

‘Scrolling’, although forlorn, is musically forward-facing. It takes its cues from the prevailing hyper-pop movement, a kind of pop music that – much like Rooney’s novels – absorbs and propagates the prominent communication methods of the early 2020s.

Moss ft. BRIA – ‘Speed Dial’ 

Brisbane producer Moss recently grabbed attention with ‘Sabre Teeth’, the winning entry in this year’s Triple J Unearthed DIY Supergroup competition. For his next move, the Wadawurrung man brings in Brisbane vocalist Bria to construct a bass- and trap-influenced account of online dating dissatisfaction.

It starts off sounding not unlike the piano ballads of Demi Lovato or Lana Del Rey before doing a 180 in the chorus, as Moss summons enough subterranean bass frequencies to trigger a 6.0 magnitude earthquake. 

The drama generated by this contrast is an apt analogue for the sort of mania depicted by Bria’s lyrics. “Saw that you’ve been calling / I haven’t called in forever,” she sings at the song’s beginning, introducing a power imbalance that grows more complicated as the song goes on.

Mazy – ‘Flowers’

The latest single from Sydney trio Mazy sounds like Britpop, neo-psychedelia revivalism. But then, the leaders of those movements – Creation Records bands like Primal Scream and Oasis – were, at their core, canny ‘60s revivalists. So would it be more accurate to call this a ‘60s throwback? Or is it a copy of a copy?

Really, none of these tags do justice to ‘Flowers’, because labelling something a copy implies it’s without an identity of its own. Mazy mightn’t be ruthless boundary-breakers, but the band displays a spirit of experimentation on ‘Flowers’ that indicates emulation is not the end game.

Lyrically, ‘Flowers’ could either be about taking a trip (of the psychedelic variety) or feeling the inertia of lockdown. The acid-house departure that comes two thirds of the way through the track signals the band have a promising future in trip-soundtracking.

Acid Safari – ‘Early Spring or End of Summer’

Melbourne via Berlin producer Acid Safari will release his debut album next year. The upcoming taster EP, Eighth of August, is an introduction to his rhythmically dense techno sound, qualities that are emphasised on the Chiara Kickdrum remix of ‘Early Spring or End of Summer’.

The song’s original version is the one that really caught my ear, however. It’s a gloomy ambient track that forgoes the insistent beats and careering percussion that’s prevalent elsewhere on the EP. Instead, the bass hovers and trembles as synth chords rise and dissipate like plumes of dry ice vapour. 

It shows there’s more to Acid Safari than his harder tracks might suggest, which bodes well for the full length ahead. 

The EP comes out October 8. Keep track of Revolver Upstairs’ record label releases here.