Cool Sounds just released their magnificent fourth album, Bystander.
It wouldn’t be absurd to say that Cool Sounds have been Melbourne’s crowning guitar pop band of the last half-decade. With a remarkable penchant to churn out songs that are both musically infectious and lyrically erudite, this inimitable six-piece are like a cold glass of water after a two-hour basketball scrimmage in the baking sun – they just hit the spot.
Kicking off their searing hot streak with sophomore piece, 2018’s Cactus Country – a stylistic pivot from their debut, Dance Moves – and continuing their momentum with More to Enjoy a year later, 2021 sees Cool Sounds arrive with Bystander – a nine-track album more implanted in the band’s alt-country subcurrent than ever before.
To celebrate the new release, we asked Cool Sounds’ Dainis Lacey, Nick Kearten and Ambrin Hasnain of ten Melbourne guitar pops bands currently catching their eye. In doing so, they offered one prefix to the piece: “Melbourne’s guitar pop scene is an embarrassment of riches and for every band we namecheck here, there are five more that are equally deserving of recognition. We’re spoiled as hell in this city.”
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SB are the best band. Audio Commentary blew me away when Liam [“Snowy” Halliwell] first sent it to me. He’s been writing amazing songs for ages in all of his other projects, but this record was just the most considered and interesting thing I’d heard him do. He uses repetition to amazing effect and the subtlety just makes all the songs really beautiful. Nat [Pavlovic], Emma [Russack] and Dylan [Young] add heaps to the project too and they’re a really epic live act.
Maybe I’m reading too much into Melbourne bands finding inspiration within their community, but I feel like the above mentioned Snowy Band album, Audio Commentary, owes a great deal to Truly Holy. Where Snowy dwells on grief though, Truly Holy’s Transporter turns the everyday into something magical.
Transporter washes over you in its stripped back Krautrock-esque simplicity. Songs stretch into their full potential and create something transcendent. One of my favourite Melbourne albums, it’s best experienced in isolation with headphones, apt for the current time.
I’m a huge fan of Emma Russack. She’s a really compelling songwriter and I’m really drawn to the honesty in her lyrics. Her songs and the way she approaches music is very genuine, she’s a great singer and a lovely person. She’s kind of been in jangle retirement, but she’s back now! Listen to her last album Winter Blues, it’s unreal.
Before ever listening to Program, a friend of mine explained the premise of their song ‘Motorbike’… I was sold. What I didn’t expect was the guitar riffs. They have some of the best low-key shredding going around. Sometimes Program feel a bit like a ’70s rock band pretending to be a Melbourne guitar pop band and to me that is just perfect.
Good Morning are also the best band and have been for ages. I remember seeing them years and years ago at the [Northcote] Social Club or something and they didn’t have tuner pedals, so just tuned to each other by ear. It was absolutely not in tune, but somehow still sounded really, really good. I don’t know any other bands that play together as effortlessly well as GM and they just churn out hit on hit. They rule, go GM.
For me, it is the endless surprises that make Eggy’s debut album Bravo so compelling. It’s reminiscent of Cate Le Bon’s album Crab Day, but taken further down an experimental path. Kooky, fun, exciting, with great performances that continually defy expectations.
Unabashed pop hits, wall to wall. Girlatones songs are insanely catchy and fun, but often really dark under the surface. Songs like ‘Pop Stars’ really get me with lines like, “It can be hard to take, when people don’t like your music, and your dreams don’t come true… but there’s nothing else that you can do and you’ve really got to see it through”.
Dannika just put out her debut album [Gems] and it rules. Her knack for melody and heart-on-sleeve lyricism is something else. A talented filmmaker and photographer too, it’s hard to not be really impressed by Dannika.
Sweet Whirl was the third artist we saw live post-lockdown and we were really excited because Patterns Of Nature was one of our favourite albums of 2020. After seeing Sweet Whirl perform solo a few times in the past, hearing a record backed by a band was such a wonderful surprise. Everything is still in service of her stories and her voice, both of which have been a constant highlight of Melbourne’s live music scene.
Bini and Dain
Dianas seriously shred. The first time I saw them play live, I was blown away by their ability to sing and shred simultaneously. Their songs are dynamic, textured and moody. I’m glad they moved here from WA and we can claim them as a Melbourne band now.
Bystander is out now via Spunk Records/Osborne Again. Cool Sounds will launch the album at the Brunswick Ballroom on Sunday February 28. Grab tickets here.