To expect the unexpected is a safe approach to any new Ariel Pink record. For starters Pom Pom is the first album in a highly prolific career to be solely attributed to Ariel Pink, but by his own admission it’s also the most collaborative. Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, and famed/infamous Kim Fowley of ‘70s rock group The Runaways contribute to the collage, along with other band members (including Melbourne's own Shags Chamberlain). The result is a characteristic, unpredictable mix of wistful AM radio rock, strange tape textures, stream of consciousness skits, and stream of unconscious pop, including standout single Put Your Number In My Phone
Interstate 40 Music/Remote Control
The anticipated new album from Melbourne's Black Cab is another inspired collection of songs, this time themed broadly around the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Evoking the tension, exhilaration and sonic spectrum of the time, Black Cab once again prove masters of mood and narrative. Early electronic, analogue dance music, synths, and spoken word samples are all employed to craft a unified record that extends on their earlier post-punk and psychedelic styles. Crafted over several years, the LP also features contributions from Lowtide's Lucy Buckeridge, Mon Brumby, Shags Chamberlain, and former Black Cab members Steve Law, Anthony Paine, Rich Andrew and Alex Jarvis. Needless to say, it's a Gold Medal performance all around.
Chapter Music / Dopeness Galore
Café Romantica is the brilliant second record from friends and collaborators Andras and Oscar. Otherwise known as Andras Fox and Oscar Key Sung, the two Melbourne artists have spent years refining their craft, and earning a reputation for their hip hop, boogie, R&B and dance music. Their forces combine on this album to produce another collection of instant classics. The title is a nod to the after-hours eatery where the two would rest and relax following work in the studio, a place to meet friends and make memories. The music draws from early analogue house recordings, and evokes the gently melancholic, romantic haze of the early hours of the morning. There’s traces of modern soul, 80s funk, and a distinctive local vocabulary of sounds unique to Andras and Oscar.
Highway 20 Records
An extraordinary double-album from an artist whose work has been instrumental in defining and shaping alt-country and Americana music. The expansive collection presents Lucinda Williams' lyricism at its most incisive and illuminating, encompassing her personal experiences and the whole human condition. Musically the country blues, soul and rock arrangements are rich and generous in detail, with each musician performing at their best.
Two Bright Lakes/Remote Control
Melbourne four-piece The Harpoons display great versatility as songwriters, referencing and experimenting with both traditional and contemporary soul styles. Whether it’s the extraordinary vocals, the playful pop melodies, the heartbreaking ballads, the modern beats or classic R&B rhythms, The Harpoons’ debut album "Falling For You" will have you falling for them.
C.W. Stoneking is an impressive artist with a distinctive approach to his craft. "Gon' Boogaloo" is his third record, and a timeless classic, combining blues, boogie, R&B, gospel, rock, calpyso and dancehall styles. Rich in invention, the record evokes the past but points to the everlasting vitality of the blues tradition.
'Our Love' represents a new chapter in Dan Snaith's evolution as a musician and producer. Direct, focused, immediate, and intricate, these new songs draw inspiration from classic dance styles, alongside modern electronic pop and disco. A companion to his previous album Swim, and a dedication to friends and fans, it's an outward-looking set that finds Caribou exploring Balearic, psychedelic, plaintive and euphoric musical moods.
"Havens Dumb" is the welcome return of acclaimed Victorian band Augie March, their first album since "Watch Me Disappear" in 2008. The melodic and lyrical skills of the band have only been sharpened in the intervening years. There's a sense of adventure, and a heightened level of ambition on this captivating collection of new songs. Lead singer Glenn Richards draws on themes of “time passing, loss, dislocation, distance, new hope and healthy anger” as the entire band play layered compositions of atmospheric pop, and understated, elegaic rock.
This is the second album in the past two years from the legendary singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen. An iconic figure, Mr Cohen has established a unique place in popular music, managing to capture the contradictions, pains and triumphs of the spirit in inimitable poetic style. Over an illustrious career Leonard's approach has remained difficult to categorise, presenting his own versions of soul, gospel, blues, rock and folk, lounge, and caberet. Popular Problems is another revelatory journey, filled with restrained hymns, personal reflections, and melodic ruminations.
Laura Jean's self-titled fourth album offers a collection of deeply reflective and finely crafted modern folk songs. With an extraordinary gift for storytelling, Laura conveys both her inner thoughts and the world around her with a profound eloquence. The arrangements are sparse, sometimes hauntingly minimal, but rich in detail and rewarding of careful, and repeated listening.
The debut album from Goat, 'World Music', was one of the great discoveries of 2012. The project of a Swedish collective, Goat drew upon a wealth of influences and succeeded in sounding like nothing else. The mystery continues with their second album, and their unparalleled power remains. 'Commune' extends the group's sonic range, exploring regional rock, funk, psychedelic, spiritual and ritualistic styles. The result is a new collection of entrancing and compelling tracks, visceral, urgent and essential.
Spirit Level/Temporary Residence
Nick Zammuto is well known for his work as one half of The Books, a pioneering duo with a catalogue of painstakingly detailed compositions, surprising samples and song structures. This is Nick's second record released as Zammuto, and is every bit as playful in its approach as any of his earlier work. Perhaps the arrangements are slightly more pop oriented, but the album still draws from a wide array of inspiration, including experimental rock, jazz, and electronic traditions.
Rob Snarski is a highly skilled singer, songwriter and musician. For twenty five years he's shared those gifts as a member of Melbourne's beloved band The Blackeyed Susans. After such a celebrated careeer, it's was something of a surprise then to discover this record is his solo debut. It's also a revelation to hear these poignant, sparsely orchestrated songs, weaving together folk, rock, blues and ballads. Collaborating with friend and bandmate Dan Luscombe, and working with an impressive range of guest musicians, 'Wounded Bird' is deeply articulate and affecting.
It's difficult to discuss California's underground garage rock hero Ty Segall's music without reference to his prolific rate of output. This may be the seventh studio album in six years released under his own name, but he's recorded and produced over 17 more in other guises. And even that doesn't count the numerous singles and EPs he's worked on with other bands. So it's notable that Ty spent the better part of a year on this record, taking his time to produce what may be his strongest album to date. The song structures are playful but focused, and the instrumental arrangements more diverse. As ever though, Ty's signature frenzied guitar melodies and fuzzed out psych rock textures remain a powerful sonic force on this record.
August 15 - August 24
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'Fan Fiction' is the latest solo album from Melbourne's Geoffrey O'Connor, an artist well known for earlier work in Crayon Fields and as Sly Hats. Previous album 'Vanity Is Forever' introduced Geoffrey O'Connor as a reclusive synth-pop sophisticate descended from the eighties, and Fan Fiction picks up the story three years later. Bolder, brighter, and more expansive (and expensive), it's another intriguing collection, combining late night rock, synth-wave and even dance music styles.
Having now produced eight albums over a career spanning more than two decades, 'They Want My Soul' is the welcome return of Texan group Spoon. It's a welcome return to the combination of pop punk, rock and synth styles that they write and perform so well. The album is also notable as the first time Spoon have worked with other producers. On 'They Want My Soul' Joe Chiccarelli and Dave Fridmann offer their skills to proceedings, as they have in the past for acts including The Strokes and The Flaming Lips.
Spunk / Drag City
LA artist Tim Presley has maintained an impressive work rate since his first release in 2010. He's collaborated and performed with a range of artists, including legendary English band The Fall and fellow LA musician Ty Segall, and along the way become a champion of lo-fi garage and psych rock writing. For this latest release, Tim returns to his celebrated collaboration with Ty Segall. The production quality is notably clearer than on Tim's traditional 4-track bedroom recordings, but the idiosyncratic charm of Presley's writing is stronger than ever. His vintage '60s pop, west-coast psych, and acid-garage evoke classic artists like The Byrds, The Kinks, and Buffalo Springfield amongst others, but retain a distinct individuality.
Palaceer Lazaro (aka Ishmael Butler of '90s hip-hop crew Digable Planets) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai 'Baba' Marai are a formidable musical force. Working together as Shabazz Palaces they push themselves to be daring and inventive, and invite listeners to follow. Their debut album Black Up was bold, painting with a broad palette of abstracted electronic beats, instruments and obscured soul samples. The space and echo of their earlier work is amplified in Lese Majesty, taking the record into deeper orbits of astral jazz and hip hop. There's a great power and intrigue in the lyrics also. On the track Ishmael, Palaceer states "All of our stories told in codes". Some songs here are clear and direct, others have a meaning to be understood slowly through careful contemplation.
The awaited second album from Luluc is rich, spare, subtle and striking. It's a glorious artistic achievement from a band with a highly considered songwriting approach. It's about six years since Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett released their debut 'Dear Hamlyn', and the intervening years have seen the two refine their craft even further. Basing themselves in Brooklyn, they've worked with Aaron Dessner who helped produce the new album. Luluc's gently orchestrated folk arrangements carry great emotional weight, and their lyrics linger with a rare poignancy.
XL Recordings/Remote Control
The project of London friends and musicians Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland (aka ‘J’ and ‘T’), Jungle offer one of the more distinctive and compelling debut albums of the year with their new self-titled LP. Fusing boogie, soul, funk and pop into new and adventurous forms, it's an exciting, inventive listen throughout.
The musical force of Melbourne's Total Control return with their second album, Typical System. Bringing a formidable wealth of experience and expertise, the band have again crafted a collection of songs that span, and extend upon, the traditions of punk, post-punk, new wave, and 80s underground pop and electronic styles. Total Control provide an engaging and elusive set - subtle and explosive - that shows the band as comfortable in creating order as embracing chaos.
The evolution of White Hex has been a fascinating one. Rising from the primordial rock swamp of earlier band Slug Guts, Tara Green and Jimi Kritzler offered a distinctly dark and textured post punk sound on their White Hex debut 'Heat'. 'Gold Nights', in contrast, finds a new expression for the duo in the sonic palette of early electronic music and new wave. The result is an intriguing and impressive mix of vibrant synth pop anthems, and industrial disco dirges.
Are We There is the fourth album from Brooklyn-based artist Sharon Van Etten, and the first to be self-produced. Building on an already accomplished career in incisive and insightful songwriting, the scale and scope of Sharon Van Etten's latest work is vast and impressive. Post rock guitars, keyboards, an omnichord, and electronic and percussive elements form the compelling musical backdrop to Sharon's powerful lyrical delivery. Both intimate and universal in nature, these songs capture Van Etten in complete control of her extraordinary craft.
'Stay Gold' is the third album from sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, and another superb demonstration of their singular skill in modern folk songcraft. Their melodies are memorable, their lyrics highly affecting, and harmonies as striking, and seemingly effortless as ever. The instrumental arrangements are grand in scale, drawing on the Americana of earlier work, as well as cinematic and orchestral pop influences.
HopeStreet Recordings/Rocket Distribution
Surf-rock, disco, psychedelic, and cinematic funk are all featured styles of The Bombay Royale. Inspired by the highly inspiring soundtracks of Bollywood, the group deliver both a reverential, and revolutionary, album of original recordings. The compelling songs build on the tremendous success and singular vision of their debut, ‘You Me Bullets Love’.