Ball Park Music – Manny
For lovers of: the Dandy Warhols, Oasis, the Warlocks
Ball Park Music’s sixth album, Weirder and Weirder, delivers on its promise, coinciding with India-via-Madchester opener Manny, a paisley-printed raga that urges you to slow down and live life free of the screen to live. There’s more than a bit of playfulness to the episode, but it maintains a serious message and provides the perfect jumping-off point for the twisting, psychedelic album that follows. Another win for Brisbane’s best art pop band.
For more: Weirder and Weirder is out now. The band tours in June and July.
Local the Neighbor – Point Guard
For lovers of: M83, Ash, Arcade Fire
David Quested grew up in Darwin and his music has an innate sense of wide open spaces. Point Guard is a bright, driving pop song reminiscent of Springsteen when backed by the Stone Roses. This song is about wanting to open up and show someone the real you, take a chance and let your guard down. The guitars have that underwater sound, his whispered vocals invite you to pay attention, while a drum machine keeps the heady tune on cruise control. One of the benefits of being a wallflower is that you can recognize when it’s time to bloom.
For more: Listen to the previous single Cancel Me.
Montaigne – Make me feel this way…
For lovers of: Imogen Heap, Bjork, David Byrne
Montaigne’s flirtation with Eurovision continues to pay off, as she teams up with fellow contestant Icelandic artist Daði Freyr for this piece of supernatural pop music. Lyrically, this song is all emotion and emphasizes a new love that makes her ‘feel’ a lot: at home, loved, cute, normal. Musically, though, it sounds like the output of a newly conscious computer programmed on the entire Bjork discography. Montaigne uses her voice in many wonderful ways here: it’s operatic, but with a rhythmic, robotic quality, like it ticks like a clock and rings like a cash register. It’s a unique production, and when Freyr comes in, it’s like a disturbingly disembodied voice. Montaigne recently collaborated with David Byrne, and it’s his mix of heart and machine that this song most resembles. A strange pop trip.
For more: Watch the fitting Sims-esque music video from Thomas Rawle, once of the underrated band Papa Vs Pretty.
Alex the Astronaut – Haircut
For lovers of: Guided by Voices, Mika, Courtney Barnett
“New hair, new you,” the saying goes and while that’s a rather banal sentiment, it often rings true. Alex the Astronaut describes the power associated with an image change, by bringing one closer to their true self. She does so with the most upbeat, bubbly tune she’s released yet: it’s a car dance tune that drives shamelessly close to novelty territory with mentions of Uno, hot chips, Grey’s Anatomy, her buddy Gina. (I swear there’s even a sliding whistle in the mix somewhere.) Haircut celebrates the simple, messy joy of discovering who you’re meant to become — or at least feel like you’re getting closer to it.
For more: Alex the Astronaut’s upcoming album, How to Grow A Sunflower Underwater, is out July 22.
Johnny Hunter – Dreams
For lovers of: Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears For Fears, Faker
The frontman of this Sydney foursome, Nick Hutt, is clearly indebted to the British post-punk singers of the 1980s, and occasionally borders on the theatrical, but this can be easily forgiven if you anchor a tune as strong as Dreams. With a timeless chorus that could skip exams and graduate straight to WS-FM, a shimmering chorus guitar and that propulsive propulsion through city streets in the best of British pop, this song will hopefully find fans still listening to the Donnie Darko. and Breakfast Club soundtracks. A mighty tune, expertly rendered and delivered with the heart. What else is there really?
For more: Debut album Want will be released on June 24. Listen to previous single The Floor and Life.
Party Boxes feat. Nick Cave – Macca the Mutt
For lovers of: Kirin J Callahan, the birthday party, liars
Nick Cave’s early Birthday Party appearances were filled with smacking violence, discordant, mean and uncompromising. The band was expected to fall into the abyss, but instead they morphed into the Bad Seeds and slowly became elder statesmen, craftsmen of Gothic piano ballads that dwelt on love and death. If he started now, Cave would produce songs like this one from Party Dozen (Kirsty Tickle and Jonathan Boulet’s new project), with screeching shards of sonic attack, barely perceptible vocals sung by the bell of a saxophone, and neuron-thumping rhythm tracks. Cave’s vocal presence would have gone unnoticed had it not come to its credit, but his sonic influence is everywhere in this song – in the uncompromising vision, the waves of noise and the disturbance it will cause you.
For more: Album The Real Work will be released on July 6. Party Dozen opening for Spiritualized on June 16 as part of Vivid Sydney.
The Whitlams – The Day John Sattler Broke His Jaw
For lovers of: Perry Keyes, Paul Kelly, Maurice Frawley
Three decades after forming one of Australia’s most beloved boozy bar bands, Tim Freedman has suddenly found the Whitlams a regular on country radio. Rather than the result of a late right-hand turn, it’s this brilliant cover of a Perry Keyes classic that got him there. Keyes is one of the most underrated songwriters in the country; Freedman has long been singing his praises and now sings his lines (sorry!). This heady anthem refers to the legendary 1970 rugby league incident when Rabbitohs captain John Sattler broke his jaw within three minutes and refused to leave the field, leading his team to a win over Manly across the bridge. This is the kind of bad luck tune Freedman made his bones about, the social commentary that likens the Redfern of yesteryear to the gentrified new, where new Labor sits in a terrace house in the inner west watching – gasp – AFL.
For more: The Whitlams recently released Sancho, their first album since 2006, and are touring the country.
Thelma Plum – Backseat of my Mind
For lovers of: Rihanna, Sia, the killers
After delivering one of the best Australian albums in years with 2019’s Better In Blak, Plum returned with a richer, more satisfying sound without betraying what made her debut such a milestone. Fittingly, given its frequent use of driving metaphors, Backseat of my Mind is a propulsive tune that hits the sweet spot between piano ballad and road trip anthem. It’s the perfect return to the limelight. “I could hold the wheel forever if I knew you’d be there too” is also a brilliant lyric.
For more: Thelma Plum will be touring with Vance Joy from September and also playing at Kingscliff Beach hotel, NSW, on June 10.
Luke Steele – Gladiator
For lovers of: MGMT, Country Bob Dylan, George Harrison
After touring the cosmos on his Empire Of The Sun project, Luke Steele has landed back on earth with a soothing sequence of songs on his debut solo album. Gladiator is the most beautiful tune on the album, a harmonious ointment that floats slowly, leaning on timeless hooks, and a wah slide that would be at home in the lobby of a day spa. “Nobody wants ruins, everyone wants the gladiator” is a fitting text for our age of action without thinking about the consequences. Steele’s voice has never sounded so good either, the robotic nose has been replaced by a Lennon-esque delivery that seems much more natural to him. Steele’s adult stage is a very welcome one.
For more: Listen to the Water is out now.
Julia Jacklin – Lydia carries a cross
For lovers of: James Blake, Beth Orton, Massive Attack
The ability of a minor chord or well-placed key change to stir emotions is one of the few mysteries in the world, and one that can be easily corrupted to indoctrinate the young into religion. After all, if you feel a power going through you as you listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack – like Jacklin does in this dark, smart song – well, that could just be God. This song describes the confusion of Catholic education, where prayers for Princess Diana are merged with songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the silent judgment of a teacher. It’s another masterclass in narrative songwriting from one of our very best.
For more: Album Pre Pleasure will be released August 26th.