Pluto Jonze – Walk Off The Edge With Me
For fans of: Sean Lennon, the Vines’ Autumn Shade series, Portishead
The John Lennon comparisons will always follow Pluto Jonze around, and for good reason: his reverbed vocals and psychotropic tendencies recall the spectacled Beatle at his most serene (although he leans further into atmospherics). This heavy-lidded tune plods in slow motion, narcoleptic and drowsy, with only the languid heartbeat of the drums keeping any semblance of motion. Then the weather breaks and the soaring harmonies in the chorus are, to quote the song itself, like a skyscraper falling in reverse, dragging this lethargic song to the heavens where it hangs like a cloud. A beautiful dreamscape.
For more: Pluto Jonze’s album Awe is coming soon.
Shining Bird – Deadlands
For fans of: Moods compilations, solo Thom Yorke
Run yourself a bath and prepare to settle in: Deadlands unfolds slowly over a luxurious 12-and-a-half minutes. The jazz noodling at the start might put you off, but if you push through what sounds like part improvisational genius, part pre-gig warm-up, you’ll reach a truly transcendent instrumental: a slow-walking mood piece that eventually crashes into a cacophony of spirited freeform, waves of sound seemingly made for headphones. Like Become Ocean by John Luther Adams, this piece conjures the ceaseless tide of the sea; not surprising for a band that calls coastal New South Wales home. It also rewards repeat listens, which is no mean feat for a song the length of an EP. Take some time to experience it and you’ll be glad you did. Then hop out of the bath – you’re getting wrinkly.
For more: The band will be playing Yours and Owls festival in January 2021.
Vacations – Panache
For fans of: The Human League, Holy Holy, Naked Eyes
This sparkling gem from the Newcastle band has one white Reebok-ed foot firmly in the pop charts of the 80s, the other stomping along in an indie disco at the turn of the century. Like a one-hit wonder from a well-scratched CD compilation, it throws everything at the wall and doesn’t seem to mind exactly what sticks. The results are fantastic. There is heavenly falsetto, a tangled boy/girl lead vocal, dancing synths and one hell of a chorus. This tremendous, jangling tune is for those who wish the Killers were sexier, the Smiths were dreamier, or Spandau Ballet were less theatrical.
For more: Vacations’ second album Forever In Bloom will be out 18 September.
Hoodoo Gurus – Hung Out To Dry
For fans of: The Sonics, Nuggets compilation series, the Stems
I applaud any band about to celebrate 40 years in the business for sounding as youthful as Hoodoo Gurus do on their latest single. Hung Out To Dry sounds much like the band did in their initial years, mining the garage rock of the 60s, adding touches of surf stomp, and injecting more than a little silliness into the mix. This song is ostensibly a missile fired over the ocean at Donald Trump, an angry song that still presents as playful. Perhaps it’s Dave Faulkner’s cheery, recognisable voice, or perhaps it’s the way they rhyme “askance” with “peed your pants”, but the result is a giddy and gleeful rocker that would slot nicely on to Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets compilations of buried 60s gems.
For more: Check out previous single Answered Prayers, or any of their 10 albums.
Ijale – Hotlines
For fans of: Erykah Badu, the Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest
Sounding like golden age hip-hop, and anchored by Melbourne-based Ijale’s steady flow, it comes as quite the shock to hear the very modern word “microaggression” feature so prominently in Hotlines. It makes sense if you pay attention. Ijale delivers a treatise on the racial inequality rife in his life, calmly recounting times he has been profiled simply for being out in “white spaces” at night: targeted due to his melanin and forced to showcase his innocence in the face of racism. Rage might be expected, but Ijale is even-tempered, as if he knows he will have to explain this over and over, and probably won’t be understood. A powerful song you’ll wish he didn’t have to write.
For more: Ijale’s EP Wildly Disparate Sounds is out now.
Stellie – Californian Lullaby
For fans of: Sarah Blasko, Lana Del Rey, the National
Drew Barrymore in Donnie Darko may claim the phrase “cellar door” to be the most pleasing sound to the human ear, but my vote goes to the word “California”, with all the wild, romantic imagery it conjures. This downbeat yet uplifting ode captures that same magic, with its nostalgic, airy tone and wonderful crescendos; a love letter written on the wind. As the Adelaide artist describes it, it is “slow dancing at an old high school formal”: the place where dreams and reality collide, despite your best efforts to erase the imperfections from hazy memories best left in the sepia-stained past. A beautiful, Lynchian track.
For more: Stellie will launch her self-titled EP on 21 August at Lion Arts Factory in Adelaide.
Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission – I Heard Sally Singing
For fans of: Weddings, Parties, Anything; the Pogues; the Whitlams
Mick Thomas spent half of the 80s and all of the 90s soundtracking elements of the Australian experience not often heard over the airwaves: the divorcee hanging out for his one day of visitation rights; the sports fan who uses hindsight to crow about his gambling skills; eating fish on Saturdays and toasted cheese the rest of the week. I Heard Sally Singing continues this proud beer-barn tradition, a testament to the power of live performance and the human voice to transport and soothe. As with his songs in previous band Weddings, Parties, Anything, a gypsy fiddle helps give that a timeless, folksy feel; and as Melbourne is locked down, with most of the venues Thomas frequented in his heyday long turned to dust and skyscrapers – and the one he runs, Northcote’s Merri Creek Tavern, shuttered due to the pandemic – this aching tune is all the more visceral.
For more: Listen to Mick Thomas’ previous singles Mint Condition and See You When I’m Looking at You; he’ll play at Bluesfest next year with Roving Commission and Wedding, Parties, Anything.
Jess Locke – Fool
For fans of: Deadstar, Alex Lahey, Waikiki
You’d never guess it if you relied solely on the singles charts for your information, but Australia has a flood of amazing rock artists in the wings poised to break through on an international level – a la Courtney Barnett or Gang Of Youths. Melbourne artist Jess Locke has pushed her way to the forefront of this talented pack, recently signing to indie powerhouse Dot Dash, which seems the perfect home for her sugary, hook-laden rock. Fool is her first release through her new label, and it’s an undeniable winner. With a wordless chorus you’ll likely hear tunelessly sung back to her once live shows are allowed again, this cracking tune bodes very well for whatever else she’s got in store for 2020.
For more: Check out Jess Locke’s 2017 album Universe.
Buddy Glass – Wasted Habit
For fans of: Neutral Milk Hotel, Wil Wagner, Modest Mouse
Bruno Brayovic has fronted Sydney slackers Peabody for close to three decades – an eternity in indie rock circles. This has put him in the uncommon position of leading a nostalgia act still bristling with unbridled energy and new material, while also releasing self-produced solo records hammered out on a four-track at home, in between tending to babies crying and waiting for low-flying planes to hush. Such intimacy is instantly apparent in Wasted Habit, his first solo release for six years. Over a violently strummed acoustic and playful backing vocals, Brayovic howls like a man possessed, shredding his throat and bloodying his fingers on the steel strings. If he lived in the Pacific Northwest, Pitchfork would have already deified him.
For more: The second Buddy Glass album Wow & Flutter will be out soon.
Alex the Astronaut – Christmas in July
For fans of: Paul Kelly, Courtney Barnett, Liz Phair
The first many heard from this Sydney-based artist was Not Worth Hiding: a heart-aching letter to her 16-year-old self, who was slowly coming to terms with her sexuality. The song hit at the same time that marriage equality was a national hot-button topic, and Alex received widespread love for her honest, simple tune. Christmas in July is like the flipside of that track, chronicling the giddy highs of falling in love. “I met someone and it felt like Christmas had come and I’d won the lottery at the same time,” she says. As the title suggests, this song is draped in unseasonal tinsel, with church bells ringing beautifully underneath a waltz that … well, feels a lot like Christmas has come early.
For more: Debut album The Theory of Absolutely Nothing is out 21 August.