It’s been a wild ride watching Hockey Dad go from Windang’s musical teenagers to young, world-beating adults in just a matter of years. While Brain Candy doesn’t see them going off in avant-garde directions, it sees them instead consolidating their sound into something truly special; delivering a powerful, soaring collection of tracks which showcase their musical evolution and versatility.
Husky may have been living life without limits since shedding their folk epithet with 2017s Punchbuzz, but this concept album reveals an openly tender side. Recorded to 24-track tape, Stardust Blues was prompted by James Joyce’s Ulysses, and follows a character on his Melbourne odyssey. There are some predictable moves but they’re no less satisfying, and appositely, comforting.
Hurts To Laugh could be Jake Webb's masterpiece. Recorded at the same time as 2019s Triage – yet completely unlike its birth sibling – the EP proffers five different sides to Methyl Ethyl, each with their own masterful personality. Oscillating and churning, then glistening and decadent with Webb's falsetto, Methyl Ethyl is once again effortlessly ahead of his time.
Brisbane riot grrrls VOIID are pulling the lid off generational patriarchy with this anarchist debut EP. From angsty yet educational tracks about abortion, body hair, sexual assault, toxic relationships, and sexual freedom, the quartet may have had the way paved for them by the underground feminist punk movement, but as the new torch-bearers, their important work is just starting.
You don't have to speak Spanish to understand the sheer re-awakening on Regresa. When Hurricane María struck Aguadilla in 2017, the duo returned to their hometown from New York to rebuild, raise their child, and create this celebratory resistance of silky vocals and orchestral arrangements. Regresa, meaning to come back, was born from tragedy, but its beating heart is a triumph.
At a time when the world is closing in on itself and greed is fuelling our own self-destruction, a band like Protomartyr is important. The band's blend of Detroit blues, post-punk and spoken word rock – inter-knitted with Joe Casey's cool individuality – is in fine form on this fifth album. Ultimate Success Today sneers with ambitious poetry.
If 2018s debut Cut The Poppies was an attempt to find their own space, this follow-up EP is TOTTY in full bloom. The Wollongong grunge trio are a life raft for those who prefer their contemplation of restlessness and detachment to be loud and under-polished.
Norway's Emilie Nicolas shares new sides to herself in this ornate production of romance, joy, despair and healing. The dark pop artist and producer’s lush resilience sets her apart. Let Her Breathe penetrates the impenetrable and her syrupy vocals mixed with jazztronica can serve as a warm self check-in if you let it.
Perhaps one of the more underestimated Sydney exports, the London-based electro pop artist delivers a patchwork of emotions. Started after getting beat up in Berlin and touching on the summer rage that followed, Modern Anxiety is surprisingly uplifting. Its autobiographical take on the human condition maintains the same blissed-out intimacy that made his 2016 debut Night Swim so moving.
Be the Pariah, the first release in five years from Australian-born, NYC-based Ernest Ellis, begins with choral-backed performance poetry. It jumps right into his stream-of-consciousness narrative technique; it’s as if we’ve been looking for the bathroom and instead entered his studio mid-record.
There are moments of pure beauty: the string section on romanticist rush “The Brink”, the pre-chorus in “Cherish”, along with the song’s final lyric: “It’d be so brave of me to walk away”, and the marked restraint in the chorus of “Bigger Than Me”. The aforementioned is one of Gretta Ray’s magical traits: her ability to meet the option to go for a Lady Gaga-esque vocal display and decide to take a different path. Gretta Ray’s songwriting superpower is in her unexpected choices.
In a world starved of human connection mid-pandemic, where even the simplest comforts are compromised, Drinking With My Smoking Friends reminds us to bathe in our own delicious weariness.
It’s Gaynor’s most unguarded album yet, a landmark of breezy sophistication.
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