Best New Australian Bands of 2015

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Occasionally, I run into people that say shit like, “Man, music was so much better in the 80’s”. Well, guess what you miserable old bastard? wasn’t alive in the 80’s, so your argument means jack shit to me. Just because a lot of great bands like Dinosaur Jr, The Stooges and Slayer, happen to come from bygone eras, that doesn’t mean that new music sucks. In fact, modern music is actually pretty alright, especially in the barren wasteland that bred Mad Max and kangaroos. Fuck the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, these are the best bands I found out about this year:

NB: These are bands and artists that I found out about in 2015 – if I wrote about them last year, I don’t reckon they count, which is why there are a few notable exclusions like FLOWERTRUCK, Gordi, Roland Tings, Chook Race etc.

10. Tiny Little Houses

At a time when indie rock was becoming far too predictable, Tiny Little Houses broke the trend, with enthusiastic results. There’s a dreamy, surreal quality to their music that manages to pack in heartbreak, loss, desire, and unwavering commitment into the same song. Every bar makes you want to sink in deeper, find out more, plunge head first into the drama they’re writing.

They traverse great lengths of musical territory, from swirling, cloudy choruses, to naked, addictive introspection, to full blown shredding, that places them solidly amongst the likes of Girls, Death Cab for Cutie and Neutral Milk Hotel. Tiny Little Houses are a group that don’t just smash genre expectations, but build them back into something that makes you think, “Maybe the next indie rock song I hear won’t make me want to kill myself!”

9. Alex Lahey

Alex Lahey ain’t no spring chicken – she’s been leading the charge for Melbourne poppers Animaux for a few years now. But in case there was still some confusion as to whether this wonderful lady may or may not be an actual, literal chicken that may or may not have been born in the spring, then the chorus of her debut single “Air Mail” makes it quite clear.

“I’ve got 24 ribs, 32 teeth, two hands, ten fingers….and air mail envelopes are all I’ve bought this week”. Even if some sort of mutant chicken did manage to breed itself into having those specific physical attributes, there’s no fucking way it’d have the social awareness and complexity necessary to line up at the post office to buy air mail envelopes.

Philosophical musings aside, “Air Mail” was one of the best debut singles I heard this year, packed with an affability and charm that made me fall head over heels in love with Alex Lahey. There’s massive things in store for her next year, I’m sure of it.

8. Death Bells

My mate sent me a message earlier this year, merely saying, “Oi dude, reckon you’d like this” and a Youtube link. It was Death Bells’ debut single, “You, Me & Everyone In Between”, a swirling, morbidly affected dream-pop tune that felt like the next Captured Tracks signing.

A few months down the track, and I’m still all over Death Bells. They’re just a bunch of recklessly emotion-laden teenagers channeling their energy into pop music, but they do it so well that I can’t help but adore them. Their live show takes a bombastic turn as well, the five-piece pumping steroids into their songs, strangling them into concentrated, tidal wave eruptions of sound.

7. NULL

Obviously, electronic music isn’t my forte. I try to stay on top of it, but I tend to get swept up in the rawk side of things, and some of the greatest stuff just floats me by. That being said, Aussie electronic did have a great year – Chunyin, Corin, Nutrition, Anatole, I’lls, Black Vanilla, Air Max ’97 and Tennis Boys were all pretty stellar for 365 days straight.

But in terms of producers who tore me apart at the seams, ripped my mind to shreds, and stood above the shattered remnants, hands on hips and laughing with sadistic glee, the award goes to NULL. There’s something so calculated to the way he produces music, from the individual single artworks and music videos, to the strain of pulsating menace that intertwines his whole debut mini-LP/EP. If there’s one new artist twisting knobs and smashing synths to check out, its NULL.

6. Low Lux

Low Lux’s first proper show, a headline spot at the Newtown Social Club, shouldn’t have been one of the best shows of the year. But it was. And my love for them accelerated like a goddamn Shakespearean romance. I don’t think anything this year has come so close to whatever Low Lux’s set was – both intimate and epic, just so bloody impressive in every capacity pf the word.

There’s just an ethereal capacity to what Low Lux do, a lushness that’s like velvet and silk had a kid that would grow up to be lord of the fabrics. The two singles they’ve released so far, “Rivers Roll” and “Ruin” are dense, well-thought out and intriguing pop, and they’re indicative of even more cinematic smash hits from Low Lux.

5. DEAFCULT

I never fully got into shoegaze music – I can enjoy it, and there’s some great bands out there, but I’ve never run full-tilt to chuck on a My Bloody Valentine album before.

That all changed with DEAFCULT – their debut EP is such an intense, beautiful listen that spins dizzily between yawning caverns and crunching waves. They’ve got four guitars. FOUR! Let that sink in. Do you know how much guitar that is? THAT’S A LOT OF FUCKING GUITAR!

When DEAFCULT hit their peak, they’re an unstoppable, mesmerizing and deafening force, a swelling splatter of musical bombast that topples you over. They bring an excitement and thrill to shoegaze that has been sorely missing in Australian circles.

4. The Goon Sax

I’m absolutely smitten with The Goon Sax – in taking just a few chords and a smudge of self-deprecation, they made one of the best songs of 2015, and it sounds like they wrote it in a free period.

There’s a charm to The Goon Sax that makes me want to be their best friends. I can’t tell if it’s the effortless that they create their songs with, the inward, affected keel of their lyrics, or the fact that they’re so clearly bound for the top, but there’s a quality in this band that raises them miles above their peers. Although Melbourne has commanded the jangle-pop bands of the last few years, The Goon Sax stand to bring it back to its rightful home in Brisbane.

3. Orion

I had no expectation of Orion before they had played Nag Nag Nag Festival in January this year. The name had popped up on a few lineups, and some mates had floated the words “Best band ever!” over my way, but for some reason, I never check ‘em out. Too busy with all that electro pop, I guess.

It was right around the time that Sydney’s favourite son Nathan Roche was thrown to the floor that I decided that I loved this band. Their live show was too intoxicating to do justice with mere words – an attempt would read something like: violent, passionate, debilitating, compulsory.

Meanwhile, on record, Orion push that live propulsion, into a record so encased with self-derision and desperation that it makes your lips bleed from chewing them so much. The four songs that Orion have recorded are so perfect and harrowing, it actually pains me to think of the months that I refused to check them out. If you’re in a similar position as I was, please don’t hesitate any more.

2. YEEVS

The music of YEEVS feels like a vibrant crossover from the best loud indie rock bands of the past two decades decade: Spoon vs. Archers of Loaf, The Walkmen vs. Nada Surf, Wolf Parade vs. Dinosaur Jr. The battle lines are drawn, the indie rock icons lock horns, and when the dust has settled, the bloody result of the slaughter is three heaving blokes from Sydney, who just want to stomp drums, pound out some riffs and lambast a microphone. YEEVS haven’t just got a penchant for writing spot-on indie rock thumpers, they can only write songs that feel like Andre the Giant giving you the Heimlich Maneuver.

1.WHITE DOG

The reason why WHITE DOG are my favourite new band this year is because since finding out about them, they’ve been my go to group to yell in people’s face when they ask what they should listen to. “Oi Saarzy, you fucking knob, what’s good?” “WHITE DOG, mate, and go fuck yourself, that was bloody rude”.

Seconds into hearing their first demo, “No Good”, with its thick guitar riff that sounded like a chainsaw being thrown into a concrete mixer, I decided that WHITE DOG were one of the best bands this year. There are approximately 16 days for something better to pop up, so it’s un-bloody-likely anything is going to change my mind. From the brutal, Rottweiler vocal snarl, to the lyrical bluntness, to the general sledgehammer of their songs, WHITE DOG are unmatched. They made me fall back in love with punk music.

Furthermore, WHITE DOG’s live show is one of the most ferocious I’ve seen. They bring a danger to a stage that’s like the early 80’s versions of Henry Rollins and Steve Albini are having a fight within frontman Sam White’s body to see who will get the right of demonic possession. And the writhing limbs of White isn’t the only thing that your eyes bore into when WHITE DOG play – instruments are smashed into walls and punters are thrown into a frenzy like an Old Testament God has decided the show will be his plaything. Every show is like this, and every show makes me more confident that WHITE DOG are the best new thing this shitty harbour town has.

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10 Best Bands of BIGSOUND

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Brisbane – you go alright. Sydney folk have given you a bit of a rough ride throughout the years: “It’s too hot…full of bogans…fucking Maroon wankers” are all pretty common complaints. But after offering up so many fantastic bands over the years, it was awesome to finally experience the whirlwind of your uncomfortably warm embrace. And BIGSOUND! What a treat! Despite an abundance of blokes (always blokes) with incredibly overinflated egos (shoutouts to the guy that threw his pass in a security guard’s face, throwing his arm at the 30 second queue and exclaiming “But I’m a delegate! That’s a punter’s line…THIS IS BULLSHIT!”) BIGSOUND is an opportunity.

Y’see, there’s over 150 bands playingsome incredible, some lame as shit, but all there to hopefully further their careers and find success, whatever that definition might be. And I’m really happy about that – there’s not nearly enough cash being thrown back to the musicians who make our punter lives such a joy. So, even though don’t like it, who gives a shit? I’m happy for any artist, of any genre, to achieve their goal, particularly through a process like BIGSOUND, which is a great way to connect with folks who can help you. For every guy that can’t stop mentioning the fact that he works in the “music industry”, there are a dozen people who genuinely care about checking out as many of the good things on offer. So here’s my two cents on the best bands up at BIGSOUND – and by the way, if you ever fucking make me wait in a queue again, I will sue you.

10. Rainbow Chan

The electronic contingent at BIGSOUND was pretty disappointing this year. Maybe it’s coming from a really ill-informed “band bro” point of view, but watching someone overanalyse a set of decks just really doesn’t seem like that exciting of a thing to watch. It was the acts that went left of centre and made the most of their sets that performed best: Sui Zhen and NULL both pulled off impressive and visually engaging sets that are worth checking out. But it was Rainbow Chan that proved to be the most energetic and lively; she’s criminally underrated, and doesn’t play shows nearly enough. Any chance to catch her bop, groove and twirl onstage is a treat that should be taken advantage of immediately.

9. Tired Lion

If I wasn’t guzzling booze and schmoozing up to the heads of the major labels with all the gusto of Gary Busey on a coke binge, then I probably would’ve made it into the sold-out Gang of Youths gig, and they would’ve been on this list. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen (didn’t even get a fucking corporate sponsorship out of all that sucking up either). However, it did mean that I caught Tired Lion, Perth shredders that feature an absolute powerhouse of a front woman, the unstoppable Sophie Hopes. She latched onto every figure in the packed out room with the ferocity of the band’s namesake tearing open the throat of the slowest gazelle in the Savannah. We are all that gazelle, and all we could do was stare in awe of the show that Tired Lion supplied as they stewed upon our entrails.

8. Cosmic Psychos

Their new album leaves a lot to be desired, as much of a disappointment as my results at uni. But it would be plain ignorant to call Cosmic Psychos as anything less than a heritage act, an influential band that spits in the face of legacy because they’re too busy riding tractors and slamming into dead roos. Their reputation as one of the best pub rockers remains undisputed when it comes to a live show. Sweaty, blood-spurting and beer-soaked faces caked the grey-haired but perpetually young-at-heart performance, as classics “Nice Day to Go the Pub”, “Lost Cause” and “David Lee Roth” all saw air time, both from the stage and the bevy of crowd-surfers.

7. DARTS

DARTS played two sets, and both proved to be overwhelming punches of spectacle. Straight ahead, teeth-bared rock that presents itself as a slew snarling anthems, but is plagued with cutting self-analysis and anguish, which explodes in the live arena. DARTS work well in confined spaces, barrelling through track after track on the stages of Brisbane with loaded sets of staunch, lip-curling grunge.

6. WAAX

On a bill packed with rock acts, WAAX feel like the band destined to inspire more than fair few teenagers to pick up the guitar and thrash around in their bedroom. This band deserves every loud-loving punters full attention, and catching them live should shoot to the top of the list. Ask anyone who was there, and you’re likely to get the same gushing response as entailed here. Front woman Marie De Vita is particularly worthy of praise, an irrepressible emerald-doused firework who dominates the crowd like she’s Joan of Arc and we’re all a bunch of bloody Brits ready for rock slaughter.

5. Tiny Little Houses

This show was absolutely fucking packed. A full 24 hours later, and my lungs still haven’t decompressed themselves. But mate, wasn’t it bloody worth it? I’d kinda given up on folk bands, what with the realisation that Boy & Bear and The Paper Kites both suck…but man, Tiny Little Houses – swoon! They’re lo-fi recordings shine on a stage, and the inclusion of a fair bit of shredding helps bolster their performances into quite the mesmerising spectacle.

4. The Ocean Party

The Ocean Party are easily the hardest working band in Australia, with more live gigs notched under their belts than Ron Jeremy’s got STD’s. Not only that, but they’ve got a fifth record due out in a month AND all seven members deal with their own stellar recording projects in what mythical spare time they have. With all that practice and constant skill-honing, it’s no wonder that The Ocean Party are one of the most charming bands to watch in Aus. Their gigs will suck you in like a bloody typhoon, and you’ll have their incredible brand of guitar-pop stuck in your head for days, weeks, months, years. Truly, this band is the herpes of music…but delightful instead of burning.

3. Dorsal Fins

There’s a fuck-off amount of members in Dorsal Fins, so many that it’s all too easy to lose count. Watching them is like watching that classic gorilla selective attention experiment video – your eyes are bouncing between so many members that a giant ape could walk through the middle and you wouldn’t notice. Not that King Kong antics are a problem here – you’re having way too much fun! Dorsal Fins do pop to its logical, exuberant climax, and the unstoppable Ella Thompson not only possesses one hell of a voice, but the most enthusiastic dance moves that BIGSOUND had to offer. On a bill filled with bright pop musicians, Dorsal Fins were far and away the most brilliant and enticing.

2. The Goon Sax

One song and a handful of demos is apparently enough to fill up a room to a dangerous capacity. If someone coughed, the whole audience would’ve come down with pneumonia the next day. But of course, everyone was excited to check out the new Chapter Music signing. After 20 years, one of the most prestigious and continuously enigmatic labels in Australia went out on a limb and signed their first band based on unsolicited demos. Holy shit did they make the right decision: three high school kids, loaded with shy charm and a love for bands that I wish I could’ve claimed to be into in Year 12 (The Apartments, Go-Betweens, and The Bats) deserved every cheer and clap they got during their slot. I don’t even give a shit if I’ve got whooping cough now – seeing The Goon Sax will be worth every second of my impending plague.

1. DEAFCULT

I am so okay with a band with four guitars. Yeah, you read that right – four. This band has the same amount of guitars as the core cast of Seinfeld has members. And they use these guitars in their entire brutal capacity – nobody was leaving this room without bleeding eardrums and grin planted on their cranium. Fuck, there is so much to love about this band: from the name, to the incredible musicianship on display, to the simple awe generated by the sheer volume of it all. This band is epic, but with all the pretension removed. Watching DEAFCULT is an experience that anyone with even a passing interest in what guitars can do should participate in. Fuck…I think I’ve shit myself just from thinking back to it.

New: DEAFCULT – DEAFCULT

DEAFCULT have got a name that looks like it could belong to a death metal band, but commit to a sound  that belongs to some intelligent shoegaze melding with a whirring post-punk aesthetic, like Fucked Up meeting Swervedriver in a tumble drier. Their music is built like a hurricane, tidal waves of crushing sound lashing about, but tied neatly together by vocals that form the eye of the storm, an unrelenting, expert calm that thoroughly compliments DEAFCULT’s wilder, more experimental tendencies.

Fuck, they’ve only played one show together, but DEAFCULT’s EP is better than what most band’s manage to put out after years and years. Squalling noise battles it out amongst serene vocals that are backed towards the corners of the mix. Any listener that wants to hear the words that escape from DEAFCULT have to battle through a thronging mosh of instruments to decipher what’s going on. If you can’t be fucked, that’s okay too – just sit back and enjoy the maelstrom.

If you’ve only got thirty seconds because you’re busier than Al Montfort trying to make it to every band practise in Melbourne, then tune into either “B To A”, or “Akira”. It doesn’t matter – as soon as you lose yourself within the first thirty seconds, you’re going to be lulled into listening to this whole EP over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.