Top 10 Australian Albums of 2014 (So Far…)

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There have been an orgy of new Aussie releases this year that have tickled the chin of genius, and caused her many rolls of fat to quake in laughter. But there have been a few that have genuinely succeeded in being goddamn masterpieces. These, are those records:

10. TIED: Nathan Roche-Magnetic Memories + Shrapnel-Tobacco Dreams

I honestly couldn’t decided between these two works of art. One is a laid back bible on whatever happened to come into Nathan Roche’s mind when he strummed the chords, and the other is a deceivingly simple collection of pop songs that make Mac DeMarco look like a rookie. But both Nathan Roche and Shrapnel exceed in making unique statements with their albums that few Sydney bands, indeed Australian bands, could think up over years of training.

9. Rat & Co-Binary

The second album from Rat & Co is a sonic tapestry, something that combines the past with the future extraordinarily easily. Rat & Co cover a million different varieties and spices on this album, from lush synths and haunted child samples in ‘Vocal Insanity’ to the glacial ‘Calculated Movements I, II and III’. But ‘Binary’ remains a solid fixture of the Rat & Co thesis of creating beats that’ll surpass the band. Hopefully, when aliens dig up this civilisation in millions of years, they find this album instead of the new Lana Del Ray record.

8. HTRK-Psychic 9-5 Club

The HTRK story is a tortured one, but that’s probably what helped them to become the strong and identifiable unit they are today. HTRK’s new record moves in honeyed and dance-worthy directions. Although rife with the kind of saddening lyrics that are expected from a HTRK record, ‘Psychic 9-5 Club’ is infinitely less abrasive as previous material, and allows itself to be, dare I say, accessible. Songs such as ‘Blue Sunshine’ ring with an allure that is insanely gorgeous, and create a mystical atmosphere around this record that can’t be overstated.

7. Ernest Ellis-Cold Desire

The first record that introduced me to Ernest Ellis is, by far, also one of the greatest pieces of dramatic indie rock I’ve heard in years. Both intimate and expansive, Ernest Ellis manage to combine the blue collar poeticism of bands like The War on Drugs and Kurt Vile, with the grandness of U2. Akin to their touring mates Shining Bird, Ernest Ellis pull you into their album like your tumbling headfirst down a waterfall of happiness. If only my similes were half as good as the music on this album.But seriously, listen to ‘Black Wire’, your life will change.

6. Dune Rats-Dune Rats

Dune Rats sure did deliver on their debut album. After a couple EP’s and countless cockteasing, the guys who were previously most famous for this have gone n done a full LP. Full of the kind shit that made us fall in love with them in the first place, the album is a singles fest of fun, riotous tunes meant to be shouted back at the band at a show where there’s more joints than people.

5. Bachelor Pad-Dooming Out

Bachelor Pad are literally made of good times. It’s in their blood. If you cut open Huw, you’d get an overdose of fun-fumes and bongwater instead of blood. They’ve packed all that awesomeness into an album ready made to be the go-to party starter. Even if you’re an accountant that works for Telstra, you’ll be able to enjoy this album. Just listen to ‘Fried’, ‘Movin’ On’ or ‘Let Me Go’ and for a few minutes, everything will be centred around total, unobstructed gewd times.

4. White Hex-Gold Nights

Think of a scenario in which Depeche Mode are dipped in a vat of boiling acid, and their steaming carcass’ are used as the bare bones for a revolutionary dark-pop project out of Melbourne, half-headed by one of the guys from noise enthusiasts Slug Guts. White Hex’s second record ‘Gold Nights’ is exactly that, thudding synth work shuddering against shimmering walls of noise and breathless vocals from the amazing Tara Green. The results in this album are simply stunning, the kind of thing Robert Smith wished he’d invented.

3. Straight Arrows-Rising

Although this album hasn’t even officially come out yet, it’s been a steadfast go-to listen for the past month or so. Every time I need something to pick me up before going out, and I’m all Sabbath-ed out, I’m hitting up ‘Rising’ instantly. Packed with tunes that get the blood pumping and the genitals,, you guessed it, rising, the record could not be a better successor of Straight Arrows’ debut.

2. Nun-Nun

Another self-titled debut effort has cracked the Top 10. Man, I’m just fucking crazy, aren’t I? Anyway, the first LP (of hopefully many) from the Melbourne synth-punkers is a shock to the system on par with having Alice Cooper break into your house and throw a toaster in your bathtub. The songs on here range from far-out schizophrenic jams, to tight and ugly lil’ ravers that get up in your face like the most bratty kid imaginable. Overall, the record is unabashedly hectic and unforgettable.

1. Blank Realm-Grassed Inn

So, the best album of this shithole years so far, in my own humble opinion, is Blank Realm’s purple-glazed ‘Grassed Inn’. They created a pop masterpiece, and I will challenge anyone who disagrees to a jelly fight in a bathtub. I say that knowing the full consequences of uttering such a profound statement, but I stand by it. The tracks on this album have been mumbled under my breath on the train so many times, I think they’ve surpassed Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’. Every tune has a poignance and impressionability that surpasses almost every other pop release of the past couple years. The fact that the lyrics are heartbreaking and honest, and Blank Realm come from humble Brisbane beginnings is just a major, major plus. Goddamn, if you have a soul, you will spend the rest of your days listening to this album.

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Ryan’s Bloody Ripper Gig List

If you’re in Sydney, and need to see a good gig over the weekend, then hit up one of these:

 

Thursday:

-Heads of Charm, Narrow Lands, Beast & Flood, Palmar Grasp @ The Square ($10)

-The Mess Up! feat. Chicks Who Love Guns, Gazar Strips (QLD), Bad Jeep @ The Lansdowne

-The Sitffys, WAWAWOW @ The Marlborough Hotel

 

Friday:

-Ivy Street, Mere Women, Yes, I’m Leaving @ The Square

-Salad Boys, East River, Mope City, Ali E @ Captain Cook Hotel

-Friendships, Embassy, Phondupe, Twin Caverns, World Champion @ Oxford Art Factory

 

Saturday:

-Heads of Charm, Sour Cream, Gazar Strips, Burlap, Katnip @ The Captain Cook Hotel

-Salad Boys, Driffs, Bachelor Pad, Shrapnel @ FBi Social

-World Champion @ Tokyo Sing Song

-Ernest Ellis, Shining Bird @ St Stephens Uniting Church, Newtown

Album Review: Ernest Ellis-Cold Desire

Ernest Ellis is, like, crazy cool. Like, if you implanted the genes of Beck into a cool dude made up of body parts from Kurt Vile, Real Estate and Woods, you’d have the Frankenstein of Ernest Ellis. He’d be a fucking mess obviously-there’d be way too much hair in the way. The shaggy manes of Beck and Kurt Vile? Dream on, mate, try shoving a hot poker in your eyes, it’d be less blinding.

But our young protagonist sees his way around this (pun intended) by cutting those luscious locks. Now, he can see, and the things he sees make him sad. Instead of being a mopey loser and making Cure/Enrique Iglesias mashups like the rest of us mere mortals, the Sydney-sider has decided to use his scientific given talents. Harnessing the haunting majesty of ‘Sea Change’, Ernest Ellis adds just enough melancholy-pop that seems to be all the rage right now (see: King Krule, Bon Iver) to the mixture, and the end product is something that’ll be fondly remembered as ‘Cold Desire’.

There’s no doubt that ‘Cold Desire’ is a strong record. It pumps with an unusual energy, tapping into the cold winters that Sydney has never really had, the bitterness of a sour relationship, and a vain hopelessness that is completely genuine. There’s a lot of heartbreak on this album, and the way it churns up your stomach into a thousand pieces, like a cement truck of melancholy, is something that voices don’t tend to do all that often anymore.

Seriously though, the strength of the songs that Ernest Ellis have the craftsmanship and care of fucking Gepetto. Except they don’t waver around the bullshit alive-puppet phase, but head straight to real-boy territory right quick. Their full, fleshed-out realised ideas that link together through a daisy chain of being bummed out.

On, ‘Black Wire’, the most deadset gut-wrenching indie rock anthem since  The Jesus & Mary Chain’s ‘Just Like Honey’, you feel as though you’ve just gone and punched Steve Irwin’s corpse and are dealing with the regret all in one four minute rush. The forehead-creasing anguish that roars quietly in ‘Black Wire’ are, at times, too much, and makes for the next perfect break-up song. When Mr. Ellis mourns, “There’s too much love, there’s too much love, Honey in my head” you want to reach into the song, give him a big hug, and scream, “DUDE, ME TOO! I FEEL YOU DAWG!”.

Although it doesn’t quite reach the same emotional connection and heart-breaking heights of ‘Black Wire’, the rest of the album remains to equally caress and create those hurt feelings. ‘Way Down’ and ‘Shine Like Me’ also hold a ghostly indie-rcok poignancy similar to that of Aussie comrades Pony Face or, for a more popular but less accurate example, Augie March. Not to say the other tracks don’t rain on the heart’s parade-all songs on ‘Cold Desire’ don’t just tug on the emotive strings, but aim to actively replace them with industrial steel replicants that are factory guaranteed to withstand the pressure of melting indie ballads.

For all those who thought it began and ended with Kurt Vile, or are disappointed with the new Beck album, this one’s for you. For those that haven’t been able to get over that breakup from seven years ago, this one’s for you. For those that really dig on indie rock that manages to be intriguing and utterly unpretentious, this one’s for you. For the rest, I hear there’s a new Korn album, or something.

To see me frothing over the new Ernest Ellis album in the flesh, head to Red Eye Records this Friday for a free in-store performance around 5.

New: Tape/Off + Girl Band + Forests + White Lodge + Francis Lung (former Wu Lyf) + The Solicitors + Ernest Ellis

New songs are like herpes: you can’t get rid of them, and although they might annoy you at times, they make you a better person. Or something like that. None of these songs are annoying. In fact, they’re all awesome.

Tape/Off-Pedestal Fan

The Brisbane connection for Tape/Off isn’t too hard to listen out for in their new single ‘Pedestal Fan’.  Tape/Off are similar to other Brisbanauts Violent Soho and DZ Deathrays, but slightly more brutal, like an elephant charging through a cymbal shop. The tight snares, semi-bellowed vocals and raucous nature of the song makes people like me tight in the loins. But, despite the noise orgy, there’s a bit of melody shining through, turning your average schizophrenic guitar mess. Although short as fuck, ‘Pedestal Fan’ hits the sweet spot that makes garage and punk fans drool like someone shoved a water balloon down their throats.

Girl Band-Lawman

More cut-throat savagery, this time from Girl Band. The first thing you’ll probably notice about their track ‘Lawman’, is that its really quiet. It starts at a factory-floor pace, chugging along the conveyer belt. All of a sudden, there’s an unloading of squealing, dirty guitar. And it doesn’t stop, just torrents of noise, kind of like what I imagine happens every time Thurston Moore took a shit back in the late 80’s. The song is absolutely beautiful and distorting, taking sudden turns destroying your brain and haphazardly trying putting it back together. When the song finishes, your mind will look like a half-melted candle assembled by a 3 year old with the motor skills of an iguana on crack. Loud, vicious and entirely unpredictable, ‘Lawman’ is fucking rad.

Forests/White Lodge Split 7″

Now, getting slightly more friendly, but not even close to being out of the fuzz zone, its a split 7″ between the glorious White Lodge and a band called Forests. Forests (not to be confused with Forest Swords, or actual forests) are from Taiwan. I know fuck all about Taiwan, so from now on, if anyone asks, I’ll just say that it’s a place in South East Asia where an awesome band called Forests is located. Super-dooper-Koopa-Trooper they are, with a sound that could place nicely in any Ty Segall record. The fuzz overloads on the Forest songs ‘Ego Bender’ and ‘The Fall’ are ripped right from the heart of the current San Fran psych-garage scene, and it could not have been executed better if it were done by John Dwyer himself. The songs are bright, sparkly, and best of all, absolutely keeling over on overdosed acid-tinged guitar freakouts. Fucking brilliant.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the 7″, its Queensland-reppin’ psych lords White Lodge. Interestingly enough, they’ve moved away from the heavy psych, and into the lighter territory of Burnt Ones/Thee Oh Sees styled psych-garage. ‘Her Spell’ hops along at a breakneck pace, the surf-rock verses just a faint illusion that is smashed apart by the grovelling, blood-stained chorus. ‘Flower Eyes’ sees a slight return to the slowed-down badassery, but only at the beginning. It soon divulges to be another fast-paced, speed-laced flower-pop tune like The Black Lips used to make. Regardless, this 7″ needs to be owned by all lovers of anything good.

Francis Lung (former Wu Lyf)-A Selfish Man

I was a massive fan of Wu Lyf, and their self-described ‘Heavy Pop’, and it came as a bit of a blow when they broke up. They were one of the few ‘indie rock’ bands that really challenged the cocoon of sound that most bands had adopted to sell a fuck load of records. Now that the band is a thing of the past, former member Francis Lung has struck out on his own with this debut track ‘A Selfish Man’. There’s a lot going on here, but you wouldn’t know it. Lung manages to compact all the sounds on the song, and weave it into a beautiful little tapestry. And, yeah its smooth as fuck, like Ron Burgundy wearing silk.

https://soundcloud.com/the-solicitors-1/help-me-forget

The Solicitors-Help Me Forget

Power-pop is a genre that more or less faded after the 80’s. There hasn’t been any heaps, heaps ultra gewd power-pop bands that spring to mind that were around after Replacements’ ‘Pleased to Meet Me’, and in my mind, Weezer doesn’t make the cut as an altogether power-pop band. However, The Solicitors are well-placed in that genre beyond any shade of doubt. The positive-ness that radiates off the negative nature of the songs is so unsubtle, its like a warzone of good times. Like their hero Alex Chilton, The Solicitors make the kind of catchy pop that resonates for a while after the song has finished.

Ernest Ellis-Shine Like Me

It seems like Ernest Ellis is always bringing out new shit for his loyal disciples to froth over. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. That’s a really, really good thing. And it just got better, via the track ‘Shine Like Me’. His beautiful vocals drop over a sharp and delicate guitar pattern, whilst bright keys occasionally dance underneath. And then that chorus hits, and boom, you’re hooked like Dustin Hoffman’s character for the 1991 smash hit Peter Pan sequel. ‘Shine Like Me’ is a gratingly brilliant song, that again shows off the amazing skillz of Ernest Ellis.

If you’re keen for more Ernest Ellis, he’s bringing out a new record in March, and will be playing a show at Brighton Up Bar on February 28. Schweeeeeet!

Video(s)-Flume & Chet Faker (!) + Death Grips + Mesa Cosa + SMILE +Ernest Ellis

Yeah, so I got behind on my work again, and there’s a bunch of videos that escaped my glorious reviewing. You should look and listen to all of them, lest you be cursed by a gypsy witch who’s really into Future Classic signees. Especially check out the Death Grips and SMILE clips; they’re alarmingly different but some of the best shit you’ll see/hear all week/month/year.

Flume & Chet Faker-Drop the Game

Boom! Did you fucking read that shit? Flume! Chet Faker! Boom! Yeah! Cool! Two of the most hyped acts to come from Australia in recent years, along with Tame Impala and POND, have joined forces to deliver a pretty brutal R&B chilltronica jam that would put a R Kelly/Washed Out collaboration to shame. Flume does what he does best, squishy, squelchy beats that reverse into squeals in the most adorably addictive way, but its Chet Faker that shines on this track, his voice singularly taking this track from a fairly average club hit to something you could listen to anywhere and still thoroughly enjoy.

As for the accompanying video, its okay. It depicts a deserted urban street (do those exist anymore?) and a dude  doing some pretty cool dance moves. Nothing happens, and that’s a bit of a let-down for such a fluid and full song, but hey, what are you gonna do?

Death Grips-You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money But I Know What He Really Loves You For It’s Your New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat

On the one hand, I regret posting the video for the new Death Grips track, because the title took me about half an hour to write. On the other hand, holy fucking shit! This song might be the best thing Death Grips have ever done! Its gritting, strung-out, visceral and challenging, but has a noise to it that one can’t help but think….FUCK!

This return to form, musically and lyrically, is accompanied by a pretty fucking great video, out-of-focus shots of MC Ride absolutely losing his shit, something that you should all be doing right about now.

Mesa Cosa-Sydney

Now, although Mesa Cosa are ragging on about my hometown, Sydney aka the greatest place on Earth, because, ‘…The girls from Melbourne will miss me…’, I still fucking love Mesa Cosa, the Melbourne blokes who give garage rock a good name. Featuring the sort of high octane energy that inevitably leads to spewing your guts up on King Street,  nails-down-chalkboard guitar screech a sweaty bass line, ‘Sydney’ is a fucking awesome track, despite the fact it’s all about Sydney taking the band away from their loved ones. However, considering all the footage from Mesa Cosa’ shows at what looks to be Hotel Street and The Factory Theatre, I’d say the boys are lying through their fucking teeth, and at least one of them got laid while they were up here.

SMILE-Still Waitin’ For My Man

Taking things down a fair bit, but still in the realm of Melbourne, we’ve got SMILE’s clip for their track ‘Still Waitin’ For My Man’. This clip is one of the better things I’ve seen in a while, mainly because it fits the song so fucking well. Easy-going and breezy, the clip features drug dealing, chocolate ice-cream, and the most head-bopping chorus you’ll hear…ever. Man, the Go-Betweens would be so stoked to hear this song.

Ernest Ellis-Black Wire

I always said that a convulsing woman in a black leotard was sexy, and it looks like Ernest Ellis are out to prove me correct. Such a beautiful track, half-macabre synth waves, half-mushy Stone Roses-level forlornness, the clip undoubtedly captures the torture of the vocals. The solemn harmonica that comes in so subtly but strongly at the end-dancing bit just reinforces the harmonious beauty of the clip so hard, it makes me want to burst into a fit of tears. Then the song ends, and I have to play ‘TV Party’ until I feel masculine again. But a little part of me is screaming, ‘play Black Wire again!’