Top 10 Australian Albums of 2014

It’s that time of year, when I sell my soul, and conform to the expectation that all blogs, no matter how small and shitty (of which Soundly Sounds is both) needs to compile an end of year list, summarising all the great things that have been accomplished by the fair artists of the year. Now, if you’ve ever been on this blog, or heard words out of my mouth, it becomes apparent that I have a habit of hyperbole, and describing everything as “my favourite” or “the best thing ever”. Well, now it’s time to pay up, and show what I, King Deadshit, reckon is the best of the best this year.

Albums are probably the most important listicle for me, personally, because they are the full form of creative expression for the artist. A single song, video clip or show can take certain things out of context, bolster aspects for the strongest appeal, and add new factors that increase the credibility. But with the album format, the artist has the range and capability to express themselves to their full extent. Sometimes, that leaves bands boring and stuggling for things to say and at other times there are plenty of gems to be found that represent the artist more fully than the ‘singles’ can convey.

If you haven’t heard any of the following albums, I beg you to go forth and purchase a copy. These artists deserve your attention.

Honourable Mentions: Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders (‘Playmates’), Ciggie Witch (‘Rock And Roll Juice’), Ernest Ellis (‘Cold Desire’), Pronto (‘When You’re Gone’) Andras & Oscar (‘Cafe Romantica’) Jonathan Boulet (‘Gubba’) Bloods (‘Work It Out’), Nun (‘Nun’), SPOD (‘Taste the Sadness’) Donny Benet (‘Weekend At Donny’s’) Collarbones (‘Return’).

10. Lowtide – Lowtide

Both heartbreaking and riveting, Lowtide unveiled a shoegaze masterpiece with their debut record. Flawless reverb was achieved, a statement that is almost never uttered. What’s more, the band interjected excitable gems like “Wedding Ring” and “Held” to prove they could do more than poignant and mouth-watering dream-pop shudders. (Review Here)

9. Straight Arrows – Rising

There’s something rising alright, and its not just the pulse of this record. A 60’s bonanza of loose Nuggets nods with the breakneck pace that we’ve come to adore from Owen Penglis. “Petrified” will never lose its cooler-than-Kim-Deal aura, “Never Enough” will never not be accompanied by headbanging, and “Make Up Your Mind’ will never make you not sweat like a guy who just popped pills in a rave in the Sahara. (Review Here)

8. Yes, I’m Leaving – Slow Release

Four albums in, and YIL have fully embraced their aggressive and blisteringly amazing potential. The way that three dudes from Sydney managed to make music that completely replicated THAT scene from Total Recall is mindblowing (pun intended, motherfucker). Strangling brutality ensues at an unbelievable rate, and the result is must-hear. Yes, I’m Leaving have made punk exciting again. (Review Here)

7. Scotdrakula – Scotdrakula

Melbourne’s Scotdrakula released an album so heart-stoppingly fun and eccentric, you would swear you’re at a theme park run by Tim & Eric. The record was a singles-fest, from the h8r-proof “O’Clock”, to “Shazon” impractically kicking more ass than a buddy cop film from the 1970’s. The yelps, riffs and good times of this album are as addicting as crack, and 10x more fun. (Review Here)

6. Bearhug – So Gone

Bearhug impressed beyond belief with their sophomore effort, lush pools of guitar gliding gently but effectively. For the duration of their second record, Bearhug never failed to impress, creating deep wells of greatness. What’s more, the songs were so packed that every listen brought on a new subtle technique or riff to bubble with joy over. (Review Here)

5. Ausmuteants – Order of Operation

Hilarious, snarky and brutally underrated, Ausmuteants released their third, and best record, this year. Attacking a variety of subjects, from porn, to unoriginality, to just being angry at fucking everything, like if Devo made ‘Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out The Trash’. Beautifully loud obnoxious, like a Geelong-ised Cartman that loves The Monks, Ausmuteants are the punk band that Australia doesn’t need, but the one it deserves. (Review Here)

4. Step-Panther – Strange, But Nice

Going from a band of shredders that liked to make songs about fat kids getting abducted and teenage romance to something that people wanted to take seriously was always going to be hard, but Step-Panther achieved that with their stupefyingly good second record. As naked as open-heart surgery, Step-Panther laid things bare for a mind-numbingly good album, in the truest sense of the word. There’s a journey here, a quest guided by back-breaking guitar solos, bloody doom riffs and stories as wholesome as The Goonies. (Review Here)

3. The Ocean Party – Soft Focus

The Ocean Party have always been consistent, but on their fourth album, they’ve wrought an album of genius. ‘Soft Focus’ is packed with songs that tug on the ol’ heart, yearning lyrics pushing through walls of sound that recall The Triffids at their best. If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself in a record, “Soft Focus” is the easiest, and most likeable, of your options, a straight-up pop album masked in woefully gorgeous jangle. (Review Here)

2. Weak Boys – Weekdays/Weekends

Weak Boys, a Sydney supergroup made of Internet Sensations™, Dollar Bar contributors and Craig Lyons, quietly released an Australian classic this year on par with The Castle and Tony Abbott’s budgie smugglers. A diverse smorgasbord of guitar-pop and mope-rock, “Weekdays/Weekends” is fuelled by self-deprecation, glistening humour and a catchiness that rivals Taylor Swift. It is fantastic in so many indescribable ways, an encapsulation of the Australian, or at least Sydney, lifestyle in much the same way The Go-Betweens probably did back before Y2K. From the ode to Rice Is Nice’s Julia Wilson, to the plight of the hungover, Diane Keaton-pining miser (read: everyone), “Weekdays/Weekends” was both the most underrated release of 2014, and one of the best. (Review Here)

1. Blank Realm – Grassed Inn

‘Grassed Inn’ was released in January of 2014, a time when most records are easily forgotten about by the time Year-End Lists roll around. At here we are, December, and Blank Realm still reign supreme. Topping a list on some shitty blog is nowhere near the recognition this album deserves – it is a masterpiece. Off-kilter pop that hurts and burns, burrowing into the emotional conscious with such an ease, you’d think it was a Nicholas Sparks novel. From the droning weirdness of a Spiritualized/New Order hybrid to the embracement of hurt that a Johhny Cash/Robert Smith duet would reveal, a pool of influences are on display, embraced to create something magnificently unique. Wrapped in the keytar-adoring hands of Blank Realm, music is a malleable, smudged and sincerely uplifting creature that restores faith. Superb in every word, ‘Grassed Inn’ is essential for everyone. (Review Here)

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Video: Lowtide – Wedding Ring

Lowtide released one hell of a record earlier this year, a mesmerising chant of overdriven guitars sliding in next to absolutely stunning vocal interplay. They’ve gone and released the video for their single “Wedding Ring”, one of the best dream-pop songs of recent memory, and to summarise, it shows that the band love themselves some cacti. Can’t get enough of the spiky monstrosity. Seriously, the whole thing is fucking dedicated to the desert’s green devil. Obviously, I’ve got a bit of a vendetta against cacti, but Lowtide make up for it.

Album Review: Lowtide – Lowtide

The album artwork for Lowtide’s debut record is as sonically accurate as it is poignant. There’s an explosion going on obviously, a melding of human destruction with natural beauty, shrapnel flying everywhere. And it’s all captured in a moment of grace, where the blunt and catastrophic is slowed to a point of majesty and unreal beauty. I mean, if ever there was a perfect visual metaphor for Lowtide’s debut album, this would be it.

It’s been a long time coming for the debut LP from these guys, roughly three years. In that time, the members of Lowtide have matured and honed their songs into something that makes the heart melt faster than butter in a microwave. Their music is so pleasing, I would actually prefer to listen to Lowtide on repeat than have Bill Murray whisper sweet nothings into my ear. You read that right – I would rather listen to Lowtide crush my soul on ‘Blue Movie’ than have the star of Ghostbusters and Rushmore read me his secret poetry collection. I…I can’t even believe I’m typing that sort of sentence, and yet here we are.

What makes Lowtide catapult to such a stormy height of recognition is that their music is more soothing that being cradled in Siberian velvet. ‘Held’ does just as its title promises, glowing with gentle dream-pop riffs that cocoon the listener, bustling with hushed reverb energy. ‘Wedding Ring’ draws itself out into the kind of thing that would match up perfectly with the finale for a Zach Braff. And ‘Whale’ washes itself out with a salty scrub ascending-into-heaven guitar.

But really, I could go on and on about the aesthetic of the whole thing for years, and most people would probably just think I was talking about any old shoegaze release. Ya Ya, cool you ginger fuckwit, but I’m looking for a little excitement, ya hear? Well, that’s where Lowtide charge out in front of their superiors.. Like Sunbeam Sound Machine or Day Ravies, Lowtide just really excel at combining all their musical talents into passages of instrumentation that are impossible to drag yourself away from. The songs on this album, particularly ‘Whale’ and ‘Yesterday’ are packed with chasms that not even Thelma and Louise would dare to try and jump over. You, dear listener, are guaranteed to lose yourself, as looming guitars lap themselves, running a pacing race that whirs and hums like the motor n your favourite car. It becomes impossible to remember when these chunks of orgasmic sound began, or even if there is an end in sight, but you become so caught up in the moment, that the faintest idea of giving a shit evaporates.

The songs here are, put plainly, ultra-pleasant. They’re soft, but they also carry with them a weight which makes you prick your ears like you heard someone say ‘….there’s a new Christopher Nolan movie’. Lowtide manage to take the captivating charm of listening to My Bloody Valentine, and package it into something wholesomely charming, all whilst reeling with delight.

If it sounds like Lowtide have jus dropped one of the best albums of the year, its because that’s true. Lowtide made us wait a fair while, but thank Christ this album has been released. It is a beacon of genius. There is nothing more left to say other than go and buy this album.

Oh, what a coincidence, you can do that right here: 

AND MAKE SURE YOU GET DOWN TO THE ROLLER DEN THIS FRIDAY! Lowtide will be launching the record, with help from Miners, Shrapnel and Bachelor Pad. Fucking sick lineup alert!