Top 10 Australian Albums of 2015

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I’ve listened to a fair bit of music this year. A decent amount, I’d say. Some of it was old, some of it was new, some of it was shit, and some of it was really fucking shit. But for the most part, it was really, really, really fucking good.

And at the pinnacle of it all was music from this country – there were plenty of things to be ashamed of Australia about this year, but music wasn’t one of ’em. After years of ignorance and cultural cringe, trying to echo the charts of the US and the UK, Australia produced three globe-conquering bands that feel like they could have only been birthed right here. Regardless of how you feel about their music, the fact that Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala and Hiatus Kaiyote wrestled the spotlight back to the land of Vegemite and lockout laws can only be a good thing. At best, it’s a chance to show how Australia can excel whilst working outside the lines of what is considered traditional pop music, and at worst, you can be a little bit patriotic when it comes to these fucking year end lists.

None of the aforementioned artists actually feature in my favourite albums of this year – the records were objectively good, but I’ve never been at the pub, heard “Let It Happen”, and turned to my best mate with a wide grin. However, I respect the fact that they’ve gotten the world’s attention to Australian music again, and now that we’ve got their eyeballs in a Clockwork Orange binge position, we suffocate them with as much of the good stuff as possible. Such as:

10. Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida

Melbourne, Florida holds plenty of reasons as to why you should be showing Dick Diver to everyone you know. Even without mentioning their magnum opus Calendar Days, shoving songs like Waste the Alphabet” or “Tearing the Posters Down” should be high on your priority list of songs to put on when someone asks “What should we listen to?”. There’s a narrative tilt to the way that Dick Diver write songs that’s unmatched amongst their contemporaries. If anyone claims that jangle-pop is too disaffected and obsessed with the mundane, smack them sideways with your copy of this record, and showcase the emotional weight in songs like “Boomer Class” to silence them effectively.

Full Review of Dick Diver’s Melbourne, Florida

9. Bad//Dreems – Dogs At Bay

If Dogs At Bay had been released during the period that Bad//Dreems are emulating, then it would’ve been one of Au-Go-Go’s most prized possessions. As it happens, Dogs At Bay came out in 2015, and introduced a whole new generation of kids to the glory of pub rock. Beer-soaked riffs, a howl that reaches all the way to the loner coughing up their life savings at the pokies, and a wide swathe of material that nodded to folks like GOD, Coloured Balls, The Go-Betweens and The Angels, Bad//Dreems pounded the listener with an affecting album of impressive rock.

Full Review of Bad//Dreems’ Dogs At Bay

8. Palms – Crazy Rack

Outside of Sydney, it seemed like this record was a bit ignored. Which is a huge shame, because it’s full of rock gems that span from the riff hurricane of “Bad Apple”, to the Cheap Trick-spiritual successor “Thoughts of You”, to “Sleep Too Much” a face-melter that rivals the power of The Ark of the Covenant. There were also pleasantly surprising softer moments that took Palms away from being pigeon holed as a band that could only do garage-rock. When you feel a bit shit, and needed that quick fix of heartfelt headbangers that you’re not ashamed to belt out off-key and shred an air guitar to, crank Crazy Rack. 

Full Review of Palms’ Crazy Rack

7.  MAKING – High Life

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/132638620″>MAKING – COME 2 ME</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user41667982″>TRAIT RECORDS</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

MAKING were the band that took me by surprise most this year. I’d never seen their live show before, and had only really glanced through their previous singles. Which is how “Come 2 Me” hit me so hard, Thor’s hammer splicing open my skull, caving in expectations. Indeed, all of High Life has that effect of being ripped apart from the inside by a pack of raging rhinoceros. Over the course of a half-hour, MAKING pulverises minds to dust, leaving you shivering, cold and begging for more. Their approach to music – thundering drums ploughing into a swelling bruise of menace until the whole fucking thing explodes – is exceptional. Furthermore, the sheer musicality of MAKING is terrifying: HOW DO THEY MAKE THE SOUNDS THEY ARE MAKING? How do they force their record to appear like the apocalypse? It’s complexity completely removed of pretension, just bucking insanity stripped to its most batshit crazy.

Full Review of MAKING’s High Life

6. Heart Beach – Heart Beach

Hobart’s Heart Beach are an unassuming bunch; they use what they need, and nothing more. Their cover for their album is just a heart and a palm tree – nothing fancy, just enough to let the kids know what they’re getting. Musically, they’re just as sparse: mild guitar lines, feathering drums, the occasional burst of noise, and lightly duetting vocals that miser around bum-puffing, waiting, and the small pleasures you hold dear when you work in office.

And with that simple tool of simplicity, everything that Heart Beach quietly whisper is a boom. When you’re a band like Heart Beach, loaded with inherent sorrow, its the little things that count the most. This is an album focused purely on the little things, and for that, this unassuming record has become one of the most powerful of the year.

5. Gang of Youths – The Positions

The accompanying story to The Positions makes it clear that it was always an album that was going to be made. It’s a testament to the band’s ability that what they have made is so good. Pivoting between enormous waves of Springsteen arena-ready rock and intimate moments  that could easily belong on a Joni Mitchell record, the thing that holds these changes together is frontman Dave Le’aupepe bare honesty. Put in the same position, there’s no fucking way I’d be comfortable sharing  ideas like suicide, critical levels of self-doubt and watching the person you love the most slowly dying in front of you. But that’s what Gang of Youths do, and its a jaw-dropping experience of an album because of that.

The Positions isn’t just an album that’s captivating because of its story, or because of how a person is telling the story, or because of the musical accompaniment, but a sum of these amazing parts. Do yourself a favour, and sit down with this album. Don’t get distracted, don’t listen to just the singles, listen to all of it. By the end of that run-time, if you’ve done it properly, The Positions will have hit you like a fucking train has ploughed through your soul, and you’ll be thankful for it.

Full Review of Gang of Youths’ The Positions

4. Roland Tings – Roland Tings

Here’s a good reason why Year End Lists matter – without Mess + Noise’s ‘Best Songs of 2013’ article, I never would’ve found Roland Tings. Since hearing “Tomita’s Basement”, I’ve been devoted to everything he’s put out. It’s just the smoothest music in the land right now, exotic soundscapes made by a bonafide genius.

Roland Tings’ debut is one that just keeps on giving, whether it be the hyperactive, salivating “Pala”, which sounds like Tings recorded synths over the best pool party ever, the cavernous “Cultural Canal” or the tantalising squelch of “Coming Up For Air”. Roland Tings made a party record that is universal, a protege extension of Todd Terje’s thrilling music. It is so easy to get lost in this album, but when its a record this flamboyant, diverse and fun, you’ll never want to get out.

Full Review of Roland Tings’ Roland Tings

3. Power – Electric Glitter Boogie

Putting on Electric Glitter Boogie, you get hit with the same feeling that accompanied people hearing Raw Power and Teenage Hate for the first time. There’s a carnal, primitive energy that only hits rock music every now and then, a spark that sounds like someone throwing a toaster in a bathtub.

Electric Glitter Boogie is unrelenting in its mission to seek and destroy what was previously the most maddening rock to scorch this Earth. Every song wreaks complete destruction, proto-punk missiles sinking their teeth into your very being and thrashing around, until your as cold and lifeless as all the other victims. When Power scream, they flatten their surroundings to patches of dirt. Power make me want to put my hand in a blender, and laugh all the way to the emergency room. They’ve made the most maniacal, demented, absurd ode to real rock music capable, and if you have any interest in the carnivorous power of guitar, you need to indulge in this album. Power’s title doesn’t just ring true, it redefines the meaning.

Full Review of Power’s Electric Glitter Boogie

2. Blank Realm – Illegals in Heaven

A year later, and Blank Realm are still on top – their 2014 masterpiece Grassed Inn seemed like an unbeatable benchmark for the group, but here we are: Illegals in Heaven is Blank Realm’s SECOND magnum opus.

There’s not a song on this album that isn’t a total winner, even if they incite that reaction for different reasons. “No Views” cries victory for its chugging riffs and squealing keytar, whilst “Palace of Love” and “River of Longing” triumph with their stories of lost love that are so intimate, yet could also apply to millions of relationships out there. And “Gold” remains possibly the best song Blank Realm have ever written, and in following logic, that means its one of the best Australian songs ever written.

Illegals in Heaven isn’t a perfect album, it is the perfect album. There is so much here to fall in love with, a constant stream of discovering new points in the album to exclaim, “Well, fuck me, that’s got to be the best thing ever recorded!”. It’s an album to be listened to with friends, with strangers, by yourself, at the pub, at a party, at a funeral, at the fucking fish and chip shop – there is no situation to far fetched or ordinary that Illegals in Heaven wouldn’t make the perfect companion to. Buy this album, hold it close, and severe all ties with anyone who tries to “borrow” it.

Full Review of Blank Realm’s Illegals in Heaven

1. Royal Headache – High

There’s a whole list of reasons as to why High is the best and most important record of 2015. It sees one of Australia’s arguably greatest contemporary band return to form after a three year absence, it sees them extend and explore beyond what they became so well known for, it followed one of the best performances the Opera House has ever been privy to, and Iggy Pop really liked it.

But the main reason why Royal Headache top this pretty irrelevant list is because High wins from sheer listenability. And isn’t that precisely what a good record should be? I’ve listened to this album more than any other this year, so much so that I’ve worn out my first copy and had to order a second one. I love it so much that I’m terrified to write about it, because I know I won’t even get close to describing how good it is.Whatever your rating system is, 10 stars, 5 flaming guitars, A/B/C/D, whatever…High doesn’t just take out the highest possible rating, it expunges that system from existence, and sits glowering atop the rubble.

The way Royal Headache punch through song after song, bringing the house down every two minutes or so – that’s exactly what drew me to liking music in the first place. High incites a reaction in me that hits so close to the bone that I’m embarrassed to even talk about it. This sounds like raving, but it’s important, at least to me, to express how much of total fucking masterpiece this record is. If there’s anyone out there with a doubt of how good a band can possibly be, chuck on this Royal Headache album, and feel all your cynicism at modern music fade away.

Full Review of Royal Headache’s High 

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Album Review: POWER – Electric Glitter Boogie

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Raw Power. You heard of it? You know it. You know it well. It’s rusty, filthy, tetanus-coated, tinnitus-inducing noise. It’s primal, decadent muck that razes the ground it lays upon, inflicting wounds upon all, drilling itself into a bloody corpse. It’s pornographic, indulgent, deliriously basic music driven to its most dangerous extreme.

After releasing “Slimy’s Chains” earlier this year, Power proved that they were disciples of the raw. A stripped ‘n’ thrashed scourge, determined to squeeze the innocence out of an individual’s skull. This was a song that filled you with terror and excitement at the same time, a charismatic source of wicked rock ‘n’ roll. It made me more enthusiastic for a forthcoming album than any other record this year. It got to a point where I had to ask friends to go into Repressed to ask when they thought the Power record would be arriving, because I thought I had pissed off Nic too much with my clockwork questions.

The arrival of ‘Electric Glitter Boogie’ as a fully fledged album has made me want to blow my brains out, because I don’t think there will be another band in 2015 that will provide such an exhilarating take on rock ‘n’ roll. This album will fucking kill you. This album will turn you insane. It will pick at your brains like the Overlook Hotel, but with all the subtlety removed. There are no creepy twins, there is only the constant tidal wave of blood. Every song on this album is an exhausting experience, a battle cry of deplorability, the best fucking thing you’ve ever heard in your goddamn life.

How are Power so good? How could some fucking band from fucking Melbourne be this incredible? It’s because they’re committed, refusing to provide anything less than the most slovenly, mouth-foaming, carnivorous take on raw power since The Stooges. Take the title track, or the album finale, “Power” – the way those vocals are wrangled, screamed into that microphone, there’s an effect there that stays with you long after the cackles have subsided. You’ve just heard an expression so un-diluted by the usual bullshit that pervades rock music that it comes as a shock, albeit an addicting one that murders competitors.

My hands shake as I push the needle back to the beginning of the album, over and over and over again, a manic habit that borders on delirium. I need this album to rattle my brain into an asylum. I want to hear that sneer and that bludgeoning ringing in my ears even when I sleep. Power have created a terrifying, blackened masterpiece that not only bores through to what makes rock music so great but grovels at its feet of it, a slave to a master. This album isn’t just raw, or primitive, or intimidating, it’s all of the above, and more. It’s a painful bombardment of dilated pupil riffs that brand itself into the skin tissue. If you are any sort of fan of music, you will chain this album to your chest, and bury yourself with it.

 

New: Power – Slimy’s Chains

There’s only one rule, man, and that you gotta be cool to be cool. And there’s nothing cooler than Cool Death Records. They’ve got the best punk roster going round, a bonafide bulletproof list of the best bands to shred a stage. Amongst the ranks are Dribble, Soma Coma, Gutter Gods, Leather Lickers and Velvet Whip. But it’s Power that really punches through vital organs and emerges through your back with a bloody spleen in hand. And as they rightfully fucking should: this band is incredible. In. Fucking. Credible. Better than Netflix. Better than 4/20. Better than a Best of Gary Busey compilation.

Power are a supreme force, a blinding hail of guitar that ricochets around your skull like a ball trapped in a possessed pinball machine. It’s The Stooges meets Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments meets Golden Pelicans, riffs blazing a trail of fiery punk attitude that suckles at a demon’s teet. The howls implemented here are cackles ripped from a forgotten time, and the pounding fury of “Slimy’s Chains” is both biblical and terrifying.

New Punk: Red Red Krovvy + Satanic Rockers + Moonboat + Meter Men + POWER + Dribble

I really wanted to title this New Noise, because the bands on here are ready to blow out your fucking eardrums. But then I’d be naming it after a Refused song, and I kinda didn’t want to do that.

Red Red Krovvy – Real Life

This is about as short and sharp as they come. It’s like X-Rey Spex if they turned into the Hulk, just broad shoulders bulldozing everything in its path. This song is pure fire, ready to burn down your fucking brain from the inside out. The bellows on here are staunch and terrifying. If you have loose bowels, shit now.

Red Red Krovvy play at The Valve Bar in Broadyway tonight! With Housewives, Sweat Tongue, and Meat Tray.

Satanic Rockers – Death Sentence

Fucking hell, this shit is like having your skull shoved into a running treadmill that’s compromised of gravel. This is noisy, bludgeoning death music, like being choked out by Chrome. Like Ghastly Spats, the noises produced on here are pure B-Grade horror, the darkest thing to have been released in Australia in a long time. The vocals are dripping with foreshadowings of destruction.

Moonboat – Spirit Panther

Who even knows where to begin on this one? On one hand, there’s hellfire being spewed like volcanic diarrhea, like “Hellpipes” and “Greybomber”. Then later down the album, these very strange, almost indie-rock pieces rock up, but they’re sprawling works. ‘Spirit Panther’ is interesting, and it constantly evolves, like chucking cheat codes into Pokemon. Basically, Moonboat are Australia’s Deafheaven.

Meter Men – Severed Relations

If you haven’t already, get yourself nice and bloody familiar with Helta Skelta Records. Fuck me, this stuff is so immediate and bloodthirsty, it makes me sweat under my armpits. It’s like having the Gutter Gods become even more brutally skin-peeling. Lo-fi recording, mind-crushing drums, and buzzsaw guitars that sound like they could fell the Amazon, Meter Man are fucking insane.

POWER – Puppy

Holy shit, POWER are amazing! They blast through with this early Replcaments-esque rock star posturing, but it’s flayed alive by the furiosity of the riffs and crashing noise. This is 80’s speed metal funnelled into a pub rock atmosphere. If Radio Birdman had been introduced to Slayer, something like this could have existed before now. Let’s just count ourselves lucky that POWER exist in this present universe.

Dribble – Girl of My Dreams

Another one from the amazing Cool Death Records, it’s new stuff from Melbourne gutter punks Dribble. Possessing a lot of the same bratty, punishing snot that propelled Circle Pit, Drown Under and Ausmuteants, Dribble power through this 3 minute thrill injection, splintering ears with all sorts of heart-in-your-throat guitar wailing, settling down for a second, and then exploding back into chaos. Fuck, this is insane.