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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New: Roland Tings – Hedonist (Alba Remix)

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Alba don’t pulsate, they throb. Boom, boom, boom, thunking away at your temple, gnawing at the base of your spine. Their originals are spot on masterclasses in morbid beats, but their remix work is fantastic as well, often warping the original into a form of deadly, malleable steel, kinda like the equivalent of the guy from Terminator 2. Check out their take on Oscar Key Sung’s “All I Could Do” and Elizabeth Rose’s “The Good Life” for evidence.

Here, they latch onto Roland Tings’ latest track, “Hedonist”, taking the song’s original pleasure = everything atmosphere, and dragging it into some deeper depths. It feels like a crocodile (saltwater, obviously) slithering just below the surface of the water, lumbering towards prey, clasping some jaws around the tropical beast’s neck and submerging it beneath the surface. It’s a jerky, thudding, steamy spread of electronica and you’d better do what’s right and click that little download button.

PS: Roland Tings is playing this Saturday at Howler in Melbourne – get along to it if you feel like casually witnessing one of Australia’s premiere electronic musicians at work.

New: Roland Tings – Hedonist

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Roland Tings’ debut album was released earlier this year, and with the exception of Null’s EP, it’s the only electronic album from 2015 that has truly blown me away. What particularly made the record stand out were the lengthy, inspired rollercoasters that Tings curates – grabbing a whole mixture of elements, manoeuvring between them all, and then colliding them for truly beautiful finales.

With the end of the year drawing close, the man has found time to squeeze out a new track in “Hedonist”. Fuck me, how apt is that title? Roland Tings knows exactly how to clutch the pleasure gland, moving at a cascading free fall of unique splashes, jolts and whispers, but tightening and muscling it up when he has to as well.  It collects all the enjoyable aspects of his work, mashing them into a hazy eight minute throng.

For those who have yet to enjoy Roland Tings, it can’t go recommended enough – he’ll be playing Sugar Mountain Festival in Melbourne next year, which also features sets from Hot Chip, Royal Headache, Total Giovanni and Courtney Barnett.

Album Review: Roland Tings – Roland Tings

The first thing you’ll notice about Roland Tings’ new album is the wetness. Douse yourself in it. Get it all lathered up in it. Slap it on like sunscreen. Because it is wetter than any tropical rainforest/sexual experience that your sick and twisted mind could conjure up. After pressing that little sideways triangle, you will be plunged headlong into a myriad of synths, beats and samples that are squelchier than biting down on fresh cherry tomatoes.

Don’t take the notion of wetness to mean that Roland Tings’ debut LP is a case of sluggishness, or something soaked beyond recognition. Instead, each song is immersed just far enough below the surface so that it springs back with extra force. Gravity is suspended as illegitimate forces of nature lay in suspended animation, blipping off each other in quaint excitement. It’s like a game of Space Invaders got stoned and all the aliens just decided to be friends – each lil’ neon fucker that was hellbent on destroying earth now just chirps in unison.

What makes Roland Tings so fantastic and easy to listen to is his ability to subtly ramp his songs into new gears, a feat that, in the age of the DROP, is remarkable. Instead of lambasting the listener into a seizure, or straying too far into ambience, he is able to warp his way between both worlds, creating an eyes-closed sphere of magnetic pulsations of electronica.

Roland Tings makes dance music the same way that Giorgio Morodor made dance music. He makes it feel effortless, endless progression of nuanced lushness that is ripe to be utilised for the soundtrack of baby making. However, closer inspection showcases the sheer amount of sounds that are being incorporated into a single track. That might sound like an obvious factor for electronic music, even necessary. But a song like “Devotion” or “Floating On A Salt Lake” spews forth such a myriad of intertwining jungle beats and dazed synths, you’d swear a Hydra had just discovered Todd Terje and was trying their hand at DJ’ing.

Simply put, Roland Tings makes dance music loveable again. Shit, I’m terrified of anything that raises itself above 90 BPM, and Roland Tings makes me want to dive headfirst into a STI-infected club in Ibiza, just so I can boogie the night away to “Pala”. Imagine the shapes that his warped whistles will make YOUR body contort into.

Listening to just one Roland Tings song is liable for intoxication – an entire album is cause for unholy celebration. A sole figure behind the decks manages to be vibrant, serene, exhilarating and unpredictable at the same time. His music is shimmering, about as reliable and delicious as jelly on a plate. ‘Roland Tings’ consistently amazes, an album that you can focus on a million times over and still be thrown by a niggling noise that probably doesn’t exist outside of a single recording session.

It’s Italian Disco from the Future. It’s Groove No.1 carried from the depths of the Amazon. It’s rave music for the Tumblr generation. To summarise – it’s an album that you fucking need.

New: Roland Tings – Pala

File this one under “Shit That Needs To Be Heard”. In the swoop of a mere 8 minutes, Roland Tings proves himself to be in the top tier of producers that, not only this country, but this globe should adore.

“Pala” is brilliance, a sci-fi jungle filled with synth chirps, steel-drums and whistles, fuelled by elastic rhythms that bound like a fucking jaguar. It’s like Todd Terje got hit with tropical fever. It’s brilliant.

New: Roland Tings – Devotion

And just like that, Roland Tings has dropped a brand new song that’ll make you give up any and all dreams of being a producer. Shattered synths reverberate with the strength of a thousand FEELS, man. If you don’t want to dance and re-enact some sort of shitty dance that you thought was cool at your Year 7 Social, like “The Shopping Trolley” or “The Fishing Pole”, then there is something insanely wrong with you.

“Devotion” is allegedly the first portion of an upcoming LP from Roland Tings. If he can make everything as instantly groovy and immersive as this JAM, then he can only have success and cocaine heaped upon him.

Video(s): Lower Plenty + Orlando Furious + Roland Tings

Sure, you don’t have the mullet of Al Monfort, or the bleak majesty of Orlando Furious, or the electronic chops of Roland Tings. But you do have these videos:

Lower Plenty-Life/Thrills

The title track from Lower Plenty’s sophomore album is the standout, a yearning heart-tugger if ever there was one. ‘Life/Trills’ makes you want to curl up and regret every decision you’ve ever made, regardless of the negative or positive connotations. The way the lyrics are delivered are pangs of guilt in audio formation, ensuring the tears march out on time. Forget about those salad days, boys, they’re gone forever!

That’s not exactly the sentiments delivered in the clip, which is one of the most heartwarming stories of the decade. Three Aussie-as-a-kangaroo’s-balls mates get caught in the crossfire…of love. However, through the power of Melbourne Bitter, which has the same strength as TEN GREYSKULLS (!), old mate is raised from the tomb and the three best friends carry on to the park with sputtering beers in hand, and more shit-eating grins than a diarrhoea fetish party.

Now that, my friends, is how you make a goddamn music video.

Orlando Furious-Fresh

Phre$h is the word that comes to mind when describing Melbourne’s Orlanda Furious. So they made a song and a clip about it, featuring the Phre$hest dog gamn tights/swag chaing combo this world has ever seen. What starts with some convulsions on a junkie mattress turns into King Swag, a purple-suited audiophile pimp, who changes the way our young protagnist looks and feels about the world: Str8 gangsta. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, just watch the clip

Roland Tings-Floating On A Salt Lake

MMMMM new Rolan Tings. Finally, some electronic music that doesn’t assualt your ears with jumping ADHD trap or bring your faith in humanity crashing to the ground with some dick-measuring mashup of sounds that were never meant to go together for a reason.

Roland Tings is here with the smoothest electronic beats, providing six minutes of blissed out atmosphere. He really is a child of Jon Hopkins, breathing air with his minimalistic approach, learning that less is more. Watching the man work on his lonesome in this video makes you appreciate how well he makes his music dance, the subtleness taking full flight. Every time you listen to this Roland Tings song, a DJ Snake fan dies 🙂