It is really, really good to hear some Shrapnel again. Originally the solo whirring synth pop project of Day Ravies’ Sam Wilkinson, the project has since expanded into a full band, and fuck me, can’t you just hear those extra folks in their latest track “Another Year”.
Fuck me with a spatula, and call me Gordon Ramse! There is no way anyone will be able to beat the eye-popping names on the latest mixtape from Peking Tapes.
Let me lay it out for you like this: Do you like Parading? Or Day Ravies? Or Shrapnel? Or Cat Cat? Or Wizard Oz? Or…fuck me, every name on this compilation is like Aus underground royalty, and every second you waste reading this is a second that could be spent buying this tape.
But if you insist on getting the blow-byblow, let’s start at the top: Andre begins things with a squelchy guitar romper called ‘Single Town’, and then Parading double down on that crunchy reverb with an exclusive single entitled ‘Try to Do A Good Thing’. From there, it’s one of my favourites off Shrapnel’s debut, a cool pop song called ‘Baby Picks Up’, followed by a jangly one from Cat Cat that manages to be both sad and relieved at the same time, the perfect song for when you’ve got your back turned on something.
Mac DeMarco on crack gets channeled excessively in the track, ‘You Were Mine’, from Colours, as lazy guitar mingles with clashing noise. The middle of this is a brilliant mind-fuck, moving between twinkling emptiness and a feeding frenzy of feedback. Day Ravies continue down this road of overblown noise in their contribution ‘Drink the Ocean’, a track that starts quaint and Pavement-esque, and then bombards the listener with squirming noise towards the end.
Wizard Oz dilute the waters with a frowning track called ‘Go Home’, a song swarming with warm synth work and lyrics that are more desperate than the Socceroos attempts at a World Cup.
Now, after a mixture of noisy and down-tempo tracks, Australia’s garage/slacker scene gets a chance to shine, with contributions from Cool Sounds, The Ocean Party, Thigh Master, Disgusting People and The Grease Arrestor. Each of these songs is warmer than a dole cheque, and they’ve got more heart than those lab-rats with organs grown on them.
The best mixtape ever ends with two amazing pop tunes from Snowy Nasdaq and Moondice, both providing tracks that could easily fit into the ‘Sexy Time’ playlist (that you’ve never used before).
To summarise, the title of this playlist doesn’t even remotely do the contents justice. Oz does music so good, they should outlaw other countries music, and just have this playlist on repeat globally. The songs on here are more or less the pinnacle of human achievement. Sure, there may be a bit of gratuitous hyperbole in that last statement, but until the other continents catch up and release a mixtape as good as this, then Australia wins the award for best underground music in the world. Take that, Brooklyn!
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.
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.
No, Sidney Nolan didn’t come back from the dead. What you’re seeing right there is the artwork for the debut album from Sam ‘I’m In Every Band’ Wilkinson. Besides ‘kickin’ it’ in local stalwarts like Day Ravies, King Tears Mortuary, and Mope City, amongst a bunch of others, you can pretty much catch Sam and his blonde mop at any decent show worth going to. Oh yeah, and he sometimes helps out with his mates The Ocean Party and Summer Flake as well, in case the resume wasn’t disembowelling enough already.
Shrapnel is his latest baby, slowly but steadily making its own name amongst the keener eared of Aussie legends. After previous singles ‘Print & Sign’ and ‘Tobacco Dreams’, he has unleashed upon the world an album that can only be described as jangle-pop rattling in a tin can. The sound is undoubtedly swathed in the aesthetic of bedroom bands, titillating between drum-machine, synth freak outs and sincere, tunnelling ballads.
It’s the fact that Shrapnel switches so easily between the two that’s really interesting. In one moment, you’re grooving down the highway of good vibes with ‘Direct Debt’, a broken kid’s keyboard accompanying a hurtling guitar, and a pop embrace that shuns boredom at the door. This is a fun-times only party, sorry Boredom, you can’t come in. No, you can’t see Julia, she doesn’t want to see you. You really fucked it up this time Boredom. Anyway, she’s making out with Shrapnel in the corner. She’s moved on, Boredom, you should to. *’Direct Debt’ plays in the background, as Boredom sullenly walks away*
But with the space of a single song, the project has moved onto far more introspective territory. For example, ‘Baby Picks Up’ shows a fair hand at trickling guitar work, which in turn creates a super intimate space for the song to bathe in. The little melodies the song does contain manage to cocoon the shit out of the listener. It’s like a micro version of Black Moth Super Rainbow being projected into our skulls at a much more pleasant-to-swallow rate.
And best yet, when these two worlds collide (Powerman 5000 anyone?) with each other, the energetic pop that seems to ooze way too easily from Shrapnel’s veins, and the sullen, introspection that give the band so much character and depth, the results are infectious beds of music that won’t be heading away for long. ‘Tobacco Dream’, ‘Print & Sign’ and ‘Sinker/Stinker’ are the key tracks from this department, and they could really suit any occasion. 3am train ride home after another night of loneliness? Check. Best mate’s in town, and needs a good song to settle into the couch with? No worries. Ran out of VB’s? Mate, you’re fucked, audio entertainment can’t save you.
In Shrapnel, Sydney now has its own Blank Realm-weird pop music from the otherworldly nether regions known as the Western Suburbs. Tobacco Dreams is eclectic, instantly likeable, and norm-centrically gorgeous. It’s music that works on a personal and social level, that can be enjoyed regardless of atmosphere.
No one could ever accuse Sam Wilkinson of being a bad guy. Ever. Besides being nicer than Glinda the Good Witch handing out free puppies, he’s a pretty key ingredient of drop-dead gorgeous bands like Day Ravies, Mope City, Beef Jerk, King Tears Mortuary. Not to mention this lovely new solo project he’s cooked up by the name of Shrapnel, a dirty little pop scene of its own.
Well, everything you know is about to change. This scumbag, this…this genocidal maniac murdered over 1,000 matches for the making of his new clip! Butchered those things senseless, slaughtered them into a scale of the quadruple digits! What a monster! What a maniac! Who is letting this guy create such amazing music and senselessly violent videos? He probably gave that gooey Playdough monster lung cancer as well.
Shit, if ‘Tobacco Dream’ wasn’t such a good song, I’d have to carry out some vigilante justice. I’m not the hero that Sydney deserves, but the one it needs.
Boom, shackalaka! New Aussie music tunes to fill your ears unlike that hole in your life left by a yearning sense to accomplish something of semi-importance, and achieve self-fulfilment. Alas, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will again go disused. Now go, cover that shame with some killer tunes.
Shrapnel-Print and Sign
Sam Wilkinson is a man of many guises, like some sort of musical Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 2. Hell, both are located in Sydney! Shit, Sam Wilkinson is fucking Tom Cruise!
Massive coincidences aside, Mr. Wilkinson has a new project under the name of Shrapnel, which is a weird, psych-pop thing that has all the cuteness and warmth of a gentrified Chest-Burster. If ‘Print and Sign’ grew up in the wild, it would be a ferocious beast that’s sole aim in life was to rip open chest cavities, and wreak horror upon a crew of unsuspecting space explorers. Luckily, Sam Wilkinson tamed this gnarled terror into a lounging, Mac DeMarco-meets-MGMT (Brian Eno era) pop number, that ends in a tripped out passage that’s more Hitchiker’s than Alien. Damn, it feels good to drop dumb references to local music!
NUN-Evoke the Sleep
NUN (not to be confused with the surf-rock group NUNS) are one of the brightest and best synth-punk groups to come out of Melbourne since Primitive Calculators. They’re undulating, weird and best of all, really super. Their new single, which comes off their upcoming debut, starts out ultra-Devo. Penetrating synth chords develop under blinding heat, until eccentric-noise buries them and brilliant rays of Jenny Branagh’s voice evokes a most Doctor WHo re-indition of Olivia Newtown John’s ‘Let’s Get Physical’.
Lace Curtain-I Can’t Wait
Lace Curtain hold one of my favourite EP’s of all time to their name, so anything they produce will cause rabid fits of excitement, and put me into a minor form of mental institution. ‘I Can’t Wait’ is no exception, and only after listening to it multiple times could the perfect metaphor be crafted to explain its greatness. Dark, titillating post-punk rears it’s Loch Ness head from a murky marsh, as all the Swamp Monsters and Black Lake Creatures gather around and dance their flapping gill-heads into the night, never losing their gaze from the tyrannical sounds onstage. Copious amounts of MDMA were all involved in the production of such an orgasmic gathering of oft-overlooked B-Movie Monsters.
Full Ugly-Hanging Around
‘Drove Down’ was one of the most criminally underrated songs of 2013. Even I, No.1 Ginger of Sydney, didn’t recognise the brilliance of this 7″ for quite some time. And I felt the wrath of personal underachievement for quite some time. BUT ALL SHALL BE RECTIFIED, because Full Ugly have gotten around the releasing a new single! Although ‘Hanging Around’ doesn’t hold the same ability to touch upon all the emotions of the rainbow like ‘Drove Down’, it still showcases Full Ugly as one of the best slacker bands in Australia.
Each chord in ‘Hanging Around’ seems to drip off each other, forcing your rigid, cynical neck to bop up and down in the most fluid and gentle of ways. And the chorus, although sung in an off-the-cuff, casual way, has the same potency as if it had been screamed into your face by one of the bands off Cool Death Records. Doper than a Jesse Pinkman monologue.
Slow Violence-New Teen Angst, Pt. 2
Slow Violence? New Teen Angst, Pt. 2? Yeah, there’s no fucking way these guys aren’t a really shitty Black Flag rip-off that actually spent more time listening to My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday than they did with ‘My War’. Only, they’re not. Instead, Slow Violence provide one of the most subtly comforting soundtracks in recent history. A mostly ambient mix, there’s traces of sighin’ R&B (‘Crushin’), Jon Hopkins shufflin’ (‘Limb’) and post-rock akin to Explosions in the Sky-meets-The National (‘Kidz’). Woah…did your jaw just drop? Mine is currently chilling on the opposite end of the Earth, somewhere around Greenland.