Occasionally, I run into people that say shit like, “Man, music was so much better in the 80’s”. Well, guess what you miserable old bastard? I wasn’t alive in the 80’s, so your argument means jack shit to me. Just because a lot of great bands like Dinosaur Jr, The Stooges and Slayer, happen to come from bygone eras, that doesn’t mean that new music sucks. In fact, modern music is actually pretty alright, especially in the barren wasteland that bred Mad Max and kangaroos. Fuck the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, these are the best bands I found out about this year:
NB: These are bands and artists that I found out about in 2015 – if I wrote about them last year, I don’t reckon they count, which is why there are a few notable exclusions like FLOWERTRUCK, Gordi, Roland Tings, Chook Race etc.
10. Tiny Little Houses
At a time when indie rock was becoming far too predictable, Tiny Little Houses broke the trend, with enthusiastic results. There’s a dreamy, surreal quality to their music that manages to pack in heartbreak, loss, desire, and unwavering commitment into the same song. Every bar makes you want to sink in deeper, find out more, plunge head first into the drama they’re writing.
They traverse great lengths of musical territory, from swirling, cloudy choruses, to naked, addictive introspection, to full blown shredding, that places them solidly amongst the likes of Girls, Death Cab for Cutie and Neutral Milk Hotel. Tiny Little Houses are a group that don’t just smash genre expectations, but build them back into something that makes you think, “Maybe the next indie rock song I hear won’t make me want to kill myself!”
9. Alex Lahey
Alex Lahey ain’t no spring chicken – she’s been leading the charge for Melbourne poppers Animaux for a few years now. But in case there was still some confusion as to whether this wonderful lady may or may not be an actual, literal chicken that may or may not have been born in the spring, then the chorus of her debut single “Air Mail” makes it quite clear.
“I’ve got 24 ribs, 32 teeth, two hands, ten fingers….and air mail envelopes are all I’ve bought this week”. Even if some sort of mutant chicken did manage to breed itself into having those specific physical attributes, there’s no fucking way it’d have the social awareness and complexity necessary to line up at the post office to buy air mail envelopes.
Philosophical musings aside, “Air Mail” was one of the best debut singles I heard this year, packed with an affability and charm that made me fall head over heels in love with Alex Lahey. There’s massive things in store for her next year, I’m sure of it.
8. Death Bells
My mate sent me a message earlier this year, merely saying, “Oi dude, reckon you’d like this” and a Youtube link. It was Death Bells’ debut single, “You, Me & Everyone In Between”, a swirling, morbidly affected dream-pop tune that felt like the next Captured Tracks signing.
A few months down the track, and I’m still all over Death Bells. They’re just a bunch of recklessly emotion-laden teenagers channeling their energy into pop music, but they do it so well that I can’t help but adore them. Their live show takes a bombastic turn as well, the five-piece pumping steroids into their songs, strangling them into concentrated, tidal wave eruptions of sound.
Obviously, electronic music isn’t my forte. I try to stay on top of it, but I tend to get swept up in the rawk side of things, and some of the greatest stuff just floats me by. That being said, Aussie electronic did have a great year – Chunyin, Corin, Nutrition, Anatole, I’lls, Black Vanilla, Air Max ’97 and Tennis Boys were all pretty stellar for 365 days straight.
But in terms of producers who tore me apart at the seams, ripped my mind to shreds, and stood above the shattered remnants, hands on hips and laughing with sadistic glee, the award goes to NULL. There’s something so calculated to the way he produces music, from the individual single artworks and music videos, to the strain of pulsating menace that intertwines his whole debut mini-LP/EP. If there’s one new artist twisting knobs and smashing synths to check out, its NULL.
6. Low Lux
Low Lux’s first proper show, a headline spot at the Newtown Social Club, shouldn’t have been one of the best shows of the year. But it was. And my love for them accelerated like a goddamn Shakespearean romance. I don’t think anything this year has come so close to whatever Low Lux’s set was – both intimate and epic, just so bloody impressive in every capacity pf the word.
There’s just an ethereal capacity to what Low Lux do, a lushness that’s like velvet and silk had a kid that would grow up to be lord of the fabrics. The two singles they’ve released so far, “Rivers Roll” and “Ruin” are dense, well-thought out and intriguing pop, and they’re indicative of even more cinematic smash hits from Low Lux.
I never fully got into shoegaze music – I can enjoy it, and there’s some great bands out there, but I’ve never run full-tilt to chuck on a My Bloody Valentine album before.
That all changed with DEAFCULT – their debut EP is such an intense, beautiful listen that spins dizzily between yawning caverns and crunching waves. They’ve got four guitars. FOUR! Let that sink in. Do you know how much guitar that is? THAT’S A LOT OF FUCKING GUITAR!
When DEAFCULT hit their peak, they’re an unstoppable, mesmerizing and deafening force, a swelling splatter of musical bombast that topples you over. They bring an excitement and thrill to shoegaze that has been sorely missing in Australian circles.
4. The Goon Sax
I’m absolutely smitten with The Goon Sax – in taking just a few chords and a smudge of self-deprecation, they made one of the best songs of 2015, and it sounds like they wrote it in a free period.
There’s a charm to The Goon Sax that makes me want to be their best friends. I can’t tell if it’s the effortless that they create their songs with, the inward, affected keel of their lyrics, or the fact that they’re so clearly bound for the top, but there’s a quality in this band that raises them miles above their peers. Although Melbourne has commanded the jangle-pop bands of the last few years, The Goon Sax stand to bring it back to its rightful home in Brisbane.
I had no expectation of Orion before they had played Nag Nag Nag Festival in January this year. The name had popped up on a few lineups, and some mates had floated the words “Best band ever!” over my way, but for some reason, I never check ‘em out. Too busy with all that electro pop, I guess.
It was right around the time that Sydney’s favourite son Nathan Roche was thrown to the floor that I decided that I loved this band. Their live show was too intoxicating to do justice with mere words – an attempt would read something like: violent, passionate, debilitating, compulsory.
Meanwhile, on record, Orion push that live propulsion, into a record so encased with self-derision and desperation that it makes your lips bleed from chewing them so much. The four songs that Orion have recorded are so perfect and harrowing, it actually pains me to think of the months that I refused to check them out. If you’re in a similar position as I was, please don’t hesitate any more.
The music of YEEVS feels like a vibrant crossover from the best loud indie rock bands of the past two decades decade: Spoon vs. Archers of Loaf, The Walkmen vs. Nada Surf, Wolf Parade vs. Dinosaur Jr. The battle lines are drawn, the indie rock icons lock horns, and when the dust has settled, the bloody result of the slaughter is three heaving blokes from Sydney, who just want to stomp drums, pound out some riffs and lambast a microphone. YEEVS haven’t just got a penchant for writing spot-on indie rock thumpers, they can only write songs that feel like Andre the Giant giving you the Heimlich Maneuver.
The reason why WHITE DOG are my favourite new band this year is because since finding out about them, they’ve been my go to group to yell in people’s face when they ask what they should listen to. “Oi Saarzy, you fucking knob, what’s good?” “WHITE DOG, mate, and go fuck yourself, that was bloody rude”.
Seconds into hearing their first demo, “No Good”, with its thick guitar riff that sounded like a chainsaw being thrown into a concrete mixer, I decided that WHITE DOG were one of the best bands this year. There are approximately 16 days for something better to pop up, so it’s un-bloody-likely anything is going to change my mind. From the brutal, Rottweiler vocal snarl, to the lyrical bluntness, to the general sledgehammer of their songs, WHITE DOG are unmatched. They made me fall back in love with punk music.
Furthermore, WHITE DOG’s live show is one of the most ferocious I’ve seen. They bring a danger to a stage that’s like the early 80’s versions of Henry Rollins and Steve Albini are having a fight within frontman Sam White’s body to see who will get the right of demonic possession. And the writhing limbs of White isn’t the only thing that your eyes bore into when WHITE DOG play – instruments are smashed into walls and punters are thrown into a frenzy like an Old Testament God has decided the show will be his plaything. Every show is like this, and every show makes me more confident that WHITE DOG are the best new thing this shitty harbour town has.