The Little Gren Book Of Who's Who In Australian Music: 2018 (So Far)
Finding good, hearty Australian music is very easy in 2018. In fact, the abundance of online publications, radio stations, podcasts and good ol' Spotify make finding your next favourite band almost too easy. Even if I didn't live on the internet, I'm almost certain I could unassumingly walk into a cafe/bar/pub/club and stumble across a blossoming new talent. Music is everywhere in this great nation and is undeniably ingrained into our culture everywhere we turn. It's an unstoppable force that holds this sometimes chaotic, sometimes confusing society together and I wouldn't have it any other way.
My Holy Grail go-to for finding new music is Triple J Unearthed, affectionately known as Gren Drum, more affectionately known as that Twitter account that called everyone lil racoons for 24 hours. It's free, it's easy, and literally anyone in Australia can use it to kickstart their career, as many of the greats already have. I spend an obscene amount of time on this site finding and falling in love with obscure acts, keeping up to date with what everyone else is vibing, and writing questionable reviews. So it makes sense that a large part of my daily playlists consists of emerging, unsigned and independent artists. I've learnt so much from this musical hub and the community that holds its hand, and I think it's time to share the love.
So here it is: a specially handpicked list of my favourite Unearthed releases so far this year - from sweet treats to raucous rock anthems, and everything in-between. I've got my personal top 10 favourite songs from Triple J Unearthed, a cheat sheet of more stellar songs (lovingly categorised into whatever mood you're feeling today), and a Spotify playlist of almost 100 songs, if you really want to head down the rabbit hole with me. Enjoy!
Earlier this year, I shamelessly ranted in a review about how mad I was that Connor Brooker (the brains behind Bugs, Pro Vita, White Wash etc.) gets to be so talented, while I can’t play any instruments very well and can’t sing to save my life. And friends, let me tell you that I stand by everything I said. The latest course in Connor’s musical degustation is a number called Glue, which faces the terrifying, yet all too common, worries that come with that dreaded part of life we call growing older. It’s an ode to the future, uncertainty, and the healing power of a cheeky bottle of Sav Blanc. Glue reaches into the pockets of all us twenty-somethings, pulls out the anxiety, and cleverly spins it into a power-pop number full of comforting bravado. Bugs always has a knack for huge blossoming choruses and charisma for days, and this is absolutely no exception.
This is, in my humble yet occasionally overbearing opinion, a perfect song. No, wait, not a perfect song, this is the perfect song. The kind of song that can be played at any time of any day and will still always make me feel a colossal breadth of emotions. The bluesy number that is Missing Me simultaneously showcases Angie’s velvety vulnerability alongside her venomous maturity. She spits out hurt in the form of ‘loving you is lonely,’ frustration in ‘you can swagger, you can gather attention, but I’m sick of your photographs,’ and personifies strength in ‘I’m tired of being your sweetheart.’ Every line sits comfortably in the cascading melody, peaking with one final kick-in-the-guts as she wails ‘you better be missing me.’ Universal heartache? Check. Impeccable vocals? Check. All-encompassing production? You better believe it.
If you look up ‘striking’ in the Unearthed dictionary, you’ll probably find yourself staring at a picture of Sydney’s latest rap commodity BLESSED. After steadily climbing his way up the industry ladder, armed with 2017 releases Fairytale and My World, the singer-producer laid down a searing tune by the name of Superfly. It’s a booming, colourful three-and-a-half minutes with a thick beat and self-assured lyrics. Each element has an unexpected duality to it, which sees BLESSED’s signature future soul production side-by-side with daring electric riffs. Comparisons have come flying in, from Kid Cudi to Lupe Fiasco, but honestly there’s something so uniquely genre-bending about Superfly that warrants its own praise.
Taking influence from her home in Groote Eylandt, Emily Wurramara’s songs are sewn together in a rich tapestry of Indigenous Australian culture, her native Anindilyakwa language, and a reflection on the land we all live on. Ngarrukwujenama, or I’m Hurting, is a beautifully haunting song that was written in response to the partial destruction of Groote Eylandt due to senseless mining. It breathes in anger and breathes out hope, using hypnotic rounds in the chorus to replicate the spiritual nature that is so ingrained in Emily’s culture, and gently yet firmly enforces the need to care for our land as it cares for us. Soulful vocals subtly melt into minimalist instrumentation, creating a place of solace and breeding serenity. Even with no knowledge of the history behind this song, Ngarrukwujenama stands tall as a soothing product of the singer-storyteller’s debut album Milyakburra.
Next up is a band whose ability to take your hand and walk you through five-songs-in-one is something to be both admired and dissected (for the purpose of musical science, of course). So let’s dive in! Young Monks create psychedelic-infused pop with lots of mind-boggling layers. Their songs are easy crowd pleasers, lightly following in the footsteps of previous psych-reggae rockers such as Ocean Alley and embracing the carefree nature of that market (‘everything’s so wonderful when I’m vibing with you’); although the Canberra four-piece have a unique take on production. Bayside Suicide, in particular, is sectioned off into entirely different worlds across the three-and-a-half minutes: opening on traditional reggae lines with mysterious undertones, darting to an oriental inspired instrumental bridge, and closing on a kaleidoscopic mish mash of all the above. In theory, the sonic odyssey that is this song shouldn’t work, but it does.
Pressure is one of those songs that has an undeniable immediacy to it. It has the ability to stop someone in their tracks with just a simple radio play, combining the blistering nature of indie rock with the vibrancy and irresistible hooks that mark a strong pop song. More is more in this one, as Georgia’s prominent vocals strut to the new wave beat and mirror the reoccurring mounting pressure of the story. Despite the tension, there’s still a constant lightness to Pressure, which lets the shimmery sections dance and lets any dancers in the crowd shimmy. There’s a lot of clever song writing on display here too, creating a full circle journey as the melody reaches a climax (‘I don’t know how I’m meant to fit, in this timeline you put me in’) before calming all the way back down for a glittery outro. Sublime.
Any band that reminds me of Andy Warhol’s factory (let’s say circa. 1967) is a band I immediately fall in love with. There’s always been something so special to me about the way art and music fused together during that time, challenging the meaning of performance, along with breeding freedom and creativity side-by-side. Sydney outfit Body Type are the closest thing I’ve found lately to any of these great powerhouse creatives, both in terms of their scuzzy nature and their ability to intertwine drama and movement to the music. Arrow sits pretty as a modern, lo-fi, jangly take on the iconic rock sub-genre I adore so much - complete with rolling guitars and nonchalant, often gritty vocals. Whether it’s the ‘Did you? Did you? Did you? Did you?’, the squeals, or the shrieks, Body Type have nailed a way of bringing emotion to the forefront without lending itself to being overwrought. The track has a carefree late 60s-early 70s warmth to it, but doesn’t forget the groove, and comes with a music video that nicely wraps up my art rock comparison with a DIY bow.
It should come as no surprise that the sweetest song to grace Triple J Unearthed this year comes from Melbourne angel and creative powerhouse Woodes. Origami, named after the painstakingly beautiful Japanese art of paper folding, centres around an ease of intimacy and the simplicity of intertwining bodies when everything feels just right. Rather than romanticising a mess of tangled limbs, Origami praises the way two bodies seamlessly fit together (‘I know every crease and every fold… we tessellate’) with the same precision and careful nature as the song’s namesake. Just as each fold in a paper crane is conducted with purpose, each encounter between the two ‘paper bodies’ is meaningful and leads to the creation of something much bigger. Set on a gentle synthesised palette, this is one song to press play and slowly float away to.
Canberra’s Moaning Lisa are one of the most consistently, and outrageously, good bands to grace our nation’s airwaves this past year. Almost a year after their debut EP The Sweetest appeared on everyone’s radar, the four-piece released a searing queer anthem by the name of Carrie (I Want A Girl), which sees singer Charlotte Versegi confess her love for a series of kickass women, whilst listing traits she loves (‘I want a girl who sticks it to the man, I want a girl with big, big dreams’). It’s a fiercely confident and self-assured track that not only celebrates non-heteronormative sexuality in media but also some of the women who have pioneered it in recent years. As for the atmosphere, Carrie (I Want A Girl) is centred on a grunge-y spine, laden with thick reverb and grounded in a strong bassline. The release tears open towards the end in a blaze of heavy yet steady riffs and, to me, marks a point of comfort for Moaning Lisa as they sink into a signature sound.
Rounding off this humble list of the best songs found on Triple J Unearthed dot com in 2018 (so far) is Melbourne artist Jordan Dennis and his playful neo-soul debut. Crumbs comes to us as a melting pot of charisma, impeccable flow, and personality bursting at the seams. It’s a joyous occasion that’s equal parts bubbly and effortlessly cool, with clear influence from artists like Chance The Rapper and Anderson Pak. Jordan’s strengths lie in bouncy, uplifting, brass-driven production and this, partnered with Blasko’s addictive falsetto in the chorus, make for a winning combination. If you’re not smiling by the time ‘she’s got more crumbs than a bakery’ comes around, there must be something seriously wrong with you.
Still craving more of the best emerging, independent and unsigned music from across the nation? Find all of the above and more in the Spotify playlist below!
ps. Debbie is not employed by Triple J Unearthed dot com and does not, in any way, speak on behalf of the ABC, JJJ, or the UE team. Although I'm 99 per cent sure they would all agree these songs are GREAT. She also doesn't own the rights to any pictures/mention of Gren Drum, isn't affiliated with any artists featured, and finds talking in third person very uncomfortable.