The Preatures – Girlhood
The Preatures have followed up one fantastic album with another – this one the cooler sibling of 2014’s Blue Planet Eyes. It’s clever and infectious rock-fused pop, led by our future musical monarch, Izzi Manfredi. As retro sounding as it is fresh, Girlhood is a concept album that wears its influences on its sleeve. I was not surprised to hear Manfredi would be stepping into the shoes of Chrissy Amphlett for a one-off Divinyls show later this year (albeit jealous it’s in Perth) – this album oozes Amphlett flair in both its heavier and gentle moments. The familiarity of it all draws you in to what is one addictive collection of tracks. The chorus of ‘Yanada’, sung in the Indigenous Darug language, is highly contagious, while ‘Magick’ cements the Preatures’ prowess for winning slow grooves (‘Two Tone Melody’ was no fluke). Genre shifts continue to highlight the energy of Girlhood, moving between Aussie punk (‘Lip Balm’), Chic-esque guitar jams (‘Mess It Up’) and prime ballad work (‘Cherry Ripe’). This is addictive stuff and I’m keen to hear it again and again.
Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
“There’s always someone cooler than you” is a saying that applies to all bar one person in the world, as someone has to hold the superlative, right? Joshua Homme is that person. Even performing with a hefty limp and hopped up on painkillers (ala his Festival Hall show this year), the man is untouchable – a pro at demolishing hecklers, on-stage grooming and of course, belting out the classics. Villains is no exception to the Queens of the Stone Age stand outs. Even with its nine tracks averaging well over 5 minutes apiece (‘Un-reborn Again’ tops the list at 6:40), it’s a really fast record, hitting top gear immediately and blending the QOTSA stoner-rock vibe into a far more polished groove (thanks Mark Ronson). You’ll dance because the funked-up rock enters your bones and because Joshua is subliminally making you. He’s that good. ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me’, ‘The Way You Used To’ and ‘The Evil Has Landed’ are standouts for me – sexy, addictive and as much classic QOTSA as they are new. ‘Villains of Circumstance’ is saved to the very end, as QOTSA prove again what masters of the slow burn they can be (having just fooled you into thinking there were none this time around). It’s a paradox, but with every album, QOTSA reinvent their sound while staying true to it. Villains is so far from Songs for the Dead or Era Vulgaris and all those before and in-between, yet I’d be surprised to find a fan not impressed by what’s on offer here.
Everything Everything – A Fever Dream
In comparison to its predecessor, Get to Heaven, which was insanity in musical form, A Fever Dream is controllably manic. Without knowing what came before it, Everything Everything’s third album sounds crazy for sure. But I feel like there’s a balance here that shows a more considered approach from the band. The frantic is balanced out with subdued touches – for every eccentric ‘Ivory Tower’ there’s a measured and calm ‘Put Me Together’ …well almost. It could be an attempt to get more listeners on board and not scare them away, or it could be an indication Everything Everything have honed in on a sound (although not entirely settled). In any case, A Fever Dreamdemands attention. Jonathan Higgs’ voice is unbelievably good, swinging in and out of intense falsetto and huge choruses – none more bombastic than on album standout ‘Desire’. You want to sing along so bad; but face it, you’ll never get there.
Brand New – Science Fiction
Brand New have been touting their demise for some time now – all signs point to 2018 as their final year as a band. If that turns out to be the case, Science Fiction is a damn fine way to go out. Eight years on from their fourth album, Brand New return in form far finer than where they left off, and while there are clearly elements left behind (where’d all the screaming go?) this new music is superb. The ferociousness of albums prior is stripped back on Science Fiction; where Daisy’s opener ‘Vices’ led with face-tearing volume and aggression, ‘Lit Me Up’ is a dark, unexpectedly gentle opening tune, and subsequently very eerie. The album seems to build itself around central tracks ‘Same Teeth/Logic’ and ‘137’, each a lengthy addition that build into the heaviest moments, the latter track offering severe guitar work that’s even tastier because of its moderation elsewhere. Science Fiction delivers incredible songs that sound uniquely theirs, yet are indicative of so many indie, rock and punk bands that have flourished in Brand New’s extended absence.
Boo Seeka – Never Too Soon
Boo Seeka impressed me a lot last year, with ‘Deception Bay’ an easy pick in my tunes of the year and their Like a Version cover of MØ’s ‘Pilgrim’ a favourite among 2017’s strong batch of renditions. For a local, emerging act, they sound solidly versed in what they do – one of those acts that release songs in the band’s infancy that may well trump anything that comes later. As far as debut album efforts go, Never Too Soon keeps pace with the stellar singles that preceded it. Smooth vocals and subtle electronica flood this record, as Boo Seeka chill their way through. It’s soul / electronic / indie field day that’s difficult to classify, punctuated with uplifting moments (‘Argo Misty’) and quirky dance tracks (‘Calling Out’) that make it a damn fine experience.
Dan Sultan – Killer
The man can do no wrong. He sets a direction, he nails it, and then he starts all over again. This to me feels like Dan Sultan’s third incarnation in only four albums. Ditching the guitar and grunt of Blackbird, Dan returns on Killer with a whole lot of piano and gospel swagger. The tracks are instantly in your head, with a bevy of pop soul singles each owned by Dan’s inimitable voice and accentuated with glorious backing vocals. The album is definitely about the big tunes – ‘Hold It Together’, ‘Killer’, ‘Magnetic’, ‘Reaction’ – but is punctuated with a well-placed shifts, like the percussive ‘Drover’, which feels instantly like an Aussie folk classic, or ‘Fire Under Foot’, which combines Dan’s skill for balladry with a huge strings build-up. Each song holds its own in isolation, which is a great start. As a collection, though, this could be Dan’s best to date.
Gordi – Reservoir
I caught Sophie Payten – the coolest thing to come out of Canowindra – as a support act at the Palais Theatre last year, and was immediately transfixed by her sound. I’ve been looking forward to an album since and Reservoir surpasses my expectations. While there’s plenty that I already knew and expected about this album (single ‘Can We Work It Out’ a telling representation of Gordi’s folk pop prowess), the interwoven touches of weird make it a far more intriguing experience than I thought it would be. The album’s continuity actually ends up being one of its surprises, given Gordi will sing over a whispered counting sample one electronic track (‘Heaven I Know’), then pull out an acoustic guitar for a more classic approach the next (I’m Done’); or that ‘Myriad’ features a warped, auto-tuned voice throughout, yet is followed by pure, beautiful vocals on ‘Aeon’. In theory these musical ideas shouldn’t work together, but Gordi is clever enough to pull it all off. A lot of Reservoir holds a keen likeness Bon Iver’s work (they’ve been hanging out for sure), so if you like the American singer you’re in for a treat here. The debut all pays off for Gordi, leaving us with a versatile and memorable collection of tracks.
Gang of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness
Go Farther In Lightness is grand, intense and remarkably poignant – traits now synonymous with Gang of Youths. If you weren’t sure how emotionally heavier this band could get, album number two lets you know quickly. It’s a collection of tracks that both lyrically and sonically play tug-of-war with your feelings; taking you from despair to elation and everything in between over a lengthy 75 minutes. The album is built on a big scale, with several orchestral interludes and massive songs like the outstanding ‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane’ and ‘Achilles Come Down’. Even single ‘Let Me Down Easy’ is given new, intensified life on the album, coupled with what is effectively a 3+ minute symphonic introduction (‘Le symbolique’). All facets of David Le’aupepe’s life are penned here, from the hopelessness of ‘What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?’ to the happiness of ‘The Heart Is A Muscle’. Both his lyricism and the sheer talent of Gang of Youth’s rock style completely pull you in; it sounds cheesy but you can’t help but be entirely wrapped around lyrics like “the heart is a muscle now, I want to make it strong”. Go Farther In Lightness is destined for big things – acclaim, accolades, influence, and hopefully some kind of full blown orchestra tour to show its music justice.