Hayley Mary – The Piss, The Perfume
For fans of: the Jezabels, Deborah Conway, Sherbet
The Jezabels are one of the most successful Australian bands of the last 10 years, but as the decade slides to a close, frontwoman Hayley Mary has struck out on her own with perhaps her most radio-friendly composition to date, a masterwork of forward propulsion and powerful vocals. Whether by happy accident or subversive design, the chorus melody echoes that of Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold, which simply means this earworm will remain lodged in your head for weeks on end. A strong bridge falsetto slides over a stomping 4/4 beat, tasteful guitar parts dance around the vocals, and a harmonica joins in at the 11th hour to bring the whole thing to a thrilling close. This all bodes very well for a solo album, which should materialise next year.
For more: Hayley Mary is touring the east coast with Alex Lahey this month.
DMA’s – Silver
For fans of: Chapterhouse, the Stone Roses, the Telescopes
When they first came to prominence, DMA’s copped a lot of Oasis comparisons, mostly due to Tommy O’Dell’s Gallagher-esque sneer and the band’s penchant for dressing for the Manchester mist rather than the Sydney sunshine. But over the course of two albums, it has become clear that they are closer in sound to other Northerners like the Verve, the Stone Roses, and the Charlatans – bands that deal in chorused-out guitars, peeling melodies and baggy beats – with the odd strum-along to break things up. Silver is a tender tune, a shimmering summery song that straddles their Preset-produced second record, and the heart-on-sleeve balladry of their debut single Delete. Of course, anyone with enough guitar pedals can approximate a classic sound, but top-shelf songwriting and O’Dell’s ringing bell of a voice means that DMA’s stand alone, despite the many comparisons.
For more: Fittingly, DMA’s are supporting Liam Gallagher this month across the UK, before returning to Australia for the Laneway festival in 2020.
Cub Sport ft Darren Hayes – I Never Cried So Much In My Life
For fans of: Savage Garden, Justin Timberlake, Prince
Proving that the chasm between Smooth FM and Triple J is only in our minds, the instantly recognisable and much-missed voice of Darren Hayes sits front and centre on the latest single from fellow Brisbanites Cub Sport, a song that has been on rotation over at the youth station for the past few weeks. With a slight flamenco feel to the nylon-stringed guitars and roots planted firmly in 90s ballad territory, this sounds beamed in from an alternate universe where Savage Garden are still together after seven albums, deciding to get back to basics after a few years of flirting with dance releases. As always, Tim Nelson’s songwriting is first rate and Hayes treats it with the respect it deserves, delivering one of his most tender lead vocals since his Savage Garden days.
Tame Impala – It Might Be Time
“I have to feel kind of worthless again to want to make music,” Kevin Parker said of the long gestation time between the forthcoming Tame Impala album The Slow Rush and 2015’s world-beating Currents. While the dreamy introspection of Parker’s past music treats the passing of time as a man-made construct, recent Tame Impala output suggests he has been thinking a lot about the subject of late. Patience, the first of his three 2019 singles, extolled the virtues of waiting around, but It Might Be Time flips the script, seeing him obsess over friends growing up and moving on, realising he isn’t as young as he once was. “Nothing lasts forever,” he sighs as if just realising this truth, while a prominent synth swings from side to side like a pendulum – or is it ringing out like an emergency siren? Either way, there’s an urgency to this track that we’ve yet to hear from Tame Impala, and we’ve got all the time in the world for it.
For more: Tame Impala’s new album The Slow Rush will be out 14 February 2020.
Cold Chisel – Getting the Band Back Together
Don Walker is one of the greatest chroniclers of the Australian experience. His vast catalogue of lyrics was recently set out in book form like the poetry it always was, while his tales of complicated love and downtrodden battlers still ring out from every RSL jukebox and bad covers act. But every few laps of the sun, Walker decides he just wants to write a fun song, tongue firmly in cheek, metaphors left on the shelf. Getting the Band Back Together is one such song. With a chugging rhythm section, plonking bar piano, and Mossy and Barnesy trading lead vocals, this is vintage Cold Chisel, just without the urban decay or wide expanse of the country. Walker has promised a lot more depth on the forthcoming album – dark songs and ballads aplenty. With Cold Chisel recently announcing a huge run of 2020 dates, this playful slab of rock is a perfect first single, and marks a very welcome return.
For more: Cold Chisel are touring nationally in 2020.
Clare Bowditch – If I Could Give You
For fans of: Missy Higgins, the Miracles, Wendy Matthews
Clare Bowditch is a tireless polymath: Logie-nominated actor, Aria-winning musician, business coach, radio host, and now the author of a new memoir. On top of this, Bowditch is still among the very best in the business when it comes to delivering a soul-stirring ballad. The second single from her forthcoming sixth album, If I Could Give You, sounds like a songbook standard – a Smokey Robinson hit or a Bacharach classic. An unadorned piano song about the strangeness of love suddenly dips out and gives itself over to a stunning, swelling orchestral arrangement. Timeless, open-hearted and up there with Bowditch’s best work.
For more: Bowditch’s sixth album comes out in 2020. She is currently on her book tour for her memoir, Your Own Kind Of Girl.
Okenyo – Eyes to the Sky
For fans of: Dr Dre; Tyler, the Creator; Cypress Hill
In many art forms, but music especially, any sign of ambition can be read as misguided arrogance, as if wanting success can only mean artistic compromise. It’s a hangover from Generation X’s allergy to the concept of “selling out” mixed with Australia’s tall-poppy syndrome. Eyes to the Sky kicks hard against this tired sentiment, while still acknowledging that when it comes to achievement, we are often our own worst enemies. The positive message is affixed to a trashcan beat and a distorted bassline that shakes and snakes and gives the song an ominous quality. With her smooth, swaggering verse raps crashing into brightly sung choruses, Okenyo is the yin to her own yang, providing both the light and the shade that lifts this from just another rap song into future anthem status.
For more: Okenyo will be performing at Woodford folk festival this December.
Jack River – Later Flight
For fans of: the Veronicas, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grimes
It’s getting harder to draw a common thread through the music coming from Jack River, with chugging indie tunes, bubblegum pop and crunching grunge all receiving even billing on her debut album, Sugar Mountain. But while that record was fixated on the past and dreaming of the future, Later Flight steps into the present, marrying bright, dance-pop production from Styalz Fuego with lyrics that espouse the giddy rush of falling in love. The drums seem to be shamelessly nicked from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs indie classic Gold Lion, but that only makes Later Flight all that much better.
For more: Check out Jack River’s debut album Sugar Mountain.
No Mono – Finally
For fans of: Antony and the Johnsons, James Blake, Bon Iver
The best songs exist as their own self-contained worlds, planets that seem out of orbit with everything else. Finally is one of these rare tracks, a slow-burning mood piece that evokes hazy, half-remembered dreams, snippets of memory, thoughts that pass by and disappear like clouds. Tom Snowdon’s voice is a singular, haunting instrument that holds focus as the instrumentation washes in like a slow-motion wave. Finally is the connective tissue that binds their two-part Islands project, and fittingly for its title, has been announced as the last song No Mono will release for a while.
For more: Listen to Islands Part 1 and 2.
Stevie Jean – December Song
For fans of: Mazzy Star, Nancy Sinatra, Tori Amos
Stevie Jean’s debut EP is filled with tumultuous tales from her high school years, but rather than reading like the tortured journal entries of youth, December Song is mature and nuanced, emoting with the clarity of distance without sacrificing any of the unchecked teenage volatility. The young Northern Territory songwriter deals in darkness well, sounding like early Mazzy Star, or Tori Amos without the histrionics. Even as it creeps along, December Song is ultimately uplifting. Perhaps it’s because Stevie Jean has spun gold from misery: as myopic as being in love can be, it ultimately makes us stronger – especially when it doesn’t work out.
For more: Stevie Jean is touring nationally this month with Montaigne. Her debut EP Blame Game is out now.