Ben Lee – Web in Front
For fans of: Guided By Voices, Archers of Loaf, Pavement
A charming acoustic cover of this Archers of Loaf classic opens Ben Lee’s latest record, a covers album that serves as his take on the Great Indie Songbook. These were the songs that acted as sonic touchstones for a teenage Lee as he steadily wrote his own 90s classics and quickly found himself touring and rubbing shoulders with artists he had admired from afar mere months earlier in his Bondi bedroom. This arrangement keeps a similar pace and the same serpentine twists as the original, but somehow makes the oddball lyrics seem less impenetrable, with Lee’s earnest delivery stripping off a layer of lacquer. As with a lot of the best songs, I have no idea what the words actually mean, but I know exactly what they seem to mean.
For more: Quarter Century Classix is out now.
Georgia Maq – Away From Love
For fans of: Flume, Robyn, Charli XCX
The frontwoman of incendiary Melbourne punk band Camp Cope has released a surprise solo album, and – surprise! – this lovelorn, beat-dripping pop record is worlds away from the music she makes with her band. Atmospheric yet bright, immaculately produced yet intimate, the opening track (funnily enough, the only song on the record to feature guitars) sounds like a clean state sonically and subject-wise, walking away from a well-worn relationship in search of something new. “At least I built the hill on which I’ll die,” she sings, and, given the quality of this song and the album from which it sits, this seems like an overly cautious take on her current situation.
For more: Georgia Maq’s solo debut Pleaser is out now.
Jack River – Closer
For fans of: Lana Del Rey, REM, Mazzy Star
Holly Rankin is only one album deep but has traversed half a dozen genres during that time, with a bevy of stand-alone singles, EPs and collaborations showing the enviable breadth of her musical talent. Closer takes a dark, recklessly romantic turn, much like the tracks from her debut EP. Whereas Sugar Mountain was all make-believe, one step removed from reality, here she chronicles the urgent rush of new love; love that feels like drowning, like being tasered, like infinity, like having all the candy you could hope for and still wanting more. This is the most visceral single released under the Jack River name, and to my mind the best yet.
For more: Stranger Heart EP will be out 14 February. In the meantime, listen to her most recent single Later Flight, or her debut album Sugar Mountain.
Tame Impala – Posthumous Forgiveness
For fans of: Sade, Brian Eno, ELO
Over a creeping riff reminiscent of the opening strains of Childish Gambino’s Redbone, Kevin Parker sings his most personal set of lyrics to date: an olive branch held out through the ether to his recently deceased father. This being a Tame Impala single, you really have to swim through currents of reverb to make out the lyrics, but it’s worth the effort. The final 90 seconds is truly stunning, like waking from a fever dream. This recent burst of confessional songwriting from Parker bodes very well for the forthcoming fourth album, due on Valentine’s Day.
For more: The Slow Rush is out 14 February. Check out their other 2019 singles: It Might Be Time, Borderline, and Patience.
Waxflower – Together
For fans of: The Starting Line, Yellowcard, Kisschasy
There is something perennially youthful about emo pop-punk, or whatever subgenre you wish to slot this type of music into. Every passing feeling seems to be too important to hold in, each sunset is do-or-die, summer takes on a mythical status and tomorrow seems forever away. Waxflower sound like they should have formed on the beaches and in the garages of Orange County around the time Seth Cohen was compiling the contents of his legendary Starter Pack, but the Aussie twang betrays their status as a 2019 Brissy band, even if the warm punk production and teenage sentiments belong elsewhere in time. A beautiful and sincere tune.
For more: Waxflower are touring the east coast in February.
Jimblah ft Ellie May – Black Life Matters
For fans of: Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Nas
A beat that might just give you motion sickness anchors an important and sadly all-too familiar message of homegrown racism and generational anguish. The lyrical refrain “If only you could see what you’re doing to me” suggests that while some of the ingrained racism in Australia happens largely unconsciously, Jimblah never lets anyone off the hook. Most of all, he shines a light on the atrocities still occurring with heartbreaking frequency – this song was inspired by the recent shooting of Kumanjayi Walker – and calls for action. “This is gonna take a lot more than your good intent,” he raps, while never losing hope.
For more: Check out Jimblah’s other 2019 singles, including No Clapstick and Black Paint.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Medieval Wall
For fans of: The Stooges, Lou Reed, Television
Eddy Current Suppression Ring released three beloved albums in four years – each recorded in the time most bands would spend setting up the drum mics – then waited 10 years to put out their fourth, which came out in mid-December, a traditional dead zone for albums that don’t have a marketing budget akin to the GDP of a small country. Medieval Wall takes a long lens on history, charting the progress of man in relation to an ancient wall that stands despite the follies and failings of the humans that built it. It’s a humbling, powerful message, driven home by the repetitive chug of the rhythm section, lengthy runs of aimless but pleasing noodling, and a laconic verse vocal that suddenly peaks like a transistor radio during the most urgent sections.
For more: Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s fourth album All In Good Time is out now.
Kwame – Nobody ft E^ST
For fans of: A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Jay-Z
A beautiful backing track that sounds like Kanye when he was a producer rather than an agitator. Triumphant drums and Kwame’s vicious verse vocals all combine in this incredibly mature single, which hit too late to make any of the 2019 best-of lists that it rightly belongs on. The chorus is pure sunshine, too, with a melting, summertime vibe, chipmunk backing vocals and slight vocoder warp to give that woozy, dreamy feeling.
For more: Kwame’s third EP will be out in 2020; listen to his 2018 EP Endless Conversations.
Client Liaison – Champagne Affection
For fans of: Justin Timberlake, Tkay Maidza, 80s Madonna
A tropical jam so vivid you can feel the heat on the sand, hear the breeze rustling through the palm trees, see the flashing lights from the club in the distance. Client Liaison were built largely on a series of tongue-in-cheek singles, yacht-rock photo shoots and public stunts involving John Farnham, but none of that would have mattered a lick if the music wasn’t so consistently terrific. Champagne Affection somehow sounds like Wham, Justin Bieber’s Sorry, La Isla Bonita, and a dance remix of Toto – while never leaning too closely into any single influence. After years of delicious pastiche, could it be that Client Liaison have landed upon an original sound?
For more: Check out their other 2019 singles: The Beat Supreme and The Real Thing.
Polish Club – Countdown
For fans of: Coldplay, Alex Cameron, the Killers
“After using Christmas and Valentine’s Day for our own personal gain, we are starting to run out of holidays to turn into a gimmick, but fortunately there was still New Year’s for us to exploit.” Despite this cynical take appearing in the press release to Polish Club’s latest well-timed release, Countdown is anything but: a euphoric anthem with a swollen heart, set to a stomping Coldplay-esque beat – with David Novak’s soaring vocal having more than a little of the Chris Martin to it, too. It’s a shame this song was released in such a time of media slumber as it is the type of single that would blast them on to international stages. Like New Year’s Eve itself, maybe the hangover from this song will stick around for a while.
For more: Polish Club have also released a “Megamix” of NYE – or anytime – bangers which can be found on the same NYE_2020_MEGAMIX.EXE EP that includes Countdown.