Phil Jamieson – Rubberband
For fans of: Liam Finn, Elliott Smith, Courtney Barnett
Phil Jamieson, like many Australian musicians who came to prominence in the 90s, had his biggest sales success with music he made as a teenager. Since then he has released seven Grinspoon albums, fronted supergroups who covered the Beatles and the Easybeats, and even took a role in the musical version of Green Day’s American Idiot, settling into “elder statesman of rock” mode before scraping middle age. Yet it has taken until now for Jamieson to release any solo material. Rubberband is the flipside to February’s Kapow!, and the more commercial of the songs. A gentle, rhythmic song in which Jamieson’s voice never rises above a croaky whisper, this is a far cry from the distortion and big choruses of Grinspoon, and nicely sets Jamieson up as an introspective songwriter á la Neil Finn. A simple, heartfelt song.
For more: The double A-side single is out now.
Montaigne – Technicolour
For fans of: Kate Bush, Jhene Aiko, Coldplay
After the false start that was 2020, Montaigne will finally get her chance to represent Australia at Eurovision with this sparkling anthem. As is the way when writing a song to be enjoyed by those of many languages and territories, Technicolour centres around a wordless hook, Backstreet-style vamping synth beats, and a repetitive one-word chorus. Of course, as is basically mandatory in Eurovision circles, there is a show-stopping climatic moment designed for applause, built to soar into the cosmos. A note held for an eternity is followed by a massive key change, and you can just see that winner’s trophy gleaming on her mantlepiece.
For more: Eurovision will air on SBS from 19 to 23 May.
Baker Boy featuring Yirrmal – Ride
For fans of: Kool and the Gang, Anderson .Paak, KC and the Sunshine Band
Baker Boy’s music has always been glaringly positive, both in terms of the funky party-starting vibes and lyrics that celebrate life rather than bemoan its many downsides. Teaming up again with his cousin Yirrmal, who added Yolngu Matha to Baker Boy’s 2017 hit Marryuna, the result is an undeniable jam that sounds as though it came from the disco floors of the late 70s, replete with bright horns and droning didgeridoo lines. Baker Boy doesn’t aim for big messages; here he just implores people to hit the dance floor, with his music the binding agent. “I’m driven by the vision that I have of people coming together,” he explains of Ride, “visions of positivity and fun and telling stories that people can relate to.”
For more: Listen to Baker Boy’s 2020 singles Mood and Better Days.
The Veronicas – Godzilla
For fans of: Garbage, Nine Inch Nails, Silverchair
After years in record label limbo, during which an entire album was shelved, the Origliasso twins, Jess and Lisa, publicly bickered – on Instagram, Twitter and then on an MTV reality series – and teetered on the brink of being “ex-of the Veronicas”. Now, the twins have announced that not one but two new albums will be arriving in quick succession. (Plus a new perfume, a clothing line and a few reality TV appearances for kicks.) Godzilla is the title track of the first album and loyal to its namesake, as gigantic synths stomp and growl, guitars crunch like metal, and the sisters kick down buildings and survey the dusty industrial landscape they inhabit. Sounding like something plucked from a Hottest 100 compilation of the 90s, Godzilla melds electronic production and pedal-heavy guitars as Jess and Lisa wail over the top, straying into hardcore-lite screaming at one exciting point. It’s heavy and furious, and proof positive that 2021 is going to be a monster year (sorry) for the Veronicas.
For more: Godzilla will be out 28 May, with second album Human out 2 July. The Veronicas embark on a 12-city tour from June.
Birdz featuring Ngaiire – Fly
For fans of: Destiny’s Child, Jurassic Five, Marcia Hines
As was the case with many songs created during the pandemic, Fly took shape slowly over half a year, as three collaborators sent vocal ideas, beats and zipped-up files to each other. Birdz, producer Trials and vocalist Ngaiire remotely built this spiritual, uplifting ode to resilience, their individual contributions melding beautifully as a result of a single-minded approach. Raised in Katherine as a proud Batchulla man, Birdz explains how being part of the oldest living culture in the world is “something sacred that no one can ever take from us – it’s that energy that holds our heads up high no matter what the world throws at us”. That poise and purpose is on display in this joyous ode, elevated by Ngaiire’s powerhouse vocal performance, Birdz’s dexterity on the mic and Trials’ hefty production oomph. There’s a lot to be said for the energy of three artists in one room but Fly clearly shows how real power cannot be muted by distance. An exceptional song.
For more: Birdz’ second album will be out later this year. Until then, enjoy his 2017 debut Train of Thought.
Hiatus Kaiyote featuring Arthur Verocai – Get Sun
For fans of: Christine Anu, Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo
Hiatus Kaiyote have quietly become the most influential Australian artists of our time, with their bright tunes having been sampled by Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Drake. While many would rest on those considerable laurels, Hiatus Kaiyote have instead been working towards this album for six years, with their sound really taking shape after a trip to Rio saw them work with the legendary Brazilian arranger Arthur Verocai. The first taste of these sessions is this slinky soul song, which echoes early Fugees, while the warped sonics and futuristic flourishes of Verocai lift the song into the stratosphere. There are touches of disco, Motown and avant garde artists such as Van Dyke Parks and Jon Brion. Considering they haven’t put out a record since 2015, this is all sounding remarkably fresh.
For more: New album Mood Valiant is out 25 June.
Big Scary – Get Out
For fans of: Talking Heads, Michael Jackson, Antony and the Johnsons
With a bassline that strays dangerously close to Another One Bites the Dust, and a haunting piano creeping throughout the song, Big Scary have somehow melded the club-ready chants of early 80s hip-hop with the bleak gothic wash of the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Frontman Tom Iansek’s silky falsetto gives an operatic feel to the song, and the result is singular and slightly creepy. Big Scary have been largely absent since 2016’s Animal; between this, and their previous single, Stay, it’s looking as though their forthcoming album will be a peculiar kettle of fish indeed.
For more: Big Scary’s new album Daisy comes out 30 April.
You Am I – The Waterboy
For fans of: The Replacements, classic You Am I, Big Star.
As Tim Rogers begins a tale of “a Scottish man fronting an American band” over a palm-muted guitar, it is clear we are being treated to a classic You Am I song. As he namedrops Ulladulla, Mollymook and “all the fishermen and women in the bottleshops by seven”, it’s clear this is an Australian classic, period. It’s one of the strongest efforts from You Am I since Dress Me Slowly. Davey Lane provides one of his most memorable guitar riffs to anchor the song, while Rogers drags us through a tale of travelling yet feeling static. When heartache hits and music can’t soothe the pain, it’s time to swing by the bottleshop and just go fishing.
For more: Eleventh album The Lives of Others is out 14 May.
Babe Rainbow featuring Jaden – Imagination
For fans of: Montero, Van Dyke Parks, the Sleepy Jackson
Byron Bay’s Babe Rainbow have a sound that seemingly emanated from the Laurel Canyon of the 1960s: soothing, psychedelic music with a touch of that Disneyfied otherworldly magic. Led by honeyed vocals, Imagination is a pocket symphony the likes of which Brian Wilson would be proud, a calming meditation that floats on the breeze before slowly evaporating. Jaden Smith – who became a fan of the band after discovering and obsessing over a song from their third album, Today – provides a sage spoken-word part and subtle but effective backing vocals. Babe Rainbow have now signed international deals and, with the likes of Danger Mouse and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in their corner, they look likely to become one of our biggest, and chillest, musical exports.
For more: Fourth album Changing Colours is out 14 May.
Turnstyle – We Ran with the Pack
For fans of: Ben Folds, They Might Be Giants, Ween
I feel safe in claiming this as the first song to feature a spoken-word sample of a motivation speech delivered by one of the members of the Living End. Chris Cheney and co were part of “the pack” that Turnstyle ran with briefly in the 90s, and this nostalgic, tongue-in-cheek tribute touches on the times the Perth band shared stages with the big alternative Aussie acts of the day. Triple J fans of old may recall Turnstyle’s pop tune Spray Water on the Stereo; their return was oddly driven by their inclusion on an all-Casio compilation album founded by a Western Australian gallery. This song is heavy on the toy keyboards, and contains a slow, swinging pop hook that will lodge into your brain upon first listen. Hopefully this isn’t just a one-off for the much-loved Perth band.
For more: Key Note Speaker – A Casio Compilation is out now.