Midnight Oil, Alex Lahey and Thelma Plum: Australia’s best new music for November

Each month we add 20 new songs to our Spotify playlist. Read about 10 of our favourites here – and subscribe on Spotify, which updates with the full list at the start of each month

Ball Park Music – Sunscreen

For fans of: Superdrag, Pavement, T Rex

Brisbane’s most beloved band sealed the deal with a record-breaking 13 shows at local venue The Triffid last year, making the most of living in the sunshine state where live music fought through the entire pandemic. Sunscreen is their first new music since those shows, and it’s a restless tune, Frankensteined from a number of disparate pieces songwriter Sam Cromack had lying around, searching for a home. For this reason, structurally it’s a maze, weaving from part to part without any sense of direction: one minute the band breaks into Beach Boys harmonies, the next they’re riding a wave of chugging bass and quick-fire vocal melodies. This could have been two or three great tunes, but instead, it’s one exceptional summer single. Slip, slop, slap it on your stereo (sorry).

For more: check out the band’s self-titled 2020 album, which is up for two Aria awards.

Spacey Jane – Lunchtime

For fans of: the Hummingbirds, the Cure, the Lemonheads

Belying its joyous propulsion and a run of peeling guitars that recall an 80s single by the Cure, Lunchtime was reportedly written while frontman Caleb Harper was experiencing a heavy dose of post-inebriation anxiety, and his hopeless mindset is plastered all over the lyrics of this audio panic attack – an existential crisis in and out before your lunch order even comes to the table. Harper’s voice breaks in just the right way during the earworm chorus, while the lovely backing vocals from bassist Peppa Lane recall the Hummingbirds in top flight.

For more: check out their June single, Lots of Nothing.

Midnight Oil – Rising Seas

For fans of: planet Earth

Peter Garrett and co have been warning us about climate change since second-degree sunburns were a must-have summer accessory. Yet here we are, dragging the climate chain on an international stage at Cop26, and Midnight Oil are, suitably and understandably, still filled with rage. They are taking aim at inept leaders and corruption that leaps across industries and party lines, and this time Garrett can’t dance-shake off the anger. “Every child put down your toys and come inside to sleep,” he growls at the start of the song. “We have to look you in the eye and say we sold you cheap.” The band delivers its grim message with the same raw power of its best anthems. This is an important song, and hopefully it won’t fall on deaf ears.

For more: check out last year’s collaboration album The Makarrata Project.

Alex Lahey – Spike the Punch

For fans of: Paramore, the Starting Line, Best Coast

It’s fitting that Alex Lahey’s music has appeared on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – she is one of the few artists these days doing pop-punk that neatly sidesteps the self-pity for a hefty dose of glorious, hedonistic self-sabotage, like spiking the punch or launching yourself down a concrete ramp without kneepads. With guitar harmonies that sit between Queen and the Darkness, a slightly warped beat that recalls the Postal Service, and a propulsion and punch that belongs on a Cheap Trick album (or at least a Blink-182 set list), Lahey’s audible influences are all over the shop, in the best possible way.

For more: Listen to On My Way, the theme song for animation The Mitchells vs The Machines.

Punko – Cash Under Your Bed

For fans of: Kate Bush, the Donnie Darko soundtrack, the Church

Punko is Liv Jansz, a severely talented Melbourne artist now based in Newcastle, where she crafts haunting and wonderful pop music that leans towards the 1980s without settling into pastiche. Co-produced by Bonnie Knight, the duo meld a Nevermind-sounding chorused-out guitar with frosty synths and dark lyrics about twisted love and the abusive bonds that tie and confuse. The song creeps slowly and ominously, with minimalist instrumentation, hypnotic guitar lines and vocal refrains.

For more: Punko’s debut album Plants Singing is out March 2022. Check out her first single Undivided.

Thelma Plum – Homecoming Queen Strings

For fans of: Ella Fitzgerald, Little Birdy, Lana Del Rey

Homecoming Queen was the standout track from Thelma Plum’s exceptional Better in Blak album, but it struggled to find a home, appearing as a stripped-back waltz, then as an Alice Ivy remix. This definitive version, draped in strings, underscores its beauty and heartache. Feeling unseen as a young Indigenous Australian must be a crushing and damaging experience, and Plum chronicles this experience and her own hard-fought rise to self-respect in a wonderfully moving way. It is, unfortunately, a widely felt experience; as personally as she paints her first two verses, it’s the bridge that points this out: “’Cause in 1967 I wasn’t human, and in 1994 I was born,” she sings. “I’m still here. We are still here.”

For more: check out her entire album, Better in Blak, as well as her haunting cover of Powderfinger’s These Days.

e4444e – Wear No Flag

For fans of: White Fence, Alex G, Modest Mouse

Newcastle multi-instrumentalist Romy Church is one of the best young artists in the country, creating weird, warped pop songs one minute, and Aphex Twin-sounding doomscapes the next. Here he leans into the acoustic-based pop side of his immensely Google-friendly e4444e project, sounding like a lost outtake from the first Ben Kweller album or Beck on K Records. With unsettling tempo changes that suck like quicksand, single-syllable melodies that lead into a slightly funky breakdown, and a voice that sounds uncannily like Bandcamp hero Alex G, this is a top-shelf single, and a great indicator for Church’s second album, which we’ll get to hear in a few long weeks.

For more: new album Autumnal Eve is out 19 November.

Columbus – Temporary Summer

For fans of: Yellowcard, Luca Brasi, Relient K

This sun-dappled slice of joyous pop punk may just make Melbourne three-piece Columbus our latest international export. Close your eyes and you can imagine this gem soundtracking any number of MTV shows about love and island, or any teen movie that chronicles that last important summer before college. The impermanence of summer is well represented in anything from Grease to Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue – to which this song owes a substantial sonic debt – and for good reason: it is such a bittersweet and universal sentiment. As long as young people are falling in love under a burning orb, bands like Columbus will neatly wrap that feeling and blast it back at them with a half-time chorus and a singalong hook.

For more: listen to previous singles Can’t Hide From What Hurts, Out of Time and Pain Is a Mirror.

Alice Ivy ft Sycco – Weakness

For fans of: disco Kylie Minogue, Pnau, Sneaky Sound System

If this bright, sun-filled dance tune was released back in the heyday of Channel [V], Alice Ivy would have found herself with a No 1 hit. As it stands, she still has a fairly good shot at the title: it would be a programming travesty if commercial radio didn’t pick this up and blast it through car stereos. With a chorus that will stick in your head for days, and breezy, tight production, this warm banger is destined to be one of the big songs of the summer. Alice Ivy’s discography is only two records deep, but already she has showcased many various talents: bouncing off Camp Cope vocalist Georgia Maq on previous single Someone Stranger, remixing Thelma Plum and genre-bouncing without betraying her core sound. This is her best work to date.

For more: check out 2020 album Don’t Sleep.

Montaigne – Now (in Space)

For fans of: Rihanna, Drake, Jhené Aiko

Any song that boasts a video clip with aliens and universe-sized plates of pasta deserves to go viral on its own obvious merits, but when it is affixed to a tune as lovelorn and bouncy as Montaigne’s latest gem, then the sky’s the limit. Equally as anthemic as her Eurovision song with a more futuristic, glitchy production bed, this is the first track from a forthcoming record Montaigne promises is “going to be the peak of my career”. She further describes it as “beautiful and wholesome”, which is the perfect descriptor for this single.

For more: check out her 2019 album, Complex.

Contributor

Nathan Jolly

The GuardianTramp

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