Isabella Manfredi – Seasons Change
For fans of: Holiday-era Madonna, Haim, Duran Duran
Isabella Manfredi lived a lot of life between the demise of the Preatures and her technicolour debut record: she broke off a decade-long relationship, got engaged, and became a mother for the first time. All this life and birth fizzes from her debut album, Izzi, and its opening gambit, Seasons Change, a stylistic and emotional palate cleanser. With a bop worthy of Cyndi Lauper and a breezy vocal that rakes over past hurts from an emotional distance, pointed questions – “How could you let me be all alone in my pain, without your sympathy?” – are danced away with the hard-earned knowledge that there is a brighter season on the horizon. A change of seasons can be chaotic, but also cathartic.
For more: Manfredi’s debut album, Izzi, is out now.
Sollyy, Zion Garcia – Apply The Pressure
For fans of: RXK Nephew, Desiigner, Azealia Banks
Triple J presenter Sollyy is fast becoming one of the finest young producers in Australia, and on the fierce and assured Apply The Pressure he easily cruises past his previous best. Western Sydney rapper Zion Garcia delivers reams of exceptionally dexterous bars that spin a kaleidoscope of references from Pokémon to shout-outs to Mount Druitt and St Marys. A loving but realistic ode to western Sydney and self-belief in the face of dissent.
For more: Check out recent singles NahJokes by Sollyy and Fried by Zion Garcia.
Adalita – Dazzling
For fans of: Magic Dirt, Paul Dempsey, Suze DeMarchi
Adalita Srsen wrote Dazzling nine years ago, around the time her second solo album, All Day Venus, was garnering universal praise. It was a different beast from her previous work, kicking off a songwriting exploration into “the universal themes of obsessive love, the inner void and reclaiming of the self” that resulted in her forthcoming third album.
Musically, this piano-led track lands somewhere between the stripped back heartbreak of her 2011 debut and the band-driven All Day Venus. “I won’t be made to feel bad for loving you,” she sings, adding a wrinkle to what appears an unabashedly romantic ode. As the song comes to a close and the hypnotic chorus continuously crashes in and out like waves, it becomes very obvious that Dazzling is worthy of its near-decade gestation.
For more: Adalita’s third album, Inland, is out 2 December.
Folk Bitch Trio – Lost
For fans of: Tiddas, Lucinda Williams, Bright Eyes
Folk Bitch Trio wowed recently at Brisbane’s Bigsound conference, proving that sterling songwriting, and three-part harmonies dragged in from the porch will always command an audience. Lost is the third single from the Melbourne group, and their rich sound already seems fully formed. Heide Peverelle’s lyrics are well worthy of attention but the very best moments come when the three members wordlessly harmonise over a weeping slide guitar and the gentle waltz of the instrumentation. Beautiful.
For more: On Lost’s B-side, Folk Bitch Trio tackle Rowland S Howard’s Shivers – joining Screaming Jets, Courtney Barnett, Laura Jane Grace, and Divine Fits in covering the Aussie classic.
Merci, Mercy – Uneasy Me
For fans of: Clairo, Ben Gibbard, Gretta Ray
A lazily plucked acoustic guitar and synthetic strings are all that adorn this intimate track about self-loathing, though they carry the same weight as a full orchestra. Merci, Mercy’s charming vocal is subtly doubled with a vocoder effect that will be immediately recognisable to fans of Imogen Heap and/or Marissa Cooper, with thoughtful turns of phrase tossed off throughout. Uneasy Me is the final track from an EP tackling mental health struggles, substance abuse, self-doubt, and all those sticky topics that have recently become pop song fodder. It’s a brilliant and brave EP and this quiet coda is the best entry point for the uninitiated.
For more: Merci, Mercy’s EP, titled Is It Me, Or Is It You?, is out now.
The Pictures – I Can’t Hold It Back
For fans of: Guided By Voices, You Am I, Dallas Crane
The surprise new single from Davey Lane’s Melbourne three-piece the Pictures completely obliterates the 14 years between the band’s releases. It’s a slice of stubbornly classic garage rock, with wickedly distorted guitars, a chirping verse riff that sounds like something Paul would have passive aggressively instructed George to play, and a thumping, undeniable chorus, during which Lane slowly shreds his vocal cords by yelping the title over a classic chord progression.
I Can’t Hold It Back will please even the most strident of guitar rock fans, those still yearning for the days when Gallagher was mayor of London, Casablancas was king of New York, and Davey was writing out chord tabs for the You Am I website. Rock is back, tell a friend.
For more: The Pictures are working on their third studio album. Check out Lane’s 2020 solo album Don’t Bank Your Heart On It.
Tumbleweed – Patchouli Girl
For fans of: The Saints, Sugar, the Stems
Opening with a warm blast of brass over a jangly four-chord shuffle, Tumbleweed seem to have regressed from Wollongong’s finest 90s stoner rockers to 1964’s finest beat combo. Of course, the band’s back catalogue has always dipped quite liberally into the psychedelic goodie bag, but never have they wrapped their galaxy of influences into such a concise three-minute pop tune (it even comes in at an old-school, radio-friendly 2:59). Rob Younger of Radio Birdman produced the track, adding a further layer of Aussie rock royalty to proceedings. It’s pleasing to see that, 32 years after first plugging in, Tumbleweed are still adding vital gems to their discography.
For more: Tumbleweed recently reissued their entire catalogue through Wollongong label Farmer and the Owl.
The Uplifting Bell Ends – Travelling Home
For fans of: Jackson Browne, Creedence Clearwater Revival, America
A bright acoustic, a whirling Hammond B3, and a peeling guitar lick straight from an Eagles record introduces the most charming road tune for quite some time. Rock songs about being on the road have been a staple since rock bands have been on the road, and while gravel-travellin’ songs are firmly in the Australian rock tradition, the Uplifting Bell Ends take a decidedly American approach, echoing the best of breezy west coast acoustic rock from the past 50 years. Of course, even on those open American highways there’s no mistaking an Aussie accent; jaunty vocals twang throughout as the protagonist dreams of heading home to greener pastures, “where the women are good and the living’s easy”.
For more: Check out their excellent Super Giant IV record.
Katy Steele – Feel So Bad
For fans of: Robert Palmer, Mi-Sex, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
With her former band Little Birdy, Steele often oscillated between soulful ballads and glittery pop, and despite its gloomy title, Feel So Bad slots firmly into the latter category. A drum machine gives this tune its relentless propulsion, while a guitar riff pinched from the Vapors’ Turning Japanese provides further reference points for the retro path Steele is hurtling along. Written and produced with her musical and life partner Graham McLuskie while in lockdown, the pair made the most of the limitations by testing out a bank of new musical toys. The results are bright and buoyant – Steele references Robert Palmer as an influence – but while the instrumentation is all joy and vintage synths, Steele delivers a remorseful chorus, spiralling into the kind of morose self-reflection that colours her very best work.
For more: Steele is playing three WA shows in October, before heading east for a 17 November show at Brunswick Ballroom and a 18 November Sydney show at the Vanguard.
Darcie Haven – Pheromones
For fans of: Phoebe Bridgers, Mallrat, Maggie Rogers
“Some things don’t age that well, I’ve learned at last,” sings 20-year-old Perth songwriter Darcie Haven, as she attempts to rekindle a long-expired relationship from her teenage years with limited luck. Like many adults suddenly thrust back into familiar situations from formative years, Haven reverts to her teenage tropes, rehashing emotional dramatics, while realising her partner’s skeletons aren’t cute foibles but proper character defects. Haven traverses a lot of emotional real estate here, gliding over a glassy backing track and a pulsing drum machine. There is a lot of easy comfort in the past, but it is often revealed to be false and fleeting.
For more: Check out previous singles Coping and I Wanna Be.