Monday, December 14, 2009

TOP 10 AUSTRALIAN ALBUMS '09



A little while back, our pal Georgia at Microphone Memory Emotion asked me how we find the "crazy stuff" we post about on Rose Quartz. I guess it'd be tough blogging from Brooklyn, where everyone's no more than 30 seconds away from tweeting about the next massive thing, but here in Sydney it's a lot easier to find and post about a heap of cool shit that isn't already saturating the Hype Machine (totally selfish, I know!). Anyway, here are my top ten albums by Australian bands this year. Shout outs go to Love of Diagrams, Brain Children, Curse ov Dialect and Pimmon. Here are the ones that edged them out:



1. Mum Smokes - Easy/House Music
sample track: Left For Dead

Two true things about bands: 1. No matter how good the band is, double albums usually suck. 2. Tense band dynamics often make for great music. In the case of Easy & House Music, the latter fact clearly won out (and not just because this release's double album status is arguable): having thrashed it out privately for nearly four years, Mum Smokes put out the record, played a half dozen shows and disappeared again. There are supergroups that sound like (and usually are) a bunch of famous bros riffing around and selling the results for squillions of dollars, but Mum Smokes' immensely talented members have instead painstakingly hammered out a record that won't make them wealthy but is actually really fucking excellent. This shit sounds like golden afternoons in suburban backyards, '90s pool parties, the best bits of growing up. Genius.

[MySpace / buy]

2. Crayon Fields - All The Pleasures of The World
sample track: Mirror Ball

We've had a crush on Crayon Fields for aaaaaages, but this album is their best yet. The songcraft and superior turn of phrase displayed on 2006's Animal Bells is maintained but with added - I don't know? Groove? Swagger? Maybe, if it's possible to swagger humbly. Mirror Ball perfectly captures the vintage R&B vibe that permeates this record, warm and compelling, enigmatic but inviting.

[MySpace / buy]


3. Grand Salvo - Soil Creatures
sample track: Needles

There's probably a lot of singer-songwriters who like to think of themselves as poets, but Grand Salvo's Paddy Mann could actually lay claim to the title, if he was pretentious enough to go around laying claims to titles. Which he's not. This exceptionally beautiful album is rich with melody, flawlessly produced and packaged, but it's Paddy Mann's lyrics that stand out the most. They're tender and heartbreaking, enigmatic but still comforting.

[MySpace / buy]


4. Leader Cheetah - The Sunspot Letters
sample track: The Explorer

Pretty much an instant classic, this. It's amazing to think it's a debut record: critics often use the word 'assured' as a substitute for 'slick production' but Leader Cheetah really sound like they know exactly what they're fucking doing. The Sunspot Letters is an amazingly consistent, classy blend of some seriously enjoyable influences, and the distinguishing feature is that it's a blend rather than a genre-hopping mishmash. There's surf guitars and stadium-sized drums and they're hammering out early Neil Young-style ballads that are driving and kind of intoxicating and always a little tragic, and that's the vibe: it's an album, y'all. The Explorer was apparently inspired by Sultans Of Swing; choice, no?

[MySpace / buy]

5. St Helens - Heavy Profession
sample track: Get Up

Total heroin chic romantic junkie fuck-ups, but not in a disgusting vomitacious '90s Seattle way, more '70s New York with its careening new wave soundtrack and poetry that's actually kinda great. I used to be lukewarm on this but now I think it's rad.

[MySpace / buy]

6. Kid Sam - Kid Sam
sample track: We're Mostly Made Of Water

At the start of 2009 no one had heard of Kid Sam or their label, Two Bright Lakes, but their self-titled album turned out to be a complete left-field gem. Swinging from epicly heartbreaking ditties like We're Mostly Made Of Water to strutting, lo-fi, Chad VanGaalen-esque indie rock jams elsewhere on the record, it's sort of amazing how right two cousins from rural Victoria could get it in just one album.

[MySpace / buy]

7. The Twerps - The Twerps
sample track: Dance Alone

They've been calling it an EP, but it's nine tracks long, and in the grey zone that is record categorisation I call that an album. The way this record sounds is amazing: it's total bubblegum pop but filtered through the garage and sung with a sneer. Better yet, though, the songs are great too - like a 1950s dancehall band playing punk rock, and with some pretty hilarious lyrics.

[MySpace / buy]

8. Decoder Ring - They Blind The Stars, And The Wild Team
sample track: Beat The Twilight

I used to think Decoder Ring were boring, but this album's amazing, spaced out-yet-muscular kraut-rock vibes and lush production made me realise I was heaps wrong.

[MySpace / buy]

9. No Through Road - Winner.
sample track: Berlin Wall

Earlier this year, I wrote about Winner.'s lead single, Party To Survive, that it's what you'd play if you wanted a party to be ridiculously memorable. That vibe is spread liberally throughout the record: it's anthemic, but in a fun kinda way; euphoric, with moments of pathos; and all of it - whether the subject matter is girls or partying - totally heartfelt.

[MySpace / buy]

10. HTRK - Marry Me Tonight
sample track: Ha

It was made in the same year and Marry Me Tonight is how I'd hoped The Devastations' Yes U would turn out. That record, like this, was dark, sleazy & hypnotic, but inconsistent and poorly written. Marry Me Tonight doesn't have such problems. It's thrillingly paced and perfectly produced, both of which factors are essential for a band who are as much about delivery as content. It's lucky HTRK have both.

[MySpace / buy]

10 comments:

gervin said...

You forgot "Songs", brah.

Ryan Egan said...

awesome list. would have left off HTRK and DECODER RING. Maybe included SONGS and KES BAND or maybe ALEKS AND THE RAMPS.

seanbelling said...

UV Race plz

pointy stumps said...

excellent list... totally agree with you re mum smokes. also love the htrk record.

leetranlam said...

Nice list, altho Kieran and Kishore in Kid Sam are cousins, not brothers. (Sorry.)

Margaret Tran said...

I agree with gervin - you forgot songs!! Rawr.

georgia k said...

ohhh what what! a SHOUT out. thanks for the awesome list...

gee

timmy dodgers said...

great list and srill didn't include summer cats, songs, huon, ghosts of television, rowland s howard, i heart hiroshima, the uv race, heirs, useless children, the stabs, wagons, sarah blasko - fark me, it's been stellar year for aussie music. that not even counting the multitude of crazy 7's I've bought from bands I've never heard of... and htrk, st helens = spot on!

Has Been said...

Good list. I quite liked Bertie Blackman's release!

Nick Lynagh said...

Enjoyed your list a lot... there are some cool tunes here I haven't discovered as yet. Thank you.