Some albums are instant classics, hitting us with such force that they immediately alter the course of popular music. Others go a different route, becoming beloved cult hits, written about in liner notes and spoken about with an evangelical reverence generally reserved for the divine.
Then there are those that, despite fulfilling the criteria of the above categories, somehow slip through the cracks. Whether they were too far ahead of the curve, were botched by an awkward promo rollout, or simply not given the full respect and admiration they were entitled to at the time, some albums continue to undeservingly float under the radar.
To that end, we decided that now was as good a time as any to look back over the last 30 years of Australian music and highlight those albums that we think warrant some more attention. A lot of them you’ll recognise, and some of them you won’t, but all of them are more than worthy of your time.
Dive in, and enjoy.
Sia — Colour the Small One (2004)
Before the chandelier swinging, face-concealing wigs and global stardom, Sia Furler was struggling to get her voice heard as a solo artist. It was 15 years ago this year that she released her third album that would subsequently go on to change everything…that is, of course, after roughly 18 months of indifference and a sole feature in the series finale of Six Feet Under. Go figure, right?
Yes, ‘Breath Me’ is Small One’s lynchpin, and remains one of her defining musical moments. The album it stems from, however, is also entirely indicative of Furler’s widespread creativity and musical ambition.
The spiralling Mellotron of ‘Sunday’ is complemented by the percussive, Beck-assisted mantras of ‘The Bully,’ while ‘Numb’ should have been every bit as big as ‘Breathe Me’ as far as emotive balladry was concerned. Furler isn’t a powerhouse on this record — her voice is tender, uncertain and vulnerable. This isn’t a deterrent by any means, however — if anything, it endears her even further and draws you entirely into the album’s exquisite soundscapes.
Sia has always been one of the greatest creative minds to emerge from this country — it just took people a while to notice. Like, a while.
Clare Bowditch And The Feeding Set — And The Moon Looked On (2007)
It’s been twelve years since And The Moon Looked On came out and it still punches me in the gut with every listen. The giddy ‘You Look So Good’ was the lead single for Clare Bowditch’s third album but if that’s the only track you’ve heard from it, please go back and revisit the rest.
Most of the LP feels nothing like that song. In fact, most of it is, well, pretty sad — written from what Bowditch has called her “pool of suffering”. At the album’s darkest moments she talks about folding her love into four and stuffing it away, she declares that she won’t cry anymore, she says she doesn’t want to have to radio for help. Sometimes the proclamations of desire and devotion sound like a plea but even at her most longing, Bowditch’s resolve cuts through.
“I will not win this time,” she admits on the sprawling closing track ‘People Like Me, People Like You’. “But I will not live a little life.” The sound of a woman down, maybe, but not out.
Pnau — Again (2003)
For many music fans, the Pnau story started with 2007’s self-titled album, which is pretty much how the duo planned it. Pnau burst out of the gates with the Technicolour singles ‘Baby’, ‘Embrace’ and ‘Wild Strawberries’, becoming Australia’s new favourite festival act overnight. (Even Sir Elton John rhapsodised about the record.)
But Pnau was more a recalibration than a breakout. Peter Mayes and Nick Littlemore released their DIY debut album, Sambanova, in 1999, taking cues from Groove Armada and classic house. It was swiftly pulled from record stores and later re-released — no one told the bedroom producers they had to clear samples.
Four years later, Pnau released Again, an album even less remembered than Sambanova. It’s underrated by its creators too — Littlemore once called it “the worst record I’ve ever done”. Having made music together since the age of 14, Pnau was nearing burnout. They promptly parted ways after Again, with Littlemore and Pip Brown (later known as Ladyhawke) starting the scrappy band Teenager (which also features on this list.)
Again gives fascinating acid-tinged form to those tensions. Tougher and more erratic than Sambanova, its big anthems ‘We Love The Fresh Kills’, ‘Enuffs Enuff’ and ‘Again’ still bang in headphones today. These songs were never destined for the commercial highs Pnau reached four years later, but they’re far from a washout.
Teenager — Thirteen (2006)
Not enough people know that the horniest Australian album of all time came out in 2006. Thirteen was the only output from short-lived duo Teenager, a perfect one-punch LP that included a song called ‘Pony’ even more up for it than Ginuwine’s version and an album cover that put male pubes front and centre. It’s cruel and confusing that it’s somehow been lost to the sands of time.
I say confusing because while Teenager might have been a flash in the pan, it’s two halves — Nick Littlemore of Pnau fame and a pre-Ladyhawke Pip Brown — are practically Australasian music royalty. Together, they made sharp-edged, sicko electronic pop that at once typified the sound of the mid-noughties and showed how much darker and more interesting it had the potential to be.
But it wasn’t just Littlemore and Brown who made Thirteen so good. The all-star cast of musicians who worked behind-the-scenes on the album included Kim Moyes of the Presets, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Luke Steele of The Sleepy Jackson, Aiden Nemeth from Wolfmother and even motherfucking Rowland S. Howard (how?!), just a couple of years before his death.
We never got another album from the pair after Thirteen, despite reports Littlemore had a follow-up in the bag. The bittersweet truth is Teenager had to die so bigger things could be born. Pip Brown departed the project soon afterwards to launch Ladyhawke and Nick Littlemore returned his focus to Pnau after an extended break between albums; the next year the pair would hit the studio again together to climb the charts with ‘Embrace’. 2007 was also the year Littlemore and Steele came together to start Empire of the Sun — personally, I’d have taken another Teenager album over ‘Walking on the Sun’, but c’est la vie.
Paces — Vacation (2016)
Dance music is easily this country’s most prevalent genre — but in all its forms and in all its omnipresence, the glut of synths, as delicious as they may be, can leave you a little bit lethargic. Enter Paces and his debut album Vacation, giving you that summery spritz that helps you cut through the fat.
It’s an album that takes you to paradise — wherever yours may be — and bathes you in positivity and optimism. It’s unashamed escapism, because our art doesn’t have to be politicised all the time.
Paces displays remarkable restraint when trying to let his eclectic group of features shine — Guy Sebastian, Jess Kent, Kučka and more — but still steers the ship through even the most raging waters. Vacation is a cruise you’ll want to board, and one you’ll never want to get off even when it’s time to dock.
Waak Waak Djungi — Waak Waak ga Min Min (1997)
You’d be forgiven for not knowing this one. In 1997, the project Waak Waak Djungi released a 20-track album that collected field recordings of traditional Aboriginal story-songs and also reworked some of that source material using star-dusted synthesisers and other immersive electronics.
Five of those reimagined tracks were collected last year, along with one unreleased gem, for an abridged reissue from Melbourne label Efficient Space. Translating to Black Crow, White Cockatoo in English, Waak Waak ga Min Min offers a rare mind-meld between three Yolngu songmen from Northeast Arnhem Land — Bobby Bunnungurr, who painted the album’s new cover art, Jimmy Djamunba, and the late Peter Milaynga — and Victorian musician Peter Mumme.
Stoking deep New Age and ambient vibes, these six tracks are incredibly sumptuous and spacious without drifting completely into the ether. In fact, the hypnotic eight-minute centrepiece ‘Mother, I’m Going’ opens with a head-turning synth hook and squishy beat that sound lifted from some hip modern producer. Decades ahead of its time and still remarkably unique, this ignored masterpiece deserves a much wider audience.
Holly Valance — Footprints (2002)
Perfecting the whispery snarl of a seasoned pop star was Holly Valance’s first achievement upon releasing her debut album, Footprints — an under-appreciated masterclass in range.
Australia’s favourite soap opera, Neighbours, created many stars, from Margot Robbie and Kylie Minogue to Natalia Imbruglia, but Valance — despite releasing two charting pop albums — has always been considered one of the show’s failures. In a review from The Guardian, Valance’s debut record is chalked up to a lacklustre “Kylie impersonation”.
It’s cliche to suggest someone was before their time, but Valance was ripped apart for things as commonplace in pop as hypersexuality, miming, and “fluttery disco that makes her so hot she has to take her clothes off.” Her debut single, ‘Kiss Kiss’ — a cover of Stella Soleil’s 2001 hit, ‘Kiss Kiss’, which was itself an adaptation of ‘Şımarık’, the 1997 release by Turkish singer Tarkan — was executed with such finesse that it surpassed each of its previous incarnations.
Footprints avoided the pitfalls of many Y2K-era albums, and succeeded as an original and exciting project; from interpolating Punjabi samples (‘Tuck Your Shirt In), melding country Western soundscapes with UK garage (‘Harder They Come’) to sweeping playful exuberance that suspends geographical limits (‘Naughty Girl’).
— Kish Lal
The Devoted Few — Billboard Noises (2004)
Originally a side project for Bluebottle Kiss and erstwhile Sarah Blasko guitarist Ben Fletcher, this Sydney band are only remembered by… well, a devoted few.
Those clued in on the homegrown mid-2000s indie-rock revival, however, will attest to Billboard’s simple, striking beauty. Rockier singles like ‘Counting Cars’ and ‘Desolation Angels’ fared well on triple j at the time, but the album also housed quieter and more pensive moments such as the finger-picked ‘Your Ghosts’ and the steady ascent of ‘It’s Over.’
The Devoted Few always lived in the shadow of other bigger, more important bands — including ones that Fletcher played in himself. You can’t even find this album online anymore. Truthfully, this album could have been as influential and revered as Hourly, Daily or Skeleton Jar were it given the time of day by the right people. Truly.
It’s a powerful, introspective take on suburban Sydney life and a reflection on time and place with no detail spared. These days, Fletcher finds himself in LA and plays in the backing band of Welsh singer Marina. There was a time, however, where he was briefly heard over the billboard noises — an action that spoke as loudly as his words.
Rainbow Chan — Spacings (2016)
Spacings, Sydney artist Rainbow Chan’s debut album, is filled with empty air — and longing to overcome it. A breakup album through and through, Chan begins the album with near silence, a reckoning of what’s happened before her ethereal, echoed voice repeats a mantra: “don’t breathe too hard/it’s only kindling”. Underneath a jagged soundscape of cowbells and drums form the skeleton of a song: the healing begins.
Chan’s synth-pop is coloured by strange loops, bells and charms, bizarre but comfortable — as if she is adjusting to a new world, making something from scraps. Songs like ‘Nest’ stitch together memories of a relationship’s failure through fragmented imagery, and Chan’s voice, at times, sounds purposefully stretched, as if pained. Across songs, her lyrics switch between easily understood to indecipherable, her voice mixing from behind to in-front of beats.
Some revelations are still softly spoken; others are more declarative. While you might’ve all been obsessed with another 2016 song by the same name, Chan’s ‘Work’ is an absolute battlecry of a track, a confident club-ready demand that a potential partner work harder and show love through labour. Elsewhere, she shrugs off fuckbois, accepts her losses, and breaks free of her own shell.
But Spacings ends with ‘Coalesce’, a lullaby that imagines the impossible: complete connection. Rainbow Chan gets as close as we can, as listening, her heartbreak is your own, strange and familiar all at once.
Yves Klein Blue — Ragged & Ecstatic (2009)
Before Cloud Control, before The Rubens, before Art Vs Science, there was Yves Klein Blue. The Brissy boys delivered one album of naive, wide-eyed innocent pop rock that encapsulated the see-saw of blue-skied optimism and existential dread that comes with being 21 years old.
Essentially, it is indie-rock done really fucking well — with Michael Tomlinson’s razor-sharp wit underlining their cavity-inducing pop palette. On Ragged & Ecstatic they avoid cliché through sheer diversity, nailing jangle-pop on ‘Make Up Your Mind’, piano-man rabble-rousing on ‘Getting Wise’ and gritty pub rock on ‘Digital Love’ and ‘Queeny’. And what’s surprising is that all the aforementioned hats look good on these boys, save the godawful country twang of album closer ‘Gin Sling.’
This was an album that came fully formed, not hastily rushed through production on the back of a viral first single. The back-to-back-to-back power-pop punches land because the hypnotic slow stomp of ‘Celebrity Death’ and the philosophical musings of ‘About The Future’ act as the mid-album intermission before launching back into its frenzied pace, including the horn-inflected horniness of ‘Summer Sheets’ and the one-two step of ‘Polka’.
Ironically for an album that runs as fast as it can to the finish line, the most memorable moment is the aforementioned ‘About The Future’. It’s probably the most incisive quarter-life crisis confession you’ll ever listen to, as Tomlinson laments his relationship-destroying anxiety in what still might be one of the most universally relatable Australian songs ever written.
Selwyn — Meant To Be (2002)
Despite the popularisation of singing contests, musicians that are able to captivate the nation for weeks ultimately end up paling under the scrutiny of reality television. Selwyn, who rose to fame after auditioning for Pop Stars in 2001, has experienced a bumpy road since the release of his debut album, Meant to Be.
It was his cover of ‘Rich Girl’, the Hall & Oates ’70s hit, that earned the then 19-year-old his first Gold certification, yet it’s in the unexplored corners of Meant To Be where he is most sonically successful. While the album was overshadowed by hit singles and a sheepish confession of hooking up with a Sugababe on tour, Selwyn’s album tracks were overlooked.
The contemplative production on ‘Like This, Like That’ which toyed with Southern hip-hop influences rivalled the pop-cover that defined his now defunct career. Pop ballads, ‘Take My Time’ and ‘Way You Make Me Feel’, which fail to deliver live audience-pleasing vocal gymnastics, provide restrained moments of R&B that parallel Boyz II Men. These threads show the beginnings of luscious R&B that became lost amongst the noise of reality TV.
— Kish Lal
The Middle East — I Want That You Are Always Happy (2011)
In 2009, ‘Blood’ was the indie wet dream of every arts student in the country. Go back to it, it still bangs. But it was to be a melodic misnomer for The Middle East, as they were a collective more interested in carving out haunting dirges than anthemic singalongs. And while folk-pop was definitely a dirty word, their restrained, dour solemnity was more akin to Mazzy Star and the early recordings of Neil Young than the Coldplay-with-a-banjo outfits like Mumford & Sons that were dominating the zeitgeist at the time.
And fuck their debut album is not exactly Smooth FM. The first track is called ‘Black Death 1349’ and it doesn’t get much cheerier from there. To be honest, the album is an absolute chore for the first three to six times you listen to it — but it rewards the patient listener in a way few albums have done this century. ‘Mount Morgan’ and ‘Deep Water’ reveal themselves to you slowly and meticulously; they’re still darker than Nick Cave’s dreams, but the understated beauty of the songs start to force themselves into your subconscious over time.
Unfortunately, their slow-burning debut album was to become a bittersweet swansong. Bewildered by their own popularity and struggling to deal with their suffocating religious upbringings, the life of recording and performing had become more of a burden than a cathartic release for the band. Instead of enjoying a year-long victory lap, they announced mere months after the album’s release that they had broken up. Until Vivid this year, that is.
Gabriella Cilmi — TEN (2010)
Every Australian knows who Gabriella Cilmi is. Her debut album Lessons To Be Learned was an absolute anomaly. Released when Cilmi was just 17 years old, her and lead single ‘Sweet About Me’ took the world by storm with her cheeky lyrics, impressive vocals and unmistakable soul. Unfortunately, she never quite replicated the same success with follow-up releases but, with TEN, she damn well should have.
While she swaps some of the obvious soul out for some plastic, industrialised pop, it’s a record ahead of its time. Her voice still booms as she performs flips and twists over some brilliant production by The Invisible Men, the trio behind Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’.
Admittedly it does falter in places, but when it shines it is blinding. ‘On A Mission’ is cinematic electropop before we even knew what that was, and ‘Love Me Cause You Want To’ would sound right at home on any Robyn album.
Kardajala Kirridarra — Kardajala Kirridarra (2017)
As music is so prevalent and so readily accessible in 2019, it can be very easy to lose the true gems among the rubble, junk and debris. But when you do dig up that gem, it makes the search all the more worth it. And, as far as Aussie music in the past couple of years go, no gem is more priceless, more perfected or more important than that of Kardajala Kirridarra’s self-titled, debut album.
It’s a record that truly transports and consumes you, with raw emotion pouring out of every word. Kardajala Kirridarra directly translates to “Sandhill Women”, and the album’s lyrics switch from English to the Indigenous language of Mudburra from Marlinja in Northern Territory. Each song has a subtle and powerful mix of traditional and electronic production, but it is the group’s ability to tell a story that makes it all beam so clear. The highlight is ‘Ngajabu (Grandmother’s Song), a melancholic yet cathartic track that tiptoes between history and present effortlessly.
“Now that I’m older I see what you mean to me/I see the kind of woman I’m meant to be/I want you to know that I gave my daughter your name/Didn’t know it was possible to feel this much pain,” MC Kayla Jackson says over the haunting production.
Kardajala Kirridarra’s music is worth championing — it’s honest, it’s emotional, it’s Australian. In a world where it feels like everyone is spouting out their shitty diatribe, this group are one of the few whose every word you’re going to want to hang on to.
Shakaya — Shakaya (2002)
One of the last vestiges of the record label fairytale story, pop duo Shakaya signed with Sony Music in 2001 after a showcase at the label’s Sydney office. Simone Stacey and Naomi Wenitong would go on to create some of Australia’s best homegrown pop music.
Their eponymously titled debut album propelled the two Aboriginal women into national recognition, but it was their hit single, ‘Stop Calling Me’ that catapulted them into pop music’s collective consciousness. Producer and manager, Reno Nicastro created nimble R&B and hip-hop beats that harnessed the nasal lilt of Wenitong and Stacey.
More than just millennium-era relics, Shakaya provided a fresh perspective on rhythm and blues. Australia’s music industry has an ugly history of trivialising and rejecting the legitimacy of R&B and hip-hop, yet Shakaya’s reposeful pop-tinged gifts flagged a gap in the market. The media’s inability to see past rock’s contributions to our music history creates a fog around albums like that of Shakaya. Songs like ‘Sublime’ are a tangle of bright threads reminiscent of the soaring heights of N*Sync, while the reggaeton-tempo of ‘Mr DJ’ is rich and rounded and iridescent. Shakaya’s debut is worthy of being celebrated amongst pop’s greatest.
— Kish Lal
Jonathan Boulet — Jonathan Boulet (2009)
Jonathan Boulet is the biggest tease in Australian music history. On his debut self-titled album he wrote, recorded, produced and played almost every instrument on what is a spectacular collection of songs. It sounds like he’s jamming with his best friends on a disgustingly hot summer’s evening. It sounds like the agitation of youth. It sounds like the brooding heart of a true songwriter. And it’s heartbreaking that he never came within a furlong of repeating it.
Honestly, it’s tempting just to lock him back into his parent’s garage in Sydney and keep him away from all life’s distractions until he can produce something like this again.
‘Continue Calling’ opens the album at a canter, and makes it immediately clear why Boulet was once the drummer for two metal bands. ‘Ones Who Fly Twos Who Die’ sounds like a mysterious cult campfire song, while ‘You Never Knew Me’ sees Jonny channelling is best 1997 Thom Yorke impersonation. The sudden gear shift from autobahn pop music to the power ballad ‘10 Billion Years’ is gut-punching, giving a feeling as if the song was recorded in slow motion. It also signals the tonal shift of the album from pop bangers to experimental moodscapes.
Not many solo artists debut a string of songs as strong as Jonathan Boulet did on this indie masterpiece. Maybe it’s greedy to expect more.
Decoder Ring — Fractions (2005)
Decoder Ring might be one of the unflashiest bands Australia ever produced. Before 2004, the instrumental group was contentedly niche, with a small but dedicated following on Sydney’s live scene.
Then the offer came to score Cate Shortland’s understated film Somersault. Its theme song required dreamy vocals, so Decoder Ring called on rising actress and singer Lenka Kripac. Somersault was an awards hit in Australia, with reviewers celebrating the soundtrack. The little inner-city band now had a national profile — not that they quit their side jobs.
Decoder Ring released Fractions, their first standalone album with Lenka as a member, soon after Somersault. While respectfully received at the time, it deserved a longer life. Unburdened from serving a movie’s narrative, the songs on Fractions feel intimate and personal, with a full, swelling sound that culminates in the tingly six-minute title track.
Lenka later relocated to the States to start a solo career. (Her best-known song, ‘The Show’, has 32 million plays on Spotify.) Meanwhile, Decoder Ring receded from view, returning in 2009 with the instrumental album They Blind The Stars, And The Wild Team.
Little Scout — Take Your Light (2011)
The Tickle sisters — Mel and Kirsty — are individually responsible for a diverse array of current projects. The former fronts Pynes and Holiday Party, while the latter helms Party Dozen and her art-pop solo project of Exhibitionist.
Almost a decade prior, however, they were one half of Brisbane’s Little Scout — an “always the bridesmaid” band, scoring major support slots with the likes of The New Pornographers and School Of Seven Bells, but never getting the attention they deserved in their own right.
Listening to 2011’s Take Your Light, their debut album, has one questioning aloud as to how that came to be. Its sense of harmony, its stirring lyrics and sweeping arrangements are as captivating now as they were then, from the driving ‘We Are Walking Out’ and ‘Dead Loss’ to the stripped-back, harmonically-driven ‘Know Your Exit’ and ‘The Easiest Way.’ You can pinpoint the exact moment of heartbreak on ‘Long Gone,’ with Mel singing quietly but devastatingly into the cavernous unknown: “I’m losing out on you/When you take the hand of a stranger/Just to feel used.”
It remains a standard-bearer for indie-pop in the 2010s — nationality regardless — and easily a career highlight for both women.
Friendly — Akimbo (2000)
In 2000, The Avalanches gave us Since I Left You, one of the all-time great Australian albums. Other big (if not quite as enduring) LPs came out that year too, including Powderfinger’s Odyssey Number Five and Magic Dirt’s What Are Rock Stars Doing Today. Then there was Friendly’s Akimbo, an of-the-moment record that’s since been lost to time.
While Andrew Kornweibel emerged as Friendly with the 1998 album Hello Bellybutton, Akimbo made his name outside dance circles. Coming out of Australia’s nascent breaks scene, Friendly brought a local’s touch to the big beat sound perfected by the Chemical Brothers on 1999’s Surrender. With its bold yellow CD sleeve, Akimbo arrived a few months ahead of Fatboy Slim’s much better-remembered ode to big beat, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars.
Akimbo is not what you’d call a chin-stroker’s album. Its singles ‘My Mother Was a Deejay’ and ‘I Love You But…’ (which made the 2001 triple j Hottest 100 at #56) were goofy at the time, but it’s an endearing goofiness. By contrast, the album’s highpoint ‘Some Kind Of Love Song’ features raw, unguarded vocals from then little-known singer Sia. The equally scuffed-up production hints at a side to Friendly that Akimbo mostly avoids.
The album is now nearly impossible to find, while Kornweibel relocated to London to pursue a mid-2000s DJ career as Andrew Friendly. Google the name in 2019 and your top result is a businessman from Boston.
Sneaky Sound System — From Here To Anywhere (2011)
Sneaky Sound System’s 2006 breakout hit, ‘I Love It’ signalled the dawn of dance music’s mainstream domination, and their third studio album, released just five years later, appeared at the beginning of the genre’s demise. The electronic trio, and eventual duo, lost both their momentum and their once attentive fanbase upon the release of From Here To Anywhere in 2011.
While taking aesthetic cues from electronic music’s trend at the time, vaporwave, Angus McDonald and Connie Mitchell centred their disposition for the ’80s. It didn’t make logical sense, but it was at the peak of EDM, so nothing really did. The record was less gaudy than the formulaic ‘I Love It’, but sure-fire hits like third single ‘Really Want to See You Again’, which exuded an aspirational wanton attitude through Mitchell’s silvery vocals failed to chart.
As the dance community moved forward with prioritising minimalism and experimentalism (no matter how awful it sounded), Sneaky Sound System’s earnest dance project fell on deaf ears. At the time, McDonald’s ’80s nostalgia looked comparatively dusty, but in the long-run vaporwave proved to be a flimsy adversary.
— Kish Lal
Something For Kate — Elsewhere For 8 Minutes (1997)
Something For Kate started out with high school friends Paul Dempsey and Clint Hyndman, who adopted the respective roles of frontman and drummer. They put out an ad for a bass player and found Julian Carroll. After a few years of scuzzy gigs and a couple of EPs, Carroll decided the band life wasn’t for him. But before parting ways, however, he agreed to fly to Auckland to record Something For Kate’s debut album.
Released in 1997, Elsewhere For 8 Minutes is a fascinating entry in the band’s career. The better-known albums that came after it, Beautiful Sharks and Echolalia — with newly introduced Stephanie Ashworth on bass — set the standard for Something For Kate’s sound, one that either sweeps you up or bums you out. With its pared-back melancholy, Beautiful Sharks in particular feels a long way from its predecessor.
On Elsewhere For 8 Minutes, Hyndman’s muscular drumming is up close in the sound mix, while Dempsey’s unvarnished guitar and vocals suggest a much grungier future. The album is best when it’s caustic and propulsive, like on opener ‘Anarchitect’ and the cathartic ‘Prick’. Between the rough edges, you can hear Dempsey’s talent as a powerful songwriter. Before joining the band, Ashworth was “spellbound” by the album: “It was beautiful, angry, very original and very accomplished for a group of 18-year-olds.”
The Goon Sax — Up For Anything (2016)
The Goon Sax live in a long shadow: the Brisbane trio’s lead singer, Louis, is the son of The Go-Between’s Robert Forster. Comparisons are plenty (and, no doubt, will plague the band forever), but their debut album Up For Anything proves that while some vocal inflections run in the family, The Goon Sax stand alone as one of Australia’s brightest — and warmest — indie-rock bands.
Forster, Riley Jones and James Harrison formed The Goon Sax when they were still in high school. Their age averaged 17 when Up For Anything was released, which is surprising, as it’s anything but adolescent. Instead, the band blow up the everyday — ‘Home Haircuts’ become tragic events, the prospect of working at ‘Target’ is impossible due to the uniform’s unflattering colour — with sincerity and sharp lyrics. There are few songs sweeter than ‘Sweaty Hands’, as joyfully sadomasochist as ‘Making The Worst’, and few lines that cut into the need to perform for a crowd as the album’s opener, “I only do these things/so I can tell you/about doing them”.
You could shrug off The Goon Sax as another low-fi, lethargic band, but repeat listens reveal a depth to their songwriting and, more importantly, the feelings behind them. Up For Anything is well aware of its indie rock posturing and plays with it. Some songs might sound tailor-made for a (500) Days Of Summer IKEA-montage, but most songs laugh at their own attempts to seem nonchalant: the understated harmonies of endearingly awkward lines give it away. They might say they’re up for anything, but this is a band that knows exactly what they’re doing.