If you’re confused by the title of this project, than you’re not alone. I honestly thought the very talented trio of SO.Crates, Nelson Dialect and Alnitak Kid had come together to create a project called Sunset Cities where the debut album was self-titled. Instead, the project is simply under the name of the three separate projects. Now that the confusion is cleared up, we can talk why this is one of the best Australian hip-hop album releases, period, and why I’m so keen for what the future has in store for this trio of collaborators.
There are three elements that standout with this project. Layered production, chemistry and no shortage of lyrical topics. The combination of those three is very hard to find. Often the best producers aren’t huge on lyrical conversations. There’s groups that have chemistry and enthusiasm, but rely too heavily on momentum to make up for other shortcomings. And there’s those lyrical poets, whose best weapon is pen and paper, not keyboards and Ableton. Sunset Cities isn’t perfect, but it masks holes extremely well. Those few minor tweaks (mixing up the verse structures) are easily achievable on further release. Given how busy these three projects are separately, it’s a miracle that they were able to produce a product as polished as Sunset Cities.
The whole album flows seamlessly without blurring indistinguishably (think Toro Y Moi), never drags and keeps you interested until the final decibel without relying on bombarding gimmicks. They don’t put too many cooks in the kitchen either, with just two guest appearances; this sharpens the album’s narrative. Sunset Cities isn’t a sound we haven’t heard before, it definitely traces back to early ’90s New York hip-hop instrumental glides. But I state that as a big compliment, as you could slide any of these tracks into a mix-tape of that era, and nobody would blink an eye. There’s a three track sequence, that made me lift both eyebrows, ponder and look around the room (I would’ve tweeted about it if my phone wasn’t broken). It starts with the interlacing of vocals and instrumentation on ‘Bright On‘. Then the shady, body twitching, ‘Jay Elec‘, that’s its own animal. Reminds me of the production found on Cancer 4 Cure by EL-P, which is high-end fidelity. Then rounded off by ‘Black Tapes‘, which had me not transported back in time, but rather to a studio headspace I didn’t know existed in Australia.
The trio chose the Trading Tunes theme of favourite VHS songs: “This tied in with our last single ‘Black Tapes’, an ode to growing up in the 80’s surrounded by stacks of VHS tapes, with your eyes glued to the screen late into the night.”
Killpoint (1984) – ‘Opening Theme’
“It has synths, it has terminator drum machines, it has sizzling guitar licks and my Dad stars as random thug #3.”
E-Rule – ‘Listen Up’
“Rap is like pot making. This joint achieves ideal forms.”
Souls of Mischief – ‘Cabfare’
“This track is like a time machine into an old dream on VHS. Hazy cushions of melodies floating above a crunchy drum break with charismatic story telling letting you peer through the orange sun-faded tint back into the 70’s so you can ride in a taxi with Bob James and Andy Kaufman. It’s also just a straight jam.”
Public Enemy – ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’
“”Yeah ill check out a movie, but it’ll take a black one to move me” – Chuck D, Ice Cube & Big Daddy Kane over groundbreaking Hank Shocklee production tearing shreds through the racist Hollywood movie industry. Back when rappers weren’t afraid to tell the entertainment power structures what time it was. Now everyone wants to be Hollywood.”
“This one is only linked to VHS in my mind. At some point in high school i taped a hip hop heavy episode of Rage and even though i’d had this album for years, to this day when i hear “tiger style, tiger style” it takes me back to sitting on the floor of my parents lounge room watching and re-watching that tape, breaking it, re-spooling it and watching it again.”
This is our updated weekly playlist of the 40 best new Australian songs released within the past three months. This week’s guide includes new entries from Skyscraper Stan, The Ocean Party, Martin Frawley, Julia Jacklin, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Em Burrows, These Guy, Darvid Thor, Clea, Loure, Comrad Xero, DJ Heure, Good Morning, Adult Films, Rudolf C, Clever Austin, Ferla, Peach Body, Quivers, Sunset Cities, Skydeck, Notaeb, Amy Axegale, Huntly, On Diamond, Hobson Bay Coast Guard and this week’s best new track by Sunbeam Sound Machine.
This week we breakdown Golden Plains 2019 with guest writers Alana Scully and James McNiece. We discuss everything from Totem poles, Kofta balls, early Flume, where not to camp, Alana meeting Josh Thomas, how to improve this almost perfect festival and much, much more!
If you want to be involved in our future podcasts or represent an artist, festival, venue, music platform that might be interested. Email MarcusRimondini@gmail.com
On February the 22nd this month, Melbourne band Twerps‘ lead vocalist Martin Frawley will release his debut solo album Undone at 31 via Merge Records. If you’ve never heard Martin Frawley, let alone Twerps, you can at least trust Merge Records that Undone at 31 will be worth the wait. Merge Records don’t mess around, they’ve probably been the most reliable US indie label for the past 30 years. With album releases from Destroyer, Lambchop, Ex Hex, Caribou, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Dinosaur Jr., …And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Magnetic Fields and not a lot of fillers in between.
Merge Records aside, Martin has a very consistent track record himself. Twerps’ self-titled debut in 2011 is arguably the most important Melbourne album of the decade. The album validated the bridge of interest that had been quietly building from Melbourne to New York during the late 2000’s. People who had rightfully stereotyped Melbourne for decades as chord-heavy punk city, were all of sudden open to trying new bands from the city. Such picks included many of the infamous dole-wave bands such Dick Diver, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding and ultimately the Courtney Barnett explosion. Post the Twerps debut album, Martin’s vocals grew a little more in confidence and clarity. Where the instrumentation had shielded him on the debut, the EP Work It Out displayed some grunt and attitude. Martin’s silliness began to come out on the next album Underlay, a more playful period, a side to Martin that’s evident on the upcoming Undone at 31. His most recent release with Twerps in 2015 titled Range Anxiety braced vulnerability and honesty. It was Martin trying to be realistic with himself.
Which leads us to Undone at 31. A good four years since Range Anxiety. He spent a lot of that time overseas trying to find out more about himself inside and outside of music. This is based on his social media, only he really knows what he was doing and how he was doing. One way to find out how he’s doing in 2019 is to catch him live at one of his 14 straight days of sets coming up. The Facebook description isn’t a typo, from March 3rd, every night until March 17th, he’s playing at 7:30pm at an unknown Sydney Road shop for Brunswick Music Festival. This marathon of a launch reminds me of when The National performed ‘Sorrow‘ live on repeat for 6 hours at MoMA PS1 in 2013. However, I much prefer Martin’s idea, as he’ll have far less fatigue and deterioration, and far more creative physical freedom by the end of day 14. Most US national tours are like 25 sets in a month, at least Martin will be sleeping in the same bed every night with no need for soundchecks.
If you somehow can’t make any of those 14 sets, that include special surprise guests, you probably suck at life. Or you may actually be out of town, but back in time for the By The Meadow Festival on March 29th until March 31st. Until then, Martin’s Trading Tunes theme are the tracks that inspired the production for Undone at 31.
Undone at 31
T R A C K L I S T
1. You Want Me?
2. End Of The Bar
3. Waht’s On Your Mind
4. Just Like The Rest
5. Smoke In Your House
6. Chain Reaction
7. You Can’t Win
8. Something About Me
9. Lo And Behold
10. Come Home
11. Where The Heart Is
Maurice Frawley – ‘Long Gone Whistle’
“This is a song by my father and his band The Working Class Ringos. Recorded by the genius Tony Cohan. I witnessed some of this being made but was too young to understand. There is so much space and soul in this song, it haunts me. Big Velvet Underground vibes. I hadn’t been able to listen to my dad’s music after he passed away. But once I had the courage, this was the first one I had to hear again. That’s also me playing the tambourine, age 12.”
Brian Eno / John Cale – ‘Spinning Away’
“Don’t recall how I heard this one but I remember it was when I was sober for a period and writing this record, I would sit in my room and just listen to music for hours. This song, over and over. The guitar tone is really cool and the production is spot on. Made me get very excited about production and the idea of exploring new techniques.”
Hermine – ‘I Won’t Make It Without You’
“Simple, sad and beautiful. This one was so inspiring to use a lot of piano on the new record. It also is a sad love message to someone which I related to. And her voice just sounds perfect. If I shut my eyes I feel like I’m in the room with her.”
John Cooper Clarke – ‘I Don’t Want To Be Nice’
“Excellent amount of attitude which I could relate to. The mixing in this track is excellent, it’s a bit of madness but somehow it all works. I loved the guitar fuzz and tried to replicate it. Also the stomping piano driving it all along.”
Mariah – ‘Shinzo No Tobira’
“This song is fun at any time of day. I wrote a song the morning of going into the studio whilst listening to this one, hopefully its not to obvious. The drums make me want to run and also dance at the same time. Such a nice skin sound.”
We caught up with Nick Sowersby AKA Sunbeam Sound Machine, ahead of the release of his second album Goodness Gracious via Remote Control Records. We discussed where he’s been hiding, his recording routine, the interesting DM’s he receives, working with Stu Mackenzie of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and our theories on why Sunbeam Sound Machine is successful with music streaming algorithms.
Back in 2017 the Sydney band Sunscreen released a shimmering, guitar driven EP titled Just A Drop, which featured two Ripe favourites ‘Tide‘ and ‘Voices‘, with ‘Voices’ placing #17 in our 100 Best Australian Tracks of 2017 post. The natural technical abilities displayed on Just A Drop didn’t come as a surprise though, because the lead singer Sarah Sykes also lends her vocal and keyboard hook talents to another standout Sydney band Flowertruck.
If you’re yet to catch Sunscreen live, you’re in luck, as they’re set to play at the Grampians Music Festival between February 15th-17th this month. There’s a very good chance that they’ll be sound tracking your drive back home from the festival, especially if you detour back along the Great Ocean Road.
For those who can’t make those dates and or live elsewhere on the Australian East coast, we have their other February shows listed below!
Sunscreen’s Trading Tunes is five songs with the theme of Australian ’80s Hits.
Do Re Mi – ‘Haunt You’
“Do Re Mi‘s “Haunt You” is probably their most straightforward radio friendly single. It’s a great showcase of sweaty Australian female-fronted ’80s rock music. People forget how much of a badass Deborah Conway is. The ’80s wasn’t all Jimmy Barnes and Michael Hutchence.” – Alex
The Go Betweens – ‘Cattle And Cane’
“‘Cattle And Cane‘ by The Go Betweens is a perfect example of Australian pop eccentricity. The dreamy, haunting melody and introspective lyrics really reflect the barren landscape that we call home.” – Ollie
Mondo Rock – ‘Come Said The Boy’
“‘Come Said The Boy‘ is an Australian classic about coming of age. It epitomises the carefree beach culture of Sydney in the 1980s.” – Hugo
Paul Kelly – ‘Before Too Long’
“Paul Kelly is one of the greatest storytellers of all time, and can soothe your soul when you are buckling under the pressures and confusions of life. As well as featuring the best guitar line ever, Before Too Long laments that the only constant thing about life is that it is ever-changing. If you watch the fantastic music video you will also see that his drummer is rocking a mullet ponytail – a strong look that I’m impressed by.” – Sarah
Kylie Minogue – ‘Locomotion’
“What really needs to be said here? It’s obvious. An iconic early Kylie track, a party staple, and the backdrop to many Oz-Aerobics workouts since.” – Sarah & Hugo
This is our updated weekly playlist of the 40 best new Australian songs released within the past three months. This week’s guide includes new entries from Honey 2 Honey, Jess Ribeiro, Nite Fleit, Ani Lou, Julia Jacklin, Katie Dey, Planète, Capital Gains, DJ Heure, Ara Koufax, Baro ft. Nasty Mars, Maliblue, Skydeck, Mope City, Roza Terenzi, Leisure Suite, Good Boy, Bad Bangs, Grand Pine, V, Roland Tings, Smoke Rings, SO.Crates ft. Alnitak Kid & Nelson Dialect and this week’s best new track by Liluzu.
Apologies for the delay on this list, it turns out finding power outlets in the remote parts of Himachal, India was harder than I expected. But, better late than never, and it gave me time to really disgust all these tracks. In previous years we would usually post closer to 100 artists for variety reasons, but this year we’ve gone back to having up to three songs per artist. This way, the artists who shined the most this year get the appreciation they deserve. After all, lists like these are created so people can find new music, and when you see three songs from the same artist, that’s typically a sign that you need to really check them out. These lists can also create interesting conversations, especially when people disagree, because unfortunately not many music websites in Australia exist anymore, so it’s important that we still create these discussions, and highlight artists who are underexposed. The order doesn’t necessarily means #1 is worlds better than #100, it’s just chosen as a tone setting entry point. It’s up to you as to how far you want to dive into this list.
So, as we say every year. Thank you to all the bands, artists, managers, random people, DJs, venues, festivals, PR workers who send in music all year and make it much easier for us to track it all. We’ll continue to try and post as much as we can, as we get older and busier in the real world. I still enjoy it as much I did on day one, so that’s a good sign. If you want to see previous lists, I’ll have the links below. Hopefully you find something you enjoy and if you do, please go support them!
Probably the first and only time Ripe will use a click-bait feature image, but something’s wrong. No wait, not something, the music industry economy is wrong. It’s been a false economy for years, and now we’re paying for it — or more literally, not paying.
You can point your finger at the bookers, the sponsors, the labels, the artists or the locations. But the main reason Australian Music Festivals are either selling out in 2018 or not selling well, is because of the generation that attended festivals for the first time during the ‘pay what you want’ era. The generation that sparked so much open minded interest in artists that don’t attract big bucks, the same generation to start niche festivals with no plan on making profits. This generation now needs money, this generation now have families, HECS debts, loans, and they don’t live at home anymore. That free loan era between 2007’s Radiohead – In Rainbows, where one of the biggest bands in the world gave away a classic album for free, and somewhere between 2013-2014 when Spotify doubled it’s subscriber numbers and hit 10 million. Marking an end to the era of ‘pay what you want’. The peak point coming in the middle of 2010 with the shutdown of Limewire and free easy downloads without the average-joe needing to know anything about Torrents or VPNs. Now in 2018 it’s all tight Facebook algorithms making you pay to post, Spotify algorithms limiting your music horizons not expanding them, and YouTube algorithms feeding you only the biggest of YouTube channels. But it’s not algorithms that make algorithms (not yet). It’s companies hiring smart code writers, who are paid to max funds and compete with the other big companies. It’s their job, it’s their livelihoods, so I can’t blame them either.
It’s the same with the bookers of Laneway Festival 2019. 2018 didn’t sell out, and they’re running an expensive and tough business. They had to put a lot of Triple J artists on the bill to sell tickets. I’d love to live in a world where the Laneway lineup had the most critically acclaimed artists of the year, like Laneway used to aim for each year. But a lineup of Idles, Low, Yves Tumor, Snail Mail, John Coltrane, Skee Mask and Amen Dunes ain’t selling tickets. Who are they, you may ask? They’re some of the most critically acclaimed artists of 2018, but this algorithm generation will likely never know. And for the bookers at Laneway, they’re also the more expensive options.
So how does a Festival like Meredith get away with featuring so many critically acclaimed artists, just a couple Triple J artists and manage to sell out every year? numerous reasons. The first is that the people pay for the festival experience, not just the lineup. There’s no experience left at Laneway, it’s just teens popping pills or as one commentator posted on the Laneway Facebook page, “could have been a better lineup but I’ll still go lmao chance to get fucked uppppp.” Secondly, Meredith owns the land, it owns a lot of the infrastructure, it doesn’t have to tour the lineup around a country that’s less invested in live music than Victoria. Meredith still have a lot of expenses that punters don’t think about, ever wondered how they get rid of hundreds of couches every year?
Speaking of those couches, that’s where the festival problem reaches beyond Laneway all the way to Meredith. The same culture that made Meredith so relaxing and welcoming, that freedom to bring a couch from your home to the front of the Amphitheater, has attracted the same crowd that think it’s cool to throw rubbish out of your vehicle. “Hey bro, at Meredith you can smash beers on a couch all day, piss on it, and then just leave it behind at the end. It’s sick!” said an attendee who would only venture down to the stage when they need to charge their selfie-taking phones. This isn’t Meredith’s fault, the festival itself has barely changed in its almost 30 year existence. I can never remember which Meredith year was which. What did change over that time was the death of festivals that drew crowds who just want to “get fucked uppppp” such as Stereosonic, Future Music or Soundwave (lesser extent). All three of which died in 2015 and that crowd’s been looking for new options ever since. Laneway targets those who just need half a day to black out. Meredith targets those who worked hard (I’d like to hope so) all year, and come December just want to escape the city and let off some steam. I get it, life can be really tough and messed up for a lot of people, you may not even really care much for music, and when else can you catch up with all your friends and get away together for a whole weekend. Meredith makes a lot of sense for those people. The calendar position makes a huge difference, because the crowd at Golden Plains (same location and team behind Meredith) held in March is vastly different. If you’re still spending money on festivals in March, when university or work or family life is full throttle, you must really like music, because there’s cheaper ways to “get fucked uppppp.”
If you’re ready to run away to even smaller niche festivals, you’re in the minority, because those festivals are struggling to sell 1,000 tickets with interesting line-ups, line-ups far more critically acclaimed than the 2019 Laneway lineup. However, many of them paid the price. Paradise Music Festival ran a loss for many years and became financially unsustainable. Many others are trying to stay afloat such as Inner Varnika (didn’t sell out this year), Hopkins Creek (didn’t sell out last year), By The Meadow (didn’t sell out this year), Freedom Time (didn’t sell out this year) and Shady Cottage (have had to take two years off to think hard about their model). Maybe too many niche festivals popped up at the same time and the market wasn’t ready for all of them, but even collectively the numbers just don’t add up. How can so many festivals in Melbourne, the live music attending city that makes more money from live music than the AFL does nationally, struggle to sell out 1,000 or less ticket festivals. There’s no simple answer. You could point your finger at the talent crops or those damn algorithms, but I think it’s something else. I think it’s the novelty, the location novelty.
You see, most of my music loving friends with deep historical musical knowledge and really varied tastes in music, never seemed to know 80% of the Paradise Music Festival lineups. They went because the location on Lake Mountain was unique, the location was the experience, there just happened to also be interesting music, too. These interesting artists may be fantastic, but they’re also local, we can watch them anytime in Melbourne, often for free. So are niche festivals meant to change location every year? They would if they could, but locations are extremely hard to find. Permits are even harder to get. The always popular and respected party throwers Animals Dancing recently tried to host a festival on the upcoming Grand Final weekend at the Tallarook location that’s hosted Boogie Festival since 2008 (and more recently New Year’s EVIE Festival). But even Animals Dancing couldn’t fight extreme opposition from local residents. Apparently electronic music is a no go in Tallarook, despite the fact that Boogie has a stage called Clubhouse. It’s all just a big misunderstanding, the people of Tallarook probably lumped Animals Dancing in with the same crowd who once went to Stereosonic, and you can’t be mad at them, how are they meant to know the difference.
Which brings it all full circle. Everyone is misinformed, or simply doesn’t have enough time to be informed. Music Festivals in Australia are dying, and that’s just not a message that’s getting spread publicly. Who is meant to spear this information? Triple J promote their festivals, you know all about those. Triple R promote their festival associations, you hear about those. Everyone else, they don’t have a voice, a media outside of online algorithms. If numbers continue to drop at small festivals, they’ll die. If the loyal crowd move away from the bigger festivals, they’ll die. If Music Festivals die, then you’ll struggle to get an international artist to fly all the way to Australia. Local artists will have to move overseas to make real money in order to fund their profession and find financial value in their already niche market, because it’s now very hard to do that online in 2018. Australia will be right back to where it was before 2007, dictated by Triple J and playing catch up to the rest of the world.
I want this post to be about Cool Sounds’ warm music — and it will be. But I also wanted to use this post to acknowledge my deepest sympathies for all the band members after their good friend, collaborator and touring partner Zac Denton passed away late October unexpectedly. Zac played several Ripe events over the years with The Ocean Party and helped KEWL with their crowdfunding campaign. Zac couldn’t haven’t been more unselfish and a positive representative role model of what makes the Melbourne music community so special. His passing effected me and I wish I’d shown more gratitude towards him while I had the chance. We held off this post until Cool Sounds were okay moving forward with press coverage.
Now on a lighter more uplifting note. Cool Sounds new album Cactus Country is perhaps exactly what I needed to hear. The closest comparison that kept coming to mind was actually the debut Girls self-titled album. That deliberate lack of low end frequencies, that ‘calm warm breeze on a rooftop with sharp crispy instrumentation and vocals never too deep or never too in your face either’ vibe. It’s incredibly easy to put this album on loop and let is simmer all day, and you’ll never question why you chose the album in the first place.
That could also be considered a flaw to some people, who are looking maybe for a clearer point of emphasis, but that would just distract from all the lush instrumentation of the seven piece band. It’s the multi-blend of instruments that creates their unique juice flavour. Which is why I suggest playing the album on full range speakers with good left and right separation, because you really need to hear the full Cactus Country audio spectrum to enjoy the full experience.
From band member Lauren Huynh:
“These are all songs I listen to when I wanna indulge in my loneliness but dance at the same time. I’m a real sucker for unrequited love songs and I think there’s something really beautiful about people who can sing about something sad in an upbeat and catchy way.”
House Or Home album tracklist:
02. Cactus Country
03. The Best
04. Loose Grips
08. Nowhere To Run
09. Golden Nights
10. Twin Turbo
Instead of being a co-headline album tour, it will instead be The Ocean Party’s tour, supported by Cool Sounds, as a bit of a celebration of Zac.
November 16th | Tanswells | Beechworth *
November 17th | The Bridge | Castlemaine *
November 25th | The Eastern | Ballarat *
December 1st | The Tote | Melbourne *
December 2nd | Birdhouse | Wagga Wagga *
December 3rd | Phoenix | Canberra *
December 4th | CCOX at The Bank | Sydney *
December 5th | Franks Wild Years | Thirroul *
December 6th | Netherworld | Brisbane *
December 7th | The End | Brisbane