Tag: Sydney Australia

New Video: The Post-Apocalyptic World of The Church’s “The Hypnogogue”

Founded back in 1980, the Sydney-based ARIA Hall of Fame inductees The Church — currently founder member Steve Kilbey (vocals, bass, guitar); longtime collaborator and producer Tim Powles (drums), who joined the band in 1994 and has contributed to 17 albums; Ian Haug (guitar), a former member of Aussie rock outfit Powderfinger, who joined the band in 2013; multi-instrumentalist Jeffery Cain, a former member of Remy Zero and touring member of the band, who joined the band full-time after Peter Koppes left the band in early 2020; and their newest member, Ashley Naylor (guitar), a long-time member of Paul Kelly’s touring band and one of Australia’s most respected guitarists — was initially associated with their hometown’s New Wave, neo-psychedelic and indie rock scenes. But they became increasingly associated with dream pop and post-rock as their material took on slower tempos and surreal, shimmering soundscapes paired with their now, long-held reputation for an uncompromising approach to both their songwriting and sound.

1981’s full-length debut Of Skins and Hearts, was a commercial and critical success thanks in part to the success of their first radio hit, “The Unguarded Moment.” And as a result, the legendary Aussie outfit was signed to major labels in Australia, Europe and The States. However, their American label was dissatisfied with their sophomore album and dropped the band without releasing it in the States.

Although being dropped from their American label managed to slow down some of the international momentum surrounding the band a bit, 1988’s Starfish managed to be a smash hit, thanks to their only US Top 40 hit, “Under the Milky Way.” “Under the Milky Way,” received attention once again with its appearance in 2001’s cult-favorited film Donnie Darko.

Despite the fact that since the release of Starfish, mainstream success has been elusive, The Church have developed a devoted, international cult following while managing to be incredibly prolific. In fact, the band’s 25th album, 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity was released to critical praise from the likes of PopMatters, who called the album “a 21st-century masterpiece, a bright beam of light amid a generic musical landscape, and truly one of the Church’s greatest releases.”

The highly-anticipated follow-up to 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity — and their 26th album — is planned for an early 2023 release through Communicating Vessels/Unorthodox. The forthcoming album’s first single “The Hypnogogue” is an expansive and brooding track centered around the band’s unique swirling and textured guitar-driven sound paired with Kilbey’s imitable delivery and a contemporary sensibility heightened by a mix from Darrell Thorpe.

“‘The Hypnogogue’ is set in 2054… a dystopian and broken down future,” The Church’s Steve Kilbey explains. “Invented by Sun Kim Jong, a North Korean scientist and occult dabbler, it is a machine and a process that pulls music straight of dreams.”

“The song is about Eros Zeta the biggest rock star of 2054 who has traveled from his home in Antarctica (against his manager’s advice) to use the Hypnogogue to help him revive his flagging fortunes,” Kilbey continues, fleshing out the song’s sci-fi storyline. “In the midst of the toxic process, he also falls in love with Sun Kim and it all ends tragically (of course…as these thing often do).”

Directed by Aussie filmmaker Clint Lewis and starring Michael Coward and Emilia Eau, the accompanying, cinematic video for “The Hypnogogue” is set a rainy, neon-drenched retro-futuristic world that feels inspired by 80s dystopian sci-fi — in particular Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. But the video also manages to faithfully capture the essence of the song’s storyline. “I gave the director a lot of input into this video but he took my ideas and ran with them and came up with a fair bit of stuff I never envisaged,” Kilbey says. “The Church appear on screens in the Hypnogogue as workers in the system, translating the dreams of users into real time music.  I’m very happy with the way it all turned out. It’d be hard to get a better result!”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay James Chatburn Shares a Woozy, Classic Soul-Inspired Jam

James Chatburn is a rising, Sydney-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and producer. Since relocating to the German capital back in 2015, Chatburn has carved out a reputation for being a highly in-demand singer/songwriter and producer, who has collaborated with acclaimed Aussie hip-hop outfit Hilltop Hoods‘ certified Gold single “Higher,”  rum.goldJordan RakeiNoah SleeSedric Perry, and a growing list of others. As a solo artist, the Sydney-born, Berlin-based JOVM mainstay has developed and honed a sound that meshes elements of soul, blues, electro pop, neo-soul and psych pop with the release of his full-length debut, 2020’s David Tobias co-produced Faible

During the lead-up to Fabile‘s release, I managed to write about three of the album’s singles: 

  • In My House,” a warm and vibey, two-step inducing bit of soul, centered around introspective, earnest songwriting, reverb-drenched guitars and thumping beats.
  • Jewellery and Gold,” one of the album’s more tongue-in-cheek tracks, featuring a narrator looking forward to a future, where he’s flush with cash, and as a result, any of the major issues of his life being settled with that newfound cash — because dollar dollar bill y’all. 
  • The Hurt,” a ballad that saw the Aussie-born, German-based JOVM mainstay express longing and heartache in a way that reminded me quite a bit of Nick Hakim.

Chatburn’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Late Night Howling officially dropped today. And if you’ve been following this site over the past month, you might recall that I wrote about “Do You Wanna Live Like That,” feat. Noah Slee, an expansive and mind-bending take on neo-soul and pop centered around a unique and woozily dynamic song structure that rapidly shifts in tone, time signature and instrumentation: The song’s introduction begins with twinkling pianos in a Latin jazz like tempo before quickly shifting to tweeter and woofer rattling trap beats and then shifting again to a vibey 70s neo-soul-inspired coda. 

Lyrically, the song is intimate and introspective, with its narrator vacillating between self-doubt, analysis, progression and gratefulness. “‘Do You Wanna Live Like That’ is a track I created which ended up kind of being a few different tracks in one, inspired by people like Tyler, The Creator with just these sudden drops and Sault with this vibe – simple not perfect, but just perfectly imperfect,” James Chatburn explains. “Noah Slee and I have been friends basically since we both moved to Berlin, it just took 7 years but we finally got around to releasing a track together.” 

Late Night Howling‘s latest single “Some Kind of Fool” sonically is indebted to Quiet Storm-meets-classic, late 60s-mid 70s psych soul as it’s centered around an arrangement of shimmering Rhodes, supple and sinuous bass lines, some metronomic time keeping, squiggling bursts of funk guitar and a soaring string arrangement serving as an ethereal and brooding bed for Chatburn, who fittingly adopts a yearning and heartbroken falsetto for most of the song. Although the song’s narrator is heartbroken and deceived, they have taken some degree of power back by clearly calling out someone, who has manipulated and exploited them.

“This song is about noticing being taken advantage of by other people and manipulated, but taking power over that situation by noticing it and calling out the behaviour,” Chatburn explains. “When producing and performing this song I wanted to land somewhere between Cleo Sol, Shuggie Otis, and Curtis Mayfield, I was like fuck it, I love it, I am going to make one of these songs.”

Directed by Dhanesh Jayaselan and featuring set design by Shari Annabel Marks, the accompanying video for “Some Kind of Fool” is an ethereal, fever dream that features an entirely black-clad Chatburn with his entirely white-clad backing band performing the song in a mistily lit, loft space. Local dancers — Nino Benito Marks, Kandi Alum and Lara Scheiber — perform some free, floating movements to the song’s slow-burning groove, and it gives the entire affair a woozy and floating feel.

New Video: James Chatburn and Noah Slee Team Up with Local Musicians in Intimate Visual for Woozy “Do You Wanna Live Like That”

James Chatburn is a rising, Sydney-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and producer. Since relocating to the German capital back in 2015, Chatburn has carved out a reputation for being a highly in-demand singer/songwriter and producer, who has collaborated with acclaimed Aussie hip-hop outfit Hilltop Hoods‘ certified Gold single “Higher,”  rum.goldJordan RakeiNoah SleeSedric Perry, and a growing list of others. As a solo artist, the Sydney-born, Berlin-based JOVM mainstay has developed and honed a sound that meshes elements of soul, blues, electro pop, neo-soul and psych pop with the release of his full-length debut, 2020’s David Tobias co-produced Faible

During the lead-up to Fabile‘s release, I managed to write about three of the album’s singles: 

  • In My House,” a warm and vibey, two-step inducing bit of soul, centered around introspective, earnest songwriting, reverb-drenched guitars and thumping beats.
  • Jewellery and Gold,” one of the album’s more tongue-in-cheek tracks, featuring a narrator looking forward to a future, where he’s flush with cash, and as a result, any of the major issues of his life being settled with that newfound cash — because dollar dollar bill y’all. 
  • The Hurt,” a ballad that saw the Aussie-born, German-based JOVM mainstay express longing and heartache in a way that reminded me quite a bit of Nick Hakim.

Chatburn’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Late Night Howling is forthcoming. The album’s latest single “Do You Wanna Live Like That,” feat. Noah Slee is an expansive and mind-bending take on neo-soul and pop centered around a unique and woozily dynamic song structure that rapidly shifts in tone, time signature and instrumentation: The song’s introduction begins with twinkling pianos in a Latin jazz like tempo before quickly shifting to tweeter and woofer rattling trap beats and then shifting again to a vibey 70s neo-soul-inspired coda. 

Lyrically, the song is intimate and introspective, with its narrator vacillating between self-doubt, analysis, progression and gratefulness. “‘Do You Wanna Live Like That’ is a track I created which ended up kind of being a few different tracks in one, inspired by people like Tyler, The Creator with just these sudden drops and Sault with this vibe – simple not perfect, but just perfectly imperfect,” James Chatburn explains. “Noah Slee and I have been friends basically since we both moved to Berlin, it just took 7 years but we finally got around to releasing a track together.” 

Directed by Dhanesh Jayaselan, the accompanying video is a live performance-styled video shot at Callie’s in Berlin and features Chatburn and Slee with a backing band featuring Berlin-based musicians Tim Granbacka (keys, vocals), Johnny Kulo (guitar, vocals), Adam Sait (bass) and Richard Young (drums). The live footage is intimate and stylish but ends with Chatburn walking over to contemplatively strum an acoustic guitar.

New Video: Death Bells Share a Brooding, Post-Punk Anthem

Since their formation in Sydney back in 2015, Death Bells — Will Canning (vocals) and Remy Veselis (guitar) — have cemented a sound and approach that blurs the lines of post-punk and garage rock, centered around Canning’s baritone and Veselis’ wiry, reverb-drenched guitar lines. The duo quickly became a maintain in the alternative/underground/indie scene both nationally and internationally.

Naturally, as the duo have grown up and matured into early adulthood, the band has morphed and transformed through the releases of their debut EP, their full-length debut and a seven-inch through Funeral Party Records and a 2019 single through Metropolitan Indian

The duo relocated to Los Angeles in 2018, where the current iteration of the band has blossomed: They signed to Dais Records, who released their sophomore album 2020’s New Signs of Life, an effort that saw them embracing their diverse tastes to craft expansive, hook-driven songs. As a response to pandemic-related quarantines and lockdowns, the duo secluded themselves at Bombay Beach last year, to record a live session that featured five tracks off New Songs of Life titled Live from Bombay.

Between Here & There, the Aussie-born, Los Angeles-based outfit’s third album was released yesterday through Dais Records. Recorded with Colin Knight at Paradise Studios, the nine-song album, which sees the duo adopting a collaborative approach features an experienced cast of collaborators on keys, strings, piano and backing vocals, not only represents the pair’s continued growth as artists and people; but also is inspired by the vastness, messiness and oddness of their adopted home. While featuring lyrics that the duo consider “narrative, but not autobiographical,” the album’s material ebbs and flows from harrowing to hopeful — and are born of intrigue, intimacy and a sense of “looking outward,” according to the band.     

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Hysteria,” the album’s fourth single. Continuing a run of material that bristles with urgency and immediacy, the song is rooted in the simultaneously personal and universal: the search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless, mad world — and the desire to pack up and leave everything behind.

“’Hysteria’ was one of the last songs we wrote as we were putting together the new album,” the duo explain. “It was one of those moments where the tune just figured itself out. It feels urgent, immediate and honest, and we’re very proud of it.”

“Lifespring” is a brooding and hypnotic bit of post punk featuring Vaselis’ wiry bursts of guitar, thumping four-on-the-floor, glistening synths and a relentless motorik groove paired with a rousingly anthemic chorus. Yes, “Lifespring” is decidedly inspired by — and indebted to — the late 70s and early 80s while bristling with a forceful immediacy as it describes our bleak moment with an uncanny specificity.

“We initially wrote Lifespring at a friend’s studio, before the last record was even an idea,” Will Canning explains. “I thought I had lost the stems, but discovered them recently on a USB that had been sitting in my jacket pocket for the last few years, so we were able to finally finish the song. The lyrical inspiration for Lifespring came from reading about a fairly spurious organization of the same name that were around until the mid-90s. Musically, it feels very different from anything we’ve done before; sleazier, groovier.”

The accompanying video follows a motorcyclist on a dirt road. The camera gently pulls out to give the viewer a gorgeous, cinematic view of the motorcyclist’s surroundings — before they meet up with a truck full of people.

New Video: Acclaimed Aussie Pop Artist Meg Mac Shares a Cinematic Visual for Cathartic “Is It Worth Being Sad”

Born Megan Sullivan McInerney, the Sydney, Australia-born, Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter, keyboardist and pop artist Meg Mac can trace the origins of her music career to when she was a small girl: As the story goes, she began singing as soon as she could speak and began writing her own original songs when she was a teen.

McInerney began degree studies in Digital Media but relocated to Perth , where she studied music at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts. After earning her degree, she recorded “Known Better” and submitted the song to Triple J’s Unearthed. After she submitted her song, McInerney and a car load of friends left on a road trip from Perth to Melbourne, where she would later relocate — and as they were approaching Melbourne, she learned that Triple J had selected her single and were going to play it.

As a result of being named an Unearthed Featured Artist of the Week in 2013 and Unearthed Artist of the Year in 2014, McInerney exploded into the national scene: “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” reached #80 on the ARIA Singles Chart in August 2014 with “Never Be” landing at #39 the following year — and she went on her first national headlining tour.

She also received nominations for Best Female Artist and Breakthrough Artists during the 2015 ARIA Music Awards. And adding to a growing national profile, Marie Claire Australia named her an Artist to Watch in 2015 and Rolling Stone Australia nominated McInerney for a Best New Talent Award. By 2016, “Never Be” landed at #11 on Triple J’s Hottest 100.

Roll Up Your Sleeves” was featured in a number of American TV series including HBO’s GirlsGrace and Frankie and Astronaut Wives Clubs — and as a result, the MegMac EP became a platinum selling effort. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Mac’s 2017 full-length debut Low Blows entered the ARIA Charts at #2 and received praise internationally from the likes of InStyleBuzzfeedNoiseyV Magazine and the New York Times who called her music “rooted in soul with just enough contemporary production.”

Developing a reputation for live show centered around her soulful vocals, Mag has managed to consistently sell out national tours and shows across her native Australia, has opened for Clean Bandit and D’Angelo — and she’s played some of the major festivals’ across the international festival circuit including Governor’s Ball and SXSW.

Sadly, several years have passed since I’ve last written about Meg Mac. But she begins 2022 with her latest single “Is It Worth Being Sad,” a cathartic pop song centered around McInerney’s powerhouse, pop belter vocals and an atmospheric, Kate Bush-like production featuring a sampled church choral section and a soaring sing-along worthy hook. Interestingly, “Is it Worth Being Sad” manages to be enormous yet intimate, personal and deeply humble while featuring a narrator trying to chart out a new course for their life in the aftermath of profound heartbreak and uncertainty.

“I had just run away to the country,” McInerney recalls. “I was running away from my troubles. I was living in peace and quiet finally and really thought I’d figured it all out, and it was all smooth sailing ahead. It was the start of sorting out my life. This song was like my first step—I didn’t know it then, though.”

The incredibly cinematic, accompanying visual for “Is It Worth Being Sad” features an all-black clad Aussie pop artist on a speed boat in the mountainous countryside. The skies start off as a slate gray before turning stormy and foreboding with lighting in the skies above. But as her little boat keeps moving forward, the skies begin to clear up. All storms, no matter how tumultuous pass in time.

New Video: Haiku Hands Releases an Infectious Banger

Critically applauded Aussie electro pop act Haiku Hands — Claire Nakazawa, Beatrice Lewis and Mie Nakazawa — embarked on their first Stateside tour back in 2019, and the tour included a number of applauded, attention-grabbing sets at SXSW, opening slots for the likes of Japanese punk act CHAI, JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and Sofi TukkerChicago-based emcee CupcaKke and footwork producer DJ Taye.

Building upon a rapidly growing national and intentional profile, the Aussie trio released their self-titled, full-length last year through Mad Decent. Primarily recorded in Melbourne with Joel Ma (a.k.a. Joelistics), the Aussie electro pop outfit’s self-titled debut further cemented their reputation for a sound and aesthetic that’s rebellious and unconventional.

While featuring collaborations with Sofi Tukker, Mad ZachMachine DrumMiracHermitude‘s Elgusto and Lewis CanCut, the album thematically probes technology, relationships and the absurd — with incisive social commentary. “The record explores an attitude of empowerment, humour and positivity whilst also delving into darker themes and expressions,” the members of Haiku Hands explain. “We aimed to be original in our creative choices, we were influenced by multiple genres and artists but were aiming to create something that sounded new and different.”

“Conclusions” is the first bit of new material from the acclaimed Aussie electro pop outfit since the release of their self-titled debut. Centered around thumping and driving beats, pulsating blown out bass lines and ethereal melodies paired with a chanted hook, “Conclusions” is a head banging club anthem with a spontaneous, stream of consciousness feel.

“‘Conclusions’ is a driving in the car late at night, volume maxed, head banging, face scrunching kind of track,” the Aussie electro pop trio say in press notes. “Pulsing burnt basslines and driving drums juxtaposed by floating melodic vocals instantly transport you to the organised chaos of Haiku Hands’ car yard complete with guard dog.  Written in full stream of consciousness mode and off a beat written on an iPhone on a plane by Suburban Dark, it’s a timely effortless take on human differences, ideas and why none of it matters when you’re in the zone.” 

The recently released video for “Conclusions” was shot by three a cinematographers in three different cities late at night. Featuring the members of the acclaimed act taking late night rides through misty, two-lane blacktop, deserted Sydney parking lots and Melbourne median strips, the video is wild trip through lucid, fever dreams, glitches in the matrix and some unpredictable and unexpected moments.

“Conclusions” will appear on a limited edition, classic black vinyl reissue of their self-titled debut, slated for a February 4, 2021 release through Spinning Top Records and Mad Decent.

New Video: Jess Chalker Returns With a Trippy Visual for Sultry “Cynical”

Sydney-born, London-based singer/songwriter and producer, Jess Chalker started her music career as the frontman of Aussie New Wave act We Are The Brave. And since We Are The Brave’s breakup, Chalker has become a highly sought-after collaborator: She has worked with Sam FischerVintage Culture, IsamachineGold Kimono, and Passenger — and she was part of the Grammy Award-winning songwriting and production team that cowrote Lisa Loeb‘s lead single on the acclaimed artist’s kids record Feel What U Feel. Additionally, the Aussie-born, British-based artist wrote “Darkest Hour” for the Amazon Original series Panic, performed by Tate McRae.

Chalker finally steps out into the spotlight as a solo artist with her full-length debut Hemispheres. Slated for a November 5, 2021 release through her own imprint 528 Records, the album was completed under the massive weight of the pandemic, and as Chalker grappled with the loss of her day job and heartbreaking health issues. 

Much like countless others across the globe, she found herself spiraling and turned to music for the creative outlet she needed. Collaborating with friends across Sydney, Los Angeles and London, including Dan Long, Josh Humphreys and Chalker’s former We Are The Brave bandmate Ox Why, Chalker wound up finishing what would turn out to be a deeply emotional album. And interestingly enough, she managed to find much longed-for freedom in the process: “Releasing this album is terrifying and thrilling to me,” the Aussie-born, British-based artist says in press notes. “I grew up in a religion that discouraged us from pursuing career success, where women weren’t allowed on stage to address an audience directly. I think it’s why I’ve always tried to avoid the spotlight but, after the year we’ve all had, my perspective on things has changed quite a lot. I’m not wasting any more time doubting myself.”

Sonically, the album reportedly finds Chalker and her collaborators crafting material featuring guitar-driven hooks and retro synths paired with the Aussie-born, British-based artist’s expressive vocals. Thematically, the album deals with themes that explore the dichotomy between depression and hopefulness, self-doubt and self-love and more. 

In the lead up to the album’s forthcoming release, I’ve managed to write about two of the album’s previously released singles:

  • The Chalker, Rich Jacques and Martjin Tinus Konijnenburg co-written “Don’t Fight It.” Centered around glistening synth arpeggios, reverb-drenched drums. Chalker’s expressive vocals, the track hints at Peter GabrielKate Bush and Prince, while full of the bittersweet longing and uncertainty of a narrator who’s physically and emotionally lost. 
  • The breezy and defiantly upbeat “Stupid Trick.”Centered around shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths, Chalker’s plaintive vocals, the song thematically focuses on the innocence and desperately intense feelings of teenaged love, before gradually learning what love really is and what it really means. And while bringing up memories of Pat Benetar‘s “Love is a Battlefield,” Rod Stewart‘s “Young Turks” and others, the song continued a run of material driven by Chalker’s unerring knack for paring earnestly written material with a razor sharp hook. 

“Cynical,” Hemisphere‘s latest single is a smoky pop song centered around Chalker’s achingly tender vocals, twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, a sinuous and propulsive bass line, and a bluesy guitar lines. But while being sultry and full of longing, “Cynical” possesses an underlying tension, tumult and tension that should feel familiar to anyone, who has been in a complicated, dramatic relationship full of fiery passion that will burn out or blow up in everyone’s faces,

“Musically this song feels quite drama-filled,” Chalker says, “There’s a tension in it that’s familiar, like the tumult of being in one of those relationships you know won’t go the distance but feels good in the moment.”

Directed by Thomas Calder, the recently released video for “Cynical” is part lyric video, part music video in which we see Chalker rendered in blown out, psychedelic colors,.

Pre-order the album now via Bandcamp (https://jesschalker.bandcamp.com)

Sydney-based outfit act Low Life — initially founding trio Mitch Tolman, Cristian O’Sullivan and Greg Alfaro — exploded into the national and international punk scene with the release of their full-length debut, 2014’s Dogging.

The Aussie punk outfit’s sophomore album 2019’s Downer Edn (read as Downer Edition) was written and recorded over a two year period. The album saw the band expanding from a trio to a quintet with the attention of Oily Boys‘ and Orion‘s Dizzy Daldal (guitar) and Yuta Matsumura (guitar), who actually rejoined the band. The lineup change followed for Tolman to take up vocal duties full-time. But additionally, the album reviewed a decidedly radical change in sonic direction towards a more post-punk and New Wave-inspired sound.

 Low Life’s highly-anticipated third album From Squats to Lots: The Agony & XTC of Low Life is slated for a November 5, 2021 release through Goner Records in North America, ALTER in the UK and the European Union and Lulu’s in Australia. The band has a lengthy statement on the album, “Notes on How To Listen To The Agony and XTC of Low Life,” which you can check out below:

NOTES ON HOW TO LISTEN TO The AGONY AND XTC OF LOW LIFE:

1.  Some records hit you with an instant impression of timeless brilliance, and Low Life’s Dogging is one of those records, what the wise call “an instant classic”.

2.  From Squats to Lots: The Agony and the XTC of Low Life is more like their second album Downer Edn (read Edition), a little more withdrawn, a little more textured. Complex. Rich. Which is to say: you’re going to need some time with it.

3.  Some show, some grow. Low Life have done both. This one is a grower. Spend some time with this one. It’s got that nuanced flavour. Don’t guzzle. Sip. Savour.

4.  Sip it, and sense the recurring brilliance of Mitch Tolman’s lyrics, exploring the usual territory of gutter life, lad life, punk life, low life. The dirge. Disgust and shame in white Australia. Council housing, bills piled to the neck, substance abuse and rehabilitation, the fallen lads and lasses who stood too close to the flame, loss and loneliness, from squats to lots. Un-Australian gutter symphony.

5.  There is a celebration of resilience and that’s a central theme of this record and a time like ours needs a record like Agony & XTC. Low times are coming through, but if you’re low they won’t get to you.

6.  Iggy Pop’s Bowie produced studio rock masterpieces The Idiot and Lust For Life are important reference points to the 3rd album sounds of Low Life. Here comes success!

7.  The Agony and Ecstasy is a 1985 novel by Irving Stone about the life of Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo. Stone wrote another novel about the single eared painter Vincent Van Gogh called Lust For Life. This synchronicity hit me.

8.  Iggy and the Stooges are a pretty safe reference for Low Life (and all good rock music). Iggy and the Stooges are a low life’s Michelangelo, but solo Iggy like Lust for Life is a better reference for this particular incarnation of Low Life, which is to say they are studio rock albums.

9.  Bowie later referred to this period of his life as profoundly nihilistic. But Iggy looked at it as the period of his life that saved him from an early grave. This confrontation is Low life lore.

10. Let’s stick to this, because there’s something about this era of Bowie that makes sense with Low Life’s new album, particularly Low. One should never miss the Low in our new album from Low Life. Producer and studio boss Mickey Grossman has the ear for the Low, and he has carved out a little statue of David right here.

11. Mickey’s ears are recording, mixing and producing the best of Sydney, most notably the Oily Boys Cro Memory Grin. A great companion record to this one. Use Agony & XTC AFTER Oily Boys. Not on an empty stomach, and don’t try to operate heavy machinery (bobcat, bulldozer etc).

12. The relationship between Low Life and Sydney hardcore should not be understated, but it also shouldn’t guide how to listen to Agony & XTC. This is not austere, disciplined music.

13. Think, like, if Poison Idea were given the kind of studio time and budget as Happy Mondays. You wouldn’t play it to a teenager. It’s not for children. This is a mature flavour, one for the adults who have had to contend with failure and hardship, medical bills and disappointed family members, betrayed lovers and worrisome growths, police brutality and tooth decay, humiliating bowels and collapsed septums, detoxing and drying out, for those who have seen themselves as corrupted and putrid and unloveable, for those who endure all of this and aren’t willing to lie down and cop it sweet: Low Life are still here and they ain’t going nowhere.  

NOTES ON HOW NOT TO LISTEN TO AGONY AND XTC OF LOW LIFE:

1.  Don’t think of shoe-gaze. It suggests a safe passage to 90’s reminiscences, a vogue style of our time, but nothing to do with Low Life style. Low Life style is always of its time. The content changes. Agony & XTC shares weight of records like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Slowdive’s Kebab, records that were laboured on after the songs were recorded, songs that were written as they were recorded.

2.  We can call these “studio albums” as opposed to albums built in the heat of live performance. Studio albums from the 90’s are called shoe-gaze by some journalist nerds, but we know better than to use words like this.

3.  Studio albums are excessive and, at the same time, so empty. Agony & XTCLovelessKebab, Rumours: excessive! And empty. This is not to suggest this is Low Lite, some throwback, soft. A band like Low Life can make an overproduced studio rock album without having to use the word shoe-gaze. So, don’t think studio albums mean anything especially 90’s. Don’t look back.

4.  Let’s lose these distasteful labels, like “shoe-gaze”, “rehab rock”, “stab”, “guitar OD overdrive”, “western Sydney wonder”. They can fade out. A low life was once referred to as a vagabond. Who uses this term today? Nobody. Language can murder. Words can die. Kill ‘em all!

Last month, I wrote about  Low Life’s From Squats to Lots: The Agony & XTC of Low Life‘s first single, “Agony & XTC,” a Sisters of Mercy and Chain of Flowers-like breakneck ripper. centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched power chords  and world weary and heartbroken snarl.

The album’s second and latest single is the brooding “Hammer & The Fist.” Centered around shimmering and pedal-effected guitars, the new single finds the acclaimed Aussie outfit hinting at classic shoegaze, much like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine but while paired with a production that has the overall sound and aesthetic feel mammoth yet claustrophobic and uneasily intimate.

New Video: Jess Chalker Releases a Charming, Classic Cinema Inspired Visual for “Stupid Trick”

Sydney-born, London-based singer/songwriter and producer, Jess Chalker began here career as the frontwoman of Aussie New Wave act We Are The Brave. Interestingly, since We Are The Brave’s breakup, Chalker has become a highly sought-after collaborator: She has worked with Sam FischerVintage Culture, IsamachineGold Kimono, and Passenger — and she was part of the Grammy Award-winning songwriting and production team that cowrote Lisa Loeb‘s lead single on the acclaimed artist’s kids record Feel What U Feel. Additionally, the Aussie-born, British-based artist wrote “Darkest Hour” for the Amazon Original series Panic, performed by Tate McRae.

Chalker finally steps out into the spotlight as a solo artist with her full-length debut Hemispheres. Slated for a November 5, 2021 release through her own imprint 528 Records, the album received funding from the Australia Council for the Arts. The album was completed under the massive weight of the pandemic, and as Chalker grappled with the loss of her day job and heartbreaking health issues.

Much like countless others across the globe, she found herself spiraling and turned to music for the creative outlet she needed. Collaborating with friends across Sydney, Los Angeles and London, including Dan Long, Josh Humphreys and Chalker’s former We Are The Brave bandmate Ox Why, Chalker wound up finishing what would turn out to be a deeply emotional album. And interestingly enough, she managed to find much longed-for freedom in the process: “Releasing this album is terrifying and thrilling to me,” the Aussie-born, British-based artist says in press notes. “I grew up in a religion that discouraged us from pursuing career success, where women weren’t allowed on stage to address an audience directly. I think it’s why I’ve always tried to avoid the spotlight but, after the year we’ve all had, my perspective on things has changed quite a lot. I’m not wasting any more time doubting myself.”

Sonically, the album reportedly finds Chalker and her collaborators crafting material featuring guitar-driven hooks and retro synths paired with the Aussie-born, British-based artist’s expressive vocals. Thematically, the album deals with themes that explore the dichotomy between depression and hopefulness, self-doubt and self-love and more. 

Last month, I wrote about album “Don’t Fight It.” Cowritten by Chalker, Grammy Award-winning collaborator Rich Jacques and Martjin Tinus Konijnenburg, “Don’t Fight It” was co-produced in a transcontinental fashion across Los Angeles and London by Chalker and Jacques. Centered around glistening synth arpeggios, reverb-drenched drums. Chalker’s expressive vocals, the track hints at Peter GabrielKate Bush and Prince, while full of the bittersweet longing and uncertainty of a narrator who’s physically and emotionally lost.

Hemispheres‘ latest single is the breezy and defiantly upbeat “Stupid Trick.” Centered around shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths, Chalker’s plaintive vocals, the song thematically focuses on the innocence and desperately intense feelings of teenaged love, before gradually learning what love really is and what it really means. And while bringing up memories of Pat Benetar‘s “Love is a Battlefield,Rod Stewart‘s “Young Turks” and others, the song continues a run of material driven by Chalker’s unerring knack for paring earnestly written material with a razor sharp hook.

“I’d been reading Gael Garcia Marquez novels and watching a lot ofJohn Hughes films at the time of writing it, which I think definitely helped shape the concept,” Jess Chalker says of the new single.

Directed by Marcelo de la Vega with cinematography by Shane Benson, the recently released and gorgeous video for “Stupid Trick” is based on a short film script written by Chalker. Shot in London’s Postman’s Park, the video makes loving visual references to Charlie Chaplin, the classic 1956 French film, The Red Balloon and Before Sunrise.

Pre-order the album now via Bandcamp (https://jesschalker.bandcamp.com)

New Video: A Frenetic Day and Night In Sydney with Low Life in New Visual for “Agony & XTC”

With the release of their full-length debut, 2014’s Dogging, Sydney-based punk act Low Life — at the time, a trio featuring Mitch Tolman, Cristian O’Sullivan and Greg Alfaro — quickly exploded into both the national and international scenes.

The Aussie act’s sophomore album, 2019’s Downer Edn (read as Downer Edition) was written and recorded over a two year period and found the band expanding from the trio of Tolman, O’Sullivan and Alfaro to a quintet with the addition of Oily Boys‘ and Orion‘s Dizzy Daldal (guitar) and Yuta Matsumura (guitar), who actually rejoined the band. The lineup change allowed Tolman to be a full-time vocalist. But along with that, the band went through a decided change in sonic direction towards a much more post-punk/New Wave-inspired sound.

Building upon a growing profile, the Aussie outfit’s highly-anticipated third album From Squats to Lots: The Agony & XTC of Low Life is slated for a November 5, 2021 release through Goner Records in North America, ALTER in the UK and the European Union and Lulu’s in Australia. The band has a lengthy statement on the album, “Notes on How To Listen To The Agony and XTC of Low Life,” which you can check out below:

NOTES ON HOW TO LISTEN TO The AGONY AND XTC OF LOW LIFE:

1.  Some records hit you with an instant impression of timeless brilliance, and Low Life’s Dogging is one of those records, what the wise call “an instant classic”.

2.  From Squats to Lots: The Agony and the XTC of Low Life is more like their second album Downer Edn (read Edition), a little more withdrawn, a little more textured. Complex. Rich. Which is to say: you’re going to need some time with it.

3.  Some show, some grow. Low Life have done both. This one is a grower. Spend some time with this one. It’s got that nuanced flavour. Don’t guzzle. Sip. Savour.

4.  Sip it, and sense the recurring brilliance of Mitch Tolman’s lyrics, exploring the usual territory of gutter life, lad life, punk life, low life. The dirge. Disgust and shame in white Australia. Council housing, bills piled to the neck, substance abuse and rehabilitation, the fallen lads and lasses who stood too close to the flame, loss and loneliness, from squats to lots. Un-Australian gutter symphony.

5.  There is a celebration of resilience and that’s a central theme of this record and a time like ours needs a record like Agony & XTC. Low times are coming through, but if you’re low they won’t get to you.

6.  Iggy Pop’s Bowie produced studio rock masterpieces The Idiot and Lust For Life are important reference points to the 3rd album sounds of Low Life. Here comes success!

7.  The Agony and Ecstasy is a 1985 novel by Irving Stone about the life of Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo. Stone wrote another novel about the single eared painter Vincent Van Gogh called Lust For Life. This synchronicity hit me.

8.  Iggy and the Stooges are a pretty safe reference for Low Life (and all good rock music). Iggy and the Stooges are a low life’s Michelangelo, but solo Iggy like Lust for Life is a better reference for this particular incarnation of Low Life, which is to say they are studio rock albums.

9.  Bowie later referred to this period of his life as profoundly nihilistic. But Iggy looked at it as the period of his life that saved him from an early grave. This confrontation is Low life lore.

10. Let’s stick to this, because there’s something about this era of Bowie that makes sense with Low Life’s new album, particularly Low. One should never miss the Low in our new album from Low Life. Producer and studio boss Mickey Grossman has the ear for the Low, and he has carved out a little statue of David right here.

11. Mickey’s ears are recording, mixing and producing the best of Sydney, most notably the Oily Boys Cro Memory Grin. A great companion record to this one. Use Agony & XTC AFTER Oily Boys. Not on an empty stomach, and don’t try to operate heavy machinery (bobcat, bulldozer etc).

12. The relationship between Low Life and Sydney hardcore should not be understated, but it also shouldn’t guide how to listen to Agony & XTC. This is not austere, disciplined music.

13. Think, like, if Poison Idea were given the kind of studio time and budget as Happy Mondays. You wouldn’t play it to a teenager. It’s not for children. This is a mature flavour, one for the adults who have had to contend with failure and hardship, medical bills and disappointed family members, betrayed lovers and worrisome growths, police brutality and tooth decay, humiliating bowels and collapsed septums, detoxing and drying out, for those who have seen themselves as corrupted and putrid and unloveable, for those who endure all of this and aren’t willing to lie down and cop it sweet: Low Life are still here and they ain’t going nowhere.  

NOTES ON HOW NOT TO LISTEN TO AGONY AND XTC OF LOW LIFE:

1.  Don’t think of shoe-gaze. It suggests a safe passage to 90’s reminiscences, a vogue style of our time, but nothing to do with Low Life style. Low Life style is always of its time. The content changes. Agony & XTC shares weight of records like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Slowdive’s Kebab, records that were laboured on after the songs were recorded, songs that were written as they were recorded.

2.  We can call these “studio albums” as opposed to albums built in the heat of live performance. Studio albums from the 90’s are called shoe-gaze by some journalist nerds, but we know better than to use words like this.

3.  Studio albums are excessive and, at the same time, so empty. Agony & XTC, Loveless, Kebab, Rumours: excessive! And empty. This is not to suggest this is Low Lite, some throwback, soft. A band like Low Life can make an overproduced studio rock album without having to use the word shoe-gaze. So, don’t think studio albums mean anything especially 90’s. Don’t look back.

4.  Let’s lose these distasteful labels, like “shoe-gaze”, “rehab rock”, “stab”, “guitar OD overdrive”, “western Sydney wonder”. They can fade out. A low life was once referred to as a vagabond. Who uses this term today? Nobody. Language can murder. Words can die. Kill ‘em all!

The album’s first single “Agony & XTC” is a breakneck ripper that brings The Sisters of Mercy and Chain of Flowers to mind: shimmering and reverb-drenched power chords paired with a world weary and heartbroken snarl.

Directed by Nathan Lewis, the recently released video for “Agony & XTC” captures a frenetic night out in the band’s native Sydney. But underneath it all, are desperate and bored young people.