Brendan Clarkson AKA Grand Prismatic has been off the radar for a couple years, so it was a surprise when I randomly saw he had uploaded an EP on SoundCloud in late May titled I Put The Salt In The Sea. It only took two minutes into the first track ‘Safe As Houses‘ for me to know I was going to really enjoy this EP. There was this immediate deep sense of fragility in the guitars, played at a pace that assumed nobody would be listening. The kind of introduction that draws you into a mysterious new movie with an intriguing actor you’ve never seen before.
Other tracks such as ‘Meet Yer Maker‘, ‘Wit’s End‘ and ‘Landslide‘ have layered vocal harmonies that don’t feel as lonesome, rather a cowboy who picked up some comrades on his journey to find himself. Brendan trots along, he’s not zooming off into the sunset, he’s taking in everything around him, he’s very observant. Vocally Brendan reminds me of Lambchop with the careful pacing of Timber Timbre. It’s one of those EP’s could easily just be filed “most underrated Australian EP of 2019” but that would be mistake, as it’s actually “the best Australian EP of 2019” — well at least so far. ‘I Can’t Sleep‘ I’ve played as many times as any Australian track this year. The most stunning part is that I Put The Salt In The Sea is just a clearance release while Brendan has been working over the past six months on his first proper solo album, which is almost complete and he’s apparently very excited about it, which actually means something here, because Brendan’s attention to detail comes across as somebody whose biggest critic is himself.
While I eagerly await this debut album, Brendan has kindly sent over a Trading Tunes with the theme of Meditative Music:
“I’ve always been an anxious person. Since becoming a Dad I’ve become hyper sensitive about the state of the Environment. The Political Climate. The general Horror Show Vibe on Planet Earth. In the New Age of Abbott/ Dutton/ Morrison/ TRUMP/ Climate Crisis Endgame, etc, my angst is relentless. Consequently I’ve found myself gravitating towards gentler, more meditative music. I just can’t stomach too much aggression in music now. There’s enough of it out there in the world. These are five key songs that help me quiet my mind. To attain those crucial little moments of Tranquillity. Introspection. Elation. Aspiration.”
Steve Gunn – ‘Way Out Weather’
“Steve Gunn is a Dreamboat. I only became aware of him in 2018, and subsequently became truly obsessed. He convinced me to pick up the Acoustic Guitar again after a decade of mindlessly bashing Electric Guitars and Keyboards. This song is a sublime, sun-kissed, gentle current.”
Weyes Blood – ‘Movies’
“This song slays me. The first time I heard it I was washing dishes, and I became absolutely transfixed. Motionless, hands in the sink, mouth wide open, heart thrashing. That voice. Those submarine synths. When the song really started to crescendo I was so moved it was almost unbearable. This is not a song I can listen to regularly.”
Kurt Vile – ‘That’s Life, tho (Almost hate to say)’
“Kurt Vile is other-worldly. I haven’t gone a day in 5 years or so without listening to his music. I could talk about him for a month. This song is absolutely flawless. Every time I hear it I’m transported. Musically. Lyrically. Outer Space. Inner Space. It’s hard to convey just how important this man is to me. And this particular song.”
Frank Ocean – ‘Self Control’
“There’s not a lot I can say about Frank that hasn’t already been said. He’s just Perfect. This song is just Perfect. It’s relatively minimal, but still manages to get remarkably cosmic at the climax. I Love Frank.”
Brian Eno – ‘Golden Hours’
“There’s certainly nothing I can say about Eno that hasn’t been said many, many times before. Eno is everything. Everything is Eno. This song is a Masterpiece.
Peace In. Peace Out.”
Melbourne based songwriter wizard Emma Russack just released her fifth album Winter Blues on July 5th via Osborne Again Records with the background help of publishers Native Tongue. Winter Blues is still introspective, all-questioning Emma Russack, but there’s some newfound sunlight and optimism, which creates an interesting progressive arc off the back of recent previous solo albums In A New State and Permanent Vacation.
Those two previous solo albums were full of doubt and concerns, with Emma taking on self therapy through her songwriting. They made the listener feel like they were having a Deep & Meaningful with Emma, not because she needed to vent but because she just had really interesting life questions. She asked what many people would regularly feel, and she would publicly try to answer those questions through her songs, answers most wouldn’t share so earnestly. On Winter Blues a few life changes have turned that thinking into being content with concern, understanding it’ll always be there and how to embrace it. Tracks such as ‘I Could Say‘, ‘Follow My Heart‘ and ‘Floating Seeds‘ are soft and beautiful, the questioning is replaced with joy. There’s still doubt on tracks such as ‘What Is Love‘ and ‘Be Real‘, but even on those tracks she’s on the front foot tackling that doubt, not letting it consume her. Then the album finishes with ‘Never Before‘ a kind, tension free, positive therapy ending track, which makes you wonder what tone the next Emma album will have and continue this ever expanding and fascinating discography.
Emma is going on a mini Australian tour over August and September with super band members Nathalie Pavlovic (Dianas), Liam Halliwell (The Ocean Party) and Dylan Young (Way Dynamic), until then she’s sent us a Trading Tunes to “Quell The Winter Blues”.
August 7th: Melbourne at The Jazzlab
August 9th: Canberra at Sideway
August 10th: Sydney at Golden Age Cinema & Bar
September 13th: Kyneton at Major Tom’s
September 14th: Macedon at Macedon Railway Hotel
September 15th: Castlemaine at The Taproom – Shedshaker Brewing
Erlend Oye – ‘La Prima Estate’
“He’s a Norwegian singing in Italian about summer! I love dancing to this song.”
Joni Mitchell – ‘Carey’
“I used to cover this song when I was a teenager. The lyrics remind me of hot, summer
nights, wearing singlet tops and drinking wine.”
Michael Franks – ‘Eggplant’
“I love the lyrics in this song. They make me laugh. It’s all about how his girlfriend cooks
eggplant ‘19 Different Ways.”
Betty Davis – ‘They Say I’m different’
“The Real Queen B.”
Toki Asako – ‘September’
“This is a fun cover of a really fun song. I particularly like this version because it reminds me
of when my boyfriend and I started dating. He was playing this all the time.”
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 Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, Nearly Oratorio, Grand Prismatic, Cool Sounds, U-Bahn, Emma Russack, Sampa The Great, Poppongene, Gordon Koang, Hatchie, RVG, Body Type, Jade Imagine, Sunscreen, Kirin J Callinan, Taylah Carroll, Love Deluxe, Wagons, Mio, Merpire, Swim Team, Darcy Baylis, Summer Flake, Gena Bruce, Alex Cameron, Peak Twins, City Calm Down, River Yarra, Alta, Jordan Merrick, Web Rumors, and this week’s best new track by Sui Zhen.
Gordon Koang may be a reasonably new name to many people in Melbourne, but back in his home country of South Sudan, he’s a legend. All you have to do is look at the YouTube comments in the music videos posted below to see how much he means to the people of South Sudan. But Melbourne label Bedroom Suck understand he also means a lot to the South Sudan community in Melbourne and Australia at large. He’s a great role model, of which not only young South Sudanese people can look to, but people of any culture and background. His warm spirit, master class rhythms and overall nature is something Australia could use a lot more of.
Four months ago he released ‘Stand Up (Clap Your Hands)‘ via the Music In Exile label, a not-for-profit initiative aimed at increasing access to resources and building professional networks for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. Unfortunately he’s still seeking asylum in Australia, but you could help his case by attending some of his upcoming shows with his new Australian band that features his cousin Paul Biel.
On tour this July:
03.07 @ Labor in Vain Hotel, CHANGES Festival
11.07 @ Smith’s Alternative, Canberra
12.07 @ Freda’s, Sydney
13.07 @ 274, Wollongong
26.7 @ Major Tom’s, Kyneton
28.7 @ Sunny’s, Adelaide
An end of year list can be very handy for getting direct to the juicy good stuff, creating discussions and can offer a very interesting retrospect, but sometimes those lists can be posted too late and those artists might have already stopped touring. So at RipeMusic we like to also post a midyear Top 50 playlist (see 2017or 2018). If you’re unfortunately stuck in Australia during winter, one of the best ways to pass the time (while your friends post warm photos of Europe) is to walk into a nice warm music venue and support some local music, see some local faces. Hopefully this list gives you a bunch of new names to tuck into or it reminds you of that band you keep forgetting to check out.
We’ve listed the tracks in alphabetical order, so we can save some of the list ordering fun for the end of year Top 100 post. We’ve also created the playlist on both Spotify and SoundCloud.
As always, we want to take this opportunity to send out a huge thank you to everyone who has sent us music this year, contacted us, shared, liked, commented or re-tweeted Ripe.
1. Ani Lou – ‘Godspeed’
2. Ara Koufax – ‘Drums Unlimited’
3. Bananagun – ‘Do Yeah’
4. Baro ft. Nasty Mars – ‘We’re So Doomed’
5. Body Type – ‘Stingray’
6. Chip Riddell – ‘Spider Song’
7. Ciggie Witch – ‘Shadow’
8. Clea – ‘Right Way’
9. Egoism – ‘Enemies’
10. Emma Russack – ‘Winter Blues’
11. Frances Fox – ‘November For’
12. Ferla – ‘You Were There, Jim’
13. Genesis Owusu – ‘WUTD’
14. Grand Prismatic – ‘Safe As Houses’
15. Harvey Sutherland ft. Jace XL – ‘Something In The Water’
Next week is the second Changes Music Conference in Melbourne. Over 100 speakers, 100 artists, 20 showcase curators and 10 venues will all team up over the course of two nights (July 3rd and 4th) to highlight the importance of progressive discussions within the music community. It’s a very important event in the landscape of what makes the Melbourne music scene more important than just the music itself. And no band on the 2019 Changes bill is more in demand right now than Hexdebt. Their album launch in May was near impossible to get a media pass to, even months out. A good indication that a band is a hot ticket.
They released their debut album Rule Of Four on April 26th and it’s a whirlwind experience that takes many spins to get an understanding of how to process its power and multitude of tough messages. They blaze fire like Savages, White Lung or Cable Ties, but even with those comparisons, they surpass containment — so much so you’d assume they don’t drive with side mirrors. Actually they probably don’t even drive on the road, they’re more of an off-road 4WD who’ll make your Google Maps app crash. But this isn’t a band trying to emulate the past; they’re living in the now and there’s a sense of how brittle making music can be — go hard or go be an accountant. After the 27 minute album, you’ll need a jug of water, a massage and probably a stroll on the beach to regain yourself and prepare yourself to do it all over again.
You can catch Hexdebt play the Future Popes showcase on July 3 at 11.30pm. Until then, they’ve sent us a Trading Tunes. “We chose artists who we feel discuss issues/ideas in their music or through their live performance that often go unspoken about, and that to us, embody social change within the music industry”.
Briggs – ‘Life is Incredible’
“This one speaks for itself. Briggs has been an incredible force during dark times in Australia, and always deals with difficult subject matter with an incredible balance of humour and severity.”
Chai – ‘Great Job!’
“Chai are another example of artists who subvert the stereotypes thrust upon them – in their case, the idea of kawaii/cute and the potentially racist and sexist undertones that come with these labels. Chai’s ‘Great Job’, like Briggs, also has a sarcasm to it that we love. And their rhythm section is incredibly tight!”
Sateen – ‘Finer Things’
“Sateen are a married wife duo who are fiercely unafraid to be both outspoken and vulnerable. They have been endlessly touring the US playing pride festivals and raising awareness of queer and trans issues. Their songs are so fun and well produced, and their outfits hark back to a vintage queer glamour that Hexdebt gets around.”
Kaiit – ‘Miss Shiney’
“Kaiit‘s music has a classic quality to it, but the earnestness of her lyrics completely embodies change to us. Kaiit discusses every day issues with the weight they deserve, and doesn’t shy away from acknowledging insecurities about her music, even in the music itself.”
Surfbort – ‘Trashworld’
“Surfbort‘s commitment to unwavering kindness and friendship can be almost confronting – it’s definitely a surprise to see a renegade group of punks talking about love and friendship so freely. Surfbort seem unconcerned with their image, and frontperson Dani Miller uses her platform to discuss social issues around her without isolating those who might not know about what she’s discussing. We love the balance of anger/rage with the lighthearted/upbeat.”
Sweet Whirl is the latest great signing by the ever reliable Chapter Music after previous releases with the fantastic label Bedroom Suck. Working with both of those labels is a good sign, having band members from TotalControl, Laura Jean and Gregor’s live band makes Sweet Whirl’s latest EP Love Songs & Poetry an automatic must listen. Love Songs & Poetry was released on May 3rd and it doesn’t disappoint, in fact I’ve had the EP on loop all day, and it keeps getting better each time around.
The EPs mood is dreary, which seems to be a big theme with the best music of 2019 (WeyesBlood – Titanic Rising, Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow, Julia Jacklin – Crushing, Cate Le Bon – Reward, Big Thief – U.F.O.F.), maybe in 2019 everyone just feels safe at home looking out the window, the only place they can control the weather and not feel on display. A lot of the lyrics on Love Songs & Poetry could’ve been written inside of a wet window. Singer Esther Edquist sings “I put it into words, cause you never learned to” on ‘Put Into Words‘, the “you” person is unknown giving you the feeling that nobody is currently outside of this wet window. It’s space for your imagination, and when you can’t see, you’re forced to use your imagination even more so. On ‘Rubber Heart‘ Esther sings “down on memory lane, it all goes on in houses”, and this gives us another clue as to her current location and retrospective mind set. And during ‘Ray C‘, Esther gives us a more specific clue location when she sings “the last time I saw you coming up the stairs, it was the last time you turned to me and said, are you, coming up, coming ah, coming apart just a little”.
So the next time it’s wet outside your upstairs window, and you’re feeling retrospective, throw on Love Songs & Poetry and you’ll never feel alone.
You can catch Sweet Whirl launching the EP on June 14th at The Tote Hotel. To get a little more insight into Esther’s influences, she’s kindly sent us a Trading Tunes with the theme of “‘How To Catch A Killer Track’, – “all my blurbs are about personal history as a songwriter.”
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – ‘In A Sydney Motel’
“I had this song on a mixtape from my friend and ex-bandmate Kieran (from Superstar) – when James Vinciguerra (from my band and also Total Control, Trevor etc) used to borrow my car he got really obsessed with this song and wanted us to do a cover of it. I could never get my head around how to cover it though – it’s super evocative of Potts Point, in the rain, in a more lonely time.”
Palace Music – ‘Gulf Shores’
“When Liam (Barton) and I started working together on recording Sweet Whirl we were trying out different drummers, and one sweetie who joined us for a day was the fabulous (and fabulously busy!) Karla Way from Beaches. She mentioned this song to us as a reference and we both became obsessed with it – it was precisely where we were at that time in regards to the Sweet Whirl band sound.”
Morning And The Sleepy Kids – ‘Works In Savers’
“This Tassie band was released by Albert’s Basement back in 2010, and I have a hazy memory of seeing them play a reunion gig sometime between 2014-5. This album, “Songs 2004-2007” has some remarkable stuff on it, this great lyricist with her Robert Forster in a dress-up-box style theatrical vocal delivery, and the lean harmonies and melodies, home recording roughness but essentially great songwriting that captures a whole feeling of a time in a life.”
Arthur Russell – ‘”Instrumentals” Volume 1 (Part 1)’
“A track I first heard via Liam, walking into his studio and saying, “what the hell is this, Sufjan Stevens?!” But it was Arthur Russell being beautiful in the 70s. Pure sad joy. We both couldn’t believe we’d never heard it before. Another cherished reference for ideal music.”
Joanna Newsom – ‘Swansea’
“Recently I revisited this album Milk-Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom, which I was rather obsessed with when first it came out. Her lyrics were probably one of the most influential benchmarks I acquired as a young songwriter – yes, Morrissey‘s dark humour, but also Newsom’s deeply literate, intricate and whimsy wordplay impressed me so much, and left an indelible mark on my own writing. ”
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 Kythira, Lachlan Denton & Studio Magic, Nearly Oratorio, Shining Bird, Hatchie, Sweet Whirl, Gena Bruce, Market, Tram Cops, Clea, Skydeck, Eugénie, Mere Women, and this week’s best new track by Grand Prismatic.
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, RVG, Emma Russack, Stella Donnelly, Hexdebt, Ferla, Frances Fox, Market, Skydeck, Retiree, June Jones, Huntly, Jess Ribeiro, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Kythira, Alex Cameron, Peak Twins, Swim Team, Lucy Roleff, Body Type, No Mono and this week’s best new track by Sunbeam Sound Machine.