Ball Park Music – Manny
For fans of the Dandy Warhols, Oasis, the Warlocks
Ball Park Music’s sixth album, Weirder, and Weirder does what it promises on the tin, crashing in with the India-via-Madchester opener Manny, a paisley-printed raga that urges you to slow down. And live a life free from the screen. There’s more than a little playfulness in the delivery. Still, it retains a serious message and provides the perfect entry point for the following twisting, psychedelic album—another win for Brisbane’s finest art pop band.
For more: Weirder and Weirder is out now. The band is touring throughout June and July.
Local the Neighbour – Point Guard
For fans of: M83, Ash, Arcade Fire
David Quested grew up in Darwin, and his music has an innate sense of wide-open spaces. Point Guard is a bright, driving pop tune that recalls the likes of Springsteen if the Stone Roses backed him. The guitars have that underwater sound, and his whispered vocals urge you to pay attention while a drum machine keeps the rollicking tune on cruise control. This song is about wanting to open up and show someone the real you, taking a chance, and letting down your guard. One of the perks of being a wallflower is that you can recognize when it’s time to bloom.
For more: Listen to the previous single, Cancel Me.
‘Montaigne uses her voice in many wondrous ways’ … Montaigne. Photograph: SBS Handout/EPA
Montaigne – Make Me Feel So…
For fans of Imogen Heap, Bjork, David Byrne
Montaigne’s dalliance with Eurovision continues to bear fruit as she teams up with fellow contestant Icelandic artist Daði Freyr for this slice of supernatural pop music. Lyrically, this song is all emotion, highlighting a new love that makes her “feel” quite a lot: at home, loved, adorable, and normal. Musically, however, it sounds like the output of a newly-sentient computer programming on the entire Bjork discography. Montaigne uses her voice in many wondrous ways here: it is operatic, yet with a rhythmic, robotic quality, as it ticks like a clock and rings like a cash register. It’s a singular production, and when Freyr enters, it’s as an unsettlingly disembodied voice. Montaigne recently collaborated with David Byrne, and it’s his mixture of heart and machine that this track most resembles—a strange pop trip.
For more: Watch the fitting Sims-esque video clip by Thomas Rawle, one of the underrated bands Papa Vs. Pretty.
Alex the Astronaut – Haircut
For fans of Guided By Voices, Mika, Courtney Barnett
“New hair, new you,” goes the saying, and while that’s a rather trite sentiment, it rings true often. Alex the Astronaut chronicles the empowerment that comes with an image change bringing one closer to their true self. She does so with the most joyous, effervescent tune she’s released to date: it’s a dance tune for the car, skirting unashamedly close to novelty territory with mentions of Uno, hot chips, Grey’s Anatomy, her mate Gina. (I swear there’s even a slide whistle somewhere.) Haircut celebrates the simple, messy joy of discovering who you are meant to become – or at least feeling like you are getting closer to it.
For more: Alex the Astronaut’s forthcoming album, How to Grow A Sunflower Underwater, is on July 22.
Johnny Hunter – Dreams
For fans of Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears For Fears, Faker
Nick Hutt, the frontman of this Sydney four-piece, is indebted to the post-punk UK singers of the 1980s and occasionally verges on the melodramatic. However, this can easily be forgiven when anchoring a tune as strong as Dreams. With a timeless chorus that could skip the exams and graduate straight to WS-FM, glimmering chorused guitar and that running-through-city-streets propulsion found in the best British pop, this song will hopefully find fans still listening to the Donnie Darko and Breakfast Club soundtracks. A mighty tune expertly rendered and delivered with heart. What else is there?
For more: Debut album Want is out June 24. Listen to the previous single, The Floor and Life.
Jonathan Boulet and Kirsty Tickle of Party Dozen. Photograph: PR
Party Dozen feat. Nick Cave – Macca the Mutt
For fans of Kirin J Callahan, the Birthday Party, Liars
Nick Cave’s early gigs with the Birthday Party were filled with smack-fuelled violence, dissonant, nasty, and uncompromising. The band was fully expected to end up in the abyss, but instead, they morphed into the Bad Seeds and slowly became elder statesmen, artisans of gothic piano ballads that dwelled on love and death. If he were starting now, Cave would be producing songs like this Party Dozen track (the new project from Kirsty Tickle and Jonathan Boulet), with squalling shards of sonic assault, barely-discernible vocals sung through the bell of a saxophone, and neuron-thudding rhythm tracks. Cave’s vocal presence would go unnoticed if not for his credit, but his sonic influence is all over this track – in the uncompromising vision, the waves of noise, and the breakdown it will cause you to have.
For more: Album The Real Work is out July 6. Party Dozen is opening for Spiritualized on June 16 as part of Vivid Sydney.
The Whitlams – The Day John Sattler Broke his Jaw
For fans of Perry Keyes, Paul Kelly, Maurice Frawley
Three decades after forming one of Australia’s most beloved boozy bar bands, Tim Freedman has suddenly found the Whitlams on regular rotation on country radio. Rather than the result of a late-career righthand turn, this sterling cover of a Perry Keyes classic got him there. Keyes is one of the most underrated songwriters in the country; Freedman has long been singing his praises and is now singing his phrases (sorry!). This rambling folk tune references the legendary 1970 rugby league incident when Rabbitohs captain John Sattler broke his jaw three minutes in and refused to leave the field, leading his team to a victory against over-the-bridge Manly. This is the type of hard luck tune Freedman made his bones with, the social commentary comparing the Redfern of old to the gentrified new, where new Labor sits in an inner-west terrace house watching – gasp – AFL.
The Whitlams recently released Sancho, their first album since 2006, and are touring the country.
Thelma Plum performed at the Arias in 2019. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/AAP
Thelma Plum – Backseat of my Mind
For fans of Rihanna, Sia, the Killers
After delivering one of the finest Australian albums in years with 2019’s Better In Blak, Plum returned with a richer, more satisfying sound without betraying what made her debut record such a landmark release. Fittingly, given the heavy use of driving metaphors, Backseat of my Mind is a propulsive tune, hitting that sweet spot between a piano ballad and a road trip anthem. “I could hold the wheel forever if I knew you’d be there too” is a brilliant lyric. It is the perfect return to the spotlight.
For more: Thelma Plum is touring with Vance Joy from September and will also play at Kingscliff Beach hotel, NSW, on June 10.
Luke Steele – Gladiator
For fans of MGMT, country Bob Dylan, George Harrison
After circling the cosmos on his Empire Of The Sun project, Luke Steele has landed back on Earth with a soothing set of songs on his debut solo album. Gladiator is the album’s most gorgeous tune, a harmony-rich salve that floats along slowly, leaning on timeless hooks, and a wah-slide that would be at home in the lobby of a day spa. “No one wants ruins, everyone wants the gladiator” is a fitting lyric for our time of action without considering consequences. Steele’s voice has never sounded better either, the robotic nasal replaced with a Lennonesque delivery that seems far more natural for him. Steele’s mature phase is a very welcome one.
For more: Listen to the Water is out now.
Julia Jacklin – Lydia Wears a Cross
For fans of James Blake, Beth Orton, Massive Attack
The ability of a minor chord or a well-placed key change to elicit emotions is one of the world’s few mysteries. It can easily be corrupted to indoctrinate the young into religion. After all, if you can feel a power soaring through you as you listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack – as Jacklin does in this dark, clever song – why, that might be God; this song chronicles the confusion of Catholic schooling, where prayers for Princess Diana are merged with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s songs and a teacher’s silent judgment. It’s yet another masterclass in narrative songwriting from one of our best.