Like many music listeners, I pay attention to the broad and the not-so-broad music trends of 2014, but rarely does the country of origin of the band catch my attention. Mostly, it’s just an after-thought for me as I’ve come to realize that most of the bands I listen to not from the U.S. are either from England or Sweden. But as 2014 has come along, Australia has come up with unusual frequency for me this year in the world of indie pop.
There are several great Australian bands to learn about, but these five are making their way into my headphones the most.
“I don’t think if you say commercial means to be publicly acceptable, what’s wrong with that? As long as you are not ashamed of anything you write if you’re a writer, as long as you’re not ashamed of anything you perform if you’re an actor, and I’m not ashamed of anything.
This is the area I know. But I think innate in what Herb says is the suggestion made by many people that you can’t have public acceptance and still be artistic. And, as I said, I have to reject that.”
This quote from Rod Serling, a writer from the infant years of television known for The Twilight Zone, said this in an interview when asked if he was “selling himself short” by taking on a series designed primarily to entertain. The quote is played on the beginning of “Two Bodies”, an excerpt from Flight Facilities’ debut album, Down to Earth. The idea that a medium, whether film, television or music can’t be artistic while also being widely appealing or successful makes a fitting defense of Flight Facilities, not that it needs defending. Flight Facilities are unmistakably a pop band, one that may not reach the radio in the U.S. anytime soon, but are no less deserving of it.
Although excellent, “Two Bodies” represents only one-half of what Flight Facilities is made of – the melancholic, introspective side curated for driving towards sunsets with the windows down, too personal to be a club hit. This version of Flight Facilities stimulates the mind just as much as the feet in this case, which can truly be considered art.
The other side of flight facilities is more playful and fun. They are, after all, a duo with disco and funk on their minds. You can easily put on your dancing shoes to “I Didn’t Believe” and “Foreign Language” even though they are essentially songs about heartbreak. Flight Facilities blend style and substance better than most and are a welcome addition to the funk/disco trend.
Scenic is a 4-piece band making chilled-out psych-pop from Perth. Scenic might resemble the polarizing chillwave artists like Washed Out or Neon Indian that came into popularity in 2010 – the mellow vibes, the suppressed, monotone vocals that nearly become background filler and warm melodies synonymous with summer. In all honesty, it’s very possible Scenic was a chillwave band in 2011 with their Another Sky EP that exhibits more streamlined synth lines and bleep-bloops than guitar riffs.
Another Sky is a pleasant, relaxing listen but Scenic takes a leap forward on their follow-up Shockwaves where the laptop and keyboard start to take a back seat to drums and bass guitar. This is where Scenic takes on a more live, full band feel, and the chillwave tag gets left behind. Instead, the fuzzy, bass guitar-driven track “Overflow” bears an uncanny resemblance to Tame Impala’s “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, coincidentally another band from Perth. Hmmm.
“Ride the Thrill”, Scenic’s most recent single, continues down the psychedelic path and may or may not be encouraging out of body experiences. This one’s great and although they might be a little shortchanged with the constant Tame Impala comparisons, there are worse bands to be compared to.
Kito & Reija Lee
Kito & Reija Lee are a producer-singer duo from the middle of nowhere, Australia. Reija was born in a town of seven people and Kito grew up in a Mud-brick house six hours south of Perth. Now they make stadium-worthy synth-pop songs that sometimes get featured in Victoria’s Secret commercials.
So, what have you done with your life lately?
Luckily, their recent success hasn’t numbed them to the everyday probs of ordinary humans as they admit on “I Need You” – “I’ve been thinking all about you lately”. The direct admission of vulnerability helps you latch on to this group, as K & RL say what we all want to say but can’t, or won’t.
Include “I Need You” on your next mixed CD you slip into your crush’s locker who you swore made eye-contact with you during algebra.
Wave Racer possesses more than just the uncanny ability to insert dolphins into his track art – he also happens to be one of the most exciting producers rising through the ranks. You need only listen to one track and you’ve heard them all – and that’s not a bad thing. As on “Rock U Tonite”, the sort of track you listen to after you’ve drank your third Monster, Wave Racer keeps his arrangements unbelievably tight nearly every minute of every song. There’s no room to breathe on any Wave Racer track, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wave Racer is refreshing in the way that he seems completely disinterested in “letting the beat drop”. Rather, a Wave Racer song starts after the drop. Not that Wave Racer only moves at one speed. For instance, “Streamers” builds itself up twice kind of like a chorus but with no words. The second build-up leads into a grand finale with a lot of “hey’s” and Lil Jon “what’s”.
Wave Racer’s bouncy remix of Foster the People’s “Best Friend” shows you just how much more fun he’s having than virtually everyone. I’d love to hear what Wave Racer would do with The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights”.
If you’re interested in what caffeine to your ears sounds like, listen to Wave Racer remix “Best Friend”.
As important as it may be to have a memorable and distinctive band name, fans and critics alike probably put too much stock in them. After all, for all the bands that are named so aptly as the aforementioned Wave Racer, there are just as many bands that got their name because it just sounded cool. Besides, how many band names are really left, anyway? Apparently, Miami Horror was still available, and in this case, appears to have been selected thoughtfully.
On Miami Horror’s debut album, Illumination, disco sounds of the 70’s are a dominant influence. Full of hits like “I Look to You”, “Holidays” and “Sometimes”, Illumination is a dance-filled summer album that only becomes slightly gloomy through the lyrics. Cut Copy comes to mind on “Summersun” as synth flickers throughout until its full-out dance number conclusion. It doesn’t take long to see that Miami Horror does a better job conveying the sunny-soaked side of the city of Miami, than its seedy underbelly.
Miami Horror’s more recent work has the band changing gears as you may feel more inclined to sway to “Real Slow” rather than two-step to it. This feels like a natural progression for Miami Horror, who may prefer not to be played at your next house party. But if this is their idea of “getting serious”, then I won’t take exception.