This year has been pretty stink. Personally, I’ve spent it unemployed, depressed and on regular occasions paralysed for a reason that my doctors haven’t yet been able to determine. So yeah, the fact that 2019 is almost in the bin is something that I’m pretty damn cool with.
Another way it has been not great is one that has plagued me for a couple of years now: I’m not as good at stumbling across new music as I used to be. The reason for this is a little bit easier to work out, since the original live music scene where I am currently living is… well, “isn’t” is probably a quicker way of putting it; and since I realised that I am officially too old for triple j, I’ve not had a radio station that I connect with enough to listen to long enough to regularly be exposed to new stuff.
All that, plus the fact I’m really just struggling to care about much at all at the moment means I’m not really in a seeking-out-the-new-and-exciting kind of headspace.
These facts aside, I’ve still managed to have a few pieces of new music really stick out to me over the last 12 months, which is nice, and so I wanted to tell you about them.
However, there are a few factors that mean I have to put in a bit of effort to share them with you. I don’t really use Spotify, so I don’t have one of those fun little infographics to share, and since most of these tunes don’t have the seal of approval of Drum Central in Ultimo, I’m not going to bother putting them in as votes in the Hottest 100, and therefore won’t have the resulting auto-compiled image to share on the socials.
But since both of those things are fun and easy content – and I’ve only posted on this blog twice this year – I figured that I’ll just do it my own way.
So here you go: Noni’s Funnest Insert-Number-Here Songs That Were Released in 2019 Or At Least I Heard Them For The First Time This Year Oh Shit Now The Title’s Too Long Shit Fuck Shit (Oh Well At Least I’m Not The Fuckwit Who Decided To Go On Holiday In Hawaii Because I Forgot I Was Prime Minister And That My Country Was On Fire).
Yeah, needs some polish. I’m sure I’ll have thought of something better by the time I post this.
Either way, here’s the rundown, in no particular order.
“Hamish” – Jude Perl
Let’s be painfully honest here: we’ve all known a Hamish. Some of us have even had the misfortune of having a misguided crush on or relationship with one.
Jude Perl manages to not only completely encapsulate this kind of dude, she’s also crafted a song that is just bloody brilliant.
The chorus is 100% banger (most notably the golden line, “I liked you because you were… there”), the way she captures the moment of realisation that Hamish is a total dickhead is so incredibly true to life, and the video is just perfection, with a stellar performance from Broden Kelly of Aunty Donna notoriety.
I spotted this one on the recommendation of Matt Okine on Instagram, and from the first time I heard the synth gorgeousness of that chorus, I was hooked. I regularly catch myself singing it to myself.
It’s easily my song of the year.
“Dinner & Diatribes” – Hozier
Well, where do I start when it comes to Hozier? He has been my musical crush for the last year and a bit and I’m pretty sure it’s easy to see why. Tall, handsome, offensively talented and super into social justice? Be still, my beating heart! (Don’t be surprised if he comes up again in this list.)
He released his second album, Wasteland, Baby! in April, and while the critic in me feels that it’s not quite as all-killer-no-filler as his debut, it’s still full of incredible tracks that were quickly given a place in my high rotation list. The riff in this track in particular makes it stand out from the rest, but I also feel I need to point out how incredibly horny it is. It’s kind of like “Fast Friends” by Paul Dempsey, if the Something For Kate frontman had been quietly been concealing a significant boner. The massive drum line hits right in the guts/nethers, making this the sexiest song I’ve heard all year, and it was easily one of the highlights of his set when I saw him at the Sydney Opera House back in April.
As for the video? I’m not really certain what it all means, but I know that it’s the kind of text that would make a high school English teacher faint with delight at all that juicy symbolism.
“The Piss, The Perfume” – Hayley Mary
I’ve loved Hayley Mary’s band The Jezabels for a good… holy shit, ten years? And to be honest, when I heard she was releasing solo tunes, I had no idea what to expect, since I associate her voice so strongly with the intense drum work of Nik Kaloper (who is a certified freak on the skins).
When I heard this track, I was delighted: an unashamedly Australian rock song that harks back to the alt pub rock golden age of the 90’s, with a bittersweet love story and a title that perfectly sums up the smell and feel of the venues where this sort of music gets played. It’s a little bit Pretenders, a little bit Divinyls, and 100% danceable. (I also love Mary’s Bowie meets Chrissie Amphlett look in the video more than I can say.)
“This Is On You” – Maisie Peters
I don’t know if this was relentlessly advertised to anyone else on Instagram as much as it was to me, but I’m really glad it was, because I kept going, “Oh, I really like that snippet of chorus; I’ll have to check out the song later,” and then not following through. When I finally did, I was so glad that the tune stood up to my expectations. I love the contrast of Peters’ sweet voice with the anger in the lyrics, and the little “ooo’s” in the chorus. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for songs by women telling their ex-partners to fuck off.
“Jungle Jungle” – Rufino & The Coconuts
I’ve been a fan of Rufino & The Coconuts for absolutely yonks, and have adored Rufino’s contributions to Mikelangelo & The Black Sea Gentlemen for even longer. This particular song was easily my favourite of all their tunes when I got to see them live, and I’d often been tempted to reference it in conversations when folks post photos of themselves in pith helmets among swathes of fake vines and other appropriately themed scenes, before realising that they likely had no idea what I was talking about.
Thankfully, Rufino and the Coconuts finally put out their debut album this year, and now I can link to this tune whenever I want. (Shaka-tooka-chaka.)
“Woman” – Clare Bowditch
Clare Bowditch is the kind of woman I wish I could be. To be an exquisite musician, broadcaster and now author: ah! What a wonder! (I think I’ve always had a bit of a crush on her too, to be frank, because she’s utterly gorgeous.)
The harmonies in this are divine, and the reflections on the (cis) female experience are poignant, uplifting and tragic at the same time. It took a little while for me to warm up to it, but now it feels like the loving hug I need most days.
“Tenderness” – Brendan Maclean
This track caught me by surprise one afternoon while I was writing. (Yes, I have been doing it on occasion, but you’re not going to see anything of it for some time yet.) While I’ve had this album on my computer for a while, I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and absorb it to the level I want to, however I have had the tracks on it in my shuffle playlist, and hearing this song properly for the first time was like a punch in the gut. The ache evident in Maclean’s vocal is heartbreaking, and the closing lines feel like something from a Joni Mitchell classic. There is no other word for it than “bittersweet”, but even that doesn’t seem to be strong enough for the feeling this song elicits. It feels like a cathartic cry, full of sorrow yet somehow tinged with relief. If there was any song in the world that seems like it just needs a gentle hug, it’s this one.
“Jackboot Jump” – Hozier
The only thing wrong with this song is its lack of a big chorus, because it really is a testament to our times that should be screamed from the rooftops at protests across the world. (Yes, Australia is no exception when it comes to the rise of authoritarianism, but I’m sure I’d just be preaching to the choir here.)
Once again, Hozier hits on a killer blues-rock riff, with the stripped back arrangement almost acting as a metaphor for how basic it should be to just stand up for what’s right. There’s anger in the drums and in the growl of the guitar, and almost a disdainful sneer in Hozier’s delivery directed at those in power, while somehow simultaneously communicating a sense of pleading and a call to arms to those who are both downtrodden, or just plain have a conscience. The intertwining of ire and optimism is really intriguing to me, just as much as the fact that Hozier managed to write, record and release this in the middle of an insane world tour supporting the album he’d released only a few months before. He’s already promised more new music in 2020, which blows my mind and delights me simultaneously. I hope he can tap into whatever it takes to write the next great protest song, because right now we need to raise as many voices and we can, and music is a unique way to do that.
It also contains the lyrics of the year: “It’s always corporate infrastructure over the structure of your face.”
“Pasta” – Angie McMahon
This is a very late addition to the list, because I literally found it hours before I started writing this entry, but I connected with it immediately. The opening line – “my bedroom is a disaster” – made me sit up and take notice straight away, because it perfectly described… well, me. Everything about this song (except the bit about the dog – ours is thankfully in very good health) feels like she’s taken my life right now and put it to music. I’ve had it on repeat for the few days it’s taken for me to get this baby out, and it still holds so much power for me, even though my bedroom isn’t quite as bad as it was when I first heard it. (It’s still not great, but I’m not afraid to let people in anymore.)
THE ALBUM THAT ISN’T EVEN OUT YET
[Unnamed and Unreleased Album] – The Burley Griffin
Yeah, there’s nothing to embed here because, as you may have guessed from the subtitle, this album hasn’t hit the web yet. However, it turns out there are some perks to turning thirty, and one of them is that your incredibly talented friends send you their pre-release albums for you to listen to as a birthday present.
My mate Evan Buckley did just that, and oh my god, I’m so glad he did. I nearly wept the first time I listened to this album. It’s full of bittersweet folk tunes that are just divine. If you like Elliot Smith or Ryan Adams but are looking for someone who isn’t dead or accused of sexual misconduct, then bookmark The Burley Griffin Facebook page and gird your loins for a gorgeous collection of sweet, sorrowful ballads, with a little kick of an upbeat tune as a chaser.
YEAH, THESE WEREN’T RELEASED IN 2019 BUT I ONLY JUST FOUND THEM AND THEY’RE GREAT
“Good As Hell” – Lizzo
I was embarrassingly late to the Lizzo party, likely due to my aforementioned aversion to commercial radio at the moment. But as soon as I heard this tune, I knew I needed it in my life. I thought it was a recent release, but nope. Turns out there was at least good that came out of 2016, the year when it all started to fall apart: this song.
“Hungry & Horny” – Jude Perl
And this tune from Jude Perl was the other thing the 2016 gave us that was pretty damn good. A protest song against the beauty myth, it was featured in the body positive documentary Embrace, and came with a series of amazing videos critiquing the bullshit that is the marketing industry.
And yes, I used to work in marketing. I’m still allowed to call it bullshit.
Music From Saharan Cellphones – Various
I’ve flat out forgotten how I came across this 2011 release, but goddamn, it’s such a cool concept to start with; the sweet tunes are just a bonus.
Here’s an explanation of what it’s all about from the label’s bandcamp page, but the title is pretty self-explanatory:
In much of West Africa, cellphones are are used as all purpose multimedia devices. In lieu of personal computers and high speed internet, the knockoff cellphones house portable music collections, playback songs on tinny built in speakers, and swap files in a very literal peer to peer Bluetooth wireless transfer.
There’s a real mixture of sounds in here, mostly modern pop and electro, but there are RnB influences and a touch of the traditional to keep you on your toes. It’s a fascinating look into the sounds of a culture that seems almost as alien as another can get without being from another planet. It’s an incredibly eye-opening listen.
And that’s the lot: the soundtrack to my 2019. I think I can safely say that a lot of us are starting the new decade from behind the eight ball, but I sincerely hope that the year ahead is one of significant improvement, and that we all end up in a far better place than when we started. (I mean, I’m not optimistic, but it could happen.)
So instead of Happy New Year, I’m saying Fuck Off 2019. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.