Well, 2011 was yet another year dominated by souless, watered down music in the mainstream music industry. Bland garage/indie and horrid R&B-pop were, once again, the order of the day. Perhaps more disturbingly, some styles previously associated with underground music continued to be watered-down and repackaged into acceptable pop culture products - namely hardcore and metalcore, who have now seemingly completed their transition into music forms completely devoid of any human emotion or feeling. The post-rock scene similarly provided an endless supply of bands that sound exactly the same.
In spite of my general misanthropy towards the wider music scene, there were still some more unique gems to be had if you dug deep enough. What's more, I really felt like this was a great year for the various underground music scenes in Australia. I feel like there are more bands of more diverse styles going the DIY path, putting on great shows and releasing original, soulful music.
What more, Sydney was lucky enough to have Black Wire Records to actually support underground punk, hardcore, crust, powerviolence and grind.
Here's what I dug in 2011.
Top 5 releases of 2011
- The Devin Townsend Band - Deconstruction: Brilliant. Possible Devin Townsend's very best.
- YOB - Atma: If anything just for Before We Dreamed of Two and Adrift in the Ocean. An incredible doom record.
- Bjork - Biophilia: The best Bjork release since Homogenic.
- Graveyard - Hisingen Blues: I struggle to think of a better rock album released in the last decade.
- La Dispute - Wildlife: An honest and genuine emotional catharsis. Honest and genuine.
Top 5 grind(ish) releases of 2011
- The Kill - Shower of Bricks: the perfect distillation of intense grindcore.
- The Reverend Jesse Custer - The Reverend Jesse Custer: sludgy, raging metallic grind and hardcore.
- Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt - Counter Transference: techy polyrhythmic, sporadic math/grind bliss.
- IDYLLS - Amps for God / Plague Hell: furious fucking grinding metallic hardcore.
- Wormrot - Noise: blistering and intense.
The 10 albums I couldn't stop playing all year
- Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton - Knives Don't Have Your Back
- Roots Manuva - Brand New Second Hand
- YOB - Atma
- Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Black Earth
- Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Sunset Mission
- Dax Riggs - Angel in the Dopesmoke (live bootleg)
- Neil Young - Dead Man soundtrack
- Neurosis - The Eye of Every Storm
- Worlds End Girlfriend - Hurtbreak Wonderland
- The Cinematic Orchestra - Every Day
The 10 Australian releases you really should have heard
- Hydromedusa - Self-titled: Adelaide stoner rock that just oozes bluesy class. (It's FREE! Get it!)
- sleepmakeswaves - And So We Destroyed Everything: An interesting post-rock record? Well I never!
- Pirate - Left of Mind: Fantastic Sydney instrumental prog.
- An Emerald City - The Fourth: Technically Kiwi, but a great, cinematic album.
- Tangled Throughts of Leaving - Deaden the Fields: These guys came outta nowhere (Perth)! Incredible progressive, piano-driven music mixed with progressive and post music.
- Mother Mars - Fossil Fuel Blues: Perhaps Sydney's greatest stoner/desert rock band.
- Arrowhead - Atomsmasher: Or perhaps these guys are?
- Serious Beak - Huxwhukw: Okay it's my band, fuck you.
- Squat Club - Corvus (remixed, remastered and re-released): Now with even more mind-bending polyrhythmic clarity!
- Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt Counter - Transference
My favourite live shows of 2011
- Portishead at Sydney Harvest Festival
- Eagle Twin at Manning Bar
- Gotye at Angel Place City Recital Hall
- Kyuss at The Big Top
- The Reverend Jesse Custer at Town Hall Hotel
- Captain Cleanoff and Death-Cult Jock at Black Wire Records
- Ruins, Darth Vegas, Slimey Things (Featherfest 2011) at TONE
- Clagg and Agonhymn at The Pony
- Space Bong, Looking Glass and Hydromedusa at The Sando
Australian grind hero of the year
- Jack of Die Pigeon Die. Just an all around good bloke who never relents in his selfless passion to support Australian grindcore.
You disagree? Oh what a surprise! What did you guys dig this year? Was it a good year? A shit year?
The even kicks off at 8pm and is absolutely free. More info over at the Facebook event.
Haven't heard Serious Beak? You can stream the album here. The band features members of Squat Club, Adrift for Days, Slimey Things, Battle Pope, Squid, Ebolie, the Mabobs, Push Air and the Puffy Jackets, Dyke Destroyer and many more.
Press release to follow:
"Huxwhukw" is an eccentric amalgamation of mind-melting, toe-tapping, psychedelic, progressive and poly-rhythmic discordant music, sure to please fans of Meshuggah, Mastodon, Botch, The Mars Volta and King Crimson.
Huxwhukw is the supernatural long-beaked cannibal bird and servant to Baxwbakwalnuksiwe, the Cannibal-at-the-North-end-of-the-world in Kwakwaka'wakw mythology. Huxwhukw uses his long, snapping beak to crack open the skulls of men to eat their brains and pluck out their eyeballs.
All hail Huxwkwux and the Crooked Beak of Heaven.
Squat Club are launching their highly anticipated album Corvus this Saturday the 20th of February, 2010 at The Bald Faced Stag thanks to those delightful chaps at The Bird's Robe Collective.
If you haven't heard these guys, ensure you correct this by clicking HERE now. I won't bother hiding how much I love these guys. They are the best band I have seen come out of Sydney. Fuck it, lets go further: these guys are quite easily one of my favourite bands of all time. You may have heard the members playing in the likes of Ebolie, Anklepants, THE BZNZZ, The Bakery, Captains or Shirlow (all undeniably cool bands in their own right).
Their style mixes crushing polyrhythmic Meshuggah metal with early epic King Crimson prog, beautiful layered soundscapes that bring to mind Pink Floyd, the inanity of Battles and the sheer psychedelic mindfuck of The Mars Volta.
They are playing their LAST GIG EVER this Saturday night with the awesome Pirate and The Red Corvettes (now named Bessom?). I strongly suggest you attend. I actually decided to flog off my AC/DC ticket (front-most standing section) to catch this gig. It will not disappoint. I think I'm actually more excited for this than I am The Necks, Soundwave or Faith No More. To have a band this unique and this undeniably talented in our own backyard makes me giddy like a schoolgirl.
They are the good ONES man. If you have any fucking self respect you will be there.
Alright, it's another slow new day/week. So here is a list of killer bands you should familiarise yourself with. Be forewarned; most of them are not metal (which shoudn't really bother you if you have a taste in music rather than a taste in one genre).
Brian Campeau: an incredible acoustic singer/songwriter originally from Canadian, but now located in Sydney. Brian has an incredible vocal range matched with a very unorthodox style of guitar playing. His recorded works are influenced by the likes of Thom Yorke and Bjork; balancing soaring emotional vocals with equal parts minimalist acoustic recordings and dreamy atmospheric textures.
Five Star Prison Cell: a totally unique Australian metal band based heavily around the polyrhythmic complexity of Meshuggah with a healthy helping of groove. These guys are further differentiated by an extremely dynamic vocalist. There is definitely no other band like them; and after seeing these guys play last Friday I have to say they are probably the most insanely tight fuck-off musicians I have seen from a band in a long time.
Helm: I cannot say enough good words about these guys. They have taken the high points of Cult of Luna, Neurosis and Isis and transformed those elements into something really unique. Amazing clean sung harmonies accompany anguished screams and an endless back catalog of killer riffs, build-ups and meditations. Musically these guys fucking know how to structure a song. The more I listen to their debut album, the more I begin to realise that it will not take long for these guys to surpass anything Isis and Cult of Luna have had to offer - and considering my love for both those bands, that is not a small statement to make.
Hospital the Musical: the meeting of Botch, The Locust and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Insanely talented musicians making technically obscene, raging hardcore. Now that could sound like a recipe for disaster, but this bands flirtation with the experimental and dedication to constantly pushing their music in new directions make these guys Australia's best band in the genre since The Rivalry. Their new full length REDorphan is fucking amazing.
Looking Glass: these dudes hark back to the days when psychedelic rock ruled the earth with guitar-wielding gods with obscene narcotic-based diets. Without a doubt, this is THE BEST fucking band in Australia when it comes to stoner and psychedelic rock. They take the best elements of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix without ever sounding derivative. Their live presence is absolutely fucking crushing; and once more (as seems to be the theme) their musicianship is impeccable. Guitarist/vocalist Marcus is one of those rare virtuosos on guitar that makes everyone shut the fuck up and stare in disbelief at the maniac hacking at his guitar strings in total aural ecstacy. Fucking check them out.
Pirate: insane psychedelic and progressive rock. These guys are like The Mars Volta... if The Mars Volta were just 4 dudes playing intensely complex prog shit infused with such incredible groove-hooks and catchy rhythms they didn't need a vocalist to back them up. These dudes are relatively new to the Sydney scene; and fuck me if they havent got everyone's undivided attention.
Squid: two drummers, a double-bassist and two saxes busting out insanely catchy beats in stupid time signatures, and then proceeding jam and dance. I don't know what to call this other than a party jazz jam band, but that label hardly does the immensely talented band members any justice.
The band I have ranted about for the last 8 months - Squat Club - are coming to an end. This Thursday the 8th of January they will be playing their final show at Hermann's Bar, Sydney University as their immensely talented drummer Evan (who also plays in Shirlow and Captains) heads overseas.
Joining them on their last show is the incredible psychedelic prog-rock Mars Volta-esque stylings of Pirate and the kick arse tunes of Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes.
Not one you want to miss if you're a fan of progressive or psychedelic music. Pirate are on at 8:00pm so you want to be there for that. Squat Club should also have an album out "sometime". A wank-y description of Squat Club's unique music to follow.
**SQUAT CLUB: as a 4 piece consisting of a drummer, bassist, piccolo bassist and eukekele/guitarist, Squat Club are one of the most unique, talented and exciting bands to emerge out of Sydney in recent memory. Their style is akin to the amalamation of Eastern/Secret Chiefs 3 influenced polyrhythmic structures with Meshuggah, early King Crimson, Pink Floyd and other assorted 60s and 70s psychedelic/progressive groups and a slight post-rock influence.
Squat Club combine brilliant progressions with mind-twisting rhythm changes and a beautiful jazz-tinged dynamic drumming feel akin to Jon Theodore's work in Golden and The Mars Volta. If you're a fan of Secret Chiefs 3, King Crimson or a range of avant-garde, post-rock or progressive genres, then this is something you wont want to miss.