Hello and welcome to Week 45 of the Music Roundup!
10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Spa by Icona Pop and Sofi Tukker (2020)- A bit of a dumb, fun song really, but this team-up between the Swedish and Australian house duos is a dance-floor filler through and through with a silly, novelty concept.
2. Sleep Apnea by Beach Fossils (2013)- This short, slow-burning dream-pop number is like coming home late from work on a rainy day, a tired song but one filled with a strange sense of melancholic release.
3. Vendetta by Iceage (2021)- Even harder -hitting than the last single and impossibly catchy, this anti-capitalist post-punk belter makes me incredibly excited for the new project from the Norwegians.
4. The Other Black Dog by Genesis Owusu (2020)- Expect to see many more tracks in the roundup from the Australian musician, as his debut record is filled with incredible neo-soul and experimental hip hop bangers such as the fast-paced, slightly manic The Other Black Dog.
5. Rumpus Room by Xiu Xiu with Liars (2021)- The latest single for Xiu Xiu’s duets record (which will likely be out by the time we publish this article) teams up with no-wave group Liars for an oddly catchy yet utterly deranged song. Imagine a light-hearted playschool jam written for Satanists, and you have Rumpus Room.
6. Don’t Mug Yourself by The Streets (2002)- A simple, slightly silly jam about contemplating calling a girl in an all-night cafe. In other words, classic Mike Skinner.
7. Death of a Disco Dancer by The Smiths (1987)- Given the nature of a lot of the songs I feature here; I was guaranteed to eventually include The Smiths. All the nonsense that is Morrisey aside, Death of a Disco Dancer is a highly worthwhile deep cut, mainly due to the extended and triumphant instrumental towards the end of the song.
8. Machine by The Horrors (2017)- This blending of post-punk and neo-psychedelia results in one of the loudest, hardest-hitting mainstream rock tracks of the 2010s. A real gem, in my opinion, from a vastly underestimated band.
9. Some Things Last a Long Time by Daniel Johnston (1990)- A tragic icon of outsider music, Johnston’s brutally honest songwriting has led him to be an unlikely hero of modern indie music. The piano-driven Some Things Last a Long Time is one of his classics and a beautifully lo-fi love song that thrives through its simplicity.
10. With Crippled Wings by Lift to Experience (2001)- From the bizarre cover art to the album concept (a narrative depicting the second coming of Christ in the new-promise land, the glorious state of Texas) and the fact that a Christian shoegaze/post-rock band even exists leads The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads to be one of the strangest records to ever exist. However, soaring, reverb-soaked epics such as With Crippled Wings has made the record somewhat of a cult-classic within online music communities, and rightly so. It is one of the best examples of modern shoegaze out there.
L.W. by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard- 6.6/10:
After roughly a decade of releasing music and a grand total of 17 albums under their belts, King Gizz once again settle for something a little more familiar on L.W. A direct sequel to last year’s K.G., L.W. continues the fusion of Anatolian rock with traditional psychedelic with mostly good outcomes. I would even say I slightly prefer this LP’s direction, with some of the heavier elements that I enjoy from King Gizz coming through once again. However, L.W. has one too many filler moments and stubbornly sticks to the known territory for the Aussie rockers. Here’s hoping that once again, King Gizz can put out something new and exciting rather than churn out music we’ve already heard before. Still, it’s a testament to the band’s ability that even their weaker material is still pretty solid.
Best track- O.N.E.
Smiling with No Teeth by Genesis Owusu- 9.2/10:
Refreshing, brave and surprisingly profound, Smiling With No Teeth is one of the best albums to come out of Australia in a long while. The Ghanaian born musician hailing from our nation’s capital Canberra of all places draws on a vast pot of influences. I can hear everything from Death Grips to Prince present on this record. From neo-soul to punk rock, it joins a growing gallery of genreless albums that appear to be the gen z formula. While this album could be a little shorter than it is, there is rarely a dull moment present. Lyrically, Genesis Owusu is also pretty sharp, bringing a healthy mixture of personal reflection and political edge, never letting either aspect of his song-writing outweigh the other. If I am being honest, I haven’t had many artists in Australia to get this excited over for a while, so it fills me with joy to see this exhilarating (and still incredibly young) song-writer come out with such a fantastic debut. It’s a wonderfully messy yet deceivingly intentioned piece of music, combining diverse and excellent production with the irresistible charm of the promising musician at the centre of it all. Another gem of a debut in 2021 and a real revelation for the Australian music scene.
Best track: The Other Black Dog
Little Oblivions by Julien Baker- 6.1/10:
Lyrically competent and emotional yet instrumentally a little too predictable, Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions feels like a missed opportunity. Taking on a more expansive sound for her vastest LP, Baker matches the personal singer-songwriter tropes of her previous LPs with soaring indie rock instrumentation to mixed effect. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against basic indie albums; in fact, I have quite the soft spot for them, but Little Oblivions just didn’t do enough for me. The swirling guitars, reverb-soaked pianos and thundering drums have been done a million times before and a lot better as well. When this album does hit its stride (like the solid opening track Hardline), it is a beautiful listen, with these over-blown instrumentals helping to elevate Baker’s personal lyricism, but a lot of the time, these songs just felt too familiar. A well-produced and commendable album, but one I cannot see myself revisiting in the future.
Best track: Hardline
This Week’s Feature- How Much Do the Grammys Really Matter?
With the 2021 Grammys been and gone, Taylor Swift predictably taking home top honours and a myriad of backlash, one might often wonder what kind of importance do the Grammys have? Whilst some fandoms (mainly the toxic stan communities on Twitter) will decide whether their year will be good based upon if the artist they worship takes home a prize or not, others will totally ignore the ceremony, labelling it elitist and a poor reflection of what was actually good that year.
And there is a lot of truth in my opinion in the second statement. The last time the Grammys actually gave the Album of the Year award to the best album of that year was when Arcade Fire took home the prize for The Suburbs. Even in the sub-categories, controversy and outrage are commonplace. Accusations that the Recording Academy is racist and has little to no understanding of African-American musical movements (the category of “Urban Contemporary” was the best indicator of this) have further dragged down the Award’s prestigious status.
In my blunt opinion, the Grammys have simply lost relevancy in the contemporary music era. In a world dominated by streaming which for better or worse is here to stay, a ceremony that celebrates a small collection of visible artists feels redundant and, in many ways, tone-deaf.
That being said, the Grammys have taken on some feedback. This year’s ceremony had better representation, with black women especially being heavily awarded. One could label it tokenistic, shallow even, but it is a step in the right direction.
As stated before, the Grammy’s are not a reflection of the year’s best music. Nor has it ever been, and it likely never will be. In that case, we may ask the question, have the Grammys ever been relevant? Maybe in a day and age where mass access to music wasn’t a thing, and the best way to seek music was to see what was popular. But in 2021, they really aren’t. That doesn’t mean it should stop entirely. These people are entitled to a bit of celebration, and besides, it isn’t really causing anyone any harm. But if it is good, new music you’re looking for, don’t turn to the Grammys.