Australia

REVIEW: Good Morning - Prize // Reward

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Raquel Dalarossa

Australian duo Good Morning, made up of Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons, have been releasing DIY tapes together since 2014, even getting so far as to re-issue their earlier releases, Glory and long-held fan favorite Shawcross. But even so, with just two EPs and a few other singles out, it may be surprising to learn that they’ve amounted over 11 million Spotify plays for their most popular song, “Warned You.” That is, of course, if you haven’t actually heard them yet.

Good Morning’s music exudes a cozy and charming warmth through every ridiculously catchy guitar riff. Known for experimenting with their recording equipment, techniques, and locations, the band seem to approach their work as true craftsmen, with perhaps a touch of perfectionism. That might explain the slow build up to their overdue debut full-length release, the ten track-long Prize // Rewardthe album’s Bandcamp page reads, “We recorded it for a while (maybe longer than we should have).” But taking one’s time and laying low all the while is a luxury that may well be on its way out for this group; Good Morning seem bound for the same hype that, for example, propelled the band Whitney to indie stardom.

And that’s for good reason. On Prize // Reward, the twosome’s talent for well-written guitar hooks, paired with a certain insouciant flair, is on full display. With songs like “Mirror Freak” and “$10,” their hypnotic guitar lines and vocals tinged with an ever-so-slight twang are endlessly enjoyable. Such an approach places them smack in the lineage of “slacker” rock a la Parquet Courts and Pavement before them, but Good Morning flex these elements in all sorts of ways.

Languid, reverb-y vocals sometimes recall Mac Demarco, especially in a track like “Who’s to Blame,” while a lower-fi framing can bring to mind the songwriting of Robert Pollard, as in “After You.” In the latter, they create a cozy and soft aural texture that sounds like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, but a horn-assisted outro keeps it from getting at all somnolent.

Those kinds of unexpected details allow their music to stretch far beyond the slacker rock label (or any label for that matter). See “For a Little While,” which indulges in a long instrumental interlude that feels like a sort of rumination, with an inquisitive, unresolving bassline, anxious saxophone solos (courtesy of Glenn Blair), and a repetitious piano motif that keeps you in place for perhaps longer than you’d like. It feels both idle and restless.

When a band manages so deftly to meld the original with the familiar, it strikes the magical balance of feeling soul-grabbing at first listen, and rewarding with every return. There’s no doubt good things are in store for Good Morning.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Good Morning - To Be Won

Will Shenton

With the release of their last EP, Glory, Melbourne lo-fi group Good Morning showed an impressively dynamic range. From the soporific opener, "Overslept," to more energetic rockers like "Cab Deg," their unmistakably laid-back style wound its way through ups and downs that gave the album a substantial narrative feel. And now, the down-tempo track "To Be Won" has a video to match.

Set on some kind of ad-hoc soundstage, dimly lit save for the reflections of a hand-held disco ball and a lamp they insist on using like a microphone, very little actually happens in the video. It's an interlude, depicting the band messing around and drinking beer, as if they're still setting up for the shoot. The whole thing is presented through a heavily distorted lens, complete with tracking tears and running primary colors like an old VHS tape—all in perfect harmony with a song that feels like flopping resignedly onto the couch at the end of a long day.

"To Be Won" comes as Good Morning get ready to reissue their Glory and Shawcross EPs on a single vinyl release, which you can pre-order here. They're also kicking off a European tour this September, with updated dates here.

REVIEW: New Venusians - New Venusians

Laura Kerry

Sydney, Australia–based New Venusians has three jazz musicians at its core. Ben Panucci (founding member and the band’s guitarist) studied jazz with Andrew Bruce and Harry Sutherland (now the band’s synth players) at the Conservatory of Music in Sydney, and after meeting Christian Hemara and Meklit Kibret around the local music scene, the two singers’ voices were enough to push the musicians into the fluid realm of neo-soul. After adding two drummers, Jan Bangma and Tully Ryan, to mix, the New Venusians formula was complete.

Though the seven members have impressive resumes—including touring and session musician gigs with Chet Faker and Ngaiire, among others—their only previous release as New Venusians came in 2015, with the single “Keep Running.” Their self-titled debut is proving worth the wait.

New Venusians is a detailed and clever album that covers a large territory of genres, sounds, and moods. Though “neo-soul” is a convenient way to describe a work that contains many soulful melodies and slow but pronounced beats, the album refuses to conform to just one description. Some tracks drift further towards funk (“Keep Running...And Running”), some are more straightforwardly poppy (“Get Along”), and others represent the band’s jazz roots more faithfully (“I Wanna”).

Part of the difficulty of classification (a happy challenge, of course), is that even within well-crafted, cohesive songs, genres shift. In a couple of instances, they shift dramatically; in “Game Change,” for example, a break halfway through signals a move into a spacier, more abstracted version of what came before, and in “Keep Running...And Running,” a moment of silence towards the end leads to a completely different tone guided by a simple but hypnotizing guitar riff. In other songs, though, the mashups are more subtle. Jazzy seventh chords brush against funky basslines and ‘80s pop synths; dance beats underlie slow and soulful vocals; and psychedelic reveries conspire with earthy harmonies and earnest lyrics.  

One of the surprises on an album with such carefully calibrated nuances is the straightforwardness of the lyrics. While the instrumentals are often spacey and free-flowing, the stories they support are direct and of-this-world. “If you're willing to change / Then I will change,” Kibret sings on “Game Change”; “Has anything changed? / Still feel like I’m drowning in your arms,” Hermara sadly confesses in “Sea”; and in “I Wanna,” he expresses impatience with, “I’m swimming in the warmth of your mood / But we're still hesitating.” In an album of sliding sounds, the lyrics provide a graspable entryway.     

Above all, though, the lyrics allow focus to point elsewhere, to the range of meticulous sounds on the album. On the final song, “Here’s Hoping,” the listener can focus on the intimate soulfulness of Kibret’s voice as it skates through interesting phrases. In “I Wanna,” there’s space to spend time with the bright and inviting tone of the guitar, “Game Change” leaves enough room to wonder whether the harmony set against the vocal melody is guitar so warm it mimics the singer’s voice, and in “T.S. I Love You,” there’s time to sit with the tension contained in the sprawling arpeggios. The result of melding three jazz musicians, two soulful singers, and two drummers, New Venusians celebrates the sheer pleasure of sounds and the vibrant formations they can create together.

REVIEW: Gabriella Cohen - Full Closure and No Details

Kelly Kirwan

Gabriella Cohen is an artist who nails the eye-rolling, apathetic-on-the-surface drawl that one of her influences (Lou Reed) delivered all too well. The Australian native has nestled into the genre of garage rock with a lethargic sort of strut, singing along to discordant, guitar-heavy melodies, and flipping between vulnerability and defiance with ease. For an album that's titled Full Closure and No Details, it seems quite rooted in personal material. Cohen is laying her feelings bare against a grungy and reverberating backdrop, and yet delivering it all with tongue firmly in cheek. She may not be naming names and using her latest piece of work as a personal tabloid tell-all, but she is giving us some confessions that resonate with anyone who's been lonely or eager to move on.

Pairing up with her right-hand woman, Kate Dillon, Full Closure and No Details came together in Cohen's family abode in the countryside. A reviewer for The 405 noted during an interview that there seemed to be "very little stress in Gabriella Cohen's bubble, and an overwhelming desire to be happy." It's an observation that complements her music, which seems deeply focused on being real. Cohen isn't about plastering a smile on her face or wallowing. She flows with whatever she's feeling, making her a bad-ass chick worth tuning into.

The song "Downtown" opens with her raw, high-headed pitch, along with a soft, feminine ooh floating in the background, reminiscent of soulful ballads that add a shimmering thread to this grittier genre (“Well I could only forgive you / And tell you I need you … Well I don’t know quite what were you thinkin’ / When you slipped into the stinkin’ hell you brought down on me”). It has a lazily teetering pace, with the weight of lovesickness punctuated by forceful guitars and the occasional off-kilter pitch.

"Sever the Walls" has a livelier pace, its melody introducing a glimmer of surf rock over Cohen’s even-keeled timbre. There’s a stray bluesy guitar riff towards the song's end, while a chorus builds. Eventually the riff skids off the tracks, leaving us with a fading reverb as the vocals cut out entirely. It falls more into the realm of grunge-pop, with shades of psychedelia, as Cohen sings, “Sever the walls with your broken heart / Cut all your ties go back to the start / Close up your eyes and think to a time it was better.” It’s a matter-of-fact delivery, a calm set of instructions for anyone looking for that push to move forward.

At its core, this album is a collection of Cohen's thoughts and feelings looped over a glimmering, grungy backdrop. And what's more interesting or relatable than that?

REVIEW: Carla dal Forno - You Know What It's Like

Kelly Kirwan

As far as titles go, You Know What It's Like hovers somewhere between flippant and lip-twitching amusement, the sort of phrase that either piques your interest or comes across as a dismissive shrug of the shoulders. Is it a slinky nod to a subject we both discreetly understand, or is it an answer to a question on artistry and life that’s too cumbersome to unpack? With Carla dal Forno, it’s likely a bit of both.

The Melbourne-born, Berlin-based musician boasts a vast range of influences in her sonic repertoire. There’s the foundation of post-punk, and its industrial, blasé landscape, and then the adornments of psych muddled with warped effects of dub (along with an affinity for drum machines to propel a chugging beat, almost as an homage to house music). According to her label, Blackest Ever Black, this is an album for “inbetween days, and occupies inbetween states,” and it’s a phrase that shows they know their artist. You Know What It’s Like is an array of songs that feel as if the ferocity and unpredictability of the wild were packed neatly into a glass case. It rumbles beneath the surface, with us well aware that the slightest crack can have the untamed seep into our sedated, sleepy surface.

"Italian Cinema" kicks off the LP, with the scattered notes of a slightly off-key piano dotting a landscape that feels imbued both by a hovering UFO and the hum of cicadas and crickets on a dewy evening. It’s the kind of ambient electronic sound that's prime for misty nights as we veer into late October, a haunted house soundtrack perfected for Halloween. "Dry in the Rain" has a moodier, pensive air about it. There’s hollow percussion and a floating, flute-like note revolving around a metallic twinkle. It’s a slow, relatively sparse track—dal Forno’s apathetic, airy trill carries a lyric-less note, that when paired with the woodwind’s fluttering pitch feels like a lulling call from the Pied Piper. And we follow.

Stream the entire album on Gorilla vs. Bear

The title track, "You Know What It’s Like," opens with a distorted, wind-chime sort of jingling before the drums kick in with a relentlessly steady beat. Carla dal Forno’s voice is far off on the apathetic end of the spectrum—a chant that could very well be conjuring the kind of revenge she references. It’s a ritual of a woman scorned, and you practically see the skies turn grey as the clouds billow in. Her words are an incantation. In interviews, dal Forno has noted that the kind of vengeful power the song suggests is not something she’d ever personally vie for. For her, it's simply a fun, artistic concept to explore beside a haunting melody.

Her album consistently demonstrates an otherworldly ambiance that seems to have one last root grounded on our earth. It’s as if she’s shining a light on the uncanny that surrounds us, the supernatural we’ve always suspected was hiding just out of sight. After a listen, you might just have an inkling of the message she’s sending out into the ether, and perhaps you'll give a knowing nod the next time she intones, You Know What It’s Like.