The New Releases Show
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Winner: 2022 Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, Contribution to Australian Music - Radio Programme.
Broadcast across Australia on the Community Radio Network, our nation-wide team do in-depth reviews of new, underground and most often Australian music. Click on the track listings below to read full reviews. Find more of our opinions on our Facebook and the Zedsite.
Blair Martin, Hillfolk, Matt Thrower, Andy Paine, Matthew Lynch, Kieran Ruffles, Jon Cloumassis, Boddhi Farmer, James Chadwick, Judy Jetson, Sean Tayler, Alison Paris, Tristan Birrell, Alex Campbell & Nick Stephan.
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26 May, 2023
On this week’s episode we explore the many soulful changes of Hannah Macklin; Shirely Collins returns to remind us of her incredible legacy in the English folk tradition; The Used screamo, emo and punk their way through the journey that is mental health; and we spend some time with a mopey Meanjin / Brisbane romantic antihero as he pours out his latest, good grief, the new LP by Locust Revival.
Hannah Macklin: Mu (Hopestreet)
Released: June 2nd
- It seems like Hannah Macklin is all about changes. I can remember when she was MKO Sun and then she also had a band, Bastard Amber? She’s also been releasing stuff pretty regularly under her own name, just like this latest, Mu, her label debut for southern, funky, soulful types, Hopestreet Recordings. As per the title, she’s also been making changes to her soul (that’s the metaphysical one, not the musical one), finding the ‘pure awareness’ that Mu is all about and creating on a higher level of consciousness. If the record’s lyrics are anything she’s been doing all that somewhere where you can see lots of stars, so that’s probably not in Brisbane or down in the big metropolises away south; so a tree-change as well? I think there are still other changes ahead, but we’ll need another paragraph to find out a little bit more.
The record gets straight into the spiritual developments with Mono No Aware which is perhaps best translated for our purposes here as both ‘an empathy toward things’ and also ‘sensitivity to ephemera’ or, more precisely, it references the wistful, very Japanese sense of the awareness of the impermanence. “The last of the fading sun / Passes abruptly, then / We are suspended in darkness / Why are things so lovely just before they end? / Our bodies turn to stars.” The song makes it sound like the evanescence trifecta: the transformation to a higher plane of existence, a physical move to a different place and the end of a cherished relationship too; at least in its present form. There’s a lot more of the spiritual stuff to come, like on the very next track, Otherworld, which is again mixing up physical and soulful moves “Out of the city / and into the ether.” Less of a tree-change and more of a change of Macklin’s state of mind, probably both in fact.
I’ve got to commend the orchestration on Mu, it may be my favourite thing about the record. The string ensemble is top-notch, bringing a real richness to the sound and confusing -in a good way- whether this is neo-soul or ‘90’s trip-hop or …something else again. Even Otherworld’s guest-rapper Cazeaux O.S.L.O. sounds better, less tacked-on when he starts singing along with a sweet buzz to the bass line. It also must be said any one of the elements of this record are good: Hannah Macklin has never been a slouch and by now she has a very veteran command of everything in play here.
I don’t generally think about going to the country to find soul music. In my cynical way I don’t think too much about finding my soul on a higher plane, either. The results here are hard to argue with. Hannah Macklin’s many changes have produced another good record, even if it is just the ephemeral record before she moves on again.
- Chris Cobcroft.
ANOHNI And The Johnsons: My Back Was A Bridge For You To Across (Rough Trade / Remote Control)
4:01 It Must Change
Released: July 7th
- The first album in a minute from ANOHNI and it's very easy to hear that, in her words, she has "been thinking a lot about Marvin Gaye's What's Going On." Evocative, oldschool soul.
Shirley Collins: Archangel Hill (Domino / EMI)
02:19 Oakham Poachers
Released: May 26th
- Like many esoteric things close to my heart, Shirley Collins was introduced to me by way of David Tibet, the idiosyncratic creative force behind the experimental group, Current 93. Tibet would wax lyrical in interviews about the genius of Collins, and he was instrumental in encouraging her return to the studio and subsequent Twenty-First Century revival.
Shirley Collins’ career dates back to the late 1950s and whilst she is loosely described as a folk artist, her sound and style are more closely linked to the myths, legends, pastoral tales and traditional songs of olde Albion. Her albums, Anthems In Eden and No Roses, were a major influence on the progressive folk acts of the 1970s, such as Forest, Jan Dukes de Grey and Spirogyra. Beyond this her influence can be felt in folk-horror films like The Wicker Man and, more recently, in the hauntological music of groups like Belbury Poly and the record label A Year In The Country.
Following a painful divorce in the late 1970s, Collins lost the ability to sing, retired from music and faded into obscurity. Gone, but not forgotten, she continued to be championed by artists as diverse as Billy Bragg, who described her a national treasure. In 2016, she released Lodestar, her first album in 38 years, a beautifully bleak collection of songs, whilst the softer, Heart’s Ease followed in 2020. These albums heralded the welcome -but wholly unexpected- return of one of England’s most important musical voices.
Archangel Hill contains thirteen, mostly traditional songs, recorded in 2022, with the exception of Hand in Heart, a live recording from 1980. Recorded at the Sydney Opera House, Hand in Heart captures Collins immediately before she lost her voice and retired from music. Any evidence of Collins’ then imminent personal struggles are wholly absent from the recording and her vocals are eloquent, yet compelling.
Collins back catalogue is a sonic encyclopaedia of traditional English balladry and Archangel Hill boasts several songs whose origins stretch back hundreds of years. Lost in a Wood is from the early Fifteenth Century, and The Golden Glove from the mid-Sixteenth. The Oakham Poachers is a despairing, though beautiful ballad which details the arrest, trial and subsequent execution of a small gang of Eighteenth Century poachers. Recent by traditional standards, The Oakham Poachers is a particular standout on an album with no shortage of highlights.
High and Away, the album’s first single, and Archangel Hill are the album’s only new compositions. Despite this, the two tracks could not sound more different. High and Away is a breezy folk tune, replete with wind effects. Archangel Hill, an ode to the landscape of Sussex, is more spoken word than song. This pastoral vision provides a fitting end to an album rich with the imagery of an England that for most, no longer exists.
Archangel Hill is a relatively conservative record, a fitting companion to her previous release, Heart’s Ease, but far removed from the more experimental stylings of her comeback album, Lodestar. This is not a criticism, but merely an observation, and, in fact, this transition makes sense, given Collins’ age and her statement that Archangel Hill will likely be her last record. It is understandable, that in her final years, she wishes to immerse herself in the traditional songs that have provided a soundtrack to her life, songs which have given her, and her audience, so much joy, songs that will continue to engage, and inspire, long after she has left this mortal plain.
- Nick Stephan.
Elizabeth: Live At Thornbury Theatre (Our Golden Friend)
4:45 Beautiful Baby
Released: 26th May
- One of my favourite, biggest voices in Oz music, Elizabeth, releases a live EP to show that she brings it on stage, at least as hard as she does in the studio.
The Used: Toxic Positivity (Big Noise)
- Misery loves company and Toxic Positivity, the newest release for punk royalty The Used is full of misery and despair. Produced by John Feldman, the band's ninth studio album is dark, raw and uncomfortably honest as it tackles the highs and lows of mental health and wellbeing through a lens that centres on vocalist Bert McCracken. Even the title is a testament to McCracken’s journey with addiction, depression and the shame of pretending everything is always OK.
Starting big, The Worst I’ve Ever Been, is an abrasive and reflective song that opens with a commanding guitar riff and guttural growl. With a catchy chorus and lyrics like “Cue the drugs and violence / Misery is eminent” there is no mistaking the album kicks off at a low point for McCracken. This is followed by Numb, one of the slower and more dejected songs which details the detachment that goes hand and hand with depression.
I Hate Everyone is a relatable, upbeat, electric track with cynical lyrics and a baseline from Jepha that gives the song a heartbeat of its own. Pinky Swear is one of those tracks that has a narrative arc, only in reverse. It starts off loud before it softens to sweeter lyrics and builds once again with instrumental screams and monster guitars.
Headspace begins loudly with an almost primal scream. Fraught with frustrated pleas “Change my perspective, that’s what they say / Like I’m in a car and I could just change lanes”, this song is a clear reflection of society’s criticism that mental health issues are just in your head. The switch up between hardcore and emo with a solid bassline and catchy bridge makes this one a pleasantly unexpected inclusion to the track list.
On first listen, if it feels like there are two different albums rolled into one here, that’s not far off being true. Initially recorded during Covid, the band locked in the first (angstier) half of the record before heading back into the studio eighteen months later to record some additional tracks. The result is two drastically different sounds that have been cohesively blended together to make one full LP that captures the roller-coaster ups and downs of a mental health journey.
With a total of eleven songs over thirty minutes, Toxic Positivity is emotional and enchanting while remaining true to the emo / punk roots that fans are so familiar with. There are plenty of sobering lyrics, in your face instrumentals, earworm hooks and big guitar riffs; and of course it wouldn’t be complete without McCracken’s signature croon to scream combination. Drop in some maniacal laughter and the album really does have everything you would expect from The Used.
- Andrea Peirce.
Bear The Mammoth: Purple Haus (Art As Catharsis)
- First taste of a comeback from the Naarm / Melbourne post-rockers, who're busy rolling in math-rock connectors between surges of guitar that are deliciously like shoegaze. This is a great start!
Locust Revival: good grief (Indie)
4:22 Retcon / 3:26 Harms Way
Released: 26th May
- Having avidly consumed Peanuts comics as a kid, I get a free burst of nostalgia, reading the name of Locust Revival’s latest, good grief, the quintessential existential aphorism of poor Charlie Brown, crushed by life’s disappointments and left to lie in the dust, every time cruel Lucy Van Pelt leaves him there. Could he have grown up to be Steven Schnorrer? The flood of misery and borderline suicidal quips he doles out on the new record say yes, although as far as I know he isn’t bald.
Really the level of relationship-dysfunction snaking, painfully contorted through these songs is (sans-racist nonsense) Morrisey-worthy. Take for instance: “THERE'S NO BETTER PLACE TO BE THAN HARMS WAY / I CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WONT STAY.” There’s also another thread of very final loss, wending its way through the album, as you’ll hear on the title-track: “LOVE IS SO CRUEL / WHEN I CAN’T READ YOUR EULOGY / THESE FOOLISH THOUGHTS OF YOU / THAT ONE DAY YOU'LL BE NEXT TO ME”. Good grief indeed. Finally there’s just rocketing levels of self-hatred. The album’s opening cut, Blood HD is simply the line “COZ I DONT WANT TO LIVE ANYMORE…” repeated over and over again. Well, let’s take a deeper dive, if you dare, into the harrowing Locust Revival.
I read somewhere an apt line from Tal Wallace of doomy Meanjin / Brisbane institution The Steady As She Goes, though for the life of me I can’t find it now. It was something like “Locust Revival, for those who think Robert Smith just isn’t depressing enough.” There’s something to that. I’ve been a little diverted trying to work out just where Schnorrer is, lost among the writhing tentacles that are the different sub-genres of goth music. There’s always been a split between the drum-machine propulsion of darkwave and the more rocking preoccupations of death-rock, but I think good grief might be something else again. Schnorrer’s guitar-work is melodically the sweetest it’s ever been, as a number of folks have noticed. So, a Cure comparison isn’t so off the mark really.
Of course everything is still buried six-feet-under by Locust Revival’s trademark lo-fi production, so you have to do some forensic digging to arrive at such a conclusion. The lyrics are largely indecipherable, though, as usual, Schnorrer has diligently posted them all to Locust Revival’s Bandcamp page, the better for you to feel his pain. He clearly wants to be understood, so I wonder if, on a future release what it would be like to toy with some more hi-fi production. Don’t get me wrong, I love this John Maus type eerie murkiness and such a move is fraught with risk. There’s nothing more dangerous than being genuinely understood; but still, I’m intrigued.
The record is still, largely, an in-house affair for Schnorrer: composed, performed and produced as a solo effort, although I think that’s live bandmate Kelly Spellman adding her vocals to tracks like Harms Way -a welcome addition- and she gets a composer credit on a total of four songs on the record. Also, if you turn up to a live show you’ll get the Locust Revival super-group, adding Ultra-Material’s Matt Deasy to the line-up.
Sweet guitar-lines notwithstanding, good grief is as uncompromisingly bleak as anything in the Locust Revival catalogue. I suppose, as we know, sadness can be addictive, for those who are that way inclined; and I certainly keep coming back for more. Steven Schnorrer, our own little Charlie Brown, is the lo-fi, romantic anti-hero we (and certain far-flung corners of the internet) want and need, even as he takes our arm in a grip that’s just a little too hard and asks: “ARE WE ALL JUST WAITING TO DIE? ENDLESSLY CHAINED TO THESE DAYS WHERE ALL THESE SORRYS ARE PAIN”? That certainly may be and I’ll just leave the final word to Steven: “IT’S MORE MEANINGLESS THAN TOMORROW AND WE JUST WITHER AWAY.”
- Chris Cobcroft.
Divide And Dissolve: Systemic (Invada)
Released: June 30th
- Second advance from the forthcoming album by our favourite combo of haunting soprano sax, monstrous doom and utterly po-faced politics.
Naretha Williams: Into Dusk We Fall (Rice Is Nice / Inertia)
Released: 26th May
- The new album from Naretha Williams is out right now and it sounds quite different to her last one, Blak Mass, 'cause there's no grand organ, to begin with. Still pretty punch electro tho!