NEW MUSIC: Iceage – The Holding Hand

News in today today Iceage have signed with Mexican Summer and released a brand new single ‘The Hold Hand’.

“The song lives in a slurred world, movements are elastically stretched out and strength is found in weakness while you find it hard to tell the difference between fume and matter. Gently the swaying intensifies, feel it escalate. Reach out for the holding hand, it seems almost within scope now.” – Elias Bender Rønnenfelt

Lead singer and lyricist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s voice crawls over slow-marching percussion, and as scorching guitar and Nils Gröndahl’s piercing violin layer in, the song rises to a noisy peak. Listen to the song now + watch the Anders Malmberg directed video below.

NEW MUSIC: Bryan Estepa – Trick of the Light [video]

In 2020, Bryan Estepa released two new songs, continuing on from the success of his exceptional 2019 album Sometimes I Just Don’t Know. The second of those singles, ‘Admit Now, Pay Later’, received a video premiere on Rolling Stone Australia, was featured on NME Australia and had strong national radio airplay – including selection as one of the featured Singles of the Week on 2ser FM in Sydney. 

‘Trick of The Light’, the second of his studio collaborations with multi ARIA and APRA award-winning Australian songwriter Josh Pyke, also sees Estepa working again with director Nicholas Banicevic (assisted by Martin Greguric) to create some swirling, psychedelic imagery to perfectly accompany the song.

Estepa has always had an undeniable ear for hooks. Combined with classic pop and rock arrangements, (like his heroes You Am I, The Beatles and Wilco) his songs always possess a timeless quality. He’s proved it over and over again across six acclaimed albums and live shows in Australia, Japan, the USA, UK, Spain, Sweden and the Philippines. 

On ‘Trick of the Light’, Estepa combines heavenly melodies and a melancholic air on this irresistible slice of indie guitar pop, singing about acceptance, letting go and allowing yourself to feel whatever it is that comes out while you’re treading new waters.

As always with his songwriting, there are layered, poetic brushstrokes in the way Estepa blends and informs his songs with multiple meanings, as he explains. “I like the idea that the presence of light does not necessarily signal happiness or life but can also mean that emotions and perception can be blurred by its appearance.”

Sonically, there’s a beautiful weightlessness to the production and instrumentation that gracefully carries the song. Guitars sparkle and lightly jangle amid some sublime piano, backing vocals and percussive elements that add unique detailing to the melodic richness of the track. Alongside the studio smarts of Pyke, it amounts to yet another sublime example of classic contemporary songwriting from Estepa. 

“Bryan’s sense of melody is really strong which informs everything in his songs. His lyrics are really authentic and heartfelt and for me that’s the key of a good song. From there it’s a matter of pushing the boundaries of what the arrangement and sonics can be, to tell those stories.”  – Josh Pyke

Working with Josh Pyke, Estepa was impressed with the producer’s instinct and ability to enhance the inherent strengths of Estepa’s songs. “It’s exciting watching Josh work! You sense that his creative light is always on and he needs to get his ideas out quickly before it starts to flicker. He takes on what I think the song’s direction might be but adds a couple of detours that are normally right on the money.”

Pyke is quick to reciprocate the praise. “Bryan’s a great writer and collaborator. He’s got a classic pop sensibility but is really open to feedback and experimentation which made my job as producer really fun and free.”

“In the end, I just really want people to hum my tunes and connect with them in some way,” says Estepa enthusiastically.

NEW MUSIC: The Notwist – Sans Soleil

photo by Gerald Von Foris

We’ve always been partial to the music of The Notwist, the way they blend those beautiful sad-eyed vocal melodies with post-rock intricacy and krautrock rhythms. They exist in that sweet spot between song craft and experimental composition, always inventive and beguiling in their art-pop explorations.

‘Sans Soleil’ comes from the band’s first album in seven years, Vertigo Days, out January 29th on Morr Music.

NEW MUSIC: Gim Kordon – Betoni Kukkii

photo by Pia Koskimaa

Aside from the none too subtle nod to the Sonic Youth icon, this is a heavy slab of coruscating guitars, a rhythm section that twists and tumbles with a gnarled density and vocals that careen across the sonic maelstrom with a howling psych rock nihilism. Think Exterminator-era Primal Scream and you’re heading in the right direction with Gim Kordon.

Given they’re singing in their native Finnish tongue, I’ve got no idea what they’re singing but the the title translates as ‘Concrete Blooms’ and singer-guitarist Aleksi Pahkala explains that “Betoni kukkii is a story of how often life growing up in the suburbs is a roll of the dice, a struggle and trying to get by, but also of how a sense of community in even the roughest areas is so often the only thing that provides a sense of security.”

This is the return of the band, six years after their debut album and a sign of new music to come in 2021.

NEW MUSIC: Van Vleck – Morning Page

This recently released track by US group Van Vleck caught our ear with it’s mix of frantic post-punk and a dark gothic sonic aesthetic. It reminded us of everything from Black Angels to Interpol to Sisters Of Mercy in its insistency and doomy yet melodic riffs.

There’s not much else to report about the band, who appear to be a trio who used to operate under the name More and have released the one three-track EP, The Wait, as Van Vleck.

NEW MUSIC: Mt. Mountain – Aplomb

Mantra-like, hypnotic, fluid and rolling. That’s the first impression of Mt. Mountain‘s new track ‘Aplomb‘. It sits in the psych rock camp but it possesses a looseness that’s a defining factor in what makes the song so great. Propelled by some fine bass playing and guitar that is equally important as a rhythmic tool, singer Stephen Bailey intones lyrics over the Krautrock moodiness and warm cymbal splashes below.

The song is the first single from the Perth band’s forthcoming new album Centre (Feb 26th, 2021). The band have shared stages with notable down-under comrades like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and ORB, as well as a long list of international heavy-hitters including Sleep, MONO, Thee Oh Sees, Acid Mothers Temple and Moon Duo.

NEW MUSIC: Cederick Knox – Back In The Box

Cederick Knox hits cosmic mystery mode on this new track ‘Back In The Box’. There’s a shadowy creep to the sound he’s created. Part jazz, part avant-experimentalism, initial drum tracks were recorded with cerebral palsy drummer ​​​’Spack​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Box’, on​ ​top​ ​of​ ​which​ ​a​ ​series​ ​of​ ​players (including members of Squid and Pelican Man) ​ ​were​ ​invited​ ​to improvise. These recordings were then used as raw material for the project.

You can hear the collaborative process at work, elements feeding off each other, sometimes in harmony, sometime in contrast. The end effect is a hypnotic and transfixing one that pulls the listener in, draws the curtains and frees the mind.

FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2020

Despite the weirdness and social and political fracturing of 2020, there were still plenty of great albums that saw the light of day – and that light was a salvation for many. You can check out our Post To Wire (alt-country, cosmic Americana & dark folk) Favourite Albums of 2020 HERE and Favourite AU & NZ Albums of 2020 HERE.

Here are our 40 favourite albums of the year, ranging from alt-country to electronic, ambient to indie rock, post-punk to soul.

* Full disclosure – I worked on the publicity campaigns for the Golden Fang and Buddy Glass albums

40. Khruangbin – Mordechai REVIEW

39. Jessica – The Space Between REVIEW

38. Choir Boy – Gathering Swans

37. Buddy Glass – Wow & Flutter

36. Darren Cross – Keeping Up? REVIEW

35. Cinder Well – No Summer

34. Arbor Labor Union – New Petal Instants

33. Califone – Echo Mine

32. Shopping – All Or Nothing

31. Baxter Dury – The Chancers

30. Luke Vibert – Presents: Amen Andrews

29. Cable Ties – Far Enough REVIEW

28. The Phoenix Foundation – Friend Ship

27. Blake Scott – Niscitam

26. Thurston Moore – By The Fire

25. Makaya McCraven – Gil Scott-Heron – We’re New Again: A Reimagining

24. Billy Nomates – Billy Nomates

23. Brian Eno & Roger Eno – Mixing Colours

22. Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling REVIEW

21. The Bats – Foothills

20. Suicide Swans – Through The Years

19. Bill Callahan – Gold Record

18. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is King

17. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

16. Neil Young – Homegrown

15. Rose City Band – Summerlong

14. Golden Fang – Here. Now Here.

13. Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today REVIEW

12. Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers REVIEW

11. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways To New Italy REVIEW

10. James Thomson – Golden Exile REVIEW

On our favourite AU/NZ album of 2020, Thomson delivers his most accomplished work to date… ‘Sunday Girl’ is the closest Thomson’s got to a pop song, ‘Roll Away The Stone’ is smoky, winding blues, while ‘See The Wheels’ could roll on forever with its effortless groove. ‘Fatal Ribbon Highway’ is a dreamy slow dance, cosmic, heavy-lidded and sparkling and just one example of the diversification Thomson has brought to his impressive songwriting on Golden Exile.

9 Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern

A new name for us and what a way to announce your arrival. Restrained songwriting with some exceptional lyrical content, Die Midwestern is built on poetry of the finest quality, delivered in a wonderful roughed-up country voice.

8. Moodymann – Taken Away

We couldn’t stop listening to this when it came out. Like a mix of D’Angelo circa Black Messiah, soul-jazz and futuristic electronic space funk. It was all in the rhythms, the breaks and the soul of it all. Deep hypnosis par excellence.

7. SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is)

An album (and its follow-up UNTITLED (Rise)) completely of it’s time politically and socially, yet timeless in its blend of soul, funk, r&b, trip hop and more.

6. RVG – Feral REVIEW

Feral found them presenting a fuller sound with even greater depth and clarity in the guitars and the spotlight still firmly on Romy Vager’s declamatory yelp and melancholic musings.

5 Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions REVIEW

For us, Isbell was off his game on his last album The Nashville Sound but here he’s fully resumed his mantle of one of the finest songwriters of his generation. Lyrically and melodically there are gems galore right across Reunions. It was one of those albums that constantly inspired repeat listens throughout 2020.

4. Coriky – Coriky

Coriky are half of Fugazi (Ian Mackaye & Joe Lally) with Amy Farina (The Evens) and it’s the iconic DC band that they swerve closest to in the stop/start, quiet/loud dynamics and lyrical repetition, though it’s a less caustic, more intimate and organic vibe overall. Great drum sound on this damn catchy and gently visceral record.

3. Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death

The Irish quartet sought to find different angles to approach their second album after the success and touring of Dogrel. They were hugely successful too. Widening their palette, going for denser guitar textures and rhythms that dug deeper and with more insistency. The vocals were just as earnest if more detached, observational and aloof. The key success to the album was that they showed they weren’t one trick ponies and look to be in it for the creative long haul.

2. Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways

Once again Bob brought the element of surprise with this immense piece of work. Bold, literary, graceful, funny and highly moving. We thought his muse may have taken an early retirement with the endless touring and American songbook albums taking up his creative real estate. But no, Bob was back, hunched over his typewriter, casting an eye over the last century of pop and political culture, weaving in heartache and devotion. Nobody can bring together universality and the minutiae quite like the master.

1. Young Jesus – Welcome To Conceptual Beach

An intoxicating blend of post-rock and indie rock that in my mind ranged threw up comparisons to Talk Talk, Lift To Experience, Talking Heads, Wild Beasts and Radiohead. This was an album that created a sonic world to escape to, with heady and evocative ideals and some incredible dynamics in the arrangements.