Selection by Jarrod McGrath
7. Cash Savage and the Last Drinks – Good Citizens
This band, and their 2018 release, snuck right up on me and after a few listens I just wanted them to stick around. I’m still trying to work out exactly why they are one of my new favourite acts as they have a bit of a different sound from more of the ‘pop-tinged’ music I am drawn to. One undoubtable reason though is Cash’s raw, honest lyrics. In title track Good Citizens, when she sings “everybody’s moving to the suburbs, and they’re all watching Masterchef”, it’s hard not chuckle whilst contemplating the bigger messages within the song. Musically I’m obviously drawn to the ‘peppier’ tracks such as Pack Animals and Found You but it’s my interest in the slower tunes such as February that make me realise this is a whole album favourite.
6. The Pretty Littles – Skeleton Run
Sticking on the local front, the Melbourne stalwarts gave us their fifth album. Still undeserving of the attention they should garnish, Skeleton Run is testament to the groups unrelenting ethos of cranking out great tunes. Similar to Cash, their lyrics add a whole other layer to their great music. Whilst they may predominantly sound like a classic Aussie pub/grunge act, and use oz expletives, there’s a deeper dimension to their content. Don Dale is the prime example; my initial listens had me thinking it was some kind of aggressive party song with lyrics such as “these cunts doing UFC, and you’re telling me that I’m unhealthy.” But once I realised the connection of the title to the infamous detention centre my whole perspective flipped. There’s a few more acoustic tracks on this album compared to their previous efforts, which does make it a more diverse listen overall and why I’ve included it in an ‘albums’ list.
5. Tokyo Police Club – TPC
The Canadians’ fourth album continues their journey of crossing various boundaries of the guitar rock genre. There are a few heavy moments on this record, and I’m wondering if their previous foray into the world of covers with 2011’s Ten Songs, Ten Years, Ten Days has influenced their sound (ranging from LCD Soundsystem to Miley Cyrus). Ready To Win reminds me a lot of Violent Femmes until it builds up to its distorted faster climax. Daisy Chain has somewhat of a 60’s R&B tinge to it whilst standout tracks Simple Dude and Hercules are classic TPC; just great solid rock songs. What remains is a top collection of well-crafted guitar songs that could fit well in any decade. Now please just get them out to our shores.
4. Laura Jane Grace and The Devouring Mothers – Bought to Rot
Is it an Against Me album? Is it Laura Janes’ debut album? Is it a Mountain Goats cover album? Nah, it’s just a fragging’ great LP from this rock icon. I’ve been a bit of an Against Me fan since their appearances on the Fat Wreck Chords samplers in the early 2000s and solidified my liking for them with 2007’s New Wave. However, it was after reading Grace’s memoir Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout last year that I became somewhat infatuated with Tom/Laura. Yes, you could focus on the transgender identify component of her career, but that’s for the book, and this album brings you straight back to why she is amazing; she is a passionate, talented songwriter and music lover. Made with bassist Marc Jacob Hudson and drummer Atom Willard (Against Me!, Angels & Airwaves, The Offspring), the group apparently started with an album of covers of Mountain Goat songs (some of which I vaguely recall coming up on my Spotify playlist last year). What transpires is an album that’s a mix of all things Laura Jane; folk, punk, rock, metal. My faves include Reality Bites and Apocalypse Now (And Later).
3. Peter Bibby – Grand Champion
It’s somewhat of an apt title for Bibby’s second album, as he has now become somewhat of a champion of the underground Australian music scene. Possibly being hailed and hated at the same time is what makes Bibby so charming, and this theme continues here. Tunes such as Work For Assholes and Pissbird Flowertruck (which coincidentally contains the band name who’s debut album this year just missed out on making my list) tread this line superbly with one being a Bibby love song, and the other a Bibby ethics song. Hippies draws on some more ethics, as Bibby lets us know about “a few things lately that have been shittin’ him right off.” For me though Medicine is the standout track. It’s also probably the most accessible of Bibby’s songs with its pop influences and it’s great to see him expanding on his blues/folk rock sound. He’s funny, smart, annoying, dirty, charming and damn talented so of course this album had to make my list.
2. Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers
OK, Brian Fallon will always be number one in my heart as he writes the types of tunes that I adore, and evokes so much passion, hope and heartache in his voice. Having given him the number one spot on my 2016 list with his previous album Painkillers I felt I had to share the love this time. To be honest, there isn’t anything too new or stand out about this. Some songs such as My Name is the Night (Colour Me Black) and Forget Me Not are a little more reminiscent of his glory days with The Gaslight Anthem. He continues his quieter moments with Proof of Life and See You on The Other Side.
Overall, though, this album is probably a little heavier than Painkillers and may therefore be more pleasing to some of his older punk rock fans. Still, if you’re not already a Gaslight or Brian fan I wouldn’t recommend listening to this album first from my list.
1. Verge Collection – Flaneur
On the other hand, though, is Verge Collection, joining my list of totally underrated Aussie bands and taking out my number one spot. Every time I hear them I keep trying to work out what I love most; the jangly surf influenced guitars, the running basslines, the tongue-in-cheek/bloke-around-the-corner lyrics or the melodies that are so catchy you’re glad they’re not a Canberra cold/flu attacking your weak immune system. It’s a superb debut, as it has a great mix of sounds ranging from the brass driven early single So Vain to the more chilled, lighter closer Last Ciggie. It’s way too hard to list standout tracks and I guess it’s the fact that album sounds like my personal mixtape that I must give it this rating. Just a top bunch of sing along, rock along tunes that hit every part of my music loving flesh and blood. The only frustrating thing is how little they tour or play live, so please do me a favour; check them out and if you agree with me, give them a shout to get their butts out on the road.