The Scientists, L-Fresh the Lion, Holiday Sidewinder: Australia’s best new music for May

·7 min read

L-Fresh the Lion – Village Boy

For fans of: De La Soul, Jurassic Five, Pusha T

L-Fresh the Lion is one this country’s finest conscious rappers, and Village Boy sees him turning his attention to the troubles of his community, while cribbing a few bars from 2Pac’s Changes for good measure. L-Fresh rhymes over a joyous vocal loop, expertly sliding behind the beat as he raps about the challenges of being young – growing up in south-western Sydney as a minority in a rough area, overlooked by the government and left to fend for himself. Unlike rappers who boast about blowing riches on luxury, L-Fresh lays out his plans to earn that “transform my community money” – very apt for a man who spends his days working at the country’s largest youth drop-in centre.

For more: Listen to his album South West.

The Scientists – Outsider

For fans of: the Stooges, Suicide, the Gun Club

Related: Anita Lane, singer-songwriter who collaborated with Nick Cave, dies aged 61

Thirty-five years ago, Kim Salmon seemingly ran out of luck. The Scientists – a band who’d started life as a punk group in Perth in 1978, found local fame as a Sydney swamp band, and splintered in London – had been persuaded to re-record a bunch of their old songs for an “introductory” album. It would be the final record the group made. Since then, Salmon has emerged as one of our most prolific and polarising musical talents, melding ear-piercing cacophonies with Stooges-style psychedelic dirges in the aptly-named Surrealistics. Outsider is the opening gambit from forthcoming album Negativity, the Scientists’ first since 1986, and is a blast of guttural punk, with Salmon imploring the listener to “embrace all my artistic crimes while ignoring all my real crimes”.

For more: Negativity is out 11 June.

Tiny Little Houses – Car Crash

For fans of: Build to Spill, Silversun Pickups, Modest Mouse

Taking cues from the melodically adventurous indie music that appealed to the bookish and the midwestern in the late 90s, Tiny Little Houses certainly don’t lean on modern production. They also don’t subscribe to the idea that a song can’t be challenging and hooky as hell at the same time. Much like Tasmanian band Luca Brasi, Tiny Little Houses draw on dozens of familiar sounds from times past, but somehow land on a unique sound that doesn’t directly ape any one thing. Frontman Caleb Karvountzis has an incredible voice, melodic and interesting, with a slight twang that betrays his influences. It’s been three years since the band’s brilliant debut album Idiot Proverbs, and Tiny Little Houses have come leaps and bounds in that time. This all bodes well.

For more: Listen to their most recent single, Richard Cory (not a Simon and Garfunkel cover).

The Holy Soul – 747

For fans of: Tropical Fuck Storm, the Church, Rowland S Howard

The Holy Soul follow in the lineage of classic inner-city bands such as the Beasts of Bourbon and the Laughing Clowns – legends that rattled around various pubs no longer open, and on records that kids in the sticks had to mail-order through stores long shuttered. This is the perfect introduction for the uninitiated: a Church-like jangle, menacing tremolo guitars that wash and bite, and a bass/drum combination that sounds like the instruments are tumbling down a staircase. Robyn Hitchcock’s production is clean and bright, and the best the band have sounded to date. Which, if you have delved into their discography, is certainly something.

For more: The Holy Soul’s new album Get Old! is due out later this year. Listen to their last album, The Fortean Times.

Clews – Overluck

For fans of: The Cardigans, Garbage, the DMA’s

Sisters Lily and Grace Richardson’s forthcoming EP deals with that perennial existential question: can you be lucky in life and unlucky in love? They offer up no easy solutions, instead providing a propulsive pop song built on a turn-of-the-century drum loop, sisterly harmonies, and another ear-worm chorus to add to their growing list of anthems. Much like previous single, Want You That Way, this tune eschews their usual crashing guitars for a lighter and brighter touch, with producer Dylan Adams pulling a sugary sound that suggests Clews are about to rush headlong into poppier, punchier pastures.

For more: EP Loveluck Omens is out 21 May.

Tina Arena – Church

For fans of: George, Guy Sebastian, Kate Miller-Heidke

Tina Arena opens this song with an apology. “I forgive you for everything,” she begins, before aiming inwards with a religious cleansing of sorts. This is an extremely cathartic song, dark and crashing, complete with a key change and a choir that cannot drown out Arena’s powerful vocals. Creeping piano, musical theatre orchestration, and a gothic half-time chorus that could easily be at home on an Evanescence album means this could even cross over to the emo kids. There’s something beautiful and unsettling about the whole experience – much like going to church, in fact.

For more: Tina Arena is touring nationally. She will release a new album later this year.

Holiday Sidewinder – Into the Universe

For fans of: Empire of the Sun, MGMT, Mazzy Star

As a teenager, Holiday Sidewinder fronted one of the best bands in Sydney, Bridezilla, which married shoegaze guitars with Nancy and Lee-style dramatics. Her solo work has been even more ethereal, taking the majesty of shoegaze without the walls of guitar, and blending 80s Madonna into the mix. Into the Universe is another beast entirely: the first single from a concept album written and produced with Pnau’s Nick Littlemore. A heady blend of the Flaming Lips’ life-affirming psychedelia, and Kate Bush’s sweeping pastoral pop, this feels like the first step into a fantasy world I’m more than happy to inhabit.

For more: the album Face of God is out 21 May.

Holy Holy – How You Been

For fans of: Pet Shop Boys, Van She, Human League

Another in a long list of Holy Holy songs that should really be retrofitted into John Hughes films ASAP, this is a gorgeous and sensitive ode to the slow, often wayward recovery after suffering severe heartbreak. The falsetto pre-chorus mirrors the Sleepy Jackson, a floating interval comes in before an anthemic chorus that all but guarantees this will be up the pointy end of the Hottest 100 this coming January. As with their sublime 2017 single True Lovers, the only way to end a song this epic is with a ripping guitar solo, replete with triumphant shredding and an overdriven tone even Whitesnake would dial back a bit.

For more: Check out Holy Holy’s recent single Port Road, or their three excellent albums.

Stevie Jean – Menace

For fans of: Joan Jett, Suzi Quatro, the Hives

Squalling and formless guitars open Stevie Jean’s blistering Menace, a beat struggles its way through the din, and two-and-a-half minutes of breakneck punk comes spilling out of the speakers. Jean’s vocals are mixed front and centre, drowning out guitars that blend until they’re muffled. It’s an odd sonic decision, the result being that it seems like Stevie is singing to a band rehearsing next door, but her vocal performance holds court. Breathy threats escalate into violent yelling, a chanting refrain enters and leaves all too soon, and there is very liberal swearing. When she warns she is a menace, you’d best pay attention.

For more: Stevie Jean’s debut album, The Dark, will be out 14 May.

Related: Julia Stone on working with St Vincent and changing her sound: ‘This feels like a first record’

Restless Leg – The World’s a Room

For fans of: the Clean, the Bats, the Stone Roses

Australia is a vast wilderness, but during the pandemic, it suddenly shrank to the size of a single room. At least, that was the shared experience for many of us, and Sydney’s Restless Leg captures this claustrophobia perfectly. Lyrically, that is; musically, this is a jangly, bouncing indie tune, made for wide open roads, and suburban sessions on sunny verandas. Ben Chamie’s vocals are singular and forceful, setting this apart from the Flying Nun songs that share its musical DNA, while Fiona Whalley’s bass weaves between chiming guitars. A top-shelf tune.

For more: Check out previous single, The Wheel It Turns, from their album Dream Buffet, due 11 June.

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