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Australian Guitar's Fresh Frets: Vol. 6

Siobhan Cotchin
(Image credit: Annie Harvey)

SIOBHAN COTCHIN

SHE IS the future queen of Australian country, fresh out of WA with ambitions high and guitar gripped tightly. At age 20, she sings like she’s lived a generation, raw and rootsy and nothing short of riveting.

SHE SOUNDS LIKE the heart and soul of country’s greatest spun through a distinctly modern web. Her playing is bold and tight and feels emphatically impassioned, and there’s genuine, palpable emotion in every line she roars into the mic. The rawness of her lead tone is subdued by crisp, contemporary production – and that isn’t at all to its detriment; instead, it posits Siobhan as a choice to pioneer the future of Australian country.

YOU'LL DIG HER IF YOU LIKE Kacey Musgraves, Lucinda Williams and Bruce Springsteen – ideally blast from the cassette deck in a beaten-up Jeep as you barrel down the bushlands. If anyone’s gonna write the next A-tier outback anthem, it’s Cotchin.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT any of the ripping four singles Cotchin debuted with in 2020. Whether it’s the dry, dusty twang and heart-on-sleeve howls of “Tear Myself Apart”, the roaring leads and soulful harmonies of “The Fair-Weather Friend Blues”, the scene-stealing solo work on “Do You Know What I Mean?” or the slick and simmering lull of “Just The Way It Is”, you’re bound to find something that’ll make your ears prick up.

BLESSED

Blessed

(Image credit: @VisualsByRazak)

HE IS Australia’s answer to the monolithic rise of the emo-rap empire. Cutting his teeth with low-fi freestyles in the Western Sydney underground, the Ghana‑born luminary rapped as Miracle until rediscovering his childhood love for pop-punk, rebranding and carving out a new path as one of Australia’s most innovative and uncompromising musical forces to break out in the past decade.

HE SOUNDS LIKE a genre-bending genius who should be jamming out his anthems in sold-out arenas. It’s immediately hypnotising the way Blessed fuses dry, crunchy guitar lines with glittering hip-hop beats and warm, droning vocal runs.

YOU'LL DIG HIM IF YOU LIKE Kid Cudi, Lil Peep and Khalid. He’s got Cudi’s acerbic, soulful-yet-understated singing downpat, Peep’s knack for grungy, overdriven guitar-led beats, and Khalid’s youthful spirit – and into it all, he injects a surge of his own inimitable flair, equally brooding and buoyant and all-over banging.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT his fierce and forcible debut full-length, Music Is The Medicine. Though billed strictly as a mixtape, the 12-tracker sounds infallibly sharp and tight, and feels more authentically impactful than most proper albums released last year. Blessed also dropped over 30 loose singles throughout 2020 – our suggestion is to throw them all in a playlist, sink into the couch and spiral off on an hourlong journey of pure sonic power.

AGNES MANNERS

Agnes Manners

(Image credit: Dave Le Page)

THEY ARE an experimental emo-pop outfit from Sydney who deal in poignant and picturesque soundscapes bellied with luminous strings and soaring guitars. Initially the brainchild of artcore trailblazer Matthew Gravolin (formerly of Hellions and The Bride), Agnes Manners is now a fully fleshed-out band ready to bring the beauty and brutishness of Fantasia Famish to life.

THEY SOUND LIKE a night at the opera gone horribly, yet comically wrong, where the resulting night of chaos and calamity takes place entirely within the theatre’s walls. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll have the time of your goddamn life.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE The National, Forgive Durden and Panic! At The Disco. Fans of Gravolin’s work in Hellions will feel especially at home, too – it feels like this is what he was inching the band towards with their last two LPs in particular. Without the boundaries of Hellions’ established background, however, Gravolin is able to flesh his concept out to its full thematic potential.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the aforementioned debut album Fantasia Famish, which takes listeners on a bewitching ride through mountainous peaks and valleys of bliss and bleakness alike. The LP at every turn heady and heartfelt, Gravolin trades the volume and intensity of his former projects for a smokier, more opaquely theatrical dynamic. Don’t take that to mean there aren’t some skull‑rattlingly hectic moments to be unearthed, though...

GOOD PASH

Good Pash

(Image credit: April Josie)

THEY ARE five good mates from Sydney blending summery psych-rock and blistering punk with a nice little sprinkle of sass and wit. They’ve been a staple of the local pub scene since the good ol’ days of 2016; rumour has it that ever since then, scientists have been trying to find a single bad vibe in the air whenever a song of theirs plays. Four years on and they still come up short every time.

THEY SOUND LIKE the “one more beer” that turns a casual Friday arvo out into a bender worthy of the history books. A little scratchy and scuzzy but with a whole lot of spirit, Good Pash dole big, fist-in-the-air hooks aplenty. Pop their tunes on whenever you need a lil’ midweek pick-me-up and you’ll never feel the blues again. (Note: Australian Guitar takes no responsibility for any post‑Good Pash bluesing. Terms and conditions may apply. Always read the label.)

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE The White Stripes, Courtney Barnett, Violent Soho... Basically any band that could make you want to cut sick in the pit and keep a giant smile on your dial the whole time. The quintet shine with their infectious energy and infallible liveliness – not that you’d look at a band named Good Pash and think they’d take things super seriously to begin with, of course. 

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the recent double A-side “Delete Me”/”Get Your Mind On Other Things”. Or if you still haven’t shaken the holiday spirit, they even dropped a Christmas jam (“Fairytale Of New York”) last year!

BERMUDA BAY

Bermuda Bay

(Image credit: Emerald)

THEY ARE Adelaide’s most fiercely funky group of dancefloor deviants, with a red-hot swagger that simply commands your attention. They’ve been playing together since age 14, and with two gloriously groovy, infinitely replayable EPs under their belts (with plenty more tunes to come), it’s without a doubt they’ll soon be taking stages by storm around the globe.

THEY SOUND LIKE a three-day weekend you didn’t know about until the night before it started. It’s still over too soon (like any of Bermuda Bay’s releases), but it’s still better than what you’re used to (like any of Bermuda Bay’s releases). You end it with a feeling of true appreciation (like... You get it).

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Tame Impala, M83 and Last Dinosaurs. Their warm and warbly, ultra-danceable disco-pop gems spur visions of neon lights, glittery bodypaint, and 24-hour kebab shops in perfect walking distance from the club you just spent six hours sweating up a storm in. Their tracks are instant mood-setters – pop one on when you’re getting ready for your next night out and thank us later.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the inescapably rousing Expectations EP, which landed at the tail end of 2020 with the perfect set of slick and suave jams to ring in the new year. Make sure to catch them live, too, where they crank the vibes up to 11 and get a dancefloor raging like a pack of dogs in a butcher’s shop.

GLOWING

Glowing

(Image credit: Christina Lauren (Massolino))

THEY ARE an Adelaidian alt-rock outfit with more raw, untamed power than any golden-era Marvel hero would know what to do with.

THEY SOUND LIKE the musical equivalent of a Final Destination death scene: absolutely unhinged, but impossible to look away from. And then as soon as it’s over (it being either a splatter of gore or one of Glowing’s riffs), you’re already waiting impatiently for the next one.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Jawbreaker, Sorority Noise, and their fellow SA-native pitlords in West Thebarton (or Teenage Joans, or Towns, or... Actually come to think of it, Adelaide is just a great place to be a rock fan right now). If you’re into mid-’00s emo‑punk where angsty and earnest vocals ebb and flow over punishing Telecaster juts and rhythm lines that feel more like they’re subliminally advertising overdrive pedals than rolling out actual notes – where a track can flicker from a sober lull to all-out hardcore chaos in the blink of an eye – then you might just find your new favourite band in Glowing. 

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the five-track frenzy of ruthless energy and volcanic potency they’ve deceitfully dubbed No Fun. Bursting at the seams with thrashing riffs and rip-roaring solos, the foursome waste no time going full‑on apeshit here. It runs just a shred over 15 minutes long, but expect to enjoy hours upon hours of heartfelt headbanging with this mini-monster.

AZIM ZAIN AND HIS LOVELY BONES

Azim Zain And His Lovely Bones

(Image credit: Iana Borodinskaia)

HE IS a Malaysian-born, Canberra-based rock dog with a keen ear for melody and a heartache he wears proudly on his sleeves. Equal parts catchy, charismatic and chaotic, his painfully underrated pop-punk anthems feel like instant classics upon first listen, effortlessly powerful and authentic. He’s well overdue for a mainstream breakthrough – get this man a headlining theatre tour, pronto!

HE SOUNDS LIKE the kind of stuff you’d blast through your car speakers at a truly unsafe volume while you zoom down the highway, trees blurring by as you scream along at the top of your lungs. You’re not necessarily sad, but you need to feel something – day or night, Zain is there to help you with that.

YOU'LL DIG HIM IF YOU LIKE Modern Baseball, Waxahatchee and The Dangerous Summer. There’s a folky twinge to some of the mellower and more melancholic passages that Zain occasionally heads down, but for the most part it’s all about those big, boomy sadcore hooks that make you wanna spin-kick strangers in mosh pits and hug them at the same time.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the massively melodic, jam-heavy emotional gut-punch that is Zain’s long-awaited debut album, Be Good. The ten-track epic plays out like the culmination of a lifetime’s highs and lows, from the volatile buoyancy of “Passenger Seat” and “Holiday Home” to the big, beautiful eruption of passion and catharsis in the seven-minute scorcher “Playing Pretend”. 

RELIQA

Reliqa

(Image credit: Kangiten Productions)

THEY ARE a genre-bending band of misfits from the NSW Central Coast, where the emphatic howls of frontwoman Monique Pym dance delicately over a bed of garish and guttural riffs from shredhead Brandon Lloyd and basslord Miles Knox. 

THEY SOUND LIKE a billion-volt jolt to the eardrums that you’ll never stop craving once you feel it. There’s a base layer of prog-metal to their overarching sound, but they don’t seem to follow any particular stylistic formula. One moment, they’ll be neck deep in a thrashing riptide of down-tuned math licks and ear-splitting blastbeats, and the next they’ll be cantering along with a sliver of almost balladesque beauty.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Northlane, The Beautiful Monument and My Chemical Romance. But if you’re looking for a band that sounds exactly like them (or anything else, for that matter), jog on – Reliqa are truly one of a kind. 

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT their sole release of 2020, “Mr. Magic”. In just over four minutes, the band cram in an album’s worth of punishing metal riffs, keys, strings and layered vocal harmonies, one heck of a breakdown, some dips in pace and detours into stylistic territories that shouldn’t work but immediately do, and even a cool little chant-along bit. And yet, it never feels rushed or convoluted. It’s some crazy black magic they’ve probably made a deal with the devil to pull off... And if we may say so ourselves: totally worth the eternal damnation.