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Australian Guitar's Fresh Frets: Vol. 7

King Stingray
(Image credit: Sam Brumby)

KING STINGRAY

THEY ARE a mind-bending musical smoothie of surf, soul, funk and roots on a base of the inimitable Indigenous rock stylings made iconic by acts like Yothu Yindi. Founding members Yirrnga Yunupingu (vocals) and Roy Kellaway (guitar) actually met as toddlers in Yothu Yindi’s touring entourage in the ‘90s, and it’s clear as day that music runs through their families’ blood. 

THEY SOUND LIKE the first sip of a cold beer after a scorching summer’s day in the Australian outback; bold and refreshing, with stacks of character. And, much like a good brew, they improve every music festival they’re present at.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Yothu Yindi (of course), Warumpi Band, The War On Drugs, and feeling the sand slink between your toes as you scale the beach on a warm Saturday morning, taking in the soothing smell of salt water and the sweet sounds of waves crashing over chirping seagulls – then whipping out a surfboard and cutting sick like your life depended on it.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the first two cuts of what we’re certain will evolve into a truly Herculean discography: “Hey Wanhaka” and “Get Me Out”. Few bands have managed to carve out such a prodigious identity with the first two songs they put out, but you’ll only have to jam through them once to find out how King Stingray pulled it off. Of course, that first jam will undoubtedly turn into a second, and then a third, and then a fourth, and then... Well, you get the jist.

HARMONY BYRNE

Harmony Byrne

(Image credit: Isaebella)

SHE IS an earnest and emotive singer-songwriter from Melbourne, whose prickly and impassioned, often understated gems of folky indie-rock transport their listener into a fugue state. Between the beauty of her music and the wisdom of her songwriting, it’s undoubtable Byrne has a long career of dropping jaws en masse ahead of her.

SHE SOUNDS LIKE that rare, hypnotic purgatory state between sleep and wake where one feels more at peace than they do tired – where coherent thoughts form freely, but with a sense of effervescent whimsy and psychedelic radiance often gridlocked by consciousness.

YOU'LL DIG HER IF YOU LIKE Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell, Buffy Sainte‑Marie, and the warm embrace of the Australian countryside, brushing your hands over clusters of wattle as you soak in the candour of the clean air and the sounds of wildlife chittering.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT Bryne’s heartfelt and heady new EP, The Songs I Sing When No One Is Listening. A warmer, more bare-faced follow‑up to her 2020 long-player Heavy Doors (which is also bloody fantastic), the five‑tracker burns slowly with a tangible gravity of hard-earned melancholy. Soundscapes built on deep, resonant acoustic guitars and minimalist atmospherics allow Byrne’s soft and cerebral musings to feel all the more impactful.  

BOYSCLUB 

Boysclub

(Image credit: Brodie Dwyer)

THEY ARE four unapologetically fiery, frantic and ferocious rockers from Sydney wielding weapons in the form of callously crunchy guitars, whiplash‑inducing basslines and concrete-shattering to wreak havoc on the music industry’s long‑ingrained culture of arrogance and bigotry. The band formed at the turn of last year’s first COVID outbreak, and the solicitous angst of the world around them can be felt in their authentically ardent musicality.

THEY SOUND LIKE the rush of euphoria that comes in watching a neo‑Nazi get his shit rocked in public, or the adrenaline of skydiving – knowing that if things went south you’d cop the goriest death imaginable, but having the time of your life nevertheless.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE L7, Clowns, Nitocris, and wearing Vans to political protests so you can still make in time to the abandoned warehouse your best mate’s new hardcore band is christening.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the group’s first sharp and searing release for 2021, “Best For You” – the thick, grungy riffs of which we first heard in January and still haven’t been able to shake from our minds. It follows a trilogy of pit‑ready punk anthems the foursome dropped throughout 2020, with each cut bringing something new – and fittingly venomous, given the customs of chaos and uncertainty in which they dropped – to the table. 

LENS THEORY

Lens Theory

(Image credit: Firebug Photography)

IT IS the deeply emotive and cinematic solo project of Newcastle’s Lennie Edgerton. And though Lens Theory is a relatively new outlet for Edgerton’s bold and bluesy musicality, the singer-songwriter has been doling out the goods for over 25 years, laying down classic rock-influenced gems as a soloist and teaming up with such time-tested legends as Marcus Wright (Big Apachee) and Grant Walmsley (Screaming Jets).

IT SOUNDS LIKE the musical equivalent of a cup of coffee and a cigarette after a long day on the grind; probably not too good for your health in excessive doses, but so damn comforting in a time of need.

YOU'LL DIG IT IF YOU LIKE Joe Bonamassa, Bruce Springsteen, Richie Sambora, and looking wistfully out motel windows at the crack of dawn, one hand perched on the lower frame as you stare longingly at the cars driving by, homesick and hoping one day you find the right person to settle down with, start a family, maybe buy a farm... 

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the latest single “One Night Stand”, which serves as our second taste of Lens Theory’s forthcoming new EP The Road. A slick and sultry ballad driven by sharp keys and grimy electric guitars, the cut is impossibly engrossing and powerfully dynamic, Edgerton effortlessly keeping us on the edge of our seats with every palpably impassioned bar he belts out. 

SPUTNIK SWEETHEART

Sputnik Sweetheart

(Image credit: Claire Louise & Jack Gruber)

THEY ARE a trailblazing quartet of cruisy Canberran indie-rockers with as much a knack for head-noddable hooks as they have for cerebral Floydian guitar passages that twist and twine throughout a mix with spellbinding aplomb. Less than two years into their tenure, they’ve carved out a bright and bewitching sonic identity entirely of their own.

THEY SOUND LIKE coming home from a banging night out at 4am, realising you have a lecture to hit the next morning, and just not giving a f*** because all that matters is that you had fun (but lowkey freaking out a little subconsciously).

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Wolf Alice, Spacey Jane, The Academy Is..., and swapping freely between academic journals and comic books. If you pride yourself on your maturity, but secretly find fart jokes funny, Sputnik Sweetheart will tick all your boxes; after all, they’re named after a Murakami book and build a chorus around the phrase “what the f*** is FOMO?” They contain multitudes.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the ponderous and polychromatic “Rolling”, a track that fittingly saw 2020 out with weighty, emotionally staid lyrics spun through a web of convoluted, yet beautifully meticulous instrumentation. The guitars ebb and flow between tight, surfy stumming and howling solos, with the chemistry between players Zac Bailey and Nette France (the latter also to thank for the track’s sharp and swanky vocal quips) simply incredible.

MADURA GREEN

Madura Green

(Image credit: Harry Allwood)

THEY ARE yet another reason we’re savagely envious of every indie-punk fan living in Adelaide; if these local legends have a single bad track to their name, we’re yet to hear it. The dual-guitar setup of Zach Caporale and Jordan Tito – the latter also on lead vocal duty – blasts through a mix with furious aplomb, striking a dazzling balance between ice-cold, American Football-esque fingerpicking and thick, speaker-ratting shred.

THEY SOUND LIKE the perfect thing to play when a fellow pop-punk fiend passes you the aux cord, but also the perfect thing to bump alone when you just need to zen out with some good ol’ fashion teen-angst-nostalgia jams.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Tigers Jaw, Title Fight, Sorority Noise, and telling your mate you’ll be at their place by 9:15, then not even getting ready until 9:45 because you got carried away reorganising the vinyl collection you voluntarily live below the poverty line to afford.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT last year’s bombshell Spooky Island EP. The six-tracker spans a harshly short 19 minutes, but crams in a surplus of kaleidoscopic emo noodling, mammoth pop-punk riffs and scene-stealing basswork – there’s even a cute little ballad (“Bones”)! Our go-to highlight is “1800”, though, with a bridge that channels Fever-era Panic! At The Disco and Blink-ish drum fills that have us champing at the bit to let loose in the pit.

WAXFLOWER

Waxflower

(Image credit: Mitch Lowe)

THEY ARE a very well-disguised algorithm designed to churn out instantly addictive nuggets of roaring electric leads, thumping bass and ultra-danceable rhythm hooks. There’s no way in hell these songs were actually written and performed by four suburban pop-punk tragics from Brisbane: they’re just too perfectly punchy, energetic and earwormish. 

THEY SOUND LIKE the kind of band that would’ve done gangbusters in the MySpace scene circa 2006. Nostalgia reigns strongly with these prickly pop‑punk stalwarts, but there’s also plenty of modern-age pop sensibility to their short‑and‑sweet blasts of festival-perfect liveliness that make them feel totally relevant. They’re also a major liability for car speaker systems everywhere.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Slowly Slowly, Kisschasy, Columbus (who drummer Daniel Seymour also plays in), and impatiently waiting for Jay Jays skinny jeans to come back in fashion. 

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the one-two punch of recent singles “Again” and “Not Alone”, the former shining with ultra-bright strummage and some heavy-hitting guest vocals from Caitlin Henry (of Eat Your Heart Out fame), and the latter with a hit of tasty ‘90s crunch and an absolutely ripping guitar solo. Both cuts are pulled from their forthcoming debut EP, We Might Be Alright (due mid-April), which is almost certain to make end-of-year lists in abundance.

OSCAR THE WILD

Oscar The Wild

(Image credit: Jackson Thornbury)

THEY ARE an Adelaidian indie-pop powerhouse dealing in big, jammy singalong anthems that are impossible to sit still through. Their soundscapes are dense, dynamic and hugely inventive, and the enigmatic storytelling that each track is built around makes them one of the most captivating young bands in Australia. We’d kill to have a full album of their honest and energetic scorchers.

THEY SOUND LIKE the first road trip you take with a new partner, where every pit stop comes with a new lesson learned and a new memory made. Even the first listen of their tunes will elicit a sense of nostalgia – they are, after all, the band that’s been missing from our lives all this time, and we hope they stick around for a damn long time to come.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Alex Lahey, The Beths, Beach Bunny, and having intimately deep conversations with people you barely know during casual air-hockey games at the local arcade.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the four-minute musical rollercoaster ride that is “My Daisy”, which starts with angelic strums and wistful vocal harmonies before kicking into a summery, ska-tinged pop romp with punky guitars and a wickedly catchy hook. Oscar The Wild nail that lucrative sweet-spot between bubblegum buoyancy and striking honesty, and nowhere is that more prevalent than on their final single of 2020.