This article appears in_ The Incarceration Issue _, a special edition of VICE Australia.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A bunch of these reviews were written in partnership with students at Melbourne's Parkville College, a school for young people who are detained in custody. The rest were done by the usual knuckleheads who stink up these pages every month. See if you can guess which are which.
BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
POWER: Electric Glitter Boogie (Cool Death)
It's called Electric Glitter Boogie for a reason and just as Bon Scott's tighter-than-tight Faberges left nothing to the imagination, Power lay down some simple but pummelling boogie rock. The three lads have been involved in some of Melbourne's best punk bands of recent times, including Gutter Gods, Soma Coma, Leather Lickers, Dribble, and Krömosom, but on Electric Glitter Boogie it's the basic but rocking proto-punk that has everyone in a tizz / on the wiz.
WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
TWENTY ONE PILOTS: Blurryface(Fuelled By Ramen)
I listened to the Blurryface album, which is rock music. I hated it, rock isn't my thing and it all sounds weird. Rating 0/10.
BEST COVER OF THE MONTH
EMPESS OF: Me (Dot Dash/Remote Control)
What if Derty Projecter was modarn?? Actually the comparison to Dave Longstreth and Co.'s poly-melodic spring-boarding sells Empress Of short, with the singer-producer flexing with formidable vocal flourishes and beats that often snake into dancefloor territory —even hitting outright banger territory in a few key moments. This is all very good. Fuck, as far as debut full-lengths go, this is probably as flawless as it gets. That do Empress—a me much.
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
GHASTLY SPATS: Spinozism Exorcism (RIP Society)
This looks like some earnest Socialist Alliance 90s crust band from Leeds but what you get is mutated and minted punk rock from Sydney that features some of the Housewives gang. It's a nasty, shouty cacophony that brings to mind unfashionable and iconoclastic music of yore such as Slugfuckers and Scapa Flow. The JB Hi-Fi magazine/catalogue would call this "art punk" but let's not fool ourselves: this is never going to appear in a JB Hi-Fi magazine.
We really thought Dre was done. We're glad we were wrong. Sixteen years after his last studio album, the 50-year-old-almost billionaire returns with Compton, and it's tight. Inspired by the set of Straight Outta Compton, the just-released NWA. biopic, the record features collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and The Game, as well as Dre's long-time cohorts Ice Cube and Eminem. Of course it helps to have the album sidling up next to a blockbuster film but the guy is the richest hip-hop artist ever. He doesn't need this record. Or maybe he does. Luckily the man (and the people involved) has delivered some quality.
BLINK 182 FAN
CHANCE THE RAPPER & LIL B
This is the first Lil B release of 2015, which is definitely a record-long Based God drought. But before we get too ungrateful it's important to note that Lil B was dragged from his burning studio earlier in 2k15, and there was the whole Based God curse (which is demonstrably real) and mainstream media coverage during playoffs. The two weirdo rappers are different cuts of the same cloth, but the collab could be seen as Chance being one of the few commercially successful rappers to pay based homage, guaranteeing him clemency, or even a chance at running mate, once Lil B is elected president in 2016.
KOOL KEITH/ L'ORANGE
Keith Thornton is a bona fide weirdo. He's also a genius. The Bronx legend's latest ultra-magnetic brain tilt is with North Carolina producer L'Orange, who has built a signature sound over the last few years as he works with jazz and old soul beats. Guests MCs include Blu, Open Mike Eagle, Mr Lif, and J-Live, but it's all about Keith, who in 2015 is the oldest, most talented, and most bonkers dude still in the game.
How did this cost only $80 to make? I would probably pay $80 to listen to it if I'd sipped enough Robotussin. Also is Drake a reptilian shape shifter? He's so good at mimicking every style of track he guest-stars on that I'm like, "Is that definitely Drake?" It's like he's the Gary Oldman of the rap game.
LEND ME $80
I listened to Strange New Past by Seth Sentry, which is a rap album. It put me in a relaxed mood. I liked it because it's sort of familiar to my life. Track two was the best.
Becky Sui Zhen's first solo LP opens with a gentle enticement of crashing-waves field recording to make it perfectly clear you are entering the chillest of chill zones. The only thing that Sui Zhen has no chill with on Suddenly Susan is the insane levels of chill, forming a chill wormhole into the chillest alternate universe where the concept of having no chill is completely fucking unheard of. The subtext of what I'm trying to say here is that this album is pretty goddamn chill.
I think KUCˇKA is from Perth and plays some kind of avant-electronic music. But every time I see her name I just think of Plucka Duck, one of the only redeeming characters on the long-running but shit-boring TV program Hey, Hey It's Saturday. Unconditional is pleasant enough but memories of Plucka diving over a spinning barrel are better.
BOURGEOIS AND BESS
There are 12 songs on this album, which is electronic music. It reminded me of Jessie J's "Flashlight." It was nice to listen to. My favourite song was "Run," especially when the girl started singing. This song pumped me up. I didn't like "U Don't Know" as much because it's sad. I think that people who like to dance would enjoy this album.
Some say that Disneyland is America condensed. This is Disneyland on LSD. But Mr Dam, we get it. You've got a bunch of talent and that whole "funk" swagger down. And you can call on Q-Tip to help on your album. Could you just fucking stop? Well no, your carnival continues to roll, the rides get faster, and fireworks become galaxies. Minnie Mouse jumps out of a bush, pulls her head off, and it turns out be Ariel Pink… in drag. All you know is that a lot of time, effort, and money has been pumped into something to let you escape from your sorry existence on planet earth.
BAD GIRL BAMBI
I came into this with a positive mindset and on first listen I was completely enchanted by the smooth, upbeat melodies that somehow sounded halfway between Frank Ocean and Weezer. But by the second and third spin things weren't right. It felt like there was a man standing behind a two-way mirror taking notes and I was enjoying myself because someone had successfully market-researched exactly what album would be successful right now. Is there one song on here that doesn't sound like it could be on a Pepsi commercial? Also the cover is ripped from Mr Muthafuckin' eXquire's Kismet mixtape.
Fuck this, I'm going back to podcasts.
Apparently Slime is the nom-de-plume of producer and multi-instrumentalist Will Archer. This is odd as he's from Newcastle where most wouldn't know a nom-de-plume from their ass. "Your what? Flume? Oh your DJ name! Why didn't you just say? Me little cousin is DJ Monga. He's playing Thursday up at the Two Barrels. You should do warm-up."
Yes Royal Headache are amazing and yes on stage they are full of spastic energy but I also love how during some of the slower moments Shogun sings while sitting at the edge of the drum riser. He holds the microphone up with both hands similar to how a vocalist in a late-80s hardcore band would. Only what comes out is not some clichéd tirade against Reagan but a track like "Wouldn't You Know," a tender and beautiful song. Everyone in the crowd is smiling, even the dudes at the front waiting for them to play "Girls." Just another reason why these guys are some of the best in the business.
Have you noticed how in TV shows the "cool alternative people" always have the worst taste in music? I haven't felt convinced by an alt-heart-throb since Trent from Daria. Every other show sets up pivotal scenes where this person, who is supposed to be awesome, is listening to some amazing young band, and then you realise they're playing a Bleachers song. Producers just need to put a White Walls track in all of those scenes, and go back to trying to get Carnivàle back on the air.
How good is this record? How Adelaide is this record? The six-piece and their noisy folk rock are to Adelaide as what Drake is to Toronto. The record is literally dripping in West End Export. Tracks such as "Boys Home" or "Glass Jaw" are a soundtrack to a big night at the Metro Hotel, shopping at the Central Market, or screaming at the Crows–Port derby. Bad/Dreems only wish they were this Adelaide/good.
Is it only Australians who lose their shit whenever Sub Pop records is mentioned? Sure, some of that early Mudhoney was cool and they released Dead Moon's Dirty Noise, but the Seattle label also did stuff with Band of Horses and the Shins. It doesn't really matter what label puts out a Deaf Wish album though—you know it's going to be tough and uncompromising. So it is with Pain. The difference is that you can now purchase it in an online shopping cart alongside Tad's 8-Way Santa and Lubricated Goat's "Play Dead."
This music would get people pumped. I don't really like this type of music myself, because it's not my style and I reckon it's crap, but it would make people move around out there.
THIS WILD LIFE
This music style put me in a relaxed sort of mood. It's OK. It has an all right flow to it.
"I wanna, I wanna, I wanna be your toilet" isn't something you're probably going to sing first thing in the morning. It should be. While others choose gangsta rap or hard house to ramp themselves up over breakfast, what better way than to chuck on a militantly queer album? How Far Will You Go belongs to the first wave of unapologetically queer music, a big "fuck you" to the fat-cat record execs who'd shun open musos and yet would help themselves to some blow a few hours later. So if you think you're about to have a tough day, let the sexy, unforgivingly gay 70s set the tone for you.
THE MUSCLE GOD
Your local indie record store will file this as "Australian Independent." But if they had more of those dividers and weren't so stingy on the Dynamo tape and label machine it should go under "Gorgeous, Enveloping Guitar Music From Brisbane Featuring The Spencer Family With One of Their Mates."
This album is calmer so it'll make people more calm. I disliked this album, but I prefer this album over High Tension because it has more singing and actual lyrics. It sounds more like music, at least.
No doubt about it, selling banner ads on a Creationism website is a shitty job. But over the last week this record has really helped me out. I'm not a Creationist myself, just a 28-year-old who once held a good mid-level sales position at a startup. Starting my own CrossFit business turned out to be a bad decision. But I'm back at the desk / on the phones and these Austin punks, with their hoarse shouty punk that at times remind sme of Parquet Courts, are helping keep my chin up. Thanks guys.
Putting on a wet rash vest is tough. And once it's on it's moist, cold, and restricting. That's the feeling I get when I listen to Destroyer. No matter how many times I try to get into it, it never gets any easier. It's been four years since Dan Bejar released a record. Who knows what he's been doing in that time. Maybe re-reading all the gushing press over Kaputt, which ultimately set himself up to fall on his ass with Poison Season.
GARDENS & VILLA
Yes moving all your shit into a new place is a royal pain in the arse. But it's a satisfying feeling at the end of the day to sit back on your newly positioned sofa, crack a beer, and marvel that you only smashed one picture frame and scuffed two walls. That's how I imagine Gardens & Villa felt after finishing Music for Dogs. It probably took them a whole day but they're glad they're finished with it.
I was not bored before listening to this album but I changed to bored when I heard it. It all sounds the same. I could not really tell much difference between each song, except some had only instruments and some had lyrics and instruments. This album is OK, but not fast, or exciting, or energetic. More like something you listen to before bed.
This is a slow blues album. It reminded me of music I hear in my church. I enjoyed listening to it and my favourite song was "Brown Skin Girl." I didn't like "Twisten" and "Grovin" so much. It made me feel happy. I would recommend this album to people that are into the blues. Rating 8/10.
LA musician Chelsea Wolfe has said that the songs on this album were inspired by sleep paralysis, the phenomenon in which a person, either drifting off to sleep or awakening, temporarily experiences a total inability to move, speak, or react. I've had it happen a couple of times, and it's almost enough to make you never want to sleep again. We can safely say that Abyss will inspire the listener to sleep like a baby.
ALL THE WEATHERS
I hated this. It did not do anything for my mood. It gave me a headache. I don't like it at all, because it doesn't sound good. It doesn't even sound like music. It sounds like noise. It reminded me of skin-head type of stuff, aye.
HAIRY & THE HORRENDERSONS
As a Four Piece Band
Cured Pink always has been and always will be Andrew McLellan. The Brisbane- based musician / performer has presented a variety of challenging but inspiring music over the years. Here he is teamed up with a band to expand his disjointed and disconnected noise experiments. But it doesn't matter how many people are playing with him: your workmates are still going to hate you for yanking Jamie XX to play this at Friday drinks. But do it anyway. Most already think you steal Tupperware.
The debut LP by Hobart's Howling Gruel is quivering outsider rock that calls to mind the great Pere Ubu and Red Crayola. Next time I'm in Tasmania I want to listen to the track "Vladimir Investigates" on repeat while hiking up Mount Wellington or smoking ciggies outside Wrest Point Casino.
Depending on how much of a TV and film nerd you are you probably already know that Danny Elfman composed The Simpsons theme song, scored most of Tim Burton's films, and was the lead singer and songwriter in Oingo Boingo. He also scored the soundtrack to Clive Barker's Nightbreed, a surrealist cult horror film that tells the story of a subterranean city of murderous, undead monsters pitted against the film's bad guys: humans.
Well nerds get ready to spew some Monster Energy Drink onto your computer screen or Nightmare Before Christmas poster because the long-out-of-print (and creepy) soundtrack has just gotten the vinyl reissue treatment.
HEALTH are like the bros you remember from high school that were super chill to fuck around with then you lose track of them as you grow older, thinking about them every now and then as you regress into your youthful dickhead way of mind hoping that they got their shit together against the odds. Ten years later they turn up after being off the radar for fucking ages after you figured they just spent their time fucking around with videogames and it turns out they've actually got their shit together more than anyone else you know.