2SER’s Favourite Releases of 2021 (So Far)
Here are some of your favourite 2SER music shows giving a rundown of their top releases for the first half of 2021!
THE BAND NEXT DOOR WITH CAMERON MENEGONI (Thursdays 10pm-12am)
Zeahorse – Let’s Not (And Say We Did)
There is no denying the combustion power of the four horsemen who hail from the dingy backlots of Sydney and have been throwing warehouse gutter-rock for over ten years. On their third album, they pull out all the stops with fuzzed out stoner punk riffs, slicked with oil washes of heavy psych – barrelling at such a pace, they shift from the mechanical to the maniacal. No time to stop and smell the roses as each passing second we step closer to the dreggy, gurgling Zeahorse curated apocalypse.
New Talk – Time & Memory
The second record from this Perth-based post-punk outfit doesn’t charge out of gates so much as it lures you in with its theatrical start, setting the tone for a record that traces the peaks and troughs of the Australian cultural landscape. The band work in an operatic and artistic mode in these eight tracks, disrupting the idea that post-punk bands are minimalist and emotionless. A true Australian gothic for an era of uncertainty.
Marilyn Maria – 2020 Baby Pt. 1
during one of my many late night Bandcamp rabbit holes, I was instantly blown away by the idiosyncratic power of this pub rock outfit, and just as amazed to find out that they hadn’t actually played a show together yet. There’s no pretentions here – just four like-minded individuals throwing out some pounding rhythms that that’s the perfect soundtrack for a Sydney divebar. But the most exciting about this release is that it’s the first part of hopefully more to come!
JUMPING THE GAP WITH PARIS (Wednesdays 12-2pm & repeated Fridays 10pm-12am)
Ten City – Judgement
It’s been over 25 years since Marshall Jefferson’s soulful Chicago vocal-house project Ten City released an album. While June 2021’s Judgement includes familiar tracks ‘Devotion’, the group’s welcome return is worth it alone for new track ‘Better Man’. In that tune, two duelling, helium-voiced singers (including original vocalist Byron Stingily) argue over who is the more deserving guy for one woman’s attention. On paper it might sound pathetically chivalrous, but flowing from speakers over a jazzy house track, their harmonious sparring is humorous and heavenly and would have me jostling for either of their attentions.
Donnie – The Colored Section
Also on a soulful tip and now expanded to include a raft of remixes from the likes of DFA, Danny Krivit and DJ Spinna, this deluxe edition reissue of the Atlanta soul singer Donnie Jonhson’s 2002 debut boasts a massive 30 tracks. Fans of Marvin Gaye and Donnie Hathaway will also find much to enjoy here, as Donnie navigates songs about African-American life with a voice that is as gorgeous as it is affecting. Like Al Green said, simply beautiful.
THE TUCKSHOP WITH MICK & JULES (Sundays 6-8pm)
Odette – Herald
It seems flat out astonishing that someone so young can produce an album like Herald. Scathing, brutal, but ultimately healing, Odette crafted her second album in a storm of a relationship breakdown and her reckoning with a difficult mental illness. The result is confronting — Odette’s self-examination of and blatant anger at herself powers tracks like ‘Herald’ and ‘I Miss You I’m Sorry’. But on the standout track ‘Amends’, she looks forward for redemption.
Tyne-James Organ – Necessary Evil
It was a cold and wet Friday afternoon in Sydney when Tyne-James Organ shuffled nervously on stage at Sydney’s Low 302, getting ready to churn through some tracks off his debut album for a room of industry execs and hangers-on (I was a hanger-on). Whatever nerves he had disappeared in a moment, as Organ powered through select cuts from Necessary Evil – the Gang of Youths’-influenced ‘Stranger’, the haunting ‘Heal You’, the brash and hopeful ‘Not Ready For Love’. This is incredibly intelligent songwriting, and his knack for carving out indelible melodies is a cut above most.
The Buoys – ‘Bad Habit’
This four-piece from Sydney is really starting to hit their stride. As one of the hardest working bands in Sydney over the last few years, they’ve toured with DZ Deathrays, Spacey Jane, and Pist Idiots, and have garnered a legion of hardcore fans keen to scream back their lyrics to them. Coming in at a tight 3 minutes, this power-pop-punk track is the first track since their exciting 2020 EP All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere, and is again built on pulsing drums, a soaring guitar solo, and golden harmonies that have become the core of their sound. They’re making fans and friends along the way and 2021 is sure to be another big year for them.
Budjerah – Budjerah
This fresh new voice from the coastal town of Fingal Head, the northernmost-point of New South Wales, is a budding superstar that has floored audiences around the country in his short time releasing songs. Through a shared passion for making heart-felt music and a budding friendship, Budjerah has teamed with Matt Corby to release a four-track EP that exhibits a perfect combination of powerful and personal songwriting, musical maturity and a voice that could melt butter. The sky is the limit for this teenager.
DEPARTURE LOUNGE WITH ELCHINO (Saturdays 3-5pm)
STR4TA – Aspects
Gilles Peterson has collaborated with the leader of Incognito, Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick to form STR4TA. This is an intentionally nostalgic band that endeavours to recreate the rhythms of the early 1980s, along with a consciously raw, relatively unpolished production sound. So, on Aspects, their debut album, we find slap bass, propulsive guitar, spare and punchy drums, falsetto harmony vocals, and floaty electric piano. This is dance-floor oriented music that is tight, taut and immediately danceable, but rather than being dependent on electronic instruments relies instead on musicianship and sympathetic production.
Jaubi – Nafs at Peace
Nafs at Peace was composed and recorded over two short sessions at studios in Lahore and Oslo with UK multi-instrumentalist Ed “Tenderlonious” Cawthorne and Polish composer Marek “Latarnik” Pędziwiatr (the sessions also yielded Tenderlonious’s 2020 release Ragas From Lahore: Improvisations with Jaubi). Hindustani classical ragas provide the initial jumping-off point, but the compositions here are almost completely improvised, guided by little more than a shared commitment to finding catharsis and transcendence through music.
Dream 2 Science – Dream 2 Science
Recorded and released in 1990 and now reissued by Rush Hour, Dream 2 Science’s self-titled six-tracker is a revelation – deep, soulful and hard-grooving, it calls to mind the masterful work of Larry Heard, and deserves to be considered a classic not just of house, but of electronic soul at large. Producer Cozmo D (real name Ben Cenac) is highly regarded for his role in pioneering electro group Newcleus, and he later enjoyed international success with his jazzy, garage-inclined Sha-lor project. His work as Dream 2 Science, however, remains little known outside of a hardcore of deep house enthusiasts.
THE OUTPOST WITH VINNY RAMONE (Thursdays 12-2pm & repeated Sundays 8-10am)
Dominic Breen – ‘James Street Tonight’
Dominic Breen has been releasing excellent songs for a while now, as evident by the killer track ‘Ashfield’ from a couple of years back. Following a COVID-enforced hiatus, Dominic re-emerged on the live scene this year (in what industry insiders dubbed ‘The Big DB Comeback Concerts’) with his best song to date – ‘James Street Tonight’. The one-time Avalon Beach artist wears his Grant McLennan influences on his sleeve with this slice of jangle-like thinking guy’s pop, complete with 16 Lovers Lane harmonies. The debut full-length is due out in September and it’s one that’s bound to trouble the end-of-year best-of scorers. Bonus points to Dominic cause he plays a Rickenbacker.
Sivert Hoyem – Roses of Neurosis
Sivert Hoyem is a rock-god in and around the Grunerlokka music scene in Oslo, having fronted Norway’s biggest and most successful band Madrugada since the late ‘90s. Following that band’s initial split, Sivert has been putting out great solo albums, but this year’s Roses of Neurosis 12” EP is his first release in five years. As with anything Sivert does, it’s the quality of his voice that’s front and centre and at times mind-blowing when it peaks on songs like ‘Queen Of My Heart’, often overshadowing the music and the master songwriting itself. Watch out for the reformed Madrugada’s first new music in 14 years, set for release in early 2022. The band sells out stadiums all over mainland Europe and it’s a crime Sivert Hoyem is not huge everywhere else.
Katie Brianna – This Way or Some Other
Local inner-westy via Newcastle songstress Katie Brianna has a new ‘pretty in pink’ record, This Way or Some Other. Independently released on Stanley Records, this is one of the albums of the year. A Golden Guitar nominee, Katie has released two previous albums that ticked all the boxes of great Australian alternative country records. This Way or Some Other sees Katie ascend to the next level and beyond, with production by Adam Young (Daisygrinders, Big Heavy Stuff) and a killer band assembled featuring Adam, along with members of the Cruel Sea, the Clouds and Front End Loader. Think pure pop perfection – The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’, The Bee Gees’ ‘Spicks And Specks’ – now take a listen to Katie Brianna’s latest single ‘Running Disaster’.
STATIC WITH BERKO and MICK (Thursdays 8pm-10pm & repeated Saturdays 8am-10am)
The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings
Back after a five-year absence and a lot of life-changing events, including splitting with their longstanding label and weathering the deaths of both family members and musical icons, Montreal’s psych-pop explorers returned with a 70-minute opus that leaned back into what they do best. From unspooling epics like ‘Christmas Can Wait’ – which takes six minutes just for its drums to kick in – to their reinstatement of ‘The Besnard Lakes Are…’ as an album title template after more than a decade, the record’s meditations on life and death are wrapped up into four themed parts (like all great concept albums should be!). It’s tender and profound, with lyrics inspired by frontman Jace’s dad’s morphine haze while dying of cancer, as well as nods to the passing of his heroes Mark Hollis from Talk Talk (‘Raindrops’) and Prince (‘The Father Of Time Wakes Up’, which went so far as to weave melodies from ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Purple Rain’ and more into its guitar solo). Death never sounded so joyous.
Listen to the “Static” interview with Jace and Olga from The Besnard Lakes here.
Spookyland – Adam Shivering
Finding himself back home and band-less, and after touring the world on his 2016 debut album Beauty Already Beautiful, Sydney’s Marcus Gordon turned to friends and family for the next incarnation of this shapeshifting project. Never shy of an eloquent rumination, he wrote all the lyrics before any music in an attempt to cram his songs with as much detail as possible. And it worked – rich in language, poetry and mythology, Marcus’s nasally drawl wrapped itself around synth-flecked post-punk tales from an outsider watching life from the shadows. Whether it be the voyeur’s view of a late-night swimmer in “Moonlight”, or the post-all-nighter comedown of ‘An Ode To Dawn’ (“All those people rushing to work, I feel like I should salute”), this is a tender triumph from the self-proclaimed rock and roll weakling. Captivating.
Listen to the “Static” interview with Marcus from Spookyland here.
LoneLady – Former Things
Relocating from her birth town of Manchester to record at Somerset House in London, a disused 18th-century naval shooting range with Buckingham Palace as its neighbour, Former Things is a shake-up and re-think for Julie Campbell. While her music has always owed a debt to her label Warp, as well as UK electronic and industrial forebears – Julie revealed that she had been screening herself Cabaret Voltaire super-8 videos while working on this album – Former Things was also infused with a forward-thinking and restless spirit. The buoyant disco-pop thrill of ‘(There Is) No Logic’ felt more in line with Róisín Murphy’s recent dancefloor flirtations, and there was a Minneapolis funkiness to centrepiece ‘Time Time Time’. It was thoughtful, too – the title track examining self-doubt and the passage of time, without offering up some quick-fix solutions in conjunction. In fine form.
DIRT MUSIC WITH STUART COUPE (Saturdays 1-3pm)
I’ve never believed in rating music but I certainly know what I play a real lot. That’s the only rating I think matters – the times you hit Play on the turntable, laptop or CD player. So to that end here’s three releases I’ve listened to a LOT so far in 2021.
Israel Nash – Topaz
This dude has been releasing mighty fine music for just over a decade now and I’ve loved it all – but Topaz is the pinnacle of his output to date. Recorded at his studio in Texas, Topaz is a swirling and beautiful collection of songs and sounds that are wonderful examples of languid cosmic country and psychedelia – with touches of Muscle Shoals country funk thrown in. It’s Neil Young meets that Laurel Canyon hippified sonic palate that Jonathan Wilson perfected on his Gentle Spirit album. Yes, I like it a lot – which is why you’ll continue to hear a lot of it on Dirt Music.
Mick Dick – 10 Dubnamic Hits
My most played Australian album of 2021. At Dirt Music, we love Australian music and dub reggae. Put the two together and you have a certified winner. Mick Dick has taken classic songs from Australia and New Zealand in the 1960s and 1970s and given them a heavy dub workout. So Richard Clapton, Skyhooks, Madder Lake, Billy Thorpe And The Aztecs, Dragon, Daddy Cool, Chain, Blackfeather and a number of others get the treatment. Just think King Tubby Meets Antipodean Rockers Uptown and you’ll get the idea. Digital only release so far but I’d give heaps for a lovely thick black vinyl copy.
The Black Keys – Delta Kream
Dirt Music is a radio show for folk who dig the sounds that have come from the Mississippi Delta for decades. Call it blues, R&B, formative rock’n’roll, really really early punk rock – call it what you will but it oozes spark and spirit and the environment that spawned it. So the Black Keys are paying tribute to the songs and playing of John Lee Hooker, Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Freed McDowell and others on their new album. And it’s not just a recreation of those sounds – the BK’s give everything their own inimitable stamp. Play it LOUD with or without added moonshine whiskey.
2SER MUSIC PRODUCER – JAMES WATSON
The Mountain Goats – Dark in Here
My favourite album of the year so far is Dark in Here by the Mountain Goats. Recorded in the last few days of pre-lockdown 2020, you can sense the dread rushing in these songs: prophets lose the voice of God, evil scientists create monsters in their lab, and cowboys wait for their inevitable death. Frontman John Darnielle hasn’t addressed this type of melancholia so directly since 2006’s Get Lonely, but where that album acquiesced to its sadness, Dark in Here is ultimately an optimistic record, evinced by his backing band who are proving to be one of the best in American indie rock at the moment.
Flock of Dimes – Head of Roses
Close behind is Head of Roses by Flock of Dimes (Jenn Wasner). This is a complex and moody break-up album full of complex time signatures and dense arrangements of horns and synth, that explores love and melancholia in a year of isolation; but Wasner’s cleverness never gets in the way of her ability to write an amazing melody. The guitar riff on ‘Price of Blue’ alone is enough to make this one of the best albums of the year so far.
Mindy Meng Wang 王萌 and Tim Shiel – Nervous Energy — 触即发
My last pick goes to the Melbourne duo Mindy Meng Wang and Tim Shiel for their EP Nervous Energy. Remixing and reworking Wang’s guzheng compositions, Shiel places the sound of the traditional Chinese music at the centre of trip-hop, garage, and ambient tracks into a truly unique sound. A really stunning work that’s the best Australian record of the year so far.