triple j Unearthed's 10 Quiet Achievers of 2015
It's Mid Year Report time! All this week, triple j, Double J and triple j Unearthed are looking over the best tracks, albums, moments, and milestones in music from the last six months.
Zan Rowe is helping you shape your Hottest 100 draft picks early with her fave tracks. Home & Hosed's Dom Alessio handpicks the biggest moments in Aussie music. Double J tells you all about the albums that matter most (so far) and we’ll also look forward to the next six months with the most anticipated albums still set to drop in 2015.
Check out all the Mid-Year features at the bottom but now we look at 10 of triple j Unearthed's biggest Quest Achievers.
This year’s already been a big one for a stack of artists who’ve uploaded their original music to triplejunearthed.com. Six months into 2015, and we probably don’t need to remind you about acts like Vallis Alps, Tired Lion or Black Summer, because there’s a good chance you already know heaps about ‘em.
That said, it’s also been a really prosperous time for a bunch of Unearthed artists who aren’t household names just yet – but they’re well on their way. These are the real quiet achievers of triple j Unearthed: artists you should be more aware of, making songs you didn’t know you didn’t know you needed in your life.
You’re about to meet ten standout acts who all excel at what they do – whether it’s the innumerable hooks of Brisbane’s BUGS or Jahnne’s knack for producing flat out dancefloor #hits. You might have slept on them for the first half of the year, but you’ve still got until Christmas to catch up on some of 2015’s biggest talents. Huge shout outs to these quiet achievers:
Samuel Dobson – 'Coda'
How many dudes you know rap while playing a double bass? Not many. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from Sydney emcee/composer Samuel Dobson – the unexpected. The artist formerly known as Shazza T flipped the script in a big way this year by reverting back to his birth name and teaming up with parts of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to work on his magnum opus – a concept album following the final 24 hours of a drug addict. ‘Coda’ is the first ‘scene’ we’ve heard from that release. A raw yet complex shard of storytelling that fleshes out with every new bar. If you’re into character-driven hip hop like Kendrick Lamar, you need to get around Samuel Dobson.
Bugs – 'Best Friend'
Has there been a better opening line to a song this year than “I miss the smell of your hair even though you changed your conditioner”? ‘Best Friend’ might just be the anthem for Sensitive New Age Guys right around the country and the brains behind Bugs, Brissy dude Connor Brooker, is the pick of the bunch. Like so many great bands before him, Bugs started as a side-project from his usual gig fronting Sunshine Coast surfies Pro Vita. But after peppering our hearts with grungy serenades all year, I think we’re both ready to take this to the next level.
Heart Beach – 'Away'
Tasmanian ocean-pop trio Heart Beach have had the Unearthed team mesmerised since uploading the trudging, hypnotic ‘Away’ back in January. A full albums worth of quality material has been released between now and then but, like the suck of dark nights tide, we keep getting drawn back to ‘Away’. Bandmates Jonathon McCarthy and Claire Jansen tell us they make their best music when they start “with a bass riff so it’s this heavy, droney sound”. Listening to ‘Away’ it’s hard to argue otherwise. It gives the track an unshakeable spine that - when coupled with those duel-vocals and swirling feedback overhead - lingers long after the time is up.
Clea - 'Polyester'
‘Polyester’ is one of those rare songs that doesn’t need more than an acoustic guitar and a voice to sound fully formed. Clea’s voice is haunting, her fingerpicking sparse and deft, and her pensive, mournful wordplay a cut above captivating. Laura Marling is the easy comparison, but the roots run deeper: you can hear shades of the fragile genius of Joni Mitchell, and of more understated modern songwriters (David Mead’s excellent 2004 song ‘Nashville’ springs to mind). As hippy-dippy as it’s going to sound, you should close your eyes when you listen to this one. It’s just better that way.
The Hard Aches – 'I Get Like This'
I’ve heard it posited that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. FALSE. Turns out it’s through his ears. ‘I Get Like This’ brings my #feels to life like a Pulp Fiction needle to the chest. It’s emotional immediacy comes from the desperation in singer Ben David’s voice, the honesty in his lyrics, the simplicity in his chords, and yeah maybe the f-bombs play a part too. This is the sort of anthemic punk rock that leaves me in a state akin to that of a teenage girl at a One Direction concert; crying, fist-pumping, and adamant that mum and dad will never understand what I’m going through. The Hard Aches may not have the luscious hair of 1D (drummer Alex Upton is pretty close though!) but they too should be filling stadiums.
Edward Francis – 'Braver'
Given that the title is ‘Braver’, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Francis explores some pretty brave sonic territory on the title track to his February EP. Prepare to feel a little challenged, but in a good way: Francis’ vocals are filtered through tremolo and reverb pedals, and a stray saxophone meanders underneath most of the song’s duration. That is, until it all explodes in a flash of synaesthesia about four minutes in – the flourishes of horns, percussion, keys and that vocal topline come together in unison and exuberance. Not only is it a neat trick, it’s a vital one: suddenly, I promise, the whole thing will make perfect sense.
'Le Pie – Secrets'
When triple j Unearthed made Sydney’s Sarah Fenn – who we now know better by her artist name Le Pie – our feature artist for a week during the month of May she revealed to us that her songwriting is “basically just word vomiting” her life. “I don’t really labour over lyrics,” Fenn explained. “If something’s going on that I don’t really know how to deal with I just write it all down and it’s a song...it’s cathartic, no doubt about it”. Indeed, behind the girl-group pop sheen of Le Pie’s debut tune ‘Secrets’ lies an uncertain heart with Fenn revealing fragments of ache and attraction. It’s all wrapped up with a swirling sound somewhere between The Shangri-Las and The Jesus And Mary Chain and one song from Unearthed that you really need in your life this year.
Life Is Better Blonde - 'Mine'
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a droid returns home from the funeral of his master. With no housework to complete and no conversation to respond to the droid just stands there, lifeless. Days went by like this, until dust began to settle on the furniture and the droid’s cleaning program engaged. He dusted the couch, where his master sat and told stories of the war. He dusted the table, where his master kept a photo of the son that died in that war; the son that his master had modelled the droid after. He went to dust the organ, where his master had taught him to play – but something went wrong. He retracted his duster and sat, then without processing a byte of information he began to play..and sing...and...feel! His feelings became a song, and many years later he uploaded that song to triple j Unearthed. Or something like that.
Mangelwurzel – 'My House'
You ever been into one of those carnival-style haunted houses? Mirrors, explosions, jack-in-the-boxes? If you have, Mangelwurzel's party song 'My House' is going to give you weirdly specific flashbacks. A wonderfully odd collective from Melbourne, the six piece deal in hypercoloured freak outs, bizzare-o time signatures, and the howling chucky-doll vocals of singer Cosima Jaala. 'My House' is all of those things and a little bit more, a daring and darling bit of pazz or jop or whatever you call the kind of songs that fall somewhere between jazz, pop, and party. All aboard the S.S. Mangelwurzel.
Jahnne – 'Life In Irrational Fear'
‘Life In Irrational Fear’ came to us in January, the second release in a number of months from slow-burning Melbourne beatpainter Jahnne. It’s one that’s stayed with us too - coming in at 8 minutes and 21 seconds, the progressive house number definitely earns its crown as the longest song on this list. But it also might take home the gong for ‘Track Most Likely To Have You Dancing Uncontrollably On The Bus’. Like that episode of Animorphs where Tobias gets stuck as a majestic hawk, there’s darkness and elegance in equal amounts here. Go the journey with this and who knows where you might end up.
Check out the rest of triple's 2015 Mid-Year Report