Keeping up with any kind of news this year can be tough. Even music news is getting stranger and harder to track. Rather than exhaust yourself trying to swallow an endless stream of push notification updates, MTV Australia have knocked up a bite-sized rundown of the most important happenings in the Aussie music biz this week – and every week – and why they matter.
Archie Roach is set to be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame
Archie Roach is set to become only the fourth Indigenous Australian inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame since it began in 1988 at this year's ceremony. The legendary singer-songwriter issued a statement acknowledging the role of his music and activism in a changing conversation around First Nations people in Australia: "People have grown, they understand a bit more about things, about First Peoples in particular. I feel more Australian now, I feel more part of the broader community rather than a sub-group or a subculture." Though much of the music Roach has released over his three-decade strong career has been important, his debut album Charcoal Lane remains the touchstone for any discussion of his impact – "I am glad that I was among the first people that opened up about that and began that conversation," he said.
The news arrives around the 30th anniversary of Charcoal Lane – an occasion Roach plans to mark with an intimate rerecording of the entire record, entitled The Songs of Charcoal Lane. Out November 13, it's shaping up to showcase sensitive new arrangements, with Roach's voice taking on the gruff of late era Bob Dylan, with a lot more soul. The political relevance of the songs this many years after its release is stark – a resurgent Black Lives Matter movement in June highlighted the outrageous number of Indigenous deaths in custody, 26 years after the 1991 Royal Commission into the issue. The number sits at 434 since 1991 as of June this year.
Midnight Oil bassist Bones Hillman dies, aged 62
Bassist and co-vocalist of Midnight Oil, Bones Hillman, died aged 62 over the weekend in Milwaukee after a long battle with cancer. Hillman appeared on the band's first album in 18 years, The Makarrata Project, released just last month – he had played bass and sang on every record since 1990's Blue Sky Mining. In a statement announcing Hillman's passing, the band described him as "the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade".
Hillman was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1958, where he would grow up and play in a string of local bands including the Swingers, Masochists and Suburban Reptiles. He eventually made the inevitable musical pilgrimage to Melbourne where he lived with Neil and Sharon Finn – Hillman's reputation led the Oils' Rob Hirst to seek him out and ask him if he would replace then-bassist Peter Gifford in the band. Hillman thought it was a joke at first, but Hirst convinced him of the reality by giving him a then-unreleased copy of Diesel and Dust, telling him to rehearse it.
In Midnight Oil's long hiatus over most of the 21st century, Hillman relocated to the US, where he became a sought-after session player in that nation's south – his playing can be heard on some of Sheryl Crow's latest output.
As a beautiful obituary by Andrew Stafford in the Guardian highlights, Hillman was as much a steady bassist as the harmonic opposite to Peter Garrett's odd vocals – he sings the stunning backing on "Blue Sky Mine" and "One Country". Hillman is survived by his partner Denise.
Melbourne and Sydney get government-backed summer music festivals to make live music outdoors, but might it be boring?
As Victoria inches closer to COVID normal, so does the possibility of actual live music. This week, the state government announced a $17.2million package to help restart the creative industries, with the bulk of that funding ($8million) to go towards bringing cultural events outdoors this summer. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl will lead the music side, as it gets a festival of sorts – Live at the Bowl – which will run more than 40 performances from January to March next year. A lineup for that is yet to be announced.
It mirrors a similar announcement of Sydney Festival's return yesterday (November 12), which will construct a special stage at Barangaroo Reserve, dubbed The Headland, to make room for larger crowds even with capacity restrictions. That stage won't see much contemporary live music though – it'll predominantly be theatrical or alternative presentations of music, including some tribute shows. The festival's 'Allowed and Local' program will pick up the slack, with a takeover of some of Sydney's venues with artists including Alice Ivy, E^ST, Christine Anu, Sui Zhen, Urthboy, Emily Wurramara, Birdz and Ngaiire.
There is reason to be skeptical about these programs. Because of uncertainty around COVID restrictions, the commercial summer festival/gig season as we know it is cancelled for 2020/21. These events, and any more to be announced, are heavily or entirely government-supported events. They don't really serve the arts community's return – I'd argue they aim to provide the appearance that the industry is getting back on its feet for PR purposes. They will be attended by well-to-do-adults, not young music fans, and be for all intents and purposes, soulless. What is meaningful support for the industry then? The same things artists and creatives have asked for all year: more comprehensive coverage in Jobkeeper and no strings attached grants given in a timely fashion.
The Avalanches to make a rare TV appearance on The Sound this week
The Avalanches are set to make an extremely rare TV appearance this week on the third episode of Season 2 of the ABC music show The Sound. The plunderphonics duo have pre-recorded a performance of their single "Interstellar Love" with Leon Bridges – the former filmed at the Melbourne Planetarium, while Bridges performed from Fort Worth in Texas. It's set to air on ABC TV from 6pm AEDT on Sunday November 15.
Due to the nature of The Avalanches' sample-based music, they've made a sparing amount of TV performances in their career. Their classic 2000 debut Since I Left You was a slow burn success internationally, and so they weren't on the Late Show circuit; their second album Wildflower in 2016 shirked the small screen again as its high-profile features were difficult to organise for one-off gigs. In fact, the only TV performance by The Avalanches I can find in the archives is from 1998, when they performed some of their earliest material on Recovery. This music is wildly different to what most people know from the band – it's a goofy attempt at melding their prodigious skills on the turntables with the rap rock of Beastie Boys. Nearly 22 years later, the Avalanches carry considerably more mystique – the choice of venue for The Sound riffs on the galactic themes of their forthcoming third album We Will Always Love You, inspired by the romance between writer Ann Druyan and her late husband, the American cosmologist Carl Sagan.
Aussie Album Of The Week:
Gregor - Destiny
Gregor is an artist patchworked from several different eras – a '60s croon, sprawling '70s prog arrangements, '80s mononymous stage name – packaged together with a genuine sincerity that is rare in the internet age, where homage is almost always ironic.
Destiny sees Gregor become something grander than the cheerful indie of Silver Drop, with an ever-shifting stylistic thread. The production of each song has the splendour of a two minute pop hit without a single track clocking in below four; a picked bass and saw synth give the whole album a rich sonic boom. It begins with a lullaby ("The Rock (and the Stars)"), balloons out into hazy psychedelia ("Senseless"), and ends like a chopped 'n' screwed remix of itself ("A Night in Neptune").
Aussie Track of the Week:
Mere Women - "Romantic Notions"
Sydney post punks Mere Women have returned three years after their excellent 2017 album Big Skies with "Romantic Notions", the title track from a fourth album due out March 2021. The tenderness of that album has been replaced by a sludgy rage; Amy Wilson's clarion vocals chafe against erratic, discordant guitar, with words about the unbalanced control inherent in love.
Aussie Music Tweet of the Week:
Crowdfund this innovation right now – and abolish the four pack immediately.
Written by Josh Martin, a Melbourne-based freelance music and media writer with words in MTV Australia, NME, Junkee, Crikey, etc. Follow him on Twitter @joshuamartjourn.