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.
ARIA Nominations 2020: Lime Cordiale, Tame Impala and Sampa The Great lead the pack, but OneFour, Tkay Maidza are snubbed
The ARIA Award Nominations for a year (mostly) without live performance are here, with Lime Cordiale and Tame Impala leading the pack with eight nominations apiece. Sampa The Great is also a big winner with six noms, while DMA’s and Miiesha aren’t too far behind on five each. The nominees were announced in a glitzy YouTube livestream hosted by Brooke Boney on Tuesday, with the winners set to be revealed in a live on-stage ceremony at Sydney’s Star Event Centre on Wednesday, November 25 – no physical audience.
As is always the case, there were snubs. Most egregious is Mount Druitt’s OneFour in the hip-hop category – the drill rappers are almost single-handedly creating a new genre of Australian music and collaborating with US rap’s glitterati (A$AP Ferg). The group reportedly did not put themselves forward to be nominated, but the omission is felt. Tkay Maidza’s earth-shattering Last Year Was Weird Vol.2 only got one nomination, inexplicably in the Best Soul/R&B Release category – it is unequivocally hip-hop music, and has turned international critical heads (from the paragons of internet music criticism Pitchfork and The Needle Drop).
The nominations for Best Pop Release feel disconnected from those that actually make music with an intentional pop ethos – Tame Impala and Lime Cordiale take up two slots in the category, while the lucid pop of Banoffee, Eves Karydas, or Wafia go unrecognised.
Powderfinger detail their first album in a decade, Unreleased 1998-2010
Powderfinger have released more details of their first album in a decade, a collection of unreleased material spanning the last 12 years of the band's existence. Simply titled, Unreleased, it's set to feature 10 tracks from 1998-2010 remastered and remixed by the band's longtime producer Nick Didia. The band came across the material while working on a 20th anniversary edition of their classic 2000 album Odyssey Number Five, and according to a press release, they found a total of 50 tracks which they whittled down. The single "Day By Day" is from the sessions of 2003's Vulture Street – which clocks with the gospel-licked chorus – and will open the new album. Unreleased will drop November 25, with pre-orders open now.
It's a shame Powderfinger didn't go the boxset route and release the full 50 tracks; in a press grab, the band say they were always careful to keep their own albums to "vinyl length" – 10 tracks – and even in career "death" they haven't let go of that. What will be most exciting to fans on Unreleased is the tracks that fell between the cracks of the halcyon Internationalist era. Perhaps more experimental tracks that fell by the wayside of their more commercially cautious later records will also appear.
Midnight Oil receive Sydney Peace Foundation's Gold Medal for Human Rights
This week, Midnight Oil were awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation's Gold Medal for Human Rights. It's a gong with some heady alumni – Nelson Mandela, co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Stéphane Hessel, and former UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres – given to those who pursue the betterment of human rights over an extended period with a large impact. They are the first band to ever receive the award.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of one of Midnight Oil's most powerful protests – at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, playing their "Beds Are Burning", their 1987 hit about the theft of land from Indigenous people in Australia, dressed in all black with the word "Sorry" painted on in white. Then Prime Minister John Howard, who had repeatedly refused to apologise for The Stolen Generations and would go on to engineer the Northern Territory Intervention, sat watching in seething rage. The next morning, Howard would tell radio he didn't appreciate the mixture of politics and sport – singer Peter Garrett would retort "that's what they used to say about people who talked about apartheid.'"
Midnight Oil recently released their first song in 18 years – "Gadigal Land" – the first taste of their forthcoming mini-album The Makarrata Project. It's set to feature several collaborations with Indigenous artists.
This Is Serious Mum: TISM are back (sort of)
TISM – the quasi-anonymous alt-rock bad taste masters of the 1990s – have made their first public appearance of sorts since their breakup in 2004. On Wednesday, the band's vocalist Ron Hitler-Barassi released a dose of sardonic political doctrine entitled "The Right Wing Guide to Pleasuring". It excoriates several members of the Liberal Party's far right-wing for their views, particularly on climate change, who prove "you don't need penetration to fuck Australia", and namedrops Christos Tsiolkas for no apparent reason.
Underlined at the very bottom in small text, is the intention to release a live "double" album of their very last concert at the Victorian Earthcore festival on November 27th, 2004 – entitled On Behalf of TISM, I Would Like to Concede We Have Lost the Election. It will feature versions of 31 tracks from across their ramshackle discography, and will be released December 4 this year. TISM also announced the TISM Ultra Deluxe Double Omni-Album – a collection of the track-listing, liner notes, and artwork from all of the group's discography, with vinyl that is pressed with nothing but pure silence. Absurd, but not surprising from a group who once released a single called "I Might Be a Cunt, But I'm Not a Fucking Cunt".
For those unfamiliar with TISM – which stands for This Is Serious Mum – they were a gimmicky Melbourne alternative rock collective that formed in 1982 with members going under ridiculous pseudonyms like Eugene de la Hot Croix Bun and performing in coloured gimp suits. They rose to prominence in the underground and in the alternative major label gold rush of the mid '90s almost won national stardom with their 1995 album Machiavelli and the Four Seasons. They managed to swerve popularity, and continued to work as a cult act until their demise in 2004.
The live music industry's revenue set to drop by over $23 billion by the end of 2020
The live music industry's revenue in 2020 is set to drop by $23.3 billion or 65% from last year, according to the preliminary findings of a bleak new report from EY and The Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF). The prediction was made with the assumption that social distancing restrictions will remain in place until the end of the year. The Economic Cost of COVID-19 on Australia's Live Entertainment Industry also forecasts 79,000 jobs will be lost, with the same assumption on restrictions.
Following the release of the preliminary findings, LEIF chair James Sutherland called on the federal government for the continuation of JobKeeper, a halt on the collection of GST on live events tickets, and a further expansion of the $75million RISE Arts Grant funds – all until the live music industry can operate at full capacity again.
There are issues with these band-aid solutions. The rate of JobKeeper was reduced to $750 a fortnight in September and many in the arts, particularly sole traders, said they were never even eligible for the payment. None of the RISE Arts Grants have actually been dispensed by the government yet, and the guidelines mean individual sole traders or organisations at risk of insolvency are not eligible. A GST exemption is a novel idea for revenue raising, though it remains to be seen how helpful venue owners think it would be.
Aussie Album Of The Week: Blake Scott – Niscitam
Blake Scott of The Peep Tempel's solo debut Niscitam is nothing short of a Gareth Liddiard-level-songwriting revelation. Scott's nails-for-breakfast-voice tears chunks out of the veneer of Australian society, unafraid to implicate himself in the toxic mess that leaks out. "Kalashnikov" is its most sickening male character study, pouring cold water on the banality with which men brush over domestic violence statistics in Australia: "One a week, as we speak, women killed by men in this country… anyway, how good's the UFC?".
The instrumentals are a kind of bush-punk-funk, with shotgun basslines and trebly guitar squawks, while Scott dips into spoken word. He's not as literal as he was with The Peep Tempel, particularly from that band's centrepiece "Carol" – instead, conjuring a maelstrom of oblique paranoia about social issues, parenthood anxiety and colonial cringe.
Aussie Track of the Week: Julia Jacklin – "CRY"
Julia Jacklin's new single articulates the mundanity of millennial sadness with one quatrain: "Trying to hide my depression/From my housemates/ I don't know them well enough yet/To cry in my kitchen". That bottled-up feeling is burst open in the chorus, as Jacklin sends her roommates to bed and croons a "Cry, cry, cry, cry". It's a determinedly simple song, driven only by the Sydney singer-songwriter's quiet chugging strum and the loud-quiet-loud soar of her voice, but that's just what makes it feel perfect.
Aussie Music Tweet of the Week:
Cub Sport win the ongoing competition to out-cute the rest of us with the "How It Started: How It's Going:" tweets.
Also: The full nominations list for the 2020 MTV EMAs has arrived – Now it's time to vote.
Awards season continues, with the 2020 MTV EMAs nominations landing this week (full lineup here). Up for best Aussie act is The Kid Laroi, Baker Boy, G Flip, Tones & I and Hayden James. Have your own say at mtvema.com, with votes open until November 2. The two-hour awards show will air globally on MTV on Monday, November 9 at 7am AEDT.
Main Image Credit: Instagram, OneFour @onefour_official
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.