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.
AIR Awards under fire for awarding ‘Dance Monkey’ Independent Song of the Year
The 2020 Australian Independent Record Labels Association Awards, or the Aus Indies as they’re colloquially known, were handed out last Friday, with one winner leaving many indie musicians feeling a bit sore. Pop star Tones and I went home with two of the night’s biggest awards – Breakthrough Independent Artist Of The Year and Independent Song Of The Year for “Dance Monkey” – the most streamed song by a female artist ever with over 1.8 billion streams on Spotify alone. Tones is technically signed to an independent label, Bad Batch Records, though this is a branch label of Sony Music Australia who market and finance her music.
The meaning of the term independent in the modern music industry is definitely blurry, and can encompass everything from DIY cassette labels to “corporate indie” branch labels, like Sub Pop. There are some implicit lines that can be drawn however, particularly in the case of pop stars – it’s hard to really view Tones as independent on anything but a technicality. Most importantly, it takes it away from an indie musician of whom it could change their career/life in a gruelling corner of the industry. To Tones, it’s merely another line on a press release next to a package of blockbuster streaming statistics. This is not Tones’ fault – more so the AIR Awards themselves.
Few musicians wished to take the decision on publicly, though a few tweeted. Camp Cope drummer Sarah Thompson said “so much to say re: “independent” music in this country, but I honestly just can’t be bothered anymore. all I know is, if you wanna play the music industry game, do it, that’s absolutely fine, but please dear god stop pretending you don’t. fuck I’m tired”.
Faker, mid-2000s indie kings, are coming back
Nostalgia continues to be 2020’s only salve, with mid-2000s indie stars Faker announcing a possible return this week. Frontman Nathan Hudson posted his intentions to the band’s Facebook page last Saturday, writing that “somewhere in the middle…[of the pandemic] I figured out that I wanted to be in Faker again. So I was…am. More to come.”
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard anything from the band behind millennial karaoke staple “This Heart Attack”. Their last official album, 2011’s Get Loved, ironically didn’t get a lot of love upon release despite its free mp3 download. Faker disbanded in 2013, with the dramatic catalyst being Hudson surviving a near-fatal car accident in New Mexico. In a blog post detailing the incident and the status of the band, Hudson indicated the band had petered out through its revolving door membership, and a dissatisfaction with a “wonderful” record they made with Steve freakin’ Albini. According to a Facebook post at the time, that record was tentatively called Dingo – they even released a single “Comet” exclusive to Soundcloud that has since been taken down. Amidst a pandemic, it’s likely that a new Faker release would draw on these sessions.
Music and the arts get close to zilch in the federal budget
No major increased support for the music industry was announced in the federal budget this week, with the government leaning on the previously announced $250million package of grants and loans for the arts sector. It’s a major disappointment for the industry, particularly following criticism over the fact that none of the $250million has even been spent yet. NME Australia points out the closest thing to an increase in funding for the arts is a slight increase in support for the Australia Council for the Arts and Screen Australia – mainly just to keep it in step with inflation. ABC – the home of triple j – is one of several government arts bodies to get their funding cut.
It’s another blow to the arts sector with the life support machine only half-plugged in, with countless artists missing out on JobKeeper payments this year. Shadow Minister for The Arts Tony Burke and Greens Spokesperson for The Arts Sarah Hanson-Young delivered harsh rebukes in response, with the latter highlighting Scott Morrison didn’t even utter the word “arts” in his budget speech.
“The Morrison Government has failed the arts and entertainment industry and now a generation of artists will be lost on their watch,” Ms Hanson-Young said.
AC/DC drop comeback single “Shot In The Dark”, officially announce Power Up album with classic lineup
After confirming their comeback last week, AC/DC have officially announced a new album, Power Up, and dropped their first single, “Shot In The Dark” this week. The reformed (surviving) classic lineup of Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, Cliff Williams and Angus Young are back to drawing lyrical links between electricity and rock and roll on the same stomping guitar beat and gang vocal that has sustained the band for nearly 50 years. It won’t surprise anyone, but no one ever listened to Acca Dacca to invoke an existential crisis.
The 12 track-Power Up is set to release November 13, with one limited edition featuring something of an AC/DC music box, with built-in speakers that play a portion of “Shot in the Dark”. Significantly, the album is set to feature riff and song ideas from the late Malcolm Young, who passed away in 2017.
As mentioned last week, Rudd and Johnson’s respective returns are somewhat unexpected for, uh, a few reasons. In 2015, Rudd was charged with attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine and possession of cannabis – pleading guilty to all except one charge of threatening to kill. He served eight months home detention. Johnson departed on AC/DC’s last tour in 2016 promoting their most recent studio album Rock Or Bust, citing irreparable hearing issues. He was replaced by none other than Axl Rose, but now it appears that was a stopgap change.
Isol-Aid highlights the intersection between musicians and frontline workers
The not-so-secret reality of the modern music industry is that music isn’t often artists’ full time gig. Many work industry-compatible jobs in hospitality, but the coronavirus pandemic has also shown the surprising amount of indie musos that double as healthcare workers. This week, online music festival Isol-Aid is dedicating its event to this unusual crossover, presented by Gordi – a doctor herself. Gordi will open the livestream on a chat with Dr Emma O’Brien, a performer, researcher and music therapist. Bad Dreems’ Dr Alex Cameron will perform and chat about his double life as a surgeon and guitarist, while Radio Birdman’s Deniz Tek will tell Gordi about his own dual surgeon-guitarist existence.
The festival is also set to introduce Corpus Medicorum, a Melbourne-based orchestra of doctors, medical students and health professionals, to a wider audience. They were founded in 2002 by the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and should make for a curious livestream performance. Non-frontline workers, but equally as important musicians Georgia Maq, Jade Empress, Lino and more will fill out the lineup. It all kicks off Saturday October 10 from each of the artist’s respective Instagram accounts from 1:50pm AEDT.
It’s another great initiative by the online festival who, in the long interim between physical live music and the pandemic, have continued to highlight issues of accessibility or the complexities of the music industry. Earlier this month, they ran a lineup featuring deaf and blind musicians from around the world.
Are Limited Capacity Gigs Worth It? - MTV Australia spoke to founder of Isol-Aid, Emily Ulman, a few months back about the pandemic and the slow return of live music, and how that might present a unique opportunity to reshape the industry.
Aussie Album Of The Week: King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – 'Demos Vol. 1 + Vol. 2'
The incessant prolificacy of King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard makes the release of a demo collection almost disingenuous. Don’t they just leave their fuzz pedals buzzing in some weed-choked Brunswick shed every day of the year? But this 28-track behemoth is the closest we’ve ever gotten to the gory details of King Gizz’s creative process over the last decade.
Many of the demos are radically different in style and sound from their finished versions, indicating how malleable their studio process must be. The Nonagon Infinity and Murder of the Universe material removes the heady sci-fi production, leaving you with feral garage rock; the thrash metal of Infest The Rat’s Nest was conceptualised with tinny MIDI drums; much of the demoed microtonal material sounds like vanilla ‘60s psych. Interestingly, their most recent singles “Honey” and “Straws In The Wind” appear to have been stitched together from lengthy jams – the latter’s demo twice as long as the studio version. There are also some unreleased songs and mastered instrumental jams on here, that showcase a grooving lounge sound – “BIT BIT BIT BIT BIT BIT BIT”, “Music To Kill Bad People To”, “Music To Eat Bananas Too”.
Aussie Track of the Week: Mahne Frame featuring Tohji – 'Sometimes I Try Not To Care'
Tokyo-based, Sydney-born producer Mahne Frame is a member of oddball Kirin J Callinan's band, but his own music manages to be even more misanthropic. His Australian drone delivers youth doomer mantras over industrial electronics that read as harsh, then camp. His latest single “Sometime I Try Not To Care” featuring rising Tokyo rapper Tohji agonises on a desire not to be empathetic – about the state of the world, and those struggling through it. The beat stews on a flickering two-note club synth, leaving you with the same sickly unease as a Gaspar Noé film. Tohji’s low-pitched verse darkens things further, muffling the beat with a muddy inner-monologue. It’s a nightmarish COVID anti-club banger.
Aussie Music Tweet of the Week:
Alex Lahey’s debut entry into food criticism this week proves divisive.
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, @danmonickphoto