We pick the hottest new live acts so you can tell your friends you heard them first. This week's pick is Northern Territory songwriting dynamo Stevie Jean.
New Music / New Music
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Recorded in just five days between a heavy touring schedule, Stonefield’s fourth album Bent is a triumphant step forward for the band. Written largely on the road, the Stonefield we now meet is worlds away from the four-piece we first met as Unearthed High winners back in 2010. That same classic ’70s sound is still there, so are the big riffs and the powerful vocals, but this time they’ve turned the psych-rock sludge up to 100. Opener ‘Sleep’ is a sludgy, distortion-drenched guitar dream, perfectly setting the scene for a record that doesn’t relent for a single second of its 33-minute run time. The songs on Bent take on the experiences Stonefield have had to battle through across the last decade. Deep diving into serious topics about what it’s like to be a woman, in life and in music, about being misrepresented, belittled, and underestimated – there’s anger there, sadness too, but there’s also an energy and a power that cannot be ignored. If you hadn’t been paying attention yet, you definitely are now.
With her EP Fire On Marzz due for release in a couple of months, New Zealand singer-songwriter Bene has blessed us with, just what might be, our final preview in the form of new single ‘Want Me Back’. A smooth pop-R&B groover, Bene is showcasing her strongest statement yet. Her vocal is absolutely flawless, soaring above the beat, while some cleverly simple production pushes the whole thing forward. She’s garnering ones to watch nods left, right, and centre (including from us) and with a handful of overseas shows locked in, once her record drops we’re certain Bene is a name you need to know.
In their first new material since dropping their debut album last year, UK band Black Honey seems to be dialling down the grungey sound that made English music fans fall in love with them. Instead, they’re opting for more of a retro-tinged melodrama, dripping in opulence and attitude. Cinematic strings, dreamy melodies, and rock’n’roll grooves create something darker and moodier than current fans might be used to, but for new friends might prove to be the perfect introduction.
On album number 19 –and his first in five years – Bruce Springsteen is proving that he is still as fresh as ever. The fact that he has delivered a record that sounds like little else in his extensive back catalogue is truly a testament to his greatness as an artist. Lush, floating strings and sweeping orchestral arrangements layer on top of Western soundscapes to conjure up the isolation, heat, and expansiveness of the American West in a way that is unlike anything else in his catalogue. Lyrically, though, this is still quintessential Springsteen – drenched in a sepia-toned haze, he shares stories of blue-collar workers and lonely hearts, of long desert highways and lonely towns, of people you might know and others you might very well be. You could pick any moment on this record and you’ll certainly be surprised, but start with the title track, we recommend it.
Breakout single ‘Golden Age’ really peaked our attention early last year, but Fergus James’ latest single ‘Back To Life’ has well and truly cemented the young artist as an absolute talent on the rise. It’s three and a half minutes of beautifully constructed pop music. It’s beginnings float along, percussion slowly building in the background, but as soon as it hits, the track goes up to a whole new level. Catchy and anthemic, you can’t help but feel good after hearing this one.
If you aren’t familiar with the Free Nationals, then you very well should be. Best known for providing the slick beats that accompany Anderson .Paak’s tunes, they also make some damn good tracks on their own, and their latest ‘Time’ is one of their best. Recorded in May 2018, the groove-filled track is made even more powerful because of the featured verse from late rapper Mac Miller, one of the first releases we’ve heard since his passing. ‘Time’ also serves as the first release from the Free Nationals since last year, and while a lot of the focus has landed on Miller’s verse, the track is also the perfect showcase of the Free Nationals power – it’s a silky smooth, soulful, stunning listen.
Released for this year’s Record Store Day, Julien Baker’s two new tracks are absolutely delightful. While not particularly new in the Baker fan sense, ‘Red Door’ is our favourite of the pair. It’s become a regular in her live sets over the last few years, and a demo has been floating around for about the same time, but this new studio version truly shows off the track’s beauty. Even more haunting and dreamy than the demo, this is Julien Baker at her emotive best.
On the second taste of her forthcoming second album, Montaigne is more confident and powerful than ever. Her soaring vocal is still here, so is the pop sensibilities that has seen her become such a loved part of the Australian musical landscape over the last few years, but beneath ‘Ready’ there is something new brewing, something that is certain to explode when her record drops. There is light and shade here – clashing percussion against tender piano, huge vocal pushes and more restrained moments– and all of it comes together to reaffirm her status as Australia’s indie-pop queen.
You know when a song kicks in and you’re immediately inexplicably stoked? That’s how we feel every single time we listen to the new track from Sports Team ‘Here It Comes Again’. We’ve heard the band are becoming a much talked about live staple across Europe and the UK, and with shows now locked in for America we think world domination is on their horizon. ‘Here It Comes Again’ radiates a frenetic, buzzing energy that is probably the closest we’ll get to their live show for a little while, but we are more than happy to take it. Honestly, this song is just so much fun and we can’t find any other way to describe it.
We’ve been quietly waiting for new The Hunter Express for a little while now, and his latest single ‘Bad Line’ is exactly what we needed. The second single to come from his forthcoming record, ‘Bad Line’ is a warm and tender moment. Beginning almost bare, a simple melody carries Brad’s vocal into the track as instruments slowly layer on. But it’s the moment the contrasting vocals kick in that we are truly hooked. Their voices weave and blend together over pop-tinged indie-folk melodies, and just when you think you’ve heard every surprise the guitar kicks up another notch.
He’s our New Music feature artist of the week, so of course, we had to gush some more over Tyne-James Organ‘s latest track ‘Something New’. One of our favourite up and coming artists in the country right now, if you aren’t yet acquainted with TJ, ‘Something New’ is the perfect place to start. Shrugging off the delicate indie-pop stylings we’ve heard on his previous three singles, Organ is diving headfirst into rock territory. Gritty and angry, this track is by far the biggest thing he has released so far. Right now, it feels like he is sitting right on the edge of some very big things. Watch this space.