Friday, October 10, 2008

The Aussie Pop Round Up - Spring/Autumn 2008

I have done my best to keep an eye on the local pop scene despite my travels and I've been bursting to comment on a number of recently released tracks. First on the agenda is the debut solo single of Australian Idol runner-up and ex-Young Diva, Jessica Mauboy. "Running Back" is a breathtaking slice of urban pop complete with a guest appearance from Flo Rida! I love the haunting chorus and the synths that bookend the song are a nice touch. The production (courtesy of Audius - who has come a long way since fobbing off rubbish like "We Can Try" to Paulini) owes a large debt to Timbaland & Co without sounding like a cheap imitation and most importantly, showcases Jessica's beautiful voice superbly. The song is already #13 on downloads and looks set to climb into the national top 10 when the physical single is released on Saturday. If I'm not mistaken that would make Jess only the second Indigenous Australian to score a top 10 hit since Jimmy Little - way back in the 1960s! Check out the cheap and cheerful video clip here.

I first wrote about RAEN way back in May 2007 where I referred to them as Australia's forgotten girlband - a title the girls have well and truly outgrown. While the band's higher profile contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, RAEN have reinvented themselves with a fabulous new sound (think Booty Luv with a dash of The Saturdays thrown in for good measure) and moved to the UK to try their luck. "Drama Fanatic" is a catchy dance tune with fun lyrics and a seriously camp video. I notice the girls are doing a lot of shows around the UK and I'm hoping to catch them later this month. Check out their Myspace for more details.

It's taken Jade Macrae exactly one year to release the follow up to "In The Basement" (my 8th favourite song from 2007!) but it's been worth the wait. "I Wanna be In Love" is a sparkling mid-tempo jam that effortlessly jumps upon the Rihanna/Chris Brown urban pop bandwagon. The mix of synths and guitars is inspired, the lyrics are sweet and Jade looks like pure sex in the cheap arse video. I highly recommend the poptastic BP Remix, strangely labelled "Whole Lotta Love" on iTunes. If you like "I Wanna Be In Love" then definitely check out Jade's recently released "Get Me Home" album.

If I had to choose a favourite song from this bunch it would probably be this. Empire Of The Sun is a side project for Luke Steele (The Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore (Pnau) but if "Walking On A Dream" is any indication they really should give up their day jobs. The Australian electro scene is positively on fire at the moment but no other act has displayed this duo's knack for sweet melodies and catchy pop hooks. "Walking On A Dream" is probably best described as a beautifully crafted electro lullaby with its delicate beats and lilting chorus. Watch the crazy video clip and hunt down Empire Of The Sun's fantastic album.

I love Ness Ness but I wasn't a huge fan of her comeback album apart from the appropriately titled "Perfect". However, I think it's time to reevaluate my stance. There's something strangely comforting about Vanessa Amorosi's voice and "The Simple Things (Something Emotional)" is a good example of what she can do better than anyone else in the Australian music industry with perhaps the exception of Tina Arena - belt out a syruppy ballad and make it feel truly heartfelt. "The Simple Things" boasts some fabulously awful lyrics ("Saw an old friend yesterday who's a big success. Got a Bentley and a Rolex, a Gucci dress") but the pared back production is lovely and Vanessa's voice has always been a thing of beauty. Ness Ness is looking pretty hot herself in the video!

Just when you thought the Australian electro scene couldn't get any hotter along comes Jackson Jackson - a side project of The Cat Empire's Harry Angus. "All Alone" is one of the most original songs I've heard in a long time. In fact, it's like five different songs rolled into one. The song begins with rocky guitars before giving way to electro beats, trippy Eastern wailing and a genuine pop chorus. Every time I hear "All Alone" I find something new to enjoy about it, which is surely the hallmark of a quality record. Watch the suitably funky video here.

I know this has been around for ages but I'm still smitten with Pnau's "Embrace". A killer electro anthem featuring the sultry vocals of New Zealand's Ladyhawke, this gem should have been a massive smash hit and probably would have been with a little promotion and a video clip. Interestingly, "Embrace" represents something of a reunion for all involved - Ladyhawke and Nick Littlemore (Pnau) were both in the band Teenager, probably best known for the beautiful "Alone Again". It's good to see that their chemistry is still as strong as ever. As much as I love Ladyhawke's album (expect a review shortly), it could have done with something as commercial and catchy as this. Listen to the track here.

Now, this is a real treat. I absolutely worshipped Sirens. They were possibly Australia's trashiest girlband of all time and I devoted several posts to them but I never really expected to see one of the girls sitting at the top of the ARIA club chart - a feat that Zoe Badwi accomplishes this week with "Release Me"! The track is a killer dance anthem with buckets of crossover pop appeal and a killer remix courtesy of TV Rock. Check out the track on Zoe's Myspace. Long live Sirens!

Lenka has come a long way since leaving Sydney for the bright lights of Los Angeles. "The Show" has become a genuine Myspace phenomenon and Courtney Cox even masturbated to one of her songs on her flop TV show "Dirt"! Classy. I'm usually wary of this kind of hype but "The Show" is hard to resist. The combination of the wry lyrics, Lenka's floaty voice and the intricate production is all but irresistible. I suspect a whole album of this kind of material might be hard to swallow but "The Show" artfully treads the line between sweet and saccharine. Be sure to watch the amazing video clip.

Last but not least is my beloved Ricki-Lee. To be completely honest, I was quite disappointed when I first heard "Wiggle It" - particularly when I learnt that it was a reject cut from "Brand New Day". Perhaps I was simply expecting too much in the wake of gems like "Can't Touch It" and "Love Is All Around" but this just seemed like a rushed attempt to cash in on Ricki-Lee's higher profile thanks to her hosting duties on Australian Idol. I'm still not completely won over but "Wiggle It" is a catchy floorfiller with a fun sample of a 90s classic. The video is also pretty amusing and Ricki-Lee looks amazing. Disturbingly, it appears that "Wiggle It" is the first single from an upcoming Greatest Hits compilation. Girl, you've only had two albums!

All songs listed are available to download from iTunes


Robert said...

Great to have you back!!!!!! Raen are amazing! Cant wait to see them live. Although I must say-they're going about it in a confusing way. But its always best to be non-traditional in this day and age methinks. I must send you the track Honey. Its a lot better than Drama Fanatic!

Aaron said...


You like Running Back? I cringe everytime I hear it!

I like Ms Macrae - but the album has an R'n'B version of In The Basement - not the dance version!?!?!

Ness Ness= Great!

Zoe Badwi = Also Great!

Wiggle It = Uuh! It's horrid!

tommie said...

I'm still waiting for your stunning review of Sweden's number one fake Italian ballad-singer (unless he stunned you into a state of shock)!

Helen of... said...

Couldn't agree more in regards to the Pnau track. I must have played it a thousand times and I still absolutely love it!

Poster Girl said...

I've been loving the song, but I had no idea Empire of the Sun were Australian!

I'm glad to hear you ended up liking the Ladyhawke album, even with caveats--I've been loving it recently.

I like the Raen song!

Adem With An E said...

VERY glad to hear you love the Ladyhawke album, I've been so gushy over it for a while now, and as for 'Embrace' - well - one of the absolute pop singles of the year for sure?

Empire of the Sun are incredible; that album has found its way into my top 10 of the year so far. Predictably, I *love* the Van She Tech remix of the single...

I love the Mauboy song. It's classy, it's polished very well and sounds International, but without trying too hard. "Wiggle It" on the other hand... well... it can wiggle off quite frankly. RL's next album (after they do the Singles Collection; WTF?!) better BRING IT. I like the girl a LOT but her music is a mixed bag for me.

Phil said...

I hope you've seen the 'making of' doco of Tina Arena's new album. I am so freakin' excited after seeing it! Check it out if you haven't: Songs of Love & Loss Vol. 2

November 15 can't come soon enough!!

Anonymous said...

Re Indigenous performers, you forgot Casey Donovan who went to #1 in 2004!

Mike said...

Ouch - my bad! Poor, old Casey. I hope she gets her shit together and makes a comeback. Her album wasn't that bad by Idol standards!

Rowland said...

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