A 2018 mixtape: some of the best songs of the year so far
Mount Eerie ‘Tintin in Tibet’: At a memorably harrowing Sydney Festival show, Phil Elverum introduced his new suite of songs with an apologetic air, noting they were all still focused on the tragic death of his late wife Genevieve. 'Tintin...' turns the lens back to the magical and mundane moments of her life with a disarming honesty and vulnerability that makes his forlorn project unlike anything else in contemporary music. He has referred to these songs as “barely music”; in their stark clarity and almost unbearable emotional heft, they may be something better.
Low Cut Connie ‘Hey, Little Child’: If the members of Low Cut Connie moved in next door, you’d probably flee the neighbourhood. That general air of disrepute that their music conveys so viscerally is never more apparent than on this stomper: Adam Weiner sneers with an Iggy-like malice, the drums pound with intent and a positively nasty riff ties the whole thing together.
Brian Fallon ‘Etta James’: The Gaslight Anthem are taking a well-deserved victory lap for the ten-year anniversary of The ’59 Sound but don’t sleep on the singer’s latest solo stuff. ‘Etta James’ isn’t the first time Fallon has written about a jazz icon as a youthful beacon of hope, but it may be the best of his musical homages and also functions as something deeply personal, a rousing, raw-throated thing of pure yearning.
The Beach Boys with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: ‘Don’t Worry Baby’: I’m invoking the list-maker’s prerogative here and ruling that old songs can be counted if they’re given a new coat. This version of the weepily beautiful 1964 evergreen gets the full symphonic treatment but is wise enough not to swallow the song up in bombast and treacle.
Alela Diane ‘Ether & Wood’: Like a beach stone eventually worn down to a perfect smoothness by crashing waves, 'Ether & Wood' feels like the product of a long and natural process. Warm, stately and gently haunting, it’s the high watermark of a record rich in beautifully empathetic songwriting.
Beach House ‘Drunk in LA’: Finding new nuances in their luxurious, slow motion brand of dream pop some thirteen years into a remarkable career, they hit a sweet spot of nostalgia and empathy on this gauzy portrait of a washed-up film star.
CHVRCHES ‘Wonderland’: Having famously embraced Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed America for its ‘four bangers and then a lot of ballads’ tracklist template on its debut, Love is Dead instead saves the brightest, most spectacular fireworks for last with ‘Wonderland’. A sugary pop confection blown up to epic proportions, it’s over the top in the best possible way.
Mitski, Xiu Xiu 'Between the Breaths': Combining the throbbing intensity of Mitski's work with the clattering electronica of Xiu Xiu, this inspired collaboration also takes in the swirling shoegaze of M83 in a pop song that both whispers and soars.
The Goon Sax ‘She Knows’: The Go-Betweens comparisons are perhaps inevitable for a band that features the offspring of Australia's greatest ever group as frontman, but there are also winning echoes of The Feelies and Jonathan Richman in the nervy, chugging ‘She Knows’.
Snail Mail 'Heat Wave': The anachronistic name is something of a fake out here; there's something very of the moment about the uncertainty sketched out across 19-year-old Lindsey Jordan's debut record. An acutely observed and confidently realised snapshot of vulnerability and boredom.
Jeff Rosenstock ‘USA’: The centerpiece of a record which shows all the urgency of its eight-day recording, the sprawling ‘USA’ is an anxious yet invigorating beast and the best punk mini-epic since Titus Andronicus’ ‘A More Perfect Union’.
Header photo: Man Alive!