Music Opinion

It's time for Oz music to shine in 2024

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Mark Seymour performed on New Year's Eve accompanied by his daughter, Eva (Screenshot via YouTube)

A new year means new musical discoveries, and IA's music guru, David Kowalski, has some local and overseas suggestions to kick off 2024.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our readers. I hope the holiday season was restful and enjoyable.

Speaking of the new year, it seems to be a holiday tradition in this country to take to social media and trash the ABC’s New Year’s Eve broadcast. The usual whinging and whining about “wokeness”, whatever the hell that is supposed to be (ask someone who uses the term and even they can’t define what it is). The Daily Mail went as far as to suggest the ABC should be sold off, based on its own critique of the broadcast.

This year, we were treated to some new talent from the likes of the bedroom pop of Grentperez, up-and-coming Indigenous legends King Stingray and Barkaa, Sydney-based MC Genesis Owusu and more. As per usual, sibling-led dance-pop group Confidence Man copped a drubbing online, however, in general, the overall tone of the criticism was largely “who are these people?”

I’ve been saying for years that this is not the ABC’s fault that most of the country doesn’t know who these acts are, but rather the fault of the entire media industry not to give Australian artists focus and making it a priority to bring them all into the lounge rooms of Australians everywhere.

We can’t keep trotting out the old favourites, just to shut up the armchair critics. It was genuinely great to see some fresh faces on the broadcast, even if what Owusu does isn’t necessarily my thing. Why, though, were there so many artists doing covers on the night? Former Hunters and Collectors vocalist Mark Seymour doing a version of Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime was pretty cool, but was it necessary to have one of the country’s finest songwriters tackle someone else’s tune?

Charlotte Lock — Tangled in the Wash

On the subject of local music looking for a break, NSW southern highlands artist Charlotte Lock quietly released her debut album Tangled In The Wash digitally just before Christmas with little fanfare. The album is full of songs she has workshopped with a band of like-minded local musicians over the last couple of years, with influences from Julia Jacklin, Courtney Barnett and Sharon van Etten, all recorded in a weekend at a farm-stay-styled studio in Crookwell.

Like pretty much everywhere outside of a capital city, only established artists get to play their original material in pubs and clubs, and so Lock is headed to Perth, not just for a career sea change but to build a new band and for more gigs in the vibrant music scene the city has to offer. The lead single, ‘Tiniest Font’, is a laid-back guitar strum set against urgent drumming and some spacey, ambient keyboards, pushing her crystal clear voice and lovelorn lyrics to the front of the mix. Definitely an artist to watch. 

Frank Turner has something to say

British singer-songwriter Frank Turner kicks off the new year with a defiant statement of intent, reaffirming that he is clearly making music for the betterment of culture and not for fame or money. In 2010, he encouraged us all to take up our guitars and try writing our songs in our own voice, and his new single, ‘No Thank You For The Music’, is pretty much a sequel to that incendiary piece.

“I refuse to take part in gatekeeping people’s art,” Turner sings. He’s not trying to be cool and not trying to tell you what is cool, either. That’s up to us as listeners to make up our minds. It’s pretty much the modus operandi of this column, really.

Shane McGowan, a fallen troubadour

Just before Christmas, we lost iconic Irish songwriter and performer — Shane MacGowan, of the rambunctious folk band, The Pogues. Having started his dalliances in music as an obsessive fan in the London punk scene in the 1970s, he formed The Pogues in London in the early 1980s with ex-pat Irish musicians. They played traditional Irish jigs and reels with a punk rock fury, with angry lyrics spat out in Shane’s trademark drunken drawl. They pissed off the traditional folk music purists while endearing millions all over the world with their energy and infectious music.

For all their singing about streams of whiskey and greatest little boozer(s), Shane also sang about the downtrodden and those who had otherwise fallen through the cracks of society. In their heyday, the Pogues had a reputation for drinking the bar dry between sets at the venues they were playing, echoing the sentiments of the people and places in their music.

It was this hard drinking that Shane came to be known for, but underneath he was a deeply troubled soul trying to find some peace in the world. His vices may have led to his undoing, but his talent was undeniable and his music continues to touch the souls of anyone who hears it. It was a hell of a party, Shane. Thank you.

Until next time...

LISTEN TO THIS WEEK'S SPECIALLY CURATED PLAYLIST BELOW:

David Kowalski is a writer, musician, educator, sound engineer and podcaster. His podcasts 'The Sound and the Fury Podcast' and 'Audio Cumulus' can be heard exclusively here. You can follow David on Twitter @sound_fury_pod.

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