Australia has exported its share of pop music to the listening world. Past chart toppers like INXS, Kylie Minogue, and Air Supply all originated from down under. But in the past year, we’ve noticed a number of young acts from Australia adopting styles old and new and running with them. Whether it was the revival of disco and new wave, or taking dubstep and trip hop into new directions, Australia made some of the most interesting sounds of 2010. We’ve compiled our favorites across genres and included a soundbite of what makes each of them great.
10. Philadelphia Grand Jury
Don’t deny that whiny pop music is infectious. If it wasn’t, bands like Philadelphia Grand Jury wouldn’t be making noise outside of their native Sydney. It’s happy, upbeat, and cheeky and front man MC Bad Genius’s look and voice are as endearingly dorky as his chosen moniker. Think Barenaked Ladies, except not completely out of style. Whatever you do, don’t drive around the real Philadelphia bumping this, you might get shot.
9. Hungry Kids of Hungary
Brisbane’s folky four-piece Hungry Kids of Hungary was one of the inordinately large number of Australian bands at South by Southwest this past year. The sound of dense, alm0st tribal percussion permeates their songs, laying ground for sweeping melodies. If you’ve got a thing for mildly epic music, this is your stuff.
8. Monkey Marc
This is not producer Money Mark of Beastie Boys fame, but rather an Australian creating dubstep beats with global personality. Equal parts samples, synth and wonky ingenuity, Monkey Marc blends varying sounds into his own style of instrumental beat work. He’s also spinning around Brisbane constantly. Watch the monkey.
7. The Temper Trap
Of course, dance pop has a place on every top ten list these days, and this list is no exception. The Temper Trap’s brand of lighthearted melodies launched them onto the world stage in the past year with their singles “Fader” and “Love Lost.” The remixes of their music took on a life of their own, venturing into the sounds of electro and dubstep.
6. Bliss N Eso
This two-MC-one-DJ trio has been making a sound in Australia for a few years, but are finally starting to get heard outside the country. Their sound is sing songy in the way of folked out hip hop, but can be as serious as death when it comes to lyrical delivery, complete with varying degrees of Australian accent.
What Cut Copy does for new wave, Mitzi does for disco. The four-piece from Brisbane, identifiable by varying haircuts from 20 years ago, plays a brand of disco too true to the sound to be called disco-wave, or disco-core, or whatever kids are calling disco that’s made today. Their debut EP All I Heard just came out.
Pataphysics is a Sri Lankan-Australian musician who has branded his style of conscious rhymes over slow grooves and jazzy riffs with the name “Guerilla Hip Hop.” The production invokes the memory of a sound the Roots abandoned when they went big time, Pataphysics making the jazz reference authentic with his own trumpeting over the hooks and dispersed throughout the tracks.
This Melbourne producer combines equal parts wobbly low end and twangy patchwork, peppered with blithe live instrumentation and playful voice samples. Spoonbill is the psychedelic mushroom cap to past collaborator Tipper’s acid sugar cube. With all the wonky sound clips, glitch hop has never been more Australian.
Without using anything resembling a standard drum beat, Sydney’s Ghoul makes you do that neck-and-shoulder dance without realizing it, so you look like a spaz on the train. The four-piece band doesn’t always sound like one, pulling together a collage of little sounds to form a rumble. Their track “3Mark,” is a little preview of their first release in early 2011.
Ghoul should really have a Soundcloud page, don’t ya think?
1. The Death Set
Sure, they’ve been around for a couple of years, but The Death Set is now making leaps and bounds. Recognized for their multi-format studio work and live shows, the Sydney Group merged the mash-up concept with electro with punk, without making it sound contrived or boring. Their most recent mixtape is leading up to an LP from them in 2011. Based on everything we’ve seen from Australia in the past year, The Death Set are our pick for the most notable on all fronts.