Lime Cordiale, Le Pie, The Whitlams and more: Australia's best new music for November
The Whitlams – Ballad of Bertie Kidd
For fans of: Tim Freedman, Randy Newman, Don Walker
The Whitlams’ first single in 14 years finds Tim Freedman in storyteller mode, spinning a long-winded and factually loose yarn about real-life criminal Bertie Kidd. Now 86 and comfortably retired, Kidd was once Australia’s greatest robber, and proficient in crimes of yesteryear such as safe-breaking, forgery and race-fixing. A stolen Sigma, thwarted plans to liberate artworks from some of Australian’s finest (Pro Hart, Ken Done), and a Rabbitohs fan are all woven throughout. This strolling six-minute piano-driven tale is an odd choice as the return single for one of Australia’s most revered groups, but Freedman is no longer aiming for the airwaves. He instead adds another classic slice of Australiana to a hefty catalogue that attacks inner-city pokies, lampoons the 2000 Olympic bid, and chronicles a corner-store lothario, all with a wry wink and a silent signal towards the bar. It’s good to have them back.
For more: Tim Freedman is touring solo throughout November and December, with shows around NSW, QLD, Adelaide and the Barossa Valley.
Lisa Caruso – Patience
For fans of: PJ Harvey, Sarah Blasko, David Lynch
Related: Midnight Oil: The Makarrata Project review – a chorus of anger over stolen land
Lisa Caruso has one of the best voices in Australia. Her songwriting is anchored in the tradition of confessional poets such as Martha Wainwright and Joni Mitchell, dealing in heartache, turmoil and sacrifice, sporting a desperately lovelorn quality that goes with red wine and red curtains, regrets and romances half-remembered. Patience is a funereal dirge, a swaying, lonesome tune that builds towards a climax of marching drums and squawking guitars without rushing for the finish line. Caruso’s nuanced, haunting vocals are the star here, and her supporting musicians know better than to compete.
For more: Lisa Caruso’s debut album In Feelings is out now.
Polish Club – Just Talking
For fans of: Paul Simon, San Cisco
Sometimes you can overthink things. That was the dilemma that faced David Novak and John-Henry Pajak last year as they wrote the songs for their second album, Iguana. Just Talking suffers from no such mental strain, effortlessly flowing out of the duo, and being all the better for it. Whereas Polish Club have often leaned on pounding drums and crunching guitars, here an acoustic guitar takes the lead, adding a breezy shimmer to a groove-laden pop song. Even the lyrics don’t attempt to overstretch. “This isn’t a fight / Hey, we’re just talking,” Novak protests over a 4/4 beat and an acoustic strum that belongs in a Corona ad, and who are we to disagree? It’s a cliche to call this a breath of fresh air, but why not take a leaf out of Polish Club’s book and not labour the metaphor too much?
For more: Polish Club play four shows over two nights at Sydney’s Factory Theatre, on 17 and 18 November.
Crowded House – Whatever You Want
For fans of: Neil Finn, Split Enz, Talking Heads
Related: Blake Scott: Niscitam review – Peep Tempel frontman's sprawling and powerful solo debut
They are diehards who’d prefer the Crowded House story closed with their iconic “farewell” shows at the Opera House in 1996. It’s a much neater tale, but one that ignores more than two decades of songwriting growth and two more number one records, not to mention the musical wishes of the man whose songs, voice and face steered the band to international success in the mid-80s.
Now, a decade since Crowded House’s last record, Neil Finn has rebuilt the band around original bassist Nick Seymour, the band’s longtime producer Mitchell Froom, and Finn’s two sons, Liam and Elroy. Ironically, it’s a much tighter unit than the original three-piece, who warred and split constantly during the band’s heights, and the first single under this lineup reflects a more relaxed working environment, and – also ironically – a sound closer sonically to a pre-Crowdies Split Enz. It’s musically quirky, built on the offbeat of Elroy’s drumming and splashes of odd instrumentation, yet imbued with warm choral harmonies and Neil’s always-welcoming lead vocal. There’s an album on the horizon, and the homespun feel of Whatever You Want suggests a band settling comfortably into its third act.
For more: Crowded House will embark on a 10-date New Zealand tour in March 2021.
The Finalists – Learn to Live Without You
For fans of: Early REM, Teenage Fanclub, the Byrds
Learn to Live Without You is only the second single from the Finalists’ debut album, but it comes fully formed, the pop smarts of four musical lifers combining in a burst of sunshine that belongs on a mid-career Teenage Fanclub record. There’s a psychedelic intro that’s only slightly misleading; like most in the powerpop genre, the Finalists owe a debt to the Beatles that they don’t bother disguising. Instead they build upon the three-minute pop song template with lashings of Flying Nun jangle and Byrdian harmonies. There’s an unmistaken sunburnt sound here that conjures the likes of the Go-Betweens and the Saints, bands who fled to cooler climates but couldn’t shake the suburban sunshine of their birth country. This is timeless pop, straight out of a Marrickville practice space.
For more: The band’s debut album First was released on Friday.
Davey Lane – Leave It to the Moderns
For fans of: The Easybeats, the Nazz, the Stems
Guitar-slinging sonic explorer Davey Lane can never be accused of being a modern. He’s dressed like he came off Carnaby Street in 1965, with Ray Davies hair, and a solo career that swings from beat music imported from the docks of Liverpool to lush production pieces even Jeff Lynne would strip back. Leave It to the Moderns is firmly in the former category, a raucous distorted blast of proto-punk, made to shimmy along with on the set of Kommotion, all handclaps, bar-room piano, and sing-along sections implanted in your brain by the second verse. Due to high profile gigs with You Am I, Todd Rundgren, Crowded House and Jimmy Barnes, Lane is often unfairly cast as a sideman, which belies his excellent work as one of our country’s finest artists. His forthcoming third solo album should set the record straight.
For more: Davey Lane’s album Don’t Bank Your Heart on It is out 13 November.
Memphis LK – Letters in Concrete
For fans of: Amelie, Faithless, Dido
In this glassy electro pop single, you can hear the touches of engineer Dave Emery, who has worked with Madonna and Björk, and you can hear the influences of the underground UK garage and 2-step that Memphis fell in love with during her teen years. You can also hear a creation built from the rhythm up, befitting of a musician who taught herself to use recording software Ableton in order to make music. What you cannot hear is the influence of her old man, songwriting stalwart Paul Kelly, whose unrivalled songbook isn’t even leafed through during this euphoric, synth-driven dance tune. In fact, the only genealogy hint comes with her romantic detailing of the tune’s genesis, which came “one night during iso in Melbourne when I was walking in the rain” which sounds like a Paul Kelly lyric if ever I’ve heard one. But I digress. Memphis needs no such nepotistic leg-up; this dreamy song does all the heavy lifting by itself. With Triple J feverishly onboard already, expect big things to come.
For more: Listen to previous singles Green Light, Speak Honestly, and Roses.
King Stingray – Hey Wanhaka
For fans of: Icehouse, Midnight Oil, Warumpi Band
King Stingray boasts an impressive lineage. Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu is the nephew of the late Dr M Yunupiŋu, Yothu Yindi frontman, and Roy Kellaway is son of Yothu Yindi founding bass player Stu Kellaway. Both met as toddlers in the 90s as their parents toured and played together, and both are key members in the legendary Australian band. And if Yothu Yindi is the family business, King Stingray is the fast-growing franchise that threatens to take over. Vocally, Yunupiŋu bears an uncanny resemblance to his late uncle, and as frontman of King Stingray he wields ancient Indigenous melodies and couples them with Kellaway’s surf-infused guitar lines which curl and push against drone-like didgeridoos and a well-paced bassline. There’s an undeniable groove to this song, built by a four-piece who clearly share a musician synergy, and a love of Australian FM rock from the 1980s.
For more: This is King Stingray’s debut song. Check out their recent work with Yothu Yindi, or Kellaway’s solo music under the name Django George.
Related: ‘Loud and proud, wrong and strong’: the ‘Yolŋu surf rock’ of Yothu Yindi’s next generation
Le Pie – Circles
For fans of: Seeker Lover Keeper, Feist, the Jezabels
Fittingly for a song named Circles, a looping arpeggio anchors the intro of Le Pie’s third single from her forthcoming debut album. Luxuriously unfolding over six minutes, Circles is a pocket symphony, beginning as a sparse confessional, and ending with washes of static, distorted yells, big instrumentation, and a relentless thumping snare drum, kicking the song into submission. Then the haze fades away, the same slow motion guitar loop fades back in, and beautiful wordless vocals lay the song to a gentle rest. It’s quite a brilliant piece of music, and the perfect lead into the Virginia Woolf-cribbing debut A Room of One’s Own, written in Le Pie’s own music room as her marriage dissolved – subject matter that is front and centre in this stark, striking song.
For more: Le Pie’s debut album A Room of One’s Own is out 13 November. Listen to previous singles Little Spoon and Eye of the Storm.
Lime Cordiale – Reality Check Please
For fans of: Foster the People, The Lucksmiths, Peter Bjorn and John
Related: From Faith No More to faith healing: Melbourne’s Festival Hall sold to Hillsong Church
Lime Cordiale are enjoying a surge of attention at the moment after scoring eight ARIA award nominations for their second album, 14 Steps to a Better You. With eight singles pulled from the album before it was even released, it acts more like a hits collection than a cohesive record – an observation fuelled further by the pending expanded version, featuring an additional six songs written and recorded while in lockdown, annexed to an album not yet six months old. It’s good to be in demand! Reality Check Please leans towards the lighter fare on 14 Steps, a smooth pop song built on a patience-stretching pun that will nevertheless put a smile on your dial – although the reception desk bell may be a step too far. A psychotropic bridge adds a welcome warped element to what is otherwise a straightforward summer jam. Don’t overthink it, and you’ll be drawn in by copious levels of charm.
For more: The deluxe version of 14 Steps to a Better You, featuring six new “steps”, will be out 13 November.