There has been the upward surge of popularity across the wide brown land of Australia for a little blog that could. No, it's not Sonic Masala - although I'm sure our five regular readers might disagree - but Soundly Sounds, a Sydney blog run by Ryan Saar. His exuberance permeates all he writes about, and his focus on Australian music (some of which I was unaware of until he shook the dirt and grime off) is extremely fortuitous, not just for the people who stumble across his posts but the bands too. He doesn't pay lip service - he writes genuinely about the things that he loves about music - which is Sonic Masala's reason for being too. Anyway, here in Ryan's own words is the most exciting thing about music in 2014.
The 19th Consecutive Year of My Life; or How Brisbane Made the Best Music of the Year
by Ryan Saar
This year, I turned 19. That’s a whole one year after 18, but two years before 21, which means it’s a pretty inconsequential year all round. Nobody ever looks back and thinks, “Fuck, 19 was so fucking great”. But I do. Kind of. I mean, there was plenty of clichéd 19-year-old bullshit motions that I engaged in. I started university. I began drinking way more than is probably healthy, simply because I could. The Foo Fighters continued to exist, always a good reminder of the pains of high school. But it was the explosive year of bands and sounds from a city I’ve never even BEEN to was what created the standout year that was 2014.
Everyone in trendy Shitney and Melboring always get all fired up about whatever two-dimensional, blog-approved act that manages to meld soft cock-rock with electronic flourishes happens to exist for two seconds. Most of the time, these acts exist for a few seconds, before moulding into another band that sounds exactly the same. At best, it’ll be Alt-J, which is a hell that I would rather not visit. And the local scenes are plagued with artists who are far too informed/entitled by the success of their overseas idols to want to sound like anything else.
There are exceptions of course – punk rock continues to thrive in the form of a new group called Point Being, Weak Boys released an instant classic, and others such as Collarbones, Shrapnel, Liam Kenny and Orion, who refuse to become pigeonholed. Even indie rock acts such as Prints, FLOWERTRUCK and Step-Panther provided excellence in their fields.
But as a whole, Sydney and Melbourne are too gentrified to be taken seriously. When you’re paying over $250 a week in rent alone, it’s hard to come up with a genuinely dirty aesthetic in your music. If someone is wearing a Dead Kennedys t-shirt, it’s more accurate to assume they bought it for $60 (plus shipping) because they heard one of the songs on Guitar Hero. What’s more, our finest punk venue, The Square, the only place that allowed 17-year old Ryan to get his fix, was shut down earlier this year. Ultimate sad-face emoji.
Maybe this is pandering because Sonic Masala is a Brissy-blog, but almost all the good stuff from this year has been sourced from it’s stinking hot depths. In much the same way that typing the words “producer” is almost always immediately preceded by “Melbourne-based”, the same goes for “gnarled punk band” and “Brisbane”. In some rare cases, it’s Newcastle, or Adelaide or Canberra, but it’s almost always Brisbane.
Why is that? As I’ve said, I’ve never been there, but from the fine exports who have made their way south, it seems to come down to the remnants of the old police state, the stinking hot, and the lack of things to do. That stifling sensation creates an itch in the creatives, breeding some of the most honest and blood-curdling music to reach these freckled, Shitney-located ears.
2014 has seen Multiple Man, Cured Pink, Roku Music, Tape//Off, Sewers and Gazar Strips release material to soaring praise. Nite Fields got signed internationally! Then, new bands like Hideous Towns, Soviet X-Ray Record Club, Bat Nouveau and Dag chose to blow my mind. Labels like Sonic Masala Records, Virtual Cool and Tenth Court have sprung up to enormous satisfaction, and the almighty Bedroom Suck Records celebrated their 5th year of existence. And Blank Realm released the album of the year in ‘Grassed Inn’, a product of pop-weirdness that could only have been birthed in Brisbane.
What’s more, actual attention is being paid to these artist’s, and recognition is being served to those that are worthy of it! This is probably due to the attention driven from the more popular rawk acts of DZ Deathrays, Violent Soho and Velociraptor, and the guitar-pop of Babaganouj, Major Leagues and Go Violets. But hey, those acts don’t suck, and they’ve brought attention to some of the best music that Australia has produced as a whole. If it means that “Persuasion” gets played to all the eager ear canals of the world, it’s worth putting up with another band that thinks The Cat Empire are good.
Basically, 2014 was the year Brisbane music just became incredibly excellent, excelling in all areas from pop, to noise, to darkwave and everywhere in between. As the last bastion of hope on the East Coast, Brisbane showcased it’s divine talent and unique aesthetic to a godly extent more so than any other Australian city. Just do your thing, Brisbane, and I’ll be in your sweet embrace soon enough.