Shuffle Demons, Clusterfunk.
Even as barriers between musical genres dissolve before our ears, few dare mess with funk. Canada's Shuffle Demons shrugged and spurned the commandment about slippery electric guitar and chunky keyboards being compulsory. Instead, they chopped funk back to its bass'n'drums bones, overlaid it with three saxes and added five-part vocals from everyone involved. Their music is no less funky; just more open. Here they burn up 12 originals, sometimes going instrumental and jazzy, but mostly reminding us that the funk begins with "fun", and sticking to the part of the formula that stipulates dangerous grooves, wailing horns and insistent vocals.
Lukid, Lonely at the Top.
Lonely at the Top
The fourth album from London producer Lukid (Luke Blair) continues his career-long resistance against being cornered into any one genre. Instrumentals of murky disco, ambient shoegaze, fractured dub and wrong-footed techno sit side by side on Lonely at the Top, possibly Lukid's best album. The immediate charm of this warm, melancholy music can mistakenly imply a lack of cuttingedge innovation, yet herein resides Lukid's greatest appeal: he makes the difficult attractive. Infectious beats ramble through air-raid sirens; minimal keyboards contrast with distorted bass; crowds of people chatter behind rousing club anthems. The results may not be as abstract as Actress or as poppy as Bibio, yet, as his past releases continue to prove, Lukid makes music that endures.
Pete Murray, Blue Sky Blue.
Blue Sky Blue "The Byron Sessions"
You can only wonder what music-biz machinations were behind the re-recording of an album not yet 18 months old. That mystery aside, Australia's favourite surf-side whisperer has roped in a bunch of pals - including a couple of Powderfingers, one Living End and Ash Grunwald - to help strip back his 2011 album and rework it in grittier, earthier form. Bernard Fanning makes an understated return during Led, which does pack a brassy punch, but it's when Murray and Katie Noonan unite for the quietly stirring closer, Hold It All for Love, that I start to wonder what the big guy has planned next. And when it comes to steady-as-it-goes Pete Murray, that's saying something.
Christopher Owens, Lysandre.
Christopher Owens may be done with Girls, but there's still one on his mind. Named for an old flame, Lysandre is a miniature folk-opera of a concept album; a dreamy, rambling narrative that nods to indie-folk, a la Sufjan Stevens, with a touch of lyrical psychedelia and slightly garish ornamentation. The sophisticated reggae of Riviera Rock adds confidence alongside the surreal naivety of Here We Go and Everywhere You Knew, but
then Owens worries, "What if everybody just thinks I'm a phoney?" in Love Is in the Ear of the Listener. Meanwhile, the baroque-flavoured flute line of Lysandre's Theme permeates the whole album, its courtly grace haunting the ear long after the last track.
The Sunny Cowgirls, What We Do.
What We Do
The Sunny Cowgirls
It's important to note that the name of this sister duo from Perth is neither ironic nor misleading. Consequently, what you get is exactly what you would expect: bright-eyed, sweetly intended, sunny-side-up, gentle-as country music that really is country-pop. On an overly long album, whose 14 songs go past 50 minutes when 35 minutes would have been more than enough, everything is done perfectly well and peachy-keen, with local references and an Australian accent intact. There's an airy, summer feel to much of it, even when things get a little bluesy, and no doubt it will do well on ABC regional radio and the well-trodden circuit outside the capital cities. To expect more for it would be silly.
Mission of Burma, Learn How: The Essential.
Learn How: The Essential
Mission of Burma
Punishing concert volume broke up Boston's Mission of Burma in 1983, with guitarist Roger Miller's hearing damaged badly after one album, an EP and a single. The band re-formed in 2002, just as aggressive and inspired, existing somewhere between the battle-cry hardcore of contemporaries such as Husker Du and Minutemen, the angularity of New York no wave and the art-punk of Wire or Pere Ubu, whose Heart of Darkness is covered here. Even at their most melodic, Mission of Burma experimented with texture and structure, with Martin Swope sculpting, looping and intricately layering the band's sound. Mission of Burma's influence on R.E.M., Pixies and Nirvana is obvious and they adhere to punk's ethos of subversion, a singular mix of complexity and immediacy you can pump a fist to.