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Shortlist weekly album reviews

Julianna Barwick
(Dead Oceans/Inertia)

Never has the ''music is the speech of angels'' adage seemed more apt than with Julianna Barwick, whose seraphic music sounds as if the sweet song of a one-woman choir. Looping largely wordless white-light vocals, her cloudy compositions float in a gradual, heavenward ascent. Nepenthe, her fourth record, harbours influences more pagan (Greek myth) and terrestrial (it was recorded in Reykjavik); Barwick rolling tape with Sigur Ros associate Alex Somers and string-quartet Amiina, and inviting local teenagers and her mother to join the chorus. But such real-world connections barely inform the LP, whose divine waves sound as if broadcast from the firmament.


The Cannanes
Howling at All Hours

(Chapter Records)

Feted by the American underground cognoscenti, lauded by critics, yet still largely unknown in its homeland, the Cannanes might just be the definitive Australian punk band. Almost 30 years after the band's formation, Howling at All Hours is true to the band's DIY aesthetic. Not Camping Out and I Woke Up in Hargreaves Mall remember the inner-city Sydney scene of yore with nostalgia and regret. A Bigger Splash and Melting Moments channel Velvet Underground via Calvin Johnson, and Stephanie and Fawn Summers are picture-perfect indie-pop songs. Countryside holds up the country life ideal and exposes it for the fairytale it so often is.



Hiatus Kaiyote
Tawk Tomahawk

Melbourne neo-soul four-piece Hiatus Kaiyote's profile has been established overseas. A recent tour coincided with an appearance on Jay Lenoand celebrity fans including Erykah Badu and the Roots' Questlove. After signing to producer Salaam Remi's Sony imprint Flying Buddha, their 2012 mini-LP Tawk Tomahawk is now re-released. Spearheaded by Nai Palm's vocals, Tawk Tomahawk is an experimental blend of jazz, soul, hip-hop and electronica. Lengthier set-pieces (the warmly romantic Nakamarra and the jazzy Mobius Streak) are complemented by a handful of brief semi-interludes. A bonus reworking of Nakamarra featuring A Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip, is included.


King Krule
6 Feet Beneath the Moon
(XL/Remote Control)

Young man, old voice. That's the story of Archy Marshall, whose 2011 King Krule EP introduced a 17-year-old with a baritone moan so etched with woe he earned comparisons with Tom Waits. Marshall's accent is Sarf London thick, and though his music is Spartan and snail-paced, his cadence and sampling suggest hip-hop's influence. This debut LP slinks through lyrical portraits of daily struggles amid urban decay. A few funky, Edwyn Collins-esque moments - the brass-blasted A Lizard State, the sashaying Border Line - bring light, but largely the record revels in the dark. People of his age are culturally considered young and foolish; Marshall sounds world-weary and twice-shy.


Guy Clark
My Favourite Picture of You


When Guy Clark sings, he commands your attention, not through force but from strength of character. His songs are stained deep with the true colours of life; its desperate times and its impossible highs. Clark is 71, and all he needs is a guitar and some friends and he delivers the goods, simple and honest. The title song relates to the Polaroid he holds on the CD cover. It is from the late '70s and is of his late wife, Susanna, who had just left him and Townes Van Zandt inside the house, two stupid drunks. He has carried it with him always. Elsewhere, he sings of the US's war vets, his country's downtrodden and the whimsical moments of human frailty.