We profile five of the hottest artists who are climbing the charts, breaking the Internet or just dominating our office stereos.
By Gareth Hipwell, James Jennings, Katie Cunningham, Larry Fitzmaurice and Marissa Moss.
SOUNDS LIKE: A lovesick guitar-pop caffeine overdose.
FOR FANS OF: Moses Gunn Collective, the Shangri-Las, drive-in cinemas.
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: An envoy of Queensland's fertile indie scene and lead singer of Brisbane duo the Furrs, Gabriella Cohen (pictured) is a recent transplant to Melbourne. Cohen makes good on the promise of last year's Updated Regurgitated Sever EP with full-length solo debut Full Closure and No Details. An album about "all the love business, and all those tragic things", it's a zesty gumbo of styles and flavours, throwing up snatches of girl group and doo-wop melodies underwritten by BVs from some of Brisbane's finest, including producer Kate Dillon (Full Flower Moon Band) and Bella Carroll (Moses Gunn Collective). Cohen's own hypnotic vocal swings from Kate Bush theatricality ("Yesterday") to something like Neil Young's vocoder experiments on Trans ("Feelin' Fine"). "All the songs were written in those typical Brisbane shady streets, in all the balminess, sitting on steps," Cohen recalls. "The album was recorded with two microphones, in the country, over 10 days, with just me and Kate."
SHE SAYS: "I love Velvets, I love Lou Reed, and I bloody love doo-wop. I grew up listening to a lot of Brazilian bossa nova, Paul Simon's Graceland, the Beatles. I think, what the audience thinks my style is, that's what the style is."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: Hauntingly hypnotic lead single "Yesterday". [G.H.]
SOUNDS LIKE: Seven tight and talented musicians forming a funky mind-meld and emitting a soul & hip-hop sound so live and loose you can practically taste the sweat and smell the ganja billowing out of your speakers.
FOR FANS OF: The Roots, Mos Def, D'Angelo, Saskwatch, Hiatus Kaiyote.
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Fremantle-based seven-piece Koi Child are the definition of a happy accident. Initially two separate bands – hip-hop trio Child's Play and nu-jazz quartet Kashikoi – the various members got together at a club for a one-off live jam in 2014 that far exceeded all their expectations. Sitting in the audience that night and witnessing the funky chemistry was Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, who was such a fan of the not-yet-a-band that he invited them to be the openers on a national Tame Impala tour in 2015 ("That was incredible; like a ridiculous dream come true," says South African-born MC/vocalist Shannon "Cruz" Patterson). Parker's involvement didn't stop there: he offered to mix and produce Koi Child's self-titled debut album, adding an airy, analogue warmth to the band's old-meets-new blend of funk, jazz, soul and hip-hop. With Triple J hit "Black Panda" already under their belts and the recent release of their debut LP, Koi Child are set to have a huge 2016 with a national tour in March and April that will allow them the opportunity to flex their considerable live chops.
THEY SAY: "To record the album we took the jams we were working on and set them in stone – we structured them, I decided what raps I was gonna use and where," says Patterson. "Over 10 days with Kevin we recorded the album at Mangebong, a small island off the south of Perth – we needed to take a boat to get all our gear across, which we did with the help of a guy we called 'Tugboat Ted', who was really cool. It was kind of like a holiday; we drank a lot, it was a huge party."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: Patterson's nimble flow ducking and weaving around the elastic bass and floating keys of "1-5-9", a perfect showcase for Koi Child's laid-back funk and liquid grooves. [J.J.]
SOUNDS LIKE: Tropical, positive dance music best enjoyed with a piña colada in hand.
FOR FANS OF: Kilter, Flume, Kygo.
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: While the great 'Australian sound' movement of the early 2010s exploded around him, the Gold Coast's Mikey Perry was busy paying his dues. During the week he'd knuckle down in his home studio, hunting down vocal talents like Tkay Maidza and Kucka on the Triple J Unearthed website and putting them on his tracks. On the weekends, he'd build his profile playing at clubs around the country. Now Perry's regarded as one of the country's most skilled producers, and with a debut album about to drop, it's time for Paces to claim centre stage.
HE SAYS: "A lot of the time it was just cold calling, writing them an e-mail out of the blue or hollering at them on Twitter," Perry says of how he recruited 10 different collaborators for his debut LP, Vacation. "But during the whole process I was super focused on making the album cohesive. Because sometimes a producer album with heaps of different vocalists can come off sounding really disparate, like a collection of singles that have no flow."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: Clean and crisp summer jam "1993 (No Chill)", the first single from Perry's debut full-length. [K.C.]
SOUNDS LIKE: A Guitar Hero song that you've five-starred but can't stop playing.
FOR FANS OF: Queens of the Stone Age, Velvet Revolver, Royal Blood.
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Highly Suspect are from Brooklyn, and they've played shows with very Brooklyn-sounding bands (like Grizzly Bear) – but the hard-charging, Cape Cod-born rock trio sound like they'd rather guzzle battery acid than sip artisanal coffee. Their debut LP, Mister Asylum, received a nomination for Best Rock Album at last month's Grammys, and it's a hooky trip to the gutter with guitars that melodically gleam under the grit. Touring highlights include a stint on Bonnaroo, dates with Scott Weiland and a trek with Catfish and the Bottlemen. Australian audiences can see what the fuss is about when they hit Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this month.
THEY SAY: Highly Suspect's music is chaotic and barnburning, and it sounds like their live shows are no different. "There has been a disaster at every show in one way or another," says guitarist-vocalist Johnny Stevens. "A kick pedal breaks or an amp blows, or [drummer Ryan Meyer] has the flu and keeps his puke bucket right next to him – but it's our mission to never let the audience know when things are going wrong." They have a sweet side too: First single "Lydia" is about a failed relationship, but Stevens got to keep their cat, Pam. "I want to have my own house and a yard one day that she can explore," he says. "I wanna have a nice warm fireplace nestled into a big hearth and on the shelf above it there will be a Grammy."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: Stevens may have Pam on his side, but that doesn't make the static sludge of "Lydia" any less heartbroken. [L.F.]
SOUNDS LIKE: Sara Watkins covering Feist's "I Feel It All", fiddle and all.
FOR FANS OF: Nickel Creek, Laura Marling, all the brothers' bands: Avett, Punch and Felice.
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Things could have gone a lot differently for Laney Jones – the native Floridian was on her way toward a degree in international business when she realised she favoured singing and banjo strumming over trades and currencies, heading instead to Berklee College of Music to study songwriting under former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. It proved to be a good investment: a few years later, she was playing her quirky breed of folk-pop alongside Alison Krauss, who became an instant fan. There's a sheen to the tracks on her third, self-titled album and strings of penetrating hooks – those DioGuardi classes paid off big time – paired with rootsy instrumentation and Seventies-era flourishes that keeps it from ever ringing too twee. She's the kind of Americana artist who can work equally well on the indie stage of a bluegrass festival as in an iTunes commercial.
SHE SAYS: "I gained so much from talking songwriting with Kara," Jones says about her early mentor. "About looking at your lyrics and reading them down on the page, asking, 'Does it say something, is it effective?'" As for the sonic palette, she's focused on blending that pop sensibility with a wide variety of influences, from country to classic rock. "I love Seventies Bob Dylan, the Band. There are soul elements, too. It doesn't feel like we are colouring inside the lines. We're trying to be thoughtful with our arrangements and flush them out in different ways. I don't shy away from bluegrass, either. I still play banjo."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: The bright and plucky "Allston (Dance Around)" from Laney Jones, due this month. [M.M.]
From issue #773, available now. Top photo: Gabriella Cohen, courtesy.