The best in left-field pop from Canada, Australia & beyond! This week, some great tuneage to kickstart your new year: Dreamy pop from Melbourne (Flyying Colours, Spiral Perm), Sydney (The S-Bends) & Aukland (Na Noise) Canadian electronic tuneage from Smaller Hearts, Molly Drag & Lié. Alien Nosejob and Psychic Void get punky! Edmonton’s Brunch Club and Hobart’s Quivers deliver some exceptional guitar pop. And so much more!
The whole point of this blog and these mixes is to give me an excuse to seek out new and exciting music. Looking over the following list of my favourite fifty songs from the past five years, I’d say it’s gone pretty well. I’ve discovered bands I’d never otherwise come across and genres that I’d have likely given short shrift. So, thanks to everyone on this list for putting out such fantastic music. May you enjoy similar creativity in the years ahead.
50. Kashka New Moon Blues
Seeing this Toronto musician perform Relax, the album that this wonderful song is taken from, at an intimate house concert was one of my musical highlights of the past decade. We’d happened upon it because ATR faves Heart Beach were playing it; as it turns out, we were the only people there who had no connection to the bands. The strings on this song – hauntingly beautiful. It’s also, as it turns out, the perfect soundtrack for a solo walk around Paris on a cold November day.
49. Chromeo Room Serivce
I’ve been on board with Chromeo since seeing them perform in a field at 3 a.m. to about 100 people just south of Mexico City. They have bigger hits, but for my money, nothing captures Chromeo’s romanticism, funkiness, sexiness and sense of humor than this ode to the simplest of vacations. It’s a love song for people with kids and careers. I’m good with that.
48. Podiums New Club Banger
Exhibit A for why I started recording these mixes. I never would’ve found this mystery band if I hadn’t actively been looking for new Canadian and Australian music. Who are Podiums? Who knows? They’re from Hamilton, they don’t have a bio, their name is not search-engine friendly, they’ve released two songs on Bandcamp, and this one is no longer even available there. Belying the title, this is a delightful bit of light, indie rock. To quote the song: “Yeah! Ooh! Uh!”
47. Kaptur Futureproof
Local St. Catharines heroes released a hell of a song with “Futureproof,” an epic five minutes of anxious guitars and propulsive drums. Think an even-more-nervous Bloc Party and you’re halfway there.
46. Birdz Crown Thieves
Exhibit B for music that I would never have gotten into without these mixes to force this white Canadian dude to discover new musical genres. In this case, Australian Indigenous hiphop, which is thriving thanks to people like Briggs (you know he’s further down this list) and Birdz, who’s signed to Briggs’ Bad Apples label. Politics and history give Birdz’ lyrics stakes and the beats blow your mind.
45. Confidence Man Bubblegum
triple j Unearthed Embedded Player
Pop. Pure pop.
44. The Drones Taman Shud
The rules for this list are simple: Songs must have been released between 2015 and 2019, coinciding with when I started putting together these mixes online and for terrestrial radio. They must’ve been played by me on the show at some point. And maximum one entry per band. Still, because of their involvement in a few projects, Briggs and The Drones’ Gareth Liddard are only people to show up more than once on this list (three times each). Liddard’s first showing is for this blunt, urgent, dissonance-friendly vivisection of right-win Australian politics. “Fuck Western supremacy.”
43. Speedy Ortiz Puffer
Another musical highlight from the past decade: Seeing Speedy Ortiz receive all the love at a Bowery Ballroom show in New York. “Puffer” and Foil Deer, the album it comes from, is proof positive that rock music remains vital at this late date.
42. Lucky Luke Sunburnt Country
My introduction to Indigenous hip hop, discovered thanks to triplejunearthed.com.au. Strident and righteous, an ode to Lucky Luke’s (Indigenous) Australia is a thrill to listen to, and an education
“Actions speak loder than words, so give us back our land.”
41. Tim & the Boys Hey
Cleaned-up, precise punk rock from Sydney. Love the generic name. Shout-out to Ryan Saar, whose now-defunct show on FBI Radio was my entry point to Tim & the Boys and so much more fantastic Sydney (and beyond) music.
40. IV League Change My Mind
This Brisbane band has a knack for arena-scale anthems. Here’s one of them.
39. Batpiss Paralyzed
Gareth Liddiard makes his second appearance on this list as the producer of this pure slice of Melbourne punk. Rest in Piss has my vote for the best punk album of the past five years. Take a listen to see why.
38. Hello Seahorse! Algún Día (Alicia)
If the only thing I’d done during my year in Mexico (2009-10) was discover for myself the music of Hello Seahorse!, the trip would’ve been worth it. (Bonus shout-out to Candy, coming up below). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Denise Gutierrez has one of the best voices in popular music, any language, any genre. Listen to this track and tell me otherwise. I’ll wait.
37. PONY I Don’t Know
Angsty emoish guitar pop. Toronto’s Pony is a band to watch.
36. Teeth & Tongue Cupcake
Melbourne guitar pop. It’s just good. Listen to it.
35. FFS Police Encounters
Franz Ferdidand and Sparks were the supergroup that we didn’t know we needed. Clever, poppy rock music with a sense of humor? That’s practically the motto of this show, so, yeah, I’m a fan.
34. The Beths Future Me Hates Me
I’m late to New Zealand’s The Beths, who are doing their best to resurrect the best of 90s style indie rock. Definitely worth paying attention to.
33. Black Cab Uniforms
Exhibit C for bands I never would’ve discovered otherwise. Dance rock that sounds like it’s sung by the guy from Men Without Hats. Love these guys.
32. Pale Lips You’re A Doll
Few songs over the past five years have brought me more joy than this delightful tune, which may be a metaphor, or maybe not? Delightfully clever lyrics. Rock and roll? Rock and roll. Rock and roll!
31. Donny Benét Konichiwa
One of four totemic All the Rage bands, Donny Benét manages the difficult balancing act between having a sense of humor that doesn’t diminish his for the music. In this case, off-kilter 80s-style Italian disco (electronica? No matter. It’s got a sultry beat, odd lyrics, and an absolutely insane music video.
30. JuliaWhy? Turntable
The invention of the indie rock three-piece. JuliaWhy?’s newest album, Hysteria, showcases their growth as artists, but I have a soft spot for the rawness of their first album, Wheel, including this standout tune.
29. Calmly Hallelujah Heartache
Formerly Childsaint, another band I discovered on triplejunearthed.com.au. Haunting dissonance.
28. Smaller Hearts Circuitry
Another band to watch. Think a warmer Pet Shop Boys or a friendlier Depeche Mode. And they’re from Halifax. They’re good now, and they’re going to get better.
27. Sunscreen High Over Love
I looooove the romanticism of the song. (If I’m misinterpreting it, don’t tell me; I don’t want to know). Your guitar pop earworm for 2020.
26. Old Kid OK, Okay
Folk rock from a Hamilton guy. A haunting song that feels so very lived-in. “OK, okay. I’m not okay.”
25. Victories at Sea Up
One of only two UK bands on the list. A song that’s stuck with me some five years since I first heard it, so it makes the list. You can dance to it.
24. The Courtneys Tour
One for the road. Great vocals, happy guitars.
23. Laura Sauvage Alien (Anything Like It, Have You?)
The lush, Pet Shop Boys-style tuneage of this particular song was my entry point into “The Beautiful”, but there’s so much more to Laura Sauvage’s thrillingly ambitious album. It’s always exciting to watch musicians swing for the fences, and even better when it connects.
22. Sahara Beck Brother Sister
If you’re keeping score at home, here’s All the Rage totemic artist number two, and the song (which I came across courtesy, again, of triplejunearthed.com.au) that caught my attention. Like JuliaWhy? above, she’s grown as an artist since recording this song, but it remains a great song thanks to its simple melody (mostly just acoustic guitar) and insightful, evocative lyrics.
21. Safe Sex A Raven and a Writing Desk
triple j Unearthed Embedded Player
Another band whose identity is a mystery to me, beyond that they’re based in Perth and have some songs on triplejunearted.
20. Candy Conjuros y Rituales
Candy, a band I came across while in Mexico City in 2009, may have broken up, but not before releasing their masterpiece, Atlas. While their first album, Stranger, was a straightforward (English-language) punky rock album, Atlas saw them experimenting with their sound, expanding it to be more atmospheric and complicated, while still retaining their ear for a catchy melody.
19. Sampa the Great Final Form
I heard this for the first time a couple of months ago. It’s one of the best songs of the decade. How is this song so good? Sampa the Great’s flow is thrilling. Jaw-droppingly phenomenal.
18. Johnny Headband Jupiter
Totemic ATR band number three, from Detroit. The best unsigned band in the United States, Johnny Headband know their way around a melody and a beat. I want more.
17. Tropical Fuck Storm
The Planet of Straw Men
Garath Liddard makes his third and final appearance on this list via this supergroup, which features some of the best male-female vocal tradeoffs you’re ever likely to come across. And their live show, which I caught in Cologne earlier this year, is suitably no-nonsense. Weird and dissonant? I’m in.
16. Police Force Freakin’ Out the Squares
Another band, this time from Brisbane, with a search-engine-hostile name, who released what is, for my money, one of the most menacing songs of the past decade (it’s on Tenth Court Records, if you’re interested in the whole album). Recalls the nastier (in a good way) Primal Scream songs, made more intimidating for its intentionally muddled vocals. These are the kinds of gems that won’t be handed to you from a Spotify playlist.
15. Petra Glynt Surveillance
Hugely ambitious song and album by this Montreal artist. Swings for the fences lyrically and melodically; connects noisily, operatically.
14. Gorillaz She’s My Collar
Probably the most mainstream tune on this list. I like its sultry tale of a (destructive?) co-dependent relationship. Kali Uchis is a hell of a singer.
13. A.B. Original
2 Black 2 Strong
Second appearance on this list by Briggs (here alongside Trials). The music is 90s gangsta rap, which matches perfectly the lyrics’ defiant celebration of Aboriginal Australian culture. It hits hard, while also being darkly funny.
12. Kirin J. Callinan Big Enough (feat. Alex Cameron, Molly Lewis & Jimmy Barnes)
And now for something completely different: A song that is so over the top (EDM! Random country shout-outs! Cowboys! Nonsensical shout-outs to Christianity and Judaism! Whistling! Jimmy Barnes’ craaaaazy scream!) that it really shouldn’t work at all. But it does, and it is extravagantly fabulous. In an alternate timeline, this is the Greatest Song of All Time.
11. Metric Now or Never Now
Canada’s most consistently great band?
10. Camp Cope Lost: Season One
Camp Cope’s follow-up to their self-titled debut didn’t do much for me (though I did enjoy Georgia Maq’s Würst Nürse punk rock side project), but this, their debut single, is an unimpeachable primal scream of longing for human connection.
9. Briggs The Children Came Back
I’ve taught this song in my Politics and Sports class to give (Canadian) students a sense of the breadth of Aboriginal Australian culture and society. Briggs juxtaposing a list of prominent Aboriginal Australians with memories of the Stolen Generations (the title playing off of Archie Roach’s famous song, “Took the Children Away”) captures both the vibrancy of Aboriginal Australian culture and society and the brutality inflicted on this society. Mostly, though, it’s a song of hope for a culture that has already survived, what, 80,000 years?, and that will continue to persevere and flourish. A hell of a song.
8. Phantistic Ferniture Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin
Timeless guitar pop.
7. Alvvays In Undertow
The incarnation of regret and loss, wrapped in fuzzy guitars.
6. Grimes Kill V Maim
A thrilling pop explosion from an album of thrilling pop moments. Art Angels is one of the best Canadian albums ever, which makes “Kill V Maim” one of the best Canadian songs ever. That sounds about right.
5. Laura Jean Girls on the TV
A gut punch of a song, its cinematic lyrics and the story it tells made all the more potent by the soft-spoken way Laura Jean delivers them.
4. The Jezabels Smile
The sound of a band fully realizing its potential. Soaring, anthemic, unabashedly feminist synthpop. The Jezabels can hold their own with the biggest, most popular bands in the world. They’re world class.
3. Heart Beach Holiday
Totemic ATR band number four. Heart Beach emerged fully formed with their first song (this one) from their first (self-titled) album. It’s all here: the spare drums and bass, the bracingly sharp guitar, the plaintive male-female lead vocals, in this case in the service of feelings of desperation and a desire for escape. This is a band that announces itself, and demands your attention. If you want a comparison, think a stripped-down Yo La Tengo. “Cliffhanger,” their excellent and most recent single, is probably a better song (the kind of growth you’d expect even from a band that nailed their sound on Day One), and the optimistic and bright “Counting,” from their second album, Kiss Your Face, is probably my favourite, but “Holiday” is the song that first made me take notice.
2. Run the Jewels Talk to Me
I feel Run the Jewels, and nothing more than El-P’s verse on this song. Preach.
1. US Girls Incidental Boogie
This song blew my mind when I heard a previous version of it on the Free Advice Column EP. It continues to blow my mind. A perfect marriage (ironic pun intended) of music and lyrics, “Incidental Boogie” is almost hypnotic in its depiction of an abusive relationship from the woman’s point of view. And it, like the entire In A Poem Unlimited, sounds fucking fantastic. Meg Remy is at the absolute top of her game.
It’s the end of the year, which means it’s list time! First up, my 30 favourite left-field pop songs from Australia, Canada and beyond. Enjoy.
30. BBQT Flinch
Delightfully bouncy guitar pop from Montreal. Not a bad way to kick off at top 30 list.
29. DZ Deathrays Shred for Summer
A perfectly named song from this Brisebane trio. Definite Jane’s Addiction vibe going on here.
28. Moody Beach Slave
27. Miesha & the Spanks The Girls are OK
In a world of microgenres, it’s nice to know that straight-ahead rock and roll, in this case courtesy of this fine Calgary outfit, is still a glorious thing.
26. Booji Boys New Repacement
Ditto for punk rock. No-frills, unadorned noisy perfection, straight out of Halifax.
25. The Vovos Venus
This weird and wonderful tune, from Melbourne’s The Vovos, is the epitome of left-field pop. Probably the most purely delightful song on this entire list
24. Ausmuteants Forever Cops
Melbourne’s Ausmuteants nail punk’s proud tradition of standing up to unjust authority. “Hands up; we’ll still shoot.” A harrowing glimpse of the nasty side of 2019.
23. Nooky Blackfellas
A harrowing, desperate cover of a 2009 Steel Warriors song from this Yuri man from New South Wales’ South Coast, who also happens to be one of Australia’s most exciting rappers.
22. IV League Comedown Sensation
Yet another soaring pop anthem from a Melbourne group that over the course of only a few songs has demonstrated an uncanny knack for soaring pop anthems.
21. Heart Attack Kids Do What You Do
Two guys from London, Ontario, who know how to bring the noise, with a detonating sound you can hear from space.
20. The Double Happiness No Place Nundah
A nostalgia-washed homage to a backwater town from this Brisbane band. I kind of love this song.
19. Quivers You’re Not Always On My Mind
Exhibit A for the theory, which I am starting right now, that Hobart’s Quivers are time travellers from the late 1980s. A mellow tune that has classic Dad Rock written all over it.
18. Tram Cops California Way
Jittery, wistful lo-fi goodness from a forward-looking Melbourne outfit.
17. Big Mike & Gianni La Bamba Bad Boys (Single Edit)
Seeing Big Mike & Gianni La Bamba open for Donny Benét (twice!) was one of the highlights of my year in Germany. Big Mike is a hulking, muscled blond dude from Cologne who looks like he’s either just come from or is going to the gym. He raps (in German) about working out and partying – he’s basically a Teutonic Andrew WK. And his music, courtesy of Mr. La Bamba, is a delightful throwback to hard-edged 80s dance music. One highlight of their live show (other than the very fit, shirtless men that seem to comprise 50% of their audience) is a rap that’s done to the tune of the Hall and Oates’ hit “Out of Touch” that kind of sneaks up on you (“Is… is he rapping in German to a Hall and Oates song?”) This song isn’t that one, but as a celebration of Kolsch Bad Boys, it’s almost as awesome (in the 80s sense of the word).
16. Ultra Magnus Duck
Nice heaviness and great flow from this Toronto rapper. Yes, please!
15. Jackie New at Drugs
Joyous power-pop from Toronto’s Jackie. I’m pretty sure I’ve never before heard a song about a mom (your mom) trying drugs for the first time. Jackie packs a lifetime of history and a staggering amount empathy into three minutes.
Fuck, what a great pop song.
14. Dead Little Penny Honeycomb
Curve-y shoegaze from Auckland. Mmmmmmmm…..
13. Hello Seahorse! Mujer
I’ve been a fan of Hello Seahorse! from the moment I saw them open for The Killers in Mexico City in 2009. Ten years later, they’re still delivering phenomenal tuneage, their secret weapon being Lo Blondo (Denise Gutierrez), who has one of the distinctive voices in all popular music – any language, any genre. Mujer, their latest, continues the winning streak.
12. Gold Fields Glow
Ballarat heroes return with some dancey goodness that showcases Gold Fields’ growth as a band.
11. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience (The Lonely Island) Bikini Babe Workout
Few things brought me more joy in 2019 than The Lonely Island’s 30-minute ode to the Oakland A’s steroid addled heroes. There is no reason why The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience should exist – I’m pretty sure no one was clamouring for a 30-minute set of raps about/by Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire, but the world is a better place for its existence. It’s only a matter of time before The Lonely Island pull and Parker and Stone and stage a Broadway musical, right? Please say yes.
10. Donny Benét Second Dinner
An 80s disco-style ode to the joys of four square meals a day, this is vintage Benét.
9. Smaller Hearts Circuitry
The standout song from these Haligonians’ strong second album. Picture a warm Pet Shop Boys, or an optimistic Depeche Mode. I don’t know about you, but I’m sold.
8. Tropical Fuck Storm The Planet of Straw Men
Angry, righteous, off-kilter and noisy, with the best male-female vocal tradeoffs in the business, Tropical Fuck Storm is the 2019 band we both need and deserve.
7. Pale Lips You’re A Doll
Another highlight of a year in Germany: Seeing Pale Lips play a small room in Münster in February, at a time when I was pretty much ready to head home but still had months to go. Tight, poppy, 60s-style rock and roll that I could listen to until the sun goes out.
6. Heart Beach Cliffhanger
Hobart’s (now Footscray) Heart Beach somehow find another gear. Cliffhanger injects an already fully formed sound (deliberate drums backing Yo La Tengo-style dissonance) with an epic level of soulfulness courtesy of Claire McCarthy plaintive vocals. A song made for movies – you know the scene. There’s something special about this band.
5. JuliaWhy? Starman
Sydney’s (now London, UK) JuliaWhy? take the next step. Muscular dreampop. Their new album is excellent. I can’t wait to see where they go next.
4. Sampa the Great Final Form
“Young veteran; new classic.” Long may she rule.
3. Sahara Beck I Haven’t Done a Thing Today
triple j Unearthed Embedded Player
Sahara Beck, the Brisbane artist who’s been recording since she was what, 15? (my goodness), gifts us with a wonderfully upbeat, Killers-esque tune in all the best ways. One of my 2019 go-to mood-lifters.
2. Sunscreen High Over Love
Pure, joyous guitar pop from a Sydney four-piece. Seriously – just go listen to it. I’m running out of adjectives.
1. Calmly Pet Tornado
This Perth four-piece (née Childsaint) has finally released their first album (huzzah!), and it doesn’t disappoint. Eight songs of heartbreak, regret, reseignation and resolve, capped by this quietly haunting acoustic tune. Beauty in despair.
New feature alert! With every podcast I’ll be highlighting one or two tracks that are currently living on repeat in my brain.
This week it’s London, Ontario’s Heart Attack Kids, whose Do What You Do, off their Back Luck Like Gold, is a straight-ahead slab of hard rock. Heavy? Check. Catchy? Yup. Brain melted? Most definitely. I’m currently living in Germany, a land still ruled by connoisseurs of Hard Rock. They would fit in perfectly here.
As always, your biweeklyish 60 minutes of the best in new left-field pop from Canada, Australia and beyond. On the show: Heart Attack Kids, Noughts, Necking and Metz sonically pulverize the house, Jess Ribeiro and Sun Sets West get languid, IV League do the anthem thing, Ali Barter gets real, Kenora and Jade imagine do pop their own ways, and Wordburglar celebrates Ontario’s capital city. Also a 2014 Black Cab superhit, just because it rocks. And so much more.
Sun Sets West
Living in L.A.
Torontaun (prod. By Diagnostik 80 w Fresh Kils, cuts by More or Les)
As always, your biweekly hit of the best in new left-field pop from Canada, Australia and beyond. This week, though, with a couple of thematically appropriate non-new tunes, one from ATR all-timers Pet Shop Boys and another from Toronto’s Leslie Spit Tree-o. I’ll never understand why these guys weren’t so much huger than they were. They sound as good in 2019 as they did when this song came out, what, almost 30 years ago. #thatcantberight
What’s new? How about some punk energy courtesy of White Dog and Batpiss? And Danko Jones! Pop-wise, Gold Fields and Yothu Yinki and the Treaty Project establish a nice groove. Also in here: BBQT! Fritz! Holiday Sidewinder! Just go listen.
Yothu Yindi & the Treaty Project
Pet Shop Boys
In the Night
In the Night
Hard to Kill
I’m In a Band
Storm the Streets
Eagles of Death Metal
Long Slow Goodbye
Syrup, Go On
Don’t Go (Riding Down the Cosmic Drain)
As (almost) always, your biweekly(ish) hit of the best in new left-field pop from Canada, Australia and beyond. It’s been busy. True biweekly service to resume once I’m back from Australia next month.
This week: I think this mix turned out particularly well. Then again, that’s easy when you Tropical Fuck Storm, The Sex Geckos and Greys providing the noise, Bronswick, Skinnyfish Soundsystem and Errhun providing the beats, and JuliaWhy?, Skydeck, and Rey Pila providing the indie rock cred. And that’s just scraping the surface of this 18-song smorgasbord. Dig in!
The Sex Geckos
Tropical Fuck Storm
The Planet of Straw Men
These Things Happen
Skinnyfish Sound System
Smoking Ceremony (feat. B2M, Birdz & Tasman Keith)
triple j Unearthed Embedded Player
triple j Unearthed Embedded Player
As always, your biweekly hit of the best in new left-field pop from Canada, Australia and beyond.
This week: some lovely noise from Shit Bitch, Nestter Donuts and Pale Lips! Saw the latter two in Münster and they were loads of fun. And if you saw them, you know which Pale Lips song I’m gonna play. Also, ominous synths from Leathers and Cry Club, Mexico represents with MexFutura, wonderful pop from Seaside and Rolling Blackouts CF, and a lovely tune from Hobart’s Quivers. And so, so much more. Dive on in.
As always, your biweekly hit of the best in new left-field pop from Canada, Australia and beyond. This week we go heavy on the “beyond,” with new tracks from Ladytron, Bob Mould and (be still my heart) Pet Shop Boys. We also go heavy on the noise courtesy on Perspex, Danko Jones, Alien Boys without forgetting the value of straight up pop, from Fatamorgana and so, so many more.
Show 60! Second show of 2019! As always, the best in new left-field pop from Canada, Australia and beyond. This week: Triple J Hottest 100 heroes Hilltop Hoods and Hockey Dad! The heartbreakingly beautiful Ripe Music (ripemusic.com.au) #1 song of 2018, from Laura Jean! Invigorating noise from Gloin, Babyfats and Vintage Corp! And so, so much more.