Road to Eurovision 2018: Week 1 – Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium

(artwork courtesy Eurovision,tv)


What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
Started way back in 1956 as a way of drawing a fractured Europe back together with the healing power of music, the Eurovision Song Contest, or Concours Eurovision de la Chanson – the contest is telecast in both English and French – is open to all active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the competition.

Each country is permitted to submit one song to the contest – a song which is selected by a variety of means, usually a winner-takes-all competition such as Sweden’s renowned Melodifestivalen – which they perform in one of two semi-finals in the hopes of making it to the glittering grand final.

Only six countries have direct entry into the grand final:
* The Big Four who fund most of the contest – UK, Germany, France and Spain
* The host country (which is the winner of the previous year’s contest)
* Italy, who didn’t take part for many years and was re-admitted in 2011 after a 14 year absence (it was one of seven countries that competed in the first event), making the Big Four the Big Five.

The winner is chosen by a 50/50 mix of viewer votes (you cannot vote for your own country) and a jury of music industry professionals in each country, a method which was chosen to counter the alleged skewing of votes based on political and/or cultural lines when voting was purely the preserve of viewers at home.

Past winners include, of course, ABBA in 1974 with “Waterloo” and Celine Dion who won for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi”.

Above all though, the Eurovision Song Contest is bright, over the top and deliciously camp, a celebration of music, inclusiveness and togetherness that draws annual viewing figures in the hundreds of millions.

This year’s contest will be held in Lisbon, Portugal.


ALBANIA: “Mall” by Eugent Bushpepa



Do not ask Eugent Bushpepa, holder thus far of my favourite Eurovision artist name for 2018 – although Israels’ Netta Barzilai is hot on his heels – to pay homage to your god or worship at the feet of your golden calf.

For music is the religion of Albania’s entrant to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, a particular form of devotion he has been practising since the tender age of six when he first began to sing. (And yes, this is the perfect time to make a dad joke about the fact that if he started singing so young, he must be exhausted by now.)

A highly-creative individual whose artistic proclivities range far and wide, the now early-thirties artist got his big break in 2006 when, working as a resident singer on TV program Top Show, he won Top Fest, a music competition staged by, yes indeed, Top Channel.

The awards have kept on coming since as have the supporting tour slots for the likes of Deep Purple (2007) and Overkill (2014) and now the honour of all honours, representing his country at Eurovision, a particularly sweet accolade given it was bestowed on him by a jury of his inevitably far more boringly-named fellow professional singers.


Eugent Bushpepa (image courtesy official Eugent Bushpepa Facebook page (c) Armejsa)


At first glance the song is so much earnest indie rock, complete with tight leather pants, grandmother-acceptable attitude and MOR vibe.

But somewhere around the growl around the bridge, you find yourself humming along; not quite cigarett lighters or mobile phones in the air but getting close.

All of which means, or could mean (let’s not get ahead of ourselves), that the song, written and composed by the artist himself – so bonus points there – could result in a lovely crowd moment early in semi-final 1.

But I suspect that might be as far it goes – lovely song but hardly bone-crushingly, must-rush-to-vote memorable and might lose out to the songs after it in the running order, a number of which score higher on the catchiness scale.



ARMENIA: “Qami” by Sevak Khanagyan



They don’t like to waste time in Armenia.

Well, the family of Sevak Khanagyan don’t anyway – at the grand old age of 7, when most kids are still deciding which flavour of guy is their favourite, Armenia’s entrant to this year’s event was not only writing music but enrolled at a music school.

Quite the Mozart-ian prodigy then?  Fast-forward to 2017 and now 30-ish Khanagyan has not only participated in reality TV singing competitions Glavnaya Stsena and The Voice of Armenia but won Ukrainian X Factor, putting him front and centre among a phalanx or three million of fans, his success partly down to his own composition “Don’t Be Quiet” (clearly it was a self-instructional piece of songwriting which he heeded).

The hits like “When We Are Together” and “My Oxygen”, and “Don’t Be Quiet” – you wonder if the song is a mantra his therapist set for him to cure him of stage fright or something since he can’t seem to let it go – have kept coming, he’s a coach on the Armenian iteration of The Voice (go the swivel chairs and big red buttons!) and now, his country’s great hope for Eurovision.

But is his song “Qami” got what it takes to win over the voting public of greater Europe? (We’re assuming the regional vote is pretty much locked in, what with all that TV exposure.)


Sevak Khanagyan Image courtesy official Sevak Khanagyan Facebook page)


As earnest ballads go, full of poignant emotion and heartfelt lyrical intent, “Qami” is right up there, helped along in small part by Khanaghyan’s muscularly-imposing voice.

Lordy but can the man sing, nailing each and every escalating note and proving he has what it takes to nail the almost-obligatory Eurovision key change.

Dressed rather fetchingly like a human extra from War For the Planet of the Apes, and aided and abetted by virtual back-up singers, Khanaghyan nails the song he co-wrote with Anna Danielyan and Viktorya Maloyan, making this one of the songs to watch.

Again, it’s not anything out of the box, a glitter-covered box this being Eurovision, but it’s deeply emotionally-resonant, beautifully delivered, with the artist taking the song well beyond its rather been-there-done-that trappings.



AUSTRIA: “Nobody But You” by Cesár Sampson



You have to imagine that Cesár Sampson has a pretty healthy, fly-thirty-times-around-the-world-for-free (with champagne) frequent flyer balance.

After all, with the good-looking and talented singer barely out of high school at the age of 17, he was off touring the world with some of Austria’s most internationally acclaimed alternative music acts such as Kruder & Dorfmeister, Sofa Surfers and Louie Austen (no relation to Jane but who knows? Perhaps she had a hidden musical talent she exercised in between novels).

Listen you think the Linz-born Sampson youthful lifestyle of jetsetting and performing ruined him and left him living like a dilettante to the manor born, he worked as a social worker for a number of years, worked in the domestic music scene as a member of groups Symphonix International and Electric Church, and even sang back-up vocals for Bulgaria’s Eurovision acts in 2016 and 2017.

See grounded … ish.


Cesár Sampson Image courtesy official Cesár Sampson Facebook page)


As a songwriter, lyricist and vocal producer, with some fairly impressive worldwide performance, you would have to assume that Sampson knows his way around an insanely catchy track.

And you would be right, with “Nobody But You”, recorded with members of Symphonix International (see, he won’t forget you guys!) , channeling some serious radio cred, soulful R&B Blues vibes and a choir back-up that sends chills up your spine.

The song, written by Cesár Sampson, and lots of other people including the renowned Sebastian Arman, builds and builds and builds, all emotional punchiness, heartfelt intensity and a melody that comes alive with Sampson’s golden-coated vocals coasting along atop it.

Unless you are made of concrete, and frankly that would make clapping along to this beautifully-singable song problematic at best, “Nobody But You” is one of those songs that (pleasingly) crawls under your skin, into your heart, make residence in your earworm, and will, unless there’s something with the hearts of Europe, propel the song into a deserved grand final placing and likely top 10 finish overall.



AZERBAIJAN: “X My Heart” by Aisel



An artist of the Madonna school of professional single-names, Aisel or AISEL (which means, your poetry-loving heart will be well-pleased to learn means “the path that leads you to the moon”), depending on whether she’s feeling shouty or not, is a member of a musical family.

Whether or not this means she had to become musician – vet? philatelist? explorer? Were any of those even options we wonder? – she did, first studying at Special Secondary Musical School before attending the Azerbaijan State Conservatory in Baku where she grew into a talented pianist, composer and and singer (so under-achiever yes?).

An habitué of international jazz festivals who has had a string of hits which have given her great success across Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Ukraine, Israel, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Italy, Aisel is an artist with a stunningly emotive voice who has clearly taken her creative birthright and run with it.

But is running all the way to Lisbon the next step in her masterplan to dominate the airwaves of Europe? It could well be …


Aisel (image courtesy


“X My Heart” is one those rare songs-by-committee that actually works and has some life of its own, beyond a good idea in some songwriter’s mind.

A pan-European effort by Greek producer and songwriter Dimitris Kontopoulos and Swedish songwriter Sandra Bjurman, and producer/mixer Ash Howes who’s worked with the likes of Ellie Goulding and the Corrs, the song manages to sound like the catchiest chartopper you’ve ever head and yet not so generic that it fades into the ether the second after its final note has played.

Granted, it doesn’t push the creative envelope but not every song has to – it’s bright, vivacious and innately, infectiously danceable, and it will have everyone in Altice Arena in Lisbon not just on their feet but dancing their pop-loving souls out.

“X My Heart”, propelled by Aisel’s airily-energetic, emotionally-on-point vocals and a driving beat that will not be denied – go on I dare you to try; see can’t do it can you? – is going to be one of semi final 1’s highlights, and likely one of the standout numbers of the grand final too, keeping Azerbaijan’s track record of reaching the pinnacle night gloriously intact (they’ve never missed a grand final since the new format was introduced in 2008).






For reasons known only to the good people of Eurovision, ALEKSEEV – another artist in love with shouty caps; the better to get noticed perhaps? – is highlighted in his bio as being fatherless but not motherless.

It’s not clear how this has affected his art, but one thing is for certain, it has made him the kind of singer that wants to “share his own feelings and emotions with the world.”

Not such a bad goal at all, with ALEKSEEV, presumably not shouting at that point as teachers tend to hate that kind of thing, forming his own band at the age of 10, a prodigious act that he followed up with a student musical group at university called Mova who had a thing for the music of Californication specialists, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Did his goal of teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony end in the halls of learning? Not at all, with a 2014 appearance on The Voice earning the undying love of Belorussians, and the musical stewardship of stellar producer Oleg Bodnarchuk who helped ALEKSEEV become a viral success with the song “Drung Sun (Пьяное солнце)”, a ticket to performing all across Europe.

Making it big on YouTube, 35 million view big is one thing, but conquering Eurovision? Altogether another thing but is his song “Forever”, which tends to lyrically pre-suppose some long-lasting success, up to the task?


ALEKSEEV (image courtesy official ALEKSEEV Facebook page)


Well yes, quite possibly, actually.

Looking disquietingly like Justin Bieber with a bad hairstylist, poorly-tucked in shirts and some pyromaniac leanings, ALEKSEEV – yes his name is shouting ever-so-enthusiastically at you – delivers the goods with “Forever”, a song penned by Kyrylo Pavlov and Evhen Matyushenko which is all soaring minor key passion, heartfelt delivery and CW network earnestness.

If you’ve ever wondered what an emotionally-turbulent teen would want to listen to at a Eurovision Song Contest, muse no more because “Forever” is it with “likes” and bells on.

It’s catchy in its own epically demonstrative way, the kind of song crying out for a big, bombastic performance, which I think ALEKSEEV – don’t you want to add an exclamation point on there? Go on, you know you do – who has the vocal chops for it, should have no problem serving up to a no doubt adoring crowd.

Quite whether it gets Belarus into the grand final is another matter entirely but it should, at the very least make for one heck of a punctuation point in semi final 1.



BELGIUM: “A Matter of Time” by Sennek



Sennek, or Laura Groeseneken to her no doubt proud and doting parents, hails from Leuven, a city known for its breweries, a 15th century town hall with tall spires and Het Depot, a concert hall which hosts an eclectic array of artists.

Why single out a concert hall among the wealth of attractions unique to Leuven? Because it is where Belgium’s entrant to Eurovision works as a vocal coach when she’s not performing with Belgian musician Ozark Henry at some of the country’s biggest music festivals, and working towards furthering her solo career.

But a girl’s gotta eat too and so by day Sennek works as a visual merchandiser at IKEA, which explains her love of Scandinavian design (although in this chicken or egg scenario, who knows which came first?).

No disrespect to IKEA of course, home of Benno and Billy, but it looks like this talented artist, has her eyes set on a career far beyond the store’s twisting corridors of furniture with her appearance at Eurovision set to shake up her life, come what may.


Sennek (image courtesy official Sennek Facebook page)


Sennek is the creator of her own moody mid-tempo dreams it seems if “A Matter of Time” is any indication.

Written with collaborators Belgian artist Alex Callier and French producer Maxime Tribeche (who produced the song, surprise surprise, not), “A Matter of Time” sounds like the sort of theme music that the Bond franchise would leap at in suitably epic fashion.

The fact that the song recalls good old 007’s typically laidback, emotionally-resonant musicality is no accident, I suspect, given that the singer worked on 50th anniversary celebrations of the James Bond franchise, 007 In Concert.

Captivating though the song is, and beautifully sung into the bargain – someone let her score the next Bond instalment pronto! – the perfect accompaniment to 3am fireplace chats with Cognac and intense existential discussions, I wonder if it won’t waft off into the rafters of the Altice Arena never to be seen again, particularly not in the grand final where memorable is good and mood, no matter how well executed, not so much.





Israel’s entry for this years’s event, “Toy” by Netta (who I absolutely and unequivocally adore) – of which more will be written in coming weeks – is creating an incredibly viral reaction throughout the Arab world and as far afield as Uganda.

Preceding it though was the artist’s performance on season five of reality singing compettion, HaKokhav HaBa, which has won, in part, with mash-ups like this utterly captivating “Sing Hallelujah” number …



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Cinema sounds: My three current favourite soundtracks (Black Panther, Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water)



Soundtracks are knitted into the soul of every movie you see.

Often well done, sometimes not, but where they work, and work superbly, they add immeasurable depth, breadth and spine-tingling, soul-stirring emotion to a film, augmenting stellar performances by the cast. elevating key plot points and ensuring that, if we aren’t already heavily invested in what we’re watching, that we are swept into the story before us, never to be seen again until the lights come up.

As someone heavily into music in any form, it’s no surprise that I love movie soundtracks, with shelves full of beautiful music and gorgeously-addictive songs gracing my home; but not every soundtrack strikes that magical chord that makes it a must-have, must-listen event with some soundtracks making sense in the cinema but leaving you cold when pulled into isolation away from the images they accompany.

These three soundtracks, all from relatively current films, two of which are Oscar winners, and one which really should have been if the Academy Awards weren’t so blockbuster-averse, are my three current favourites, full of music and songs that enrich their films of which they’re a part, but which also stand confidently on their own two feet when it’s just you, your streaming service and a pile of must-do ironing.


Black Panther: The Album (image courtesy Interscope Records)


Quite apart from the music itself which is rich, raw and inescapably beautiful, with vocals that reach into the soul and then some, courtesy of the fine work of Ludwig Göransson – try and listen to “Wakanda” and not be impossibly moved – Black Panther released an album of über-cool songs curated by chart darling Kendrick Lamar.

Songs like “Pray For Me”, performed by The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, “King’s Dead” by Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake, and the song that has deservedly dominated the charts off late, “All the Stars” (performed by Kendrick Lamar and SZA) pick up on elements of the film that has proved that a superhero film that dares to depart from the usual template can do amazing business … AND RUN WITH IT.

Drawing on rap and hip-hop stylings, the album is palpably resonant with emotion, and a willingness to tell it like it is, all-infectious melodies, insightful lyrics and a pleasing willingness to push boundaries, just like the film, as this review by Pitchfork makes clear:

“Curated by and largely featuring Kendrick Lamar, the soundtrack is a diverse, daring, and holistic pairing with the blackest movie in the Marvel Comic Universe.”

Much like other song collections such those for Tomb Raider (2001), Black Panther: The Album is very much of the moment but with themes that will long outlive the film, executed with bravura, an innate sense of what needs to be said and how best to say it.


Call me BY Your Name (image courtesy Madison Gate / Sony Music Masterworks)


The soundtrack to Call Me By Your Name is indescribably beautiful and ineffably affecting in ways I can’t even begin to articulate.

Quite apart from the fact that it shows a love affair between two men free of cliche and rich with the purity, promise and loss of real love, regardless of the sex of the people involved, Call Me By Your Name possesses a soundtrack, anchored by exquisitely-moving songs by American folk indie artist Sufjan Stevens (“Mystery of Love”, “Visions of Gideon”, and a new rendition of “Futile Devices”) that moves in perfect synchronicity with the narrative.

The soundtrack is a stellar example of story and music moving as one, reflecting the passion of the director Luca Guadagnino, who usually selects the music for his film but rightly fell in love with Sufjans delicacy of melodic emotion and intensity of lyrical expression, for music that isn’t just there but is intrinsically part of the film.

That being said, the soundtrack stands well and truly on its own two feet, one of those delightful pieces of work that you can immerse yourself in for hours on end, the songs and instrumentals washing over you with the kind of luxurious fullness usually reserved for the act of falling in love itself.


The Shape of Water (image courtesy Decca Records)


Guillermo del Toro has a gift for stories that are fantastical and out there, and yet which sit right at the intersection of the real, the authentic and the deeply human.

It’s why people gravitate to his superlatives films like Pan’s Labyrinth, and of course, The Shape of Water, and why the Academy Awards recently bestowed a slew of awards on his latest masterpiece, awarding his tale of a woman, a river god and the struggle of outsiders to forge lives in a world doggedly devoted to the mainstream, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design, all of which were richly deserved.

The award for Best Original Score was particularly thrilling with Alexandre Desplat crafting music that is whimsical and magical, as befits the retro magical fairytale-ness of the film, but also achingly, blissfully soulful, a tribute to the deep bonds that form between mute cleaner Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) and “Amphibian Man” (Doug Jones).

Drawing on an Amélie-like quirkiness and sweetness, the tracks are all matched with emotional and lyrical precision to their scenes, especially the opening track, The Shape of Water which takes you into the film’s world, with its delightful blend of playfulness and emotional resonance.

The soundtrack to The Shape of Water is that rare blend of substance and truth and lighthearted beauty, of magicality and the real world, a tonic for the world-weary soul that never once shirks away from the beautiful and dark elements of the human condition.


All aboard! What’s happening with Eurovision 2018? (update 2)

(artwork courtesy Eurovision,tv)


Time is tick-tick-tocking on with the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 less than 2 months away!

Preparations at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, where Portugal will host its first ever Contest after Salvador Sobral won with the exquisitely-beautiful “Amar pelos dois (Loving For Both of Us)”, are well under way as are all the events that lead up to Europe’s musical night of nights.

Key among them are the pre-parties that litter the Eurovision schedule like glitter scattered artfully across the floor with Riga, Latvia (24 March), London, UK (London Eurovision Party), 5 April), Amsterdam, Netherlands (14 April), and Madrid, Spain (21 April) gearing up to get everyone excited about the event to come.

At each of the events, a carefully-created number of actual Eurovision entrants will entertain the crowds – ZiBBZ from Switzerland and Laura Rizzotto from Latvia are performing in Amsterdam while London plays host to the likes of Rasmussen from Denmark and Cesár Sampson from Austria – giving everyone a great idea of what lies in wait come the middle of May.

You could argue that all this concert/party hype takes away from the impact of the event itself but that seldom seems to be the case with enthusiasm building, after each of the nights; and besides with the focus on all the national contests and the megaphone virality of social media, the musical cat is already well and truly out of the bag.

In the end, it’s all about marketing an event that has been around since 1956 – it was established as a way of culturally knitting together a war-torn Europe – and which, thanks to events like this continues to grow bigger and brighter with every passing year.



In other big news, and given the time to takes the tally the televotes and jury votes – the ultimate vote tally for each country is a 50/50 split between national juries composed of musical luminaries and the votes of the general public – this is a BIG DEAL, the acts who will keep us entertained on the night of the grand final on 12 May have been announced.

As Belén García (Spain) reports from ESCplus, Salvador Sobral, the man who gave Portugal its first Eurovision win and who is fresh from a successful heart transplant – he was so weak last year that his sister, fellow singer and co-writer of the winning song, Luísa Sobral stepped in at rehearsal and joined him for his post-victory performance – will be performing “Amar pelos dois (Loving For Both of Us)” along with a new song from his upcoming album.



Joining him on the entertainment roster will be acclaimed fado singers Ana Moura and Mariza who sing in a genre that is peculiarly Portugese, dating from the early 19th century, with songs that are mournful in both lyrics and melody. and Beatbombers who are going to give the country flagbearers in the opening act a suitably percussive entry.

Finally Portugese DJ, Branko, whose first album Atlas drew its influences form around the world, will take into the electronic music of  Cape Verde, Angola, Portugal and Brazil, all areas with which this artist is intimately familiar.

For full details, go to ESCplus.


(image courtesy


Now should be fortunate to score any of the fourth and final wave of tickets that go on sale on 5 April, and are one of the fans duly accredited by the Eurovision powers that be, you, along with  journalists, delegations and artists will gain hallowed access to the beat-heavy surrounds of the Euroclub.

Situated in one of Lisbon’s most fashionable night clubs at Terreiro do Paço (Praça do Comerçio), and running from 6-12 May, this rather exclusive venue, located but a pyrotechnic blast from the 2018 Eurovision Village, will be the place for all the beautiful people of the Contest to chill, unwind, dance and forget that less than perfect semi-final performance.

If you’re a member of the general public however? Best fire up your favourite Spotify playlist, close the curtains on your hotel room and put your hands in the air like your un-accredited self just don’t care …


Commerce Square in front of Arco da Augusta in downtown Lisbon.


Can past winners come back and triumph all over again? A Wiwibloggs correspondent asked that pertinent question in the light of Alexander Rybak being chosen to represent Norway, after a 9 year gap with the song “That’s How You Write a Song”.

Rybak is a special case of course since he won Eurovision back in 2009 with 387 points, the highest vote telly ever under the old system, repeating that victory, at least in spirit, in recent Norwegian selection trials for the Contest known as Melodi Grand Prix where he attracted a landslide number of votes.



But even he may not be immune to the reality that Eurovision lightning very rarely strikes twice – although c’mon! LOOK AT THAT SMILE! – as this fascinating article makes clear with a number of past victors such as Lena from Germany (2010, 2011) and the great Niamh Kavanagh from Ireland (1993, 2010) failing to grab the crystal microphone in their return appearances.

The lessons of history are not always doomed to be repeated and when you have a song as upbeat and bouncy as “That’s How You Write a Song” and a singer like Ryback who has boy-next-door charisma to burn, it’s easy enough to stare it down.

All will be revealed come semi-final on 8 May when we find out if Rybak has a “Waterloo” moment (check the lyrics for the reference) or defies past form and emerges victorious, infectious smile and all …


(image courtesy


I am in love with a woman (beside Sandra Bullock who is, as well know, gorgeous and completely beyond reproach).

Now before my boyfriend wonders what the hell is going on, and my family and friends laugh at the very idea, let me be clear that the woman I am in love with is Israel’s entrant to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Netta Barzilai aka Netta, who is all kinds of animatedly fabulous singing the #metoo movement-influenced song “Toy”, written by Doron Medalie and Stav Beger.

Playful, quirky and incredibly infectiously addictive, “Toy” is that marvellously impressive combination of serious intent and bright, fun execution that delivers a real oomph if you’re paying attention.

Look for this song, and Netta who is simply superb in the very entertaining clip, to do very well, and perhaps even win, yes win, you heard me, this year’s Contest.



The world as a whole may still have some way to go to embrace full sexual diversity but in Ireland, the debate has been largely had, love has won and the country now celebrates its LGBTQI residents.

This is most beautifully evident in the country’s entry to Eurovision this year, “Together” by Ryan O’Shaughnessy, who was a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, the clip for which feautures a touching and carefree gay romance as its centrepiece. Granted the romance doesn’t run its course with the song a sweetly melancholic musing on past love but it’s a beautiful statement all the same and should enusre Ireland moves to the grand final after four years of failing to escape the semi-final round.



ABBA is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic, winner of Eurovision.

After their near-legendary win with “Waterloo” in Brighton England in 1974, the Swedish super foursome have become inextricably linked with the event that brought them to worldwide prominence, and so it’s entirely fitting that when the UK selected its 2018 Eurovision entry at the BBC-run Eurovision: You Decide 2018, hosts Måns Zelmerlöw and Lucie Jone opened with an ABBA medley.


Pop Culture Typography: Iconic logos and fonts get a fun musical re-imagining

(image via YouTube (c) Isaac Moores aka “Izac Less”)


Ever-more creative and colourful lyric videos have become quite the thing of late for many music artists.

Whether as a stop-gap till a live-action clip is filmed or the final promotional product itself, the best lyric videos entrance, entertain and move perfectly in time with the song they’re accompanying.

A perfect example of this art comes from Melbourne artist Isaac Moores aka “Izac Less” who has created a lyric video for the song “Pop Culture” by French DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter and musician Madeon using, and here is the genius part, fonts from every pop culture property imaginable including Rick and Morty, Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones, Tron, Back to the Future and Stranger Things. (The list is impressively and exhaustively long, detailed in the video below the actual lyric video itself.)

It’s clever af, bright, effervescent and most importantly syncs up so harmoniously with the song that you swear it was made especially for it right from the start.

(source: Laughing Squid)



Now this is music #104: IZNiik, Raindear, Cashmere Cat, VÉRITÉ, Dana Buoy


I love anyone and anything that sits outside the usual boundaries of what people consider “normal”, which if you’re conservative is pretty much anything outside the beige and the banal.

Rather than decrying people who push boundaries and are exceptionally, interestingly creative, we should celebrate them, hold them high, thrown them a parade and thank them for standing outside the mainstream of life and for interpreting life in a wholly unique way.

All five of these artists do that to some degree or another and we are all the better for it, possessed of new perspectives and some killer music to get us through the day, and that crucial extra bit of difference that elevates who we are and the life we’re trying to lead.

Be thankful for the different.


“Shadows” by iZNiiK


iZNiiK (image via official iZNiik Facebook page)


Ah, the great and glorious mystery that is iZNiiK, an artists who seems to exist only through the amazingly catchy music he creates as Billboard points out:

“There are mystery producers who wear helmets and color-coordinated outfits to hide their faces, then there are mystery artists who literally say nothing, post nothing, and otherwise don’t even exist other than through the music … Good luck finding anything about this person. Even iZNiiK’s Twitter is a ghost town.”

A blank, riddle and enigma all rolled into one he may be but good god his music is the catchiest, most funky R&B-influenced stuff out there.

“Shadows” in particular catches its creator’s penchant for samples of music, pop culture elements and inventive vocals, a melange of irresistibly catchy influences that dares you to play it only once.

You may as well get ready for the fact that you’ll playing this over and over and over and … well, you get the idea.



“Diamonds in my Chest” by Raindear


Raindear (image via official Raindear Facebook page)


Declaring her genre as a beguiling mix of “desert pop” and “samurai sounds”, Raindear aka Rebecca Bergcrantz, who hails from the fertile musical hotbed of Stockholm, Sweden, is certainly a unique artist in many respects.

The artist and producer has shown a knack for creating wholly extraordinary immersive pop like “Diamonds in the Chest” that isn’t so much listened to, although you’ll definitely want to do that, as experienced.

This makes sense when you take a look at how she describes her 2016 debut album Embers:

“It’s about life, death and all the weirdness in-between.”

Her songs are as far from disposable pop as you can get, full of brilliantly-good music, which We Are: The Guard describes as a mix of “addictive beats and fantastic highs”, and emotionally-resonant voice par excellence, but also some very insightful thinking, evidence that she is an artist who wants to say something as much as delight our ears.



“Miss You” by Cashmere Cat


Cashmere Cat (image via official Cashmere Cat Facebook page)


Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat, known to friends and family as Magnus August Høiberg, is a multi-talented artist, leaping with beat-heavy alacrity between DJ-ing, producing and musician duties.

His song “Miss You”, shows him wearing his many hats but also making good use of the likes of Diplo’s Major Lazer crew and Toronto-based singer/rapper Tory Lanez, and according to his Instagram account, Ed Sheeran, Benny Blanco, and the dancehall experimentalist Palmistry.

That’s some high-powered collaboration for a gorgeous piece of mid-tempo dance but as Stereogum points out, that doesn’t mean you end up with some feature-less mishmash of competing influences:

“Even with an army of people involved, though, ‘Miss You’ sounds loose and effortless. It’s a dazed, lovely piece of bubble-dancehall.”

The song, and the artist who got the ball rolling on this engaging team effort, is proof positive that working together can result in something utterly beautiful and highly listenable, a lesson our fractured world could do well to learn.



“Saint” by VÉRITÉ 


VÉRITÉ (image via official VÉRITÉ Facebook page)


New Yorker VÉRITÉ, who amply demonstrates that you can wear a lampshade on your head and still make an attractive style statement, clearly has a thing for mannequins.

Not, of course, as Jerry Seinfeld would note, that there’s anything wrong with that.

She also has a deeply-appealing affinity for lush pop production, soaring ethereal vocals and melodies that stick in your head, heart and soul and will not be dislodged, all qualities evident in the captivating brilliance of “Saint”, off her 2017 Somewhere Inbetween LP, which followed a series of very well-received EPs.

The song is exquisite, all fuzzy intro and loping beats that starts off quiet before building into a grandly epic pop effort that rises and falls with operatic intensity and an intense lyrical appreciation for the vagaries and complexities of relating to another human being



“Ice Glitter Gold ” by Dana Buoy


Dana Buoy (image via official Dana Buoy Facebook page)


Dana Buoy aka Dana Janssen – winner of this post’s most creative name competition: OK there isn’t one but if there was one, hands-down winner – has been a little quiet of late.

Try no new music since 2014.

But that all changed 23 February when he released new album Ice Glitter Gold, recored in New York with frequent collaborator Justin Miller, of which this track is the obvious title track.

It’s a crunchy piece of driving melodic electronic pop, with shades of darkness and light, lyrically and musically, that comes out swinging and will definitely leave an impression, a very good one at that.

Which after an absence is exactly the entrance you want to make.





I love French pop music.

Artists from Phoenix to Télépopmusik, Charlotte Gainsbourg to Petite Meller and beyond fill my iPod and finding a new artist to add to my listening roster is always a joy. Hence my happiness at stumbling across Polo & Pan, an electro DJ duo composed of “Polocorp” (Paul Armand-Delille) and “Peter Pan” (Alexandre Grynszpan), whose music is quirky, languorous and poppy all at once.

And their clips are a delight such as this for one of their more recent songs “Pays Imaginaire (Imaginary Country)” which is trippy blissfest of imaginative visual storytelling …


Now this is music #103: Car Seat Headrest, Young Fathers, Ariel Beesley, Black Light White Light, Club 8


Life is too short, way too short, to waste it on artists and songs that say nothing of any consequence.

That’s not say that every song you listen should be a philosophical treatise set to music – having some mindless, go-with-the-groove fun can be good for the soul – but immersing yourself in pop music that doesn’t just sound amazing but speaks something to the great mystery of life too adds to the quality of your life.

These five impressively-diverse artists do just that, bringing forth richness both musically and lyrically, the perfect combination of music and thought that will please anyone who wants their life soundtrack to be as substantial as it is hook-laden.


“Nervous Young Inhumans” by Car Seat Headrest


Car Seat Headrest (image courtesy official Car Seat Headrest Facebook)


It’s all in the name they say, and if that’s true and it often appears to be, then Car Seat Headrest have the whole memorable naming gig tied up.

Hailing from Leesburg Virginia back in the day and now happily ensconsed in the vibrant music scane of Seattle, Washington, Car Seat Headrest are not defined by their catchy name alone.

Songs like “Nervous Young Inhumans” which was originally released back in 2011 via Bandcamp and has now been refurbished and reborn for a label-reissue of Twin Fantasy, of which the artist behind the group (which comprises Will Toledo; Ethan Ives; Andrew Katz; Seth Dalby) Will Toledo had this to say:

“[Twin Fantasy] was never a finished work … it wasn’t until last year that I figured out how to finish it.”  (Exclaim)

In its new guise, the song is a driving jangling piece of catchy guitar-infused synth pop that echoes with Toledo’s idiosyncratically resonant voice, proof that while necessity is oft spoke as the mother on invention, reinvention can happen just because, gifting us music we know and love in a whole otehr pleasing form.



“In My View” By Young Fathers


Young Fathers (image courtesy official Young Fathers Facebook page)


As a band devoted to defying expectations and calling out assumptions and flawed perception, Young Fathers, a biracial rap group (Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, ‘G’ Hastings) from Edinburgh have infused their wholly unique music with that same lyrical sensibility.

It’s most apparent on “In My View”, the second single from upcoming album Cocoa Sugar, which, as Pitchfork explains, calls out perceptions that aren’t quite right:

“Downtempo and monochromatic, the song is a hybrid, half-sung and half-spoken, as disembodied voices creak and echo. ‘In my view/Nothing’s ever given away/I believe/To advance then you must pay,’ Alloysious Massaquoi sings as drums scutter beneath whirring synth notes. ‘I wanna be king until I am/A man is just a man, I understand,’ ‘G’ Hastings adds. An overarching theme comes into focus: Everything isn’t what it’s made out to be.”

While it’s true “In My View” is not the most uptempo of tracks, it is richly-immersive, a beautiful tripping piece of music that challenges, and makes you think, making this piece of catchy pop one of those rare gems that pleases both mind and soul.



“Slower Than Usual” by Ariel Beesley


Ariel Beesley (image courtesy official Ariel Beesley Facebook page)


Singer/vocalist Ariel Beesley, who hails from the San Fernando Valley, California, is one those rare souls that excels at more than one thing.

A musician before she was a model, Ariel grew up with a eclectically-mixed palette that ranged from Frank Sinatra to The Cure, and began playing the guitar when she was 14, a precursor to writing her own songs.

All that perternatural ability has found a home in songs like “Slower Than Usual” that draw on a giddy driving ’80s feel that suggests The Go-Gos and makes excellent use of her dusky, evocative vocals that drip with laid-back passion and energy.

It’s one of those songs that sounds like something you’ve heard before and then doesn’t, marking her as someone who take in an influence, play with it and make it her owbn to consistently winning effect.



“Teenage Dream” by Black Light White Light


Black Light White Light (Image courtesy official Black Light White Light Facebook page)


A psych rock band based in Malmö, Sweden, which once played host to Eurovision, Black Lighht White Light, founded by Danish-born Martin Ejlertsen who works with a number of friends to create the band’s sound which they describe, rather winningly on their Facebook page as “catchy melodies swirled in fuzzy guitars, distorted tremolo, chiming reverb, groovy bass lines and pounding beats in a Spectorish 60s universe with a modern Scandinavian twist.”

Now who could resist that kind of utterly distinct musical concoction?

Very few people and tracks like “Teenage Dream” keep capturing peoples’ attention, channelling all kinds of delicious sounds as beautifully described by Nordic Music Review:

“‘Teenage Dream’ is simple a belting track, led by a bold melodic keyboard driven theme, supported by fuzzy guitars, and the whole track is dripping with swirling psychedelia, but through it all Martin Ejlertsen’s vocals offer a soft melancholy quality that makes it really listenable. There are so many great influences from music across the last 50 years, but it still works perfectly today.”

The song somehow manages to be both energetic and ethereal all at once, a richly-rewarding piece of pop that dances and weaves around you, immerses you in such a way that remaining deep with its appealing folds for as long as possible comes across as a thoroughly compelling idea every time you listen to it.



“Fire” by Club 8


Club 8 (image courtesy official Club 8 Facebook page)


While the artwork might suggest meditative moments in a medieval chruch somewhere, “Fire” by Swedish electro-pop duo, Club 8 (Karolina Komstedt, Poprace and Johan Angergård, Acid House Kings, Poprace) dares to take you somewhere entirely different.

Motoring along in a chilled midtempo vibe, the song, suffused by Karolina’s magically-removed voice that glides through the minor key-buffed melody with silken-smooth beauty, is one those engagingly lo-fi efforts that has presence despite it laidback dynamic.

It’s all very subtle and elegant and gorgeously outside the pellmell of most electronica, a welcome respite that bristles with emotionally-evocative vibrancy and an assuring sense of endless chilled perfection.

If you’re looking for music that will consume and calm you all at once, then Club 8 have the goods, a constantly-reinventive duo who understands you can be powerful while understated, dazzling while kicking back from the madding crowd.





Kurtis Jackson has created the most relaxing short film ever with footage of his friend Alex snowboarding down a snow-covered forested hill to the elegant beauty of Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”. It is beautiful and you will fall into a reverie … oh yes, you will(Laughing Squid)




The Matinee ’18 January 16th

Now this is music #102: Troye Sivan, Pond, TRACE, Nilüfer Yanya, Frills


Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of follow-the-leader music out there, bereft of distinctive identity, an assembly of parts that belies its lack of one-of-a-kind inspiration.

Thankfully there are an awful lot of immensely-talented people out there creating music that is anything but beige and uniformly the same, and these five artists are leading the charge, creating songs that sound gorgeously like nothing else, that saying something worthwhile and which will burrow into your heart and soul as much as they will make your ears a happy, lovely place to be.

It’s a delight to listen to music like this and trust me, after you taker each of the songs in, it will be damn near impossible to stomach the clone-esque purveyors of uninspired pop ever again.


“My My My” By Troye Sivan


Troye Sivan (image courtesy official Troye Sivan Facebook page)


Australian artist Troye Sivan, who made the world sit and take notice with the impressive music offerings on his 2015 album Blue Neighbourhood which made the top 10 in his home country and USA, is an artist who knows how to make a statement.

The lead single from his new album, due out this northern Spring from Capitol Records, “My My My” is not only as hook-laden as they come, an infectiously danceable upbeat tour de force, but accompanied by a clip that makes alluring gay men every bit as much a part of the visual pop narrative as anything else (a big, welcome step forward) and a kickass message that a world increasingly inthrall to stultifying orthodoxy needs to hear:

“‘My My My!’ is a song of liberation, freedom, and love. Throw all inhibition to the wind, be present in your body, love wholeheartedly, move the way you’ve always wanted to, and dance the way you feel – hopefully even to this song!” (Billboard)

This song is proof positive that you can have a sublimely good, insanely catchy pop song that will fill dancefloors like there’s no tomorrow – I certainly hope there is; I have some proud-of-myself strutting to do! – that all says something real and important that will positively impact everyone who hears it.



“Fire in the Water” by Pond

Pond (image courtesy official Pond Facebook page)


If you like your bands to be quirky, very much possessed of their own, very distinct identity and able to weave in retro influences like they are completely their own, then you are going to love Western Australia’s Pond (Urethra Franklin, Kirk Kobain, Spready Hazel, and Gary; names may be a tad nom de plume-y).

Striding forth from hometown Perth possessed of an ’80s music sensibility, and some off-the-wall influences – the bigger groove, SYZZURP!, and the turbule of water left behind a duck – Pond have nailed their freak flag masterfully to the mast with “Fire in the Water”, a new song that comes with an appropriately imaginative film clip.

The video, which shows the band wandering through a range of fantastically fun Tokyo scenes, came with some typically off-kilter inspirations:

“We got lost a lot and kinda just followed Nick around because he kept wanting to find this rainbow bridge which I don’t think ever existed. The original idea was Nick turning into a jellyfish, floating over the buildings looking down on all these people eating ramen and sushi but that idea didn’t really fly.” (Consequence of Sound)

“Fire in the Water” has been released to herald the imminent re-release of last year’s The Weather, ahead of a concerted push into the USA where, if there is any kind of wacko god, they will find brilliant success.



“You Don’t Know me” By TRACE


TRACE (image courtesy official TRACE Facebook page)


First impressions are a handy way for peole to make a determination about whether they want to get to know someone, how to deal with them and whether there’s something to your initial idea of someone.

But as TRACE, a Los Angeles-based artist who’s the daughter of Vietnamese pop icon Carol Kim and as such as suffused in the power of music to affect people and convey a message, tells you in “You Don’t Know Me”, first impressions can be misleading, often unraveling once you get to know someone better.

In this case, it’s not for the better (or it is but messily so), and as the lo-fi, deeply melodic song gathers pace, anchored by TRACE’s gorgeously airy vocals, you come to understand why growing closer to someone is a series of missteps and reassessments, borne of growing intimacy:

“To really know someone is an intimacy we crave and rarely feel. When we get that chance to get close to someone, we sometimes realize, up close, they aren’t actually someone we like at all.” (Broadway World)

“You Don’t Know Me” is the lead single for debut EP, Low, which TRACE recorded in the bathroom of her small East Los Angeles apartment, a harbinger of a career that looks like it’s going to be an appealing mix of gorgeous music and thoughtful social commentary.



“Baby Luv” by Nilüfer Yanya


Nilüfer Yanya (image courtesy official Nilüfer Yanya Facebook page)


Nominated by We Are: The Guard as one of their 13 best indie artists you should paying close attention to in 2018, and yes you should, you reallu should, 22 -year-old Londoner Nilüfer Yanya feels like she pours an inordinate amount of seductive soul into her music.

Case in point is “Baby Luv”, a song which, along with musical siblings “Keep On Calling” and “Golden Cage” is attracting a huge amount of attention from just about, well, anyone who’s anyone:

“… now tipped by everyone from Pitchfork to The Guardian, Fader and back again was most recently nominated to the 2018 iteration of BBC’s most closely watched Sound Of Poll (past winners include Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding). Working in a unique and personal sound built around jazzy guitar chords and a free-in-its-orbit whirl of soul and trip-hop-tinged vocal and instrumental phrasings, Nilufer Yanya particularly excels and stands out for her command of and skill for mood and space on a track …” (We Are: The Guard)

Armed with a delightfully idiosyncratic voice that comes armed with amazing emotionality, Vanya’s songs are exquisitely-wrought creatures, possessed of unutterably fey beauty but lyrical substance that will make your heart swoon every bit as much as your ears.



“We Can be Friends” by Frills


frills (image courtesy official frills Facebook page)


Year-old newbies on the music scene, Brooklyn-based Frills have a body of work that is not large in number but incredibly influential and noticeable in every other way.

“We Can be Friends”, which they released late last year, is bright, breezy, otherworldly and fun, a transportive track that carries you aloft to the dreamy places you go to when life feels a little too fast-paced for your liking.

So conducive is it to reveries of the chilled kind that We Are: The Guard‘s quite aptly described it thus:

“There is an unmistakable similarity to Peter Bjorn and John, and that could be some of the best praise I could give such a new band. Listening to “We Can Be Friends,” makes it hard not to picture yourself within a small venue displaying a shoegazey band trying their best to knock the socks off of a half-drunk audience. Skinny jeans and flannel shirts everywhere. Feels like a decade ago, during a simpler times. Luckily, the Frills assures us that no matter what side of issues you are on, we can truly all get along and be friends.”

It’s an appealing sentiment in an enormously pretty song that will make its way to your heart and stay there like, well yes, a good friend.





OK so this is an intriguingly odd way to revisit your musical past but it actually kinda works. “Africa” by Toto was released in September 1982 and is one of those iconic songs of my teenage years. Now it’s been reimagined using, according to the good folks at Laughing Squid, “64 floppy drives, 8 hard drives, and 2 scanners.” Listen and enjoy …



Glitter and glam! 100 days to the Eurovision Song Contest 2018

(image courtesy


On the night of 13 May 2017, with the cheers and encouragement of the packed International Exhibition Centre in Kiev, Ukraine ringing in his ear, and the landslide votes of Europe propelling him to a resounding victory, Salvador Sobral secured an historic first victory for Portugal in the Eurovision Song Contest with the arrestingly-beautiful song “Amar pelos dois (Loving For Both of Us)”.

That epic moment, and it was deeply-affecting for variety of reasons, meant that Portugal, a small country on the Iberian peninsula, won the right to host the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest which will take place this year in the capital, Lisbon at the Altice Arena with a total of 43 countries participating, and the theme “All Aboard” providing a highly-inclusive feel to the event.



It’s a high honour for any country given the long history of the contest.

The Eurovision Song Contest, or Concours Eurovision de la Chanson, kicked off back in 1956 as a way of drawing a WW2-fractured Europe back together with the healing power of music. Open to all active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the competition, past winners have included, of course, ABBA in 1974 with “Waterloo” and Celine Dion who won for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi”.

While the event does come with some gorgeously kitsch overtones and may not always reflect on-point musical trends, it remains a major event on the European calendar with national contests such as Sweden’s Melodifestivalen (10 February to 3 March), the UK’s publicly-voted  Eurovision: You Decide and France’s newly-minted Destination Eurovision, currently underway across Europe to select each country’s representative.


(image courtesy


One of the big milestones on the way to every Eurovision Song Contest is the draw to determine which countries go into which semi-final.

The two semi-finals, which will be held on Tuesday 8 May and Thursday 10 May European time – broadcast at the wholly inelegant time of 5 a.m. in Australia where true believers all will gather to watch and yes, vote – are the lead-up to the grand final, to which the Big Five (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy) and host country Portugal, are automatically entered.

The draw for the two semi-finals, which will feature 19 countries and 18 countries respectively, was held on 29 January at Lisbon’s City Hall in a ceremony presided over by two of this year’s four event hosts Filomena Cautela and Silvia Alberto (with EBU’s Mr Jon Ola Sand keeping a sharp eye on proceedings), resulting in the following countries finding their temporary performing home, in the hopes of being one of the 24 entrants to make it to the grand final.



Estonia (F), Armenia (S), Ireland (S), Austria (S), Finland (S), Cyprus (S), Greece (S), Croatia (S), FYR Macedonia (S), Iceland (F), Israel (F), Azerbaijan (F), Lithuania (F), Belarus (F), Czech Republic (F), Belgium (F), Albania (F), Bulgaria (F) and Switzerland (S).

San Marino (F), Montenegro (S), Sweden (S), Poland (S), Latvia (S), Ukraine (S), Slovenia (S), Georgia (S), Hungary (S), Moldova (F), Denmark (F), Serbia (F), Romania (F), The Netherlands (F), Norway (F), Australia (F), Russia (F) and Malta (S).

Once this was decided, the countries were then divided into the two halves of their various semi-finals, the order of each semi-final determined closer to the actual event. (Letters “F” for first and “S” for second indicate which half of the semi-final the country will appear.)




Only a few countries have selected their final entrant – for Australia it’s Jessica Mauboy, and for Russia, the controversial Julia Samoylova – so we’re sure who is singing exactly for whom yet but this is an important step towards knowing who will be directly competing against whom in what is always a fiercely-contested battle of the voices, even in a Contest dedicated to peace and pan-European camaraderie.

In addition to the semi-final selection, the official handover of hosting duties from the previous host country Ukraine to Portugal known as the Host City Insignia Handover Ceremony took place with Mr. Fernando Medina (Mayor of Lisbon) officially taking charge of the Eurovision baton from Mr. Vitalie Klitschko (Mayor of Kyiv).

(sources: ESCToday and


(image courtesy


So with the third wave of ticket sales underway, what can we expect sound-wise from the event?

It’s way too early to say definitively, with many countries yet to seal the deal on their singer of choice, with no real sense if 2018 will be a ballad-heavy year, a glitter-showered dance-a-thon or somewhere rather middlingly in-between.

Early indications are though that we’re in for some rather cool songs.



Take the Czech Republic’s very handsome Mikolas Josef who will be performing the insanely catchy, retro funky, rap-drenched Marilyn Monroe-referencing big band-influenced song “Lie to Me”, a sentiment which doubtless does not apply to how good the song sounds or how well he’ll do in the contest. (Then again creative types have notoriously thin skins – I should know, I’m a writer – so maybe he wants to lie to his face, and often.)

It’s bright, preppy and the sort of song that, properly performed – that’s not always a given; Exhibit A is France’s Anggun whose song “You and I” shone in the studio but tanked live due to an inert performance – will do extremely well both with the arena crowd and the televoters of Europe. (Countries get to vote by the way in selected semi-finals with the big six divided thus – UK, Spain and Portugal will vote in semi-final 1 while Italy, France and Germany will vote semi-final 2.)



France’s Madame Monsieur goes a little more mid-tempo but their easygoing song “Mercy” is an intoxicating mix of chilled and upbeat, anchored by a confidant, assured performance by a French duo (vocalist Émilie Satt and producer Jean-Karl Lucas) who have been around since 2013.

Their music, which has been favourably compared to the chart-topping Christine and the Queens by The Huffington Post and Wiwibloggs, is cutting-edge avant garde pop that should play well to an audience who have shown an aptitude for music that is both of the moment and a little bit familiar too.



Meanwhile Spain have gone delightfully old school with the duo effort “Tu Canción” which features Alfred and Amaia – not a couple but goddamn that chemistry: I am shipping them heavily and so is everyone else with the hashtag #Almaia getting quite a bit of traction – channelling a highly-emotional piece of music that’s sure to silence everyone with its sheer theatricality.

Forget the fact that it hews very closely to last year’s entry from Portugal in both sound and intent – there are always copycats in the following year, who attempt to replicate the previous sound but as experience has shown, what wins one year is left in the voting dust the next – it’s a seriously beautiful song that may just capture everyone’s hearts, proving that some genuine manufactured emotion will get ’em every time.

Granted you cannot a contest determine with just three songs but as this year’s Eurovision Song Contest draws near, and trust us it will happen so fast it will leave your pyrotechnic-loving head swiveling between rapid costume changes, the signs are good that this will be a contest to remember.


Now this is Australian music: The Presets, Bajillionaire, GAUCI, Stella Donnelly, India Sweeney


It’s Australia Day and while there is considerable, very much necessary debate about the validity of observing our national day on a date seen as Invasion Day by indigenous people, it is still a good day to reflect on what makes this country great. (For the record, I think the date should be changed.)

Like it’s music.

Australia has a long and vibrant history of amazing musical achievement, gifting the world everyone from AC/DC to Men at Work and yes even Air Supply, and as these five artists powerfully demonstrate, it’s a tradition that is set to continue well into the future.

All five create music that is not simply beautifully listenable but says something true and real about life, the perfect marriage of melody and meaning that elevates each song to something well worth savouring.


“Do What You Want” by The Presets


The Presets (image courtesy official The Presets Facebook page)


Lordy but I love the power and energy of pretty much any track from Sydney duo  The Presets (Julian Hamilton – vocals, keyboards and Kim Moyes – drums, keyboards).

Hamilton’s vocals have a beguilingly energising mix of aggression, passion and playfulness, with all those facets on full glorious display in “Do What You Want”, an encouragement to just go and do it already.

Styled as a sort of “comeback single”, the song has quite the interesting genesis, one that explains its driving beat and unbridled, kick-up-your-heels hard-edged vibrancy:

“We struggled with this track for a couple of years do get it right – there’s 60 other versions. We wanted to make a techno version of an Aussie pub rock song, like the Angels or something”, though, they admit “we’ve always been doing that.” (

Mission accomplished with this powerfully anthemic piece of goosebump-inducing electronica, the lead single from their as yet untitled new album due out early this year.



“Not Enough (ft. Amber Fahey)” by Bajillionaire 


Bajillionaire (image courtesy official Bajillionaire Facebook page)


Hailing from Sydney, 19-year-old Charlie – he, quite sensibly, has gone down the Madonna route of a single memorably, and in this case, cheekily playful, single-name moniker – says on national radio station Triple J’s Unearthed website that he “make[s] music because it’s the only thing I’m good at.”

We leave that up to his friends, family and therapist to rule on that piece of typically Aussie self-deprecation but one things is for sure – the music he creates is eminently catchy and alive with beauty and emotion, which is pretty much what you want from your music.

Teaming up with singer Amber Fahey, he has delivered up “Not Enough”, a lightly trippy piece of bouncy electronic pop that delightfully shudders and shimmers through its captivating length, a genuine slice of euphorically transportive music.

It’s impressive from someone fresh out of high school, and frankly if creating songs this sublimely wonderful was all I could do, I would be most pleased with the state of my life.

I have a sneaking feeling Charlie is quietly smiling to himself …



“Hurry” by GAUCI


GAUCI (Image courtesy official GAUCI Facebook page)


Sydney again – trust me this is simply luck of the draw and not an inherent bias against the musicality of the rest of my home country – and trio GAUCI (brother and sister Antonia and David Gauci and Felix Lush – Purple Sneaker) who create thumping lo-fi electronica that comes appealingly armed with Antonia’s lushly ethereal vocals.

It creates a verdant sense of all-consuming emotion, that quite rightly, makes you feel all the things as Purple Sneakers notes:

“This song doesn’t express emotions so much as conjure them. Its diffuse vocals create an ominous, urgent feeling that is reinforced by the ambiguity of the lyrics. ‘I feel it’s coming / And it’s after me’, sings Gauci. It’s not clear here what the ‘it’ refers to, but the song’s sumptuous reverb is effective in creating an almost physical space in which listeners can lose themselves. The slightly menacing line ,’You better hurry / You better hide’,  soaring on the last syllable), will linger in your mind for days.”

The welcomingly long drawn out song, the latest effort from the trio who have been creating music since 2016, when not pursuing their own musical endeavours (Antonia as a producer, sound engineer and solo artist Leftenant, David and Felix in bands Publique and Death Bells respectively), is one of those immersive affairs that subsumes you in the most beautiful of music experiences.



“Mechanical Bull” by Stella Donnelly


Stella Donnelly (image courtesy official Stella Donnelly Facebook page)


Now this is how you make a stand against people harassing you and refusing to hear “No” as “NO!”

Perth-born Stella Donnelly has crafted a declaration that resonates with potent anger and frustration that her pleas aren’t being heeded, every last drop of her vehement pushing back captured in her remarkable, emotionally-resonant voice.

It is her voice that really marks this gorgeous stripped piece of sublime guitar pop as something special, a voice that readily lends itself to the storytelling inherent in this song and others she has released (via sole EP Trush Metal), a quality that Purple Sneakers remarked upon when discussing this wholly unique artist who says a lot in the most understated of ways:

“She is a brave story teller, unflinching from baring truths in all their ugly reality, with a soft yet commanding presence. You can’t underestimate her though, as she’s unafraid and powerful because of that. Donnelly’s music is raw, honest and deeply personal, and there is an underlying warmth to her vocals that welcomes us all in.”



“Fly” by India Sweeney


India Sweeney (image courtesy official India Sweeney Facebook page)


Back in NSW, and specifically Wollongong, south of Sydney in the beautiful Illawarra – honestly I love you Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, NT, ACT and SA! – we meet the immensely-talented India Sweeney.

Her voice may sound light and fey at first, a quality that adds luminously-buoyant lustre to “Fly” but there is real emotional power that you underestimate to your great disadvantage.

With a foot in the traditional thanks to a background in classical jazz and piano, and one in the digital future thanks to exposure to electronic music, Sweeney brings a wealth of musical richness to “Fly”, which offers everything from “subtle yet striking guitar strums underlaying the verses … [to] the sexy and smooth brass bookending each line of the chorus.” (Purple Sneakers)

It’s a striking beautiful piece of work that draws you in utterly and completely, proof positive that you don’t have to shout from the rooftops to make people sit up and listen.






Australia’s very own Kylie Minogue has debuted her first new song in quite some time, dance pop/country banger “Dancing”, the lead single from her 14th studio album Golden, due for release on 6 April.

For more, go to EW.


Now this is music 101: Yung Lean, Gabriel Black, Said the Sky & FRND, Pale Waves, Sir Sly


I love listening to music. (If you haven’t figured that out yet, then clearly you haven’t been paying attention.)

But more than that, I need the music to say something meaningful to me, to dig into the marrow of life and really think about what makes it tick, what makes us tick in response and how we deal with all the fallout because, yes my friends, there will be fallout and it will often not be that pretty.

These five artists fit the bill to a tee, understanding that great art reflects life as it is actually lived and not as it it’s portrayed in a NIKE commercial or on a perfectly-curated Instagram account.

Are you looking for music that soothes the ears and speaks to the soul? Try these amazingly good songs on for size, the soundtrack for your existential angst …


“Red Bottom Sky” by Yung Lean


Yung Lean (image courtesy Yung Lean Facebook page)


Swedish rapper Yung Lean is about as quirky and idiosyncratic as they come.

Which in today’s crowded musical landscape, where technology has democratised the business of recording and releasing to a previously unheard of degree, is a very good thing.

“Red Bottom Sky”, which comes with a suitably out-there video, is one of the best songs this sometimes uneven artist has released, all lilting, hushed softness and chilled sensibility with a ruminative spirit to match, one which is brutally and searingly introspective – “Broken glass in my hands … I’m a cursed man.”

It’s a beguiling, desperately honest existential accounting that feels healingly meditative at the same time, a beautiful paean to those moments we all go through when dramatic thoughts come to us in the quiet of night or moments when life has reach an unaccustomed idle.



“Hurricane” by Gabriel Black


Gabriel Black (image courtesy official Gabriel Black Facebook page)


Described by Line of Best Fit as “the missing link between emo, rock, and hip-hop you need to hear”, and they’re absolutely right, you do, Gabriel Black is an artist who wears his heart most assuredly on his sleeve.

Unflinchingly realistic about his own struggles and the vagaries and contrariness of life, Black, who hails from , is  a man dedicated to honesty and telling it like it is, and as he tells Line of Best Fit, he is gratified people are coming along for his existentially truthful ride:

“I’m just staying true to how I feel in the moment. Right now my songs come from a darker place. I didn’t think about other people at all honestly. I am honoured that people have reacted the way they have and that has been the most beautiful thing. It has given me a purpose.”

It’s this refreshing attitude that imbues songs like “Hurricane” with so much appeal – this is life in the trenches, unadorned and not gussied up to please anyone; it just is and in a world where social conventions more or less demand we spin everything, including how we actually feel, it’s a blessed, wonderful relief.

Throw in some brilliant guitar pop that gives all this heartfelt articulation a shiny, appealing gloss and you have an artist who is going to go place because he lets who he is truly inform his art, something that our b.s.-weary world is well and truly ready for.



“Faded” by Said the Sky and FRND


Said the Sky (image courtesy official Said the Sky Facebook page)


Catchy as hell, “Faded” is a collaboration between Denver-based, Colorado native Trevor Christensen aka Said the Sky and the appealingly-mysterious LA-based FRND who seems to have a penchant for koala masks.

The result of this partnership is a song that beautifully defies expectations:

“‘Faded’ opens to a deceptively progressive backdrop and poppy vocals. While the intro leads the listener to believe the producers have ventured into strictly commercial pop territory, the intricate house drop adds a surprising layer to the track.” (Dancing Astronaut)

Breezy and layered it might be but this danceable melodic vibe belies a song that’s grappling with the painful afterwash of a relationship gone wrong.

While the singer admits “I know it’s pretty obvious you did nothing wrong”, that doesn’t remove the omnipresent weight of pain and loss and “Faded” spends its time grappling with how you move on in the most hook-laden of ways.



“New Year’s Eve” by Pale Waves


Pale Waves (image courtesy Pale Waves official Facebook page)


Don’t you just love New Year’s Eve?

Yes, it’s supposed to be a heady time of optimistic expectation and hoped-for renewal, and who knows maybe that will happen, but it’s also burdened by a lingering sense of regret and looking back that, left unchecked, can do your head in, like totally.

Trust me, Manchester, UK pop group Pale Waves knows exactly how you feel, and offer up for your listening introspection, the appropriately-titled “New Year’s Eve” which comes with the requisite amount of regretful mournfulness, perfectly married with a somewhat upbeat tune that catches the yin and yang of that time of the year perfectly.

It’s not exactly “Auld Lang Syne” as We Are: The Guard rightly observes but dammit if it doesn’t nail how NYE feels, when we stop pretending unbridled giddy optimism is the only option.



“&Run” by Sir Sly


Sir Sly (image courtesy official Sir Sly Facebook page)


Good god but this song has a way of insinuating itself into your earworm and your dancing shoes and never ever leaving and frankly, one listen and you won’t care a bit.

L.A.-based band Sir Sly (singer Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen) have crafted a gem of pop song that urges us all to “kick our shoes off &Run”.

And if this is the soundtrack, and your day can go even remotely as idiosyncratically as the one depicted in the soundtrack, then why not listening to the song at all.

We Are:The Guard winningly describes the song as “certified weirdo pop bop” and it is all that and more, a gorgeously offbeat piece of pure pop that makes you smile and induces this sense that life can be a whole let banal that you may have become accustomed to.





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