Although the Australian music industry may not be as commercially significant as that of America and the UK, it does boast an eclectic assortment of sounds. Much of this music may not have reached international ears apart from the obvious big names such as Kylie Minogue and Pendulum. These big names are a mere bucketful in the vast ocean of Australia’s music. Thus it is time to hoist anchor and set sail into unchartered waters to explore the best sounds from Down Under.
Although there are known gems and treasures in the ocean of Australian music, there are also the icebergs, whirlpools and jagged rocks that represent its utterly abysmal music. Like the sickly pop teen sweethearts of America (Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber for instance), Australia has also been plagued with its own vomit-inducing offspring – Cody Simpson. His sun kissed, boyish face gushes over-sentimental, sloppy drivel that undeservedly weakens the knees of preadolescent girls. In addition, the Australian music chart is littered with money snatching commercial acts including a handful of Australian Idol castoffs, such as the tasteless and provocative Jessica Mauboy.
Within this chart trash though is a deep treasure chest of richly euphonic pop music. Although it would be impossible to name them all, there are several that are currently dominating the radio waves. In particular, Sia and Kate Miller-Heidke are two female artists who have carefully balanced synth-pop beats with sweet and charming vocals. Birds of Tokyo are another pop indulgence, notably showing off soft progressive guitar riffs in their recent single Plans. Of course, Australia also has its own cheesy pop anthems that are chanted in pubs and clubs. The most notorious of these is Down Under by Men At Work, which inspires Australian patriotism within the lyrics “I come from a land down under, where beer flows and men chunder”.
Sailing on from the coral reefs of pop into the waters of the alternative and rock genres, there is a vast panorama of artists and acts. Some of these have broken through to UK listeners such as The Temper Trap and their massive hit Sweet Disposition, Jet’s Are You Going To Be My Girl?, and The Vines’ driving anthem Ride. Likewise, Australian rock acts such as AC/DC and INXS have also conquered international waters to achieve worldwide acclaim. Lesser-known acts, such as Wolfmother and Angus & Julia Stone, still have vast success within Australia, and their nationally bound recognition is not a reflection on the quality of their music. In my opinion though, the blue whale of all these genres is the John Butler Trio. Formed in 1998 by front man John Butler, the three-piece band has since released five distinctive albums. Their latest album, April Rising, boasts intricate guitar melodies with clever and beguiling lyrics, which portray a carefree outlook that echo the stereotypical Australian attitude.
You would have thought that such a large genre of music with its vast shoals of listeners would have drowned the remaining genres. However, in the last 20 years electronic music has begun to resurface, rocketed by hits such as Rogue Traders’ Voodoo Child, which became a massive anthem in the UK in 2005. Acts such as The Potbelleez, Empire Of The Sun, and The Presets also helped revive the genre in Sydney, all of which are known for playing regularly in intimate venues dotted around the city centre.
I have found that all the Australian music previously mentioned is a lucrative pleasure for the ears, especially whilst driving across the country. Of all the genres of Australian music though, I find myself quite happily marooned on the island of hip-hop. In my opinion, Australian hip-hop is unique and of a considerably higher quality compared to that of America, and perhaps even the UK. The genre stretches from playfully clever acts such as Drapht, Urthboy, and Hilltop Hoods; to politically focused artists such as The Herd whose track The King Is Dead is a sharp comment on the Coalition-Labor power switch in 2007.
Thus, the journey across the ocean of Australian music has been broadly over viewed but is far from complete. There are acts that I did not mention and many others that I have yet to uncover. All I can conclude is that Australia has a diverse sound, with quality acts spread across all genres. In particular, Australian hip-hop is a distinctive, witty blend of old school hip-hop and the Aussie lifestyle.