Grimes, who writes, sings, produces, plays all instruments and engineers her own music, has always been a renegade; the good news is that her romance hasn’t dampened her creativity.
Her fifth album is her darkest yet, introduced by the gorgeous downtempo ballad So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth. But it’s a shape-shifting journey, from Delete Forever, a country-tinged ditty featuring Wonderwall-like strumming, to 4ӔM, switching between gentle tribal rhythms and frenetic drum and bass beats, to My Name Is Dark, a nu-metal/emo-pop hybrid.
Finale IDORU is one of the more conventional tracks, with buoyant keys and birdcalls accenting what might be a love letter to Musk, while Grimes’ ethereal voice, delivered in sighs or an airy, pretty falsetto, is the record’s only constant. She has called it her last “earth album” as she pivots towards AI-assisted art.
For now, the futurist is still the queen of other-worldly pop.
LOOK AT US NOW DAD (Cascine/Dot Dash) ★★★½
Melbourne-born Banoffee performs in Arizona in 2018. Credit:Getty Images
The last release from Melbourne-born artist Banoffee – an EP of on-trend, lo-fi R&B – came out way back in 2015.
Although it generated hype at home, Banoffee (the now 30-year-old Martha Brown) went to ground, quietly moving to LA where she set about building industry connections. In 2018 she joined Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour as a member of Charlie XCX’s live band, an experience that she later told VICE was “like going to school”.
Brown’s debut album has clearly benefited from this understudying. The melodies are punchy: sugary hooks underscored by warped, skittering production and confronting lyrics.
In the past Brown has described Banoffee as a “lifeboat” keeping her afloat in trying circumstances. Here she picks over poisonous relationships, sexual abuse and a fractured family life, in tracks ranging from the stark Permission (“I didn’t want you in my body … you never asked permission”) to the feather-light This Is for Me.
As her skills have developed, Banoffee has become an act of self-delineation – a vehicle for play and experimentation as much as catharsis. The result is a convincing first chapter from a budding crossover pop star.
East of West
LITTLE HARBOUR (eastofwestmusic.bandcamp.com) ★★★★
This debut release by Brisbane trio East of West evokes, as the title promises, the experience of meandering through the back streets and alleys of a Mediterranean port city, where a moment of solitude and tranquillity can suddenly be replaced, as one turns a corner, by bustle, debauchery and danger.
East of West’s Little Harbour album cover.
Bosnian-born bandleader, bassist and composer Goran Gajic, with oud player Philip Griffin and percussionist Malindi Morris, have crafted an album brimming with subtle touches and details, and replete with storytelling and imagery that’s effective both mentally and viscerally.
The compositions are inspired by varied sounds, textures and rhythms from around the Balkans and the Mediterranean, with elements of funk and jazz (on the closing track Sleepy Giant, for example) and space for improvisation.
Several pieces, like the potent Fields and plaintive title track, completely change mood halfway through, adding to the overall sense of drama.
Gajic’s rich, warm bass sound drives the music, but the playing from all members is impressive, and exemplifies Brisbane’s being a fertile environment for creative multicultural music. Accessible in the best sense of the word, this is very easy to enjoy.
Jo Berger Myhre/Olafur Bjorn Olafsson
LANZAROTE (Hubro) ★★★★½
If you only ever bought music on Norway’s Hubro label you’d still possess an improbably broad collection.
Jo Berger Myhre/Olafur Bjorn Olafsson’s Lanzarote album cover.
At the same time that Lanzarote was released, for instance, out popped a bizarre album from drummer Oyvind Skarbo’s band, Skarbo Skulekorps (which races between surf music, the Caribbean, free improvisation and material akin to early Frank Zappa), and also the latest instalment of Lumen Drones’ jazz-goth nightmares of eternal winter.
Lanzarote, another dark, brooding affair, emanates from the imaginations of Jo Berger Myhre (double bass, electronics, synths) and Olafur Bjorn Olafsson (piano, organ, drums, percussion).
Their sparse, multi-tracked dialogues initially hypnotise you with their textural ingenuity, then draw you into a vision that is as bleak as a Cormack McCarthy novel, yet flecked with moments of such transcendental beauty (often from Myhre’s bowed bass) that you never feel abandoned in the doldrums.
Yes, you are taken to a place of unsettling portentousness, but one that always insinuates a light of hope. Although guest brass players broaden the palette here and there, Myhre and Olafsson can exercise the hairs on the back of your neck all by themselves.
Annabel Ross is a Reporter for The Age.
John Shand has written about music and theatre since 1981 in more than 30 publications, including for Fairfax Media since 1993. He is also a playwright, author, poet, librettist, drummer and winner of the 2017 Walkley Arts Journalism Award