The Australian music industry and community of local musicians is undoubtedly in crisis mode at the moment, with the global pandemic that is COVID-19 causing events, tours, and festivals to be cancelled, and robbing artists, performers, and those in the creative industry of a dependable income.

While a number of initiatives have sprung up to help support artists in this current time, the most effective way to continue supporting creatives is to buy their music and merch, hold onto any postponed tour tickets, and above all, stream their music as often as possible.

Here’s a list we’ll regularly update with community radio music directors from around the country of Australian artists much loved and supported by community radio and its dedicated listeners. Their music has been a source of strength, inspiration and connection. Some of these tracks are new releases, and others from artists who would otherwise be traveling and touring at this time.

Firas Massouh – Music Director of Melbourne’s PBS-FM – continues this series with Australian music available on Amrap’s AirIt service to help compile a playlist of the best Aussie tunes doing the rounds on community radio to show your support to. As Firas explains:

“There’s an old Hausa proverb that says, ‘when the music changes, so does the dance.’ In light of COVID-19, the music has indeed changed. We all now dance accordingly, to a new rhythm. Australian musicians are making music that is noticeably more responsive, urgent, and critical. Below are some recent releases that exemplify this. And to be sure, these are tracks that our brilliant announcers at PBS are playing as part of their own sharp response to the state of the world.

“We are honoured to be able to support these musicians by sharing their art with you on the radio. And you can do your bit too, so please show your support by buying this music straight from the artists so that they keep making excellent music for one and all.”

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EWAH & The Vision Of Paradise – ‘Vultures’

I would like to begin my list with this calling out of oppression and oppressiveness from one of Tasmania’s most sophisticated bands. The dominant image in this song is of vultures circling, dining out on disaster. The interplay of call and response between the unresolved tension of the delay-heavy guitar riff and the signature melancholy of EWAH’s voice speaks to the experience of islandness from this island band.

Centred around a sense of helplessness, isolation and existential dread, this bleak message may seem odd coming from a band that calls itself The Vision Of Paradise. Yet perhaps the moral of the story is that one must pass through a kind of paralysing purgatory before even getting a glimpse of blissful idyll.  

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Imogen Cygler – ‘High Above (Theo Carbo Rework)’

Imogen Cygler is a classically-trained musician with an interest in Norwegian art song. Theo Carbo is an astute student of jazz who is also an electronic musician and producer. Where Cygler lays the avant-pop foundations of this song’s original motifs, Carbo’s rework takes off and animates them further, adding an ethereal atmosphere of acoustic guitars and distant, compressed brass underneath Cygler’s haunting vocals.

The result is a mesmeric soundscape of hopeful anticipation that you will want to play again and again as you journey towards the dawn of a new day.    

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Zombeaches – ‘Cheers To The Future’

I don’t like to make comparisons to other bands. Zombeaches are their own thing. They are spirited, original and creative. But their energy on this track reminds me of Ricaine, one of my favourite mid-’90s Melbourne bands. It’s that high-treble-guitar-sliding-up-the-octave kind of vibe that makes me jump up and down in my room, with my eyes closed and my head bopping in frenzy, while forgetting, totally, that I have not seen a live gig in six months.

Thank the heavens for this tune. ‘Cheers To The Future’ is an honest, cheeky, straightforward – but hardly straight – punk anthem from the Mornington Peninsula, where the band got together for rehearsals and recording sessions in between Melbourne’s oppressive lockdowns. Here’s to the future and to seeing this band run around a stage at a live venue sometime soon.   

Zig Zag – ‘Do Better’

Zig Zag  have only put out a couple of singles so far, but yeah, I’m a big fan of this band and have high hopes for them and am genuinely spewing that I’ve missed seeing them live when I had the chance. Earlier this year they dropped a rousing track titled ‘Crying All The Way To The Bank’.

Now they return with “Do Better”, one of the first songs they ever wrote. They have some important things to say and you should definitely hear them out.  

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Big Yawn – ‘Burno In E Holden’

The release on which this banging track features is titled South Preston Garage and is a tribute to Big Yawn’s beloved bandroom, S.P.G. It’s an excellent follow up to the band’s highly acclaimed album No! from early 2020 and continues the story of a Melbourne inner-north breakbeat shuffle that is guaranteed to make your life better regardless of which mode of transport you’re taking anywhere between Collingwood and Bell Street. 

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Surprise Chef – ‘Deadlines’

Here’s another area-specific sound that’s evolving in Melbourne. Suprise Chef’s soulful cinematicism reflects a quintessentially Coburg-oriented day-to-day.

‘Deadlines’ is the smooth second single to drop off the band’s upcoming second album Daylight Savings and is perhaps a timely reminder to put your stresses away and to not worry too much about your chores, not until you’ve had a coffee and a Zaatar pizza at least. 

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Emma Donovan And The Putbacks – ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’

No list is ever complete without a love song. And while all good songs are love songs to some extent, this banger from Emma Donovan & The Putbacks stands head and shoulders above the rest. At a time when everybody is constantly fixated on questioning the world and their place in it, a song of this magnitude aims to provide some answers.

On the surface, the song appears to plead with a lover to stay. But beneath Emma Donovan’s powerful heart-felt vocals is a fiercely universal emotion, supported by an addictive 5/4 groove from The Putbacks, that’s asking everybody and every lover to hang in there, to remain strong, to not waver. A much-needed ode to resilience and love, this is just a taste of what is yet to come on Emma Donovan & The Putbacks’ upcoming album, Crossover.

Check out our ever-growing playlist of community radio picks: