In this Tone Deaf series, a different music director or presenter at some of the finest community stations from around the country get their opportunity to share the best community music discoveries from Amrap.

The Australian Music Radio Airplay Project – best known as Amrap – offers Australian musicians a pathway to airplay to the many community stations who have long championed Australian music of all stripes. Providing exposure often before anyone else, community radio is a strong and unique network immune to passing trends.

This week it’s the turn of PBS FM Music Director Firas Massouh, whose strong list includes a song by a left-field pop band recently featured in Tone Deaf’s Get To Know series and a Midnight Oil cover that even received the approval of Peter Garrett.

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Eggy – ‘The Luckiest Girl in the World’

This might be a weird thing to say, but Eggy’s sophomore album, With Gusto, makes me think of rock musicals for some reason! Not in a bad way at all. It’s just that when I close my eyes while listening to it, I can visualise a stage on which stories of slightly avant-garde operatic proportions take place.

The album is a set of post-punk tunes saturated with cutesy, cheeky and captivating moments, and articulated cleverly and psychedelically with violins, synths and earnest weirdness. I love how much of a commitment the band displays in flipping musical motifs on their heads. It’s as wonky as it is funky and you should just go ahead and listen to it from start to finish.

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Emma Volard – ‘Regenerate ‘

Emma Volard’s debut album, Deity, is as neo as neo-soul gets. It beautifully taps into various musical idioms – from acid jazz to pop, R&B to future soul – as if to reflect some of the different responses and moods one can have to a rather messy world.

The album, however, is anything but messy. It is coherent and powerful, and an empowering and confident initial contribution from an artist who’s destined for bigger and better things to come.

Party Dozen – ‘Fruits of Labour’

The centrality of a strong work ethic is clear as day on Party Dozen’s The Real Work. The duo of Kirsty Tickle and Jonathan Boulet have created an album that may as well have been put together by twelve people.

In its rich orchestrations, the album traverses across a soundscape of improvisation and noise, with elements of jazz, doom and punk peppered throughout. The groovy track ‘Fruits of Labour’ is only the tip of the iceberg.   

Emma Donovan and The Putbacks – ‘Muurrbay Tree’ feat. Deline Briscoe  

In the Gumbaynggirr tradition, the foundational dreamtime story of the Muurrbay Tree describes a large white fig tree that covered an acre of land, and whose fruit fed both the mountain people and the saltwater people of the Mid North Coast of NSW.

This took place for generations until, one day, the two peoples fought over the tree and the ancestral father, Baabaga, uprooted it into the sky. The Muurrbay Tree became the place where a person’s spirit goes to eat the fruit when they die.  

This story is retold by Australia’s Queen of Soul Emma Donovan in a beautiful song that she recorded with The Putbacks during their Crossover sessions. Featuring the haunting yet unassuming vocals of strong Yalanji woman Deline Briscoe, the song didn’t make the cut on Crossover back in 2020 but finally saw the light of day during NAIDOC Week this year.

For Emma, this story speaks of how her people – the saltwater people of Nambucca Heads – felt humbled and emboldened when the tree was taken into the sky.      

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Outright – ‘The Call’

Over the last decade, hardcore band Outright have gone from strength to strength, affirming their relevance in the metal scene as one of Australia’s premier political bands. Their first album in eight years, Keep You Warm is unapologetic in addressing global problems and social injustices.

Thunderous drums and gritty riffs provide the rhythmic bed on which frontwoman Jelena Goluza’s roaring vocals deliver impassioned verses that speak to a warranted outrage at the state of the world.  

Amongst a set of hard and fast tracks, the song ‘The Call’ goes slow, heavy, sludgy. It’s my favourite track on the album, but really, they’re all great. 

Workhorse – ‘Darkness’

Workhorse is the musical project and nom de plume of Adelaide musician Harriet Fraser-Barbour, who gears up for the release of debut album No Photographs.

‘Darkness’ is the third and final single from the album and captures the brooding yet soft fusion of dream pop and Americana that the album promises to deliver once it’s out in mid-August. I’m looking forward to the album’s release and to see where Workhorse is going to take us. 

Southeast Desert Metal – ‘Beds Are Burning’

Peter Garrett has come across many covers of Midnight Oil’s iconic song ‘Beds Are Burning’, but “none get anywhere near the Southeast Desert Metal band’s incredible recording,” as he states.

This Arrernte version of the song pays homage to the original while adding a timely pinch of 21st-century urgency to a simple social fact: the daily struggles of Indigenous Australians due to the dispossession of their land.

A combination of playful humour with quintessential heavy metal attitude, the song flips the possessive pronouns in the chorus to deliver a simple message: “the time has come, to say fair’s fair, to pay the rent, now to pay your share!” 

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