Julia Stone, Crumb + more: our five favourite records of the week
30.04.2021

Julia Stone, Crumb + more: our five favourite records of the week

Words by Will Brewster

Plus new KUČKA, Big Scary and Liz Stringer.

Friday is here, which means it’s release day for a bunch of artists at home and around the world. With so many hot releases out there to tuck into, we’ve compiled some of the best to present to you for the weekend.

For the last week of April, we’re tucking into an absolutely packed release schedule to check out an uncanny artistic rebirth from Australia’s own Julia Stone and the impressive sophomore effort from Brooklyn dream pop act Crumb, plus new releases from KUČKA, Big Scary and Liz Stringer.

This week’s top picks:

  • Julia Stone – Sixty Summers 
  • Crumb – Ice Melt 
  • KUČKA – Wrestling 
  • Big Scary – Daisy
  • Liz Stringer – First Time Really Feeling

Read all the latest music news here.

Julia Stone – Sixty Summers 

She might be best known for her work alongside her brother Angus, but after one listen of Sixty Summers, it’d be incredibly naff to simply group Julia Stone into the indie-folk box. A triumphant creative statement that defies form, genre and all expectations, Sixty Summers showcases a side of Julia Stone that we’ve barely been privy to throughout the 15-odd years she’s been working in music, and holds up as one of the most unique Australian releases to land so far in 2021.

Created alongside A-List musical minds such as Thomas Bartlett and Annie Clark of St. Vincent – whose distinctive guitar playing is used to strategic effect at various points across the record – Sixty Summers is stylistically fluid, melding genre and influence without overshadowing Stone’s presence.

The effervescent opener ‘Break’ sees Stone and Clark channel Talking Heads to make for a killer introduction, while Stone’s vocal performance on the synth-pop-tinged title track is truly breathtaking, contorting her delivery and reaching ecstatic new heights for the song’s crescendo.

‘We All Have’ pairs Stone with The National’s Matt Berninger for the record’s most subdued cut, while the slinky grooves of ‘Free’ and ‘Who’ demonstrate Stone’s confidence and ability to dip in and out of genres with ease.

Meanwhile, the chugging guitars of ‘Fire In Me’ and the splash of Rhodes that kicks off ‘Easy’ only see Stone become more compelling as a vocalist – it’s a true joy to hear such a familiar voice as hers explore such exciting and new sonic horizons. An absolute artistic triumph from an artist who, despite the success of her prior releases, only looks to be getting better and better on her own.

Crumb – Ice Melt 

In 2019, Brooklyn-based indie outfit Crumb impressed critics and fans with their debut album Jinx, drawing upon low-key neo-soul, psychedelic rock and dream-pop to present an all-too-pleasant alchemy of sound. They’re back again now with Ice Melt; a follow-up that sees the band develop the sonics of their first album and adopt an intimate approach towards production, and by all accounts, it’s a success.

Opener ‘Up & Down’ ebbs and flows between dreamy-pop and thumping kicks with a psychedelic reversed saxophone imposed atop, with guitarist and vocalist Lila Ramani’s breathy melodies and fretboard dexterity taking charge. ‘BNR’, ‘Seeds’ and ‘L.A.’, while lacking the dynamic energy of the opener, see Crumb lay down a vibey bedrock of instrumentation and opt for enchanting harmonies to match them with, before ‘Gone’ picks up the pace with an addictively melodic bassline.

Clocking in at a scant ninety seconds, ‘Retreat!’ is a slight slice of funky fun before Crumb delve into shuffled grooves and and gritty vocals on the hazy ‘Trophy’, while ‘Balloon’ almost sounds akin to Innerspeaker-era Tame Impala.

‘Tunnel (all that you had)’ is a delightfully echo-drenched late album highlight before the album fittingly ends with the title track, wrapping up another short – yet certainly satisfying – release from the young band.

KUČKA – Wrestling 

Following a string of EPs and collaborations with the likes of Flume, A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples and SOPHIE, KUČKA emerges in strong form with her debut record Wrestling. Pulling from glitchy IDM, future garage, R&B and everything in between, it’s an album that casts her as a boundary-pushing producer and a dynamic vocalist alike, highlighting the LA-via-Perth artist as one of Australia’s most unique electronic acts today.

Tracks like ‘Contemplation’ and ‘Ascension’ see KUČKA put a twist on contemporary electronic and R&B styles to maximum effect, while early album highlight ‘Drowning’ marries saturated sub-bass with skittish hi-hats to make for a tune that you just know is going to slam in a live setting.

‘Afterparty’, meanwhile, sees KUČKA deliver a dynamic vocal performance atop of a flurry of arpeggios and darting electronics, while the record’s freakiest moment comes in the form of ‘Joyride’ – merging abstract vocal samples and polyrhythmic percussion with a trance-style synth pad underneath.

‘Your World’ nearly verges on ballad territory thanks to its heartfelt vocal and gorgeous chord progression, while ‘No Good For Me’, with its cleverly programmed drums and rich chord stabs, holds up as Wrestling’s most danceable moment – it’s an absolute banger.

Ending resolutely with ‘Eternity’ and the blissful soundscapes of ‘Patience,’ Wrestling is a victory lap for one of Australia’s most underrated collaborative talents, and it leaves us more than excited to hear what comes next.

Big Scary – Daisy

Trading in the guitar-driven indie style explored on prior releases for synthesisers and drum machines, Melbourne duo Big Scary opt for a twisted take on disco-tinged indie-pop with their new album, Daisy. Although it does feel a little too short, it’s a worthy trade-off given the quality of songwriting and production across the album, with Tom Iansek and Jo Symes both reminding of us their creative chemistry over nine joyous, slightly spooky tunes.

Kicking off with two ambient piano cuts, Daisy really starts to come into its own with ‘Wake’ and ‘Love To Love’; the former sees Tom deliver an outrageously cool vocal performance atop of an instrumental that glides between subtle and bombastic without warning, while the latter almost functions as an extension of ‘Wake’ thanks to its sonic palate and low-key vibe.

Daisy picks up pace in the mid-stretch with ‘Stay’ and ‘Get Out!’, which boasts an excellent synth bass sound and some intricate percussion work, while Jo Symes assumes co-vocal duties for the album’s final three cuts with ‘Kind Of World’, the euphoric, shoulder-shaking funk of ‘Bursting At The Seams’ and the hushed closer ‘One In A Million’. A welcome return for a beloved duo, and a pretty impressive stylistic switch-up to boot.

Liz Stringer – First Time Really Feeling

Often dubbed as one of the country’s most underrated singer-songwriters, Liz Stringer’s new album First Time Really Feeling is a cathartic, triumphant release that underscores her knack for penning emotive tunes with well-placed instrumental flourishes.

The title track of the album is nothing short of sensational – perhaps even bordering on magnum opus territory – with its War On Drugs-style instrumentation and vulnerable lyricism, continuously building until its incredible final peak. ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Big City’ share similar styles and thematics, with each song sounding increasingly urgent as it blooms – a testament to both Stringer’s songwriting and the talent of her band.

Meanwhile, ‘The Waning Of The Sun’ and ‘The Meteorologist’ both offer spacious cuts that spotlight Stringer’s vocals as she waxes lyrical on her emotional journey and struggles with addiction, while ‘The Things That I Now Know’ seems to address Stringer’s experiences of coming to terms with the atrocities of Australia’s colonisation.

Perhaps due to her recording the album in Canada, Stringer’s relationship with Australia appears in abundance across First Time Really Feeling – on ‘Little Fears, Little Loves’, she sings ‘Sydney’s on fire, so pretty it hurts my eyes / The jewel in our ever rotting crown’. It’s lyrics like this that make the record all the more inviting for local listeners, and helps to make Stringer’s own journey seem more personable along the way – and if that’s not the mark of a true storyteller, I’m not sure what is.

Revisit last week’s Friday release wrap-up here.