It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring some good ‘ol fashioned Aussie rock from Vintage Crop, and an emotional EP from Troll Dolly!
Troll Dolly – HEAVEN’S MINI MART
Genre: Folk, Experimental
Favorite Songs: “Wee Beasties,” “Microcosms,” “Pooly”
Before describing herself as an environmental researcher, composer, and/or artist, Jen Yakamovich (AKA Troll Dolly) places “drummer” above all else. And if I had a sense of rhythm, maybe I’d be able to live in and experience this world with the skill and passion of a pure percussionist. But what do you get when a drummer leads the way in writing and recording an album of experimental folk tunes? Why, you get the deeply charming HEAVEN’S MINI MART.
Of course, Yakamovich isn’t just a drummer; the seven-track EP sees her playing piano and acoustic guitars (alongside a host of other collaborators). But this feels like a drummer’s record, and her choices from that “seat” make this LP feel special. There’s, of course, obvious upsides like “Wee Beasties,” where all this gorgeous percussion helps ground and also expand this fluttering landscape. The drums aren’t quite as “forward” in “Sauna Song,” but it’s clear that Yakamovich structures things in such a way that the rhythms actively imbue everything else with a sense of both grounded approachability and some robust magic.
Yet the LP really excels when Yakamovich’s role as a drummer isn’t quite as obvious. In “Microcosms,” for instance, Yakamovich imbues some guitars and other stringed instruments with qualities not unlike a drum; the end result is some really gorgeous rhythmic qualities, and a soundscape that feels all the more playful and beguiling. The same goes for “Pooly,” in which Yakamovich and company work to create something that’s utterly compelling by focusing on sounds that support and uplift everything (not unlike the role of proper percussion). It’s less that this is an “abstract” way of emphasizing the melody and quality of drums; more so, it’s clear that Yakamovich has a comfort zone and is able to show us that power and presence in a way that creates some utterly compelling musical constructs.
There’s other examples of why this is such a “drum heavy” record. Like “Fishin’,” where of all the great vocal performances of this LP, Yakamovich demonstrates the most power as a purveyor of emotion and a powerful sonic feature. It’s even in the album at-large, where the interplay of every sound (and the pauses to boot) feel like the kind of joy, energy, and connectivity that come with all great rhythm-forward music. But whatever the “focus” instrument might have been, Yakamovich and company have together forged a hugely powerful display of evocative folk whose drum beat you’ll joyously follow anywhere. Listen to it now over on Bandcamp.
Vintage Crop – KIBITZER
Genre: Garage Punk, Indie Rock
Favorite Songs: “Casting Call,” “Hold The Line”
I’ve mentioned before an abiding love for Australian punk music. Forget L.A., New York, or the UK; the Land Down Under is a prime destination for great punk rock. I could rattle off names (Radio Birdman, The Scientists, Celibate Rifles, The Saints, etc.), but that would be like Michael Jordan dunking on a pee-wee team. Instead, even a younger band like Melbourne’s own Vintage Crop check the list for truly transcendent punk music.
It’s The Voice, Mate: As an American, I’m dazzled by anyone with an accent. Yet the jagged, but somehow-still-docile tone of vocalist-guitarist Jack Cherry is made for punk. You can hear it in songs like “Impact of Wisdom,” where the slightly nasally quality adds a sheen of depth to this “ballad.” Or, “Casting Call,” where we get a prime example of how this accent’s tone and intonation give punk’s quirky sing-talk style true power.
Don’t Forget The Words: It’s not just the accent; that “magic” extends to the lyricism. There’s something about this baseline thread throughout KIBITZER that feels distinctly Australian. Like, “Hold The Line,” where something simple like “I don’t mind / Taking that holiday for two” gains a slightly sinister sheen and a dash of mystery. Same for the whole of “The Bloody War”–the only way to describe it is “DIY Wes Anderson storytelling vibe.” Aussies seem to have a novel way of looking at the world, and shines bright in the framework of punk rock.
It’s Punk And Also Not Punk: I’ve also said many times that Aussie punk is both of other “scenes” and wholly its own — that’s Vintage Crop at their very core. “The Duke” sounds very much in line with Saints or Scientists, and yet there’s a production sheen and overall tempo that makes it some daring new evolution. Or, “Under Offer,” which balances energetic punk with a vein of dissonance so perfectly, it feels both life-affirming and also like a minor exorcism. It’s not just that the band innovates (’cause they do), but it’s done with passion and commitment as opposed to just an act of sheer restlessness.
There’s The X-Factor, Folks: Just as the band’s both indebted to the past and committed to the great unknown, there’s something about KIBITZER that feels similarly daring or novel. It could be how it was recorded, and you get interesting production choices that highlight their prowess as a live band. Or songs like “2k Hip Pocket,” which blur 1960s psych pop and ’70s rock in a way that feels wholly the band’s own and not just another retro homage. Maybe it’s just that this is a super fun record, and however it zigs and zags, the end result feels like a shot in the arm of unfettered joy without ever shying away from some grander message/themes.
In Conclusion: Aussie punk, forever.
Listen to it now over on Bandcamp.