KCRW’s Global Beat is a new series highlighting emerging artists from around the world. We’re kicking the series off with our friends in Australia by partnering with The Australian Music Alliance and the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (Amrap), a uniquely Australian organization designed to support Australian music on public radio.
KCRW DJ Raul Campos hosts along with Amrap Manager Andrew Khedoori for this week’s Aussie artist spotlights on a haunting duet from Josh Pyke with Gordi, a Raincoats cover from indie scions Jen Cloher and Hachicku, and an Indigenous folk gut-punch from Alice Skye. Catch up on all the artists from the series (plus bonus tracks!) with our Global Beat: Australia playlist.
Josh Pyke - “The Hummingbird” (feat. Gordi)
Josh Pyke is a Sydney singer-songwriter who's been a bit of a star here from the word “go.” It's been 15 years since his first solo record came out and he's always struck a chord for songs that often locate him in the same melodic and emotional space as Crowded House.
He's put a lot back into Australian music and society as well. He runs a project called Busking for Change, performing with great guests regularly to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. He also has an initiative that he's been running for a while now called the JP Partnership, where he funds new and unsigned artists to help them along on their career pathway.
Six years back, one of the benefactors was an artist called Gordi, who's now firmly entrenched herself in the upper echelons of Australian music. She also duets on this Josh Pyke song “Hummingbird.” Some really lovely full circle stuff going on, and a really lovely song with a haunting edge as well.
This is something that’s fun but also tells a deeper tale. Jen Cloher is a singer-songwriter with a lot of runs on the board, and also a key player in mentoring and releasing younger artists through the label that she co-runs with Courtney Barnett, Milk! Records. One of the standouts on Milk! from last year came from an artist called Hachiku, a.k.a Anika Ostendorf, who started out as an intern at the label. She made an album full of this really sweeping bedroom pop that was full of interesting quirks, but also really charming and really intimate.
These two have chained up to do a cover for one of the great long-running U.S. labels, Kill Rock Stars. They released early works from the likes of Elliot Smith and Slater-Kinney. And now Jen Cloher and Hachiku are part of Kill Rock Stars’ 30th anniversary celebrations by releasing a cover of a track from one of the truly great punk outfits, The Raincoats, who basically redefined the form in the shape of their debut album.
What I love about this cover is what it brings together. You've got the older hand and the new adventurer, with Jen Cloher and Hachiku, respectively. You've got the shared independent spirit of Kill Rock Stars and Milk! Records representing, and then you add the punk spirit of a band like The Raincoats that spawned a countless number of do-it-yourself music makers who don't pander to expectation. Everything fits and it just works great.
If you can imagine a more rough-and-ready version of Phoebe Bridgers, vulnerable and funny but with way less irony to cut to the bone, then you're getting close to the emotional resonance in Alice Skye’s songs. The title of her new album just out is “I Don't Feel Better, but I Don't Feel Good.” And funnily enough, it's produced by none other than Jen Cloher.
The album divides its time between upbeat pop songs and ballads that show that she's got a really crafty way of telling it like it is. The song on this album that truly struck me is the final track, “Wurega Djalin.” It feels really Stark and powerful, as well as very personal, partly because some of the song is sung in her people’s language of Wergaia.
“I'm a Wergaia and Wemba-Wemba woman from so-called Australia,” Skye says. “On ‘Wurega Djalin,’ I'm speaking my Wergaia language and say, ‘I am searching / I’m listening / I will search to speak my tongue.’
I think that across the world, there’s this idea of what the perfect First Nations person or the perfect Aboriginal person looks and sounds like. And we speak about our languages being lost, but they weren't lost. They were purposefully taken as a process of colonization. And I wanted this song to serve as a reminder for me and for anyone that needs it that we aren't any less of who we are because of it. So this is a song for my family and anyone working to reclaim their identity.”