Backyard Quarantine Playlist
Stuck at home? Get inspired by the great music that's all around you!
It's impossible to be isolated when you have music.
Music brings us together with rhythm, inspires with lyrics, and alters our moods with melody.
Being stuck at home is the perfect opportunity to discover something fresh, and why not dig in your own backyard?
I'm Australian, so I'll start my journey here. Jump onboard!
These musicians have been helping me keep my sanity over the past weeks, not only with existing music, but by playing gigs (really!), and introducing me to new acts along the way.
William Crighton - The Troubadour
Here's a singer who can lift you to heights unimaginable, which is appropriate as he's the tallest man I've ever met. His voice is as deep as a canyon, and soothing as the finest port, but can also be used to express the pain of a generation.
I was introduced to William Crighton when he was playing as a support act for the awesome Aussie trio The Basics, so he had to travel light. Just him, an acoustic guitar, and a ukulele. The sight of this enormous man and tiny instrument ensured you couldn't have any expectations. It was such a contradiction, your palate was cleansed. A good thing.
Songs of tenderness, pain, love, and hope emanated with power and grace. Stories from his youth, from the world, from his imagination.
Over the years it's been a joy listening to his music as he develops and explores his craft. He's released two superb albums and has played across Australia and Europe constantly (until interrupted by some virus), but instead of letting it get him down, he started playing live gigs from his backyard!
It doesn't get more homegrown than sitting across from someone with a fire crackling between you - yeah, ok, it's streamed from Facebook on my phone to my TV ... but it feels like he's right there.
Fingers crossed he'll learn how to turn off the phone's orientation lock for future live streams. I much prefer landscape mode - you get to see more of his dog roaming in the background!
To top it off, his wife Jules (who usually performs backing vocals with him) continues her role ... and there's usually a mini-set with his two little girls.
A double dose of reality: keeping the music real, and keeping it in the family!
Tommy Spender - The Beekeeper
Originally from Melbourne, Tom enjoyed alternative success as part of Offcutts in the noughties before going solo as Spender in the teens. A surprise hit in South America, his ep Modern Pest was a glorious journey of subdued pop, and featured a trio of guest vocalists (Clairey Browne, Gotye, and Mama Kin).
I was introduced to Spender thanks to his collaboration with Gotye, who I'd been following for a few years. This was recorded before, but released after his global smash with that song.
Yes - I was following him for years before STIUTK. Gotye release two brilliant albums before that song. And has also had the time to release four studio albums with his band The Basics. Didn't know that, did you?
The final collaboration was a hint of the next phase in his development. Longtime friends, he and Mama Kin (Danielle Caruana) had never worked together until that song.
They then found themselves signing up for a long-distance songwriting project (the I ❤️ Songwriting Club), and naturally gravitated to each other. The resulting project is now one album and one ep old, and has resulted in concerts across Australia with dozens of choirs.
I've gotten ahead of myself.
Mama Kin Spender, the resulting musical duo created by these marvellous minds meshing, decided to utilise the power of choral singing to differentiate their music. It also allowed them to create sounds not normally heard in pop music.
Attending a live concert with Mama Kin Spender is an absolute treat, as they perform with a local choir each time, depending on the location. This means a huge amount of work in rehearsal to get the dynamics right, but it pays off.
It is probably the closest you can get to a religious experience outside of a place of worship.
Songs about depression are uplifting. As are songs about a local park. No topic avoids the magic touch of the choral joy.
Their current project is about isolation and self-worth. A wonderful place to explore given the current circumstances, and beautiful tunes to enjoy while you're being lifted up in their positivity.
PS: Tommy really is a beekeeper. Isn't life beautiful?
Beneb - The Juggler
I can honestly say that I have no recollection of how I first discovered Benjamin Joel Mackay, herewith known as Beneb.
Perhaps it was a random discovery on Unearthed, the Triple J website that showcases emerging artists. Maybe a friend recommended I should have a listen. I don't know.
Which is proof that you should listen to anyone about new music. Because I love this guy's crazy sound.
Ben has collaborated with quite a number of local Brisbane musicians, playing guitar for them in return for them being in his band when he steps up front. A terrific way to get experience and exposure.
Beneb loves to explore psychedelic alternative rock with exotic bass lines while pushing the boundaries of pop. Yet within all the squelching guitars there can be lyrics both touching and gentle.
Pal from his latest ep Be Somthing is a perfect example. Electrified vocals soar over a ticking clock and driving bass, reflecting on a friendship that has lasted since childhood, and will always be there.
Just wanted to say pal,
That you'll never be alone again,
As the years go by, just know
I'll always be that same old friend
Evidence that it's the simple things that make music connect and uplift.
The Basics - Anything But
Ok, they've been mentioned twice so they have to be included. Before the success of Gotye, Wally de Backer formed a band with Kris Schroeder and played parties with covers of The Beatles and their own originals. Kris on the guitar, Wally on drums. They expanded to a trio and recorded and toured relentlessly.
With Tim Heath now on lead guitar, Kris moved to bass. But any time you see them live you know that's not always the case. The boys will swap instruments quite happily, and all share in the lead vocals.
It's the harmonies where they shine, and living up to their name, they keep everything basic. No bells, whistles, auto-tune. Just good old fashioned rock and roll.
The other thing that's special about The Basics is their obvious love and support for each other - you can hear it in the banter of their gigs (many of which have ended up on a recording at their BandCamp).
While Wally has recently been bringing the ondioline back from extinction, Tim rescued a live venue, and Kris has turned his attention to his studies and finally becoming a doctor. Oh, and Kris also recently released a solo ep under the moniker of Jackmann.
These guys never rest, with two new releases in the past 12 months, the energy that it takes to keep up their output is evident in their songs. They're a terrific companion to listen to when you're in need of an energy boost!
Alex Cameron - The Artiste
I know exactly how I was introduced to the imaginative world of Alex Cameron. Wally de Backer posted a link to Alex's insanely creative debut solo album on his Facebook page, accompanied by the phrase "singing The Comeback at the top of my lungs with the window down".
Intrigued I entered Alex's 8-bit world, a twisted experiment with the male psyche accompanied by the perfect replication of an early-80's sampler.
Each track had its own persona so Alex could delve into the dark, sordid nooks and crannies of what it means to be a man in today's society. It was bleak yet funny, curious and enticing, and very, very catchy.
That album was Jumping the Shark, and he's followed up with two more albums over the past five years, stretching his songwriting abilities and championing other causes. His band supported The Killers on a world tour, and he has cowritten songs with their lead singer Brandon Flowers.
To confuse matters, Alex Cameron is sometimes an individual and sometimes a band. His longtime collaborator, lifetime friend, and business associate, Roy Molloy, is synonymous with Alex Cameron. A saxophone playing, surf-life saving, award-winning tram driver, Roy is a celebrity in his own right when you attend an Alex Cameron gig. His stool reviews are a blessing to hear, and his curls legendary.
But it's the music that takes you to the heights you seek, and whether it be an expose on toxic masculinity or an entanglement with love, Alex will look after you with a smile.
So that's what's happening in my backyard. It's like a kite that's been let loose on the wind; an unpredictable adventure of aural entertainment!
What's happening out your way?