November is a glorious time Down Under. It’s stinking hot, though afternoon storms bring welcome relief. The cricket season hits off, surf’s up, and Christmas is just around the corner. November is also Australian Music Month, an annual carnival of music which climaxes with the ARIA Awards. In celebration of all things Australian, Billboard has selected 17 little rippers to get some sunshine into your life. Get stuck in.
Pub quiz question: which Aussie electronic act had a U.K. No. 1 album with a remix of Elton John’s works? Give up? Another, much easier hint: Empire Of The Sun is led by Luke Steel and Nick Littlemore, a member of which Aussie electronic act? Still give up? Pnau. The answer is Pnau. The trio is up for two ARIA Awards later this month, their new album Changa drops Nov. 10 (through etcetc) and its lead hit “Chameleon” is certified triple-platinum.
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The Easybeats, “Friday on my Mind”
One of the first, great international rock bands from Australia, the Easybeats got the word out with a string of enduring songs. None cut through more effectively than “Friday on My Mind,” which has been covered by the likes of David Bowie, Gary Moore and, more recently, Daniel Johns. Sadly, the band’s legendary songwriter and guitarist George Young passed away in October. The music, of course, lives on. Monday we’ll always have Friday on our mind.
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Kylie Minogue, “Confide in Me”
Before she was a pop superstar, a gay icon, a household name in the U.K., Kylie Minogue struggled for respect. Back in the ’80s, Kylie took the bold leap from her regular soapie gig on Neighbors to a fledgling pop career. The hits came, but the nickname “singing budgie” stuck. Jump to 1994, when DJ Sasha was the “Son of God” and house music was sweeping across the U.K. and Europe, Kylie staged an impressive return with “Confide In Me,” released through British dance imprint Deconstruction. This was sexy, cool, confident Kylie. She reinvented herself again (with Nick Cave on “Where The Wild Roses Grow”) and again (“Spinning Around” and those gold hotpants). But “Confide in Me” was the number that set the singing budgie free.
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Nick Cave, “Into My Arms”
One of the great Australian artists — in any art form — Nick Cave has a seemingly endless arsenal of talents at his disposal: singer, songwriter, bandleader, author, actor, screenwriter. And his works span the spectrum of alternative rock, from the dizzying hedonism of The Birthday Party and Boys Next Door to his dark, complex storytelling with the Bad Seeds. And then there’s “Into My Arms,” from the quintessential album The Boatman’s Call. No observer could have predicted at the start of his career that Nick Cave’s mind would create something so tender.
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There’s nothing more Australian than meat pies, milkshakes (or boutique beers, depending on the situation) and Akka Dakka ripping up your bass bins. Few bands can survive the loss of their lead singer. When AC/DC lost the great Bon Scott, they just rolled with the punches, brought in Brian Johnson and gave us the stone-cold classic Back in Black. “Thunderstruck,” from 1990’s The Razors Edge, is a monster, built on Angus Young’s virtuosic guitar riff. For 27 years, the “Thunderstruck Test” has sorted the wannabe guitarists from the real pros.
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The Masters Apprentices, “It’s Because I Love You”
Aussie rock ‘n’ roll band the Masters Apprentices enjoyed a serious purple patch from 1965 until their split in 1972. A faucet of hits was turned on; “Undecided”, “Living in a Child’s Dream”, “5:10 Man”, “Think About Tomorrow Today”, “Turn Up Your Radio” and “Because I Love You” flowed out. Famed artist manager and industry entrepreneur Glenn Wheatley cut his teeth with the group, which was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame back in 1998. With its surprising sincerity and epic build-up, “Because I Love You” is the sound of a band in peak form.
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The Go-Betweens, “Streets of Your Town”
How the Go-Betweens never sold millions of albums remains a mystery. Critics and fans fawn over the folk-rock outfit and their melodic and bittersweet songs, from “Streets of Your Town” to “Cattle and Cane,” “Spring Rain” and many more. Sadly, co-founder Grant McLennan passed away in 2006 in his hometown, Brisbane, and the group disbanded. Make no mistake, the Go-Betweens left a mark. In the streets of their town lies a bridge named in their honor.
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If you were dribbling on your sneakers in a club in the mid-’90s, there’s a very good chance “Dreams” was your soundtrack. And you probably didn’t know it came from the land Down Under. Turn it up and try not to throw your hands in the air…
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Divinyls, “Sleeping Beauty”
The late Chrissy Amphlett was a one-off. There was no mistaking it when Divinyls exploded out the gate with 1981’s “Boys in Town”. Amphette, all charisma and oozing with punk attitude, always owned the stage. And she’d own it for years to come, right up until her untimely death in 2013. “Sleeping Beauty” isn’t Divinyls most famous tune; that would be the controversial “I Touch Myself,” which in 1991 reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and cracked the U.K. top 10. But, as its name would suggest, “Sleeping Beauty” is flawless.
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Hilltop Hoods, “The Nosebleed Section”
Aussie hip-hop doesn’t start and end with Iggy Azalea. Really. Think Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso, Urthboy, 360, Drapht, Seth Sentry and so many more. Hilltop Hoods’ 2003 classic “The Nosebleed Section” is a great place to start.
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Warumpi Band, “Wuru (Fire)”
Warumpi Band was deadly. If they were hitting their straps right now, they’d probably be touring the world with monotonous regularity. But alas, global fame and fortune wasn’t in the cards and its charismatic frontman George Burarrwanga left us too soon, in 2007 at the age of 50. “Wuru,” the raw, vibrant opening track from 1985’s Big Name, No Blankets, is a classic piece of desert rock.
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Madison Avenue, “Don’t Call Me Baby”
Andy Van and Cheyne Coates, recording under the moniker Madison Avenue, went to No. 1 in the U.K. back in May 2000 with “Don’t Call Me Baby,” a rare chart accomplishment for an Australian artist (Madison Ave’s follow-up “Who the Hell Are You” also cracked the U.K. top 10 and reached No. 1 in Australia). Fourteen years later, the funky dance tune got the remix treatment and went to No. 1 on the ARIA Club Tracks Chart.
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Real Life, “Send Me An Angel”
Australia in the mid ‘80s was a time of bad haircuts, loud clothes, and weekends spent flitting between the milk bar, the local rollerskating rink, riding a BMX or catching a wave. Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel” was always playing in the background.
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Do-Re-Mi, “Man Overboard”
Do-Re-Mi’s slow burn “Man Overboard” didn’t have any obvious ingredients for a hit. Clocking in at more than 4 minutes, it was too long for mainstream radio. Its video didn’t have the firepower to dominate music TV slots. And with Deborah Conway belting out lyrics about pubic hair, anal humor and penis envy, parents hated it. “Man Overboard” came from out of nowhere, it connected and we’ve not heard anything quite like it since.
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Silverchair, “Straight Lines”
When Silverchair called it a day, they finished up a light year away from where they started. Newcastle schoolmates Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou kicked things off in 1994 with the unforgettable “Tomorrow,” lifted from their grunge era debut Frogstomp. The precocious teenagers ditched grunge soon after and embarked on a journey of creative self-discovery. When they went on “indefinite hiatus” in May 2011, they’d sold more than six million albums and won more ARIA Awards than any other artist in history (21). Each of Silverchair’s five albums peaked at No. 1 in Australia, including their final effort Young Modern, which yielded the slick, unstoppable “Straight Lines.”
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Helen Reddy, “I Am Woman”
Long before riot grrrl. Before girl power, Helen Reddy let out a roar that was heard around the world. “I Am Woman” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972, as did “Delta Dawn” the next year, and “Angie Baby” the year after that. Reddy was inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 1996, and with “I Am Woman” she owns a piece of history.
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Alex Lahey, “Every Day’s The Weekend”
Alex Lahey, remember that name. You’ll need to use it again in the near future. Lahey is a singer and songwriter from Melbourne, who has been described as the next Courtney Barnett. It’s a lazy comparison. Lahey’s songs are infectious, energized and full of hooks, with touches of punk and pop. Her debut I Love You Like A Brother has just been shortlisted for the prestigious J prize for Australian album of the year. Billboard’s sister music site Stereogum anointed her as one of the 40 best new artists of 2017.
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