Australians and New Zealanders travel well, and in recent years a cadre of recording artists from these parts enjoyed fantastic journeys of their own.
The likes of Gotye, Tame Impala, Lorde, Kimbra, Cody Simpson, Empire of the Sun, Atlas Genius, the Temper Trap and DJs Havana Brown, Stafford Brothers and Tommy Trash have broken through. Veterans Nick Cave, Sia and Keith Urban go from strength to strength, while Hillsong remains a hitmaker in the Christian music community. From behind the scenes, M-Phazes is leading the vanguard of Australia’s hip-hop community: The Melbourne-based musician co-produced with Grammy Award winner S1 the “Bad Guy” track on Eminem’s new album, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”
As the Australian music industry gathers for the annual Australian Recording Industry Assn. Awards in Sydney on Dec. 1, Billboard offers a look at 10 artists to watch from Down Under.
“Flume” (Future Classic)
Harley Streten, aka Flume, rode the wave like no one else in 2013. The 21-year-old electronic music artist’s self-titled album rose to No. 1 on the ARIA albums chart after One Direction initially nudged him from the top spot. Flume’s trajectory has been going in one direction ever since: up. He cleaned up at the annual Australian Independent Music Awards in Melbourne, winning four categories, and is up for eight ARIAs. Flume has toured Europe and North America throughout 2013, and his dates in the United Kingdom and Europe this month are all sold out. He and Jagwar Ma are signed to Future Classic, named best independent label at the 2013 Australian Independent Music Awards.
“Howlin” (Future Classic)
Noel Gallagher doesn’t mince his words. So when the Oasis co-founder told British music weekly NME this year that “the future of the galaxy depends on the Temples and Jagwar Ma records,” he was slamming his flag deep into the ground. Jagwar Ma’s trippy, Madchester-channeling debut, “Howlin,” might yet save the universe. The record, which NME gave a nine out of 10 rating, has gained airplay on KCRW Los Angeles. The outfit is touring North America through mid-December and it’s booked solid through the early months of 2014. The trio played Australia’s Big Day Out tour early in the year, and Britain’s Glastonbury, Latitude and Reading/Leeds fests at midyear. It could cap 2013 with an ARIA Award since it’s up for best dance release.
“God Loves You When You’re Dancing” (Liberation Music)
Singer/songwriter Vance Joy is a cut above Australia’s new breed of songwriters. The Melbourne artist has the songs, the presence and, now, a multiyear deal with Atlantic Records, which encompasses all territories with the exception of Australia and New Zealand, where Mushroom Group label Liberation releases his music. He won Australian Independent Music Awards for breakthrough independent artist and best independent single/EP for his “God Loves You When You’re Dancing” EP, which is now available in the United States. Atlantic will release the EP by Nov. 25 in the United Kingdom. Joy has toured heavily throughout 2013, and his debut single, “Riptide,” reached triple-platinum certification in Australia (210,000 units). He’s up for four ARIA Awards.
“This Was Tomorrow” (High Score Records/Inertia)
When Seth Sentry performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” earlier this year, the exposure was seen as a breakthrough for not only the Melbourne MC, but also Australia’s thriving hip-hop community. After delivering an impressive performance at South by Southwest, Sentry was invited to perform “Dear Science” from debut album “This Was Tomorrow” on the late-night talk show. The set was released locally through his own label, High Score Records (distributed by Inertia), and opened at No. 6 on the ARIA albums chart. Sentry’s story has been building steadily. He was named Oz Artist of 2012 by broadcaster [V], beating out finalists Ball Park Music, Delta Goodrem and Reece Mastin. Sentry also won the Australian Independent Music Award for best independent hip-hop album, and he’s up for best urban album at the ARIAs.
Birds of Tokyo
“March Fires” (EMI)
Birds of Tokyo have been flying high in Australia for some time, but 2014 just might be their time for international liftoff. The band’s fourth album, “March Fires,” gave the group its first No. 1 in Australia, and an EP rolls out on Loma Vista/Republic in January in the United States and Europe. The act is getting a big push in film and on TV, and various placements will run alongside radio in support. Lead track “Lanterns” was the No. 1 most-played song on Australian radio for the first half of 2013. Birds of Tokyo are up for six awards at the ARIAs. Some American fans might recognize frontman Ian Kenny: He’s also the singer of alternative rock outfit Karnivool.
“Thinking in Textures” (Opulent/Remote Control)
Chet Faker is on a seemingly irrepressible rise in Australia. And he’s got the charm and talent to take his music to new heights abroad. The bearded electronic-beat-pop musician (real name: Nicholas James Murphy) was among the big winners at the 2012 Australian Independent Music Awards, where he took the prizes for breakthrough independent artist and best independent single/EP for “Thinking in Textures.” Faker has previously collaborated with Flume, and the EP was released in the United States through Downtown Records. His cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” was featured in a 2013 Super Bowl commercial for Beck’s Sapphire beer.
“The New Classic” (Island Def Jam)
Iggy Azalea’s career is about to take flight globally. The rapper from Mullumbimby, a hippie township in northern New South Wales, is already a rising star in the U.S. hip-hop community. In April, she was named Vevo’s second LIFT artist of the year, after U.K. act Bastille. She became a viral sensation after the release of her “Trapgold” mixtape in October 2012 and has been rapidly building a following ever since. “Work” was released in March and has more than 23 million hits on YouTube, and follow-up “Bounce” has logged upwards of 9 million views. Iggy’s debut studio album, “The New Classic,” is due in 2014.
“The Breach” (Eleven: A Music Company)
It’s early days in Dustin Tebbutt’s career, but he’s making all the right noises for a breakout in 2014. He’s generating interest overseas — particularly in the United Kingdom — and his haunting track “The Breach” has been top 10 on iTunes Down Under following modest support from the Triple J network. BBC DJ Zane Lowe spun the folk track on his influential Radio 1 slot in the United Kingdom. Tebbutt’s ethereal vocals are reminiscent of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and his artistry was honed during a two-year stint living in Sweden. Artist manager John Watson, who has helped guide the careers of Gotye, Silverchair, Wolfmother and Missy Higgins, represents the singer/songwriter.
Gang of Youths
TBA (Sony Music)
Gang of Youths is a dark horse. The group recently signed with Sony Music for Australia and New Zealand, and industry sources tip it as a genuine global contender. Sources also say that half a dozen labels are trying to sign the group internationally. The five-piece from Sydney caught an early break when its demo “A Sudden Light” got rotation on local community radio station FBi in April. It recorded the self-released single “Evangelists,” which was produced by Jack Moffit from the Preatures, and is in solid rotation on Triple J. The band has temporarily relocated to the United States, where it’s presently working with producer Kevin McMahon (Frightened Rabbit, the Walkmen) at his studio in upstate New York. The group has been confirmed as the main support for Vampire Weekend’s Australian tour in January, and Creative Artists Agency has taken it on for bookings outside Australia. An album is expected to be released in mid-2014.
“Atlas” (Sweat It Out Music/Sony Music Entertainment Australia)
Sydney trio RüFüS surprised everyone when debut album Atlas opened at No. 1 on the ARIA albums chart in August. Now the group is looking to take its style of melodic electronica to an international audience. Sony’s Columbia label will release Atlas in the United States and the United Kingdom and, like Flume and Jagwar Ma, RüFüS was short-listed for Triple J’s 2013 J Award, which recognizes the Australian album of the year. The act is also up for two ARIA Awards. RüFüS’ national tour in September and October sold out, and it will join the Big Day Out tour in January and February, with U.S. dates to follow.