Treat your ears to “Let Me In,” the haunting new single from Melbourne duo Arctic Maps. It’s so chilled out and lovely. It’s just the sort of song that I want to hear as a very busy working week winds down. There’s something magical about the minimalism of the music, which complements singer Freya Bennett’s voice beautifully.

“Let Me In” is the first single from Arctic Maps’ debut EP, which is due out in December.

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I must admit, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Tales From the Sea when it arrived in my mail box. The Lockhearts’ new album is spread over two volumes. On both covers there’s an octopus with a menacing glare. I wondered whether I was in for a concept album, or perhaps a collection of sea shanties. What I got what some of the best classic rock music I’ve heard in years.

The first volume opens with “Hope,” an uplifting number with a bluesy Black Crowes feel. I loved its chunky guitars and the story the lyrics told of a young woman struggling to make ends meet but filled with optimism and generosity. The album takes a different turn with “The Way to Thunder Road,” is a big ballsy song about rebellion and yearning for adventure. I loved the next song “The Game,” a breakup number which decides to be brutally scathing rather than curling up in a ball. “If Time Was On My Side” made me smile with its jangly, semi-acoustic feel, harmonica, and fatalistic lyrics.

I settled in for the second installment and was caught off guard. It starts with “Low,” a dark brooding number about being consumed by depression and hate. It’s a great track, but also one that I struggled to listen to after the lightness of part one. “Detonator” is another song which celebrates the darker side, a big loud expression of frustration that my teenage self would have eaten up. However, many years have passed since I felt angsty, and I was wondering whether volume II just wasn’t for me.

“Hush” changed my mind. It’s a companion piece to “If Time Was on My Side,” a love song set against the background of the end of the world. It might just be my favourite song on Tales of the Sea. It reminds me a little of a Van Halen number, with big wailing guitars and vocal harmonies, and these great apocalyptic lyrics. “Meet You There Again” follows on so perfectly from “Hush.” The end might be coming, but in this song The Lockhearts sing of the kind of love that transcends time and space. And when it’s delivered with such finesse, you believe it.

No one’s making music like Sydney band The Lockhearts anymore. The members grew up listening to The Doors, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zep and they proudly wear those influences on their sleeves. Throw in a little ’80s rock and you’re somewhere in the ballpark. But there are reasons why the songs of these classic bands lasted. The Lockhearts might feel like a little bit of a throwback, but creating music influenced by that which has stood the test of time can never be a bad thing.

Tales From The Sea is out now.

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Are you a Victorian musician looking for your big break? Then you might want to consider applying for the Melbourne Music Bank.

An initiative of the Bank of Melbourne, the competition will give one talented local muso some recording time at Sing Sing studios, a film clip, album artwork, printed CDs, and the chance to get their song on a Bank of Melbourne TV ad. The prize also includes access to a dedicated team of Victoria’s finest music industry professionals.

“Being involved in the Melbourne Music Bank 2014 was an extremely valuable experience for me as an artist,” said last year’s winner, Heloise. “I received some incredible prizes and tools that have made networking, promoting and growing my fan base much easier, tools that I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. I have met some incredible people who have been an excellent support base and offered precious guidance and knowledge, something that is invaluable in a tough industry.”

To enter, just submit an original song on the Melbourne Music Bank webpage before August 23. Good luck!

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After waxing lyrical about St Kilda, I figured it was only fair to celebrate a musical hotspot a little closer to home. While the Sydney CBD might boast big-name venues like the Sydney Opera House, State Theatre, and Sydney Entertainment Centre (for the time being anyway), it’s a bit too touristy for my tastes. If you really want to get a sense of the spirit of Sydney music lovers, head to Newtown instead.

See Live Music

Image credit: Lauren Katulka

You wouldn’t be a music lover if you didn’t come to Newtown wanting to see live music. Newtown’s biggest venue is the Enmore Theatre, an intimate space where I’ve seen some of my favourite acts including Joshua Radin, Counting Crows, and John Mayer. Death Cab for Cutie, James Reyne, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears will all play here in the coming months.

I also love a dinner and show at the Vanguard, and the pokie-free policy at Newtown Social Club (formerly Sandringham Hotel). Bench Wine Bar has live jazz every Thursday night and soul on Sunday evening. One of my favorite Voice contestants, Mitch Anderson, also plays at Newtown’s Cooper’s Bar every Wednesday.

Attend the Newtown Festival

Top Aussie acts like The Whitlams, Sarah Blasko, and Thundamentals have all performed at the Newtown Festival. The event celebrates the best of the local area with music, food, beer, a dog show, and a kids’ zone. It hits Camperdown Memorial Rest Park on November 8 this year. It’s free to attend, but please drop a few dollars in the collection buckets to help support the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.

Shop Up a Storm

Newtown has some of my favourite music-related shops, so make sure you stop by when you’re visiting. Egg Records has an eclectic range of new and used vinyl, CDs, and music memorabilia. If you like punk music, you’re going to love Repressed Records. This independent record store has a great range of new and used vinyl, T-shirts, and even zines (remember zines?). Pete’s Musicians Market is the perfect place for expanding your musical instrument collection. Pete sells new and second-hand instruments, including many rare collectibles. The collection of funky electric guitars is something to behold.

Where to Stay

Newtown is popular amongst young people, so its accommodation options tend to be fairly basic but really affordable. Australian Sunrise Lodge’s King Street location puts you close to everything. With a swimming pool and barbecue area, Billabong Gardens claims to be Sydney’s best value budget accommodation. If you really want to see how the locals live, skip the hotels in Sydney and consider staying at an Airbnb property.

How to Get There

When I visit Newtown, I tend to catch a train from Central Station. If you prefer to bus it, the numbers 423, 426, and 428 leave from Circular Quay and travel through major inner-city locations like Eddy Avenue, near Central, and George Street before stopping at Newtown. There’s plenty of parking if you want to drive, but I wouldn’t recommend tourists navigating Sydney’s notorious traffic.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project. Which Sydney suburb do you love most?

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St Kilda holds a special place in Australian musical mythology. Paul Kelly sang about it in “From St Kilda to Kings Cross,” Masters Apprentices brought us “Melodies of St Kilda,” and in “The Crowd,” The Cat Empire sang about wanting to “sleep on the St Kilda sands.” So if you’re a travelling music lover, it makes sense to get out of the CBD and base yourself in this Melbourne suburb instead. Make sure you put the following on your itinerary.

See Some Live Music

Image by Melissah Crumpton via Trover.com

Of course as a music lover, you’re going to want to catch a band or two during your stay. Unfortunately, it seems most locals would rather be clubbing than watching live music, so the number of venues booking bands is dwindling. However, there are still a couple of great options available.

The Prince of Wales is probably the best known pub supporting the live music scene. It attracts big name acts, too; over the next few months, head there to see Regurgitator and Salmonella Dub. Republica and Captain Baxter have live music on the weekends and amazing food. And don’t forget the Palais, a beautiful art deco theatre that will welcome Olly Murs, Mondo Rock, and Xavier Rudd over the coming months.

Catch a RocKwiz Taping at the Espy

St Kilda is home to The Esplanade Hotel, or “The Espy” as the locals call it. Even if you’ve never been to Melbourne, you’ll recognise this pub as the home of RocKwiz. Whether you have dreams of being on the stage with Julia and Brian or cheering the teams along from the crowd, no visitor to St Kilda should miss a RocKwiz taping. The Espy is currently undergoing renovations, but sign up for the Kwizlist newsletter to learn when taping begins again and score your tickets.

Go Shopping

St Kilda has plenty of great places for travellers wanting souvenirs of their holidays. Jazz lovers could spend hours browsing the pre-loved LPs and EPs at Mainly Jazz Records and Books. Get some cool instruments at African Drumming, or drool over the goodies at The Bose Store.

Where to Stay

St Kilda has plenty of great accommodation options that are much more affordable than the hotels in inner-city Melbourne. Habitat HQ doesn’t have frills, but this hostel has a guitar library and open mic nights every Tuesday. If you want a little more luxury, look to Sixty Two on Grey, a renovated Georgian house built in the 1860s, or Tolarno Hotel, once owned by celebrated artist Mirka Mora. Her works still adorn the walls, along with pieces from up-and-coming local talents.

How to Get There

The number 96 tram, which travels from East Brunswick to St Kilda Beach, is the quickest way to get from Melbourne to St Kilda. You could also catch a train on the Sandringham line or rent a bike and take the scenic Bayside Trail, which connects Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs with St Kilda.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project. What do you love about St Kilda?

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I love it when a voice is so powerful that it cuts through everything else. I’m one of those people that doesn’t equate power with big belting notes or vocal gymnastics. For me, a powerful voice is simply one that commands your attention. I found just that listening to “Moonlight,” the latest release from Melbourne songbird Bronwyn Rose.

This song has an ethereal, almost creepy quality that gave me goosebumps. Her voice is mesmerising, so pure and haunting. I love the way it intermingles with the rich soundscape Bronwyn and her musicians have created.

“Moonlight” comes from Bronwyn Rose’s debut EP Alive which is available through her Bandcamp page.

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When I caught up with William Street Strikers’ vocalist and guitarist Andrew Matters earlier this year, he called their latest album “a real hodgepodge.” As I listened to Nothing’s Going On, I realised just how apt that description was. This album goes on a wide variety of musical directions, yet somehow it all works.

By daring to be different, William Street Strikers ensures this album has plenty of highlights. Nothing sounds samey, as it does on so many records, so each song stands up and demands to be appreciated. I love the easy groove of the album’s title track and opening number “Nothing’s Going On.” The single “Wrong Way Home” is one of the album’s strongest cuts. The horns help to balance the menacing lyrics of “Stalker.” The closing track “No Surrender” is good honest Aussie pub rock, defiant and jubilant in its rebellion with big screaming electric guitars and pounding drums.

Before writing this review, I looked back over what I wrote about William Street Strikers’ last few releases. In 2012, I commented that Keep Left was also an eclectic album, but questioned whether the band might have experimented too much. A year later, with the release of the To the Motel EP, I accused the band of playing it safe. Now, with a few more years of experience under their belt, I feel like they’ve got the balance right. Nothing’s Going On is another very diverse offering from the Adelaide band, but it’s one that somehow remains accessible and cohesive. It takes the listener in different directions without alienating them. It’s a very smart release from this up-and-coming Aussie act.

Nothing’s Going On is released on July 31.

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There’s something so comfortable about slipping on a Josh Pyke album. He’s an artist who knows himself. He doesn’t need to experiment or reinvent the wheel in his music, because what he does it so good. And it does it again with his latest album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts.

The opening track, “Book of Revelations” is a case in point really. It’s such a low-key start. It eases us into the album, rather than begging us to pay attention. There’s a confidence in that. Josh Pyke doesn’t need to deliver bells and whistles. He just does what he does.

The second track, “Songlines,” reminds me a little of the Beatles with its marching band type orchestration. It’s one of the biggest songs on the album, but it’s delivered with just as much heart as the quieter tunes.

“Late Night Driving” is probably my favourite song on the album. It’s beautifully restrained, with gorgeous lyrics. This is the song I keep coming back to.

I heard “There’s a Line” before the rest of the album, and it’s so wonderful to hear it within this context. Its place within these other songs makes an already wonderful track even stronger.

“Still Some Big Deal” smacks of honesty. It’s so great to hear a love song that isn’t all about rainbows and butterflies. Similarly, the closing song “Someone to Rust With” reminds us of the flaws of real love. There’s beauty in its imperfections.

But For All These Shrinking Hearts is another beautiful collection of songs from Josh Pyke. It’s beautifully low key, but anchored by searingly honest lyrics and a natural melodic sensibility. I love it a little more every time I hear it. By sticking to the tried and true, Josh probably isn’t going to win any new fans with this effort, but I get the feeling he doesn’t care too much. He just does what he does, and he does it so well.

But For All These Shrinking Hearts hits stores on July 31.

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It’s been a long while since I’ve heard some straight up and sexy rock and roll. Dirty Hearts have answered my prayers with the release of “Louis XIV,” a bluesy, gritty beast of a single with a killer guitar solo and chorus that will have you singing along.

This is the kind of song that’s going to sound amazing in the live area, so it’s exciting to hear that it won’t be too long before this Brisbane band will be back on stage. There’s also a self-titled EP on the way, probably around the same time. Rock on!

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I don’t know what it is about the music of Gurrumul, but listening to him just makes me feel at peace. I don’t need to know what he’s singing about, because I can feel it on an emotional level. Checking out the film clip for “Jesu,” the lead single from Gurrumul’s third studio album The Gospel Album, is just what I needed on this Friday afternoon.

The clip for this song of praise was recorded on location at Brighton’s Trinity Uniting Church and Galiwinku on Elcho Island. It’s the ideal companion for this mellow gospel tune.

The Gospel Album sees Gurrumul delivering his take on the spiritual songs the Christian missionaries brought to Arnhem Land. It’s in stores on July 31, just a couple of days after Gurrumul kicks off the album tour.

29 July 2015 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
2 August 2015 – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane
5 August 2015 – Festival Theatre @ Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide
8 August 2015 – Supersense Festival, Melbourne
10 August 2015 – Canberra Theatre, Canberra
12 August 2015 – Perth Concert Hall, Perth

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