Crowded House’s new album Gravity Stairs proves Neil Finn still has that greatness

Crowded House’s new album Gravity Stairs proves Neil Finn still has that greatness
  • PublishedJune 5, 2024

Winter is upon us, which means fewer daylight hours to spend gallivanting in your local park and more time to kick up your feet and put on some new music.

If you don’t know where to start, here are five new albums we think are worthy of your time. We hope you find something you’ll love. 

Crowded House – Gravity Stairs 

black and white sketches of the members of rock band crowded house
Evoking The Beatles’ Revolver, the cover art for Crowded House’s new album Gravity Stairs is once again done by the band’s founding bassist Nick Seymour.(Supplied: BMG)

Gravity Stairs — Neil Finn’s eighth record with the world-conquering Crowded House — is testament to the timeless quality of his songwriting.

It’s also a clear indication that the newest incarnation of this iconic band is gelling beautifully. They’re a great advertisement for nepotism, as the frontman’s sons Liam and Elroy continue to prove their musical and creative value across the new album. 

Finn’s songs remain the hero, though. When you hear him lightly channel Bowie on ‘Some Greater Plan (for Claire)’, deliver vintage melodies on ‘All That I Can Ever Own’, and lock in with his family and friends on the breezy chorus to ‘Oh Hi’, you’ll be so glad that the man has never chosen to rest on his laurels.

Tempting as it may be to load up your playlist with vintage Crowded House classics, a few spins of Gravity Stairs will give you an even deeper appreciation for one of the all-time great bands. They tour Australia at the end of this year.

For fans of: The Beatles, David Bowie, Paul Kelly

Cosmo’s Midnight – Stop Thinking Start Feeling

Cosmo's Midnight pose back-to-back on the cover of third album against blue background in jeans, white top and sunglasses
Cosmo’s Midnight’s new album also features Franc Moody, spill tab, and Shungudzo.(Supplied: Sony Music Entertainment)

Consisting of Sydney-bred producers and twin brothers Pat and Cosmo Liney, Cosmo’s Midnight have been a fixture of Australia’s electronic music scene for more than a decade.

The duo’s credits include work for everyone from K-pop titans BTS to First Nations pop star Jessica Mauboy, but they truly shine making collaborative tunes on their own albums.

Following on from 2020’s ARIA-nominated Yesteryear, their third studio effort has been a long time coming, recorded over three years between Australia, London and Los Angeles.

Despite six of the album’s 10 tracks already having been released as singles, Stop Thinking Start Feeling doesn’t feel overly familiar. Rather, it hangs together as a Venn diagram of highly polished dance-pop, silky disco and summery funk.

The Tkay Maidza-assisted ‘Bang My Line’ grooves and bops in ways Cosmo’s grooviest, boppiest material hasn’t before. ‘Chance On You’ grounds the otherworldly vocals of Kučka (a long-time collaborator of Flume’s) in a nocturnal funk setting.

Another banger, ‘Borrowed Time’, features the impeccably smooth vocals of rising Naarm talent Forest Claudette, and its flashy rhythms would perfectly soundtrack sipping a cocktail poolside or busting a move under a glitter ball.

The only better way to experience this album’s slick brand of body-moving would be stepping outside for a real-life boogie by seeing Cosmo’s Midnight on tour around the country in July. Go on, stop thinking about the rhythm and start feeling it.

For fans of: Disclosure, Jungle, Winston Surfshirt

— Al Newstead

Vince Staples – Dark Times

A black square with the words DARK TIMES in barely legible black text
Californian rapper Vince Staples leans into life’s darker moments on his sixth studio album.(Supplied: Universal Music)

Vince Staples isn’t the biggest name in modern hip hop, but he’s been one of the genre’s most consistently captivating voices of the past decade. On his sixth album, Dark Times, the Californian rapper gives an insight into life’s gloomier moments — from heartbreak to gang violence to mental health struggles. 

While that’s hardly new territory, Staples has a unique and gripping way with words. ‘Justin’ is a heartbreaking story about meeting a woman who very quickly breaks his heart. ‘Little Homies’ sees Staples as a role model, showing the younger generation how to seek out a fulfilling life and get through the hard times. 

On ‘Government Cheese’ he raps about getting a call from a friend in prison, and not being able to come clean about how, despite his fame, his life isn’t as great as it might seem. 

Staples’s work is always effortlessly clever, and his emotive but never overwrought storytelling on Dark Times is something to be treasured. 

For fans of: Joey Bada$$, Kanye West, Common

GIMMY – Things Look Different Now

Woman with short, balayge hair stands with her back to camera, holding up a TV with text written on screen
GIMMY’s debut album was recorded between Mullumbimby and the Bryon cabin studio of producer Sam Joseph (King Gizzard, Babe Rainbow).(Supplied: Third Eye Stimuli)

If you hold names like Courtney Barnett, Julia Jacklin and Stella Donnelly dear, you owe it to yourself to check out the debut album from GIMMY (pronounced “gimme”), the solo project of Byron region singer-songwriter Gemma Owens

The record offers a smorgasbord of guitar-based goodness: There’s atmospheric post-punk in the title track; a verandah-worthy, alt-country singalong in Oh Suzie; and Watered a Fern is distinctly Australian jangle-pop. There’s also lashings of surf- and pub-rock, psychedelia, and intimate folk across the album’s 47-minute run time.

A robust backing band deftly animates Owens’s songwriting, but what really elevates this above your average indie rock release is Owens herself.

Her voice is instantly charming and her lyrics are effortlessly relatable, whether she’s offering absurd, spoken-word innuendo on the New Wave-soaked ‘Bathrooms’ (“Can you touch my baguette?”) or describing a romantic picnic on a budget. “Cheap wine will have to do while I’m still working at Woolies,” she sings on ‘Tell Me I’m Your Girl‘.

She’s also disarmingly vulnerable on songs that make excellent use of her tender, quivering vibrato, such as swooning stand-out ‘Fall on Me’. Then there’s the quietly devastating, misogyny-skewering ‘My Body’s My Body’.

“Do I have to get used to them glaring at my chest before breakfast? Didn’t having sisters teach you about respect?” Owens laments, expressing an exhausting experience too many young women would be uncomfortably familiar with.

Things Look Different Now is an impressive debut that marks the arrival of an act with hugely promising talent.

For fans of: Julia Jacklin, Jeff Buckley, Angel Olsen

— Al Newstead

Tiny Habits – All for Something

Birds eye view of Boston trio Tiny Hands spinning in blurred motion on grey tarmac
Tiny Habits have earned praise from Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford and Sir Elton John, who hailed them as “delicious”.(Supplied: Mom + Pop Records)

With their exquisite vocal harmonies and classic folk-pop stylings, Boston-based trio Tiny Habits evoke a bygone era of songwriting circa Laurel Canyon in the 70s. Their origin story, however, is thoroughly modern.

Berklee College of Music students Maya Rae, Cinya Khan, and Judah Mayowa met in 2021 and began posting casual shot-on-campus videos to TikTok. Their intimate covers of Carly Rae JepsenKacey Musgraves and Coldplay promptly went viral.

Tiny Habits now count both David Crosby and Phoebe Bridgers as fans, which is fitting given their sublime, closely stacked singing will (depending on your age demographic) remind you of Crosby, Stills & Nash or “sad girl” supergroup boygenius.

Debut album All for Something tugs at the heartstrings with sincere, poetic lyrics. But it also soothes the soul with warm, subtle production characterised by dusky finger-picking, gentle streaks of piano, slide guitar, and airy percussion.

‘Flicker’ concerns a dissolving relationship but feels like a loving hug, and the confessional ‘Wishes’ sees each member sharing painful truths but comes off more cathartic than concerning.

The emotional one-two of ‘Broken’ and ‘Planting Flowers’ suggests the trio are most comfortable crafting slow, sad ballads, but then they pick up the pace with the sunny burst of energy that is ‘I Don’t Have the Heart’.

If you’re after easy listening that purges not-so-easy emotions, or a vital reminder of the simple magic of human voices singing together, look no further than Tiny Habits.

For fans of: boygenius, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Folk Bitch Trio

— Al Newstead


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