I grew up in the UK, where the national home of non-commercial music is late nights on BBC Radio 1. Australia’s nearest equivalent radio station is Triple J, except Triple J is pretty much non-commercial all day long.
I stopped listening to radio when I stopped driving a car, which was more years ago than we need to talk about here. When I did try dipping my toe in again, I quickly learnt that mainstream radio is horrible here, maybe because the presenters are just so damn hyped up and excitable, plus of course it’s all just lowest common denominator pop music. And then there was Triple J, which just never seemed exciting enough. I seemed to catch some kind of slow, miserable song every time I tuned in and I always switched off within seconds.
I stuck with listening to my favourite regular podcasts, mixes and CDs that I’d picked up around the club scene. Eventually a long time passed without me listening to anything much except trance, hard dance and occasionally a bit of fairly mainstream house music.
For years and years, I had no idea what music the rest of the world was listening to.
That was until a few months ago, when I travelled to Tasmania. For those who need a map, Tasmania is the island state at the southernmost point of Australia. I hired a car to drive around this beautiful island for a week. One thing I was sure of before I started my road trip, I was here to escape from my life in Sydney and everything that came with it. My new adventure needed a new soundtrack.
I switched on the radio and started to hear music that suited my mood. A mood where I was very far away from city lights, driving down a country road into the unknown. After a couple of songs the presenter started speaking and I learnt that I was listening to Triple J. My week rolled on, driving through the ever-changing landscape of farmland, coastal towns, rainforest and everything in between, and never once did I think about changing the radio station.
Tasmania was even more amazing than everyone had told me it would be. I continued my travels around Australia. Somewhere along the way, I decided that Spotify might be my friend. I started paying for premium, followed artists I’d learnt about from Triple J and suddenly every day became a new adventure in music.
Yes, I’d been that far out of touch with other music, I’d not even been using Spotify.
Fast forward a couple of months and I found myself in the crowd at Groovin The Moo festival. I could cringe about my poor outfit choice for the occasion, I thought I was going to jump around getting sweaty then sit down in a field somewhere but I was in fact attending WA’s answer to Coachella. I could moan about how old I felt once I realised half the crowd were underage, instead, props to all the WA teens who look years older than you are.
But more important than all that, I got to catch some of my new favourite artists live and continue my voyage of discovery. I’ll be back next year for sure, this time with a bit more style and glitter.
For now, here’s five songs I fell in love with this year, thanks to Triple J. Remember, when I turned that car radio on just a few months ago, I had no idea if I was listening to brand new artists or to global superstars.
Stella Donnelly – Tricks.
Stella Donnelly’s album “Beware of the Dogs” was Triple J’s featured album in my first week of listening to the station. “Tricks” is the song that starts with someone going to dinner and breaking all the plates. Donnelly is unafraid to speak uncomfortable truths, delivering an album of sharply crafted lyrics to make the patriarchy squirm.
Billie Eilish – wish you were gay
How had I not heard of Billie Eilish? At the time of following her on Spotify, I discovered that this unique, sophisticated American artist was 17 years old and the 6th most streamed artist in the world! “wish you were gay” is a little more catchy and a lot less dark than many tracks on Eilish’s debut album “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?”, but of course you already knew that because I’m the only person on earth who hadn’t heard of her!
Dean Lewis – 7 Minutes.
“7 Minutes” is just a perfect song to sing inappropriately loud while driving. Dean Lewis is a bloke with a guitar from Sydney, singing nice songs, also up there on the streaming charts at 200th most streamed as of today, and especially popular in Australia. Again, you probably already knew that, although I reckon he’s chasing Ed Sheeran’s fan base rather than Billie Eilish’s.
Jack River – Ballroom
Jack River’s album “Sugar Mountain’ is smooth, timeless and will eternally have a place on my summer driving playlist. Jack River is female by the way, and a strong voice behind the scenes as a co-founder of the “Electric Lady” events, which feature all-female line ups, and as an advocate for equality across the music industry.
G Flip – Drink Too Much
“I wanna get into trouble, I wanna be out ‘til lunch…” Yep, me too, G. G Flip wrote this song about a time when she tried to deal with a break up by getting wrecked way too often, and many of us have absolutely been down that road at least once. G Flip is on a fast ride from Triple J Unearthed to the big time. Pulling a big early afternoon crowd at Groovin The Moo, she had fans singing back every word before she ran to the back of the stage to rock out on her beloved drums at every opportunity.
Nicki Ranger is a freelance writer currently based in Perth, Western Australia.
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