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Melbourne Music: The women who pushed through a new era

Credited with shaping the modern-day pop scene, Australia has served as the port for a number of artists who have pushed the boundaries of rock. Melbourne has swiftly become the hot spot for budding musicians to prosper and grow as an artistic community. Better still, many of them have been women.

In recent years, Melbourne has grown into something bubblier and more eclectic, swiftly becoming the cosmopolitan hubbub where society and singularity go hand in hand. In other words, it has become the Australian Dublin, or Manchester, depending on how you look at it. Priding itself on diversity and integrity, the city has fashioned a newer, trendier voice for artists to go behind.

Take Julia Jacklin, for instance, a burgeoning songwriter determined to fashion a new lexicon from an art-craft that stems as much from her personal life experience as it does from her personal geography. Her music is sombre and cerebral, much as Courtney Barnett‘s is raw, rollicking and frequently vivid.

Indeed, Barnett was happy to welcome the title of raucous rock and roller, not least because it gives her a chance to plug in her guitar, and wail. “I love playing loud and aggressive and disjointed music,” Barnett noted, adding: “And I love that songs can have different lives. So I’m sure they’ll get a bit faster, get a bit more energy, get a bit more raucous. But what I wanted the recorded version to sound like was keeping in check with that sense of calmness”.

Other female voices that have begun to emerge include Stella Donnelly, Camp Cope, Sarah Blasko, all of whom can stand proudly beside Melbourne favourite, Kylie Minogue. Pencilled by many as the live music capital of Australia, the city holds a number of live venues, many of them enigmatic, but all of them distinctive.

The Cherry Bar certainly made an impression on Noel Gallagher, who considered purchasing the place, before praising blues exports, Jet. “I’m glad Jet are from Melbourne — it would have been shit if they were from Sydney, because I don’t really like Sydney that much,” the Oasis guitarist said. “There’s a very nice harbour, but a certain lack of soul about it. I’d rather live here”.

And then there’s Heartbreaker, another trendy bar that focuses on the guitar riff ahead of the grooves commonly heard on the dance floor. For those aching for a more electronic fused outlet, Beneath Driver Lane offers an alternative avenue from which audience members can let their hair down and dance.

The Carlton Club has decided to go all out and embrace the opportunity of an all-female lineup for their first-ever live event. Solo electronic artist Kids At Midnight will curate an event the Love Safari, an show at The Carlton Club that will see the likes of The Girl Fridas, Aurelia, Roz Yuen and Kids At Midnight. The dissertation of this particular event is that it will celebrate the best of female artists the country has to offer.

Australian singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko is swiftly emerging as one of the more interesting electronic-pop artists of her generation, but like many others before her, it’s art led by heart, not commerce. “I haven’t had any real training,” she modestly said.“Just life, the training of life. I’ve been doing it for a while. I’m old. And I love performing live. That’s actually my favourite part of playing music. I love recording, but performing is where I started. I didn’t do a lot of my own recording to begin with—I just got up on stage and performed. It’s what I fell in love with”.

She won’t be the only one falling in love with life, or Melbourne, by the sounds of things. And the city should be applauded for everything it is doing to encourage more women to take out their guitars and sing. Art must be measured on its propensity to be enjoyed, yet it should also be measured based on the vitality of its foundations. What it holds in stature has been rewarded by the variety of acts in its grasp. Dublin brought guitar bands U2 and The Frames into the conversation, Manchester gifted the world a convoy of esoteric groups like 10cc and Buzzcocks, and now Melbourne looks like it will be continuing the narrative to the next logical step pop is determined to take. Fittingly, the majority of the acts seem to be women.

The city certainly helped Gotye to find his natural voice as an artist. Reflecting on his success, he denied using a formula to gain incredible success: “There are so many great songs—some of which get the attention in the pop sphere and some of which are only heard by a small number of people. It’s not a perfect song by any means; I don’t think there is a perfect song.”

He’s referring, of course, to ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, a choppy indie song that many derived as a Sting composition when they first heard it. The song was released ten years ago, at a time when indie was dominated by males alone. Back then, the role of a female singer was to play the role of a jilted lover, as was heard in the Gotye epic.

But Barnett and Blasko have shown that women are more than capable of writing cutting-edge pop, laced with attitude and adrenaline. It’s thanks to Melbourne, music pouring from the stages, and back onto the streets. Speculating on how the city will evolve is bound to be pointless, but given the sincerity of the music, the diversity of the acts and, best of all, for the quality of the work.

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