In their own words, “Every now and then, Milk! Records artists get together and make some art.” Good For You, their fifth and latest creation, was recorded over the course of a single weekend last September in North Melbourne and if you’re lucky enough to snap up one of the 3,000 green-coloured vinyls, it’ll come signed by each one of the half a dozen bands whose songs comprise it. The compilation is also only the second made up of songs composed specially for it. Call it friendship with a pinch of healthy competition thrown in for kicks.
Milk! Records is just built that way. Since the label was founded by Melbournian Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher with self-released of Barnett’s debut EP I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris back in 2012, it has become a vehicle by which to showcase the musical wonderment of their friends and fellow artists in Melbourne’s music scene. Bands overlap, and members wander casually in and out of each other’s songs and videos, so organically it makes me think the rest of us are the ones who have it wrong.
Take off those shoes, grab a seat in the sun and soak up the last dregs of summer – your mates at Milk! Records have a new compilation for you.
It works: self-confessed, they’ve said hearing other bands gives them the kick to write something better. And the result is genuine home-brewed, shoes off, honest music with a quintessentially community attitude – none of this plastic-wrapped, assembly line commercialism. The refreshing method by which Milk! governs itself comes right down to mail-outs and planning parties, with all the bands collaboratively chipping in, like some gorgeously harmonious family gathering. And Barnett is happy that way: Milk! beats on, staying resolutely, commendably independent.
Courtney Barnett opens Good For You with the cheery, guitar-jangly Three Packs A Day. But before you go jumping to any nicotine-induced conclusions, this song, charmingly, is about her dependence on instant noodles:
“That MSG tastes good to me / I disagree with all your warnings,” she tells us, her addiction apparently so heavy that even waiting two minutes feels like a palm-sweating lifetime. It’s a giddy little snippet of quotidian life and a fun little track, right down to the joyous, countrified harmonica solo.
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The Finks’ Moonlighting is similarly laced with country vibes, still indisputably indie, but swinging you in a hammock with a bottle of bourbon. It’s melancholy and sweetly meandering, with lyrics you want to write down and mail to strangers like: “You’ve got a future to meet / my history’s less indiscrete / didn’t my name sound so sweet before you forgot it?”
Fraser A. Gorman bounces dialogue back and forth in Skyline Skyscraper Blues, opening up to warm harmonies, and cosy, feel-good washes of melody, sneaking in a cool little winding guitar solo. And Red Wine Lipstick, from East Brunswick All Girls Choir is tender, swaying and peppered with hazy smudges of guitar and wavering distortion.
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Jen Cloher’s Famously Monogamous is another example of Good For You slaying on the lyrics, with a cynical observation about how easy it is to be unfaithful through technology. It’s easy on the ear too, blurred with distortion that builds upon instrumentals and then drops it away to reveal those poignant vocals.
Ouch My Face, fronted by Celeste Potter, who’s also notably the cover artist for the record, offers up the closing track, Nice Haircut. It’s the album’s garage-punk black sheep, comparatively heavy and almost offbeat, with shrieking instrumentals, bursts of aggressive drumbeats and confronting, distorted vocals. From an album that otherwise smooths itself from track-to-track, the jolt’s jarring, but that’s the sentiment behind it.
It’s this aforethought, collaboration and it’s those intentionally overlapping moments are what makes Good For You – and indeed Milk! Records – worth so much of your time. And once you start to recognise them, you just can’t wait to listen all over again in the hope that you’ll unearth more.
Check out our Courtney Barnett interview in Happy Mag issue # 1.
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