REVIEW ROUND-UP: Acres, Teenage Dads, Big Hug

Artwork for Acres’ ‘Burning Throne’ - a print of a drop shape inside arches


Burning Throne

Had Acres been at this stage about a decade ago, they’d likely be exponentially bigger than they are right now. Even down to the label they’re signed to and how it was the hub for fast post-hardcore risers in the early 2010s, everything about them feels like a band struggling to adapt with their genre’s modern climate. The corner case of Holding Absence remains true though, and while Acres have always had shades of them in grand expanse and a monochrome production style, the dynamism needed to replicate that struggles to surface.

It’s a balance that rarely swings in Acres’ favour; on one hand, Burning Throne is quite possibly their most accomplished work to date, but right now, the place in alt-rock they’re looking to occupy doesn’t have the space for them, not when Holding Absence continue to rocket upwards in a field that only has the resources for them. Thus, when Acres come out with songs like The Death Of Me or Visual Hallucinations, which have the style and aesthetic but nowhere near the dynamism, the foundations feel less stable. There isn’t much of an identity to go off, particularly when Ben Lumber’s clean singing is weighed down by the interchangeability of countless Britrock frontmen from—when else?—across the 2010s.

If anything, it acts as the most convincing argument for why Acres should stick with heavier material—they’re simply much better at it. While Silent Planet’s Garrett Russell definitely gives opener Nothing a boost, there’s a strong core of post-hardcore bloodletting there already that he only amplifies. It’s similar with Feel Anything or Into Flames, not necessarily through screaming (especially in the latter’s case), but in the kind of outsized vocal that can ram through walls off the back of its pure passion. It’s where Lumber is at his best, certainly, and with a bit more urgency in the guitars and drums, at least Acres can strike a chord.

It’s enough to get Burning Throne across the finish line, as a vehicle for emotive release that isn’t anything new in the slightest, but can still be enjoyed to a solid degree. That’s some rather passive enjoyment though, hampered by that exact same fact of bringing nothing new, and really not anchoring Acres into any considerable bedrock. Despite feeling like a band hitting their targets, said targets aren’t the most filling or adventurous. A nominal win just doesn’t count for much in the grand scheme of things, which is a lesson that you’d hope Acres would’ve heeded by now.

For fans of: Holding Absence, Wars, We Are The Ocean

‘Burning Throne’ by Acres is out now on A Wolf At Your Door Records.

Artwork for Teenage Dads’ ‘Midnight Driving’ - the band in a convertible driving on a rainbow

Teenage Dads

Midnight Driving

When your band gets nominated for Best New Artist by Rolling Stone Australia, and it’s next to one-man hype-machine Genesis Owusu, that should say quite a lot about where you’re pointing. That’s the case for Teenage Dads anyway, the indie-pop quartet for whom world domination seems to be next on the agenda. They’ve definitely got the means to if Midnight Driving is any indication, packing in a cavalcade of especially TikTokable moments into just one six-song EP.

Yes, they definitely feel like that kind of band, where if they’d come around about a decade ago, they’d have been a prime candidate to slot in the single-crossover-hit-and-bounce crowd, á la Foster The People, Gotye et al. It’s an almost overwhelmingly present vibe they give off, between a sound that’s splashed with colour and often a spryness, and some notably antiseptic production in the drumming and razor-wire of synth. But even then, Teenage Dads aren’t completely beholden to an already-overexposed style like that. The bedroom-pop touches are far less obvious outside of the bookending title track and Goodbye Goodbye Again, instead going for heavy-thrummed pop-rock on Teddy or the tart, twiddly Darwin Deez-isms of Exit Sign.

It can be pretty fun, honestly, enough to pave over how Jordan Findlay isn’t the most impressive singer in the world anyway. The flatter Gen Z-courting cadence doesn’t do him any favours, which is why the most electrified performance on Teddy is easily the EP’s best. Still, there’s a decent romanticism to 3am that works well, and unlike a lot of Australian acts founded on crafting songs from small, everyday moments, Teenage Dads handily avoid highlighting a mundanity that leaves them uninteresting on principle. It’s based on internal monologues and thought processes found in a late-night drive, and the band have the command of both big and small emotions to do pretty well at that.

Maybe it’s enough to hold that immense hype together then. After all, bands in this vein given a significant soapbox don’t often produce material this enjoyable, which says something when Midnight Driving itself isn’t averse to issues that can hold it back. Still, it’s solid stuff, an indie-pop release that understands where the genre’s key strengths in its modern forms lie, while also throwing the right crossover bones for good measure without using them as a crutch. Pretty good stuff overall, and a worthwhile example of how this sort of thing can be done right.

For fans of: Foster The People, Phoenix, MGMT

‘Midnight Driving’ by Teenage Dads is out now on Chugg Music.

Artwork for Big Hug’s ‘Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time’ - a fire in a city centre with onlookers holding an ironing board and a tea urn

Big Hug

Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time

Patrons of the DIY scene—here’s a new one for you. For a quick rundown, Big Hug have been picking up a bit of traction from shows with the likes of Muttering and Buds, a sure-fire sign that ingratiation into the ever-burgeoning world of independent emo is all but certain. So here’s their debut EP to solidify that—five songs that are very in-keeping with the genre’s halcyon ‘90s days, in the expect ways that have worked so well, so frequently.

The production is what works the best here. Maybe not in the vocals which feel a bit underpowered, but in a sound rooted in the hyper-melodic sensibilities and woody, varnished finish of influences like The Promise Ring and Texas Is The Reason. Opener Raise The Bar serves as the most consummate showcase of Big Hug’s strengths, as the guitars churn with great punk verve and the rhythm section remains tight and kinetic throughout. That’s all highlighted elsewhere too; Guinness Paltrow achieves the most in its toppling bassline and choppier guitars, while Danny Is The Greatest Lover and All Yours present the slightly more off-kilter takes on indie-punk anthemia.

It’s just a really comfortable listen all the way through, as a lot of this current wave is. Big Hug aren’t necessarily innovating but they’re doing a lot right with the component parts, alongside the humble presentation and lyrical style that’s as brimming with charm as you’d expect. It might be a bit confined in its own space as of yet to really get more from—as well as the natural limitations of a five-track EP—but the promise is self-evident all the same. They’re a band worth keeping an eye on, if only to see how their scene embraces them further. The chops are there undoubtedly, and early indications this strong can only be a good sign for what’s to come.

For fans of: The Promise Ring, The Yacht Club, Texas Is The Reason

‘Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time’ by Big Hug is out now.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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