New Music 01/2023 – ThornBird, Aurora, Mdou Moctar

Solo album from one-third of The Waifs; a newie from my favourite Norwegian forest spirit; electrifying desert blues.


I don’t know much about The Waifs, the Australian folk band who’ve been knocking around for about thirty years now; my familiarity begins and ends with London Still, a heartfelt acoustic number about missing home that got a lot of love from Triple J back in 2003. As per usual at this time of the year, I checked out a few Best Of music lists, and so stumbled on this solo record by Vikki Thorn, one of the Waifs going by the moniker of ThornBird.

Maybe it’s something to do with getting older, but I do find myself drawn more and more to this kind of rootsy, country-flavoured music as time passes by, its comforting and earthy feel and the intimate storytelling. The album puts Thorn’s unique, husky, rough-edged voice front and centre, starting with the raw and bluesy opener, That Kinda Man. Thorn’s band of musicians really bring the album together, with gorgeous harmonica and guitar solos accompanying her strong, distinctive voice. Though the record is mostly upbeat, it ends on a heartbreaking, melancholy note with Rough Patch, which might actually be my favourite song on the album.

The Gods We Can Touch

I adore Aurora, her charming sincerity, her wonderful weirdness and her pure angelic voice. I’m pumped for her Melbourne concert later in March, even more so after her latest album, which feels like her most confident, consistent and complete release to date.

It mostly abandons Aurora’s earlier folky influences and heads straight for the dancefloor, with upbeat synthy bangers like Cure For Me, one of the standouts. There’s a distinctively Euro vibe to many of the tracks; I could easily imagine some performed at the Eurovision Song Contest as one of those legit great songs that sometimes pop up among all the wacky novelties and cheese. That’s not to say that the album is wall-to-wall clubfest – there are also slower, more ethereal tracks like Exist For Love and Exhale Inhale. Though the Norwegian singer-songwriter is still only twenty-six, there’s definitely a sense of Aurora having matured as an artist on this album.

It’s a big task for any pop album to not run out of steam in the course of fifteen tracks, but Aurora pulls it off, with enough variety and catchy hooks that grab you by the neck. I really look forward to grooving along to the new songs!

Afrique Victime

I first heard of this guitarist from Niger when I read a review of his latest album comparing the music to Tinariwen, a group of Tuareg musicians I’ve been a fan of for years, so I was curious to see how a different artist might draw on the same cultural traditions.

While Moctar’s desert blues has the same hypnotic quality I love about Tinariwen, his style is more psychedelic, fiery and muscular, with blistering guitar pyrotechnics that might bring to mind someone like Jimi Hendrix. Some longer songs end in exhilarating, chaotic jams, there are also quieter breaks and softer textures with acoustic-based songs like Layla. The vocals are delivered in same chanted, call-and-response style that marks Tinariwen, but make no mistake, the guitar is the true star of the album.

There’s so much energy and pure explosive joy about these songs that I was gutted to learn that Mdou Moctar is playing in Melbourne on the same night as Aurora. He’s definitely someone I would love to see live.

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