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Hip-Hop Out-Charted Pop By 227 Weeks in 2017

It may come as no surprise, but hip-hop was the most popular genre of music in 2017, by an impressive margin. It was reported earlier in th...

Best Ambient Albums of 2017: First Quarter

It's been a surprisingly fertile 3 months for Ambient music, with some heavy hitters (Brian Eno), some veterans (Forrest Fang) and some brilliant sophomore efforts (Vermont) leading the charge. Here's what you may have missed so far.

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Brian Eno - Reflection

The venerable Brian Eno dropped by with Reflection on new years day, and it was a breath of fresh air in a genre he helped create. Although his 2016 album The Ship was high quality, he purveyed the feeling through LUX in 2012 that ambient music was disposable and anonymous. He's already explored the boundaries of the genre, notably on 2010's Small Craft On A Milk Sea and classics like Discreet Music, but Reflection went even further. While courting the idea of ambient music being unceasing, ever-present, ever-changing, he released an app that plays ambient music indefinitely, gradually shifting according to the time of the day. All of this may interest you greatly, or maybe you just want to hear a titan of the genre back in top form. Reflection is a king re-affirming his place on the throne, it's gentle but powerful, a wave of soft noise that gradually peels on a twilight beach. It's brilliant.



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Max Richter - Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works

The incredible cover art is just the start of this score. There's a reason why, when you search for the best ambient artists in Spotify, you find a slew of scores among their discography. Clint Mansell, Hans Zimmer, Harold Budd, Max Richter. Ambient music falls into two categories: decadent and elegant background music, or evocative and emotional music you ride, like a wave. This record takes from the score of a Royal Ballet production, and the delicate touches and whispered refrains conjure images of slight dancers making merry with the laws of gravity. Alas, while the music is incredible by itself, it feels as if witnessing the full ballet production first hand, with this cinematic music as the score, would be a breath-taking experience. 


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William Basinski - A Shadow In Time

The way William Basinski is able to manipulate your conscious mind with loops and samples is utterly unique, and quite terrifying. His Disintegration Loops series was ominous, described in part by Sputnik Music as the death of sound. A Shadow In Time might be seen similarly, a slow graveyard march of a once vibrant sound, the final knell drawn out into what feels like eternity. His tribute to the late, great David Bowie, "For David Robert Jones", has a forlorn saxophone section that sounds like a distant boat horn, played from beyond the veil. It's not a siren song, it's a mournful riff and one of the most gut-wrenching pieces of music to be released in the last 15 years. This is where music comes to die, and it's not glamorous, but it's truly astonishing and beautiful in its own way. 



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Noveller - A Pink Sunset for No One

Reviews for this record contained some form of the phrase "no real change from her old stuff". It's almost as if, as soon as you strap a guitar over your shoulder, the rules of ambient music go out the window (which is odd considering the glacial movement of critical darlings like Low). The guitar is an instrument to be abused, to be thrashed, to be loud and powerful. Yet Lipstate turns it into a graceful delicate piece of artistry, running loops and dragging notes out till they are almost see-through. A Pink Sunset for No One is the closest marriage of ambient and rock music of her career so far, each track feels like a refrain during a Fleetwood Mac concert, the kind that induces tears and gushed praise for the bands artistic ability. Noveller has been doing it for 8 albums now. 



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Vermont - II

Vermont toe the line between ambient and electronica, and it's a delightful dance to watch, full of confidence. There are large stretches of atmospheric asides ("Chemtrails" through "Skorbut") and more adventurous touches of jazz ("Unruh") and drum & bass ("Wenik"). Like any skilled producer, the tracks huddle together, manipulating mood and listener reaction. The mid-album palate cleanser, "Ufer", is the perfect bridge between the more assertive first half and a more immersive second half. 




Forrest Fang - Following The Ether Sun

I spoke to Forrest about this album and he told me he likes to create music with a blank mind, to best allow listeners to pour their own emotions into the music and draw their own conclusions. That said, my review now takes on new meaning for me. It made me feel like Forrest was chasing a dream, or a consciousness beyond what we know to be possible. I mentioned a sense of loneliness, and it's become clearer over time that that sense of loneliness is my own, an isolation of my own doing while chasing this "ether sun", or to me, a state of numbness, without anxiety or provocation. It's rare that we are forced to look at our own mortality, it's even rarer that we're made aware of that gaze by someone we haven't even met. Only a truly special piece of music could do that. 



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A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Iris

This duo is the most refreshing voice in ambient music, which is high praise considering the drought-breaking post-2010 period has seen us awash with new artists and albums. Iris, the score of the 2016 movie of the same name, is their largest project in terms of scope and atmosphere. The addition of a huge orchestra to give weight and depth to the music turns songs into epic scenes ("Le renversement", "L'embauche", "Fantasme"). They have adapted well to the "score" format, which is create atmosphere and add drama, a skill purveyors like Clint Mansell have down to a fine art. Iris could be bigger, but A Winged Victory For The Sullen are one of the more minimal ambient acts of this decade. Drama will come with more experience and bigger assignments, but for now, Iris stands alone as another well put together record from a group that's injecting enthusiasm and life into the genre.


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Jacaszek - KWIATY

You've probably seen a lot of promo for producer Jacaszek's new album, and it's likely the work of electronic staple label Ghostly International. Sometimes ambient music falls through the cracks and even the most devoted miss out on new releases, but Jacaszek has been in all the tape decks in March 2017. KWIATY may be the best-constructed record of his career. The ethereal voices flit surreptitiously between background and foreground, creating more conventional tracks, like "To Blossoms", and incredible immersive experiences, like "Soft Music" or "Love". The album doesn't ebb and flow, it oscillates between ambience and overt electronica. Jacaszek prefers to really play his music, to use conventional instruments in such a way as to create the illusion of computer-generated sounds. This is always preferable if done with skill and poise, and KWIATY is a truly unique project, something that isn't easy to achieve in 2017.


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Ben Frost -  Music From Fortitude

Who else to craft a soundtrack for a TV show set in the Arctic Circle? It might put some people off, this certainly isn't an immersive listen. "Is He A Good Sheriff or a Bad Sheriff?" through "There is always a first time for everything" is nigh-on unlistenable, with snippets of dialogue and panic attack synths ruining the mood of "Welcome to Fortitude". You can easily snatch a great playlist out of the project though. Cut the dialogue out and just marvel at Frost's ability to take on one of the most popular topics in ambient music, the cold, with fresh eyes and new perspectives.


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Mike Cooper - Reluctant Swimmer / Virtual Surfer

Cooper drops by with as varied and diverse a project as he's released in years. The first track "Reluctant Swimmer" is like Fennesz before computers, a rockabilly concoction that sits comfortably over warm scratches reminiscent of a vinyl record. Oddly cosmic flutters transition into a cover of "Movies if Magic" by Van Dyke, with Cooper singing away and playing a guitar like a wobble board. "Virtual Surfer" is a sci-fi game set on a beach, with sounds of nature contrasted with electronic stabs you'd expect to hear in an MRI machine. Cooper pushes boundaries, and it's delightful to watch the way his mind works on wax.


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Lawrence English - Cruel Optimism

Cruel Optimism harbours some devastating moments, no more so than "Hammering a Screw", where he slips in some old-fashioned Nick Cave violence, cold and unrelenting. The album seems to favour a dystopian path towards redemption and knowledge. "Objection of Projection" is the final piece in a disquieting 5 song sequence, before "Somnambulist" and "Moribund Territories" signal something of a new day. The disconnected vocals invoke images of new life beginning on some distant, mysterious planet.



Top 10 Natural Peanut Butter Brands in Australia

Despite the fact that all the products on this list use between 99 and 100 percent peanuts in their spreads, taste, quality, consistency, price, and texture vary greatly. All are tested in their "crunchy" guise, because no-one I've ever remained friends with eats smooth peanut butter.

10. Mother Earther Peanut Butter

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Price: $14/kg
Taste: Nowhere near as rich as Mayver's or Pic's. Like the peanut itself, this tends to be a bit anonymous.
Consistency/Texture: It feels like they haven't pulsed it for long enough in the blender. It's just not creamy at all, and it gets worse and worse the longer you leave it out. You can scoop it out like ice cream!
Oil Separation: Very hit and miss. Some tubs are fine, others had a thin layer of oil on top. Apart from Pic's and Scoop, it's got the least separation.
Resilience While Open in Pantry: Tends to go rock hard down the bottom, best to flip it upside down. Smells fine after 3 weeks. 

Verdict: Too flawed for the price. Can pick up a bargain sometimes when it's half price in Coles or Woolies.


9. Macro Organic

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Price: $13/kg
Taste: It's also a bit anonymous. The problem with peanuts is they are very boring. If you just blend them up and don't do anything else, the end result is boring.
Consistency/Texture: Too dry, makes it ultra chewy and not enjoyable.
Oil Separation: Pretty bad, much worse in the tub. A stir can help but won't cure the problem.
Resilience while open in pantry: While it doesn't smell worse after 3 weeks, the consistency becomes almost impossible to spread or chew. It turns into big wads of dry sticking plaster.
Verdict: Low shelf life is holding this back.



8. Planet Organic

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Price: $19/kg
Taste: It's certainly not offensive, but for that price it needs to be something special, and it isn't.
Consistency/Texture: Quite a thick consistency, it really oozes out of the jar when poured, and coats your mouth. Whether or not you like that may determine how you feel about this. I personally love it!
Oil Separation: Big separation. Despite the thick texture, it's easy to stir back in.
Resilience while open in pantry: Holds up incredibly well, best on test. After 3 weeks it tasted and smelled the same as when I first opened it, and the consistency was the same.
Verdict: Price way too high. It's not $6 better than Coles brand.



7. Coles Organic


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Price: 13.30/kg
Taste: Better than the Woolies brand, but still dull.
Consistency/Texture: Thick consistency, but not too chewy.
Oil Separation: Store it upside down from the get-go. You can stir it back in and it'll stay that way for a couple of days.
Resilience while open in pantry: Just as with the Woolies brand, it turns into taffy when left alone too long in the cupboard.
Verdict: Price is right but it's not high quality.

6. Sanitarium Natural

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Price: $11.90/kg
Taste: Definitely has a distinct flavour. It's quite delicate, not as rich or robust as those above it.
Consistency/Texture: Thicker than you'd expect, certainly thicker than Kraft. It feels stretchy, but not too chewy at all.
Oil Separation: Not too bad, but can be difficult to stir back in because the jars are filled to the brim.
Resilience while open in pantry: Texture and consistency remains decent (except at the very bottom) but the smell isn't great. Starts to get that "I'm out of date" feeling.
Verdict: Cheapest by a long way, which gives it a huge leg up. It's not the winner of any category, but it's a solid all-rounder.

5. Kraft Natural

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Price: $14.20/kg
Taste: A stronger flavour than Sanitarium. Peanuts can be a bit anonymous but Kraft has coaxed some flavour.
Consistency/Texture: Most interesting on test. While it's the only one here (apart from Mayver's sometimes) you can comfortably pour out, like syrup. Yet it has a very thick, rich texture. No idea how they did this, just happy they did.
Oil Separation: A lot of separation, and it's difficult to stir it back in without getting peanut oil absolutely everywhere. Then, you go back for another spoonful, and it has separated again!
Resilience while open in pantry: Texture stay decent, but it starts to smell bad quite quickly.
Verdict: A touch too expensive for the quality, but it has a personality, which Sanitarium doesn't.



4. Ridiculously Delicious Peanut Butter 


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Price: $20/kg
Taste: It is delicious. Not too rich, it reminds me a bit of American peanut butter, lighter than Mayver's or Pic's.
Consistency/Texture: Almost as if it's been whipped. It's incredibly smooth and creamy
Oil Separation: Hardly any! I think it's because of the consistency.
Resilience while open in panty: Smelled fine after the 3 weeks, and consistency was hardly changed.
Verdict: Very expensive, but overcomes that by being quite brilliant.

3. Mayver's Dark Roast / Normal

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Price: $14.50/kg
Taste: Delicious! It tastes decadent, the way peanut butter should. The dark roasted is just about as good as you'll ever get with PB, it's such a boring nut but Mayver's have coaxed every last bit of flavour out of it. The extra salt doesn't hurt either!
Consistency/Texture: Very dense, very thick. It coats your tongue beautifully.
Oil Separation: Pretty bad at first. Stir it in and it usually stays civilised for a week before separating again.
Resilience while open in pantry: Not the worst on test, consistency doesn't suffer too much but it can tend to smell a bit.
Verdict: The three above it are incredible. This is just a delight to devour! Considering how good it is, the price is basically a steal.

3. Ambrosia

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Price: $15.17/kg
Taste: Very good! Not quite ambrosia but very close.
Consistency/Texture: Chunkiest on the list, even the smooth peanut butter is a real chewable prospect.
Oil Separation: Extreme, but can be stirred back in no worries.
Resilience while open in pantry: Never made it to three weeks! But after 4 days it was still holding up.
Verdict: If you're in love with it, you'll likely have to order it via their website. Check out their list of stockists. If you can get your hands on a jar you won't regret it. 

2. Scoop Wholefood Natural Peanut Butter


Price: $14.30/kg (approx.)
Taste: Great peanut flavour, but not too overpowering. Yes, it's peanut butter, but some manufacturers taste like the peanuts are 6 years old. This is made from fresh peanuts.
Consistency/Texture: Look, I don't pretend to know the mechanics of their PB making, but it looks like it's been whipped to me, which makes it the only whipped natural PB I know. It's incredible, so light and airy, it's like eating whipped cream but even more delicious!
Oil Separation: Very very little.
Resilience while open in pantry: Holds up ok. Can dry out a bit towards the end of the 3 weeks but if you manage to go three weeks without devouring this jar you have more self-restraint than I.
Verdict: Price, taste, and texture, it has everything in its favour! It would take a mighty Goliath to slay this product. Enter...


1. Pic's

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Price: $19.73/kg
Taste: Pic's treads the line between rich and light. It might be the Hi-Oleic nuts. It might be the roasting process. There's a bit of extra salt, which just lifts it to that next level over Ambrosia or Scoop Wholefoods.
Consistency/Texture: A cross between the whipped Scoop Wholefoods and the rich, thick Mayver's. The crunchy version is a god send. How annoying is it to buy a PB and all the crunchy bits are stuck at the top? Not so with Pic's, they're evenly distributed throughout and it's like eating two separate, brilliant things at once!
Oil Separation: Despite using the slightly oilier nuts, there's not a lot of separation, and once you stir it back in, you're good to go for another few weeks. 
Resilience while open in pantry: Most resilient on test. After 3 weeks it was like opening a new jar! Which is great because when they're on special you have to snap them up, they're quite expensive!
Verdict: Second most expensive on the list, but there is no denying this is the best natural PB in the world. 

Don't Be The Person Who Kills A Cyclist

© Copyright Mat Fascione and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I am a very reluctant road cyclist. I like them as much as you do. Their behaviour is often questionable, and I've seen occasions where they place themselves in dangerous (but not illegal) positions. Cycling up hills in 70km zones on dual carriageways with blind corners, taking up an entire lane on Southern Cross Drive on a Sunday morning, using the road when there's no shoulder instead of the bike path right next to it. We've all seen it, a lot of you have probably seen red over it too.

But do you honestly want a dead body on your conscience? 

That's not dramatic at all. When I was in high school, a policeman told us that a car is likely the most dangerous and deadly weapon we will possess in our adult lives. It's 2 tonnes of metal that's capable of doing 200 km/hr. Compare that to a bicycle, which is about 10kgs of aluminium, capable of going only as fast as the cyclist on it can manage with their legs, and with no mirrors, horns, accelerator, and a couple of bits of rubber for a brake. That's not a fair fight in anyone's book.

So why are you so aggressive towards cyclists? They pose absolutely no threat to you. If you treat them with care, and as long as you're being aware behind the wheel, a cyclist will not injure you, or cause you to have an accident, or kill you. According to this report by the Australian Government, between 1991 and 2005, "655 cyclists were killed in road crashes". The report doesn't specify, but I highly doubt any of the motorists involved in those accidents were killed. 

I will ask you again. Why are you aggressive towards cyclists? Is it impatience? I can't think of any other reason. I may dislike cyclists, but I've never attacked them, swerved at them, thrown something at them, wound down my window and hurled abuse at them, honked at them, flashed my lights at them, intentionally driven close to them, or attempted to impede their progress. Yet I was a road cyclist for a mere 12 months, and every single one of those things happened to me, some more than once.

I started cycling because I couldn't run anymore, the dreaded ITB injury. There's a great cycleway near my house that runs for close to 30kms, which means 60km out and back. The problem is, I have to ride on the road for 3kms to get to it. 3kms both ways, that's 6km per trip. I was riding every second day for 12 months, so in total, I did about 1095km, probably what a serious road cyclist would notch up in a month. I was terrified, I hated every second of it. It felt wrong, I felt exposed and at risk. I installed mirrors on my bike so I could check my blind spot when riding around cars. I stuck to wide roads with big shoulders and speed limits under 70km/hr. And yet still I copped it. At least 30 separate incidents of road rage, ranging from people winding down their window to unleash expletives as they drove past, to a woman clipping my back wheel at a round-a-bout then swerving at me as she passed. 

One day really exemplified the difference between cyclists and motorists. I was almost home, I was exhausted, and as I approached a round-a-bout, I completely misjudged a gap in the traffic and didn't give way to a car turning right coming from the opposite direction. I looked up, and the driver saw me, and easily had enough time to stop and let me pass. Which she did. I put my hand up in apology and carried on through the round-a-bout. But she had no intention of letting me pass. She did a full loop of the round-a-bout, and flew up behind me flashing her lights. She almost clipped my back wheel. There were parked cars on the left-hand hand side, so I pulled over behind one to let her pass. She came up beside me, stopped, wound down her window, and yelled at me across her young daughter (I am terrible with ages, but I'd guess between 5 and 10 years old). All manner of expletives, words I wouldn't have even thought to put together. I kind of sat there and let her go, after all, I was in the wrong. She eventually drove off, but I was incredibly shaken. If she had hit my back wheel I'd have been thrown into the parked car in front of me. 

That same day, not 2 hours later, I was in the car with my friend. She was chatting about something passionately and didn't give way to her right at a round-a-bout, just as I had earlier. The driver stopped and let her pass. She waved a sorry, the driver waved back, and off we went. 

Sure, you might say they're different people, you have to expect different results. But when was the last time someone chased you, pulled up beside you, and abused you after you failed to give way to them? Now ask a cyclist the same question. 

I want to scare you. You may very well kill someone one day if you act on your frustration with cyclists. Cyclists do the wrong thing, as do motorists. We all make mistakes, we all put ourselves in compromising positions at times. It might take you 5 minutes longer, waiting for the right time to overtake a cyclist. What is 5 minutes? What is 15 minutes? Would you rather be late, or be sitting in a courtroom, with death or serious injury on your conscience? 



The Most Comprehensive Guide to Sydney Record Stores, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

How can you tell a top-tier city from all those below it? Ask this question: does it have more than 3 decent record stores? Sydney has quality and quantity, but each store has a personality that will appeal to unique segments of the market.

Don't forget, all of these stores existed before the "vinyl revival", although JB Hi-Fi introduced vinyl after the 4000th think piece on why vinyl staged a comeback.

These are in no particular order.


Beatdisc 

Located in Parramatta, there's been a couple of news stories about them recently, notably this by Mixdown. The nitty gritty is that Beatdisc stocks a huge range of CDs and vinyl records, at the most reasonable prices in Sydney. Almost every notable new album (hip hop, pop, alternative, heavy) finds its way onto the vinyl racks. There's a huge second-hand selection, mostly older pop or Australian records, but there's even some compilations, comedy albums, and soundtracks to musicals. 7" records are also accounted for, and the CD section is massive, with less focus on new release and more on the period when the CD was ubiquitous, 1996 through 2010

Now the fun stuff. Their store is also a live venue! Check out events here. They have been pivotal in providing not only entertainment for the locals of Parramatta, but a platform for young, local acts to begin to build a fan base. I know the store is small, but it really does start to jump off with a live band!

Their website is great and features dataclips of all their in-stock items. It's even better in-store though, you will never ever feel judged or be spoken down to. Ask them about the Britney Spears album you want on vinyl, I guarantee it will be met with warmth!

Who does it appeal to - Alternative music rules here, especially in vinyl. They have an entire wall of it. Their second-hand stuff is actually quite unique, either mainstream acts decades old, or things like the soundtracks to musicals. Their hip hop vinyl selection is limited, but there's a bunch of hip hop CDs.

Website: Their entire catalogue is on two separate .xxl files. You must ring them or email to buy a record or CD. Also lists all upcoming gigs that will happen in-store.
Location: Paramatta
Record Store Day: Always a special day! I've never made the trek out there on Record Store Day, but I am assuming there will be a few people there, considering it's the only place in the area for it.


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Egg Records

Newtown is a thriving hub of music, and Egg Records sits atop the tree due to their deeply knowledgeable staff, great selection of vinyl and CD, and their DVD section. There are obscure works to be found on the back wall, but it's the 7" section you'll want to check out, the most extensive in NSW. There's also some nice cheap CDs up the front. The staff are ultra friendly, and can answer most questions without the aid of a computer!


Who does it appeal to - Mainly those who hold the 70s and 80s in high regard. A lot of their vinyl was born in this period. The main customers seem to be baby boomers and the generation below rediscovering their love of vinyl and indulging in it. There are hip hop and dance sections, suitably obscure, but not extensive.
Website: Doesn't list their catalogue. Gives simple contact info.
Location: Newtown
Record Store Day: I'm not sure if this happens every year, but in 2016 there was about 8 boxes of records, and we all took turns digging through them. There wasn't a list posted with all titles they had gotten in, so it was a bit of a discovery!


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Music Farmers

It's been a while since I made the trek down to the Gong to visit these guys. Their website has come on in leaps and bounds, and they have worked very very hard on their catalogue. Five years ago they had a raft of great alternative LPs, they now have an entire website filled to the brim with brilliant new releases. The prices aren't even offensive, as they can be elsewhere (JB Hi-Fi). What's more, Nick and Jeb are accomplished DJs, who deal exclusively in vinyl. They know an incredible amount about the mechanics of the format and how best to get a great sound out of it. They don't list their 2nd hand LPs on their website, so it's a great excuse for some crate digging! There's also a bunch of shirts for sale too.


Who does it appeal to - It's set up perfectly for people who love the typical alternative acts: Bowie, Dylan, Gambino, Spoon, Jamie T, The Avalanches. Hip Hop and Electro isn't their focus.
Website: Full catalogue of their new vinyl and CDs, and some shirts. Second-hand items you'll have to go instore!
Location: Wollongong
Record Store Day: Absolute party!!! Live performances and all the major RSD releases.


Lawson Record Centre

A hole in the wall on Pitt St, this place is the dream retreat for a CD lover. A giant table in the middle of the store, stretching 20 metres, has an extensive range of second-hand CDs. They're all about $5 each and in good condition. The focus is alternative music, notably from 1990 to 2005. The hip hop collection isn't huge, but a lot of dance and electro artists. They also stock a lot of new release CDs, priced $5-$10 less than JB Hi-Fi.


Elsewhere, an entire wall is taken up with DVDs at a great price. They have music DVDs, CD singles, second-hand vinyl from the 50s and 60s, cassettes, and a section out the back with $1 CDs. Not the easiest place to find, but so worth it when you do.

Who does it appeal to - CD lovers, fans of older vinyl, and movie lovers.
Website: N/A
Location: Sydney CBD
Record Store Day: N/A


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Mojo Music Bar

Uber cool underground bunker attached to a fully functioning bar. All it needs is a red disco light in the record store to turn it into a true 70s after hours venue. Think of Mojo as purveyors of trendiness. Their collection boasts some gems, including a 10" of Outkast's "Players Ball", Swans' To Be Kind, and even some Kid Cudi. Their prices are incredible though! Think $25 for Boards of Canada, $26 for new releases from Rae Sremmurd and Brian Jonestown Massacre, Alt-J and Four Tet for cheap. Honestly, if you only buy records to impress other people, walk in this store, close your eyes, pick up 3 records, pay for them, and feel yourself instantly become more popular.

Who does it appeal to - This is the mainstream of vinyl. Deerhunter, Chelsea Light Moving, Grizzly Bear, Flying Lotus, Band of Horses, they're all artists that look super cool in your home vinyl rack. Very little pop music. There's a lot of mainstream 70s/80s/90s music (Pink Floyd, The Who, The Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin), and some older jazz, but only the most popular (Miles Davis, Coltrane etc). It's a lovely set up downstairs though, drop by and waste a few hours! 

Website: Easy to navigate and has all their items listed, searchable, with prices, and purchasable. 
Location: 73 York Street
Record Store Day: N/A


JB Hi-Fi

The Big Three physical music stores were always HMV, Virgin, and Sanity. JB Hi-Fi played the tortoise, and did a Stephen Bradbury as each of the Big Three either shut down operations altogether or, in Sanity's case, stripped stores back to the bare minimum. JB Hi-Fi initially didn't sell a lot of vinyl, but once the Great Revolution of the 2010's happened, they went crazy with the credit card, and bought a huge range of new vinyl. They only stock new records, no second-hand. The range is almost all-encompassing, with alternative, pop, heavy metal, hip hop, dance, and rock all well accounted for. Prices and quality though, that's another issue. The problem with JB seems to be they over-stocked a lot of releases. Some stores I've been going to for 2 or 3 years, and 90% of the vinyl on their racks hasn't been sold yet. They have recently dropped prices and offered some more reasonable deals, but the majority of their range still remains 10-20% more expensive than the competition. And the problem with having those records on the racks so long? They get damaged!! I saw a copy of ShadyXV at The Galleries, and it was in a bad way, but JB were still asking around $90 for it. It sells for half that, in mint condition, on Discogs.

Their CD collection is good, but consistent across all their stores. Not many places sell this kind of range though. Again, the prices are a bit silly. $26 for Jay Z's The Black Album. Most albums are in the $20-27 range, which is just too high! They do have some epic sales though, sometimes racks upon racks of CDs under $10.

As you probably know, they sell a lot of audio equipment too. They also put out a decent magazine, Stack.

Who does it appeal to - Most people looking for CD and vinyl should check out JB. You can spend hours in there, and a paycheck or two. Their alternative CD range is unmatched in NSW. Imported and less mainstream music doesn't usually make its way into the store. If the artist has a record deal though, it's likely you will find them.
Website: Very cluttered, but usable. They list new releases on the music homepage, but you can browse, see what is on sale, or search. Everything is available to purchase online, with a tiny shipping fee. They usually ship quickly too.
Location: All over NSW.

Record Store Day: Doesn't participate.

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The Vintage Record

So old school. There's still places in Sydney where you can find that brilliant experience, the wonderment of discovering music without having it crammed down your throat. Phil, the owner, adores music. Any music, just music, he will have a yarn with you, and play requests or offer advice and direction when buying music. I used to go in there and buy old copies of magazines for a couple of bucks, and we had a nice chat about that, about the customers today only intent on the next album release, the next music video, the next single, never going back in time to fill in their musical gaps. Check out the "Off The Record" section of the website for musings on all things music. 

Who does it appeal to - Music lovers, period. They will clean your records, help you set up your stereo, and offer recommendations if you so desire. You're not going to find a friendlier record store in Australia.
Website: Doesn't have an online shop, but is crafted with care. There's a blog, and advice on record grading, and a lot of information.
Location: Annandale
Record Store Day: Participates, but gets limited stock which will run out fast so get in early!!!


HUM Records

I think people forget just how accomplished a store HUM is. It presents as a mainstream chain store, something like Sanity, but it's got an incredible range of eclectic albums on vinyl and CD, and a great movie section. Their record rack has been lovingly crafted and added to over the past few years, to the point that I believe Red Eye Records is the only store in NSW with a greater selection. All brand new, most of it is alternative/indie music, mainstream if you class Fleet Foxes or Explosions in the Sky mainstream. Their records are always immaculate as well. The CD section is decent, and they have a huge range of DVDs, with niche (niche in Australia that is) genres like anime and arthouse well represented. Plus, the store is always the perfect temperature!


Who does it appeal to - Fans of indie, more specifically 2000 - present. It's also a must-see if you love obscure movies.

Website: Very basic, just a short bio and location information. No catalogue. Their Facebook page is better.
Location: Newtown and Darlinghurst
Record Store Day: HUM has become to go-to for RSD releases in the past few years. They seem to get a huge amount of stock in, but people are becoming wise to their brilliance, and I hear queues are becoming larger. There is always 2 or 3 boxes of RSD releases left though, so drop by the next day for a bargain.


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The Record Crate


More of a cafe/bar than a record store. If you come in during the morning expect to get a few odd looks if you're browsing the racks and not sitting down for a coffee (from other patrons, definitely not from staff!). Records are mainly older releases (60s - 90s), with a lot of great Australian stuff on offer. It's such a chill place to come and hang out. Get up, wander over the the wall and find a hidden gem. They also do live shows, and will buy your second hand vinyl.


Website: Very good looking, but no catalogue.

Location: Glebe
Record Store Day: N/A


Birdland Records


Birdland is now upstairs in the Dymocks building, and they are the premier location in Sydney for jazz CDs and LPs. A really nice and at times eclectic selection of jazz music, as well as the more well-known rock and pop artists.


Website: Has a lot of their catalogue, possibly all of it.
Location: Above Dymocks on George St.
Record Store Day: N/A










Australian Ice Creams Ranked

I'm talking about the 1 serving ice creams, not the big tubs. The stuff you can pop down to your servo on a hot day and pay $6 for!


31. Frosty Fruits
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How a sugary icy pole manages to still be tart is beyond me. I'm not saying I hate it, but on a 45 degree day faced with the choice of a Frosty Fruits or a hot mug of black coffee, I'd take the coffee.

30. Icy Pole 
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Only higher than Frosty Fruits because it's not quite as tart. If you have sensitive teeth these things can be used successfully in torture.


29. Lifesavers Ice Block
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Big leap in quality from 30 to 29. We're into the edible portion of the list (just).


28. Calippo 
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Points have been awarded for the packaging, which allows you to drink your part-melted Calippo. They're best enjoyed on a summer day, lest you break your teeth if you try to bit into it. Points lost from your friendship group if anyone makes fun of you eating it.

27. Fandangles 
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No idea what these are, and not interested in finding out


26. Zooper Dooper
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I have to give a reason other than "I don't like them". The packaging can cut your lip, they resemble a condom, and they taste like the ice you scrape out of your beer fridge. Sorry, but not really. I know it makes me un-Australian.

25. Cyclone
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So much better than the Lifesavers version. It's actual ice cream, and it's soft and full of flavour. It's still flawed, and I haven't met anyone who prefers a Cyclone over anything else above it on this list.

24. Sunnyboy
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Just because something is iconic doesn't mean it's good. Look at Crocodile Dundee, or Ugg Boots. It was discontinued in 2016, but judging from the way these things remained frozen even on 40 degree days, it'll be some time before they disappear completely, since it takes the average human 6 weeks and three chipped teeth to complete one. Sorry Sunnyboy fans, it's overrated.

23. Home Ice Cream Range
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Home go door to door, in the surprisingly dangerous truck (careful you don't bang your head), trying to convince parents to give in to their screaming children. The bell has become iconic in the streets of Sydney, but honestly, once you turn 8 your palate is already too distinguished to enjoy anything in the Home range. The Milk Bars get a pass, and the Choc Coated with the sprinkles, but it's a middling outlet that trades on price and convenience, not flavour.

22. Weis
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I love a good mango Weis. It's ultra refreshing. Mum is allergic to mango, it makes her break out in spots around her mouth, but she still demolishes a mango Weis, and I don't blame her!

21. Bubble O'Bill
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This is a highly impractical ice cream. Do you pop the chewing gum in your mouth right away, and keep it at the back while you devour the ice cream? Or do you eat around it, trying to get as far as possible without it dropping to the ground? Do you grab it and hold it till you're finished, with your hands now covered in ice cream? Or do you just throw it out? Stupid right? But we keep buying it... For the record, I eat around the bubblegum then pop it in my mouth and keep it to the side while I finish the ice cream. If anyone has any other techniques please let me know!


20. Fruttare 
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The creamy texture earns it a pass.


19. Eskimo Pie
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Generic ice cream chocolate combo. Not as good as a Wedge or Heart.


18. Milo Scoop Shake 
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It takes too long for it to be soft enough to truly enjoy. I'd recommend leaving it till it's liquid and drinking it. Or you could just drink regular Milo.



17. Dixie Cup
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A relic from another time, but still delicious. Bit ridiculous they only give you that silly little bit of plastic, how are you meant to eat with that? It's like serving your ice cream at a restaurant with a knife and no spoon.

16. Splice
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Ice block AND ice cream? Well I guess Gin and Diet Coke shouldn't pair, but I certainly made it work at Christmas.

15. Splits
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Could probably be tied with the Splice. While the Splice uses a better ice block to ice cream ratio (more ice cream, less ice block), the Split has too much ice block, but the ice cream is delicious and incredibly creamy.

14. Billabong
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As you can see, Buzzfeed already settled this. Plus why are you naming your creamy ice cream after stagnant flood water?!


13. Choc Wedge
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How does this get so high? For centuries the human race has known that encasing ice cream in hard chocolate is a winner. But everyone goes about it in a different way. The Choc Wedge prizes the satisfying "snap", resulting in a slightly thinner coating. It's delicious, and the texture is incredible.

12. Malteser / Mars / Bounty / Snickers / Twix / Dove / M&M's / Milky Way / Crunchie
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Turning a chocolate bar into an ice cream is inspired, and it deserves recognition. They just don't quite live up to the hype, and other than the M&M's ice cream cookie and the Crunchie, they aren't as good as their chocolate bar counterparts. Anything is better than a Crunchie chocolate bar though tbh.

11. Heart
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May as well Hava Heart, who gon' stop me, huh? 


10. Bulla Crunch Range
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Everyone loves a roughie, and the Bulla Crunch fits that bill. As I said earlier, getting the choc-to-ice cream ratio right is essential, but you can elevate above the rest with a delicious interior. It's like my Kia Cerato. Looks fantastic on the outside with the chrome pack and custom Korean rims, and the interior is just as good, with the steering wheel cover my mum made me for Christmas and the red towel I sit on to provide some colour contrast. Not just a pretty face.

9. Paddle Pop
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I've been putting it off as long as I can, but let's address this. Yes, Paddle Pop's are good. They're cheap and delicious, and famous for being the one ice cream where chocolate is probably the worst flavour (it's all relative, chocolate is still amazing). But when you see what ice creams are to come, you'll understand why I placed it so low. If it were just the Banana Paddle Pop it'd be top 2. Or the amazing Mud Puddle, pictured.

8. Drumstick
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Ah the Drumstick. The Stuart MacGill of ice cream: when the GOAT (Cornetto) isn't available, you grab a Drumstick. They have some killer flavours now too: Jammy Custard Donut, Choc Malted Mega Shake, and a Boysenberry that really hits the spot. Need a cookie dough flavour.

7. Giant Sandwich / Monaco Bar
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Basically the same product. Both delicious, although the Monaco Bar is a little more restrained, with less ice cream in the middle.

6. Bulla Cookies & Cream/Custard Tart/Cookie Crumble/Fairy Bread
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We forget just how good the Bulla range is. Ice cream isn't as high quality as a Magnum, or even the creamy Hava Heart, but they've draped it in the kind of adornments found at the Sizzler dessert station, which is a recipe for unbridled success. The Custard Tart flavour is to die for.


5. Golden Gaytime
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It's become trendy again as the Surry Hills crowd have dictated a renaissance of epic proportions. Think gluten free cakes, pop up shops, the Golden Gaytime Cornetto, and new flavours. None of this diminishes the ice cream itself. Even my grandma likes them, and she's 91!



4. Magnum
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The Magnum (not to be confused with wine bottles or condoms for people with wine bottle shaped appendages) was always a premium treat growing up. You'd savour every last bite, and as an adult, I am not ashamed to say I ate Magnums instead of meals during a rough spot during my late teens. Although they have diluted the brand with a myriad of collaborations and weird flavours, it remains a quality offering.

Remember the 7 Deadly Sins campaign? Classic. Remember the Ego, that had a layer of ice cream, a layer of chocolate, a layer of gooey caramel, and another layer of chocolate? They still exist, so I suggest you go buy one.


3. Connoisseur
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Find these at your local supermarket at an irrational price. This is probably because of the ingredients: Himalayan salted chocolate, Belgian chocolate, Montana Mountain Mint, Sicilian blood orange... No wonder they don't sell these in any Coles or Woolworth's west of Museum Station (sorry Surry Hills, you're paying way too much rent for your suburb ranking). I doubt I could tell the difference between Himalayan salt and Murray salt, but to be honest these ice creams are absolutely to die for, they are decadent and addictive, so maybe bussing in mint from Montana Mountain is a good idea after all.


2. Cornetto 
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Points deducted for any idiot who eat the choc-filled bottom of the cone first. Don't shake their hand on a hot day.


1. Maxibon
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What more could you possibly want from your ice cream? Biscuit good, nuts good, ice cream good, chocolate GOOD!! Devour away. 









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