Photographers: Philip Morris; George Chalovpka; Stephen Wolfenden.
Curated by Mexican Summer label head Keith Abrahamsson and Total Control/Eddy Current Suppression Ring member Mikey Young, Follow the Sun collects 19 obscure artifacts of Australian music history, independently recorded songs from the late '60s and early '70s made by fledgling acts from across the continent in a time when pop music and youth culture were at a worldwide peak. The thread that runs throughout the compilation is one of outsider perspectives, regardless of musical styles. Recorded exclusively at independent studios and issued on independent, artist-run, or in some cases one-off labels, the songs here were not regional hits in their time. The bands and artists sometimes weren't even popular enough in their own circles to sell all of the modest pressings of their home-crafted songs. This level of obscurity is what gives the songs their context and makes the comp so interesting. Even when mirroring the styles of hugely popular acts of the time, there's something just a little bit off about the recording quality, delivery, or songwriting choices that makes them both head-scratching and enjoyable. Billy Green's "This Must Be the End" is clearly modeled after post-Beatles output from Lennon but it comes off like a moodier rewrite of Thunderclap Newman's sole hit, "Something in the Air," all broadcast through a distant lo-fi filter. The strange epic "Kill My World" by Autumn originally ended their 1971 sophomore album, Comes Autumn, opening and closing with dissonant horn figures but drifting through a gorgeously melancholic soft rock center that falls somewhere between Pink Floyd and Bread. The roots rock of the period is reflected in a slightly cracked way on the tight vocal harmonies and sad rural undercurrents of "Wild Horse Plains" by Tidewater and the dreamy wandering melodies and homely harmonica of Shepherd's "Whispering Pines." Elsewhere, Megan Sue Hicks' eerie "Hey, Can You Come Out and Play" offers druggy foreboding pop no less strange and lonely than Follow the Sun's more sparse offerings. The well-crafted flow of the compilation never makes for jagged transitions, but instead offers the listener a guided tour of one corner of Australian pop music in a particularly heavy era. The greatest success of Follow the Sun is how its curators manage to offer such a wide range of styles and voices while still achieving a fairly singular mood of distant, muted pensiveness throughout. ~ Fred Thomas