Photo: Xan Thorrhoea / Grandstand Media

Fave Five: Methyl Ethel

Methyl Ethel's Jake Webb looked inward, writing, producing, and performing his third album as Methyl Ethel all on his own. To celebrate, he counts down his "Five Great Palette Cleansing Albums for the Sedentary Listener".

Methyl Ethel

Jake Webb probably doesn’t care what you think about him — at least not anymore.

For Webb, who fronts the angular pop outfit Methyl Ethel (which is occasionally a band but largely his own solo vehicle), he’s garnered quite a few comparisons to multi-instrumentalist groups like MGMT and Tame Impala rather frequently. In fact, sometimes reviews of Methyl’s first two albums seem to point out those comparisons rather doggedly, focusing on those qualities rather than his more striking musical forbears like Talking Heads. It might all be water off of Webb’s back, though: “Ubu” — a single off his James Ford-produced sophomore album Everything Is Forgotten — went Gold in his native Australia.

Yet as Methyl’s sound evolved, so did Webb. For Triage, his third full-length under this moniker, he wrote, produced, and recorded it all in his home studio, resulting in an album that’s lusher, moodier, and more pointed than its predecessors. Preview single “Scream Whole” opens with a synth straight out of an Enya record that soon morphs into a melody that the Cutting Crew would love to cop. Match quirky texture pairings like this with Webb’s earnest vocals, and you have an album that is as striking as it is wildly replayble.

So to celebrate the release of his new album, Webb took up the PopMatters’ Fave Five challenge, picking five records that fall under any category of his choosing. For this edition, he tackled “Five Great Palette Cleansing Albums for the Sedentary Listener”, and it gives insight into tastes and interests with wonderful clarity. Listening to these selections below really helps bring Triage‘s artistic power into focus and proves that he’s definitely following his own muse these days, which makes his music all the better for it.

Gary Wilson – You Think You Really Know Me (1977)

One of the patron saints of all outsider musicians, Gary Wilson sets the benchmark for just how far you can push pop music while remaining listenable to the average Jolene. My dear friend Brian aka Vinnie aka Sugar-Sugar introduced me to Gary Wilson. It was in a haze control room in his studio. Brian was wearing roller-blades 24/7 at the time and just danced his way through “6.4 = Makeout”. It was love.

Electric Company and Vas Deferens Organisation – More Pelvis Wick for the Baloney Boners (1999)

Music shouldn’t always be a hedonistic experience. You need to challenge yourself. I’m drawn consistently to groups who employ something of an Artaudian approach to their music. They draw you in with one hand while pushing away with the other. I found this record, Vas Deferens Organisation, and many more incredible gems on the now defunct blog Mutant-Sounds. More Pelvis Wick for the Baloney Boners was a real introduction to me. It opened me to a world of music which was actually experimental, not just for the sake of a press release. This and all the albums in my list serve as a counterpoint to all the mainstream music I consume daily. It’s like throwing a few enoki mushrooms in with your scrambled eggs. It all seems ultra pretentious, maybe it is, but if you want to get outside the algorithm you gotta learn to listen.

Holy Shit – Stranded at Two Harbours (2006)

A theme running throughout most of these albums is a certain sense of naivety. A feeling of things barely holding themselves together whilst being totally controlled at the same time. This looseness and zero fucks given attitude is what I find to be the most charming about Stranded at Two Harbours. It takes me back to times recording similar songs with similar friends on similar equipment.

H Hunt – Playing Piano for Dad (2016)

When will the piano cease to be the pinnacle of all instruments? Never in my opinion. This album is exactly what it sounds like. It comes from the Tasty Morsels label of which I know next to nothing. What I do know is that everything they release is amazing. I tried to find out who they were until I realised that it didn’t really matter. As long as they continue to put it all out. Oh and it’s all free.

Rabbit Island – O God Come Quick (2011)

I met Amber (Rabbit Island) one night after playing a solo show in Perth alongside her also on the bill. Not only is she an incredible person, but a real and honest artist. Amber invited me to play in her band for a few shows, I invited her to play in mine. What I learnt during that time has been invaluable to me as a musician. This record is a reminder to me of what is important in music.