What's Up Down Under?: The Chills + Stan Walker

Robyn puts the spotlight on Aussie and New Zealand artists The Chills and Stan Walker for this iteration of 'What's Up Down Under?'

Stan Walker was the winner of Australian Idol a few years ago and has become a family favourite and national treasure in New Zealand and Australia ever since, with his good looks and charm. The Chills have a totally different vibe; with a career spanning over three decades, it is clear that the band are hugely talented, but this constant fame has certainly taken a toll on the band, with frequent stories of substance abuse and depression. Nevertheless, the band have overcome the struggles and it seems to have brought the band to a whole new level – offering a range of new inspiration for their 2018 album Snow Bound making reference to the lead singer's battle with heroin addiction.

At first, when I listened to The Chills, all that struck my mind was how moody the lyrics of the album were, juxtaposed to the melodies and instrumentations found throughout. After doing some research into the group, I realised why this was the case. I was also disappointed as I thought I was on to a really good group that nobody at how would have heard of before! But it turns out in their long spanning career, The Chills made a big impact in the northern hemisphere too, touring all over the world, and its not difficult to see why. They have the sound which excites the youth but would also remind my dad of his favourite bands of the past. They’re the definition of a superstar rock band with multiple films and documentaries being made about their story and rise to stardom over here.

Image courtesy of Alexander Hallag

Their standout tracks in my opinion are Time to Atone, Flame Thrower and Ocean Ocean – this was really hard to narrow down considering their immense discography. The heavy use of synth and keys throughout made many of their tracks for me. A true classic band, they have clearly stood the test of time though with a real rollercoaster of emotions being portrayed throughout their albums depending on the era. The Chills have something for every mood.

Now, making a quick U-turn about as far away from The Chills as possible is Stan Walker, the other artist in the spotlight this week. Stan is a family favourite and has remained in the public eye after winning the seventh series of Australian Idol and it is clear why he did. His vocals are fabulously strong and diverse and his tunes offer such versatility, resulting in an incredible sonic range in his recent output. It surprised me that his background was in talent shows, he doesn’t give off the vibe of a typical ‘one hit wonder’ X Factor contestant.

His voice is extremely powerful – his cover of David Allan Coe's Tennessee Whiskey demonstrates this perfectly with over 4 million streams on Spotify. Whilst this may not seem like a gargantuan number, that is more than the entire population of New Zealand, showing his influence and popularity in these parts of the world.

As well as a number of rearranged and revamped covers and originals, Walker also has a few te reo Māori hits with Aotearoa (which means New Zealand) reaching number 2 in the charts and his song Black Box going double platinum. Rather than some of the traditional songs that I have previously spoken about – Walker offers some funky-fresh new pop music sung that I’ve had on repeat recently. Despite a life changing battle with cancer aged only 27, Walker has continued a successful career and has a long future ahead of him.

If you only listen to one song from Stan Walker it ought to be Aotearoa which showcases his spectacular vocals in a not-so-typical way.

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