The Best Christmas Songs of 2010

Christmas

One of the greatest, kitschiest parts of the whole Christmas experience is that of the Christmas song. And given that folk music has been intrinsically linked to Christmas from the very beginning (most of the best loved Christmas songs from “Jingle Bells” to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” are in fact traditional folk songs) we thought it was our duty to share some of the best folk-tinged holiday tunes released this year. So turn on your twinkly lights, make sure your eggnog is nice and strong and prepare yourself to get into the Christmas spirit.

The Priests feat. Shane MacGowan – “Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth”
The Pogues’ Shane MacGown was involved in probably the best modern Christmas song of a generation. Sadly this isn’t it. But it is certainly a different take on the classic Christmas song “Little Drummer Boy”. Although there’s something about teaming a group of opera singing priests with Ireland’s most famous drunk that sounds a little too close to a plot from Father Ted

Kate Miller-Heidke – “White Wine in the Sun”
What got lost in the controversy surrounding Kate Miller-Heidke’s version of Tim Minchin’s ode to Christmas Day is just how perfectly it captures the Australian holiday experience. No matter where you sit on the religion fence you have to admit that “White Wine in the Sun” really is exceptionally touching.

Paul Simon – “Getting Ready For Christmas Day”
We have to warn you – Paul Simon’s Christmas song is very … earnest. But it’s free to download from his web site so if you like what you hear you don’t have to go far to own it.

Emily & The Woods – “O Little Town Of Bethlehem”
Our favourite UK folk blog For Folk’s Sake have released their first ever Christmas album titled For Folk’s Sake It’s Christmas. It’s jam packed full of awesome indie folk goodness but one of the best has to be this gem from Emily & The Woods. Just simple vocals and guitar. Gorgeous.

Sufjan Stevens – “Silent Night”
Sufjan Stevens has never been one to shy away from Christmas songs and this year is no different. This version of “Silent Night” also features Aaron and Bryce Dessner from The National and Richard Parry from Arcade Fire (I’m pretty sure you can’t get any more indie than that) and is part of an unreleased EP titled Gloria! Songs for Christmas Vol. 6 that you can listen to here.

John Conolly – “I Am Christmas”
For the tradionalists amongst you “Fiddler’s Green” writer John Conolly has produced the lovely “I Am Christmas” from his album The Grumpy Old Men of Old England.

Liz Frencham – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
According to the YouTube blurb for this track “This is what happens when you get Vince & Tan for an afternoon close to Christmas and then you add some beer & Sauv Blanc”. It’s kitsch and Christmassy and just wonderful.

And if that’s not enough for you make sure you head over to A Folk Song A Day where Jon Boden has been featuring some of the best in traditional Christmas music.

Merry Christmas!

Invisible Boy Tour SA and VIC in January

inis
Image courtesy of Invisible Boy

Tasmanian indie folk-pop outfit Invisible Boy will be exploring the mainland in January, which kicks off with a show in Launceston on the 29th of December, then sees them play 6 shows across Victoria and South Australia before returning back to play Cygnet Folk Festival in Tasmania on the 14th of January. Invisible Boy have released a debut album in 2008 (available from iTunes here), and the new album Above the Groove of a Lonely Life will apparently be available soon. This band is no stranger to touring, having already embarked on a three-state “Living Room Tour” earlier in the year. They will be accompanied by the likes of The Timbers and Matt Reiner and the Aunt Sallys (amongst others) on the Adeliade legs of the tour.

29th December – Top Shelf, Launceston, TAS
2nd January – Great Briain Hotel, Richmond, VIC
5th January – Revolver Upstairs, Prahan, VIC
6th January – Grace Emily Hotel (with The Timbers), Adelaide, SA
9th January – Crown & Anchor Hotel (with Matt Reiner and the Aunt Sally), Adelaide, SA
11th January – Gertrude’s Brown Couch, Fitzroy, VIC
12th January – Ruby’s Lounge, Belgrave, VIC
14th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS

Watch the Battlefield Band’s New Video “A’ Bhriogais Uallach”

The Battlefield Band
Image Courtesy of Folk Radio UK

Glasgow’s Battlefield Band have long been at the forefront of Scottish traditional and contemporary folk music and it looks as though that is where they plan to stay. The band has just released their new single “A’ Bhriogais Uallach” (roughly translating to “The Pompous Trousers”) which is surprisingly the band’s first Gaelic recording. “A’ Bhriogais Uallach” features the newest member of the Battlefield Band Ewen Henderson on lead vocals. If you like what you hear on the video below you can purchase a digital copy of the single from Temple Records.

Olivers Army EP Launch Announced

olivers
Image courtesy of Olivers Army

The Oliver twins have announced that the launch for their second EP will be taking place at Adelaide venue “The Gov” on the 5th of February next year. Furthermore, it has been communicated via their facebook page that those who buy their tickets pre-sale through Moshtix (here) will receive a free CD on the night. The event profile on the Moshtix website hints at a more alt-country and folk sound from their next release, apparently inspired by Ryan Oliver’s own travels through North America and Canada. The guys have recently experienced somewhat of a triple j unearthed chart resurgence with their single “Help Me Find My Way”- which was recently featured by Timber & Steel. As of now, the track is at number 37 on the overall charts, and still rising. If you’re in Adelaide for the festival season, their album launch will be a gig not to be missed, but if you’re elsewhere in Australia, get voting and reviewing on triple j Unearthed to get Olivers Army to a venue near you.

Download Bright Eye’s New Single “Shell Games”

The People's Key
Image Courtesy of Pitchfork.com

As well as releasing the pretty cool looking cover art to their upcoming album The People’s Key (above), Bright Eyes, the project of singer songwriter Conor Oberest, are also offering a free download of the first single “Shell Games”. To download head over the Pitchfork.com, enter your e-mail address and get listening. It’s that simple.

Tinpan Orange Touring in February

Tinpan Orange
Image Courtesy of Tinpan Orange

Melbourne’s Tinpan Orange are busy rehearsing before hitting the road for a Summer packed with shows around the country. As well as appearing at the Woodford Folk, Music by the Sea and Blue Mountains Music festivals Tinpan Orange are spending their February headlining shows (with Roscoe James Irwin) around the country. And while they don’t have any WA dates as yet they are promising to announce some early in the new year. The full lineup of shows announced so far are below:

20th December – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, Vic
28th December to the 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, Qld
8th January – Music By The Sea Festival, Brisbane, Qld
5th February – The Toff in Town, Melbourne, Vic
12th February – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW
25th February – The SoundLounge, Gold Coast, Qld
26th February – The Mullumbimby Civic Hall, Mullumbimby, NSW
27th February – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
18th to the 20th March – Blue Mountains Music Festival, Katoomba, NSW

Interview: Emmy The Great, Part 4

Emmy The Great
Image Courtesy of Emmy the Great

See part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here.

In the final installment of our interview with Emmy the Great we talk about her involvement with the charity WaterAid.

Evan Hughes: One of the things I did want to talk to you about was your involvement in WaterAid
Emmy The Great: Yeah, WaterAid! Do you have that in Australia?
EH: I’m not aware of it. I think it was only through you that I heard about it. But it’s something that should be top of mind for Australians given that we’re on the driest inhabited continent in the world.
ETG: Yeah. You guys need a WaterAid in Central Australia, don’t you? These guys work in the developing world, but yeah you guys need one.
EH: Given the wide range of charities out there why did you choose WaterAid?
ETG: I love water. Like, I have a real obsession with water. If I have a shower I really appreciate how easy it is. I can just go to my bathroom and have a shower. So it seems to me unbelievable that some people can’t take a shit without possibly dying. So that started to stress me out so I googled it and found WaterAid. I really thought about it and I think to solve a lot of the problems in the world first people need to be able to have water. It’s like the first basic human need, isn’t it? In order for kids to go to school they need to have water. In order for them to build farms and industries they need to have water. So I decided it was probably the most fundamental thing you could focus on. And also I read this book about this woman who went to Uganda and she said that one of the two charities she saw actually making a difference was ActionAid and WaterAid. A lot of the time you send money to charity and you think it goes to leaflets, you think it goes to people talking to you on the street but to have this little proof that wasn’t advocated by the charity, that they actually are on the ground doing stuff, I thought was really encouraging. So I just put all my eggs in the same basket.
EH: It’s always good to have a focus like that.
ETG: Yeah. And you can still give to other charities but there’s so much to do. You just have to pick the thing that you empathise the most with I guess.
EH: It’s very admirable of you. It is very easy, living in a Western Country, to ignore the problems of the rest of the world even though eventually they are going to impact you.
ETG: It’s so easy. I do it all the time. Constantly. It’s kind of like this binge thing. You go on this binge of ignoring and then you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and you’re like “Arrgh! People are starving! What am I going to do? Existential crisis!” So you just have to try and maintain a balance of awareness and responsibility.
EH: I’m assuming that it’s something that you keep separate from your music. You don’t really strike me as a the kind of person who’s going to write a charity song in a Live Aid sort of sense.
ETG: I don’t think I could do that. You know how everyone hates Bono? I don’t know him and I don’t know about his finances, but I quite respect him and all those people for doing something. I really do. If they only raise a hundred quid then good on them. But you have to be able to do that, and I don’t have a “Heal the World” in me. I think the sincerity would choke me.
EH: I thinking putting in your time is just as valuable.
ETG: Yeah, for me I want to explore myself with my music. That’s what I do to find things out about myself and to tell people to see if they feel the same way. But that doesn’t mean that in your life you can’t be active. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care and you don’t spend your free time doing what you can. And also I don’t know very much. I’m very careful, I don’t want to insight anything with my music. I don’t want be like Rage Against the Machine and tell people to smash up windows and then suddenly be like “I read that article wrong! Stop smashing up the windows!” I just want to do what I personally can and even if I was not a musician or anything I would still be able to do those things.
EH: Being a musician is neither here nor there when it comes to helping a charity.
ETG: Yeah, I only help a charity like anyone can.
EH: I’ve actually run out of questions. Is there anything you want to tell your Australian audience?
ETG: Um, just hi to my cousin Henry
EH: Well thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me
ETG: No, thank you so much for pledging.
EH: No worries at all. I’m just proud that I own a little piece of the new album
ETG: You’ll hear it soon!

Stay tuned to Timber and Steel for forthcoming info on Emmy The Great’s new album.

Celebrate St Paddy’s with Mary Black

Mary Black
Image Courtesy of The State Theatre

There was a lot of excitement around the Timber and Steel camp when Mary Black, one of the icons of contemporary and traditional Irish folk music, was announced as the headliner for next year’s Port Fairy Folk Festival. And now we can get doubly excited as Ms Black has announced she will also be doing a one off performance at Sydney’s State Theatre on none other than St Patrick’s Day, the 17th March.

If you’re a fan of Irish music you’ll know just how special Mary Black on St Patrick’s is going to be. Tickets for the one off show are available via the State Theatre website.

Timber and Steel’s Top Albums of 2010

Top Five

It’s that time of year when every music site, blog, publication and fan is busy writing their top album lists for 2010. And we here at Timber and Steel are no different. But rather than try and give you a definitive list we thought we’d let each of our contributors share with you their own personal Top Five Albums of 2010 – trust us, there would have been a lot of fighting otherwise. So without further ado, we give you Timber and Steel’s Top 5 Albums of 2010:

Chordsandcandles
Transition to Colour1. Transition to ColourMatt Corby. With his Jaw dropping live performances and his ability to silence a room or get them stomping along to one of his faster tracks, Matt Corby’s EP Transition to Colour has to be my number 1. His songwriting and emotion provoking vocals set him way and above the rest, and he is definitely someone to keep your eye on for the future.
The remaining four are in no particular order:
2. Kingdom of Our OwnMatthew and the Atlas
3. The Queen of the SultanAy Ducane
4. WildbloodThe October Game
5. New Moore IslandThe Mariner’s Children

Evan Hughes
I Speak Because I Can1. I Speak Because I CanLaura Marling Laura Marling really came into her own with this album showing a maturity that is well beyond her years. Her lyrics and musicianship show a depth only glimpsed at in her previous releases and every song is a gem.
2. Been ListeningJohnny Flynn
3. Flight of the CrowPassenger (and friends)
4. Basement BirdsBasement Birds
5. Down the WayAngus and Julia Stone

KT Bell
I Speak Because I CanI’m nothing if not predictable, and sure, they’re not all this year’s releases, but I got a hold of them all this year and they have been my soundtracks.
1. I Speak Because I CanLaura Marling
2. Sigh No MoreMumford & Sons
3. The Diary of a Falling ManAutumn Gray
4. With Emperor AntarcticaBoy & Bear
5. LungsFlorence & the Machine

Macka Jay
Been Listening1. Been ListeningJohnny Flynn. I loved this album from the first moment i heard it, amazingly combines a sense of play and a keen, observational lyrics. Incredible.
2. I Speak Because I CanLaura Marling
3. Armchair ApocryphaAndrew Bird
4. Down the WayAngus and Julia Stone
5. The Courage of OthersMidlake

Miladyred
Beat and Holler Like others I’m not entirely sure if a couple of these are releases for this year but this is the year that I really discovered them.
1. Beat & HollerMama Kin
2. Sigh No MoreMumford & Sons
3. Basement BirdsBasement Birds
4. With Emperor AntarcticaBoy & Bear
5. LungsFlorence & the Machine

Thom Owen Miles
The Wild Hunt1. The Wild HuntThe Tallest Man On Earth
2. The Violent BlueElectric President
3. I Speak Because I CanLaura Marling
4. The Big IslandMotel Motel
5. Die Stadt MuzikantenWoodpigeon

Interview: Emmy The Great, Part 3

Emmy The Great
Image Courtesy of Emmy the Great

Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

In part 3 of our interview with Emmy the Great our very own Evan Hughes tries to convince her that she needs to visit Australia to promote the new album.

Evan Hughes: What’s going to happen from here once the album is done and released. Is there a plan to tour it extensively or hit the promotional trail or are you just going to let it filter into the consciousness in its own way?
Emmy The Great: Obviously I would like to move on to make something else but I believe I will be having a tour. I’m ready to go on a massive trip. I’m pretty open to new experiences at the moment because I had such a funny time this summer. You know when you make plans and they just don’t happen? And all of a sudden you see how big the world is? I think I would quite benefit from seeing new things and going to lots of towns and meeting new people every night.
EH: It’s definitely a life changing experience exposing yourself to as many different people as possible
ETG: I used to really complain about that, being a musician. I’d be like “I miss my home, I hate wearing the same pants everyday” but now I’m seeing what an exciting thing it is. The fact that I’m talking to you in Australia today and people that pledged e-mailed me and I met them through that and yesterday I played a gig at a student union, just an impromptu one, and there were five people there, I’m really seeing that being in a band is an opportunity to see what things are, see what there is out there. I guess being a journalist is like that too because you ask loads of questions so you find out loads of stuff.
EH: Yeah I guess so. You get to talk to people that you never thought you’d have a chance to.
ETG: Yeah and you have to research it so you find out all this stuff, so you have to expand your knowledge really swiftly and then you have a really in depth conversation with someone. It’s really cool.
EH: Yeah, I guess it is. Are there any plans to come out to Australia?
ETG: I’d love to. I completely would love to. I think we almost did last time but unfortunately the timing wasn’t right. But this time around I can’t see why we wouldn’t. Like I said it’s about time I actually went because I feel like I’m already in with the Australians.
EH: It’s funny because the type of music that you do there is a market for in Australia. There’s a number of really intelligent female singer songwriters emerging at the moment and they seem to be getting quite a lot of airplay and exposure that they probably wouldn’t have about 10 years ago. I think if your music got a bit more exposure in Australia you would really tap into an audience here.
ETG: That would be really cool. Is Holly Kirby from Australia? Or Holly Thusby?
EH: Holly Throsby yeah.
ETG: And Sarah … what’s her name?
EH: Sarah Blasko
ETG: Yeah, she’s just come over to the UK. She’s really good, I really love her voice. I heard her on the radio.
EH: Yeah, all of those sort of artists that have really popped up in the last five years, and I’m not saying that you sound the same as them, but I think fans of their music would be fans of yours.
ETG: Well I’d love to come. Just for the fucking warmth (laughs). I have a cousin in Perth. Where are you by the way?
EH: I’m in Sydney
ETG: Ah you’re in Sydney. I have a cousin in Perth but that’s really far away from Sydney isn’t it?
EH: It is. Perth is a lovely spot.
ETG: Yeah it looks really nice. Can you write in the blog “Hi to Henry” and then I’ll show it to him?
EH: “Hi to Henry”? Yeah no worries at all.
ETG: Excellent
EH: I wanted to touch on why you chose to go the pledge music route in funding this album?
ETG: First of all I was having a nervous breakdown when they kind of got in touch with us. I wasn’t really in a state to do demos for record label. Our publishing company had just been sold to BMG and we didn’t really know what was going on with that. They were the people that funded our last record. We weren’t really sure if we should just wait it out but I couldn’t wait it out so along came Pledge and I just thought “fate”. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to sign that many CDs and go and play in people’s living rooms but I’m pretty glad I did it now. I mean we made an amazing amount of money and met a lot of really cool people and managed to make the album straight after I wrote it which I think is quite rare. It was a really positive experience. I really recommend people do it, especially if you don’t have access to record labels that you can show your demos to. You want to show it to the people that are going to buy the record and cut out the middle man.
EH: I guess it gives your fans a feeling that they have a sense of ownership, some sort of involvement in the record as well.
ETG: Yeah completely. I mean I talked to someone yesterday who pledged and he was trying to work out what percentage of the record he was responsible for and I just thought that was so sweet. And we tried to work it out but we couldn’t because we’re not really good at maths (laughs)
EH: Are people still pledging or is it all closed?
ETG: People are still pledging. It’s not as regular as it was. I just think it’s very cool. I went to a last Tuesday and this guy came up to me, this writer guy, and I was really impressed with him, I was like “wow, you’re a comedy writer” and he was like “I pledged for you”. Everywhere I go I meet someone who pledged for my album. It’s so funny. Maybe I’m just going to the places where they’re most likely to be found
EH: Everyone who I introduce your music to absolutely loves it. There’s some people I know that were talking about pledging and when I was asking people what they were hoping to pledge for almost everyone said “I’ll pledge for her to come to Australia. How much would that cost?”
ETG: I would totally do that. Maybe I should come with Sparkadia? I don’t think it’s the same kind of music…
EH: Not really but that happens all the time. You don’t always have a similar support
ETG: We’ll get everyone to e-mail them and say “bring [Emmy The Great] out on tour and pay for her to go and also she wants to fly first class”
EH: Did you find going through PledgeMusic that you had a little bit more control this time?
ETG: We always complete control over our music but I guess if we had done it through a label we might have been different. It might have been the first time not having that control. I don’t know what the alternative would be but yeah, we had complete control again.
EH: It’s obviously the way you like to make music.
ETG: Yeah, I don’t know how to do it any other way. I sometimes think that we should have more authority, someone should be telling us what to do. But I just don’t know how to do that right now.
EH: Are you going to go the self made route when it comes to your videos again? I’m assuming you’re going to make some videos for this album? Is that all going to be self funded as well?
ETG: I have no idea. A lot of people aren’t even paying money to do music videos anymore in England. We’ll see. I have no idea how this album is being put out. Even thought we did release it ourselves last time it wasn’t self funded. So we’ll muddle through. We’re like a family. One of those families with loads of kids and no fucking money but always manage to get a turkey for Christmas.

In the final part of our interview Emmy talks about her passion working with the charity WaterAid.

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