Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2017

2017

The final of our traditional end of year lists sees Timber and Steel Editor-in-Chief Gareth Hugh Evans sifts through all of the amazing music that was produced this year and pick his top 25 tracks. As always he’s tried to only pick one track per artist, although as you’ll see there’s some exceptions with different artists collaborating on different projects through 2017.

But enough of our jabbering – it’s time to get to the music. Without further ado we present Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2017.

1. Emma Davis – “Danger in Me”
Emma Davis just has a way of writing a song which draws you in and never lets go. With just a finger picked guitar, understated rhythm section, muted organ and reverbed vocals, Davis has created a piece of music that I genuinely put on repeat. The fact that there’s a very relevant social message underpinning “Danger in Me” just adds a depth to my appreciation of it. Thank you Emma Davis for producing one of the most beautiful three and a half minutes of 2017.

2. The East Pointers – “82 Fires”
For a band I almost exclusively associated with fiddle tunes, The East Pointers have delivered one of the best songs of the year with “82 Fires”. Co-written with our very own Liz Stringer about fires in Tasmania, “82 Fires” may be the most Australian song written by a trio of Canadians. There’s an epic feel to the song that shouldn’t be possible from three guys playing (mostly) acoustic instruments – but I’ve seen this song live and they get pretty close to reproducing the recording on stage. Try to listen to “82 Fires” on not have it stir something inside.

3. Willie Watson – “Gallows Pole”
No one interprets traditional American music quite like Willie Watson. Here he’s managed to take the Leadbelly classic “Gallows Pole” and turn it into a thoroughly modern, haunting piece of music which is a definite standout on his latest album, Folksinger Vol. 2.

4. The Morrisons feat. Georgia Mooney – “Long Time Travelling”
It seems odd to choose an a cappella song from a band that features some of the best bluegrass musicians in the country. But I just can’t get passed how delightful it is hear James Morrison singing over the combined voices of The Morrisons plus Georgia Mooney (All Our Exes Live In Texas). The harmonies, the dynamic variations, the passion – “Long Time Travelling” is pure joy.

5. Offa Rex – “Sheepcrook and Black Dog”
As you probably know by now we have A LOT of love for the 2017 Offa Rex album The Queen of Hearts. The collaboration between The Decemberists and Olivia Chaney is full of highlights and to be honest songs like “The Old Churchyard”, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Willie o’ Winsbury” are more likely to hit this year’s best of lists. But for me “Sheepcrook and Black Dog” captures the nostalgia of the late-60s/early-70s British folk revival better than any other track on The Queen of Hearts with its Steeleye Span style arrangement, crunchy Black Sabbath style guitars and Sandy Denny style vocal performance. “Sheepcrook and Black Dog” is vintage folk-rock for the modern era.

6. Laura Marling – “Next Time”
Laura Marling goes full Nick Drake on “Next Time”. The orchestral arrangement over the top of Marling’s inventive guitar tunings and finger-picking, along with her hushed but powerful vocal performance is so reminiscent of the late English singer-songwriter it can’t not have been inspired by his work. This is definitely the highlight of Semper Femina for me and it even comes with a video directed by Laura Marling herself.

7. The Young’uns – “Be the Man”
“Be The Man” was inspired by the story of Matthew Ogston, founder of the Naz and Matt Foundation which tackles religious and cultural homophobia, following the tragic death of his fiancé (you can read the full story here). The Young’uns have written a song which is not only powerful in its message, and deeply respectful to its subject matter, but also a wonderful compliment to the rest of their harmony-driven catalogue. Check out the video featuring Matthew Ogston himself.

8. Billy Bragg – “Why We Build the Wall”
When Anaïs Mitchell wrote “Why We Build the Wall” for her 2010 folk-opera Hadestown I doubt she knew how precient it was considering the build-the-wall platform Donald Trump ran on during his 2016 presidential campaign. Billy Bragg has been singing “Why We Build the Wall” for a few years now but it’s taken until this year for him to officially release it as a single. The political singer-songwriter has purposefully politicised the track and filled it with a jarring, electric guitar to great effect. Could this be the folk anthem for the Trump era?

9. David Rawlings – “Cumberland Gap”
The genius of David Rawlings and Gillian Welch is their ability to write songs that sound like they’ve existed forever and then produce those songs in such a way that makes it sound like they’re being “modernised”. “Cumberland Gap” is the perfect example of this – the track sounds so timeless yet so fresh at exactly the same time. That’s probably why it’s been getting so many comparisons to Neil Young.

10. Stu Larsen – “Chicago Song”
“Chicago Song” is exactly the kind of song you want from a singer-songwriter like Stu Larsen. Simple, catchy and foot-tappingly joyful, “Chicago Song” captures a little piece of magic.

11. The Ahern Brothers – “Comb That River”
Whoever decided to pair singer-songwriters Josh Rennie-Hynes and Steve Grady as The Ahern Brothers deserves all of my adulation. Their self titled debut album is an homage to the close harmony singing of The Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel, with “Comb That River” exemplifying their sound. Listen to this track and be transported back to another time.

12. Charlie Fink – “Firecracker”
I’m sure I’ve printed this elsewhere on Timber and Steel but for the reader’s benefit: Noah and The Whale’s 2009 album The First Days of Spring is one of my favourite albums of all time. So when ex-Noah and The Whale lead singer Charlie Fink releases a single like “Firecracker” that sounds like it’s been ripped directly from The First Days of Spring there’s no way this song wasn’t going to make my best of 2017 list.

13. All Our Exes Live in Texas – “Boundary Road”
“What if I want to be the one to fall apart once in a while?” has somehow become one of my favourite chorus lines of 2017. All Our Exes Live in Texas have taken on the lyrical challenge of the line, as well as the fight songwriter Katie Wighton had with her mum that inspired the line, and crafted one of the best songs from one of the best albums of the year. There is All Our Exes Live in Texas magic all over this song – with a simple “ooh” and “ahh” the quartet can elevate every song they touch. Lovely stuff.

14. Nick Mulvey – “Mountain To Move”
I’m going to make a prediction: “Mountain To Move” is the song most likely to appear on the soundtrack of sweet and quirky rom coms over the 12 months. Nick Mulvey continues to impress me with the way he crafts a song over a repeating melody line or guitar rhythm, building the simplicity into something more.

15. Julia Johnson – “Melissa”
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new direction that Julia Johnson has taken with her songwriting in 2017. Moving beyond her work with Julia and The Deep Sea Sirens and working with producer Sarah Belkner, Johnson is producing some of the most interesting music of her career. I have a feeling “Melissa” is only the tip of the iceberg for what’s coming next from Julia Johnson and I can’t wait.

16. The Northern Folk – “Get On”
Despite the wealth of shows they’ve done this year I only managed to catch Melbourne folk 10 piece The Northern Folk live for the first time really recently. They manage to combine the indie folk sound of bands like The Middle East with the distinct groove that comes with having a saxophone heavy horn section. “Get On” epitomises The Northern Folk’s unique sound for me and was one of those songs that made me hit the repeat button again and again the first time I heard it.

17. Fanny Lumsden – “Roll On”
Want to know what it’s like to be an Australian artist on an endless tour of our country? Listen to the lyrics of “Roll On”. What I love about this track is its authenticity. This isn’t the Americanised version of the Australian outback full of dust kicking cowboys and pickup trucks. And this isn’t the romanticised nostalgic version of Australia either with its drovers and men-of-the-land. Instead “Roll On” is a song about about what its like to hit the road in 2017 complete with speeding fines, Gaytimes, roadtrains and small town bowlos. Keep writing songs like this Fanny Lumsden.

18. Paul Kelly – “Firewood and Candles”
After a few years of genre and experimental albums Paul Kelly announced his return to the classic Paul Kelly with the killer track “Firewood and Candles”. That rocking riff with Kelly’s vocals (ably supported by Vikka and Linda Bull) is just so damn catchy. If you wonder why everyone’s making such a fuss over Paul Kelly at the moment, why he’s winning awards and being praised at every turn, just listen to the songs on his 2017 album Life Is Fine, starting with “Firewood and Candles”.

19. Gretta Ziller – “Slaughterhouse Blues”
If someone asks you for the best voice in Australian Americana music then just show them Gretta Ziller. There may be some artists earlier in this list who you could squeeze into the genre, but as far as pure Americana music goes you can’t get much better than Ziller’s “Slaughterhouse Blues”. This is a modern track with its feet firmly in roots music. And that production! Perfection! More of this please Gretta Ziller.

20. I’m With Her – “Little Lies”
Before the release of “Little Lies” the American super-goup I’m With Her were really known for interpreting traditional music or covers of contemporary songs. But then this track comes along and solidifies the (probabaly assumed) fact that I’m With Her are a band to watch. Aoife O’Donovan has one of the best voices in Americana music, and it’s all the sweeter combined with the voices of Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz. And Watkins’ fiddle playing on this track is some of my favourite instrumental work in 2017.

21. BATTS – “Little White Lies”
I’ve been a fan of Tanya Batt’s music for some time, but it’s been her transformation into BATTS and the lo-fi, shoe-gaze, lyric driven songwriting that has come with it that has really caught my attention in 2017. “Little White Lies” is the second single released under the BATTS moniker and it’s by far my favourite, with its etherial production and confessional lyrics. I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more from BATTS in the coming months and I can’t wait.

22. Taryn La Fauci – “Winter”
When her EP Cycling came out I messaged Taryn La Fauci and told her “Just wanted to tell you that I’m in love with your track “Winter”.” Above every other song on the EP “Winter” struck me, most likely because this year I lost my cat as well and the lyrics just resonated. This song was on repeat for a lot of this year – thank you for sharing it with me Taryn La Fauci.

23. Diamond Duck – “Marry Me By The Sea”
Another collaboration (this time between The Morrisons’ Jimmy Daley and Canadian-Australian singer-songwriter Brian Campeau) that evokes the close harmony singing of The Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel, Diamond Duck have made quite an impression with their first single “Marry Me By The Sea”. What makes this stand out for me is the way the Diamond Duck boys explore unusual, almost twisted chords in their accompaniment while maintaining a sweetness in their vocal delivery. Listen to the piano “solo” in the middle of the song and you’ll see what I mean – there’s something a little off kilter in the track and it’s absolutely delicious.

24. Stella Donnelly – “Boys Will Be Boys”
In the wake of the #metoo movement and everything that’s been coming out in the media over the last few months I think Australia needed a song like “Boys Will Be Boys”. Stella Donnelly has made quite a splash this year and with her amazing voice and lyrical chops I can imagine there’s big things on the horizon for the singer-songwriter.

25. Johnny Flynn – “Wandering Aengus”
The return of Johnny Flynn to music this year was heralded by this really quirky track and promised much from his new album Sillion. All the elements of what makes a classic Johnny Flynn song are here – his amazing voice, jangly guitar and subtle horn accompaniment – but there’s also something a little twisted about the structure of this track that I really really like. Definitely up there with my favourite Johnny Flynn songs.

2 Comments

  1. December 22, 2017 at 15:23

    […] – Our Editor In Chief Gareth Hugh Evans picked his top 25 tracks of 2016 including songs from All Our Exes Live in Texas, BATTS, Billy Bragg, Charlie Fink, David Rawlings, Diamond Duck, Emma Davis, Fanny Lumsden, Gretta Ziller, I’m With Her, Johnny Flynn, Julia Johnson, Laura Marling, Nick Mulvey, Offa Rex, Paul Kelly, Stella Donnelly, Stu Larsen, Taryn La Fauci, The Ahern Brothers, The East Pointers, The Morrisons feat. Georgia Mooney, The Northern Folk, The Young’uns, and Willie Watson. Details here […]

  2. January 4, 2018 at 08:25

    […] you read my Top 25 Tracks of 2017 you’ll know how much love I have for David Rawlings’ track “Cumberland […]


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