Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2016

Child Records

You’ve heard what we think the top albums of 2016 were, but lets be honest this is the piece you’ve really been waiting for.

Every year we reach out to the community of folk and acoustic musicians in Australia and around the world to ask them to pick their favourite album or EP of the year, and this year they came through in spades.

So without further waffle may we present to you this year’s Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2016.

Bill ChambersEagle & The Wolf
Bill ChambersCold Trail
What a record. Bill just turns up when he feels like it and shows us all how it’s done. The title track is one of the best driving songs ever written and we’ve done A LOT of driving this year! This record has been with us on every trip and inspires us as artists of the alt. country genre to dig deep and keep being real, in life and in music. He’s the baddest and the best.

James KenyonAnna Cordell
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
This album takes me into such a beautiful space, it is so beautifully written and produced, I find myself smiling every time I listen to it – I’m entranced and inspired.

Joe MungovanImogen Clark
Joe MungovanWay Down South
Joe totally embodies the Joni Mitchell quote about songwriting, “The closer you get to your heart is the closer you get to everyone else’s”. This EP is an evolution for him, the production is so sparse and spacey, almost Bon Iver-ish, and very different from the folky style of his first EP. But what remains is Joe’s amazing ability to capture so perfectly the melancholy of the human condition with his beautiful melodies and heart-wrenching lyrics. A big 5 stars from me. Love ya, Joe!

Piers FacciniSam Lee
Piers FacciniI Dreamed An Island
This album only came out a couple of weeks ago but I think needs mentioning in this years crop. Piers is one of the finest male singers and his musicianship is exquisite. It’s an album of great sensitivity with deep thought and poetry inside. The songs are so well formed, he has a knack at creation of timeless soundings orgs.

DD DumboDan Flynn
D.D DumboUtopia Defeated
Oliver has really found his own unique sound while incorporating some diverse influences including folk, electronic and world music. I was really impressed with his songwriting and his ability to draw you in to his strange little world. I also love the production with all those sonic layers that reveal themselves over repeated listens. Amazing debut.

Michael KiwanukaSkyscraper Stan
Michael KiwanukaLove and Hate
I got hooked on this album while touring around New Zealand. The songwriting is melodic, the dynamics are masterful and the closing track, “Final Frame”, kicks me in the guts.

William CrightonJosh Rennie-Hynes
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
I first heard William at Nannup at the start of this year and loved it. He’s a great performer and his songs are top notch. This album captures all of that perfectly. The production is spot on and is a testament to the benefits of what a more DIY approach to recording can achieve.

Bon IverTanya Batt (BATTS)
Bon Iver22, A Million
There have been a lot of amazing releases this year, Canary, Braille Face and Hayden Calnin were three I wanted to choose too. However, it had to be Bon Iver. The most highly anticipated album in my life, it did not disappoint. This album means so much to me, It’s an extremely innovative album within soundscapes and also so raw, filled with emotion. Many tears were shed when I first listened.

MoulettesClaude Hay
MoulettesPreternatural
Moulettes new album Preternatural really grabed me from the first second, Distorted Cello, Oboe, guitar bass drums and they all sing insane harmonies perfectly live….Audio candy

Bill HuntLiam Gale (Liam Gale & the Ponytails)
Bill HuntUpwey
Conversational, melodic, witty and hooky songwriting flood through the beautiful ebb and flow of Upwey, Hunt’s first of many offerings. The songs are hued by a consistent arrangement of drums, bass, violin and Hunt’s subtle and precise guitar style. But they don’t rely on these arrangements; each song a story, assisted by the swell of instrumentation to convey the tales that swing from the near Latin grooves of “Odalik” to the slow sexy grind of “Sea of Love”. At six tracks long, it leaves you wanting more. Perfect.

Childish GambinoSahara Beck
Childish GambinoAwaken, My Love!
Listening to this album is like switching off the real world and stepping into an original and new world. I find it very inspiring.

Oh PepThe Little Stevies
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
I think the songwriting on Stadium Cake is really interesting. The songs take me to a place that I’m not expecting both lyrically and musically when I begin listening to them and they keep me guessing, which I absolutely love. The arrangements and production are also super cool, and I’m simply just a big fan of talented women and female partnerships doing great things in the arts.

Side PonyFanny Lumsden
Lake Street DiveSide Pony
It seriously makes me the most joy filled human ever. Side Pony is possibly my biggest songwriting envy of late and they just really nail that motown meets pop retro good times.

Nick CaveMiles O’Neil (Miles and Simone)
Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree
I was scared to listen to this album due to the tragic circumstances surrounding it. Finally
mustering the courage one bright morning I listened to it through while walking beside the sea.
I stopped many times during that walk to sit and, floored, marvel at the breathtakingly
sadness and beauty captured in what is, to me and I’m sure many others, a masterpiece.

Hayden CalninForest Falls
Hayden CalninCut Love Pt 1/2
Hayden is an absolute stayer of the Melbourne music scene, but it’s for good reason. This record is world-class. Sparse, rich, cinematic, and desperate in its feel, it holds on to you long after the first listen.

Button CollectiveThe Bottlers
The Button CollectiveThe Lonesome Sea
As a softly lilting mandolin emerges from the silence of the opening track, Brodie’s haunting lyrical ballad begins to unravel the story of the heartbreak of a man, torn between travelling the lonesome sea and those who he has left behind. This beautiful yet bittersweet combination of well-travelled wordsmithing and an instrumental palate carrying a nostalgically truthful warmth, could be heard in any far-flung tavern in the dead of night, as tired candles flicker. Finishing with a raucous fling titled “Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy”, the Button Collective’s release concludes on a stirring high, twisting your arm to crave another ale. The EP’s recording, mixing and mastering add a special flair, as you hear the charismatic live-elements that give you a heart-swelling, beer-swilling singalong that you can partake in at any time. Well done fellas!

The Dreaming RoomPhia
Laura MvulaThe Dreaming Room
Her lyrics explore feminism, faith, self-worth, race, and her harmonies, arrangements and production are deep and multi-hued. One of the most exciting songwriters around, unafraid to experiment with multi-genre collaborations, like the London Symphony Orchestra and Nile Rodgers.

JoyGordon Wallace (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
The Peep TempelJoy
This is a great third album by the Melbourne based three piece that has initial flavours of 90s Aussie pub punk/bloke rock (like Cosmic Psychos) but that is just the beginning – the album is musically quite varied, with intelligent, dark, caustically humorous and often political lyrics with moments of honest beauty.

Wartime SweetheartsJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Wartime SweetheartsSo Long Sparta
It’s always great when a local artist drops something as fully formed and self-assured as Louise Nutting’s second album under the Wartime Sweethearts moniker. Experimental without forgetting the songcraft, it deserves its rightful place amongst the St Vincents, Dirty Projectors and My Brightest Diamonds of the art pop world. Props to local label Art As Catharsis, whose releases in October alone spanned from Wartime Sweethearts to Hashashin’s eastern mathrock and No Haven’s dark hardcore. Eclecticism rules the day!

BeyonceTaryn La Fauci
BeyoncéLemonade
To create and release a piece of work that is so intricately linked and ordered, one you must listen to from start to finish to understand the whole was really refreshing! The film that accompanied the album was also richly interesting, deep and powerful. To address themes such as infidelity and race and then to weave them powerfully into a full album, which on release caused so much controversy and started a conversation world wide, I thought was really great.

Melody PoolKevin Mitchell (Bob Evans)
Melody PoolDeep Dark Savage Heart
Another beautiful record from the most under-rated songwriter in Australia. “Love, She Loves Me” gives me goose bumps every time.

Winter WheatFrank Turner
John K SamsonWinter Wheat
I am a long term partisan of John’s work, so it’s not surprising that I liked this record. But god-DAMN, the man just keeps delivering. This record had me in tears three times on my first listen through, and it gets better with age.

David BowieWilliam Crighton
David BowieBlackstar
My favourite album from 2016 is Blackstar from David Bowie. There were a lot of great albums but I listened to it the most.

TigallerroSteven Barnard (Arbori, Jon Cotton)
Phonte and Eric RobersonTigallerro
Smooth grooves, dope rhymes, sweet melodies. You’d be hard pressed to find another 2016 record his year that has this flow, though Anderson Paaks’ Malibu is a close second. It rolls effortlessly from track to track and the inevitable ass shaking comes with a no “slutty table top twerking” guarantee. It’s rare that a hip hop record explores what it means to be a man of sexual fidelity, a family man, and even man of faith in higher power. Getting hype or turning down, my morning wake up or my party starter, this record has been a solid find.

Julia JacklinJesse Lubitz (TinPan Orange)
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
This album is a gem. The more I listen to this record, the more the songs shimmer and shine with a beautiful honesty. Jacklin’s songwriting is earnest and her voice perfect – it feels like an important voice which dances delicately on a wire between mundanity and profundity.

Bon IverOliver’s Army
Bon Iver22, A Million
Although becoming more and more electronic heavy, Justin Vernon’s signature haunting melodies and dynamic vocals remain consistently endearing. I found the production to be quite bold and experimental, and I love that they’re continuing to explore their sound and push it in new directions. Sonically, it’s spacious and beautiful.

RadioheadKim Churchill
RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
My top album of 2016 has probably got to go to A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead. It really hit me at the perfect moment. I was deep in the studio and sometimes getting a bit overly flustered by how complex the process of recording can be. I think Radiohead have done something incredible in the way this album is so relaxed, so subtle, but so powerful. There is this beautiful calm confidence that I am completely in awe of. To be alive whilst their legacy is still being added to is a real treat!

Conor OberstThomas Busby (Busby Marou)
Conor OberstRuminations
Brave, personal and heart achingly real. It feels like you’re in the room with him as he’s pouring his heart out.

Iggy PopEm George
Iggy PopPost Pop Depression
It would be a total lie for me to say that I have been patiently and politely waiting for a new Iggy Pop record because I’ve been extremely impatient and downright rude, mouthing off to my vinyl copy of Lust for Life, begging to the Iggy Pop gods for a new release and then Post Pop Depression hit in March this year. Produced by Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), the entire album is gritty and dark, sharp and tight with that small hint of sadness that lies just under the surface of Iggy Pop’s music. However in true Iggy fashion, the melodies and heavy drums lift the album into something that is hard to define, taking you to another place. My pick for 2016!

KaleoGerrit Gmel (Citizen of the World)
KaleoA/B
I came across these guys on Spotify a few months ago as they were our number one associated artist then. I had never heard of them before but their album has been on repeat ever since. Their album is incredibly varied, with high-energy songs like “Way Down We Go” and soft ballads like “Save Yourself”. An emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

Gregory PorterJoe Glover (Shelley’s Murder Boys, Backsliders)
Gregory PorterTake me to the Alley
I watched a YouTube clip of Gregory Porter performing on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert and watched it several times over, absolutely mesmerised. The album is just as mesmerising; full of soul, jazz and RnB, beautiful arrangements and Porter’s effortless delivery; just enough grit and soul to keep the jazz interesting! I listen to this album when I want something that will absolutely zone me out of where I am and what I am doing, Porter’s soothing voice is like being wrapped up in blanket and given a cup of hot cocoa.

Bruce MolskyShell Eves (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
Bruce MolskyCan’t Stay Here This a-Way
Bruce Molsky always manages to bring such a rich, unique sound to the old-time classics. His latest album is no exception. His fiddle-singin’ gives me warm fuzzies akin to sitting by a campfire under a starry sky.

David BowieJimmy Murray (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
David BowieBlackstar
It was hot, humid January afternoon driving through a sun-shower when I first listened to David Bowie’s Blackstar album. Released just 2 days after his death aged 69 this is an amazing final piece of work from this incredible artist. The hauntingly beautiful voice and instrumentation echos with songs about finality and death. Listening to this I was filled pure joy, sadness and reflection of this artist’s inspirational legacy.

Black Mountain String bandThe Plough
Black Mountain String BandTime Traveller
This year The Plough discovered the Canberra based Black Mountain String Band and can’t get enough of them. The exuberance and variety they bring to a live show is showcased beautifully in their recording. Their mix of traditional and original songs and instrumentals take the listener back in time through a landscape of high energy Old Time, Western Swing, triangle pumping Cajun and plucky Fiddle polkas. This CD’s been on high rotation in the Lancer’s CD stacker ever since it was launched in the bush capital on a chilly winters night.

TyrannamenFraser A Gorman
TyrannamenTyrannamen
A brilliant, gruff mixture of Memphis Garage-soul blended deep in a gravel filled, VB bottle of Australian 70’s pub rock. Eight tracks long, all killer no filler.

Margo PriceNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Margo PriceMidwest Farmer’s Daughter
Margo is one of the first of a new breed of Americana artists to come out of the new epicentre of country music in East Nashville. Alongside Cale Tyson, Michaela Anne, Erin Rae, et al., these guys are playing authentic honky-tonk reminiscent of 1970s outlaw country, yet with their own fresh take. Midwest Farmer’s Daughter reminds me of the edgiest tracks from Dolly Parton, and the fact she is the first country act signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records is a testament to the quality of this album.

Oh PepJames Kenyon
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
Stadium Cake is a brilliant album – brave arrangements, tight pop writing, great lyrics and Liv’s voice is a pleasure. I love the ambition of the album, and the assuredness the result. It’s an inspiring record

Julia JacklinAinsley Farrell
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
I’ve had the chance to see Julia perform these songs over the past couple years so I’ve been very excited for her album. She has an incredible songwriting talent topped by this powerful yet vulnerable voice that’ll break your heart and put it back together again all in one go. If you get the chance to see her and her band live I wouldn’t miss it.

Liz StringerMel Parsons
Liz StringerAll The Bridges
I have been a fan of Liz for a good few years now, I’m completely smitten with her voice – all husk, beauty and pain. I had high expectations for her new album, and All The Bridges delivers and then some, it’s been on repeat in my house since it arrived.

CanaryKathleen Mary Lee
CanaryI Am Lion
I like this because it is a celebration of very big, very beautiful feelings that I reckon have no other way of being celebrated other than through this kind of emotionally epic music. The lyrics are attempts at honesty and the music is always their non verbal emotional equivalent, making the album a very cathartic experience. If you want it to be. A bit of a masterpiece

Eagle and the WolfSam Buckingham
Eagle & The WolfEagle & The Wolf
Sarah brings out Kris’s sweetness and Kris brings out Sarah’s no bullshit strength – making this album the perfect balance of heart and “fuck you”. It just sounds like two musicians being real and having a ball. Awesome songwriting, perfect harmonies – it’s golden.

Sian EvansTori Forsyth
Sian EvansHow Time Has Treated Thee
This EP has only swept across my table recently but it is hands down a stand out. It makes me feel happy, sad and inspired all in one hit!

Songs From DanLucie Thorne
Dan TuffySongs From Dan
Aussie expat (now Dutch resident) and legend Dan Tuffy (Big Low, Wild Pumpkins at Midnight) has made one of my favourite albums not just of 2016 but of all time (seriously!). Co-produced by Melbourne’s Matt Walker, and recorded partly here in Melbourne, and partly in Holland, this album is an extraordinary collection from a true poet who sings straight to the heart of it all. Check it out folks!

Sian EvansHusky Gawenda (Husky)
Damien JuradoVisions Of Us On The Land
While this is Damien Jurado’s twelth album, it is the first I heard of him. Visions is a psychedelic, mystical odyssey, one that takes place within and without. The internal wanderings, the struggles and revelations, mirror an external landscape that is both beautiful and haunting. Each listen draws you further into these mirror worlds and all the while Jurado’s songs and sounds are immediately and undeniably striking.

Tracy McNeilLeah Flanagan
Tracy McNeil and the Good LifeThieves
Thieves is such an enjoyable record to listen to. It’s poppy and catchy yet underneath the veneer of fun singalong good times the songs themselves incredibly well crafted and arranged. Tracey writes a damn good song and if you’re lucky enough to see her band live, you’ll see them play those songs damn well too.

Adora EyeMusketeer
Adora EyeIf You Need A King, I’ve Been Prepared All My Life
This is probably the most raw and enduring folk album I have listened to all year. I am sure that this Swedish singer-songwriter was up all night writing this album in a smokey boat in the Stockholm harbour somewhere. You can almost see him clutching that ink pen with a red right hand, as his pet raven swings in a cage above his head eating dead beetles.

Hiss Golden MessengerDave Powys (The Paper Kites)
Hiss Golden MessengerHeart Like A Levee
I heard this album playing in a record store in London, and as I flicked through racks of vinyl I was drawn into the melodies and depth of his song writing. Every now and then you come across an artist who really moves you, or scratches an itch you never knew you had – this album has done both for me.

The Kill Devil HillsCatherine Traicos
The Kill Devil HillsIn On Under Near Water
This album encapsulates all that I love about the The Kill Devil Hills. A mad racket of noise, it pulses with life and is as ripe with heartfelt ballads as it is with sexy, sinister, badass, guitar driven numbers. Enjoy with whiskey.

Robert Ellis10 String Symphony
Robert EllisRobert Ellis
His first self-produced effort combines thoughtfully crafted songs with unique and interesting arrangements, expertly performed by him and his killer band. It’s the full package real deal and we love it so much.

The Dead MaggiesThe Dead Maggies
The Cloves and The TobaccoAcross The Horizon
TCATT are one of many celt-punk bands making great music in Java, and this album is a standout. It’s straight up driving celtic punk, with big powerful singalong choruses that tug the heartstrings. Good arrangements and musicianship help make this album great. We played with them in their hometown of JogJakarta, in the attic of a vegetarian cafe. The power cut out just before the gig, so the bands went ahead and played unplugged, it was a great moment of sweaty singalongs.

Howe GelbMark Moldre
Howe GelbFuture Standards
Late night meanderings. Laid back, whisky infused jazz piano. Wordplay and lyrical twists that stand alongside the wit of Ira Gershwin and Hoagy Carmichael with the quiet phrasing of Chet Baker. Gelb continues to walk to his own beat – confounding expectations whilst smashing and recreating genres. His history has always hinted towards a love of jazz and occasionally detoured into Monk style musings – here Gelb embraces it wholeheartedly.

TullaraSian Evans
TullaraBetter Hold On
Earthy folk and roots with a dash of dirty grunge, Tullara presents her debut EP Better Hold On. Featuring her superb guitar slinging and percussive finger tapping wizardry, genius pop-roots arrangements and powdery vocals; it’s as if an Aussie Taylor Swift, John Butler and Andy Mckee were entrapped in a love triangle and spawned gold threads of wild honesty weaving together this admirable little Roots record. It’ll jerk a tear and invoke a bit of primal badass equally.

TaliskJake Pember (The Button Collective)
TaliskAbyss
Ever since first hearing Mohsen Amini’s amazing concertina playing earlier this year I have been a little bit obsessed with this band. They have the perfect blend of traditional and modern styles, and each member has such command of their instruments that every track feels as natural and flowing as a conversation.

Max SavageKaurna Cronin
Max SavageTrue Believers
Max has a brilliant ability to invite his audiences into the narrative of his works. With brilliant imagery and musicianship True Believers captures a great snapshot of true Australian culture, while also creating a great sense of nostalgia by grasping that 80’s Australian rock sound perfectly. The perfect soundtrack for an Australian road trip or any suburban household.

Nick CaveAlex L’Estrange
Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree
Amongst all the huge artists that dropped albums in 2016, and the loads of Australian artists that arguably dropped career highlights (Ball Park Music, These Guy, D.D Dumbo), there was one album that I found myself frequently listening to, uninterrupted, alone on the hi-fi, and that was Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. It’s not necessarily my favourite, I think it’s an impossible task to name a favourite, but it was the first album that came to mind for this list, and that means more than anything. Hearing it coupled with the film One More Time With Feeling was challenging, given its subject matter. But its atmosphere was expertly executed; dynamic, fluid, smooth and heartbreaking. The rooms of Air, La Frette and Retreat studios are beautifully on display in songs like “Girl in Amber”, where the wispy backing vocals of The Bad Seeds hauntingly resonate across the walls. These contrast the desperate and almost maddening mantras of “I Need You”. What makes it a truly extraordinary album, is that it isn’t just doom and gloom. ‘Skeleton Tree’ doesn’t dwell on tragedy, it addresses it as part of the human condition, and there is an underlying beauty in that.

William CrightonClaire Ann Taylor
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
The storytelling and the whole atmosphere created by Crighton on this album is incredible. His dark, brooding voice and emotive style of delivery, commanded my attention from the first moment I heard it.

Andy ShaufWilliam Fitzsimmons
Andy ShaufThe Party
This was my favorite album of the year for one simple reason: MELODY!!! Andy is everything that’s right about classic “pop” music; never playing a note without a damn good reason for doing so, and songwriting that makes you feel something deep in your gut. He’s the worthy musical son of Harry Nilsson that we’ve longingly been waiting for.

LuciusRuby Boots
LuciusGood Grief
I have to choose this album because I’m still, since its release, pulling away the layers on it. Although it’s a predominantly pop record, the lyrical content and melodic arrangements are so intelligent and accessible all at once – a fine line that is hard to walk. The girls’ voices are otherworldly and tend to make me forget where I am and what I’m doing every time I put this album on. I still can’t get enough of it.

WetLacey Cole (Lazy Colts)
WetDon’t You
If you have a soft spot for B-grade pop ballads/R&B this Brooklyn-based three piece may just have written the soundtrack of your 90s-nostalgia drenched dreams. Their latest album Don’t You is a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. Helmed by the stunning front-woman Kelly Zutrau, her unusual vocal inflections and impassioned delivery suggest an emotional complexity in what may otherwise be confused as banal sentiments (one song is called “Baby, You’re The Best”). Once combined with the lush production and rhythms of the band – assigned with the noble task of turning tears into toe-tappers – these songs are wonderfully earnest, rarely overwrought and exactly what you need right now.

James KenyonJoe Murphy (The Timbers)
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
I have been lucky enough to see James play a couple of times. His beautifully crafted songs are reminiscent of great songwriters like Paul Kelly. The album is a stunning representation of his work.

JRHMabel Windred-Wornes (Charm of Finches)
Josh Rennie-HynesFurthermore
I love this album. It’s got so much warmth, it’s spacious. I listen to it late at night doing my homework and it’s so calming. It’s like the energy he captured recording it in the hills of Woodford transmits. We met him at Bendigo Blues and Roots Fest this year and felt we’d discovered a rare gem. He’s an amazing songwriter.

Tom BrosseauMatt Bauer
Tom BrosseauNorth Dakota Impressions
Beautiful storytelling, vivid imagery, and an incredible sense of place. I’ve always loved Tom’s records and he’s at the top of his game here writing about his native North Dakota.

Jim JamesTimberwolf
Jim JamesEternally Even
It’s a pretty passionate political plea and America needed a timely voice. He even released it the day before election day. I think his voice is very much from another world, so that’s an important “third person” kind of perspective. It’s a well sequenced collection of songs, and I really love the warm psych and soul inspired production/composition. Maybe I’m just biased because I know that Jim James and Blake Mills would make up my sonic dream-team.

Nigel WearneJustin Bernasconi (The Stillsons)
Nigel WearneDrawing Circles
Nigel has really forged his own fingerpicking techniques on both the banjo and guitar on this album, and his voice tenderly delivers every song with intense concern and passion. Just check out the live version of the title track.

The Kill Devil HillsMark ‘Looch’ Lewis – (Wifey/Handsome Young Strangers)
The Kill Devil HillsIn On Under Near Water
I have always loved this band. In all their incarnations and styles whether that is folk, country, gospel, rock or what I call the “WA dirge” (Kim Salmon, Drones type bass driven tunes). Hard to believe it is now 12 years since the release of their debut Heathen Songs when that “Drinkin’ Too Much” song first got my attention. And while it has been 7 years since the last studio album Man You Should Explode, the good news is that I reckon this is the most cohesive album yet. Cracking harmonies, great playing and strong tunes. Tracks like “The Nets”, “Chinese Burns” and notably “The Kid” are 3 of the best tunes they have released. Let’s hope there is more output and touring to come.

Austin LucasMatt Golotta (The Sweet Jelly Rolls)
Austin LucasBetween the Moon & the Midwest
I spend a fair bit of time on the road traveling to see my partner and this record became the perfect traveling companion for me. Took a few listens to get into and also realise it’s a concept album which draws from Lucas’ own past experiences. Without spoiling the outcome, it follows the luckless musician Richard, his partner Kristie Rae and his best friend William. It features killer song writing with pedal steel, twangy tele, country influences with punk rock subtlety, numerous guest vocals from the likes of John Moreland and Corey Brannan, and a cracker duet with Lydia Loveless “Wrong Side of the Dream”, dealing with the struggles and plights that many musicians face. My song of the record is “William”, the solo acoustic number at the end that makes you feel like you’ve just been kicked in the guts. Songwriting at its finest.

Cody JinksAndrew Cavalieri (The Sweet Jelly Rolls)
Cody JinksI’m Not the Devil
Raw, honest and heartache. That is this album! The first track really sets the mood for the rest of the album, but is broken up by “Chase This Song” which is a damn banger of a driving song! The outlaw vibe flowing from Junks’ music really prepares you for some hard times and disappointment in life. Bloody hell I love this album! Honorable mentions: Murlocs – Young Blindness, Jonny Fritz – Sweet Creep and Mudcrutch – 2.

Wartime SweetheartsLaura Bishop (Chaika)
Wartime SweetheartsSo Long Sparta
A killer voice, some super awesome writing skills, and an obsession with bodybuilders (hello Ms Olympia!) make this my favourite album of 2016. Wartime Sweethearts, aka singer-keyboardist-loop artist-songwriter Louise Nutting, signed to Art As Catharsis Records this year and released an album full of all the beats and electric piano and vocal harmony sounds that I like to hear (and I wish I could make) – and my favourite track “Figure It In, Figure It Out” has all the unexpected twistings and turnings of chord progressions that I wish I could write. One day Chaika will make sounds like this! One day…

Neil YoungTristan Goodall (The Audreys)
Neil YoungPeace Trail
Well with everyone saying we should just put 2016 behind us (although to be honest we should probably be approaching 2017 with a little trepidation too) I’ve decided not to dig too deeply into the past when thinking of my favorite record release of the year. I’ve loved many, but my recent love is the just-released 37th album by Neil Young. Peace Trail is short, musically experimental within its tight three piece band approach, and lyrically angry and poignant. I love it for the drummer’s drummer Jim Keltner and the way his delicate touch chases Neil’s quirky phrasing around the songs. I love it because it captures another freeze frame moment from a restless and undaunted songwriter, and I love it, of course, for those mighty guitar tones.

Davey CraddockLachlan Bryan
Davey CraddockCity West
2016 was a great year for my friends releasing good music. Melody Pool comes to mind, as do The Weeping Willows, Henry Wagons, Ange Boxall and Bill Jackson. It’s actually really hard to contribute to a “best of” list when you’re close to many of the artists – it’s hard to be objective – even after I rule out the records I was actually involved in making. Actually – it’s always hard to be objective, whether you know the artists or not. Furthermore, judging a whole body of work is hard – and for me, more than ever, 2016 was the year of the song (as opposed to the album or EP). And as songs go, the one that’s really stuck with me this year is the song “Number 9” by Davey Craddock. I love the cricket references. I asked Davey if he was a diehard cricket fan like me. He’s not. I was bitterly disappointed.

The Stray BirdsThe Mae Trio
The Stray BirdsMagic Fire
The Stray Birds made our fave album of 2014 and they’ve done it again in spectacular style with Magic Fire. It’s everything about this album and this band, the playing, the three part harmony and songs that are unabashed, true and unadorned. Magic Fire is a reminder of the things that matter, it’s definitely a fire and maybe a little bit magic.

Tori ForsythAndrew Swift
Tori ForsythBlack Bird
This EP is right up there as one of my favourite releases of 2016. From the moment I heard the opening title track, “Black Bird”, I knew that I was in for a treat. The diversity on display within the 5 tracks of Tori Forsyth’s debut release excites me. The songs are so well crafted and presented with such a mature sound, especially for someone so young. I’m eagerly awaiting the next release from one of Australia’s most promising young songwriters.

Hayden CalninRoscoe James Irwin
Hayden CalninCut Love Pt 1
A beautiful album from Melbourne artist Hayden Calnin. Drenched in melancholy and ambient awesomeness, this album had me at hello. (One of my favourite live shows of 2016 as well).

Jordie LaneNadine Budge (The Stetson Family)
Jordie Lane & The SleepersGLASSELLLAND
Have to say I’ve been particularly digging Jordie Lane’s GLASSELLLAND this last couple of months – with mighty input from the multi-talented Clare Reynolds. Let’s face it, Jordie’s a bit of an all-round talented guy!

Melody PoolDavey Craddock
Melody PoolDeep Dark Savage Heart
One of my fave local album’s of the year was Melody Pool’s Deep Dark Savage Heart. I’m a sucker for strings and a massive chorus and I love the way the songs build from really intimate, delicate and ornate passages into full-blown, wailing-on-a-mountain top with Stevie Nicks, 100 soaring bats and a thunderstorm moments. I saw her launch it at the Abbotsford Convent earlier this year and it was a really powerful and affecting show for me.

Methyl EthylTim Guy
Methyl Ethel – “No.28”
I know it’s not an album, but I’ve listened to this song more than any other this year, and it only came out a little while back. It has a lot going for it – great rhythm behind a smart piece of songwriting and then the whole thing is bathed in a deep silver mercury type thing. An Australian classic I swear.

DocksThe Staves
Amanda BergmanDocks
Our favourite album of 2016 is Docks by Amanda Bergman. Her voice is utterly sublime. You want to listen to every word she says. The music is dreamy, deep, soft, moody with melodies that whirr deliciously around your mind for days and weeks on end.

Katie BriannaRaechel Whitchurch
Katie BriannaVictim or the Heroine
I picked this album up when Katie and I did a songwriters showcase together. Sitting beside her listening to her songs was so magical – her voice is one of the most enchanting I have ever heard and her lyrics hit you right in the feels every time. Reminds me of a young Lucinda!

James KenyonMandy Connell (Stray Hens)
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
James’ lyrics have that magic of time and place usually associated with voices like Paul Kelly or Bruce Springsteen. You can practically smell his scenes. You’re there. This album captures the voice but better than that, like a Tim Winton book, its a record that makes you present in Kenyon’s stories.

Jordie LaneLiz Stringer
Jordie Lane & The SleepersGLASSELLLAND
It’s no secret that Jordie Lane and I are good mates. We grew up together, musically speaking, and I am more familiar with his work than with most other artist’s. His new album, his first full-length release in five years, is called GLASSELLLAND, recorded by Jordie himself in various make-shift recording spaces in North Los Angeles and co-produced by his fiercely talented partner, Clare Reynolds, who also co-wrote half of the songs and sings and plays a heap of instruments on the record. Jordie’s songwriting and musicianship continue to evolve and stretch out with the years and these songs, and the way they’re recorded, ache with longing while driving forward with a swagger and a playful showmanship, melodically rich and hooky as fuck. I always become a bit weepy listening to Jordie sing. And, now, the combination of him and Clare ruins me every time. Beautiful.

David BowieColin Jones (Colin Jones & The Delta Review)
David BowieBlackstar
An exceptional reflection on final days and the unknown. Every note by Bowie, McCaslin and the band emphasize the chaos and fragility of life. There is no better swansong for an artist.

A Moon Shaped PoolEmma Anglesey
RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
A Moon Shaped Pool completely surrenders to simple truths that both lie in plain sight and in the messy tangled, kicking and screaming realities of life. The epic levels of angst in the opening track “Burn the Witch” are like an exorcism – Jonny Greenwood’s sharp string arrangement take you right to the edge – and then from there it’s like Alice falling through the rabbit hole of raw emotion and you go deeper and deeper.

DawesTim Hart (Boy & Bear)
DawesWe’re All Gonna Die
Some of the best lyric writing welded on to some pretty simple, but catchy, pop songs. Produced by Blake Mills (Alabama shakes, Laura Marling), this is a great record start to finish if you can forgive some slightly John Mayer sounding guitars that pop their head up from time to time. This I the record I keep coming back to this year

Oh PepRebecca Bastoli
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
I don’t think I have ever been so entranced, excited or exhausted by the journey of listening to an album start to finish.

Bon IverDustin Tebbutt
Bon Iver22, A Million
Bon Iver has once again exceeded expectations on this release. It’s both familiar and foreign, delicately coloured, softly focused yet angular and stark. It’s brave, honest and all the things that I loved about Justin’s earlier works, without coming close to formulaic. It’s colloquial and conversational, yet inherently profound. Incredible stuff both musically and sonically.

Margo PriceJosie Rothwell (Peasant Moon)
Margo PriceMidwest Farmer’s Daughter
There’s something comforting about Margo Price’s debut album, almost like I’d listened to it before, but not in an overly familiar sort of way. Perhaps there’s something in her glorious voice that reminds me of my parent’s Dolly Parton records. She’s a great story teller, and I want to know more about her heartaches and headaches, particularly when accompanied by her crack band. I’m also proud to say my 4 year daughter keeps calling for “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle)” when we’re in the car – and I can’t think of anything else I’d want her to be listening to right now.

BJ BarthamHarvey Russell (Peasant Moon)
BJ BarhamRockingham
It pains me to say this but BJ Barham’s new-found sobriety has coincided with a serious coming of age as a songwriter. Taking a (very) short break from American Aquarium duties, BJ’s solo release (a genuine side-project) is seriously hard-hitting stuff. It rivals Aquarium’s 2012 release Burn. Flicker. Die. for intensity, but of a completely different nature. With sparse arrangements (often acoustic) Barham, as storyteller, gives you an uncensored and unashamed glimpse into how rural America has been left behind. Not for the faint hearted.

William CrightonSam Newton
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
I’d caught Crighton perform a bunch of times at local venues around Sydney and really dug his tune (and especially the music video) “Woman Like You” prior to this album’s release. So I was anticipating this release. Really excited for it. I was stoked when I heard that he and producer Matt Sherrod came through with the goods. Big time. Highlights for me are “Riverina Kid”, “Priest” and “2000 Clicks”. In my mind, this one is about as strong as debut albums get.

Chaim TannenbaumEliza Carthy
Chaim TannenbaumChaim Tannenbaum
The album that I have most enjoyed and most visited this year is the debut of the kind, quiet genius Chaim Tannenbaum (Storysound Records). I’ve had the privilege of working with Chaim over the years but it was only recently I realised that I have lived with his distinctive voice and gorgeous humility since I first began to love music. It’s his voice that forms the third harmony in “Complainte pour St Catherine” on the first McGarrigle sisters’ album, a song I played over and over as a child until you could almost see through the record, and he has been quiet companion and producer to theirs and their extended family’s work ever since. It’s somewhat typical of his humility that he has waited this long to make an album, produced by his dear longtime friend and collaborator Loudon Wainwright III. It’s a collection of avuncular stories told in his gorgeously expressive voice with beautiful, minimal production. Some trad, some conversational originals covering everything from the fate of the baseball stadium Ebbets Field to living in a depressing grey London in the endless rain in the 1960s. An album to listen to with your eyes closed by the fire. Again and again, and again.

PinegroveQuinton Trembath
PinegroveCardinal
The lyrics on this album read like the private diary of a well spoken (and well read) guy filled with both anxiety and excitement for life. The musicianship and dynamics complement this introspectiveness well, making it perfectly suited for intense solo listening as well as for being cranked on road trips with friends.

Sean McMahonAlison Ferrier
Sean McMahon and the MoonMenShiner
Sean McMahon’s laid back yet somehow intense vocal brings this fantastic collection of songs to life in my living room. Shiner’s ragged elegance is full of the sort of raunchy country rock I can’t get enough of. Stand out tracks for me: “Shiner” and “Here Comes the Night Again”.

WhitneyEddie Boyd
WhitneyLight Upon the Lake
This album just grew and grew on me since my first listen. Simple, catchy tunes that make me wanna dance or go driving for a long time. I think Whitney nailed everything about this album – the instrumentation, the production, obviously the songs. Also, they’re heaps good live.

Secret PathThe Once
Gord DownieSecret Path
The Tragically HipMan Machine Poem
This year was a hard year in Canadian Music. We have a fella here by the name of Gord Downie. He is a legend. He has helped raise Canadians to be more real with his music. He is the frontman for the band The Tragically Hip. There are not many people in Canada who don’t know who The Hip are. Their music has become part of our DNA. Gord, this year, made a statement saying he has terminal brain cancer so he obviously fighting for the men and women of the north. The folks that have needed a voice for far too long. He is being that voice. He is showing us how to be Canadian and that we can’t be without acknowledging the needs of all of our people, without respecting all of our people. This year, instead of succumbing to his illness, he put out two albums. One with The Hip and one solo. Here they are. They are magic and will go down in history in our great nation. It’s amazing to watch one man build his second legacy.

Cash SavageJessica Cassar (Jep and Dep)
Cash Savage & The Last DrinksOne Of Us
This has everything you want from a record. It’s dirty and beautiful, and dark as hell. Cash sings with a thunderous anguish that cracks, rumbles and echoes so perfectly any sorrow you might have ever had. And like any good storm, the album’s darkness reveals a little light, one that roars some sort of painful end, or much needed beginning. I love this record!

Tracy McNeilGretta Ziller
Tracy McNeil & The GoodlifeThieves
I’ll be the first to admit I’m late to the game when it comes to Tracy McNeil & The Goodlife. I caught their set at Out on the Weekend and was captivated! Their 2016 album Thieves is just so dang easy to listen to, I will confess it is turning into a “chilling on the deck summer favourite” of mine! Please, if you haven’t already, pick up or download a copy of this album and chill!!

Bill JacksonRosie McDonald (RAPT, Trippy Hippy Band, Seanchas)
Bill JacksonThe Wayside Ballads Vol. 2
Bills’ reputation had preceded him before I heard him at Fairlight folk with Ruth Hazelton and Pete Fiddler. I grabbed the opportunity to contribute to his The Wayside Ballads Vol. 2 crowd funding campaign to get Bill and Pete over to Nashville to record with some very fine session players. Bill kept me updated with postcards and messages so I felt like a sideline cheerer in this whole project. Then the CD arrived! Magnificent songs, co-written with Bills’ brother Ross. Bills’ time worn voice, rich and mellow, rootsy, Americana-ish but very very homegrown, local accent, stories big and small, tender and big hearted. Pete’s playing shines in amongst the session guys, a great listen. Music for travel, the cabin, the verandah, anywhere.

Kate Burke and Pete WildMelanie Horsnell
Kate Burke and Pete WildLive at St Peters
In my small town we have the most marvellous artists touring through, but I also love our sweet locals, and I adore this live record by Kate Burke and Pete Wild. Pete Wild’s “Mars 1” is a love song about a person who goes on the Mars mission leaving his forever love behind, the Martin-Martin song is an old village favourite and the last love song between Doris and Arthur makes me giggle and lament at the same time. And I adore playing Kate Burkes version of Frozen Man on repeat when everything in life gets a bit much.

MontaigneGretta Ray
MontaigneGlorious Heights
My favourite record that was released in 2016 is without a doubt, Montaigne’s Glorious Heights. What impresses me most about this record is the fact that it is rather evident that the artist went into this project with the intention of experimenting with her sound and taking risks, drawing inspiration from a range of her influences and assuring that each song conveyed a slightly different emotion from the previous track. I believe it was this approach of 20-year-old Jess Sero’s (Montainge) that resulted in the production of what I perceive to be a very imaginative and bold debut album. This record showcases the fact that Jess has, unquestionably, one of the strongest and most commanding voices in the Australian music industry, this being exemplified through the outstanding production and arrangements of the songs that make up Glorious Heights. As well as this, each song is demonstrative of Jess’ incredibly clever and unique songwriting, which I cannot wait to hear more of in years to come; the simplicity yet complexity and quirkiness of a lyric such as “when you touch my skin, I think ‘this isn’t boring'” makes one ponder on such a line, as Jess’ way of writing is different, daring and something that never fails to make me smile. Glorious Heights made me so very excited about how extravagant pop music is becoming in this day and age, and on the whole made me very proud to be a young woman in the Australian music scene.

WhitneyTreetop Flyers
WhitneyLight Upon the Lake
I first started hearing about this band online, so was waiting for the album with anticipation. When it dropped I must have played it back to back straight away, which rarely happens. They are hard to put in a genre, which is really great. No Woman is one of our faves of the year. They are great live and do a version’s of NRBQ’s Magnet, so happy campers over here.

Drive By TruckersShane Nicholson
Drive-By TruckersAmerican Band
In a year of many great records, this stands tall above the crowd. It’s everything I love about the Truckers: gutsy and raw, clever and thoughtful, sometimes irreverent and full of attitude, and sometimes tender and restrained. Imagine a bastard-child born to Son Volt, Matthew Ryan and Uncle Tupelo, but all dressed up in those well-worn and unmistakable Drive-By Truckers clothes. How could that not make for the coolest kid on the block this year?

Conor OberstJack Carty
Conor OberstRuminations
It’s bloody beautiful in its simplicity. Gorgeous songs performed honestly. It seems like every track is a complete performance and any imperfections only enhance the sincerity of it all for me. Such an incredibly good songwriter.

Hayes CarllThe Weeping Willows
Hayes CarllLovers and Leavers
Lovers and Leavers is Hayes Carll’s most personal, introspective and “exposed” album to date, both in terms of the intimate, confessional songwriting and the stripped back arrangements, reminiscent of Heartbreaker era Ryan Adams, never saying too much – or too little. This intimacy draws you in, while Carll’s vulnerability captures you and takes you on a journey through heartache and reflection. Hayes was always in good hands with dynamic duo Joe Henry (producer) and Ryan Freeland (engineer) at the wheel, steering gently towards a common, graceful goal. Henry’s arrangements are characteristically unique yet elegant and tasteful, while Freeland brings his trademark clarity and warmth. Check it out if you’re fans of the late, great Guy Clark and/or Townes Van Zandt or fellow Texans, Steve Earle and Kevin Welch. Stand out tracks: “Sake of The Song”, “The Magic Kid” and “Drive”.

Iggy PopKelly Day (Broads)
Iggy PopPost Pop Depression
Sometimes you’ll find a record that makes you feel high from the moment it begins. Iggy’s new album, channelled through the hooky sounds of Josh Homme and given a Bowie-esque lean, made me grin like a mad person. And then immediately take it for another spin.

Robert EllisMegan Cooper
Robert EllisRobert Ellis
I was waiting to go on air for an interview. While we were pfaffing around getting ready “The High Road” came on. I pretended I knew who Robert Ellis was when I was advised who the artist was that had pretty much hypnotised me in 30 seconds flat. I went out and paid cash money for the album the next day. Every song got me on first listen. Cinematic moments. Super personal bits. Non-standard approaches. Aspirational.

PassengerSam Brittain
PassengerYoung As The Morning, Old As The Sea
Mike has always had a wonderful way of crafting simple and memorable melodies. Combine this with his always captivating lyrics and you have a master songwriter who’s tunes that sneak their way into your day. Songs that sooner or later without realising you find yourself humming whilst waiting in line for your morning coffee. Although often his storytelling veers on on the darker side of heartbreak and loss this latest album has a lighter touch, proving Passenger is and a yard stick for the aspiring modern folk troubadour. A dynamic artist who’s albums have been true to his own brand since day one. Additionally his band on this record are also fantastic live. I recently caught his show to a sold out Vicar Street in Dublin, it was one I won’t soon forget.

Bon IverAde Vincent (The Tiger and Me)
Bon Iver22, A Million
Another great record from Bon Iver – I have loved all three so far. I like how it also pushes into some new and interesting territory with the production. The auto-tuned a cappella of “715 – CR∑∑KS” is a particular highlight

Margaret GlaspyMaia Marsh
Margaret GlaspyEmotions and Math
It makes me feel really empowered whenever I listen to it, as a woman myself playing music. The songs are strong, guitar tone is great and her voice has this amazing growl that cuts through a sincere sensitivy at the same time.

BlondDirewolf
Frank OceanBlond
My hat is profusely off to an artist who can seamlessly bridge so many facets of musical integrity. What I mean by that nonsensical shit is that the entire record is some kind of highly strung soundboard (literally) which either sends you flying high just to get high, or high because you’re just too fucking upset. “Skyline To” and “Seigfried” are perfect examples. The whole collective arrangement kills me too, it’s like listening to recent Bon Iver whilst playing Sega in a radio store – the musicality is superb. I could say a lot more, but I’ll safely surrender by saying it definitely influenced the direction of my mind in doing another record.

Bon IverWildwood Kin
Bon Iver22, A Million
Easily. We’ve never heard anything quite like it. It’s just genius.

Tattletale SaintsGeorge Jackson (The Company, Buffalo Nickel, One Up, Two Down)
Tattletale SaintsTattletale Saints
Nashville based, New Zealand duo Tattletale Saints released their self-titled, second album this year, and it’s beautiful. Cy Winstanley (Guitars, Vocals) can pen songs with the best of them, his offerings on this album range from self-reflective and insightful, to sometimes cynical and cutting but always with a masterful craftsmanship. Vanessa McGown (Double Bass, Vocals) provides both solid and virtuosic Double Bass playing and vintage tinged country vocals. The new album is definitely a departure from their earlier acoustic recordings – but for a new fan, like me coming along, this is a bold and engaging listen complete with a production dripping in vintage tones and depth. Listen, and enjoy!

Genni KaneBill Jackson
Genni KaneSelfies
Ex-member of seminal Australian band, The Flying Emus, Genni Kane has a voice that can’t be denied. This long awaited record shows she is also a very gifted songwriter and the opening track “Little White Dog” is the beginning of a beautiful journey that deserves your attention.

Nancy KerrRuth Hazleton (http://www.billjacksonmusic.com/, Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton)
Nancy KerrInstar
A heady mix of poetry, politics and social commentary, Nancy Kerr’s Instar is an achingly beautiful collection of original songs framed within the landscape of traditional folk music. Beautifully performed and produced, Instar is, without doubt, one of the masterpieces of folk from 2016 and a work that will inform the tradition for a long time to come.

Fanny LumsdenThe Pigs
Fanny LumsdenSmall Town Big Shot
This album is full of great songs written from Fanny’s heart. She’s the real McCoy. Whenever we see her play live her songs get stuck in our head for weeks after. “Bravest Of Hearts”, “Soapbox” and “Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down” are just a few of the crackers on this rekid. This is a breath of fresh air for Australian Country Music. We love Fanny! More… More…

Side PonyHannah Acfield (The Acfields)
Lake Street DiveSide Pony
Give me a bit of 60’s sounding soul any day of the week! The songs are catchy, nice melodies and make you wanna move. I’m a sucker for a sterling vocalist. This was fav album for me.

Julia JacklinWillowy
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
An album about the little things in life that somehow manages to sum up the bigger things as well, cutting right through the mess to the heart of it all. Beautifully written and perfectly executed. It’s lovely to see an artist from the Sydney folk music family reaching great heights with an exceptional debut album.

John FlanaganSal Kimber (Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel)
John FlanaganThere’s Another Way To Where You’re Going

Bill ChambersRicky Pann (The Willing Ponies)
Bill ChambersCold Trail
Jen MizeWarnings and Wisdom
Sam BushStoryman
Bill Chambers is an Australian Journeyman troubadour. Songwriter, producer, sideman and front man, Bills live shows have influenced many and earned him a legion of devoted fans. Cold trail is Bills first studio album in four years and reminds the rock pop acts infiltrating modern country of where the heart of country lies. Cold Trail is a collection of honky-tonk “life lived” country that is the real deal. Produced by Bill and Recorded at his son Nash Chambers foggy mountain studios, Cold Trail is a world class record that draws on many influences to deliver country authenticity with Aussie perspective. A cracker record.
It’s a long way from Jen Mize roots in the Appliacian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina as a decedent of Lumbee Tribe of native Americans to the Sunshine coast of Queensland. Jen Mize is the real deal in every respect. An American songwriter with an incredible voice delivering an album packed with dynamic, well-crafted songs that’s all killer no filler. Shane Nicholson’s earthy production, arrangments and playing provide a tastefully rich sonic pallet that does this fine singer justice. The album glides from old-timey to traditional country and honky tonk, setting a very high bar of authenticity. An absolute stand out record.
Sixty-four-year-old Sam Bush has many stories to tell as a musician, innovator, writer and singer. One of my favourite musicians on the planet, Sam is a bluegrass master and the father of newgrass music spawned from his groundbreaking band the New Grass Revival. Sam is arguably one of the most influential mandolin players in history having played with just about everyone from Bill Monroe to Leon Russell. This record is a collection of finely crafted songs with a crack band featuring vocals from Emmylou Harris and Alison Kraus. A masterful record.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 13th May

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– World music six-piece Chaika kicked off their east coast tour this week. Details here

Releases This Week

Foy Vance
The Wild SwanFoy Vance
iTunes

Sweet Jean
Monday to FridaySweet Jean
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Melbourne Folk Club feat. James Kenyon, The Grand Magoozi, Davey Craddock

James Kenyon

Melbourne Folk Club wraps up this week with their final show. Featuring three amazing artists – James Kenyon (who is launching his new single), The Grand Magoozi and Davey Craddock – this is set to be an amazing night.

Saturday 14th May – Bakehouse Studios, Melbourne, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Andy Golledge w/ The Kev Walsh Band (Kevanescence)
Thursday 19th May – Union Hotel, Sydney NSW

Bluegrass at Yulli’s feat. Golden Whistler & The Plough
Wednesday 18th May – Yulli’s, Sydney, NSW

Brackets and Jam North feat. Tori Forsyth, Eagle & The Wolf, The Wayward Henry’s
Saturday 14th May – Lake Munmorah, NSW

Chaika
Friday 13th May – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 14th May – Berrima Smalls, Berrima, NSW
Sunday 15th May – Jane’s, Wollongong, NSW
Thursday 19th May – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Friday 20th May – The Unorthodox Church of Groove, Newcastle, NSW

Claude Hay
Friday 13th May – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 14th May – The Blues Train, Queenscliff, VIC
Thursday 19th May – The Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
Friday 20th May – Finnian’s Irish Tavern, Port Macquarie, NSW

Davey Craddock
Saturday 14th May – Melbourne Folk Club, Bakehouse Studios, Melbourne, VIC

Don McGlashan
Thursday 19th May – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW
Friday 20th May – Paragon Cafe, Katoomba, NSW

FolkSwagon feat. Maia Marsh, The Bean Project, Colin Jones & The Delta Revue
Wednesday 18th May – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Henry Wagons
Friday 13th May – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 14th May – Howler, Melbourne, VIC

Hootenanny feat. Elwood Myre
Sunday 15th May – Miss Peaches, Sydney, NSW

James Kenyon w/ The Grand Magoozi, Davey Craddock
Saturday 14th May – Melbourne Folk Club, Bakehouse Studios, Melbourne, VIC

Joe & Harmony and the Trippy Hippy Happening
Sunday 15th May – House Concert, Bundanoon, NSW

Joe Mungovan
Friday 13th May – Billyroy’s Blues Bar Bendigo, Bendigo, VIC
Saturday 14th May – Babushka Bar, Ballarat, VIC
Thursday 19th May – Beav’s Bar, Geelong, VIC
Friday 20th May – The Loft, Warnnambool, VIC

Julia Jacklin
Saturday 14th May – Plan B, Sydney, NSW

Kit & The Cub w/ Peta & The Wolf, Gloomchasers Duo
Thursday 19th May – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

Little May
Friday 13th May – Max Watts, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 14th May – Waratah Hotel, Hobart, TAS
Friday 20th May – Adelaide Uni Bar, Adelaide, SA

Mark Wilkinson
Friday 13th May – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 14th May – Gracelands, Central Coast, NSW
Sunday 15th May – The Music Lounge, Brookvale, NSW
Thursday 19th May – The Jade Monkey, Adelaide, SA
Friday 20th May – Downstairs at The Maj, Perth, WA

Melbourne Folk Club feat. James Kenyon, The Grand Magoozi, Davey Craddock
Saturday 14th May – Bakehouse Studios, Melbourne, VIC

Melody Pool
Friday 13th May – Shadow Electric, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 18th May – Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
Thursday 19th May – 5 Sawyers, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 20th May – Paddington Uniting Church, Sydney, NSW

Miriam Lieberman Trio
Friday 13th May – House Concert, Katoomba, NSW

Old Man Luedecke
Friday 13th May – Illawara Folk Club, Bulli, NSW
Saturday 14th May – White Eagle Polish Club, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 15th May – Hotel Blue (Live at the Attic), Katoomba, NSW

Patrick James
Saturday 14th May – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney, NSW

Sahara Beck
Friday 13th May – Sooki Lounge, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 14th May – The Workers Club, Geelong, VIC
Thursday 19th May – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 20th May – RAD, Wollongong, NSW

The Beards
Friday 13th May – Magnum’s, Airlie Beach, QLD
Saturday 14th May – Dalrymple Hotel, Townsville, QLD
Sunday 15th May – The Jack, Cairns, QLD

The Weeping Willows
Friday 20th May – Bendigo Folk Club, Bendigo, VIC

TinPan Orange
Saturday 14th May – Civic Hall, Mullumbimby, NSW
Sunday 15th May – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 20th May – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Green Eyes” – Colplay

Chaika Announce East Coast Tour

Chaika
Image Courtesy of Chaika

Sydney world music six piece Chaika are hard at work on their highly anticipated third album and have decided to head out on tour this month to show off some of the new material.

Chaika a well known for blending the traditional with unique original music and these shows are not to be missed. Check out the full list of shows below:

Thursday 12th May – Sutherland Acoustic, Gymea, NSW
Friday 13th May – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 14th May – Berrima Smalls, Berrima, NSW
Sunday 15th May – Jane’s, Wollongong, NSW
Thursday 19th May – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Friday 20th May – The Unorthodox Church of Groove, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 21st May – Wauchope Hall, Wauchope, NSW
Sunday 22nd May – The Rhythm Hut, Gosford, NSW

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 4th December

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– The forth artist announcement for the Port Fairy Folk Festival dropped including Aine Tyrell, Bobby Alu & The Palm Royal Royale, Bullhorn, Emma Donovan & The Putbacks, Greg Champion, Little Georgia, The Mastersons (USA), The Morrisons, Oh Pep!, The Paper Kites, Mick McHugh & The Gathering and The Grand Magoozi. Details here

Kate Miller-Heidke and The Beards have released a cracking Christmas single “I’m Growing A Beard Downstairs for Christmas”. Details here

– After almost immediately selling out her Sydney and Melbourne dates Gillian Welch has added two more shows to her February tour. Details here

– In a very special show next Friday Chaika will be performing with the 17 piece Pickpockets & Rascals Orchestra, supported by Lucy Wise Trio. Details here

The Waifs announced tour dates for January and February 2016. Details here

– Our favourite alt-country and Americana blog Post To Wire is holding a Christmas party in Sydney featuring Fanny Lumsden, Jason Walker, Cruisin’ Deuces, The Weeping Willows, Jep and Dep, James Thomson and De’May along with Post To Wire DJ sets. Details here

– We premiered the brand new single from John Flanagan, “High On High”. Details here

The National Folk Festival added a bunch more artists including The Jerry Cans (CAN), Spiro (UK), Gordie Tentrees (CAN), Keith Donnelly (UK), Joseph Tawadros, Perch Creek, Bush Gothic, Loren Kate, The Chordwainers, Co-cheòl, Catgut (above), Conchillia, Siobhan Owen and Candy Royalle and The Michael Wheatley Band. Details here

– The latest single from Pepa Knight is a cover of Tame Impala’s “Eventually”. Details here

– Melbourne singer-songwriter Ariela Jacobs has announced a new EP, Yesteryear. Details here

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Poke in The Eye Records Launch feat. Todd Sibbin, Tom West, O’ Little Sister

Todd Sibbin

Brand new Adelaide record label Poke in The Eye launch this week with an impressive lineup of their artists – Todd Sibbin, Tom West and O’ Little Sister

Thursday 10th December – The Metro, Adelaide, SA

Gigs Next Week

A Day on the Green feat. Paul Kelly Presents: The Merri Soul Sessions, Lucinda Williams, Kasey Chambers and Marlon Williams
Sunday 6th December – Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley, VIC

Archie Roach
Friday 4th December – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 5th December – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 6th December – The Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide, SA
Friday 11th December – Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, WA

Chaika with Pickpockets & Rascals Orchestra and Lucy Wise Trio
Friday 11th December – The Basement, Sydney, NSW

Dana Hassall
Sunday 6th December – Longyard Hotel, Tamworth, NSW

Darren Hanlon
Saturday 5th December – Northcote Uniting Church Hall, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 6th December – Monte’s, Alice Springs, NT
Thursday 10th December – Mojos, Fremantle, WA
Friday 11th December – TBD, Nannup, WA

Davidson Brothers
Sunday 6th December – The Fifth Province, St Kilda, VIC

Ed Sheeran w/ Passenger, Foy Vance, Rudimental
Saturday 5th December – AAMI Park, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 9th December – Allianz Stadium, Sydney, NSW

Fairgrounds Festival
Saturday 5th December – Berry, NSW

Father John Misty
Saturday 5th December – Fairgrounds Festival, Berry, NSW
Sunday 6th December – Max Watt’s, Brisbane, QLD
Tuesday 8th December – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 9th December – The Forum, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 10th December – The Forum, Melbourne, VIC

Festival of Small Halls feat. Irish Mythen, Starboard Cannons
Friday 4th December – Springbrook Community Hall, Springbrook QLD
Saturday 5th December – Mt Nebo Hall, Mt Nebo, QLD
Sunday 6th December – Eudlo Public Hall, Eudlo, QLD
Friday 11th December – CCSA Hall, Caloundra, QLD

Finders Keepers Market feat. Ollie Brown, Katie Brianna, Luke Escombe, Catgut, Maia Jelavic, Taryn La Fauci, Lisa Caruso, The Maple Trail
Friday 11th to Sunday 13th December – Technology Park, Sydney, NSW

Folkswagon feat. Callum Wylie, The Campervan Dancers, Maia Jelavic
Wednesday 9th December – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Home Sweet Home feat. Caitlin Harnett and Andrew Phelan
Friday 11th December – House Concert, Sydney, NSW

Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes
Friday 4th December – The Pub, Tamworth, NSW
Sunday 6th December – Mudgee Brewing, Mudgee, NSW
Thursday 10th December – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW

Lucinda Williams
Sunday 6th December – A Day on the Green, Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley, VIC
Monday 7th December – Forum Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Lucy Wise and Justin Bernasconi
Sunday 6th December – Secret Show, Melbourne, VIC

Marlon Williams and The Yarra Benders w/ Ben Salter
Friday 4th December – The Railway, Darwin, NT
Sunday 6th December – A Day on the Green, Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley, VIC
Thursday 10th December – Workers Club, Geelong, VIC
Friday 11th December – The Substation, Newport, VIC

Oh Willy Dear
Sunday 6th December – The Union, Sydney, NSW

Poke in The Eye Records Launch feat. Todd Sibbin, Tom West, O’ Little Sister
Thursday 10th December – The Metro, Adelaide, SA

Rebecca Bastoli and Maia Jelavic
Thursday 10th December – House Concert, Sydney, NSW

Riogh
Sunday 6th December – Figgy Bowlo, Figtree, NSW

Sian Evans
Wednesday 9th December – The Pineapple Lounge, Brisbane, QLD

The Crooked Fiddle Band
Tuesday 8th December – The Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW

The Morrisons
Saturday 5th December – Hotel Gearins, Katoomba, NSW
Friday 11th December – The Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle, NSW

The Plough
Sunday 6th December – Coach and Horses, Sydney, NSW

The Shack feat. New York Public Library, Niq Reefman, Margie Salem
Saturday 5th December – Tramshed Community Arts Centre, Narrabeen, NSW

Tim Guy
Saturday 5th December – The Bearded Tit, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 6th December – The Annandale Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Boolavogue/Mrs McLeod’s Reel” – Aly Bain and Davy Spillane

I thought I’d celebrate the week of St Andrew’s Day with the legendary Scots fiddler Aly Bain playing the classic “Mrs McLeod’s Reel” (with some Irish influence from Davy Spillane on pipes).

Chaika Announce Special Show With 17 Piece Orchestra

Chaika
Image Courtesy of Chaika

World-Balkan-folk band Chaika have something very special in store for Sydney this month.

The six piece will be taking to the stage at iconic venue The Basement on Friday 11th December with the 17 piece Pickpockets & Rascals Orchestra. That’s right, a 17 piece orchestra!

This show is the culmination of Chaika’s collaboration with Michael O’Donnell (The Squeezebox Trio) who has arranged the parts for the Pickpockets & Rascals Orchestra.

And to top it all off Chaika will be joined on the night by the Lucy Wise Trio, fresh from their recent Sydney EP launch, who will also be performing some tracks with the orchestra.

All sounds amazing right? If you’re looking for more information check out the official Facebook event here.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 3rd April

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Canadian fiddler April Verch released her new video “Belle Election”. Details here

Passenger announced his new album Whispers II. Details here

Bellowhead released their new video “Roll Alabama”. Details here

– US duo The Milk Carton Kids announced details of their new album Monterey. Details here

Dan Managan + Blacksmith released their new video “Mouthpiece”. Details here

– Melbourne singers Fraser A Gorman and Leah Senior released a version of “Blues Run The Game”. Details here

– Sydney artists Direwolf and Willowy announced a co-headline east coast tour. Details here

– The inaugural Bello Winter Music Festival announced its lineup including The Milk Carton Kids, Ash Grunwald, TinPan Orange, Marlon Williams, The Wilson Pickers, Lucie Thorne & Hamish Stuart, Perch Creek, Jack Carty, Karl S Williams, The Mid North, The Button Collective, Starboard Cannons, Sara Tindley, Oh Pep! and many many more. Details here

Vance Joy released his new video “Georgia”. Details here

– UK based chamber-folk band The Leisure Society released their new single “The Fine Art of Hanging On”. Details here

– Adelaide’s Thom Lion & The Tamers have released their new single “Emily”. Details here

Interviews

“We’ve never been on the [National Folk Festival] program before but we have actually played a couple of times as part of the MoFo concert or The Flute & Fiddle asked us to play. We always love doing a blackboard because we have members that are part of other acts, different conglomerates of different things so we’re usually down there. Apart from last year where we didn’t actually play at all as Chaika I think for the last four or five years we’ve had a play around somewhere on The National. But yeah, this is our first time on the program” – Laura Bishop from Chaika chat to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“We’re looking forward to The National, really excited. This will be my second year – I had a massive ball last year, it’s one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. We’re looking forward to lots of music, lots of late nights at the session bar and lots of tunes from all our friends from Australia and beyond” – Mairead Hurley from Restless Legs chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“We had this discussion with the band just before we started rehearsing for The National and we decided because we haven’t played Canberra that much, and a lot of people wouldn’t recognise those songs, we’re playing mainly from An Ear To The Earth. I have a couple of new songs which we ended up not having the time to rehearse and just wanted to stick with the songs that were strong”Mark Moldre chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“The folk scene here is amazing. Where we were before in Lismore, if we played three or four gigs a week we’d flood the market in one week and have to wait six months to play any more gigs. Here we can do it as much as we want. And the bands around Sydney in the folk scene have been really supportive, giving us gigs or contacts. It’s amazing”The Button Collective chat to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“We find when we’re put in the folk festival circuit you get lots of people coming up and saying “this is great that they’ve put some comedy in”. It gives people an opportunity to relax or laugh a little bit. Some folk music can be quite heavy, some of the topics that they talk about can be quite dark or heavy. I totally think it lends itself to comedy. But there’s not a lot of folk comedy people out there so it’s good to get a chance to share what we do”Sparrow-Folk chat to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“When we were younger and we were being called “bearers of the tradition” there was a weight with that. We felt like we couldn’t touch the traditional song much. With this album we’ve really rearranged the songs to suit our purposes” – Ruth Hazleton from Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“It’s a bit of a different thing I did with this album [The Wayside Ballads Vol 1]. The last two albums, I did both of those in the US and they were very acoustic based. I had these songs lying around and a good friend of ours Shannon Bourne, who’s a great guitar player, said “let’s try and do an electric album. The story’s still at the centre of the songs but it’s just a different approach to it. We picked these ten songs and went in and did them – I think it took us about a day and a half to record them. It was all done pretty much live. And I had some great players in there – we hadn’t rehearsed or anything like that so it was all pretty organic in that regards. I’m really happy with the way it turned out”Bill Jackson chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

Releases This Week

Eddie Boyd
A Lover and a FoolEddie Boyd and The Phatapillars
iTunes

Emily Barker
The Toerag SessionsEmily Barker
iTunes

Windfall
WindfallJoe Pug
iTunes

Sufjan
Carrie & LowellSufjan Stevens
iTunes

Mountain Goats
Beat The ChampThe Mountain Goats
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

National Folk Festival

National Folk Festival

How could we not choose The National Folk Festival as this weeks gig pick. It’s going to be a cracker of a festival – will we see you there?

Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – Canberra, ACT

Gigs Next Week

Alabama Shakes
Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW

All Our Exes Live In Texas
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Thursday 9th April – Ellington Jazz Club, Perth, WA
Friday 10th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Perth, WA

Bluesfest
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – Byron Bay, NSW

Brad Butcher
Thursday 9th April – 12 Bar Blue, Cairns, QLD

Darren Hanlon
Friday 3rd April – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Thursday 9th April – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba, QLD
Friday 10th April – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD

David Gray
Sunday 5th April – Palais, Melbourne, VIC

Eddie Boyd and The Phatapillars
Sunday 5th April – The Juke Joint Stage, Bluesfest Byron Bay, NSW
Monday 6th April – The Juke Joint Stage, Bluesfest Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 9th April – Lefties Old Time Music Hall, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 10th April – The Currumbin Creek Tavern, Currumbin, QLD

Elwood Myre
Wednesday 8th April – The Pier, Port Macquarie, NSW
Thursday 9th April – No. 5 Church St, Bellingen, NSW
Friday 10th April – Cardigan Bar, Brisbane, QLD

Fairbridge Festival
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th April – Pinjarra, WA

Festival of Small Halls feat. Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, Siskin River
Friday 3rd to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Frank Turner
Sunday 5th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Monday 6th April – Amplifier, Perth, WA
Wednesday 8th April – Unibar, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 9th April – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 10th April – The Basement, Canberra, ACT

Heartstring Quartet
Wednesday 1st to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 5th April – Narooma, NSW

Jake Shimabukuro
Sunday 5th April – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW
Monday 6th April – Lizottes, Central Coast, NSW
Wednesday 8th April – Lizottes, Dee Why, NSW
Thursday 9th April – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Friday 10th April – The Gov, Adelaide, SA

John Flanagan
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, WA

Jordie Lane
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Fairbridge, WA

Justin Townes Earle w/ Sam Outlaw
Friday 3rd April – Boogie, Tallarook, VIC
Sunday 5th April – Byron Bay Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 9th April – Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Friday 10th April – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

Kaurna Cronin
Friday 3rd April – Blenheim Music Festival, Blenheim, SA
Sunday 5th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Kim Richey
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Lucie Thorne
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Lucy Wise Trio
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – The National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th April – Fairbridge Festival, WA

Man From Snowy River Bush Festival
Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th April – Corryong, VIC

Marlon Williams
Thursday 9th April – Gasometer, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 10th April – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

National Folk Festival
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – Canberra, ACT

Nuala Kennedy
Friday 3rd to Monday 8th April – The National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Friday 14th April – Fairbridge Music Festival, Fairbridge, WA

Pokey LaFarge
Wednesday 8th April – Caravan Music Club, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 9th April – The Corner, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 10th April – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Saturday 4th to Sunday 5th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Tuesday 7th April – The Palais, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 9th April – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Roland Kay-Smith
Thursday 9th April – The Grand Junction, Maitland, NSW
Friday 10th April – Django Bar, Marrickville, NSW

Sam Buckingham
Sunday 5th April – Pyramids Road Wines, Ballandean, QLD
Thursday 9th April – The Rhythm Hut, Gosford, NSW

Skyscraper Stan And The Commission Flats
Saturday 4th April – Grace Emily, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 5th April – The Loft, Warrnambool, VIC

Steve Smyth
Saturday 4th to Monday 6th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 10th April – Four 5 Nine, Perth, WA

The String Contingent
Saturday 4th April – Flute & Fiddle, National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Friday 10th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Fairbridge, WA

Timberwolf
Friday 3rd April – Blenheim Camping and Music Festival, SA

Winterbourne
Saturday 4th to Monday 6th April – Fremantle Street Arts Festival, Fremantle, WA
Thursday 9th April – The Milk Factory, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 10 April – The Treehouse, Byron Bay, NSW

Xavier Rudd & The United Nations
Sunday 5th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Jim Shank” – April Verch

National Folk Festival Interview: Chaika

Chaika
Image Courtesy of Chaika

Sydney world/balkan/bolk/jazz/classical group Chaika will be heading to The National Folk Festival for the first (official) time this year so we thought it was about time to sit one of the band down – multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Laura Bishop – to chat about the band and the big plans they have for 2015.

Gareth Hugh Evans: Chaika is playing at The National this year. You’ve played their before right?

Laura Bishop: We’ve never been on the program before but we have actually played a couple of times as part of the MoFo concert or The Flute & Fiddle asked us to play. We always love doing a blackboard because we have members that are part of other acts, different conglomerates of different things so we’re usually down there. Apart from last year where we didn’t actually play at all as Chaika I think for the last four or five years we’ve had a play around somewhere on The National. But yeah, this is our first time on the program.

GHE: I had no idea. I just assumed you’d played on the program before. I’ve seen you there a number of times.

LB: I know, most people don’t. They think we’re actually part of the program.

GHE: I guess it’s because The National is kind of like your “home” festival.

LB: Well it certainly feels like that to me.

GHE: I guess that goes to show the power of The National Folk Festival – you don’t have to be on the program to feel like you belong there. I just assumed you’d been playing there for years.

LB: Myself and my sister [Susie Bishop] who are one third of Chaika, we’ve been going to The National since we were very very small. Possibly I’ve been going there since before I was born – I haven’t checked out the timing of it. Our parents are born and bred folkies and for many years we were part of our family’s dance band called Crazy for Contra. We used to live in The States and out parents brought back this form of dancing called contra dancing and we just played at The National every year as part of that. And then we started making our own bands and fell into playing there as part of other acts.

GHE: It’s great that there are those venues at The National who do the blackboards or put on non-programmed artists. It must be really nice to feel you can turn up to the festival with the band and still get gigs even if you aren’t on the official program.

LB: Yeah, it’s been great over the years. Before Chaika became Chaika we were a four piece girl group which was based more on Yiddish Klezmer music. It got one of its first gigs at a blackboard at The National. It’s kick started a lot.

GHE: And the other great thing about the festival is it’s not just about singer-songwriters and anglo-celtic folk like a lot of folk festivals are. You guys still find an audience there even though you’re outside of the norm. For some people the “world” music program, for want of a better term, is why they go to The National.

LB: Not just at this festival but at lots of festivals we find audiences who love what we do which is a real mix of genres and influences.

GHE: And it feels like the music you guys are influenced by – klezmer, Balkan, gypsy, Eastern European – is being surfaced more at folk festivals at the moment. It seems to be everywhere.

LB: Yeah, I love it! It’s great! It’s nice to have such a diversity. I feel like we’ve come a long way as a band – our second album is building a lot on the first and we’ve got a third in the works which I think is going to be pretty stellar.

GHE: Does that mean we’ll be treated to some of that new music at The National?

LB: Not yet! Unless you haven’t seen us for a year it’s all going to be highly polished first and second album stuff. In May we’re lucky enough to be the Bundanon artist in residence. I don’t know if you know but the artist Arthur Boyd left his property to the Bundanon Trust for Australian artists just to go and be artistic. It’s a beautiful place – it’s got a river and lots of hills and wildlife. We’re spending a week about a month after the festival working on new material. But sadly no new music in time for the festival

GHE: Highly polished music from your first two albums sounds very exciting regardless. You guys haven’t played much at the beginning of this year, have you?

LB: No. The reason why is that half of the band has been in Argentina with a tango quintet, who were actually at the festival last year. They were the Infinite Elvis winners, Tángalo. My sister was wearing false eyelashes, a crazy wig and a stupid dress. All sorts of hijinks on stage. The bass player [Johan Delin] and the accordionist [Emily-Rose Sarkova] from Chaika were up there as well along with two other wonderful musicians. So yeah, they’ve been in Argentina for a couple of months doing a Jump Start grant, getting some study into that music. So they’ve come back with a whole lot of musical ideas – it’s going to be fun.

GHE: Do you think that will feed into Chaika?

LB: I think it will, yeah. I really do.

GHE: So the guys who are in Tángalo are back in the country now?

LB: Yeah, they got back only a month ago. We got together the day before the Cobargo Folk Festival, did a couple of hours rehearsal and went straight there. They played with a duo that they brought back from Argentina and we played together in some really great concerts for some really wonderful audiences. Apart from a gig that we did in September last year we haven’t played together before then. But it’s amazing to see how quickly we get back on the bike. Like there’s this crazy piece that we’ve written called “Vreme Senvič” which means “time sandwich” in Macedonian – and it is with lots of time signatures sandwiched together. And I was just pissing myself laughing looking at Emily-Rose’s face, the accordionist who takes the melody. Her face didn’t look like it knew what her arms were doing but her arms were doing it just perfectly.

GHE: It’s all muscle memory.

LB: Absolutely. It sounded good, it’s always fun to play with those guys.

GHE: With the band back together and one festival performance under your belt and The National coming up does it feel like you guys are now going to have a bit more of a focus on Chaika in the coming months? Especially as you’re going to the Bundanon residency.

LB: Absolutely. Always the difficulty with it, and with any musical project, is how much to balance against other projects that are happening. We’ll definitely be focusing on new material through May and June. In July I’m going on tour with a Bulgarian choir to Europe so that time with be dead time for me. I’m sure there’s gong to be stuff happening for Tángalo and the other guys. Laura Altman, our clarinettist runs improvised music festivals. Our percussionist Rendra [Freestone] is also in another act at The National called The Rhythm Hunters, which I highly recommend – if you’ve got time to see them they are awesome. Amidst all of that we still really love Chaika and whenever we get the time to do it we’ll be focusing on making new music.

GHE: So anything else you want to talk about before I let you get back to your day?

LB: Actually yes! We’ve got a songbook full of transcriptions that I made of the songs that we’ve written and traditional tunes that we’ve arranged with artwork that Susie and Emily-Rose have drawn in it – which is a pretty cool thing. They’re kind of going like hotcakes so if anybody wants to learn how to play our stuff, that’s where to find it.

GHE: People will have to pick that up early at The National I think instead of waiting until the last minute like I always do. Well thank you so much for that Laura – really appreciate your time!

LB: No worries. Thanks Gareth!

The Joy of Small Folk Festivals

Top Half
Photo of The Top Half Folk Festival by Barry Skipsey

By Guest Contributor Peter Logue*, repurposed political journalist, festival tragic and accordion pest

It’s probably safe to assume that almost all readers of Timber and Steel have been to a music festival: most will have been to a large folk festival e.g. Woodford, Port Fairy, Blue Mountains or The National in Canberra.

Here’s a question, though: how many have been to a small regional folk festival? By small, I’m talking about the likes of Fleurieu in South Australia, Cygnet in Tasmania, Maldon in Victoria, Gulgong in NSW, The Top Half in NT (above), or the one I’m now involved in after eight years on the Board of the National – Cobargo, in the glorious Bega Valley on the NSW Far South Coast.

(There are many, many more small festivals, most of which are listed here)

I ask this because I believe it is important for the folk movement that people younger than me – which is lot of people – get involved in the smaller festivals, either through volunteering, applying to perform, just turning up and doing a blackboard, or paying the usually small amount to attend.

Why? Well, firstly they are just great fun, full of surprises and creators of those special memories that stay with you until you’re dribbling.

Take as an example the Cobargo Festival, in its 20th year this year.

For the pittance you pay, the program is just outstanding, musically diverse, challenging at times, international in flavour and inclusive.

That last word “inclusive” is the key to the success of the smaller festivals. Unlike some of the larger events (I exclude The National because of (a) the session bar and (b) its focus on learning and participation), smaller festivals are family, along with crazy uncles who play the banjo, daft grannies who play the one row button box, and the multi-talented kids who seem to be, and are, much better musicians than were around when I was their age.

Artists are approachable, usually do more than they’re asked to do, the sessions are diverse and sometimes really hot, and most people retire late at night to playing around a campfire, or sometimes a LED lamp.

At Cobargo this year you can meet the cream of Irish musicians, like Arty McGlynn and his wife Nollaig Casey, part of the Heart Strings Quartet. Arty started off playing covers in Showbands and spent many years as Van Morrison’s lead guitarist. (He must be a very patient man).

He wrote the book on guitar accompaniment for Irish music, though Paul Brady reckons – half jokingly – he taught has old friend Arty everything he knows.

Nollaig is an outstanding fiddler, her sister Maire NiChathasaigh is a world class harpist, and if you haven’t seen Chris Newman flat pick a guitar, you’re missing one of life’s big treats.
Cobargo will be their first festival in Eastern Australia, but you will never get as close to them as you will at this festival.

This excellent clip recorded by ABC Radio National on their short visit last year gives you a taste:

That’s the thing about small festivals; international and top level local performers love them, not because they pay well (they don’t) but because it gives them a chance to warm up before the big gigs, to perfect new material, and to see parts of the country they wouldn’t normally see.

Small festivals are also places for new or relatively inexperienced soloists or bands to get noticed. There is a formal and an informal network on the folk scene of promoters, staff and organisers from the big and small festivals and “wise heads” who spread reputations by word of mouth.

That’s how bands like The Waifs, Riogh and The Lurkers and countless others got noticed and built a name.

All of the many small festivals I go to each year have workshops, sessions, spoken word, blackboards and dancing as well as concerts.

Most have good food on site and a bar for relaxing in or singing or playing tunes.

All of them have major local involvement. In the case of Cobargo – which I’ve attended for 14 years – the community engagement is extensive.

Small festivals also build the folk community. Those locals who volunteer without any real knowledge of the folk scene, get the bug. They like that a few thousand people can get together for two or three days, have a rip roaring time, get maggotted, laugh sing and dance, and not a bad word is spoken or a punch thrown.

And they suddenly hear the quality of the music that they would never hear on their local commercial radio station or even on the ABC.

Small festivals are the modern day meeting places for our diverse folk tribes. They are also places of great learning. Ask anyone involved in the running and programming of any of our large folk festivals where they learned their skills and you’ll find a vast majority started with the small festivals.

If you haven’t been, try Cobargo from February 27th to March 1st. www.cobargofolkfestival.com

As well as the Heart Strings Quartet, you can see class acts like Archie Roach, Shellie Morris, Steeleye Span’s Ken Nichol, Chaika, Daniel Champagne, Ami Williamson, Nick Charles, Fiona Boyes and dozens more, all in a geographical setting that will take your breath away. And you can join or meet a very special family.

*Peter Logue is a member of the Cobargo Folk Festival organising committee

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2014

Turntable

You’ve probably read what we think are the top albums of 2014 and now it’s time to turn to Timber and Steel’s favourite artists and see what they pick as their number one.

We reached out to musicians across the folk spectrum, from local singer-songwriters to internationally acclaimed folk stars and the response, as always, has been amazing. So we’ll shut up and we’ll let the artists do the talking with Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2014:

NightwalkWoody Pitney
Matt WaltersNightwalk
I was a small part of Matt’s crowd-funding campaign to get this album off the ground and it was definitely money well spent! Matt has a really defined, folky sound, which evokes different emotions throughout the album. His understated vocals with his powerful lyrics make a great recipe for an excellent album. My personal highlights are Track 2, “Melbourne Goodbye’ and Track 8, ‘Build A Place’. I highly recommend you give it a listen!

SongsRoland K Smith
John FullbrightSongs
On his second album the best new songwriter in the world pairs lyricism with musicality and musicianship. Seriously, no one is making records as good as this young man from Oklahoma. “High Road”, the album’s penultimate track, still sends shivers down my spine after the hundredth listen. Fingers crossed we see him in Australia soon.

ZabaSteven Barnard (Arbori)
Glass AnimalsZaba
It was a toss up between this record and Jamie Cullum’s Momentum. Both are full are brilliant arranging and some great hip hop and R&B influences. Glass Animals however have created soundscapes, grooves, crochendo, and a singer who’s channelling a rapper, in what I can only describe as indie swag. I have not stopped listening to this record all year

Upside Down MountainTodd Sibbin (Todd Sibbin and the Acadian Driftwood)
Conor OberstUpside Down Mountain
Its been three years since Bright Eyes’ 2011 heavily electronic influenced The Peoples Key and many were expecting a blow back to the early Oberst/Bright Eyes days with the announcement of a solo record. While it certainly is more laid back, the collaboration with producer Jonathan Wilson brings an entirely new aesthetic to anything we’ve heard from an Oberst incarnation (not to mention, in terms of subject matter, Oberst got married three years ago so most of the lyrical content is about the “experiences” of married life, instead of the “experiences” of single life). Defiantly modern sounding (largely due to a decent amount of electronic PAD work), Wilson and Oberst have managed to retain the stripped back and intimate nature of the songs despite the fact that the tracks are still fairly overdubbed (with a decent amount of electric guitar too!). It’s an extremely ambient record which, after speaking to others, can help take some of the “bluntness” out of Oberst’s delivery, certainly making it one of Oberst’s more “friendlier” releases. I love it.

New MoonLiz Frencham
Sarah HumphreysNew Moon
It may seem biased because I played on this album but the things I love about it are nothing to do with my playing. Sarah’s songwriting is exquisite and her voice sublime. It also has the energy and dynamics of a live album.

The Spoon CollectorsLiam Gale (Liam Gale & the Ponytails)
The Spoon CollectorsA Dime for Charon
Part mellow-drama-rock-opera, part nineteen-seventies-swamp-explosion, but mostly a psychedelic journey through The Spoon Collector’s fabricated landscape beyond space and time. I was present for a lot of the recording of this album, out in central NSW with Sunfield Records, and let me tell you: The Spoon Collectors know how to party. The album features guest vocals by the boys from the Dusty Yellow Sunbeams and characterised artwork by the producer’s brother.

Angel OlsenLauren Moore (Pepperjack)
Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness
There’s something consistently cool and brooding about this February release. It’s the fuzzy guitar tones; it’s her angry-drunk to sleepy-drunk vocals. It’s the gripping nature of the tom-heavy drumming in “Forgiven/Forgotten”. You can put this in your ears, down a glass of red and kick in a car window if you want to. I love it when folk meets rock in the most seamless way. And that’s what this album is – an ideal balance of gloom and glow – as well-rounded as a human personality; bleak at times, but honest and changing. As she sings in “High & Wild”, “I’m neither innocent nor wise when you look me in the eyes.” Perfect for long walks in the dark and putting out cigarettes in the carpet.

Salad DaysJay Penaflor
Mac DemarcoSalad Days
I decided to listen to this album before dozing off to sleep. Didn’t sleep of course. My ears were completely drawn to the ‘jizz jazz’ of Mac Demarco and ended up listening to the very end of the album. Upon listening to this album, I found myself head-bopping to nearly all his songs. He has a way of messing with your head with his romantic-like melodies and bizzare yet addictive twangy guitar riffs. For some reason I feel like this album should be listened in a cafe in Paris or something. My hat’s off to Mac Demarco. Listening to him inspired me to write ‘Fridge Buzz (Choirs Of Suburbia)’ on my Incentive EP, though I doubt it’s got nothing on any of his tunes.

BeckOisin Leech (The Lost Brothers)
BeckMorning Phase
On this album Beck appears in the desert wearing silver robes and speaking in tongues of crystal and cold fire. The songs are immaculate. The precision and emotion in this album makes it so special. This album was my close companion as we toured the world. I love it dearly.

The CoralMark McCausland (The Lost Brothers)
The CoralThe Curse of Love
This album was recorded eight years ago and kept hidden in a treasure chest until the flavours had stewed. It’s a unique album of frightening beauty and its songs hold many secrets. I’d been waiting to hear these songs for centuries without realising it. The album immediately unlocked a labyrinth of mysteries to me from the first note to the last. It’s boss.

The No-Hit WonderFrank Turner
Cory BrananThe No-Hit Wonder
Everything Cory does is pretty much flawless – it’s a real wonder to me that he’s not better known than he is. Most every songwriter I know loves his stuff and feels slightly daunted by it, he’s so much better than the rest of us! This new album is no exception. It’s worth the price for the opening lines of “The Only You” alone. A classic record in the making.

Jack WhiteClaude Hay
Jack WhiteLazaretto
This one’s easy for me, Jack White’s Lazaretto. It’s full of wicked riffs, catchy melodies, analog raw production, brilliant songs, all the ingredients for a perfect album. I’ve flogged it to death.

Otis GibbsBill Jackson
Otis GibbsSouvenirs of a Misspent Youth
As well as being a native of Indiana, Otis Gibbs is also noted as “a storyteller’s storyteller” who symbolizes the true essence of the independent spirit thriving in the East Nashville neighbourhood he now calls home. Fiercely independent, Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth produced by Thomm Jutz is Gibb’s seventh album since 2002. Folk is Otis’s style but country is his flavour and many are predicting that this will be his breakout album. Not that it matters as Otis writes to inspire. If you like Guy, Townes, Steve etc then get on board. Every song on this album is a highlight, so as they say “lean in and listen” and you won’t be able to stop. My favourite track: “Ghosts of Our Father’s”. Otis Gibbs has also recorded nearly 100 podcasts under the title Thanks for Giving a Damn that consists of conversational interviews with those who write, sing and play for a living – free on iTunes.

Lily OSam Lee
Sam AmidonLily-O
An album of absolutely sensitive genius, maturity in craft and skill in story telling that is heads beyond most other albums about

Hey RosettaWinterbourne
Hey RosettaSecond Sight
Such a good album! Tim Baker’s vocals are addictive and they’re backed up by clever and moving lyrics. Each song is thick with real instruments, which move together in a way that still feels fresh after the tenth listen. It just makes you feel good.

Damien RiceRyan Oliver (Olivers Army)
Damien RiceMy Favourite Faded Fantasy
It’s classic Damien Rice melancholy but with a new focussed indie-pop sensibility. The songs are well crafted, passionate, raw and honest and you feel like you’re sitting right in his Icelandic borrowed home-studio. The production is beautiful. I love the lengthy songs that take you on a wild journey and the lush orchestral arrangements that almost drown out everything else, in a very good way.

Caitlin ParkHeyMun
Caitlin ParkThe Sleeper
Caitlin Park is a real gem and her latest album is a reflection of great ambition and perspective. A body of work exploring intricate layers of acoustic blended with touches of electronic (“Wake Up In A Whirr”) and thought provoking verses (“Hunt For The Young”) all in all results in a real treat for the senses indeed. Paired with sound engineer extraordinaire Sam Brumby, The Sleeper is a fusion of great ideas executed beautifully. Reminding us of how lucky we are to have inspiring talents like this in Australia.

AtlasCaitlin Harnett
Real EstateAtlas
Bittersweet lyrics, dreamy vocals and guitars and just the right amount of ache to make you fall in love with this record over and over again.

Mikhael PaskalevLittle May
Mikhail PaskelevWhat’s Life Without Losers
This album has been the prominent soundtrack to my year. It is perfection and has really inspired me to think outside the box creatively. Such a genuine guy who deserves all the success that will continue to come his way.

Nikki LaneBex Chilcott (Ruby Boots)
Nikki LaneAll Or Nothin’
It takes about five minutes of watching a Nikki Lane show to become a totally dedicated fan girl and although album was a slow burner for me, its infectious nature took hold this year. She’s got to be one of the nicest badasses both in person and in song. The songs are just good, strong songs that are both honest and lyrically pretty clever, classy hooks and a really good dose of steel and slide which always pulls at my heartstrings. Totally won my heart over this year!

Angus and Julia StoneChris Panousakis (Timberwolf)
Angus & Julia StoneAngus & Julia Stone
For me it would be Angus & Julia Stone’s self titled album no doubt. It’s such a punchy, refreshing version of their songwriting, and there’s an intangible sense of unity between the two that you can really feel listening to it as well as seeing them play live. It almost feels a lot more vulnerable or honest, either way it’s pretty special.

Apex TwinThe Ellis Collective
Aphex TwinSyro
After 13 years, Richard James’ Syro is a tuneful, buoyant and humble return, playfully heralded by a green blimp hanging over London and announced from the depths of the deep web. Without any sonic uppercuts, the likes of Windowlicker or Come To Daddy, Syro dwells in analog manipulations more common to his Analord series (released as AFX) and serves as the frontrunner of what more may come now that the 13 years without Aphex Twin has passed. How bloody exciting!

Daniel ChampagneBearded Gypsy Band
Daniel ChampagneThe Gypsy Moon – Volume II
Dan is one of the most hard working Australian musicians I know of. He is a prolific songwriter and musician of great calibre. The songs on this album are full of depth, they talk of life on the road, of friends and lovers lost and the constant moving on that comes with the touring life. Beautiful melodies accompanied by some of the finest guitar playing you’ll hear makes this album so great.

Against MeBilly The Kid
Against Me!Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Why? It’s the most real, rocking, sincere, vulnerable, brave and catchy thing to get stuck in my ear holes in awhile, with a lyrical perspective that is engrossing, inclusive and yet daringly different. Also, I love these people.

WastelandsMatthew Black (The Bottlers)
Protector 101Wastelands
Tuning into the crackling airwaves of cinematic score saturated post-apocalyptica never felt so awesomely ominous. Maine synthwave artist Protector 101 has paid homage to future shock, nuclear holocaust ravaged movies with an envisioned 17 track soundtrack entitled, Wastelands. Protector 101 takes the listener on a rugged journey through ravaged love, gang warfare and bleak radiated Australian desertscapes circa 2099 with a musically based visual dexterity I could only liken to John Carpenter or Vangelis.

EnmaarCatgut
TinariwenEmmaar
We’ve listened to countless favourite albums on long car trips, lots of familiar country and old-time and bluegrass. But Malian Tuareg band Tinariwen really struck us: rolling rhythmic grooves, bluesy electric guitars and beautiful low male vocals. There’s a hypnotic drive to this desert music that draws you in, we love it!

FanfarloMike McCarthy
FanfarloLet’s Go Extinct
Fanfarlo’s third LP Let’s Go Extinct quickly danced its way to the top of my record collection this year. Fanfarlo have been my go to fun music choice for a few years now and although there are a few more psychedelic moments on the album Let’s Go Extinct delivers with solid songwriting, vocal delivery and production.

Valerie JuneSam Buckingham
Valerie JunePushin’ Against A Stone
It’s bluegrass, it’s folk, it’s rockin’ it’s heartbreaking, it’s uplifting and her voice carries each track in a vulnerable, sexy, “I take no shit, but I just wanna be loved” kind of way. I kind of want to marry her

Caitlin HarnettShane Nicholson
Caitlin HarnettThe River Runs North
My favourite album of 2014 is The River Runs North by Caitlin Harnett. A collection of great songs, played with heart and a minimum of fuss. As an album, it’s incredible – as a DEBUT album, it’s astonishing.

Jack WhiteEddie Boyd (Eddie Boyd and the Phatapillars)
Jack WhiteLazaretto
Jack White! What a man! His latest offering, Lazaretto is a dirty, raucous blues/rock/country mash-up which has been playing on repeat in my kitchen for months. Crunchy guitar riffs, wailing fiddles, ghoulish backing vocals, and a piano which has surely been bashed to pieces by now!
Easily my favourite album of 2014.

Lera LynnJohn Flanagan
Lera LynnThe Avenues
I came home from Nashville in October with a stack of incredible records but this is the one that I’ve listened to non-stop since getting back. I’d call it Americana-Folk-Pop, similar to Lisa Mitchell but more Americana and less pop. The melodies are catchy, but there are offbeat moments (which is what I love about it) and the production is slick and atmospheric tying it all together. Her voice is smooth and irresistible and yes, I might have a slight crush on her.

Tim WheelerTony Wright (VerseChorusVerse)
Tim WheelerLost Domain
The Ash frontman released his debut solo record this year and surprised everyone in that it didn’t sound remotely like the mother-band and it wasn’t (as a lot of solo debuts tend to be) an acoustic record! These songs deal with the loss of Tim’s dad, George, how it affected him and his family and how it’s still affecting them. It’s a work of tremendous emotion and beauty. I lost my mother at a young age and hearing some of the lyrics in this wonderful album tugged at my heart strings in every manner possible. From the instrumental, bluesy movers to the frankly stunning single, “Vigil”, this deeply personal album has an extremely universal appeal. A truly beautiful and happy/sad achievement on a topic we all, sooner or later, can relate to.

Emily BarkerEmily Barker (Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo, Vena Portae)
Lucinda WilliamsDown Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
I love this new record of Lucinda’s. I’ve been a fan for many years now and this is stand out. The songwriting is exceptional and very much complimented by a great production. Her voice is weathered, broken and beautiful as ever. Very classy and visceral.

The War On DrugsAidan Roberts (The Maple Trail)
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
Unlike so many rock bands who meddle with reinventing a retro sound, The War on Drugs possess several assets that make them soar above the rest – particularly with this dark, spectacularly beautiful record. The songs live in a world almost entirely ruled by common-time 80’s new-wave rock rhythms, the landscape populated by widescreen analog synth textures and twisting, chorusy guitars. And above it all, the beauty of Adam Granduciel’s weary and insistent tenor tugs you through these resigned and ponderous story songs like a troubled, trusted brother. Amazing.

Hot DreamsLacey Cole (Lacey Cole & the Lazy Colts)
Timber TimbreHot Dreams
Nostalgically cinematic, hauntingly beautiful and profoundly strange Timber Timbre’s 2014 album Hot Dreams sounds like 50s L.A noir meets Elvis-era Vegas complete with the picturesque road-trip around Arizona it took to get there. Equal parts sexy and creepy Hot Dreams is breathtakingly weird. Each song emerges from the shadows reveling itself as either the night of your life or your worst nightmare, you choose, then hold on tight and enjoy easily the best musical expression of the Grand Canyon ever recorded.

The TimbersGemini Downs
The TimbersLawless
Gotta go with local lads The Timbers. Not only do we love watching them bring crowds to life at awesome Adelaide venues like The Grace, now we have an awesome CD that beautifully captures their live, real, raw spirit. One of the most hard working bands we know and I dare you to try to keep your feet still when that trumpet kicks in.

The War On DrugsMatt Walters
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
For months I kept hearing about this album and it took me a while to finally get to it. I remember my friends gushing about The War on Drugs. That kind of turned me off. You need to find things in your own time. Anyway, I was sitting in a cafe near my house and this beautiful dreamy music was playing. I thought it was a Dylan live recording that I hadn’t heard or something. So I Shazam’d it! I rarely use Shazam – but I knew I couldn’t miss this. I had to know. And it was the song, “Lost in the Dream”. That beautiful dreamy harmonica – the strange cryptic words – the ambience captured in the recording just pulled me in. It had me immediately. So I went home and bought the record and played nothing else for about 6 months. I’ve only really just stopped. I love this album. The production is just so pristine, flawless and unique. Adam Granduciel is like a master painter with his guitar sounds on this record – so ethereal and haunting. His playing is so detailed, yet raw and visceral at the same time. “Suffering” is so beautiful. Simple and profound. Oh, and If the guitar solo in that song doesn’t destroy you, nothing will. Masterpiece.

Ryan AdamsImogen Clark
Ryan AdamsRyan Adams
This record is heart-wrenching, soulful, moving and pure magic, but also somehow packs this almighty punch and really rocks out. Ryan Adams manages to be a total electric-fuelled punk rocker and a sensitive, poignant, acoustic singer/songwriter all at once. He’s the champion of wearing his heart on his sleeve and he leaves no stone unturned. Thank you, DRA.

Sweet JeanThe Weeping Willows
Sweet JeanGreetings From Goodbye
It is perhaps a little biased of us to choose Sweet Jean’s Greetings From Goodbye mini-LP as our top album of 2014 as it contains most of our favourite songs from the (many) times we’ve seen them play live over the years. Sime Nugent and Alice Keath are everything we would love to be as a duo; timeless singer-songwriters, multi-instrumentalists and heavenly harmonisers, with two of the best voices in the country. Much of this EP was actually recorded “live” in Sime and Alice’s laundry, which further demonstrates their effortless proficiency. Stand-out tracks are Dock Boggs’s “Country Blues” (in the style of Peggy Seeger), the traditional “Weeping Willow” and “Spring Bird” written by Keath and Nugent. Sweet Jean definitely have a gothic-folk sound that is all their own but check them out if you’re into the old-school folk stylings of She and Him or Americana duos Mandolin Orange, The Civil Wars or Australia’s own Jep and Dep.

SiaAnna Buckingham (Nova & the Experience)
Sia1000 Forms of Fear
She’s never had one distinctive style to her career. Some would call her an indie goddess and others a pop princess. 1000 Forms of Fear is an anguished pop album, in its smartest and human form. The first album she has released in four years, her powerful and perfect melodies remain uniformly magnificent throughout these twelve songs, with deeper and darker lyrics that highlight a more intimate side of Sia. Beautiful in all its vulnerability, she delivers great pain with even greater triumph. Every track is magnificently crafted and combines a faultless balance of violently raw emotion with total uplift. You are invited to look into this woman’s anguish through melodies and vocal cartwheels that can make you think she is unbreakable . Hauntingly beautiful in all its cleverness. My favourite by far.

Ben AbrahamTimothy James Bowen
Ben AbrahamSirens
My top album actually only came across my ears just the other day. It’s Sirens by Ben Abraham. He’s a friend of a friend of mine who I met at a house concert we were playing together in Melbourne around this time last year. He said that he had something in the works but I had no idea it would be this tasty. It’s like if you put Gotye, Josh Pyke and Passenger in a room and told them not to come out till they had something musical going on between them. Sort of. But all in his own greatness. Go and check it out.

Sun Kil MoonPeasant Moon
Sun Kil MoonBenji
Our individual short lists were like night and day…from Robert Ellis (Harvey) to Asgeir (Josie). Benji was the point of convergence. We’ve never been to Ohio, but this land of lethal backyard fires, mercy killing, teen sex and albinos can sure inspire some amazing music. This is a brutal and beautiful collection of stories about life, death and gratitude. And it can be confronting – there’s nowhere to hide as Mark Kozelek shuns the use of metaphor and other distractions. This, combined with the mostly simple arrangements, produce deceptively insightful songs about the tragedy and joy of what it is to be human. Dark slacker folk at its finest – think Smog meets Pavement meets Neil Young.

Lily OPete Flood (Bellowhead)
Sam AmidonLily-O
A really great ensemble album rooted in the inspired pairing of Amidon’s spiky banjo picking and Bill Frisell’s more expansive guitar playing. The overall tone is focused and quietly daring – traditional material given space to unfold and evolve in unusual and sometimes disquieting ways – a real breath of fresh air.

Everything UnsaidSam Sweeny (Bellowhead)
Screaming MaldiniEverything Unsaid
This is the second and final album from one of my favourite bands of all time. Perfect, innovative intelli-pop from a band who never got the recognition they deserved.

The Moral of the ElephantJon Boden (Bellowhead)
Eliza and Martin CarthyThe Moral of the Elephant
Two English folk greats on top form, shaking it up a bit with some unexpected material and totally nailing the traditional stuff, as ever.

Ben AbrahamAl Parkinson
Ben AbrahamSirens
I had been waiting for this album for years. YEARS. Ben Abraham is one of my favourite Australian songwriters and performers. You know when you go and see someone play and you HAVE to buy their cd, it’s not a choice, you have to scavenge around your Mary Poppins bag for dollars and even ask your friends if you can borrow some money to buy their album? This is how you would feel if you saw him play and the album is more than we as listeners had hoped for. It was absolutely worth the wait. The production on the album suits Ben’s songs perfectly; subtle where it should be, interesting and very clever. The album was only released in November but I just cannot stop listening to it. ‘Speak’ was the single he released from the album and it’s one of those “EVERYONE BE QUIET AND PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS” songs. Although I’ve listened to it probably 300,000 times, every time is like the first time I heard it. Other favourites are ‘You and Me’, ‘I Belong To You’ and ‘Songbird’ oh and ‘Collide’… Okay so they’re all beautiful. I’m so glad that I finally have these songs in my ears and I’m really excited to see where this stupidly talented persons career heads.

Southerly ChangeSivan Agam (The April Maze)
Southerly ChangeSoutherly Change
I love putting this album on first thing in the morning to get my day going with good vibes. It reminds me to live in the moment. Even if it’s cold outside this album makes me feel like I’m on summer holidays. There are some great singalong tunes in there too, so it’s the perfect album for long road trips.

Searching for TallSophie Klein (Little Wise)
Lauren GlezerSearching for Tall
This Melbourne songwriter likes to describe herself as a true “feeler”. That’s is exactly how I would describe my connection to this little record; emotional. The production, replete with gorgeous string arrangements on certain tracks, gracefully shines a deserving spotlight on Glezer’s tender and sultry vocals. Similarly, her long time rhythm players are sensitive and nuanced. But it is her personal, ever-so-human stories and her unforgettably breathy vocal delivery that really tug on my heartstrings.

Open SwimmerRose Wintergreen
Open SwimmerCanyon
Floaty, nostalgic, haunting melodies anchored with grit, sprinkled with sunshiney pop hooks and glorious references to Melbourne life.

SoutheasternThe Audreys
Jason IsbellSoutheastern
Perhaps his first great solo work, Isbell’s Southeastern is a masterclass in songwriting that doesn’t just touch on its themes of regret and redemption but mines them in ways we’ve never before heard. We were lucky enough to see Jason perform a highlight from the record, opening track “Cover Me Up”, at this year’s Americana Music Awards in Nashville. He got the award for Best Album and we got the pleasure of hearing him play.

Ray LamontagneAshleigh Mannix
Ray LamontagneSupernova
What a surprise this album was! It had me absolutely hooked from the first spin. These psychedelic sounds are completely different to anything I’ve heard from Ray Lamontagne before. This, coupled with its catchy hooks and wonderful lyrics made it a no-brainer for my choice of album of the year. It’s an anywhere album! I love it!

Rob MuinosDan Arnott (Dan and Amy)
Robert MuinosYou’re Not Alone
There have been a few releases this year by wonderful artists who I’m lucky enough to be great mates with, and I think my favourite of these is the debut EP by Robert Muinos called You’re Not Alone. Robbo does what amazing songwriters do; his songs of very personal moments somehow become universalised, making it feel as though you’ve been through whatever he’s singing about yourself, even if you’ve never experienced anything like it. His voice and his melodies are beautiful and I can’t wait for more. (Notable mention to Jackson McLaren’s album)

Daylight ExpressJames Kenyon
Tobias HengeveldThe Daylight Express
Hengeveld’s lyrics are brilliant. He’s operating at a level above. They’d be compelling enough without music, but his melodies and musicianship and that of his band elevate it to great album status for me. Lyrics that good just keep on giving. Every listen brings me to another great line or phrase. “All the old TVs on the side of the road…” that line in “Fools Rush In” kills me. Or “Our Katherine owned a temper like her name-sake. The firecracker always spinning off its nail” from “The Daylight Express”. Brilliant song, and heart breaking.

LulucRuth Hazleton – (Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton)
LulucPasserby
Gently and quietly profound, Luluc are perfecting the art of simplicity – a trait that is very unique and brave in this age of musical trickery. Unpretentious, disarming, beautifully written, recorded and produced with a “sound” completely their own, Passerby features beautiful vocal harmonies, sophisticated melodies and honest lyrics. Recommended for long drives, Sunday afternoons or whenever your feet and/or heart need to touch the ground again.

BelovedGeorgia Fair
New GodsBeloved
Because “Caravan park” taunts me, “I Love You Too” is like cringing in the mirror, “Beneath the World” is just simply beautiful, “Too High” makes me cry and “Skyman” makes me dance.

BeckDustin Tebbutt
BeckMorning Phase
For me this record perfectly balances precisely sculpted songs and production with organic sounds, and raw stories. I get the sense that this album is a series of “captured moments” in the studio as opposed to so many modern records where every track is edited to an inch of its life. It’s also both hi fi and lo fi at the same time, with the acoustic guitars and drums almost remaining unprocessed while the colours created by the lush reverbs and Beck’s characteristic lazy vocal performances take you on journeys through vast spaces.

Dwight Sings BuckNick Keeling (Mustered Courage)
Dwight YoakamDwight Sings Buck
This ain’t your mother’s country music … it’s more like your grandmother’s! The sweet and pretty country music coming out of Nashville in the 1950’s got a punch in the face by the electrified honky-tonk coming out of Bakersfield California. Pioneers like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard plugged in their telecasters, set the drummer to shuffle, and layed down what would be a huge influence on the music of The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons and obviously Dwight Yoakam. Here Dwight nails the style and sound of Bakersfield country but with the fidelity of modern recording techniques. Pull up a barstool and let the steel guitar take you up Highway 99 to that oil patch they call Bakersfield.

StromaeKim Churchill
StromaeRacine Carrée
My album of the year is Racine Carrée by the Belgian artist Stromae. It has an essentially electronic dance feel, which is impeccably well complimented by absolutely brilliant song writing. I have had endless pleasure in sitting around on Google translate (as Stromae sings in French) discovering what each of my favourite songs is about. He sets the scene of each song magnificently and opens up discussions that are quite challenging for the listener. Given the dance feel – I find it amazing that people all over the world are jumping up and down in arenas to these words of wisdom. Stromae has incredible film clips – the artistic direction is both engaging and unique. He also incorporates elements of his clips into his live performances of each song and way he dances is literally ground breaking. There is a reason the new single “Papaoutai” has had over 200 millions views. Stromae is a master craftsman on every level and quickly becomes a complete obsession.

RuinsSarah Humphreys
Kris MorrisRuins
Ruins is a breath of honesty in a sea of over-earnest, over-thought out music that’s flooding my ears at the moment. I need truth in what I listen to and this is as raw as it gets and totally from the heart, a broken one. Bravely and beautifully produced by Kasey Chambers, he’s like the Australian Steve Earle.

Damien RiceJoel Barker
Damien RiceMy Favourite Faded Fantasy
I was driving to Denmark in the south of Western Australia, listening to NPR’s All Songs Considered program, when one of the program hosts started talking about Damien Rice’s long hiatus being over with the release of his new album My Favourite Faded Fantasy. It’s been so long since Damien has released anything that I kind of forgot what his music is to me. But on first impressions, this record didn’t make much of an impact with me. Not because it’s not staggeringly beautiful, but merely because of how I was listening to it. In the car. Through portable speakers. Driving at 110km per hour. I didn’t do it justice. I found the time the following week to sit down at listen to the record in full, and I’m completely blown away by it.
I’ve come to the conclusion the Damien Rice has three different writing personalities that are vastly different from one another, yet somehow come together to make what is uniquely his. There’s the distinctive guitar melodies, nothing complicated, but kind of like a place to house his other personalities. The second is his lyrical genius. Somehow always melancholic, even in moments of joy, his words resonate with honesty and integrity, self doubt, love and hate. His words become place holders for his third personality, which are the arrangements. Other than perhaps Bon Iver’s self-titled album, I’m not sure I’ve heard an album that balances the sincerity of words with these almost orchestra arrangements that soar with optimisim and drown with sorrow equally. All these personalities come together to give us a collection of songs which probably mean just as much to us as they do to him. I can live with a Damien Rice album every 8 years or so if this is the result. So see you in 2022, Damien. Until then, enjoy the solitude.

Upside Down MountainJack Carty
Conor OberstUpside Down Mountain
This album is beautiful on so many levels. The songs are thoughtfully produced, delicately arranged and seem less overtly melodramatic than most of his previous work, but somehow they still manage hold the same sort of poetic weight and satirically pointed attention to detail that has drawn me to Conor Oberst as a songwriter for years.

True StrengthJulia Johnson (Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens)
True StrengthTrue Strength
Lost in an empty old building in East Berlin while trying to find a bar Ned Colette was playing in, I arrived just in time to discover support act True Strength, an Australian/Danish duo. If you love your folk with a touch of experimentation, or your Joanna Newsom mixed with a bit of Scandinavia, you might love True Strength. The almost a-tonal tinges to their light, delicate melodies only make them more beautiful and robust. Their self titled EP is a work I have found myself returning to often, and their performance that night is a memory I find delicious to linger on.

Tarpaper SkyBrad Butcher
Rodney CrowellTarpaper Sky
The name Rodney Crowell was only made known to me at the beginning of the year by a friend who told me I had to listen to Sex & Gasoline, an earlier release of Rodney’s, which I instantly connected with. I had become aware of a new album being released later this year couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It became the sound track of my first Tasmanian Tour in July this year and is still on high rotation. The way he looks at a song is not only unique but refreshing, this you might not expect from someone who’s been doing it for over 4 decades, but thats the very reason he is still at the top of his game and why this is my pick of 2014.

KimbraCurtis Smith (Yetis)
KimbraThe Golden Echo
Kimbra has got it. Her vocal ability seems limitless and her sense of groove is spot on. Not necessarily “beautiful” or “folky” but I can’t stop listening to it. One of those artists who doesn’t appear to be restricted by any means, and through this is making me think about my voice and to explore it’s capabilities. Also, my brother, sister and I (half of Yetis) are half kiwi, and are way too proud of it. We believe everything that comes out of NZ is brilliant, such as Kimbra.

Royal BloodJoe Murphy (The Timbers)
Royal BloodRoyal Blood
Simply the album is a rocking banger from start to finish!! Influenced heavily by the White Stripes with a touch of Muse at times. Its been on rotation for weeks and responsible for a lot of head banging!!

Gon BoogalooMark Moldre
CW StonekingGon’ Boogaloo
This album was well and truly worth the wait. CW Stoneking managed to reinvent his sound whilst retaining his authenticity. I actually wonder whether he may own a flux capacitor and a DeLorean because there’s no doubt in my mind that he has just stepped out of a 1930’s speakeasy. The fact that he picked up a Fender Jazzmaster for this album and put down the banjo allowed him to swing a little harder and dig himself into deeper grooves. It’s a wonderful blend of blues, jazz and ragtime – yet there is also something here that is intangible and undefinable – and completely his own. Nobody wants to see me dance – I promise you that, but this album makes me want to get up on the floor.

Let It LieStu Larsen
The Bros. LandrethLet It Lie
I randomly met these guys a few months ago when they were on their way home to Winnipeg, Manitoba. They were a last minute support act for my show in Chicago and really blew me away, in fact, I should have been the one supporting them, they were phenomenal. There is something incredibly captivating about these four guys when they play and sing together, both on the stage and on their album. Let It Lie is out in Canada and set for release in the States and Europe in a month or so from what I understand. I haven’t stopped listening to this album since they snuck me a copy in Chicago, hopefully Australian crowds will have the chance to fall in love with them soon!

TemplesTanya Batt
TemplesSun Structures
This year I discovered Temples and thank golly gosh for that. Think the Beatles mix the best of Tame Impala on more psychedelics with the world’s best summer vibes. It suits every mood I’m in and compliments it perfectly. I was pretty much hooked from the first bar of the first song “Sun Shelters” on the album and have listened to the album in its entirety most days since. It gives me the warm fuzzy’s because I love the vibe so much.

Stray BirdsThe Mae Trio
The Stray BirdsBest Medicine
It’s extremely hard to communicate the strength and intensity of these three musicians on record, but the album is tracked live and what is captured is still enough to make it our favourite release this year. Lush, gutsy harmonies and warm acoustic instruments are part of the joy of this album, but the most exciting bit is the songwriting – there are some jaw-dropping songs on there. This is just such no-nonsense, straight up, great music to make you laugh and cry and sing along reeeally loudly!

Jack CartyRosie Catalano
Jack CartyEsk
Jack has the most delightful voice, pens lyrics that take you on little faraway journeys, and has recorded an album that includes a song I suffer withdrawals from (“Honey, Do You Know The Way Back Home?”).

HuskyJesse Lubitz (Tinpan Orange)
HuskyRuckers Hill
This is a mighty record. The soaring harmonies and tight arrangements wrap perfectly around the beautifully crafted songs. This is one of the best albums to come out of Australia in the past few years. Faultless.

Jacob WyldeHayden Calnin
Jacob WyldeIt’s All About To Go
I’ve been following folk artist Jacob Wylde’s music for some time, impatiently waiting for an EP release from him for far too long. He’s 18, from Perth and been very busy with school I imagine. Then one day, It’s All About To Go came along and (pardon my foul mouth) but… HOLY F*CK! He’s the musician the world’s been needing and I’m spreading the word and supporting this guy till the bitter end of my days. Please listen to Jacob Wylde. He’s a rare find.

Kate Miller HeidkeImogen Bel
Kate Miller-HeidkeO Vertigo!
I love the way Kate surprises you with each new album. She never rests on her laurels and she is impossible to pin down. This is what has kept her fan-base so loyal. On this album, she has found the perfect balance of her theatrical leanings with off-kilter pop hooks and her mixture of literal and absurd lyrics. I’m a huge fan of the production on this one and the subtle eighties pop influences that never sound obviously retro. I began following (stalking) her career since her first EP and she has been a huge inspiration to me. Thanks, Kate!

VariousLes Thomas
VariousAustralian Artists for Asylum Seekers
I was blown away by the Australian Artists for Asylum Seekers Christmas album, which was put together by Lindsay Philips and features 25 excellent local songwriters. Christmas albums have never done it for me before, but the quality of every song and the fact that all proceeds go towards supporting the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre make it a beautiful example of an artistic collaboration in the best traditions of giving.

Phantom RadioMichael Paolino (Husband)
Mark Lanegan BandPhantom Radio
I got into Mark Lanegan’s music this year and I don’t know how I got through the last 30 years without it. This album has a pretty diverse sound, going from incredibly soulful, organic southern/gothic rock to some synth experimentation with iPhone drum apps! Best track “Harvest Home”. All in all a great listen.

Possessed By Paul JamesIsaac Graham
Possessed by Paul JamesThere Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely
I stumbled across Possessed by Paul James (stage name of musician Konrad Wert) at a show in San Francisco a few years ago. I was amazed at his effortless and energetic performance and impressed by his ability to seamlessly switch gears between heartfelt folk ballads and fiddle-driven, foot stompers. Although he fell off my radar for a little while I recently tracked down his latest album There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely (2013) and was immediately captivated. Although it was released late last year I’m still claiming it as my favourite for 2014. Through his shrewd lyrics and restless performance, Wert seems to capture both the inevitable joy and loneliness of everyday life. The end product is a series of songs that are as heartbreaking as they are heart-warming. Standout tracks are “Hurricane”, “Where Does All the Time Go” and title track “There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely”. Let’s hope he tours here sometime soon.

BeckMatt Dewar (Direwolf)
BeckMorning Phase
I don’t mean to split hairs, but I was vigorously torn between Faker, FKA Twigs and Beck. However I landed on Morning Phase because of its beautiful complicated simplicity. Despite the gusty blend of 60’s inspired psychedelic folk/rock, I’m constantly in awe of a man who can bring so much weight with such blunt phrases like “these are the words you use, to say goodbye”. It’s truly a lament of husky wails, lingering sadness and about 20 years of making records.

About FaceJaye Kranz (Brighter Later)
#1 DadsAbout Face
CAVEAT: I decided to choose my fav local release. It just seems like such an impressive time for Oz music, right? #1 Dads About Face flew in on first listen and still hasn’t left me. As per Big Scary, Tom Iansek is once again behind the production desk, wielding his sonic sensibilities in ways at once strangely familiar, decidedly new, and always astonishingly beautiful. I love how much he does with sometimes the simplest production choices and changes, doing only as much as the song needs. Love the collaborations, “Return To” being my standout. Also: a sax solo. (Equal first: Lowlakes – Iceberg Nerves)

Mia DysonLiz Stringer
Mia DysonIdyllwild
Idyllwild is such a playful and coherent bunch of songs. One of my favourites is “Based On Your Eyes”, a beautiful, honest and soulful love song that’s vulnerable and tender and heaving with feeling. It gets better with every listen which, for me, is a mark of a quality album. There’s a brashness to Idyllwild that I love. Mia seems to have reached another level of writing and playing. Just when you think it can’t get any better.

In The SilenceThom Lion
ÁsgeirIn The Silence
I’ve always admired artists who could mix organic instruments into their sound with electronic circuitry. So many try and fail, yet Iceland’s Ásgeir does it with supreme conviction. His release In The Silence had me intrigued and genuinely moved from the first listen. The Bon Iver influence can be heard throughout (especially in the layered vocal production and acoustic guitars) but Ásgeir carves his own sound through bleeps, bloops and R&B beats. The fact that these songs have been translated from their original Icelandic form to English makes the words all the more wholesome and endearing. His voice exudes a soft, pleading emotion, with ethereal qualities. “Kings and Queens” is a folky song, yet would not be out of place on a chillout sessions compilation. Punctuated by pulsing synths, lyrically it conjures beautiful imagery and a sense of wonder. “Torrent” is an absolute belter, with its anthemic piano line, the band joins in with the spirit of Arcade Fire. Do yourself a favour and check out his vulnerable yet grandiose take of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” on youtube, for an insight into his stunning live show.

ElbowOlivia Hally (Oh Pep!)
ElbowThe Taking Off And Landing Of Everything
Elbow’s arrangements hit you hard, even more so with this latest release. Guy Garvey’s lyrics make you smile, but not because they’re particularly happy. This is a great album, my favourite this year.

KimbraJames McKendry (Takadimi)
KimbraThe Golden Echo
This is not a lo-fi listen, it is as much about sound design and exploration of textures as it is about songs. On each track you can hear that great care was taken to a sculpt a piece of art, and not just write some catchy tunes that everybody would like. It still has Kimbra’s trademark quirky sense of melody but it is far more experimental and eclectic in it’s influences than Vows. There are strong influences of neo-soul, experimental electronic music and psychedelia present. Washy, armchair sinking moments of ambient bliss like those heard on Carolina are contrasted with some edgier and more confronting works like the tongue in cheek ode to nostalgia that is “90’s music”. All in all I’m blown away by this album. Go get it.

Emma SwiftJames Morrison (The Morrisons)
Emma SwiftEmma Swift
Emma really delivered with this album. The songs are full of conviction, and her voice is equal parts of beauty and sorrow. It’s a real late night record. The whole thing is understated and moody, the session band are subtle and tasteful, Anne McCue did a great job with the production, and there’s more than one moment that will bring on a blissful sigh (special mention to the chorus in “James”). Just go and listen to it, watch her live, fall in love with her, and if you meet anyone who belittles the state of Australian country music, throw this their way.

Daniel RossenShannon Carpenter (Sleepy Dreamers)
Daniel RossenSilent Hour/Golden Mile
I love Grizzly Bear so I was probably always going to love this. I’ve always been a big fan of his voice and guitar playing. Was really hard to choose a fav so I should give an honourable mention to The War on Drugs. Their album was ridiculously good as well.

The War On DrugsOllie Brown
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
It’s the subtle change of the snare drum after the first chorus of Lost in the Dream. It’s the distant piano that melts away in your ears. It’s the shimmering tremolo guitars, driving 80s rock beats and Dylan-esc vocal delivery that makes this record timeless, refreshing and my favourite album of 2014.

S CareyRoscoe James Irwin
S. CareyRange of Light
S. Carey is mostly known for being the drummer and main backing vocalist in the Bon Iver live band, but his own solo records are amazing and place him highly as a genuine artist in his own right. He manages to blend live instruments and orchestration with manipulated ambient sound into something very haunting and really incredible. Once you’ve heard the opening track “Glass/Film”, you’ll be hard pressed not to listen to the whole record. “Crown the Pines”, with it’s free melody and layered double-stop fiddles, and “Alpenglow”, with it’s deep and powerful string arrangement, are both highlights.

The StavesRosie McDonald (RAPT, Folklore)
The StavesIf I Was
I’m really pre-empting as the full album isn’t out until early Feb but I’ve heard snippets of the songs on If I Was from the online trailer for the album and i love it already and have even pre ordered it. I don’t know if you are like me but I tend to judge if I like a song in the first few seconds and this sister act have the goods to deliver. I saw the family band – Emily, Jess, Camilla – at the Cambridge folk festival last year having not heard them before and loved their close harmonies and lovely poetic songs (like Wailing Jenny’s, Fleet Foxes, Crosby Still Nash & Young) but the band could crank when needed also. There is something very special about family voices together that finds a cohesive fullness and beauty. Ukulele, still the new black, was a feature as well as very nice guitar playing. I bought their album Dead, Born and Grown and have absolutely loved listening to it. Their Live at Cecil Sharpe House album is also sublime with a beautiful reading of that American folk ballad “Silver Dagger” made famous by Joan Baez. Like his year’s release pre release of The Blood I Bled From, If I Was was produced by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon in the wintry wilds of Wisconsin and will be on high rotation as soon as I have it in my hands.

Tiny RuinsJane Hendry (Broads, The Nymphs)
Tiny RuinsBrightly Painted One
I had been waiting for this album, as I am a massive fan. Kel (also from Broads) is also a big fan. I was lucky enough to see Holly do a solo album preview show in Melbourne a few months ago put on by the Melbourne Folk Club and she played the entire album in order from start to finish. It was such a beautiful, intimate show. And she’s totally lovely as well.

HozierMark Wilkinson
HozierHozier
A really impressive collection of songs. The production gives the album a rawness and a darkness which I really like.

The War On DrugsAidan Cooney (Boy Outside)
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
A complete album and the sound of art being perfected over years. Culminating in this painstakingly crafted masterpiece. Beauty from start to finish.

Swimmin TimeTracy McNeil
Shovels & RopeSwimmin’ Time
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent conjure up the dead, awake the living and are in my opinion one of the best and purest forms of male-female–husband-wife country duo’s of all time. On this latest release they tread through deeper waters, transforming darkness into light, dirt into finely cut diamonds, all within just a few bars. I’m at times exhausted having gone on the journey with them but always better for it. Swimmin’ Time is magic! Hands down my favorite release of 2014. “There’s hope where you can’t see it, there’s a light after the storm”. I’m glad Shovels & Rope are around to remind us of that.

GirlAde Vincent (The Tiger and Me)
Pharrell WilliamsGirl
Great voice, great writing, full of fantastic hooks and well executed ideas. And I always love his production. My favourite pop album in years.

Angel OlsenJulia Jacklin
Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness
This album sounds like 2014 for me. My housemates can attest that I have probably listened to it too much but it really hit me hard. She crafts really interesting songs which kind of meander but never lose focus. Her voice is this incredibly powerful thing that just cuts right through, she is one of the most unique and evocative vocalists I have ever heard. Some of the best moments on the record are when it’s just a strummed electric guitar and her singing in a whisper. It’s just beautiful heartbreaking lo-fi goodness.

The StavesSibylla Stephen (The Little Stevies)
The StavesThe Blood I Bled From
I am devastatingly slow when it comes to discovering to “new music”, even though I love it. These days, my two year old takes up most of my time (when I’m not concentrating on my own music), so I tend to catch onto things late, but I don’t enjoy them any less. The band I have discovered this year are The Staves. Their music moves me into a steady pace where I feel at peace. I’m pregnant again, and their album replaced my nightly 6pm-ish glass of wine (which is was very much missing!). I also want to shout-out to the best live band I’ve seen all year The Eastern, and the songs of Sweet Jean that featured heavily in the toddler music class my son and I have been attending at the Footscray Arts Centre, Rock On.

Ane BrunJames Lindsay (Breabach)
Ane BrunRarities
We really grew to be big fans of Ane when we were at WOMADelaide and Womad NZ together back in March this year. This album perfectly displays her serene voice, subtle lyrics and brilliant band.

VagabondLyn Taylor (Dear Orphans)
Stu LarsenVagabond
I waited too long for this album. Mike Rosenberg’s production of this album is sublime.

Gretta ZillerNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Gretta ZillerHell’s Half Acre
I’m a sucker for a good turn of melody and Gretta’s EP has a plenitude of notes that turn in unexpected directions. I also like songs that can take me to a different time and place. The title track “Hell’s Half Acre” transported me straight away to Wyoming, and “the low country where those lands were so so bad … for me”.

HITSMark ‘Looch’ Lewis (Handsome Young Strangers)
HITSHikikomori
This may be a controversial choice nominating a flat out rock and roll band in this forum. But sometimes exceptions need to be made. HITS have delivered a staggering album which stands right up there with the best Australian rock n roll flag wavers before them. Think Radio Birdman, The Saints, The Hard Ons at their best – this album sits right up there with them. Quite possibly the best rock n roll band in the world ATM.

InterstellerLaura Bishop (Chaika, Laura & Susie)
Hans ZimmerInterstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
It starts with a soft theme reminiscent of the opening of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, minuscule in sound like a forgotten echo of humanity’s first footsteps into space flight; progresses to the magnitude of a full church organ with columns of air blasting through metal pipes, matching the enormity of rocket engines launching; later sits back to watch as an observer from afar with a simple yet beautiful piano theme; and even at points uses a theme that is similar to one I wrote myself over a decade ago for a short film about the Apollo 11 mission. Wormholes much? Who knows! Either way, it’s a jolly good ride.

New MoonFanny Lumsden
Sarah HumphreysNew Moon
Generally I am not into “love songs” or sincerity however this album makes me want to hug, love and high five everyone that is dear to me. The song writing is just top notch with equal parts heart, fight and spunk. I also really singing the songs into a wooden spoon and dancing around the kitchen. Also other tops were: Caitlin Harnett’s The River Runs North, Nikki Lane’s All or Nothin’ (yep girl power) and Del Barber’s Prarieography.

Tiny RuinsEmma Davis
Tiny RuinsBrightly Painted One
I was tremendously excited for this release. Holly’s first record, Some Were Meant for Sea, is one of my favourites – a beautiful piece of storytelling, cleverly told and delicately produced. This record has a little more of everything. More instruments, a little more electric, more variation and dynamics, but no less heart. It’s the perfect example of what happens when a musician grows a constant band around her. The arrangements become a little more thought out, the songs lift and fall a little more. Buy this record, wrap it up in paper, and leave it in the letterbox of someone brilliant.

Lily OJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Sam AmidonLily-O
I bumped into good friend and man of impeccable taste, Mr Leroy Lee, at the Townie. It was 1:30am and luckily I wrote down the recommendation of this album. “You’ll love the beats” said Leroy. Beats? On a Sam Amidon album? He’s never been scared of percussion, but that’s not a comment to expect for the rustic strumming and plucking I’d enjoyed on Sam A’s previous outings. It was drizzly on my walk home, and I took an extra long way just to hear more as the early morning mistiness surrounded me. It perfectly suited the crystal clear production and voice filled with humanity. The version of “Groundhog Variations” is perfect, so try starting there. And if you see Leroy Lee around, get him to recommend your next favourite album.

Sun Kil MoonDarren Hanlon
Sun Kil MoonBenji
Sun Kil Moon had been one of those bands that, due to their bulky catalog and my own laziness, I’d never delved into. I couldn’t find an obvious doorway. I’d even played a show with them in Manchester a few years back, but it was a bad fit. The crowd watched me blank-faced and I felt self-conscious about displaying any kind of sunniness so just put my head down and plowed through. Mark Kozelek didn’t see me play but he was cordial in the bandroom and let me pilfer one of the bananas off his rider.
Just a few months back a good friend, in whose music taste I trust, implored me to listen to Benji, it was much more than a recommendation. So I took it very seriously and was, surprising to me, drawn into it right away by the croaky conversational tone and the stripped bare emotional tales he was telling.
A lot of the subject matter leans towards family, and is often confronting and candid. Lots of death and regret and tenderness. “I Can’t Live without My Mothers Love” is a far cry from your average Rock and Roll subject matter – and reminds me of first hearing Jonathan Richman sing about his wife in “Closer” – and just because of that is more Rock and Roll than any sex or drug reference. But there’s plenty of sex to be found. “Dogs” details the history of the protagonist’s (Kozelek’s?) early carnal explorations in erotic, graphic detail.
The songs are long, but don’t feel it. Like floating along on a stream where you’re too busy taking in the details of the surroundings to keep an eye on the time. The usual long-ingrained formulas of much popular music don’t apply here. The narratives are forthright and metaphor-free and the sparse instrumentation reflects this; it is subtle but inventive.
I’ve been thinking that as you get older poetry, for the sake of itself, can start to feel superfluous held up against pure message, or just plain truth. I’d spent my 20s trying to think up clever wordplay when now they can seem like window dressing. It’s not to say Benji isn’t clever. There’s so many surprising and inventive rhymes, or off-rhymes; it’s as if he’s tailored them to not quite fit so they jump out. And there’s a lot of humor, I actually laughed out loud hearing the line about his Dad flirting with the girls at Panera Bread. How often does that happen listing to serious folk music?
And it would take a hard heart not to find at least one tear. Listen to the story of his Dad’s downtrodden friend “Jim Wise”.
Very rarely, but every now and then, discovering a new band can pull back a curtain on a new way to approach songwriting, and another piece of the eternal puzzle falls away. I felt like this when I first heard Benji, ideas for about three new songs popped into my head. I feel like I have new tools with which to work.
I wonder if Mark Kozelek had an epiphany one day and a new horizon opened up, where the shackles of his old systems dissolved. Cause to me, as far as the lyrics go, this path he’s on feels limitless. Judging by his recent crazy slinging match with War On Drugs I hope this freedom of expression isn’t eating him up. I’m gonna go backwards now through his catalog to look for clues.
So listening to Benji has been a positive experience for me. I’ve also recommended it to other friends and they haven’t had the same experience, so evidently it’s not for everyone. But I’ve written this review without having listened to it for a few weeks now. That’s how vivid it still is in my mind.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 30th May

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

Passenger has announced Australia as part of his Whispers world tour with dates in January and February 2015. Details here

– Melbourne singer-songwriter Noah Earp has released his new single “Bound for Glory”. Details here

– The incomparable Patrick James has released his new single “Message”. Details here

– Sydney seven-piece Little Bastard have released their brand new video “Be My Kind”. Details here

– The one and only Bob Dylan is returning to Australia this August and September for a series of intimate theatre shows. Details here

The Davidson Brothers will be launching their new album Wanderlust at a very special show in Melbourne next month. Details here

– English folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Seth Lakeman has released his new video “Last Rider”. Details here

– New York folk-pop singer-songwriter Mackenzie Shivers has released her new track “Nothing to Fear”. Details here

– World music six piece Chaika have a new album, a new video and are currently on a tour of the east coast. Details here

The Pierce Brothers are embarking on a tour following today’s new EP release. Details here

Jackson McLaren and the Triple Threat have released their new video “Here’s A Memory”. Details here

– Melbourne’s Isaac de Heer recently released his new album Summer which is streaming online. Details here

– Sydney indie-folk night Little Features will be celebrating its second birthday tomorrow with a show featuring The Former Love, Joshua Chamberlin, Baby Lips and the Silhouettes, Charlie Gradon and Bexley De Lion. Details here

– English singer-songwriter Roo Panes released the video to his stunning track “Tiger Striped Sky”. Details here

– This Sunday the Fleurieu Folk Festival’s annual Folkathon fundraising event hits Adelaide. Details here

Angus and Julia Stone released the first single from their highly anticipated new album, “Heart Beats Slow”. Details here

– Sydney’s Spookyland will be launching their new single “The Silly Fucking Thing” at FBi Social next month. Details here

– Adelaide duo The Yearlings have a new album on the way and national tour planned for July. Details here

Interviews

“Claire Patti has a voice that has to be heard to be believed and she plays the harp (the stringed one), french horn and piano accordion. Claire sings harmonies with the guitar-playing band leader Marcus de Rijk (note the strong Scottish influence in that name — mmm, maybe not so much), while Geoff Jones plays pipes, whistles and bodhran. Angus Downing makes the whole thing fly with his wonderful fiddle playing. Taliska’s traditional Ceilidh will have your feet pounding the tiles” – Marcus de Rijk from Taliska chats to Billy Quinn. Interview here

Releases This Week

House of Jacks
House of JacksBlair Dunlop
Official Site

Pierce Brothers
The Night TreeThe Pierce Brothers
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Little Features feat. The Former Love, Joshua Chamberlin, Baby Lips and the Silhouettes, Charlie Gradon, Bexley De Lion

Josh Camberlin

Sydney indie-folk night Little Features celebrate their second birthday this weekend with a show packed full of amazing folky talent.

Saturday 31st May – Hibernian House, Sydney, NSW

Gigs Next Week

Boy & Bear
Friday 30th May – Orange Ex Services Club, Orange, NSW
Saturday 31st May – Dubbo Ex Services Club, Dubbo, NSW

Chaika
Friday 30th May – The Breslin Gallery, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 31st May – Farouk’s Olive, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 6th June – The Unorthodox Church of Groove, Newcastle, NSW

Claude Hay
Friday 30th May – The Stag and Hunter Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Sunday 1st June – The Towradgi Beach Hotel, Wollongong, NSW

Daniel Champagne
Friday 30th May – Mumbulla School Hall, Bega, NSW
Saturday 31st May – The Front, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 1st June – Beyond Q, Canberra, ACT
Wednesday 4th June – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW

Folkathon feat. AP D’Antionio, Cal Williams Jr, Chris Finnen, Courtney Robb, Emlyn & Jodie O’Regan, Halfway to Forth, Ragged But Right, Saltwater Taffy, Serendipity and Spiral Dance
Sunday 1st June – Port Noarlunga Bowling Club, Adelaide, SA

Jackson McLaren & The Triple Threat
Wednesday 4th June – The Melbourne Folk Club, Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC

James Vincent McMorrow
Saturday 31st May – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Jeff Lang
Friday 6th June – Nexus Arts Centre, Adelaide, SA

Josh Pyke with Jack Carty
Friday 6th June – Montrose Town Centre, Montrose, VIC

Justin Bernasconi
Friday 30th May – The Ranges Concert Lounge, Upway, VIC

Kaurna Cronin and Ben Whiting
Friday 6th June – Pirie & Co. Social Club, Adelaide, SA

Kim Churchill
Friday 30th May – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 31st May – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Sunday 1st June – Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW
Wednesday 4th June – Indi Bar, Perth, WA
Thursday 5th June – Mojos, Fremantle, WA
Friday 6th June – The Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA

Little Features feat. The Former Love, Joshua Chamberlin, Baby Lips and the Silhouettes, Charlie Gradon, Bexley De Lion
Saturday 31st May – Hibernian House, Sydney, NSW

Little Wise and Megan Bernard
Friday 30th May – The Treehouse, Byron Bay, NSW
Saturday 31st May – Sheoak Shack, Fingal Head, NSW

Melbourne Folk Club feat/ Lucie Thorne, Jackson McLaren, Luka Lesson
Wednesday 4th June – Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC

Paul Greene and the Other Colours
Sunday 1st June – Lizotte’s Central Coast, Kincumber, NSW
Thursday 5th June – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW

Peak Festival
Friday 6th to Monday 9th June – Perisher, NSW

Ruby Boots
Sunday 1st June – The Hundred Club, Collie, WA

Sam Brittain
Friday 30th May – The Grand Poobah, Hobart, TAS
Sunday 1st June – Garden Party, Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 5th June – The Treehouse, Byron Bay, NSW

The Acfields
Saturday 31st May – Taps, Mooloolaba, QLD
Sunday 1st June – Frankie Brown, Byron Bay NSW

The April Maze
Saturday 31st May – Clifton Beach Tennis Club, Clifton Beach, QLD
Sunday 1st June – Quincan Cottage, Yungaburra, QLD
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th June – Palm Creek Folk Festival, Townsville, QLD

The Audreys
Thursday 5th June – The Abbey, Canberra, ACT
Friday 6th June – Heritage Hotel, Bulli, NSW

The Beards
Friday 30th May – Settler’s Tavern, Margaret River, WA
Saturday 31st May – Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA
Sunday 1st June – Astor Theatre, Perth WA
Thursday 5th June – Mona Vale Hotel, Mona Vale, NSW
Friday 6th June – Wollongong Uni, Wollongong, NSW

The Mountains
Friday 30th May – The Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 31st May – The Federal Hotel, Bellingen, NSW

The Paper Kites
Friday 30th May – Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 31st May – Transit Bar, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 1st June – Heritage Hotel, Wollongong, NSW

The Pierce Brothers
Saturday 31st May – The Armidale Club, Armidale, NSW
Wednesday 4th June – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 5th June – Solbar, Maroochydore, QLD

Timothy James Bowen
Friday 30th May – TBC, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 31st May – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC

Top Half Folk Festival
Friday 6th to Monday 9th June – Mary River, NT

Wagons
Saturday 31st May – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Friday 6th June – Barwon Club, Geelong, VIC

Friday Folk Flashback

“Girl That I Love” – The Falls

This week a little duo from Sydney topped 10,000 Facebook likes and has been celebrating all week with a bunch of flashback’s on social media. We thought we’d join in by posting this live track from April 2012 when The Falls still had a “The” and played every week at the Hotel Hollywood in Surry Hills, Sydney.

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