Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2012

2012

I thought as editor in chief and founder of this fine blog I would take the opportunity to give you one more list before the year is through. We’ve had the top five albums of the year from all of our contributors, we’ve had the top albums from some of our favourite artists, and now I want to give you my favourite songs of 2012.

It was originally going to be a list of 10 songs. But I couldn’t settle on just 10. So the list grew. And grew and grew. But after my hacking and slashing (and limiting myself to one song per artist) I managed to settle on a top 25 and I think I’ve got a pretty nice mix here – lots of local music, some notable international artists, a few surprises and a number one song that may not have been mentioned on Timber and Steel at all.

I hope you enjoy my choices – here’s to a lot more amazing music in 2012!

1. Anaïs Mitchell – “Shepherd”
It may seem odd that my top track of 2012 is a song we haven’t really covered on Timber and Steel but the truth is I hadn’t been exposed to Anaïs Mitchell’s Young Man in America until months after it had been released. I have to thank Mitchell’s interview on NPR Music’s World Cafe for turning me onto the album and the beautiful track “Shepherd”. Based on a short story by Anaïs Mitchell’s, “Shepherd” feels like a traditional folk song and breaks my heart every single time I hear it.

2. Old Crow Medicine Show – “Carry Me Back To Virginia”
When Old Crow Medicine Show guitarist and lead vocalist Willie Watson left the band in 2011 a lot of people were telling me that their next release (if they ever released anything again) would never be the same. So when Carry Me Back hit stands in July I was taken aback by how cohesive it was, and how reminiscent of the rest of the band’s catalogue it was. The epitome of Carry Me Back, the track that really sums up the album, is the also the album’s opener “Carry Me Back To Virginia” – a wonderful piece of string band music announcing Old Crow Medicine Show’s return to the world stage.

3. The Chieftains & The Low Anthem – “School Days Over”
If I was to give away a producer of the year award in 2012 it would have to go to T Bone Burnett for his work on the Hunger Games Soundtrack and The Chieftains’ 50th anniversary album Voice of Ages, among others. Both albums saw Burnett’s dedication to the new wave of indie-folk artists with the latter seeing the likes of Punch Brothers, The Civil Wars, The Decemberists, Carolina Chocolate Drops and many more joining the Irish music legends. The Chieftains’ collaboration with with The Low Anthem on the classic “School Days Over” is a highlight amongst highlights and was made even more special by the two bands appearing together top perform the track on The Late Show with David Letterman.

4. Jack Carty – “She’s Got A Boyfriend”
I asked Jack Carty earlier this year why his 2012 album Break Your Own Heart was so much more introspective than his debut One Thousand Origami Birds. His answer? He finally had something personal to say. As the album title would suggest Break Your Own Heart is a break up album, a heart break album, an album about a man whose world has come crashing down and is attempting to build it back up again. “She’s Got A Boyfriend” is the catchiest, most upbeat track on Break Your Own Heart and is ironically also one of the saddest if only because of the desperation in Carty’s lyrics. And you can’t really go past the Jefferton James directed super-hero themed video.

5. Passenger – “Let Her Go”
It was during his sold out, 1000-capacity show at Sydney’s Hi-Fi this year that I suddenly realised that Passenger was bigger than I ever thought he could be. And maybe that’s down to his fantastic 2012 album All The Little Lights or maybe it’s just that Mike Rosenberg has been building his audience from the ground up for years now and it’s finally starting to pay off. “Let Her Go” is possibly the best track on All The Little Lights (although it’s so hard to choose) and definitely a favourite live the last couple of times I’ve seen Passenger.

6. The Falls – “Girl That I Love”
Sydney duo The Falls have had a huge 2012 with the release of their EP Hollywood, triple j airplay, a string of high profile support slots and the runaway success of their regular folk night Folk Club. “Home” was the only official single from Hollywood this year but it’s the Lennon-esque “Girl That I Love” that really captured my attention and is the one you’ll find me singing along to every time I see The Falls live.

7. Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars – “Safe & Sound”
It feels a little weird including Taylor Swift, arguably the biggest pop-country artist in the world, on a blog that celebrates artists who “fall through the cracks”. But if you consider Swift’s album Red is her poppiest (and most popular) so far, her two tracks on the T Bone Burnett produced Hunger Games Soundtrack, “Eyes Open” and “Safe & Sound”, both definitely on the country end of the spectrum, have been somewhat overlooked. The latter, a collaboration with the now-on-hiatus Civil Wars is just stunning, mainly down to the harmonies, and was enough to convert me to exploring the rest of Taylor Swift’s catalogue – who would have known?

8. The Lumineers – “Ho Hey”
Some good friends of mine gave my wife and I The Lumineers’ self titled album as a wedding present in March, long before it was officially released in this country. While the entire album is amazing it was “Ho Hey” that caught my attention on first listen and I wasn’t surprised when it was released as a single. I was surprised, however, with just how popular The Lumineers have become – but good on them, they deserve it!

9. Sam Lee – “The Ballad of George Collins”
Sam Lee first came to my attention via the Propermusic.com Podcast – a show that piqued my interest so much I just had to find out more. Having spent the last six years collecting traditional music from all over the British Isles Sam Lee has since released the Mercury Prize nominated Ground Of Its Own which brings this music into the twenty-first century. “The Ballad of George Collins” is a well known traditional song but Lee’s version is like no other version – both reverent and thoroughly modern. Listen to this song and then seek out Ground Of Its Own, you’re in for a treat.

10. Jerry Douglas feat. Mumford & Sons and Paul Simon – “The Boxer”
When you listen to this version of “The Boxer” you think it was written for the dobro. That’s the power of Jerry Douglas. First relased on Douglas’ collaborative album Traveler and then later on the special edition of Mumford & Sons’ Babel, “The Boxer” is not only the best cover of the year but the perfect example of the power of collaboration – Jerry Douglas reinventing the song for his instrument, Marcus Mumford adding his distinctive voice (along with the full input of Mumford & Sons) and Paul Simon’s gentle addition as the song’s original writer, sprinkling his magic without ever being overbearing. Perfect.

11. Faith Lee – “Golden Girl”
I fell in love with Faith Lee this year. Actually that’s a lie – I’ve always been in love with Faith Lee. But this year Lee released Damascus and my love of her music was solidified. “Life Long Friend” is my favourite track on Damascus but the truth is that it was released as a single in 2011. But it’s testament to just how good this EP is that the 2012 single “Golden Girl” still makes this list – I just love how playful this track is. And what a voice!

12. Arbori feat. The Falls and ILUKA – “In the Places You Fold”
I’ve been following Arbori’s career pretty much from the moment I started Timber and Steel but I have to admit that “In the Places You Fold” took my by surprise. The day this song arrived in my inbox was the day Arbori rose in my estimation from nice-little-indie-band to amazing songwriters and performers. Just take a moment to listen to this song – something about it penetrates you, something just fills you up. I know how rare it is that the band can get together, in whatever form they take, but I do hope Arbori produce a lot more music like “In the Places You Fold”.

13. Dan Mangan – “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All”
I think it’s the video for “About As Helpful…” that sold me on the song. The way that it seems to spin almost out of control, the way Mangan seems to control the camera – I love it. And once the video had firmly implanted itself in my head the song took on a life of its own. If you’ve recieved a mix tape from me this year “About As Helpful…” is almost definitely on it.

14. Patrick James – “All About To Change”
Why Patrick James hasn’t got a higher profile I’ll never understand. His music is just as good, if not better, than a lot of the indie folk played on national radio and his songwriting is second to none. James released two singles this year from an EP that’s due at some point in 2013 and “All About to Change” is easily my favourite so far. Can’t wait to hear what 2013 has in store for Patrick James – big things I hope.

15. Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait”
If you’ve been a constant reader of Timber and Steel this year you’ll have picked up that Mumford & Sons’ sophomore album Babel was pretty much our most anticipated of 2012. And with good reason – the fortunes of Mumford & Sons are so intertwined with the beginnings of this blog. The first single from Babel, the rollicking “I Will Wait”, announced the album in the perfect way – reassuring fans that what we were in store for was more of what made Sigh No More so great. Mumford & Sons didn’t break any new boundaries this year and one might argue that they didn’t grow or evolve (although it’s my opinion that they’ve really sharpened themselves in terms of their songwriting and composition) but they did deliver us with 12 tracks that are Mumford & Sons through and through.

16. The Tallest Man On Earth – “1904”
With There’s No Leaving Now Kristian Matsson (AKA The Tallest Man On Earth) has finally shaken off the Boy Dylan comparisons and proven himself a singer-songwriter in his own right. I’m constantly astounded that Matsson can write such powerful songs in what is essentially his second language. “1904” may harken back to a lot of The Tallest Man On Earth’s back catalogue but it’s still my favourite song on the album and the first song I turn to when introducing his music to someone new.

17. The Maple Trail – “The Dinosaur Hunters”
2012’s Cable Mount Warning may be the last time we hear from Aidan Roberts’ The Maple Trail project with the Sydney/Blue Mountains based singer-songwriter already dedicated to a number of other endeavors in 2013. But what a record to leave us with! “The Dinosaur Hunters”, the album’s third track, just sounds so timeless – part traditional Australian folk, part Mark Knopfler, part American country music. I’ve managed to catch The Maple Trail live a couple of times this year and have been taken aback at each and every performance. Aidan Roberts is a true Australian talent.

18. Packwood – “Bats”
Packwood seemed to explode out of no where in late 2011 with a sound unlike anything I had ever heard – simple banjo licks over a full orchestra all pulled together with Bayden Hine’s distintive old-timey voice. In March 2012 Packwood released his self titled EP and quickly became one of the must-see acts on the Sydney folk scene. My favourite track from Packwood has always been “Bats”, not because of the lyrics (“Bats are better than birds” is not going to win any songwriting awards) but for the way the banjo and the orchestral arrangement weave together to create this wonderful folk landscape.

19. Missy Higgins – “Everyone’s Waiting”
The return of Missy Higgins this year, after a self-imposed hiatus, was a blessing. She is arguably one of the best songwriters in the country and to hear her distinctive voice again has been very special. “Everyone’s Waiting” is Missy Higgins at her finest – raw, emotional, brutal and honest – and the perfect example of what The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle holds in store for listeners. The Natasha Pincus clip is the icing on the cake for this track. I’m so glad you’re back Missy!

20. Husky – “Tidal Wave”
I don’t need to tell you Husky have had a big 2012 – the fact that the Melbourne four-piece are everywhere are testament to just how popular they have become. “Tidal Wave” from the band’s Forever So album was released as a single this and perfectly showcases Husky Gawenda’s songwriting and voice. The perfect song to lose yourself in.

21. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – “Man On Fire”
I was lucky enough to catch Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros for the first time this year when they toured with Mumford & Sons and I have to say they were amazing live. So much energy! 2012’s Here feels a lot more cohesive than the group’s debut album Up from Below, it really takes Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ country music and 60s influences and runs with it. I love the way “Man On Fire” builds from a single guitar and voice into a full-blown spiritual. And live it’s bags and bags of fun.

22. TinPan Orange – “Flowers”
TinPan Orange are another band that have come a long way in 2012. The release of their album Over the Sun saw the band released from the folky shackles of their earlier work to become fully realised as proponents of intelligent pop music. “Flowers” has been in the band’s repertoire for a while now and I’ve loved watching it evolve live. Alex Burkoy’s orchestral closing of the song is really what makes this for me.

23. Tigertown – “Morning Has Finally Come”
I’ve been predicting Tigertown’s rise for so long now and I think with “Morning Has Finally Come” (and the entire Before the Morning EP) they’re finally realising their potential. “Morning Has Finally Come” is three and a half minutes of perfect folk-soaked indie music jammed with the kind of harmonies only Tigertown. I’ve been hearing this track all over the radio and it’s so nice to see these guys get national exposure. 2013’s going to be an even bigger year for Tigertown, I can tell!

24. Tim Hart – “Architects”
Tim Hart may not have the greatest voice in the indie-folk scene but his songwriting and expert guitar playing more than make up for it. “Architects” feels like it should be showcased in a 1960s New York coffee house somewhere. There’s a Paul Simon element to the lyrics and you can definitely feel Paul Kelly coming through as well. No, Tim Hart may not have the greatest voice in the indie-folk scene, but I could listen to his music all day.

25. Sarah Humphreys – “Like A House Needs A Door”
Sometimes you just want to put a song on that puts a smile on your face. “Like A House Needs A Door”, the nursery rhyme-esque folk-pop gem from Sarah Humphreys does just that – and with one of the cutest clips of the year you can’t help but feel happy whenever this song comes on. And what I love most about “Like A House Needs A Door” is just how much it captures Sarah Humphreys’ personality – playful, cheeky and ever so fun.

Interview: Tim Hart

Tim Hart
Image Courtesy of Tim Hart

Tim Hart, drummer for Boy & Bear and accomplished singer-songwriter, will release his debut solo album Milling The Wind this Friday and from what we’ve heard of it already we can tell you it’s very very good. We got on the phone with Tim Hart direct from Prague where Boy & Bear were taking a small break from their European tour to chat about the album, the collaborators who helped bring it all together and juggling a solo career while part of a hugely successful band.

Gareth Hugh Evans: Your new album Milling The Wind comes out this Friday. I’ve been listening to it over the last week or so and I really really like. How’re you feeling about it?

Tim Hart: I really appreciate that. It’s come together really well, I’m really excited to release it. It’s been a been a project I’ve been wanting to do for years and it was just the right timing at the end of last year to record. Mark [Myers] is a good friend of mine, from The Middle East, and we worked together on it – I just couldn’t be happier with the result. I wanted it to be all stripped back and I wanted it to be about the songs and that was something really important to him as well. It’s not flashy, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but I think it’s an album that’s about the songs. I’m really happy with the outcome, it’s really nice to put out a record that I’m 100% proud of and behind.

GHE: I was going to touch on the fact that it does sound so raw. The production just feels like you’re sitting in the same room as me.

TH: And that was really important to me. The albums that I grew up listening to were Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, early Dylan and Nick Drake. For me, regardless of how intricate those albums were, they were always about songs, they were always about great song writing and I guess that’s the tradition I wanted to follow in. I don’t profess to be a great songwriter at all, I’m still just learning my craft, but that was my benchmark, what I was aiming for, the whole idea of it being raw. I love the fact that it’s an album that you feel like you’re sitting in the same room as me playing my songs. That’s exactly what I was aiming for.

GHE: The press around this album has the same touchstones you’ve commented on – Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, Bob Dylan. I do get the Simon and Garfunkel influence quite a lot in a number of songs. Are you, like Paul Simon, quite meticulous with your songwriting? Do you agonise over every lyric?

TH: I’m a real self editor. It takes me a lot to be happy with my own lyrics. That can be tough because the songs can take a long time to finish. I mean one of the lyrics on the record was only finished about half an hour before I recorded the song. So I guess I am a real self editor. And that’s not always a good thing – it can be quite agonising.

GHE: I can imagine. It must slow down the songwriting process quite a bit.

TH: It does. But then again I don’t think it should be rushed. There are guys like Neil Young who believe that a song should be recorded straight after it’s written but there are other people like Leonard Cohen that might not finish a song for two or three years – I guess I’m probably somewhere in the middle. If there’s a song that just falls out and it’s great and it doesn’t need any editing then that’s a real bonus but it definitely doesn’t happen for me all the time.

GHE: I saw you supporting Ben Howard and Michael Kiwanuka in Sydney a couple of weeks ago. On stage you mentioned you’d been playing covers in pubs and clubs for a long time. Was this album being written during that period?

TH: By pure necessity and by pure fact [Boy & Bear] haven’t really gotten off the road for the best part of two and a half years it had to be written on the road. And to be honest it’s not that hard – 80% of a musician’s life is just hanging around so whenever I’ve had spare time I’ve been writing. I look at my dad and he’s been working 10 to 12 hour days all of his life so I can’t really complain.

GHE: I imagine that playing with Boy & Bear has opened a few opportunities for you?

TH: Definitely. It’s all a journey isn’t it? I think the fact I have been with Boy & Bear it would be silly to not to use some of their connections. At the same time it was never a project I wanted to be riding on the coattails of what we’ve been doing with Boy & Bear. But the great thing is you still have the same network of people and that’s actually really important I think. You do have creative people around you and you can ask them for advice and people are really willing to give it and I feel really fortunate for that.

GHE: It’s going to be inevitable that your slow work is going to be connected and compared to Boy & Bear. But it seems like those guys are really open to you exploring this solo path. And you’ve even worked with them on this record as well.

TH: I’m the kind of person that if people are around, and we’re friends and we’re in that community together then I want them to be part of what’s happening. Like Killian [Gavin, Boy & Bear guitarist) was away on his Honeymoon but he’d already recorded my demos for me and Dave [Hosking, Boy & Bear lead vocalist] flew up for a couple of days and Jake [Tarasenko, Boy & Bear bassist] was up there too with me – it was a case of whoever was around. Jordan [Ireland] was there one day and he was just hanging around, we had a beer or something, and he was playing banjo along to a song and I was like “that sounds really good, why don’t you lay it down?” and he did. That’s kind of how the record was made. It was me and Mark driving it the whole time and a flood of people coming in and out – if anyone was there they played on the record which is lovely.

GHE: Looking at the list of names you’ve got playing on the record – I love that you have Jake Tarasenko playing the flute and fife, that’s really cool.

TH: He’s incredible man – he just learnt it one Christmas

GHE: And you mentioned Jordan Ireland from The Middle East and you’ve got Faith Lee singing backing vocals on one track, and obviously Dave Hosking’s vocals on another which are quite distinctive.

TH: Dave and I used to sing a lot of covers together before Boy & Bear so it’s really interesting to hear his harmony behind me again rather than the other way around – it’s the way the things should be in life [laughs]. It’s really generous of those guys to give their time to sing on the record.

GHE: You have talked a little bit about working with Mark Myers but I wanted to know how he is as a producer. It seems like everyone who works with him says he’s very collaborative.

TH: Yeah he is. The greatest thing about Mark is that he’s able to turn my airy-fairy musician etherial ideas into reality. And then on top of that push the songs further. He’s a real straight shooter so I was able to get a lot more out of my songs by working with Mark. He’s very easy to work with but at the same time he won’t pull his punches if he feels like a session needs to go a certain way. And that was important for me – I felt like I needed direction, I felt like I had the ideas but to get to the end of the record it was important I had someone like Mark.

GHE: You have your tour coming up in September – it seems like you the spaces you’re playing in are much smaller than what you’d play with Boy & Bear. Is it nice being back in those smaller clubs?

TH: At the heart of what I do I’m a musician so these venues feel really life giving to me – I love doing smaller venues, I love having an intimate crowd. That’s what I love about folk music – it’s music of the people. We still try and do that with Boy & Bear but it becomes more difficult to transmit and show people who you are when it’s a bigger stage or you’re in and out at a festival. It’s a real treat for me to do tis tour. Can’t wait.

GHE: Thank you so much for your time today. I’m looking forward to seeing you again live.

TH: Cheers mate.

Milling The Wind is released this Friday 17th August. Tim Hart will be touring the album nationally from the end of August – the full list of dates are below:

Thursday 30th August – The Grace Emily, Adelaide, SA
Friday 31st August – The Ellington Jazz Club, Perth, WA
Saturday 1st September – The Newport Hotel (upstairs), Fremantle, WA
Wednesday 5th September – The Front Gallery & Cafe, Canberra, ACT
Thursday 6th September – Beav’s Bar, Geelong, VIC
Friday 7th September – Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 8th September – Baby Black Cafe, Bacchus Marsh, VIC
Wednesday 19th September – Lizottes, Kincumber, NSW
Thursday 20th September – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 21st September – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 22nd September – Yours & Owls, Wollongong, NSW
Sunday 23rd September – Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoomba, NSW
Thursday 27th September – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 28th September – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD

Review: Faith Lee, The Vanguard, Sydney

Faith Lee
Photo © Elize Strydom Courtesy of Faith Lee

Faith Lee with The Campervan Dancers and The Wild Comforts
12th August 2012, The Vanguard
Sydney

Faith Lee’s new EP Damascus has taken a while to get to us. From conception through to recording with Bill Chambers, mixing with Mark Myers and then finally being unleashed onto the world last month, Damascus has been two years in the making. So it was with a sense of relief and joy that Faith Lee was able to climb on stage at The Vanguard in Sydney and launch Damascus to a crowd of adoring friends, family and supporters.

When I arrived at the Vanguard I was treated to the lilting sounds of local folk duo The Campervan Dancers, a band I had been hearing good things about but hadn’t managed to catch live yet. The Campervan Dancers is the project of singer-songwriters Chelsea Gibson and Ryan Collings who on this night were performing without the rest of their band. Together these guys make beautiful folk music with Gibson in particular demonstrating her amazing voice. I was most impressed when they produced a harmonium for one of their songs – you can’t get much more folk than that. And when they finished on an acoustic version of Fatman Scoop’s “Be Faithful” (youtube video here) you couldn’t help but fall in love with these guys.

The Wild Comforts were a different kettle of fish altogether. I’d never heard their music prior to this gig so had absolutely no expectations coming into it. What I was greeted with was a wall of sound that sat somewhere between rockabilly, country and grunge. Seriously. And I was wrapped from the moment The Wild Comforts started playing because the sound was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Sure, the lead vocals of Joshua Deeble weren’t always pitch perfect and the noise created by Riley Phillips on electric guitar, Kalebh Deeble on bass and Ben Drane on drums meant that I didn’t catch a single lyric but the sound these guys were creating was exciting, new and captivating. Add to that their self-depricating banter (“that’s the most claps we’ve ever got” or “drink up – you need to listening to us”) and I was pretty enamored with these guys. Favourite track? “Kill Bill Vol. 1”.

At first I thought Faith Lee’s band was doing a final soundcheck as they milled around the stage but when pianist Emma Brown started playing the opening chords of “Waiting for the Day” and the lights started coming up I realised Faith Lee was about to begin. The rest of the audience started to cotton-on as well and by the time Lee and the rest of her band entered the stage and launched into the song the crowd was whooping and hollering.

What followed was an absolutely wonderful set from an artist I have become infatuated with over the last little while. Her music – the affected, country influenced vocals, the complex lyrical structure, the melodies overlaid with banjo, mandolin and more – is just captivating. And given her easy stage presence and the rapport she has with her band (probably because most of them are related to her) this was the kind of gig I wish wouldn’t end.

Damascus is only five tracks long so Faith Lee filled her set out with songs from it and others which are yet to be recorded. Her band, made up of Brown on keys, Lee’s sister Raechel Whitchurch on vocals, banjo and mandolin, her brother Jarod Lee on drums and her brother-in-law Ben Whitchurch on bass, were superb despite Faith Lee’s insistence that she only used them because they were free. They managed to fill out her sound while still ensuring her lyrics could be appreciated.

From the set my favourite tracks included “Golden Girl”, “Life Long Friend” and “I Could Not”. But the highlight was when Faith Lee invited her other sister Savannah and her parents on stage to reform their “family band” The Lees for a song – the harmonies were just exquisite and you could tell they were just having a ball. And Faith? Savannah Lee has an amazing voice – you should look out!

I didn’t want the night to end but as Faith Lee performed her encore I realised it must. If her EP and live show is anything to go by Faith Lee has a bright future ahead of her. If you get the chance make sure you see Faith Lee live – you’ll be glad you did.

Damascus is available from iTunes here. Check out our exclusive track-by-track of Damascus here.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 13th July

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

Arbori unleashed their gorgeous new track “In The Places You Fold” featuring backing vocals from The Falls, ILUKA, Chelsea Gibson and Stu Larsen. The track is available as a free download and will be officially launched at Hibernian House in Sydney on the 28th July. Details here.

Jack Carty is stocking up on frequent flyer points with weekly residencies in both Sydney and Melbourne. Packwood will be supporting Carty at all of the shows and the pair have released a video of them covering Sufjan Stevens’ “Decatur” to celebrate. Details here.

Grizzly Bear, who will be winging their way to Australia in November for the Harvest Festivals, have finally revealed the artwork and titled for their upcoming album, due for release on the 18th September. Details here.

– Sydney singer-songwriter Edward Deer shared his gorgeous new single “Washed Ashore” with us. “Washed Ashore” is set to appear on Deer’s upcoming debut album. Details here.

– Not ones to take a break The Mountain Goats have announced they’ll be releasing a new album, Transcendental Youth, this October. Details here.

– One of our favourite Aussie music sites, The AU Review, is turning four and to celebrate they’re holding a very special concert in Sydney that will recreate The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour album live on stage with a bunch of local artists. Fanny Lumsden and Winter People are flying the folk flag at the gig which is set to take place on 3rd August. Details here.

YOLK Collective, the Young Centenary Foundation and Georgie & Friends have announced a very special night of folk music and visual art in Sydney this Saturday. Featuring music from Karla Nader, ILUKA with Taylor Hogan, Arbori and the aforementioned Georgie & Friends the night will also support finding a cure for cancer. Details here.

– The wonderful new clip from Jordan Millar (who toured with Jack Carty last year) hit the interwebs. The track is called “Guilty” and the video was directed by Kane Waldron. Details here.

Sam Lee is one of the most exciting young trad musicians coming out of the UK at the moment. Combining songs he has collected mostly from the Traveller and Gypsy communities with diverse instrumentation, sampling and modern arrangements, Lee has created something really unique on his new album Ground Of Its Own, which has just been given a release date of 23rd July. Details here.

– For the second week in a row The Falls Festival has revealed a handful of artists for 2012. This time around the folk flag is being well and truly waved by First Aid Kit, returning to Australia for the second time this year. Details here.

Beth Orton announced her first album in almost 6 years titled Sugaring Season. The album is due for release on the 5th October with the first single “Something more Beautiful” already causing a buzz online. Details here.

– The new Old Crow Medicine Show album Carry Me Back will be released on the the 17th July but Relix.com has an advance stream. It’s very very good. Details here.

– Folk rockers America are touring Australia in September featuring original members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell. Details here.

The Falls, who are set to release their new EP Hollywood on the 3rd August, have announced launch shows in Sydney and Melbourne immediately followed by a support slot on Passenger national tour. Big things are happening for our favourite Sydney duo! Details here.

– Melbourne four piece Cordial Factory have just released “What Did You Ask For” the lastet single from their forthcoming EP First Make Thieves. The band will be launching the EP at the Northcote Social Club on the 8th August. Details here.

ILUKA released her brand new single “Paper Doll” following a successful launch at FBi Social. Its mixture of folk, jazz, blues and doo-wop is bound to have you dancing – and best of all ILUKA’s offering it up for free. Details here.

Reviews

Track By Track

“We played all the songs on Damascus live in the studio. I didn’t want to produce a product that was perfected and sounded like a recording”Faith Lee, Damascus. Track By Track here

Gigs

“It’s likely I’ve said this before but Jordie Lane really does epitomise everything I want in a folk singer”Jordie Lane, Camelot Lounge, Sydney. Review here

“It was a great hour-long set combining a range of new songs and old favourites and a show that should keep fans happy”Georgia Fair, The Standard, Sydney. Review here

Releases This Week


Broken BrightsAngus Stone
iTunes


DamascusFaith Lee
iTunes
CD Baby

Gigs Next Week

Breaking Hart Benton
Saturday 14th July – Spotted Cow, Toowoomba, QLD
Monday 16th July – The Cave, Gold Coast, QLD
Friday 20th July – Upfront Club, Maleny, QLD

Busby Marou
Fri 13th July – The SoundLounge, Gold Coast QLD
Sat 14th July – The Tivoli, Brisbane QLD
Sun 15th July – Great Northern, Byron Bay NSW

Jack Carty with Packwood
Sunday 15th July – Betty Bar, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 19th July – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

John Williamson
Friday 13th July – Commercial Club, Albury, NSW
Saturday 14th July – Montreal Community Theatre, Tumut, NSW
Wednesday 18th July – 99 on York, Sydney, NSW
Friday 20th July – Belmont 16ft Sailing Club, Belmont, NSW

MoFo (Telegraph Tower, My Sauce Good)
Friday 13th July – The Gaelic Club (Upstairs), Sydney, NSW

Paper Kites
Friday 13th July – Jive, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 19th July – The Lair, Sydney, NSW
Friday 20th July – Alhambra Lounge, Brisbane, QLD

Simone Felice
Friday 13th July – Meeniyan Town Hall, Meeniyan, VIC

The Good Ship
Saturday 14th July – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD

The Redlands Bluegrass Convention (The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, The Davidson Brothers, Mustered Courage, Bluegrass Parkway, Kristy Cox)
13th to 15th July – Redland Bay, QLD

The Rescue Ships
Friday 13th July – The Red Rattler, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 18th July – The Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 20th July – 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW

YOLK Folk (Karla Nader, ILUKA with Taylor Hogan, Arbori, Georgie & Friends)
Saturday 14th July – 49 Crown St, Woolloomoolloo, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“The Drover’s Boy” – Ted Egan

We know there’s a very famous American folk birthday tomorrow but we wanted to recognise an Australian living legend and dear friend, Ted Egan who turned 80 last week. If you have never heard this song you’re in for a treat. Happy Birthday mate!

Track By Track: Damascus, Faith Lee

Damascus
Image Courtesy of Faith Lee

Following on from her wonderful singles “Life Long Friend” and “Golden Girl” Faith Lee has just released her debut EP Damascus. Recorded in the studios of legendary country singer Bill Chambers and mixed by Mark Myers (The Middle East), we’ve already been fairly forthcoming in our love for this EP.

We asked Faith to talk us through Damascus for our first ever Track By Track and this is what she had to say:

“Waiting for the Days” We played all the songs on Damascus live in the studio. I didn’t want to produce a product that was perfected and sounded like a recording; I wanted it to sound as if you were listening to my live show and so we thought what better way to achieve that then to play it live. “Waiting for the Days” was done in two takes, it’s funny because we were happy with the first take but decided to be on the safe side we’d do another. There was only one thing that made us go with the second take rather than the first – it’s almost stupid but if you listen closely you can hear the sound of the piano pedal being lifted off at the very end, it makes a bang that for some reason we loved.

“Golden Girl” I think “Golden Girl” is the hardest song for a listener to understand on the EP. This song is the only one that I felt didn’t come naturally, rather I worked it over a few weeks and had to almost force this one – but in a good way. I really enjoy this process more than the others as I actually felt like I had created a song rather than the song creating itself – that sounds strange but I find it more rewarding having to work on something that I feel is being perfected by me with each line I write rather then it flowing out of me in 20 minutes and having a song written that I am not sure I had anything to do with as it just came out. I had full control of this song and it took me weeks to write, therefore it’s hard to pinpoint what it is specifically about because every sentence has a different meaning that ties into a time and a situation in my life that I now know as “Golden Girl”. That’s vague I know – does it help if I tell you that I’m not the Golden Girl?

“Life Long Friend” “Life Long Friend” is the only song on the EP that is not written about a personal experience. I’m actually the least attached to this song out of them all I think, I just struggle to relate to it when I’m singing it even though I wrote it. You see, I wrote it one night after talking with a friend who was arguing with me about his ideas on life and woman and the statement “Life Long Friend” was thrown around somewhere in the conversation in regards to him having many love interests and whether it was okay – which then lead to me writing this song.

“I Could Not” This is the only track on Damascus that was not recorded at the Bill Chambers studios. We recorded some demos early 2011 and I guess we just felt that the demo had a lot more heart in it then than the studio version did. I think it was due to the timing of the recording and the idea behind this song was more relevant to me earlier in the year then it was in late September.

“Father” This is my favourite track on Damascus. This was the song that changed the most from beginning to end. It started as the most delicate little folk song and transformed to an intense Americana country tune. It’s a tricky song to play at a solo gig as the band is such a big part of this song, but even still it always reminds me of the more country version of myself and a side of me that is still very much a part of my music and I think comes out the most when I have a full band playing behind me.

Damascus is available from iTunes or CD Baby. Faith Lee will be launching the EP at The Vanguard in Sydney on the 12th August – tickets and details are here.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 6th July

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– The documentary film following last year’s Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes and Old Crow Medicine Show Railroad Revival Tour, titled Big Easy Express, has been given an Australian release. Pick it up on DVD on the 27th July or right now on iTunes. Details here.

Laura Marling revealed that she’s been working on her forth album to be released “in about 6 months”. Details here.

The Falls Festival announced it’s first round of artists for 2012 including Timber and Steel favourites Boy & Bear. Details here.

– Despite being a regular to our shores Ben Harper has never done a headline acoustic tour of Australia. That’s all about to change with a list of dates announced in November. Details here.

– We got a stream of Little Father Time, the brand new EP from Sydney duo We Are The Birdcage. We were already in love with “Two Left Feet” so listening to the rest of the EP was a treat. Details here.

– Three of Sydney’s most exciting new artists – Faith Lee, Arbori and ILUKA – all announced launch shows for their upcoming singles and EPs. Details respectively here, here and here.

John Williamson released his new single “The Big Red” and launched his Put Your Town On The Map campaign asking Australian’s to share stories of their favourite towns and places around the country. Details here.

– Take a listen to the brand new single from Darwin’s Country Town Collective – a wonderfully dirty blues track called “Why Baby”. Details here.

– The brand new superhero-themed video for Jack Carty’s track “She’s Got A Boyfriend” debuted via Tone Deaf on Thursday. We love this clip so much, plu it’s one of our favourite songs from Break Your Own Heart. Details here.

– Sydney duo Jep&Dep sent over their ethereal new single “Ghosts on the River” which we really dig and had to share. Details here.

– The video for The Lumineers’ track “Ho Hey” has been kicking around for a while but Inertia Music have only just begun building the Denver band’s profile in Australia. These guys have a bright future ahead of them. Details here.

– With his brand new album Broken Brights due for release next Friday 13th July, Angus Stone gave his fans a listen to the thus-far unreleased track “Only A Woman”. Trust us, it’s not a Billy Joel cover. Details here.

Gigs Next Week

Bob Dylan Tribute (Kav Temperley, Josh Pyke, Bob Evans, Holly Throsby, Patience Hodgson)
Friday 6th July – Palais Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 7th July – QPAC Lyric Theatre, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 8th July – Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Breaking Hart Benton
Wednesday 11th July – The Joynt, Brisbane, QLD

Busby Marou
Friday 6th July – Prince of Wales, Bunbury WA
Saturday 7th July – Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA
Sunday 8th July – Newport Hotel, Fremantle WA
Thursday 12th July – Woombye Pub, Sunny Coast QLD
Friday 13th July – The SoundLounge, Gold Coast QLD

Finders Keepers Brisbane (Stephen Smith, Bec Plath, Mardi Lumsden, District of East, Turkey and Goose, Donnelle Brooks, Matt Nelson, Kellie Lloyd, Coco Baulch, Our Ithaca Creek)
Saturday 7th July – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 8th July – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD

Folk Club (Fanny Lumsden, The Falls, Carla Lippis)
Wednesday 11th July – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Georgia Fair
Friday 6th July – The Standard, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 12th July – The Toff, Melbourne, VIC

ILUKA, Castlecomer, Eliza Hull
Thursday 12th July – FBi Social, Sydney, NSW

John Williamson
Wednesday 11th July – Ex-Services, Temora, NSW
Thursday 12th July – Regional Theatre, Griffith, NSW
Friday 13th July – Commercial Club, Albury, NSW

Lachlan Bryan
Sunday 8th July – Lizottes, Dee Why, NSW

MoFo (Telegraph Tower, My Sauce Good)
Friday 13th July – The Gaelic Club (Upstairs), Sydney, NSW

Newport Folk Festival
6th to 8th July – Newport, VIC

Redlands Bluegrass Convetion (Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, Davidson Brothers, Bluegrass Parkway, Mustered Courage, Kristy Cox, Fat Chance, Redlands Bluegrass Boys, The O’Donnells)
13th to 15th July – Redlands, QLD

Simone Felice and Josh Ritter
Friday 6th July – Notes, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 8th July – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 11th July – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 13th July – Meeniyan Town Hall, Meeniyan (Simone Felice only), NSW

The Good Ship
Friday 6th July – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

The Paper Kites
Thursday 12th July – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 13th July – Jive, Adelaide, SA

The Rescue Ships
Friday 6th July – the Grace Darling, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 13th July – The Red Rattler, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Desert Child” – Warren H Williams and John Williamson

We thought we’d cap off NAIDOC Week with this wonderful track by Alice Springs based country singer Warren H Williams together with his mate John Williamson. Love the fiddle work from Pixie Jenkins on this track as well.

Faith Lee To Launch Debut EP

Faith Lee
Image Courtesy of Faith Lee

Every day I feel so privileged to be writing this blog. It means I get to occasionally peer behind the curtain and get a preview of some really exciting music before it hits the public’s ears – and when I can’t wait to for everyone else to hear it.

Just yesterday I was lucky enough to get an advanced listen to the debut EP from Faith Lee, due for release next week on the 9th July. And it’s absolutely magic. In 24 hours I’ve listen to it maybe 20 times? Really, I’ve lost count.

Two of the songs on the EP, “Life Long Friend” and “Golden Girl”, will be familiar to Timber and Steel readers (the videos were posted here and here) and rest of the tracks are equally as devine.

Faith Lee will be launching her new EP at The Vanguard in Sydney on the 12th August and will be her first headline show of the year. If you’re in Sydney we highly recommend you get down and see her and pick up a copy of the EP – full details of the launch show are on The Vanguard’s web site here.

New Faith Lee Video, “Golden Girl”

Faith Lee
Photo by Ruth&Rose Courtesy of Faith Lee

There’s something really special about Faith Lee’s brand of quirky folk-pop. I think it’s in the way she constructs her songs, the way she uses syncopation and phrasing to take them to places you wouldn’t expect it to go. And of course there’s her distinctive voice which I just love.

But enough gushing. The new single from Faith Lee is “Golden Girl” and features clowns. Lots of clowns. “Golden Girl” is taken from Lee’s upcoming debut EP which will hit your ears some time in July – the single is available now on iTunes. Check out the clip below:

Artists For Sydney’s Folk Club This Wednesday 30th May

Evan & the Brave
Image Courtesy of Evan & the Brave

If you’ve managed to make it down Sydney’s Folk Club in the last couple of weeks you’ll know that they’ve well and truly settled into their new home at the Oxford Art Factory. Last Wednesday’s show was literally jam packed and looking at the lineup for this week we sure hope that trend continues.

This week Folk Club regulars and organisers The Falls will be joined by the insanely good Faith Lee and their recent tour buddies Evan & the Brave (above). Evan & the Brave are the “headliners” for the night so will have the honour of being interviewed by Emma Swift and filmed by Artheory for their Vimeo channel (check out previous Folk Club videos here).

As usual Folk Club is free (although monetary tips for the artists are welcome) with the show kicking off at 7:30pm. Check out the Facebook event for more details.

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2011

Records

Every music blog, website and magazine (including us) spend their December frantically trying to distill the year into a “best of list” that is ultimately redundant given the subjectiveness of the artform. But we still do it because a) people read these publications because they trust the writers’ taste and b) everyone likes a list (usually so they can disagree with them).

But we realised that very rarely does anyone ever ask the artists – the very people who are making the music – who they’ve been listening to throughout the year. So we thought we’d buck the trend and asked a bunch of the bands and solo artists we’ve been following this year for their favourite album or EP of 2011.

The most common response was “do I have to pick just one?” or “just publish this before I change my mind!”. Despite the countless sleepless nights the artists no doubt spent agonising over their decisions we think we’ve managed to amass a pretty eclectic list from a group of people we absolutely admire. A big thank you has to go to all the artists who took the time out to contribute (as well as the patience of the various press contacts we pestered) – I think you’ll agree that this is a hell of a list from the national (and international) Timber and Steel alumni.

So without further ado we give our artist albums of the year:

Wild Beasts SmotherEmmy The Great
Wild BeastsSmother
One of the biggest growers in my record collection. Took me three listens to understand it, and all of a sudden I was in love. Truly, madly, deeply wonderful. Sexy. I bought it twice. And yes, I own it on vinyl, and yes, it sounds amazing

Laura Jean A Fool Who'llJen Cloher
Laura JeanA Fool Who’ll
LJ is a great lyricist, musician and singer but what I love about her most is that she doesn’t sound like anyone else. In fact the whole album has its own identity, which is as rare as hens teeth these days. It’s a folk rock album where Laura trades in her acoustic for a Gibson electric but the band (Jen Sholakis & Biddy Connor) have their own thing going on too. Alongside Gareth Liddiard (The Drones) Laura Jean is an uncompromising artist, whether you listen to her or not, she’ll keep making some of the best albums in Australia.

Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo The CradleFred Smith
Penny Larkins and Carl PannuzzoThe Cradle
I liked this album and not just ’cause they cover one of my songs, but also for its stripped back and interesting arrangements and tender delivery of a considered collection of songs.

The Middle East  I Want That You Are Always HappyTim Hart (Boy & Bear)
The Middle EastI Want That You Are Always Happy
Beautiful production and songwriting. A very inspiring record and a real shame that they finished up just as they were getting started.

Lanie Lane To The HorsesNikki Thorburn (ILUKA)
Lanie LaneTo The Horses
Channeling early rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and rockabilly To The Horses is one record that I found myself listening to over and over and still enjoying each time. Such catchy tunes and something refreshingly different. And oh what a voice has miss Lanie!!

The Perch Creek Family Jug Band - Tall TalesJordie Lane
The Perch Creek Family Jug BandTall Tales
A beautiful example of great bluegrass and ol’ time standards coming from this quirky Australian ‘real’ family band. With the Hodgkins kids of all different ages sharing the singing duties and some of the best players guesting. Listen out for the secret track – its a cracker!

Noah and the Whale Last Night on EarthPearl Button (Ruby for Lucy)
Noah and the WhaleLast Night on Earth
This album makes me want to write joyful songs – songs that put a spring in your step. And Charlie’s storytelling is at its best here, I think. Plus, I love a concept album. And this one was released at a time when I needed to hear that starting again is both brave and beautiful. Last Night on Earth is full of wonder. It makes me happy.

Husky Forever SoMatt Amery (Tin Sparrow):
It is a toss up between HUSKYForever So and The Middle EastI Want That You Are Always Happy.
I think that both of these are amazing albums. They are both so organic and meticulously crafted. I see these albums as one long song or journey rather than a compilation of their songs as they flow seamlessly from one song to the other. That being said i still have favourites songs from both albums but they frequently change, which I think is another sign of a great album!

Real Estate DaysMark Piccles (Tin Sparrow)
Real EstateDays
Can’t stop listening to it. Their first album was great but this is for me the most solid, straight up pop record of the year. Some of the simplest songs you will hear all 2011, and some of the best.

Alexander AlexanderFanny Lumsden
Alexander EbertAlexander
This album makes me feel like I am sitting in the sunshine eating figs straight from a fig tree … which incidentally was what I was doing the first time I listened to this album.

Build a Rocket Boys ElbowRobin Geradts-Gill (The Little Stevies)
ElbowBuild a Rocket Boys!
Not surprising that it’s a great album, as the Manc lads have outdone themselves with every release to do date. But what’s so surprising is how stripped back, ambient and almost hypnotic the album is, with stripped back song structures that play on simple riffs and melody cycles. Yet at the end of a listen, you’re left as fulfilled as can be – it feels so much bigger than it sounds.

Eddie VedderNardi Simpson (Stiff Gins)
Eddie VedderUkulele Songs
When my sister told me Eddie Vedder did a cd of ukulele songs I thought she’d got her wires crossed or lost her marbles or something…Eddie Vedder, THE Eddie Vedder, a uke? I listened to his music, that gravelly, stony, sandpaper smooth delivery, floating over that dreamy, creamy ukulele and remembered why I got into music in the first place, not only to sing, but to find ways to be different, to challenge myself and to have fun. Eddie Vedder reminded me how to have fun with sound again, how to be playful and exposed and brave all at the same time. I had got a uke earlier in the year for my birthday but the real present was from Vedder

Manchester Orchestra Simple MathShane Graham (Holland)
Manchester OrchestraSimple Math
This was a highly anticipated record for me. After their second album Mean Everything to Nothing I was curious as to the progression … It was the perfect blend of cinematic beauty and rootsy, raw down to earth rock songs

The Middle East  I Want That You Are Always HappyJordan Wilson (Georgia Fair)
The Middle EastI Want That You Are Always Happy
Some of the most beautiful and classic songs I’ve heard from a young band. “The Land of the Bloody Unknown” hit me straight away.

Beirut The Rip TideBrianne Curran (Takadimi)
BeirutThe Rip Tide
Enjoying the fresh new sounds and composition ideas that are present on Beirut’s new album The Rip Tide. Being a Beirut fan ever since a friend at uni put me onto them, I was keen to see what they would come up with next after listening to their previous albums way too many times!

The Harrow and the HarvestPete Uhlenbruch (Owls of the Swamp)
Gillian WelchThe Harrow & The Harvest
There’s something frustratingly undefinable about this album that grabs me from the very first note. The synergy between Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings is sublime on these recordings, crystallized as a marriage of yin-yang acoustic guitars and a celestial cascade of vocal harmonies. I love the sense of space and minimal arrangements, which give room for the hypnotizing melodies and lyrics to soar before sinking deep into your skin.

The King of LimbsDaniel Lee Kendall
RadioheadThe King of Limbs
I actually haven’t listened to that many new albums this year, I’ve been listening more to older stuff. But of what I have listened to, I quite liked King of Limbs. I really enjoyed the landscapes they created in this. Also that video where Thom is just dancing the whole time is brilliant. I want to dance in that room in slow-mo.

Noah and the Whale Last Night on EarthHelen Croome (Gossling)
Noah and the WhaleLast Night on Earth
It’s got a great mix of slower tracks that you can happily let wash over you, as well as the joyous up-beat songs like “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N” that can instantly pick up your mood. The arrangements and production are crazily addictive.

Ben Salter The CatThomas Busby (Busby Marou)
Ben SalterThe Cat
This is an intelligent, passionate and more importantly, a complete Album. It is one of the very few records that I have to listen to from beginning to end – no track skipping forward or back. The songwriting is just like Salter’s live show – fearless, melodic and real. I can’t stop listening to this Album and I don’t think I will ever get tired of it!

The Middle East  I Want That You Are Always HappyStu Larsen
The Middle EastI Want That You Are Always Happy
For the first 3 weeks I listened to the entire album every night before I slept. It’s still one I go back to constantly. Beautiful songs beautifully recorded, a real journey album for me. I’m sad that these guys are no longer a band, but I’m happy they’ve left us with some amazing music.

Bon Iver Bon IverLissa
Bon IverBon Iver
My favourite album of the year has been Bon Iver’s self-titled album. As soon as I put it on for the first time, my eyes closed and I knew I was in for an absolute treat. This second album has much greater depth and breadth with a myriad of sounds and instruments, yet still maintains that expanse and space that I love floating around in. Vernon’s melodies and lyrics are beautiful, intriguing, captivating as always. Each track being a place name merely reinforces that you have to journey through this album as a whole. When I arrive home after a hectic day, this album is the perfect antidote.

Seeker Lover KeeperRoss James Tipper and Ash Steel (Achoo! Bless You)
Seeker Lover KeeperSeeker Lover Keeper
We can both remember quite clearly the day we first found out about the formation of the ultimate Australian folk female super group, Seeker Lover Keeper. It was as though things in the world had just become ‘right’ again. Holly Throsby, Sarah Blasko and Sally Seltman, what an absolutely perfect combination of delicate, sultry voices and sheer brilliant, sensitive songwriting talent! The sudden formation of this group had Ross secretly wishing he was a woman so he could leave Achoo! Bless You and make the Seeker, Lover, Keeper trio a quartet. What we love most about this album is the way the girls wrote the songs for each other’s voices, not their own, as per their solo material. The stand out track of the record is definitely Sally Seltman’s ‘Even Though I’m a Woman’, but it is Holly’s raw, emotive lead vocal that really brings this song into its own. And Aden Young’s performance in the accompanying video clip to this song is spot on (that little head turn at 0:11 melts Ash’s heart every time). One would expect nothing less that this brilliant, thoughtful album from three of Australia’s best singer-songwriters.

Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo The CradleLiz Frencham
Penny Larkins and Carl PannuzzoThe Cradle
I love Carl & Penny’s new album The Cradle. Such a complete experience – a piece of their lives captured in a bottle for us to share. Carl’s voice is like an ecstatic angel and blends with Penny’s so beautifully. But I’m torn. I am also really loving Lucie Thorne’s new album Bonfires in Silver City. Her voice just takes me somewhere beautiful and her songs never disappoint. Either way, Aussie indie’s all the way!

Wits EndJack Carty
Cass McCombsWit’s End
I accidentally saw Cass play whilst overseas in 2010 (I was at the show to see Lightspeed Champion who was supporting) and he blew me away. He seems to have a real enigmatic swagger (or is it an aloofness?) that allows him to deliver every single line with conviction, feeling and weight, but without sounding to sorry for himself. I still have trouble finding others that know about his music here in Australia though. This album came out in April and is beautifully and subtly put together. He uses space beautifully to create a kind of edgy longing and loneliness that lasts the whole record long in a way that comes across as both strangely creepy and strikingly beautiful. Occasional interjections by woodwind instrumentations such as bass clarinet or chalumeau help add texture sparingly and effectively and his lyrical turn of phrase is dense, melancholic and thoughtful, firmly remaining so on consecutive listens. This is no doubt a sad record, but a very very beautiful one. This guy is the real deal.

Ashes and FireCorey DiMario (Crooked Still)
Ryan AdamsAshes & Fire
I love the stripped down production of this album. It is edgy enough to be compelling but not so volatile to make it unlistenable or uncomfortable. The songwriting is sweet and low key and as always his singing is fantastic. There’s also great playing from his backup band that includes Norah Jones and Benmont Tench on keyboards.

Helplessness BluesSteven Barnard (arbori:)
Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues
It’s not often you press play on a new record and the opening line echoes your exact thoughts from earlier that week. To then find this existential empathy throughout the record is what makes Helplessness Blues my favourite of the year. Musically it took a while to sink in my skin. I found myself returning to it several times through the year as it’s resonance and relevance for me became more evident. I imagine it’s the kinda music monks would be making: deeply existential and harmonic – “monk rock”.

100 Acres of SycamoreFaith Lee
Fionn Regan100 Acres of Sycamore
If you’re a fan of Fionn’s earlier albums, you may really struggle to get into this one … I know I did. Lyrically it kills me (in the best way) and even though I was expecting a full blown folk album, what I now know as Fionn Regan is a sound that some may say is even better than before. It’s a very dark version of Fionn and a completely matured sound.

Other Lives Tamer AnimalsNick Hemming (The Leisure Society)
Other LivesTamer Animals
I was a latecomer to this band, but Tamer Animals has become a bit of an obsession. The arrangements are incredibly detailed and yet subtle, if you immerse yourself in them it’s an intensely rewarding experience. The songs are beautifully written and, although singer Jesse Tabish delivers them in quite a downbeat manner, his voice drips with pathos. If you don’t like this album then you probably don’t like music.

Lykke Li Wounded RhymesPhia
Lykke LiWounded Rhymes
It’s a darker, sexier album than her first, the production is great (she teamed up with Bjorn Yttling from Peter, Bjorn and John again) and it is an intriguing, danceable LP from an artist with fantastic pop-writing instincts and tonnes of charisma.

Laura Jean A Fool Who'llJulia Johnson (Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens)
Laura JeanA Fool Who’ll
Hearing rumours that she would be playing electric guitar and saxophone, I was unsure what to expect after Laura Jean’s distinctly folky previous album, Eden Land. Upon hearing A Fool Who’ll, it became clear to me that Laura Jean is in a rare category of artists which I haven’t added to in years in the music on my computer – Artists Who Always Release Albums Which Astound Me And Will Never Make The Same Album Twice. The only other artists I have in there are PJ Harvey and The Shins.

Three Trapped TigersJoe Gould (Crooked Fiddle Band)
Gillian WelchHarrow and the Harvest and Three Trapped TigersRoute One or Die
In true Crooked style, there are two wildly different albums that I think sum up the year perfectly. Welch’s album took a little while to grow, but once it hit me, I was floored at the way she and Dave Rawlings strip things back – two voices and two guitars is pretty much all you get – and settle you into a mood across the whole album, pure country songs that transcend the need for frills. Three Trapped Tigers played before us at a festival in the UK and I was amazed at the sheer energy this band has. Over-the-top, bombastic, brash and yet still with moments of real beauty, this has to be the best instrumental album of the year.

nullBayden Hine (Packwood)
Ólafur ArnaldsLiving Room Songs
Listening to this incredibly spacious album you would never think that it was recorded in the teeny tiny living room of Icelandic native Ólafur Arnalds. Aptly named Living Room Songs, Ólafur wrote one song a day for one week (a process he has followed previously on an earlier record, Found Songs), Ólafur encompasses all that I admire in an artist; he is incredibly creative, resourceful and the album reflects this. His spare arrangements and sombre (not in a bad way, mind you) melodies are truly spectacular to behold. Iceland really seems to be a hotbed for creativity these days!

Kurt Vile Smoke RingLeroy Lee
Kurt VileSmoke Ring For My Halo
I feel stoned just thinking about this album. I think it’s a great soundtrack for a Great Depression: sitting on a bean bag wondering whether to have Cornflakes again for dinner, “Ghost Town” streaming from an old YouTube playlist.

Tell MeEmma Swift (49 Goodbyes, In The Pines)
Jessica Lea MayfieldTell Me
There’s no doubt 2011 has been a great year for twang. Emmylou Harris’ Hard Bargain and Lucinda Williams’ Blessed both made high rotation on the Swift Stereo early in the year. Jim Lauderdale’s Reason & Rhyme and Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive – I yearn to give you a bunch of gushing superlatives but we just don’t have enough word count. And Gillian Welch! If I owned Harrow & The Harvest on vinyl I would have worn out the grooves by now. Of course, looking at this little list thus far, it would seem that the life assessment I said/slurred to my pal Dobe over a few white wines last week still rings true – “Musically, I’m just a middle-aged man trapped in the body of an almost 30 year old woman.” However, if I’m wanting to fight this … Am I wanting to fight this? No, I don’t give a damn at all really. But if I’m looking to give Timber and Steel readers a heads up on something that’s younger, cooler and still blowing my tiny mind after almost ten months of non-stop play, Jessica Lea Mayfield’s Tell Me is brilliant, assured, sexy as fuck and has been criminally overlooked in Australia. If I were Santa, I’d be putting it in Christmas stockings the world over.

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