New Music Monday – 26th August

Hayden Calnin
Image Courtesy of Hayden Calnin

Bear’s Den – “Hiding Bottles”

For the video for their new single “Hiding Bottles”, English indie-folk band Bear’s Den tackle the very confronting reality of living with an alcoholic parent. It’s a confronting track but tackled deftly by the band with their usual high standard of songwriting and musicianship. “Hiding Bottles” is taken from the album So That You Might Hear Me.

Bon Iver – “Naeem”

In a surprise move Bon Iver released their new album i,i digitally almost three weeks earlier than was originally announced, delighting fans worldwide. Alongside the album release was the new single and lyric video “Naeem”. The track is more vocally driven than a lot of the other music from i,i, featuring Justin Vernon’s voice driven by a soulful piano and softly strummed acoustic guitar. But of course the experimentation and glitchy instrumentation we’ve come to expect from Bon Iver isn’t far away, and the combination makes this one of my favourite songs from the new album.

D.C Cross – “Presslufthammer Catfight”

D.C Cross is the latest moniker from Sydney based singer-songwriter Darren Cross (Gerling, Jep & Dep, Darren Cross Band) covering his latest foray into instrumental folk guitar. In the single “Presslufthammer Catfight” Cross appears to have moved on from the alt-country of his recent output to embrace the type of fingerpicked folk guitar popular with practitioners of the Anglo-Celtic tradition. His playing is full of open-tuned resonance and interesting chordal and finger-picking choices that come together in a really special piece of instrumental music.

Harvey Russell – “Please Don’t Pretend”

Sydney based alt-country singer-songwriter Harvey Russell has been making quite a splash since launching his solo project – and that’s set to continue with the announcement of his debut album Liquid Damage to be released this Friday 30th August. His latest single “Please Don’t Pretend” borrows heavily from traditional country, with its heart firmly planted in the artists of yesteryear.

“Traditional country is pure in the sense that it seems to be able to tap into universal truths and themes which have always appealed to me.” Harvey Russell explained. “Although country songs can sound simple, writing quality country songs is far from easy! I guess that’s a challenge I’m attracted to; refining my songwriting in a genre to which I’ve always been drawn.”

Harvey Russell will be launching in Sydney this Saturday as well as a handful of shows through September:

Saturday 31st August – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th to Sunday 15th September – Nimbin Roots Festival, Nimbin, NSW
Sunday 22nd September – Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 26th September – Midnight Special, Sydney, NSW

Hayden Calnin – “Warm with You”

“Warm With You” is the latest single and video from ambient electro-folk singer-songwriter Hayden Calnin, taken from his upcoming EP A Life You Would Choose which is due for release on the 13th September. The track is classic Hayden Calnin, combining his folk sensibilities, indie influences and production skills to build a beautiful song and an equally beautiful video.

“”Warm With You” is a song about escapism,” Calnin explains. “It’s an expression of wanting to run and get away from everything, live off of the land if you will and start a life with someone. But as life goes on, things change, and those dreams start to take a turn and sometimes it never really happens. I ended up recording 9 different versions of the song before I finally settled on a final version which I think is a record number for me. I’ve never really been that particular about a song before.”

Joe Mungovan – “Be With You”

South Coast based singer-songwriter Joe Mungovan has just released “Be With You”, an etherial indie-pop track full of deep emotions written raw all of his incredible voice.

“I had been living and recording in the bush by myself for a long time when I wrote this song,” Mungovan explained. “It came about because I was in such a beautiful place and having a wonderful time and I wanted to share the experience with another human. The natural environment that surrounded me and the sense of solitude I felt inspired me to write this song.”

Joe Mungovan has a handful of upcoming dates:

Sunday 8th September – A Day On The Hill, Gerringong, NSW
Friday 13th September – Some Velvet Morning, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 15th September – Lazybones Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Lost Ragas – “Keeping Up With Yesterday”

“Keeping Up With Yesterday” is the brand new, trippy single from Melbourne four-piece Lost Ragas, taken from their upcoming album This Is Not A Dream, due on the 2nd September. The trippy chord progression and bendy slide guitar gives the track a psychedelic quality which seems to be the sound we can expect from This Is Not A Dream if their last single “Just Wastin’ Time” is anything to go on.

Pieta Brown feat. Mark Knopfler – “The Hard Way”

American singer-songwriter Pieta Brown has teamed with the legendary Mark Knopfler for her latest single “The Hard Way”. The track is taken from her upcoming S.Carey produced album Freeway, due on the 20th September, and perfectly combines Brown’s songwriting talents with the laconic guitar style that is so distinctly Mark Knopfler.

“I kept sonically envisioning, ‘If I could just get Mark Knopfler on there…’,” Pieta Brown told Billboard, who featured the track. “Mark is a very sweet, amazing musician and has become a friend through music. So one day I just wrote him a message and asked if he would consider taking a listen to this track. I said I felt like it wasn’t quite done yet, but I wasn’t sure what it needed. I said, ‘I’m hearing the sound of you or something like what you do, and I can’t give you specifics beyond that.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, of course,’ and came up with a great part that made the song undeniable.”

The Lumineers – “Leader Of The Landslide” & “Left For Denver”

We’re now up to the fifth and sixth videos in the series from The Lumineers ahead of their new album III, due on the 13th September. The band are describing “Leader Of The Landslide” as their folk “Starway to Heaven” due to the epic quality of the track whereas “Left For Denver” is a lot more straightforward and stripped back.


Tori Forsyth – “Be Here”

For “Be Here”, the first single since her debut album, Hunter Valley based singer-songwriter Tori Forsyth has shrugged off the alt-country sound in favour of a blistering, grunge inspired track. “Be Here” is crunchy snarly and full of attitude – definitely a new and welcome side to Forsyth’s music.

“Recording this song was one of the smoothest recording sessions I’ve ever done,” Explained Forsyth. “We went in and left five hours later with the song near finished. We knew before we went, where it was going and the influences behind it, PJ Harvey, Soundgarden. It was pretty magic how it just came together so easily. I’ve never been so inspired coming away from the studio. ”

Tori Forsyth is heading out this October and November for an east coast tour:

Friday 18th October – The Milk Factory, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 19th October – The Imperial Hotel, Eumundi, QLD
Sunday 20th October – Vinnies Dive Bar, Gold Coast, QLD
Friday 25th October – The Stag & Hunter, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 26th October – The Union Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 27th October – Frank’s Wild Years, Wollongong, NSW
Friday 1st November – Workers Club, Geelong, VIC
Saturday 2nd November – Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 3rd November – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT

New Music Monday – 24th June

Sarah Humphreys
Image Courtesy of Sarah Humphreys

Bryan Estepa – “I’m Not Ready For This”

Prolific Sydney-based singer-songwriter Bryan Estepa channels classic Americana and rock with his new single “I’m Not Ready For This”. Taken from his upcoming album Sometimes I Just Don’t Know, due on the 23rd August, “I’m Not Ready For This” sounds like classic Tom Petty – lyrically driven rock music with a pop sensibility.

Emma Russack – “Be Real”

Melbourne based singer-songwriter Emma Russack released “Be Real”, the newest single from her upcoming album Winter Blues, due on the 5th July. Channelling 90s grunge and indie rock, “Be Real” is Russack’s reaction to the selfie culture.

“[“Be Real”] is about my frustration with phone obsession, social media, hype and trend – the phoniness that I see all over the place (and actually buy into),” Emma Russack explained. “I’m really trying to emphasise the importance of being true to yourself and being ‘real’ – whatever the hell that means. The video is a snapshot of how insular and isolated people have become as a result of technology. I just wanna connect irl.”

To celebrate the release of her new album Emma Russack has a bunch of tour dates in the second half of the year.

Wednesday 7th August – The Jazzlab, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 9th August – Sideway, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 10th August – Golden Age Cinema & Bar, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th September – Major Tom’s, Kyneton, VIC
Saturday 14th September – Macedon Railway Hotel, Macedon, VIC
Sunday 15th September – The Taproom – Shedshaker Brewing, Castlemaine, VIC

Greta Stanley – “Follow Suit”

Queensland based singer-songwriter Greta Stanley released her new single “Follow Suit”. With gorgeous production from Mark Myers (The Middle East), “Follow Suit” explores what it’s like to go from youth to adulthood in isolated Far North Queensland. I like the way the song meanders through different production styles while keeping Stanley’s voice front and centre – the production almost feels like a stream of consciousness, kept in line by the conventional structure of the song’s lyrics and phrasing.

“Follow Suit is about wanting to pull away and wanting to feel something more but not knowing how, or when, or where to go,” Greta Stanley explains. “It’s a song I wrote when I was questioning my reasons for continuing to do things I didn’t want to do, and a lot of my friends were too. Because we were afraid of change and the unknown. It’s about how quickly your mind can change – to being sure and moving forward, to feeling like time is slipping and you’re stuck still – full of uncertainty.”

“Follow Suit” is taken from Greta Stanley’s upcoming EP Sun In My Eyes which is due for release on the 26th July. Upcoming tour dates are below:

Saturday 29th June – Neck of the Woods Festival, Townsville, QLD
Friday 23rd August – Darwin Festival, Darwin, NT
Friday 13th September – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 14th September – Tank Arts Centre, Cairns, QLD
Thursday 19th September – The Tivoli, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 20th September – The Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 21st September – Byron Bay Brewery, Byron Bay, NSW

Passenger – “Let Me Dream A While”

Any day with new Passenger music is a good day. His latest video “Let Me Dream A While” was filmed and recorded at Abbey Road complete with a string quartet. The track is taken from Passenger’s latest album Sometimes It’s Something, Sometimes It’s Nothing At All and is exactly what you’d expect from the UK based singer-songwriter – beautiful fingerpicked guitar, emotionally driven melancholic lyrics and Mike’s unique voice.

Sarah Humphreys – “Slow Dance”

Central Coast based singer-songwriter Sarah Humphreys has returned with a really sweet new song and video, “Slow Dance”. Humphreys is the queen of this understated style of indie-folk and her voice in the track is perfectly matched by the simple arrangement of acoustic guitar, bass, pedal-steel and trumpet (not to mention the obligatory toy piano). Lovely stuff

The Avett Brothers – “High Steppin'”

New York’s indie-folk favourites The Avett Brothers have released their new single “High Steppin'”, taken from their upcoming album Closer Than Together, due on the 4th October. The track takes country music conventions (including a spoken word interlude!), couples it with a straight rock beat, synths and some swirling guitars and creates something that feels familiar and new at the same time. It’s kind of odd but I kind of like it for being odd.

The Teskey Brothers – “Man Of The Universe”

As The Teskey Brothers gear up to release their new album Run Home Slow on the 2nd August, we’ve been gifted with another new track from the Melbourne based band. Following the gospel of “Hold Me”, the band’s latest single and video is the soul driven “Man Of The Universe”. This track feels like it’s been ripped directly from the 70s with its distinctly retro sound.

Tully John & Liza-Jane – “Embers”

Gold Coast duo Tully John & Liza-Jane have released their new single “Embers”, a mixture of indie-folk storytelling with more pop sensibilities. The way Tully John & Liza-Jane’s vocals intertwine over the pulsing melody of “Embers” is beautiful and is further heightened by the shimmering guitars and keys.

“The song begins with two souls divided before they begin to interweave and come together again,” Liza-Jane explains. “In the end it is a song of resolution and solace. The ember is the hope to which we cling when things are just a bit wobbly.”

Tully John & Liza-Jane have a handful of tour dates in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales next week:

Wednesday 3rd July – House Concert, Gold Coast, QLD
Thursday 4th July – The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 5th July – Dust Temple, Gold Coast, QLD
Saturday 6th July – House Concert, Byron Bay, NSW

Wallis Bird – “As The River Flows”

It’s easy to see why Irish artist Wallis Bird has such a following in Australia when she’s releasing music like her latest single “As The River Flows”. The first taste of her upcoming album Woman, due on the 27th September, “As The River Flows” is a frantic, visceral song with Bird’s lyrics tumbling over a cacophony of sounds and music. Intensely mesmerising music from Wallis Bird

Winterbourne – “Too Many”

“Too Many” is the third single from the upcoming album Echo Of Youth from Winterbourne, due on the 23rd August. The duo have transitioned seamlessly from their original indie-folk sound to take on a more synth-driven context which is seeing them win the hearts and minds of their fans.

“”Too Many” is a slow build from one point to another with a bunch of ramblings that rhyme over the top,” James from Winterbourne explained. “Much like when you’re staring out into the distance and all the things that are making you feel overwhelmed are adding up in your head but then some thought or chemical brings you comfort, and you revel in that while you walk home listening to music.”

Winterbourne are heading out on tour this October, playing some of their biggest headline shows to date:

Friday 25th October – Mojos, Fremantle, WA
Saturday 26th October – Jive, Adelaide, SA
Friday 8th November – The Brightside, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 9th November – Howler, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 16th November – The Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Listen to the New Raised By Eagles Single “Shape & Line”

Raised By Eagles
Image Courtesy of Raised By Eagles

Melbourne based country-rock band Raised By Eagles have just released their new single “Shape & Line”. The track is the first taste from the band’s highly anticipated third album and points to a bigger more electrified sound.

Check it out here:

Raised By Eagles are heading out on tour this May and June supporting Mick Thomas – check out the full dates here:

Friday 19th May – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 20th May – Suttons House Of Music, Ballarat, VIC
Sunday 21st May – Capital Theatre, Bendigo, VIC
Saturday 27th May – Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 28th May – Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Friday 2nd June – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 3rd June – Lizottes Restaurant, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 17th June – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC

Watch the New Eddie Boyd Video “Stoned”

Eddie Boyd
Image Courtesy of Eddie Boyd

For his latest video “Stoned” Sydney singer-songwriter Eddie Boyd has set his sights on a very clear inspiration – the world of Harry Potter. Set at the annual presentation of a small time Harry Potter Society, the video features a cosplaying Boyd descend into a drunken rage.

Check out the clip here:

Eddie Boyd has a handful of dates in the next few weeks to support the new video. All remaining dates for his tour are below:

Thursday 18th August – Selina’s, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 24th August – Bar Open, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 26th August – The Loft, Warrnambool, VIC
Saturday 27th August – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW

Falls Festival Review: Timber and Steel Highlights

The Valley Stage at Falls Festival Byron BayFestival: Falls Music and Arts Festival
Location: Byron Bay – North Byron Parklands
Date(s): Thursday 31st Dec 2015 – Saturday 2nd Jan 2016
Feature Artists: Courtney Barnett, Little May, The Button Collective, Gary Clark Jr.
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

The line up was a great collection of many talented musicians from a vast array of genres. In terms of Timber and Steel acts, there were four main highlight acts to catch at Falls.

Courtney BarnettIt’s been a big year for Courtney Barnett, 2015 has seen her juggernaut debut grow in to dominance of the charts and the hearts of Australians of almost all musical persuasions. Clad in desert boots, jeans and a hat that only lasted a song and a half, Barnett didn’t hesitate to launch with full energy in to her huge set on the Valley Stage for the first day of the new year. The audience sprawled across the lawns, from the raptured fans at the front, to the chilled punters on the grassy slopes at the back, all completely fixated on the multi award winning yet demure figure. Highlights from her set include that rare quiet moment as the entire Valley hushed for the opening notes of Depreston only to then have every voice heard singing along in unison, and her huge hit Pedestrian at best close her set in full rock-goddess energy while the crowd reached the peak of their high spirited, dancing frenzy.

Little May on the Forest Stage at Falls Festival Byron Little May is an act I’ve seen popping up time and time again on my social media feeds and have been keen to catch. The trio took to the Forest Stage on the last day of the festival, with their backing band at the ready and strong audience numbers eagerly anticipating their set. And the ladies did not disappoint. With honey golden vocals trickling through the all encompassing tones of the full band’s live act festival sound, Little May treated the crowd to a full course of sweet temptations. With highlights including a beautiful rendition of the ballad, Seven Hours, to the new track Cease, the trio gave a consistent, high quality musical spectrum for the crowd to relax too, from the folk tinged to the indie pop and alternative sounds. Their repertoire allowed them range from their silky, harmonised ballads to bold, anthemic tones of Dust, through the tale telling of Hide and finishing off the performance with a stellar performance of their Great Southern Land Like a Version cover. I can only hope that Paul Kelly himself caught even a glimpse of this up tempo take on his classic track with  their clever use of vocal layering as it’s the last time they will be playing it for a while.

Button collectiveOver in Lola’s Bar, on New Years Eve, we stumbled upon a likely scene of rag-tag musicians and a tent full of eager punters. It was 2pm but the Button Collective soon had the dance floor packed with joyful revelry. Appearing as a 6-piece line up each day of the Byron stint, the sheer energy and cheer emanating from the stage was infectious. With everything from the traditional folk, to country-tinged tracks that invoke foot stomping, the Collective had a winning combination on their set list. With Barn-dance like hoedowns springing up on the dance floor, and multiple Irish tunes mashed-up to treat the crowd, Lola’s Bar was the scene of frivolity for their entire set. The Button Collective brought sea shanties, bluegrass, folk and an array of short, punchy, fast paced tracks and still bowed to the whim of the crowd, playing more dance tracks whenever the crowd demanded. So spirited was the audience, that a conga-line formed and snaked its way around the dance floor until every punter was a part of the line, and then spontaneously erupted in to a mass hoedown. To say The Button Collective put on a good show would be an understatement… I’m sure the word ‘rollicking’ should be used.

garyclarkjr_20160101-3Finally, on the last night of the festival, I had the pleasure of witnessing the sheer ‘cool’ of Gary Clark Jr. His live sound reminds me of Ash Grunwald sans distortion, they both clearly dig a similar edgy blues style. Clark Jr. weaves effortlessly between styles, from a Lenny Kravitz swagger, to an occasional Hendrix vibe and all while navigating through blues soaked solos. The crowd grew steadily as his wavering wails swept the Valley. Dipping now and then in to old school rock, and then rolling through the blues to keep the audience on edge, it was like watching a master at work. Clark Jr. saturated the audience with electric riffs and transcended into another world onstage, so steeped in the moment and the music. He seamlessly melds his music on stage, from cool blues to upbeat jump around funk blues. Gary Clark Jr. is worth every moment you can fit on your festival planner.

While these four were some of the main focuses of us Timber and Steelers, there was a wealth of talent throughout the Falls line up to whet the appetite.

Read our Overview of the entire Falls Festival Byron Bay event.

Unmissable Falls Acts

Falls Festival Finds

Falls Festival Review: Overview

Welcome to the FallsFestival: Falls Music and Arts Festival
Location: Byron Bay – North Byron Parklands
Date(s): Thursday 31st Dec 2015 – Saturday 2nd Jan 2016
Genre(s): Rock, Dance, Alternative
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

Having been to both Lorne and Marion Bay Falls Festivals in the past, it felt like it was time to complete the trilogy and visit Byron Bay for the New Years Bonanza. We enjoyed Splendour back in 2014 and so wondered how The Falls Festival would use the site for their festival antics. Lorne had sold out but to our surprise, Byron Bay had not reached ticket capacity, the previous year’s mud was apparently a deterrent.

Upon arrival, the utter beauty of the organisation struck us plain and simple – from excellent signage on the roads leading to the venue, through to the process of getting in to the festival, it was all sweet and no fuss. We had wondered how a 3 day festival, that is usually a build up to the penultimate celebration on New Years Eve, would fare when the night in question was in fact the first night of the 3 day affair. It seems that for Byron Bay, the crowd for New Years was good, but instead the numbers grew significantly for the 1st and 2nd January days.

FlashCampWe splashed out and stayed in FlashCamp – an investment well worth it given its proximity to a festival entry, the high quality facilities that were cleaned throughout the day, and the luxurious tents, services and on site bar.

We were pretty fortunate with the weather – Byron Bay New Years’ are famous for either blistering sunshine or mud inducing rain. With cool temperatures and overcast days, we cruised through the mid 20s all festival and everyone was very happy about it. That’s not to say that the Festival’s latest addition, Palm Springs, didn’t go to waste, far from it. The pop up water park, complete with inflatable flamingos and water slide, was a quiet on New Years Eve, undoubtedly due to people getting prepped for the big night, but come January 1, that place was packed to the gills, regularly reaching peak capacity and turning away punters. With a line up that predominantly began at or after lunch time, Palm Springs was a genius way to combat the heat and give bored punters something to do before the main stage lit up.

Punter in Palm SpringsBut let’s be fair, the Byron Bay site was not a place that one could be bored in for long. With multiple ‘streets’ of vendors offering food and goods, there was plenty to explore in any down time, from ping pong and human foosball (table soccer), to the famous misting tent, a Pirate Ship Bar with DJ was always a good option for a drink and to look out from the upper decks over the entire festival, multiple themed bars to sate your thirst, a mini movie cinema on site and the untold wonders encapsulated within The Village meant that almost any fancy could be fed all on the one festival site. And if your heart really desired, there were regular shuttles to nearby Byron township so you could soak up the sun, the surf, the beach and take in the tourist sights of Byron Bay.

The crowd in attendance across the three days was in high spirits, with only a few of the usual suspects wiping themselves out before the stroke of midnight. But overall, the crowd attending the festival were fantastic, courteous and very chilled out. The whole festival had a very relaxed vibe full of happy people, a very different experience from the sometimes frenetic Splendour crowd. I think Halsey summed it up best, when at the beginning of her set on the last day, she claimed that “Australian music festival crowds are my favourite audiences to perform too” which had the crowd cheering.

The line up was eclectic and offered options for many types of music lovers. With the Valley Stage being the main focus, and the Forest Stage the shady place to escape too, the one stage we paid extra attention to was Lola’s Bar in The Village – with no pre-advertised schedule, our morning ritual was to drop by and see what exciting finds were in store each day. Not only was Lola’s Bar a great source of folky goodness, but it was an excellent drawcard for The Village – a place of wonder with circus, cabaret and quirky shows in their miniature theatres, including an impromptu wedding in the Le Petite Grande. From yoga in the morning to crafty costume making and building giant puppets for the parade, to circus, drumming and dance workshops under the big top, or even the ten minute disco, The Village was a hive of activity throughout the festival.

Punters in the ValleyIn short, of all the festivals we have been to over the years, Falls Festival Byron Bay came out on top. My only down point was the seemingly excessive noise restrictions on the Valley stage – which also finished at midnight every night, except one song past the New Years Eve stroke of midnight. In past years, neighbours of the venue have complained about the levels of noise from other festivals and a volume limit has been placed on the venue for all events. Sitting at the far side of the Valley, this meant that the sound did not travel well and was muddy and quiet by the time it got to us. I guess it’s just to encourage us to get closer for our favourite acts! Hopefully the issues can be resolved and future festivals won’t be quite so hampered by such strict noise limitations in the future.

All in all, the layout of the site, the organisation of the festival, the behaviour of the punters and the choice of line up made for the best festival yet. When you’ve got celebrities like the Hemsworth’s, Miley Cyrus, supermodels and even rumours of Vance Joy in the crowd, you know you’re on a winning ticket. And we haven’t even told you about the music!

Click through to read our reviews:

Timber and Steel Falls Highlights

Unmissable Falls Acts

Falls Festival Finds

 

 

 

Timber and Steel’s Top Albums of 2015

Record Player

If anything has characterised 2015 for me in terms of new albums it’s that we finally saw debuts from some of our favourite artists. So many bands these days are serial EP releasers so it’s great to see the likes of Patrick James, Falls Marlon Williams and more knuckle down and get into the studio. It’s also great to see the return of firm favourites after time away and an explosion of traditional music that pushes boundaries and challenges our perception of what trad music can be.

Coming up with a top 25 list is always a challenge (let alone putting them in some kind of order) but I think what we’ve come up with is a wonderful cross section of all the genres of “folk” music we cover on Timber and Steel – from singer-songwriter to Americana to indie folk to traditional and beyond.

So without further ado here it is – our top 25 albums and EPs from 2015!

Kate and Ruth

1. Kate Burke & Ruth HazletonDeclaration

What a year 2015 has been for traditional music. Maybe it’s just me but it seems like a lot more trad is breaking through at the moment and the icing on the cake this year has been the incredible new album from Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton, Declaration.

This is the duo’s first album in about eight years and their return to the studio has been a welcome one. Once again teaming with producer Luke Plumb, Declaration is loosely themed around traditional music from the female perspective with a few contemporary tracks thrown in for good measure.

The tracks are rich, heartbreaking, emotional and beautiful. So many of the songs deal with pretty heavy themes such as domestic violence (“Bleezin’ Blind Drunk”), false accusations of adultery (“Waly Waly”) and the disintegration of a woman’s public reputation (“Katy Cruel”) and these are conveyed with resonance by Burke and Hazleton. Hearing these two singing together again reminds me of why I fell in love with their harmonies all those years ago.

The two originals on the album – “The Freeze” and “Hearts Of Sorrow” – are two of my favourites and they make me wish Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton were more prolific as songwriters. Maybe one day we’ll get a full album of self penned tracks?

I love how much Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton have matured as performers over the last 15 years. Gone is the rigid need to stick 100% to the tradition and instead we have a fluid take on the material that draws as much from contemporary music as it does from Anglo, Celtic and American music. A simply wonderful album

Sufjan

2. Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell

Touted as the return to Folk Music for Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell is in fact the next step in his musical evolution. Rather than shrugging off the electronic chaos of his recent albums, Stevens has merely toned it down and brought back his acoustic guitar to dive into the complex relationship with his mother following her passing. This album is so raw, so nuanced and deserved of every bit of praise that has been heaped upon it.

Fanny Lumsden

3. Fanny LumsdenSmall Town Big Shot

I’ve always predicted big things for Fanny Lumsden ever since I saw her perform at a rooftop bar in Sydney many moons ago. Small Town Big Shot is the album that is currently turning Lumsden from Sydney’s alt-country darling to a favourite of the Australian country scene. The album is full of Fanny Lumsden’s true-to-life accounts of growing up in rural Australia while never straying into the Americanised, dust kicking ideal of country life so often portrayed by Australian country artists. Not to be ignored, Lumsden’s band The Thrillseekers add a rich musical tapestry to her songs and really seem to have gelled as group. Only released in September there’s a lot of life in Small Town Big Shot so we’ll continue to see Fanny Lumsden riding high off it’s ever growing success in 2016.

Paper Kites

4. The Paper Kitestwelvefour

The Paper Kites have produced what has to be one of the most interesting concept albums of recent years. twelvefour was written exclusively between the hours of 12am and 4am as frontman Sam Bentley believed this is when people are at their most creative. The result is stunning – a patchwork of eighties electro influences and the band’s trademark indie-folk – and will no doubt go down as a high watermark in their career. twelvefour feels very deliberately structured moving from the straight up electro of “Electric Indigo” and “Relevator Eyes” to more folky numbers in the second half of the album (“A Silent Cause” is a standout for me). I’m interested to see where The Paper Kites take their sound next.

Packwood

5. PackwoodAutumnal

This year chamber-folk artist Packwood released four seasonally themed EPs as part of his Vertumnus album project. The first of these was Autumnal which has remained my firm favourite through all of the subsequent releases. Gone is Packwood’s trademark sparsely plucked banjo (don’t worry, it returns in later EPs) and instead we get delicately fingerpicked guitar accompanied by choir and chamber orchestra. The songs are delicate and sumptuous and Packwood has really come a long way as a songwriter since his debut. Put on Autumnal, close your eyes and let the world fall away.

Laura Marling

6. Laura MarlingShort Movie

We’re now five albums into Laura Marling’s career and her songwriting has never been stronger. On her latest release Short Movie Marling’s songwriting takes on a freeform, Dylan-esque mode only hinted at on previous albums and it takes her into some very ineteresting places. There’s a lot more electric guitar on Short Movie and at times she descends into beat-poet-like spoken word phrases (like on the amazing “Gurdjieff’s Daughter”) yet no one is crying that Marling’s turned her back on her folk roots (like Marling’s old band Mumford & Sons). Instead Short Movie is being praised as an evolution of her sound and while it is miles away from her 2008 debut Alas, I Cannot Swim, both musically and stylistically, this is 100% a Laura Marling album.

Pittsburgh

7. William FitzsimmonsPittsburgh

In his ode to his recently passed Grandmother and her home town of Pittsburgh, William Fitzsimmons has created a delicate, beautiful piece of magic. This is his first self-produced album since 2006’s Goodnight and it does feel markedly different from his recent releases – the production is not a slave to his voice and guitar, instead it sits more comfortably as part of each song. At only seven tracks long Pittsburgh leaves you warm and fuzzy and wanting more.

Outlier

8. Patrick JamesOutlier

It seems like 2015 saw a lot of long time favourite Timber and Steel artists finally got around to releasing their debut album – and one of the debuts we were most excited about was from Patrick James. Over the course of a bunch of EPs Patrick James has refined his James Taylor-esque folk songs and Outlier is the culmination of years of solid songwriting. The production on Outlier makes the most of James’ unique voice and elevates his solo singer-songwriter roots into a rich, luscious landscape.

Wilder Mind

9. Mumford & SonsWilder Mind

With all of the attention on Mumford & Sons “ditching the banjo” and turning their back on folk music when Wilder Mind came out very little attention was paid to the album itself. Which is a shame because it’s another solid outing for the boys. If you push through the electric guitars and drums you discover that Wilder Mind is unmistakably a Mumford record with big choruses, melodies dripping with four part harmonies and festival ready lyrical hooks. And anyone who has seen Mumford & Sons this year will know they have in no way ditched the banjo – Wilder Mind sits perfectly within their entire catalogue.

Omaha

10. FallsOmaha

It took Falls moving to LA 18 months ago (and dropping the “The”) to produce their gorgeous debut album Omaha. Falls have expanded their two-voices-and-a-guitar sound to an almost orchestral level, but at the forefront is still their lyrically driven melodies and beautiful harmonies. I’m actually really impressed that all of the tracks on Omaha having seen them perform almost exclusively from their Hollywood EP before their big move Stateside. Now we just need a national Australian tour off the back of the album!

Omaha

11. TolkaOne House

The stunning result of trad band Tolka’s trip to Belfast last year to write and record a new album – one of the tightest trad bands in the country.

Limit of Love

12. Boy & BearLimit of Love

Boy & Bear return with a 70s vibe and a bunch of new tracks that saw the band collaborating on the songwriting duties.

If I Was

11. The StavesIf I Was

The Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) production on The Staves’ debut elevates their sound from simple three part harmonies to full blown indie-folk goodness.

Secret Victory

12. The East PointersSecret Victory

The result of writing sessions on their summer tour of Australia, The East Pointers have written 10 original tracks that sound as if they’ve been ripped directly from the tradition.

Monterey

13. The Milk Carton KidsMonterey

Monterey is the closest The Milk Carton Kids have come to capturing their mesmerising live show on record – this is something special.

Freewheeler

14. Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben StephensonThe Freewheeler

Instead of complaining that it’s been too long between albums for Trouble in the Kitchen get your trad fix with the debut album from Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben Stephenson.

Solitude

15. Ruby BootsSolitude

The Perth songstress has nailed down an amazing band and has produced one of the best alt-country albums of the last few years.

Tomorrow Is My Turn

16. Rhiannon GiddensTomorrow Is My Turn

In her debut solo album Rhiannon Giddens has built on the trad and old time of her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and spun it into something new and very exciting.

Marlon Williams

17. Marlon WilliamsMarlon Williams

With a voice that has reduced grown men and women to tears, there’s a lot to love about Marlon Williams’ debut record – this man is taking country music back to its roots and winning fans every step of the way.

Inside Llewyn Davis

18. VariousAnother Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis

The folk and Americana industry’s best come together for a night of music inspired by the 60s folk scene and to a lesser extent the Cohen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis.

Dream's End

19. Matt BauerDream’s End

On his latest album Matt Bauer has upped the production stakes, forgoing his normally sparse folk songs and the result is wonderful.

Punch Brothers

20. Punch BrothersThe Phosphorescent Blues

I think it’s time to stop referring to Punch Brothers as “bluegrass” or “nu-grass” or anything at all – with The Phosphorescent Blues they have proven they are undefinable.

WHITE LIES

21. Mustered CourageWhite Lies and Melodies

Mustered Courage have always been the most polished bluegrass band in Australia but they’ve upped the ante with their new album adding a pop sheen to their sound.

Hell Breaks Loose

22. Shane NicholsonHell Breaks Loose

The godfather of the Australian Americana scene released one of the year’s best country albums – all heartbreak and whisky and everything that’s good about this kind of music.

The Decemberists

23. The DecemberistsWhat A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World

A welcome return to the studio from The Decemberists to follow up their amazing 2011 album The King Is Dead – a little less folk, a little more rock and all sorts of goodness.

Josh Pyke

24. Josh PykeBut For All These Shrinking Hearts

Australia’s premiere troubadour delivers yet another stunning album with his trademark wry lyrics and hooky melodies.

S

25. Emmy The GreatS

Emmy The Great slides into electro music while maintaining the folk-inspired melodies she’s become known for.

Review: Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road, Sydney

Mumford

All Photos By Sarah Turier

The first time I saw Marcus Mumford perform songs from his band Mumford & Sons was at the Factory Theatre in 2008. He was supporting Laura Marling on her first Australian tour (as well as playing as part of her band) and his set was just him with a guitar, kick drum and kick tambourine.

Fast forward seven years and I’m standing in the muddy Domain in Sydney, rain streaming down my glasses and my jacket soaking through, as 23,000 people sing along to “Little Lion Man”. How far they’ve come.

Gentlemen of the Road is a concept that Mumford & Sons have been kicking around for a number of years now. The basic idea is that Mumford & Sons curate a mini-festival in a location that wouldn’t normally see international touring bands (the last one in Australia was held in the NSW town of Dungog), fill that festival with overseas and local acts and generally put on one hell of a show. Planting this year’s Gentlemen of the Road event right in the heart of Sydney does seem at odds with this concept, but I’m pretty glad they made that decision as it turned out to be one of my festival highlights of the year.

Stepping into the Domain decked out in all its Gentlemen of the Road finery reminded me Homebakes of old. For once the incessant rain had not kept the Sydney crowds away and the parkland was teaming with punters eager to see their favourite bands.

Jake Bugg

I’m not sure if the lineup of Gentlemen of the Road was meant to be a reflection of Mumford & Sons’ move away from their folk influences or whether it was just a coincidence (despite prominent appearances from the likes of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show at other GOTR events Mumford & Sons have never touted the event as a folk festival) but this time around there was a definite rock and indie vibe perpetuated by appearances from The Jungle Giants, Future Islands, Meg Mac, Art of Sleeping and The Vaccines.

Only Jake Bugg bucked the trend fronting the huge crowd armed only with an acoustic guitar and his Dylan-esque songwriting style. I was pretty chuffed to Bugg on the lineup given his comments that Mumford & Sons “look like posh farmers with banjos to me” that the media sensationalised and tried to turn into a feud between the two artists. Jake Bugg’s set was engaging, intense and ultimately satisfying as he had the audience singing along with almost every song.

Mumford

Mumford & Sons took the stage following a blistering set from Future Islands. The rain had been falling steadily for the afternoon (Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring was soaked to the bone by the end of their set) and The Domain had been reduced to a muddy mess. But that was all forgotten as the first chords of an electric guitar rang out across Sydney and the crowd pressed forward for almost two hours of Mumford & Sons goodness.

The boys did not disappoint with a blistering set covering all three of their albums. With the departure from acoustic instrumentation on Wilder Mind I half assumed that the tracks from Sigh No More and Babel would be reworked live to include the two-guitars-bass-keys-and-a-drum-kit set up, but for the older tracks the banjos and double bass were out in full force.

Mumford

Classic Mumford & Sons tracks like “Little Lion Man”, “Roll Away Your Stone” and “I Will Wait” had crowd in fine voice but I was doubly impressed with just how much the newer songs were resonating with the fans. Looking around during the songs like “Ditmas” and “The Wolf” I saw Sydney singing with gusto.

The absolute highlight for me was the rendition of “Cold Arms”. This saw Marcus, Ben, Winston and Ted crowd around a single mic bluegrass-style with just an acoustic guitar for accompaniment. The hush that fell over The Domain was just magic with the harmonies from the boys washing over us.

Mumford

In typical Gentlemen of the Road style Mumford & Sons finished the set by getting every artist back on stage for an all-in singalong. The song they chose this time around was “With a Little Help From My Friends” borrowing heavily from the version made famous by Joe Cocker. It was great to see the stage filled with a group of artists with an obvious respect for each other and who were humbled by the massive crowd who had braved the weather to see them.

Gentlemen of the Road reminded me what I love about these massive festivals where thousands of people come together to experience the music they love. Possibly my favourite Mumford & Sons show to date. Can’t wait for the next tour!

For all of the photos from Gentlemen of the Road check out the gallery on our Facebook page here.

The Snowdroppers Announce Album Launch Tour

Snowdroppers
Image Courtesy of The Snowdroppers

Blues-rockers The Snowdroppers last week dropped their highly anticipated new album The Business and will this week head out on a national tour to support it. The Business was recorded with The Snowdroppers’ longtime sound man Ryan Hazell and is purported to come close to capturing the band’s frantic live show.

Speaking of which The Snowdroppers are heading out on tour from this Friday. The full list of dates, along with a stream of their new single “Devil Child” is below:

Friday 4th September – Transit Bar, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 5th September – Wickham Park Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 10th September – Bigsound, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 11th September – Helm Bar, Mooloolaba, QLD
Saturday 19th September – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 25th September – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 1st October – Ed Castle, Adelaide, SA
Friday 2nd October – Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA
Saturday 3rd October – The Boston, Perth, WA
Sunday 4th October – Newport Hotel, Fremantle, WA
Friday 9th October – The Brightside, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 10th October – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba, QLD
Sunday 22nd November – HiFi Days Festival, Cronulla, NSW
Thursday 26th November – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Friday 27th and Saturday 28th November – Queenscliff Music Festival, VIC

Watch the New Mumford & Sons Video “Ditmas”

Mumford & Sons
Image Courtesy of Mumford & Sons

The latest video from Mumford & Sons’ rock focused third album Wilder Mind, the epic “Ditmas”, dropped last week. I know a lot of people are talking about how much their sound has changed but to be honest this track feels like classic Mumford & Sons, only with slightly different instrumentation.

Check out the video for “Ditmas” below:

Mumford & Sons will be touring Australia in November. The dates are here:

Saturday 7th November – Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 12th November – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 14th November – Gentlemen Of The Road, The Domain, Sydney, NSW

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