Woodford in a Nutshell

Photos by Stuart Bucknell, full album on our Facebook page

Timber and Steel loves a good festival, and Woodford is no exception. The premiere Folk Festival is forever growing and developing to highlight and showcase both the beauty of the natural surrounds, and a diverse array of musical greats and emerging artists.

The beauty of Woodford is it’s a week long festival, culminating in a liminal Fire Event timed to usher in the new year rising from the ashes of the old. However, even someone only able to attend for two to three days can still catch a majority of the performers, and be immersed in a whole other world, where music reigns supreme, and almost every interest is catered too.

For the 2018/19 Woodford experience, our intrepid reporters spent a little over 2 days exploring Woodford’s many stages and acts.

Bright and early on the Friday morning of Woodford, our two trepidation reporters trundled in to Woodfordia. It’s been an age since we last visited but it still felt like home. In our brief visit, we caught as many acts as we could, here are our highlights.

Our first stop was to catch the Hussy Hicks and in spite of the early time of day, The Pineapple Lounge was PACKED! Their healthy rhythms kept every foot tapping as the days’ heat began to rise. Their musical passion was on display as Through The Windmill enthralled the throngs and the hot guitar interlude had the crowd cheering. The dynamic duo’s strong connection on stage commanded all attention and ensured rapturous applause. See our photos online.

Mark Lang (of Skipping Girl Vinegar fame)’s only Woodford set had something for everyone, whether you were a fan or new to Lang’s melodic storytelling. With tunes “for our good friend Donald Trump”, to songs about “letting go of all your frustrations”, or just a true reminder of “living in the now, living in the present”, Lang proved time and time again how his music welcomes audiences, connects, and entices them to participate, punching the air hammering home political commentary, or singing along in full voice. See our photos online.

The Strangest Dreamers delivered a dreamy set of layers and stories to entreat and enchant. They had us with a bluesy lament, kept us with a song from the history books of Joe Hill, about The Rebel Girl Elizabeth Gurley Flynn; and delighted us as they trilled through their eclectic set of fun and frivolity. See our photos online.

Scandinavian fiddle trio Fru Skagerrak had the crowd clapping along from the very opening. Their trad style fiddle to warmed up the crowd as we all enjoyed a refreshing brew. Their skill and prowess shone on stage, the sensitivity of every nuance and note had us enraptured, and Scandinavia’s best was truly in fine form for all to see. Though something tells me this may have been their mellow set, for the daytime crowd… See our photos online.

Lindsay Lou gave us a delectable Americana, full of sass treating us to a set full of songs like Sugar with beautiful harmonised backing vocals, mandolin, and just the right amount of funk to give it that tap along beat. Her delightful accent trilled through the lyrics giving them a lively interplay amongst the skilled musicianship of the tight knit group. Stunt Double, written for her brother, gave a deeper, more earthy opening with lyrics and vibe reminiscent of a Missy Higgins style tale. Her cover of Bill Withers’ I Wish You Well showcased that she is sunshine personified on stage. See our photos online.

The Halcyon stage, we could hardly catch a view of The Fergies as they absolutely packed out the place, and the humans filling the space moved as one to their fun, upbeat, frivolity. They were the name on lips around the festival, ‘did you see The Fergies??’ See our photos online.

Tullara seemed like a dark horse, but the beautiful harmonies proved it was a golden set to capture. Joined on stage at times by additional friends, she delivered heartfelt and raw honesty with tales of her life through song. Particularly beautiful and melancholic was the emotive Five Weeks which then lead in to Six Months – a powerful storytelling experience for the audience.

The Loveys were perhaps the most aptly named act, with classic one liners, witty remarks and sensational sense of style teamed with dulcet tones and a European Cabaret vibe. I never thought I would say the words “she is rocking the bassoon” but here I was, saying them out loud to a bassoon solo. Their set had everything from a comedic lament about old age, to a lullaby about dementia Daddy Joined The Circus, and the terrific harmonies in Beautiful Woman dedicated to a French cross dresser.It was a set that caught you off guard at the same time as being completely in tune with the vivacious women. At one point I realised the drummer was playing a tea cup. Literally, rhythm section on a tea cup – and that of course was perfectly normal and in tune. They had the whole audience clapping along, and to no surprise, inspired a standing ovation.

The Cat Empire can always be relied on to bring the party to any hill, dale or amphitheatre, and Woodford was no exception. With an extensive back catalog mixed in with new album songs, their set was utter decadence from start to finish. Their new songs like Killer, and unreleased Anybody, demonstrated the enthusiasm for their infectious brand of music, playing homage to The Cat Empire of old while injecting some of their newer sound and style melding is infinitely danceable, clap-alongable. Steal The Light, written as joyful instead of happy, featured a chorus horn interlude that was spine tingling, and a call to action that the crowd wilfully answered with their cheers and dancing. As always, a world class entertainment.

Les Poules a Colin brought delicate fiddle and mandolin intricately woven with electric instruments in a blanket of sound that wrapped the audience up and drew them closer. Singing songs in native French, the group from Quebec somehow made French sound more musical than English, especially lifted by stunning twin harmonies. A real stand out was a kind of murder story, performed in bi-lingual tandem with haunting banjo, occasional stomp box, and dual vocals telling the tale, punctuated with stunning three part harmonies. By their own admission, their final song was “very danceable” – they weren’t kidding, the dance floor was full within seconds!

We could only stop in briefly by for Hat Fitz and Cara’s Breakfast BBQ, with Sally and the sizzling sausages already well underway! Cara gave us a new song never played live, played with a “we’ll just see how it goes” finesse that charmed the morning crowd.

Irish Mythen, one of our all time favourite performers, delivered yet another powerhouse set on the Woodford Grande stage. Starting out with something a bit political in What If We Built A Wall, it didn’t matter the time of day, or the lack of sunglasses, Irish was on fire with lyrical passion and gutsy guitar filling one of the largest venues, and taking every audience member along for the ride. Mythen has such a powerful voice, and a Capella prowess that makes your spine tingle, inspiring rapturous rounds of applause. Between songs, her wit and banter is so effective, we could mistake her for a stand up comedian. We were transfixed as she effortlessly brought us to tears with 55 Years, elated by a spirited rendition of I Wanna Dance With You, and a moved with the gravitas of Little Bones. As always, Tullamore Blues had the entire crowd singing along enthusiastically, only to be surpassed by a rousing, a Capella rendition of Mercedes Benz that everyone stood and sang along too.

Lucy Wise was the epitome of sweet and pure as her voice descended on the expanding crowd, infused with good humour delivered in earnest. She shared her New Year song, inspired by her mother, accompanied by ukulele. Her set was down to earth and personal, with You Are Here about facing anxiety, Winter Sun about the affects of Melbourne’s weather and accompanied by her sister Rowena, and the heartbreaking Where Did You Go with her other sister Ruth – glorious harmony woven with beautiful sentimentality and sense of loss.

Trad Attack, a blast of energy from Estonia, used archival recordings alongside lead vocals creating the most fascinating soundscapes. Immediately the dance floor is full and enthusiastic. Most of their set was full energy with moment where we simply wondered what next crazy instrument would be brought to the fray. The fact the crowd can sing along with an archival recording how to make butter demonstrated they are clearly the party folk band – reminiscent of Australia’s own Crooked Fiddle Band.

The Spooky Men’s Chorale were the cheeky chaps as we always expect, taking great pleasure in testing the Auslan interpreter with the many abstract concepts in We Are Not A Men’s Group. Ever a popular act, the audience was large, and delighted with the quirks and perks of the Chorale and all their interpretations of everyday life.

The Raglins poured copious harmonies you could drown in with renditions of favourites like The Palmers Song, and The North Country Maid getting everyone in the mood. Song after song delivered in a spellbinding performance. Particular highlights were Robert’s admission that he’d always promised himself he’d never write a love song, that was until he fell in love, inspiring Luna, and the performance of an old Bush Ranger ballad rewritten with new melody and less racism, Ben Halls Gang.

Glenn Cardier and Christian Marsh at Pineapple Lounge had the bluesy goodness rolling forth with licks of harmonica on A Case of Mistaken Identity. Their set was peppered with fun, moving in to rockabilly swamp thing with a raucous jam in Ringmaster Blues, and sliding through mellow, energetic, enchantment and more.

Mel Parsons unleashed a voice and style so mellow, yet steeped in luxury and richness. Opening with some slow songs to warm up the crowd, then picked up the tempo and vibrancy with I Got The Lonely, and a great selection of tracks from her new album, Glass Heart.

Julia Jacklin treated everyone at the Ampitheatre to a spellbinding night of favourites, like Eastwick, Leadlight, and Don’t Let The Kids Win. Her laid back style soothed the audience as the days heat was swiftly replaced with a cool evening chill. Everything about Jacklin is enchanting, her guitar  declared “You Got This!!” on a hand written tape sticker, and she certainly did, the picture of cool, calm and collected. Hay Plain had the crowds transfixed and swaying along in pure bliss, awakened as the intensity pops and Jackson’s vocals oozed over the audience.

The Little Stevies battled adversity as Byl’s voice had gone AWOL and they were down on numbers as Cliff on electric guitar had been too sick to make Woodford. But Beth stepped in to the spotlight and delivered exquisite lead vocals throughout the set, while Byl managed to bring harmonies and jovial, if quiet, banter between. Old favourites like Accidentally and I hold My Breath had everyone delighted, while the new tracks were a fresh and exciting journey to explore. 

The Waifs were much anticipated and the Ampitheatre was alive with energy and enthusiasm. Old favourite Lighthouse struck a note with everyone singing along, while Sun, Dirt, Water gave a sexy and sassy edge. Love Serenade was a bit more lighthearted and playful, while London Still was breathlessly perfect, much to the acclaim of the audience.

Two days at Woodford were glorious, and we couldn’t leave without squeezing just a couple of last acts in the morning of our departure.

The Bushwhackers were a blast with a shanty, a whirl and jig, a sparkly coat and largaphone, a hoedown and everything in between. Leave it in the Ground elicited a positive response from the gathering crowd in spite of the early time. The most amusing highlight was the enthusiastic Auslan interpreter who was literally dancing and sign-singing along with each and every song. Another Trip To Bunnings now comes with its own audience participation thanks to the Auslan sign for Bunnings (bunny ears).

The final set we caught at Woodford was a firm favourite, the Stiff Gins. As always, their music is storytelling and evocative, we could see the east win gently stir the blossoms over the land, their glorious harmonies had us winging our way home with them, and we witnessed the leaves turning in  Narrandera. You know you’re a part of the band when you’re allowed to sing a song, and Lucas on guitar also brought to the stage Chance Meeting. It was a delightful start to the day, and still a wonderful way to end our festival visit.

As always, Woodford Folk Festival delivered diversity, beauty, and glorious memories in a world made perfect by music. If you’ve never been, you really must put it on your bucket list!

It’s beginning to look a lot like… Woodford!

While the silly season is in full swing, the folkier of us are looking beyond the tinsel and jolly man in a red suit, and are planning the trek to this year’s Woodford Folk Festival. If you haven’t yet made your New Years plans, it’s not too late to get in on the folk action and plan a post-Christmas trip to Woodfordia.

For those still on the fence, let’s take a quick look at why this year’s festival is going to be a great time for all.

The line up is a heavy blend of traditional and discovery, with a delight around every corner for all discerning music lovers. With heavy weights (and our namesakes) The Cat Empire topping the bill, the scene is set for a party. Timber and Steel favourites like Dan Sultan, Julia Jacklin, Irish Mythen, Hat Fitz & Cara, Emily Wurramara, The Waifs, Alex the Astronaut, Stella Donnelly, and Stiff Gins will join more than 2000 artists, musicians and presenters in over 400 acts, over 25 venues throughout the festival.

We’re excited to see some favourites diversify as The Little Stevies become the Teeny Tiny Stevies for their appearances at the Children’s Festival spaces, making the festival, as always, a very family friendly affair. The array of workshops on offer, once again delivers the ultimate in experiences for any festival goer, from yoga to craft, there will be a workshop to suit anyone.

With major infrastructure improvements for this year’s festival, multiple accommodation options to suit every budget and accommodation style, the Woodford Folk Festival is a completely immersive experience where you can choose your own adventure. Whether you participate in The Game, in The Fire Event, or just take in some amazing Australian and international music, it’s the most exciting way to spend your post-Christmas haze.

Whether you visit for a day, or stay for the whole week, there is a journey made just for you. Head over to the website and explore the different journeys you could take at this year’s festival.

When: 27 December 2018 – 1 Jan 2019

Where: Woodfordia, QLD

Tickets: from $25 for kids, from $165 for adults. Book online

The Full 2013 Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival Lineup For This Weekend

Loren Kate
Image Courtesy of Loren Kate

The Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, set in “Australia’s most beautiful valley” kicks off this Friday and it’s shaping up to be an amazing event. First of all there’s the lineup, some of which we’ve already teased, and all of which we can share below:

Alanna and Alicia, Aaron Strickland, Andrew Clermont, Andy Gordon, Ashcapella, Battlers’ Ballad, Baxter Stone, Benny Fowler, Black Joak Morris, Buasavanh Tribal Belly Dance, Bukhu, Canberra Contra Club, Chaika, Chooks On A Hot Tin Roof, Ciderjam, Cilla Jane, Circus Wow, The Creatures Rose, The Cyrenes, Daniel Allars, Danny Ross, Ecopella, Elwood Myre & the Wing Walkers, Fig Jam, First Light Toybox Circus Workshops, Food of Love Choir, Gregory North, Guyy Lilleyman,Inspektor Gadje, Jack Carty, Julia & the Deep Sea Sirens, Julie Bishop with Ryebuck, Kalascima, Kangaleles, Kenny Bartley, The Little Sisters, Loren Kate, Lucette, MaD aDaM, Mal Webb, Margaret & Bill Winnett, Martin Howells, Mic Conway with Robbie Long, Meet Milly, Miss Molly’s Maypole, No Such Thing, Penelope Swales, Phil Garland, The Recycled String Band Trio, Revontulet, Ruido Flamenco, Stiff Gins, Totally Gourdgeous, Trilogy, Vendulka, Virmalised Estonian Folk Dancing, Wheeze & Suck Band and many more

Secondly the full program has been revealed so you can plan your entire weekend here.

And finally there’s the stella news that tickets to the event are still available – if you’re in Sydney or Canberra it’s just a couple of hours in the car so well worth the trip. We also have it on good authority that the Kangaroo Valley area is not affected by the NSW bushfires. The festival takes place from the 25th to 27th October. For more information check out the official site here.

Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival Reveals 2013 Lineup

Jack Carty
Image Courtesy of Jack Carty

The Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, held in Kangaroo Valley in NSW from the 25th to 27th October, is reputably one of the most beautifully located folk festivals in the country so it’s no wonder they attract some of the best and brightest artists each and every year.

2013 is no different with some of Timber and Steel’s favourite artists appearing on a chock-a-block lineup including Alanna & Alicia Egan, Andrew Clermont, Chaika, Fig Jam, Jack Carty (above), Julia & the Deep Sea Sirens, Loren Kate, Mal Webb, Penelope Swales, Phil Garland, Stiff Gins, Totally Gourdgeous and many many more.

Earlybird tickets for the festivals are available until the end of August. For more information on the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival check out the official site here. The full lineup announcement is below:

Alanna & Alicia, Aaron Strickland, Andrew Clermont, Andy Gordon, Battlers’ Ballad, Benny Fowler, Black Joak Morris, Bliss Bellydance, Bukhu Mongolian throat singer, Canberra Contra Club, Chaika, Chooks On A Hot Tin Roof, Cilla Jane, Circus Wow, Creatures Rose, Daniel Allars, Ecopella, Elwood Myre & the Wing Walkers, Fig Jam, First Light Toybox Circus Workshops, Food of Love Choir, Gregory North, Guyy Lilleyman, Inspektor Gadje, Jack Carty, Julia & the Deep Sea Sirens, Julie Bishop, Kalascima, Kangaleles, Kenny Bartley, Kissin Cousins, Loren Kate, Lucette, MaD aDaM, Madis and Tiina Alvre, Mal Webb, Martin Howells, Mic Conway with Robbie Long, Miss Molly’s Maypole, No Such Thing, Penelope Swales, Phil Garland, The Recycled String Band Trio, Round Mountain Girls, Stiff Gins, Totally Gordgeous, Trilogy, Vendulka, Wheeze & Suck Band, Margaret & Bill Winnett

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2012

Listening to Records

Not satisfied with just providing you with our own opinions around the best albums of 2012 we have once again put the call out to some of our favourite artists to find out what they’ve been listening to this year. And the response to this call has been simply astounding – over 90 artists sent us their number one album of 2012, along with a couple of sentences as to why it’s their number one, almost tripling the amount of submissions from last year and demonstrating once again just how personal and diverse everyone’s relationship to music can be.

Once again a big thank you has to go out to all the artists who contributed along with the dedicated managers, publicity people and record labels we pestered to get this piece across the line – you’re all amazing, dedicated, wonderful people who keep this great national (and international) beast that is the music industry alive.

And now it’s time for the blogger to pass his keyboard over to the blogged as we present to you Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2012:

The Lion's ShareSarah Humphreys
Mike McCarthyThe Lion’s Share
Mike has a beautiful way with words and melodies, he can stir up feelings of love, loss, mystery and hope all in one album. Sometimes in one song! There’s a gentleness in this record, I can hear more love in his voice than ever before.

God Bless You AmigoRoland Kay-Smith (Roland K Smith and the Sinners)
Felice BrothersGod Bless You Amigo
After the brave, but often confusing album that was Celebration Florida, The Felice Brothers return to more familiar territory with God Bless You Amigo. “Her Eyes Dart Around” is a tear-jerkingly beautiful ballad, the off-kilter harmonies in “Lincoln Continental” blow my mind every time I hear them, and “Dream On” is a fantastically melancholic retelling of the Stagger Lee story. At 20 tracks it’s overlong, but the porch-strumming charm of the album makes each song a joy to listen to, and I should know, I’ve listen to this album plenty.

The AnecdotesSam Lee
Seamus Cater & Viljam NybackaThe Anecdotes
English Dutch duo based in Amsterdam who have written this chronicle of biographic songs based around cultural figures and steeped in folklore and alternative experimental theatre sound art. They have created this soundworld that is both sepia toned in 70s fender rhodes and melodic drum work and captures the sounds of revival and the monologues of obscure historical figures. A work of touching depth and simplicity.

Who's Feeling Young NowChris Stone (The String Contingent)
Punch BrothersWho’s Feeling Young Now?
Outrageously virtuosic instrumentalists, with super strong musical vision, brilliant execution, and a work ethic like no other … they are the tightest, most polished band around, and given the technical and musical complexity of there music, is both depressing and inspirational.

Carry Me BackBen and James Daley (Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys, The Daley Brothers)
Old Crow Medicine ShowCarry Me Back
This album has all the Old Crow trademarks: hard hitting blues, fast pickin bluegrass, honest singing and lyrics, great harmonies, and most importantly brilliant songwriting. The title track and “Levi” are both contenders for song of the year. This album (and Old Crow’s ever growing and ever impressive body of work) confirms them as one of the great modern American bands. I dare say when they are done they will be remembered as one of the great all time American bands.

Who's Feeling Young NowClaude Hay
SoundgardenKing Animal
This is easy for me: Soundgarden, King Animal, quiet simply my favourite singer of all time. I’ve been waiting for this release for ever, some classic dirty guitar and pure rock the world’s been missing.

The Lion's RoarTodd Sibbin (Todd Sibbin and the Opposite Ends, Traveller and Fortune)
First Aid KitThe Lion’s Roar
Besides the blatantly obvious reasons (fantastic singing, fantastic songwriting), Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes fame) has nailed the “atmospheric moodiness” vibe in his production techniques. It’s got that unmistakeable old school Bright Eyes sound, with slightly more polish

Into The BloodstreamWarren Fahey
Archie RoachInto the Bloodstream
I was never a hooked Archie fan but this new collection of very personal and aspirational songs really grabbed me emotionally. Archie has seen a lot of shit in his life including the loss of his partner Ruby Hunter and, over the past couple of years, some shocker medical hurdles yet he writes and sings in such an uplifting manner you feel the joy. It is also a craftily assembled album with a great choir, really tasty musicianship and some vocal acrobatics from Archie that I just wasn’t expecting. At one stage he produces a growl befitting the blues and soul and then his voice soars to the rafters. This is a really fine album

Carried in MindHat Fitz and Cara Robinson
Jeff LangCarried in Mind
This album of 2012 is one of those albums that more than manages to carry you away into another time and world. That’s what I love about a great album, it switches off the mind and lets the imagination take over and it does that completely. One song in particular is track 3, “Fisherman’s Farewell”, co written with his wife Alison Ferrier, a truly exquisite piece of writing.

LeelanauMatt Bauer
Dana FalconberryLeelanau
It’s rare when an album is as fully realized as this. It has everything I want in music: great lyrics and melodies, strange harmonies, beautiful arrangements, unexpected rhythms, a specific sense of place, an air of mystery, and just some kind of undefinable magic. Perfect from start to finish.

Mid AirMatt Walters
Paul BuchananMid Air
Paul Buchanan is the lead singer of one of the world’s most important and underrated bands, The Blue Nile. The lead singer’s first solo offering is a quiet masterpiece. Comprised almost completely of subdued piano, and smoky, hushed vocals; this is one of the most transformative, beautiful records I’ve ever heard. Buchanan, now in his late 50’s, croons like a more poetic and mournful Sinatra – reminiscing, regretting and reconciling through some of the most poignant and intimate songs ever recorded.

Born and RaisedAshleigh Mannix
John MayerBorn and Raised
Truthfully I’ve only listened to it a few times, but it was the first album that came into my head when asked about my favourite album of the year – and for good reason! Mr Mayer always surprises with the twist and turns he has taken when recording his albums. He’s playing with more of a country vibe in this one. In the second single “Queen of California”, there’s a lyric that says “Looking for the sun that Neil Young hung/After the gold rush of 1971”. There’s definitely a Neil Young-esque vibe throughout the album. I love it! It will be my soundtrack for hungover weekend’s in the sun!

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic ZerosHere
A perfect way to follow up their first album Up From Below, they have captured the large group sound that they have live while still leaving enough space for Alexander Ebert’s genius song-writing and lyrics to shine through. This record always makes a loud appearance on our touring mix tape.

Farthest FieldMike McCarthy
Daniel Martin Moore & Joan ShelleyFarthest Field
Farthest Field sounds like an album recorded in a hall, live, with four beautiful microphones between two great songwriters. Sparse and incredibly beautiful is how I would describe it.

Mad BastardsJeanette Wormald
Alex Lloyd, The Pigram Brothers, Kasey Chambers and Shane NicholsonMad Bastards: Music From the Motion Picture
I found this late in 2011 and haven’t stopped listening to it. Great colours, great artists and oh so Australian. It’s fresh and it’s interesting and I really enjoyed the collaborations between Alex Lloyd and The Pigram Brothers. The movie is incredibly compelling too. A must see for people wanting an insight into the challenges of Australians living on the fringe.

DeathFrank Turner
Jim Lockey & The Solemn SunDeath
I’ve known Jim for a while and loved his work, but I always suspected he had a record in him that would take what he did from being good to being truly great. It was with great satisfaction, then, that I listened to this one for the first time. It’s everything I was hoping for, a perfect blend of country, rock, folk and something heavier and darker. Brilliant.

The Lion's RoarCallum Adamson (ahab)
First Aid KitThe Lion’s Roar
I’ve chosen First Aid Kit’s record for a few reasons.
1. The record is nothing more than great country songs beautifully produced
2. They are one of the few bands that are just as good live as on record
3. One of my “goosebumps” moments of this year was when I first heard “Emmylou” – I really really wish I’d written it.

DearEmily and the Woods
Keaton HensonDear
Keaton’s voice and lyrics cut through whatever is happening, wherever I am. There is an immediacy and strength to his words and his delivery is so full of emotion that it makes me want to cry with him. I believe in his heartache; it feels raw. This album truly reminded me how powerful it is when you tell it how you feel it. That’s my favourite kind of songwriting, and it feels exemplified in the way he phrases and sings some lines. My favourite song on the album is the closing track, “Party Song”; which is unashamedly bleak.

Stars and SatellitesThe Quarry Mountain Dead Rats
Trampled By TurtlesStars and Satellites
We were waiting for this album to be released and it didn’t disappoint. Got a good mix of slower songs and and the usual kick ass ones. Ear f*$#ingly good!

Trains I MissedNick Keeling (Mustered Courage)
Balsam RangeTrains I Missed
Balsam Range deliver straight up modern driving bluegrass at its best. They are world class pickers, songwriters and boy can they sing. The harmonies are super tight and I love how the vocals are mixed. It gives you that baseball bat of three part harmony hit, straight in the face.

Stars and SatellitesCoty Hogue
RodriguezSearching for Sugar Man Soundtrack
Okay, so maybe all these songs were originally released in 1970-71, but considering most all of us (at least over here in the States) had never heard of Rodriguez before this film, and the fact that these songs are absolutely BRILLIANT and beautiful, makes this my must listen to album of the year! (I should also include the original two albums that these songs come from)

Warm in the DarknessNadine Budge (The Stetson Family)
Liz StringerWarm in the Darkness
From the multitude of reasons why this is my favourite album this year, the overarching one is that Liz Stringer is authentic – the real deal. This album serves up some of the melting beauty of Liz’s slower songs that she has shown herself to be a master of – then whacks it for a six when she pulls out some big guns and rocks it out! It’s the triple threat of great songwriting, sublime vocals and kick-arse musicianship.

Hard RubbishLouise O’Reilly (Laneway)
Lower Plenty – Hard Rubbish
It’s stony dreamy domestic. We found it driving from Melbourne to Adelaide on our tour and it took us all the way home.

Off We GoDesert Rat Shorty (The Lurkers)
Jess and Richard ArrowsmithOff We Go
This year I have a toddler, and as a consequence, I’ve spent most of the year listening to my favourite kids CD. It’s real music for kids. No autotune, no synthesisers and no politically correct rewriting for kids (the pirates in the songs still drink rum!). The songs are all old English nursery rhymes played on traditional instruments. And our one-and-a-half-year-old loves it.

Black Vat TrioWeary Hobo and Rocky Mountain Slim (The Lurkers)
Black Vat TrioBlack Vat Trio
They are a Sydney-based trio with Rishin (trombone), Rascal (violin) and Bones (piano accordion plus drums) who play Klezma and Romani inspired originals and Eastern European Classics. Songs and tunes they perform from other traditions they acknowledge openly unlike some Australian bands in the same scene. What Black Vat Trio create themselves are soundtracks to my dirty old Sydney town. Songs like “Rapscallions” are reminiscent of Waiting for Guinness and the genuine, straightforward production of the album brings it out on top of the new releases of the year for me. This album keeps toddlers of all ages laughing and dancing!

Court The StormJeremiah Fraites (The Lumineers)
Y La BambaCourt the Storm
It’s a terrific album. Is it folk, is it world, is it singer-songwriter? I don’t know. And personally, I don’t care. Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. Just listen to the damn thing.

Spirit BirdNardi Simpson (Stiff Gins)
Xavier RuddSpirit Bird
I first heard Xavier Rudd perform over twelve years ago. I knew nothing about him but watched as he played and stomped and sang the young audience into waves of inspired frenzy. He was on the way up, he sounded great, the kids loved him and he had his own unique sound. He also played the yidaki or didjeridoo. Now as blackfullas we regularly walk around festivals and see masses of people dancing and trancing out to the sound of yidaki – but most times it is not being played by a black musician. And so we carry this with us a little bit, well I do anyway. I sat there and listened to Rudd and looked at the crowd and thought of all the brothers I knew who would never get the same chance or attention if they did. Ten years later an ‘Indig’ stage was funded at Bluesfest. We had got a gig and walked around starry eyed, shyly watching legends from the wings and spinning out on the greenroom facilities. We walked past dressing room doors…Blind Boys of Alabama, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Jason Mraz, Angelique Kidjo, and as we came up to Xavier Rudd’s room out popped his head: “Brother, come and be part of this smoking ceremony”, he asked my partner. I can only guess he didn’t see or recognise me. So in he went, into this stranger/stars dressing room and did ceremony. Four months ago I saw Xavier Rudd had a new album out. I assembled together all the little pieces of him I knew and I bought it. I wanted to understand something more of the man. I listened to his songs and let them soak into me and it was at that point that our worlds collided. Where first I was a young musician, starting to sing of my world and my special place in it – and compete with all those who were doing the same, now I was a searcher of stories and of deep, and meaningful connections. I had come to the place that perhaps Rudd was at all those years ago- creating narratives to forge and maintain relationships with people, place and country. As a musician Rudd has consistently taken steps towards the place that I too now wish to explore. To show others how beautiful it is when country sings back. I still haven’t met Xavier Rudd, I doubt whether I will but I think I am a little closer to understanding him and his music. And so I see this album Spirit Bird as more than a collection of songs, it’s a story about a man on a journey. And as he walks, so do we.

BlunderbussHenry Wagons
Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
Following the epic legacy of his other bands, there is no doubt the pressure was on, whether Jack admitted it to himself or not. All the publicity said this album was kinda throwaway, recorded when another artist cancelled his session at Third Man Records. Yet, when you tune in to the opening riff of the album’s opener “Missing Pieces”, you immediately realise this album is about to deliver in spades to all those curious ears pointed towards it. It sounds so smooth, rockin’ and analogue … and seems it would have been a blast to put together. Its sense of spontaneity and creative freedom translates through to the listener. A bluesy, garage masterpiece, gloriously thrown together.

Me and MoonHannah Acfield (Dan and Hannah Acfield)
Lydia ColeMe & Moon
As I suspected, iTunes confirmed this was my most played album of 2012! I met Lydia at the APRA Song Summit earlier in the year and she was so lovely it prompted me to buy her album. Me & Moon is a stunning collection of songs, the production is delicate and raw, yet so beautiful and clever. In this case, less is certainly more. Lydia has an exquisite voice that captured me straight away. The songs are well written, am honest tale of heartbreak and loss. I had an immediate connection with this album and have not stopped playing it. Beautiful.

BlunderbussDave “Christo” Christensen (Charlie Mayfair)
Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
By far the most soulful and energetic album of the year from a man that understands the effect that the women in his life have had on his personality and the insecurities it hides. Through big speakers this album is louder than anything else out this year.

Young Man in AmericaEmily Barker
Anaïs MitchellYoung Man in America
I love the mood she creates straight from the outset; pensive and alluring. Lyrically I think it’s phenomenal – it has a stream of consciousness element and repetition of themes: childhood; parenthood; growing up in America; stories we inherit. Instrumentally it’s killer too – I love the combination of woodwind instruments, mandolin, guitars, layered vocals, such rich textures always serving the songs. I get more and more from it every time I listen to it – there is so much depth in this record.

There's No Leaving NowLittle Bastard
Tallest Man on EarthThere’s No Leaving Now
It’s great to see a modern day artist maintain the quality of songwriting up to his fourth release. He has also manage to arrange and produce the music that keeps the listener interested and shows growth from previous albums.

The Burgh Island EPHeidi Waddell (Cordial Factory)
Ben HowardThe Burgh Island EP
All I want to do is sit in a cool, dark room with my eyes closed and breathe in the sounds of this EP. Since I heard Ben Howard’s song “Depth Over Distance” last year, I had been waiting and hoping that his new EP would be much the same and it is. I love that he’s not afraid of combining stillness and passion. He’s created something really unique; it’s deep and full and haunting.

Back at the Quonset HutKetch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show)
Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll BoysBack at the Quonset Hut
About 20 years ago, while Nashville was perfecting it’s recipe for the blandest batch of country music yet, a band called BR-549 was serving it up raw seven nights a week on the freaky streets of Lower Broad. This year Chuck Mead, BR’s longtime frontman, released Back At The Quonset Hut – 12 classic cuts backed by Nashville’s A-Team of sessions players, the color guard of pickers, the very men who made country music what the world knows it to be – true. It still is, and Chuck Mead proves it.

Race the LoserJohn Spiers (Bellowhead, Spiers and Boden)
LauRace the Loser
It’s got everything going for it. It’s hugely complex and experimental with some superb playing yet it bears up to repeated listening incredibly well. For me, the ability to listen to it on lots of different levels makes it the perfect album.

Adventures in Your Own BackyardPete Flood (Bellowhead)
Patrick WatsonAdventures in Your Own Backyard
Eerie, lush, cinematic and full of intriguing twists and turns – it’s like walking through a sunlit wood in late autumn. Pretentious but true.

GossamerSam Sweeny (Bellowhead)
Passion PitGossamer
It’s a perfect pop record. It combines musical simplicity with awesome technical complexity. Each track has new layers that keep jumping out at you at every listen, and to top it all, there isn’t a duff track on the album. It’s sublime music.

Time As We Know ItAdam McGrath (The Eastern)
Todd SniderTime As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker
We spend at least 100-150 days a year sucking up bitumen, roadside pies (best one in six years is the fish pie from wairoa on the bottom of the east cape of the Nth Island of NZ), junk from junk shops, and lung disorders from the air con, in all manner of wheeled transport around New Zealand, Australia and parts and ports beyond. There are basically three rules in the van, 1) Only let Flora the fiddle player drive when no one else can possibly manage it 2) Adam must listen to Waylon Jennings on any post 1am drives (and be allowed to sing along with gusto and a slight edge of drunken melencholy) 3) and when the shit gets bad, hard, or both then we must listen to Todd Snider bootlegs (Tales From Moondog Tavern Vol. 1-5 are particular faves) or Jerry Jeff Walker, they are our road guards. This year Todd Snider released Time As We Know It an album of Jerry Jeff Walker covers, it wouldn’t have mattered if it sucked (it doesn’t) the idea alone would have made it our album of 2012. If next year he does an album of Thin Lizzy songs our lives would indeed be complete.

The Idler WheelTexture Like Sun
Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel…
Although I haven’t listened to too much new music this year this album is one that recently came to me, and floored me. It’s dark, melancholly and sparse, about what I’d excpect from a Fiona Apple album. Love the additional instumentation in some tracks (you can hear lot of things clanging in the background) – and her voice! This music makes me feel something more than most.

I've Got a Friend Called Emily FerrisJen Cloher
Courtney BarnettI’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris
The debut release from Melbourne based singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett was recorded in a friend’s lounge room in Thornbury. A lo-fi seven song collection of pop gems with plenty of psych-rock wig outs to boot. Original, often humorous lyrics tumble effortlessly over catchy-as-hell melodies. The first song, “Lance Jnr” opens with the lyric “I masturbated to the songs you wrote”. Nuff said.

The Stars Are Indifferent to AstronomyKevin Micthell (Bob Evans, Basement Birds)
Nada SurfThe Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy
I’ve been a fan of this band since their seminal album Let Go around 10 years ago and they’ve barely put a foot wrong since. Their new album is another perfect template on how to write glistening power pop with intelligent, poetic lyrics. Underated? I think so.

A Different ShipHusky Gawenda (Husky)
Here We Go MagicA Different Ship
Interesting, infectious songs. A diverse album, but one that flows nicely from start to finish. Spoke to me immediately, before I had a chance to consider why – as all good albums do.

All The Little LightsHelen Croome (Gossling)
PassengerAll The Little Lights
A beautiful album with sweet and heartbreaking stories. Mike is an incredible story-teller who manages to find the perfect balance between memorable melodies and a descriptive tale. A favourite track would be “Let Her Go” with it’s beautiful lyric imagery. And the live version of “I Hate” is another favourite for it’s humour and honesty.

Out of FrequencyNikki Thorburn (ILUKA)
The Asteroid Galaxy TourOut Of Frequency
Danish psychedelic pop band The Asteroid Galaxy Tour are in a class of their own, and their second studio album Out Of Frequency proves just this. With more attitude and swagger than their debut album Fruit, this record is as innovative and refreshing as it is inviting. Drawing on array of eccentric, hypnotic and inviting sounds, they create a fantasy world that is deeply potent and entrancing. Chicago blues on “shrooms” and film noir on acid, it’s truly a case of the sum being greater than its parts.

Mirage RockMark “Looch” Lewis (Handsome Young Strangers)
Band of HorsesMirage Rock
On first listen its hard to believe this is the same band who put out the excellent Everything All The Time album back in 2006. Raw, loose and stripped back, Mirage Rock is everything that their debut was not. Folk purists may baulk at the move in a popier direction on some tunes and whilst I agree that it is not all an easy ride, stand firm! Because with repeated listening this record will reward you if you invest the time. As all great records should.

An Awesome WaveHayden Calnin
Alt-J (∆)An Awesome Wave
This is one of those albums that you tend to pick up and chuck on pretty much every day. In my eyes (ears?) Alt-J have delivered not only the most original sounding record of the year with their very infectious compositions and hauntingly fragile yet powerful vocal style, but also the best written as well. My personal favourite “Ms” off the album takes the cake for being my favourite track of the year as well.

Mirage RockGeorge Jackson
Brittany Haas and Dan TruemanCrissCross
Here’s something you don’t hear every day, unless you have the album like me. Appalachian fiddle goddess Brittany Haas meets Norwegian style fiddler and modern composer Dan Trueman. There is no music I’ve heard before that sounds quite like this, and to top it off the performers achieve that oh so important mix of stimulating both the body and the mind! This project is full of beautiful and mind bending new compositions by both Brittany and Dan. Mix in Natalie Haas on cello + guitarist Jordan Tice along with Brittany’s Crooked Still comrade Cory Di’Mario on Double Bass = a stellar line up. The tunes literally criss-cross the complimentary fiddle styles of Norway and Appalachia, developed with masterful ensemble arrangements and some demanding modern harmony.

JerildereeLachlan Bryan
Bill JacksonJerilderee
It’s actually pretty hard to write convincingly about Australia – most people end up stumbling over the awkward sounding place names, or struggling to extract poetry from our often brutal, frequently covered-up history. Bill and his brother Ross are exceptions to the rule. They write stunning songs together, and microphones just seem to love Bill’s warm, weathered voice. Jerilderie is full of great stories, and was my favourite record this year.

PrisonerEli Wolfe
The JezabelsPrisoner
Driving on tour we have been listening to The Jezabels Prisoner, which fits the landscape perfectly. Though it was released late 2011, I only bought Prisoner this year. It’s a great vibey album and Hayley is an amazing front woman.

How About I Be MeDamien Dempsey
Sinead O’ConnorHow About I Be Me (And You Be You)?
A blinding return to form by a fearless warrior woman who is my favorite female singer. Her song “Take Off Your Shoes” makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck every time I hear it, breathtaking.

Fear FunTom Busby (Busby Marou)
Father John MistyFear Fun
This album reminds me of why I love listening to music – it makes me so happy! The songs are cheeky and full of swagger, and somehow steers away from sounding arrogant. I love the production, including the small imperfections which are clearly intended. It is obvious that there were no rules when recording the record and this is probably why I can’t stop smiling each time I hear it.

Toward The Low SunAidan Cooney (Boy Outside)
Dirty ThreeToward the Low Sun
Choose your time wisely because I cried like a mother fucking bitch recently on a long haul flight listening to this album. Melancholy to get lost in and the dirtiest violin sound known to man give you an album that should be sold with a warning.

Music From Kennedy's PoolCourtney Barnett
Merri Creek PickersMusic From Kennedy’s Pool
I have seen the Merri Creek Pickers play live about 80 times. I’ve heard them rehearsing about 400 times. I adore the gentle genius of Alex Hamilton’s songwriting, the all-inclusive yet sometimes argumentative arrangement process and the fact that it was all recorded by the band themselves live at a farm in the middle of nowhere. This is a classic album that should transcend our generation.

Warm in the DarknessCat Canteri (The Stillsons)
Liz StringerWarm in the Darkness
Beautifully tasty arrangements, playing, sounds and songs across the whole album.

HereSam Buckingham
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic ZerosHere
It’s so full of joy and somehow, every time I listen, manages to remind me to stop and enjoy the simplest and most beautiful things the world has to offer, and I have to offer the world. I love the songwriting, the production is unique and brilliant but I think, more than anything, it’s the feeling of hope and beauty that sits inside every song.

El CaminoCat Colman (Billygoat and the Mongrels)
The Black KeysEl Camino
So many albums to choose from!! The Black Keys scraped in at number 1, mainly because it has such a full solid and infectious sound.

Carry Me BackJohn Flanagan (John Flanagan and the Begin Agains)
Old Crow Medicine ShowCarry Me Back
Having just traveled to the US this year for the first time I’ve fallen in love with the mountain music that is so prominent in North Carolina and Virginia. Old Crow Medicine Show clearly draw on a wide range of influences though I love the old-timey core to their music with the claw-hammer banjo and fiddle. There are a lot of references to places we recently visited: Virginia, the Shenandoah river, etc, so for many reasons the album brings back fond memories of traveling through the South.

The Lion's RoarElla Hooper
First Aid KitThe Lion’s Roar
First Aid Kit are so full of potential it hurts. I don’t think they’ve quite revealed all they will in years to come but Lions Roar boasts great lush production from Mike Mogis (a modern master) and the girls’ tight folk pop songwriting is just my kind of teenage day dream, sorry Katy Perry, but This is talent.

PackwoodJulia Johnson (Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens)
In all honesty, I spent much of 2012 rediscovering old favourites. I re-arranged my bedroom, which inadvertently meant it was much easier for me to use my record player. Dad’s impeccable record collection has been liberated from the garage and given a healthy airing this year. There is one 2012 release that has had a particular impact on me musically though, so that automatically catapults in to becoming my favourite release of 2012. Early in the year I supported Packwood and The Falls in Canberra, at The Front Gallery. Probably one of the loveliest gigs with some of the loveliest musicians I’ve played with all year, but I digress. I’ve never heard such an ambitious EP as Packwood’s. Simply a man, his banjo, and an orchestra. Yup, a 50 piece orchestra. With a banjo. I’ve been messing around with my banjo for a few years half-arsedly, but since hearing that EP I haven’t practiced my guitar at all. I can’t put my banjo down. So thank you Packwood, for re-invigorating my love for banjo, and sorry housemates and neighbours, I’m not going to stop playing my banjo any time soon.

Baby We Were Born to DieRosie Catalano
Jen CloherBaby We Were Born To Die
Each song on this 3-track EP is so special. “Call If You Need Me” has an incredible ability to transport me to a whole other world every time I listen to it, “Baby We Were Born To Die” leaves me awed by Jen Cloher’s way of looking at the world and the hand she has been dealt, and the lyrics in her duet with Courtney Barnett always manages to catch me by surprise and make me laugh.

Love This GiantSarah Blasko
David Byrne & St VincentLove This Giant
It’s a collaborative album that really works and feels very cohesive. The arrangements are really imaginative and it has the freshness of not sounding like anything else that’s out at the moment. The brass arrangements are fantastic. It’s a classic sounding record, it’s beautiful and rich and full.

A Creature I Don't KnowLiam Gale (Liam Gale and The Ponytails)
Laura MarlingA Creature I Don’t Know
I spent this year listening to some not-so-current music, and it seems I’ve got some catchng up to do considering the snippets of albums I’ve heard over the last twelve months. Of 2012’s offerings, Laura Marling’s A Creature I Don’t Know was one that caught my ear. It had a lilt toward that concept-album-feel, some tracks outright flowing into the next, like Floyd with banjos or something. There was this poem she’d written that came out shortly after the album was released that seemed to explore the record’s protagonist character; the Beast. It’d come up every now again, like it was teasing the other characters on the album. Trippy.

Phaux CiscoSivan (The April Maze)
VariousPhaux Cisco
It astounds me that some of the greatest songwriters of all time remain relatively unheard. James Cisco is one of them. This album was produced as a surprise gift for the songwriter and includes some great Melbourne musos doing versions of his wonderful songs. The album features versions from Jeb Cardwell, Dan Lethbridge, Jed Pickett & Kate Walker, Kate Crowley, The Shivering Timbers, Simon Hudson & Anita Quail, Adrian Whitehead and more. The songs are in chronological order of when they were written, from 1988 to 2012. Its a real genre journey and wanders through folk, rock, country, punk, soul and blues. We love it and listen to it on the road all the time.

The Great DespiserFanny Lumsden
Joe PugThe Great Despiser
To me his songs are like stories from those who don’t usually tell stories. This album feels like I’m moving forward on a monster of a drive where one has very minimal encounters with anything man made and at the same time feeling settled. Good one JPUG.

An Awesome WaveBity Booker
Alt-J (∆)An Awesome Wave
Driven by Joe Newman’s haunting melodies, vowel-curling words, heart breaking notes; each song on this album is an independent masterpiece: cohesive and scrupulous. Every track is rich in layered detail, synthesizing meticulous sounds of pianos, guitars and xylophones. “Taro” is a wonderful story and an adventure in itself. I can’t get enough of it’s obsessive melody, which reaches a haunting climax when Newman’s voice breaks in the refrain, missing the crucial note, but making it that much more important in its absence.

The Only PlaceEmma Davis
Best CoastThe Only Place
This album really just came at the perfect time. I had just returned from a long trip overseas and having had a few changes along the way I took some time out to live by the beach and write. There’s nothing really ground-breaking or creatively astounding about this record, it’s just a great record. Solid, well-constructed pop songs all the way through. It’s a more positive sounding album than the last, with cleaner production and perhaps less raw emotion but to me still has that distinct ‘Best Coast’ sound that I first fell in love with. The lyrics are beautifully simple to the point where I’m not sure sometimes how they get away with it, but they do. Overall, it simply made me feel good, and at a time when I needed it. I’ve listened to it so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if a few subconscious references to “waves” or “babes” make it into my next record.

The Money StoreMark Piccles (Tin Sparrow)
Death GripsThe Money Store
Possibly the most intense, in-your-face hip hop record I’ve ever heard, but it’s endless originality and almost tangible persona is undeniable. It’s not for everyone but if you can withstand the brutality of the initial listen, there is much to be discovered on second venture and beyond.

LonerismDean McLeod (Tin Sparrow)
Tame ImpalaLonerism
Some killer overseas albums this year but Lonerism is by far my favourite. It’s texturally amazing which is really important for me and I love Kevin’s song writing. It also expands the sound they crafted on Innerspeaker. Almost perfect psych pop. Plus after seeing them at Splendour this year I reckon they are one of the best live bands going. Conclusion: instant froth.

The Year of HibernationBen Cooper (Radical Face)
Youth LagoonThe Year of Hibernation
I’m never good at these lists. I’m almost always a year or two behind, as I tend to stop hunting new records while recording and then play catch up when I’m not. So this album was late 2011, but I was told that’s okay. Anyway, this is one of those records that feels like it was made in a bedroom and is all the better for it. It’s a record that makes me smile, and as the lyrics slowly became discernible I found I really liked them. I don’t often describe records as charming, but this one I do. And it’s good walking music. I like it a lot

Spring and FallJack Carty
Paul KellySpring And Fall
I got myself into a tis trying to choose between a bunch of amazing releases this year by First Aid Kit, The Falls, Leroy Lee, Tim Hart and Packwood (just to name a few) but when I stopped thinking too much about it and just went with my gut, I had to go with Paul Kelly’s Spring And Fall for my favourite album of 2012. I am not sure if it’s because I grew up listening to my Dad singing along to his records or just because of the beautiful, simple honesty with which he writes, but I find something about Paul Kelly’s records incredibly comforting, and Spring And Fall is among his best. Each song is a story in itself, and a paragraph in the bittersweet tale the album as a whole tells. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, just says it plain and true … Music for everyone.

Unfinished BusinessJessica Cassar and Darren Cross (Jep and Dep)
Wanda JacksonUnfinished Business
It was on our way back from our Jep and Dep tour of Germany, cheap flights with Air China, that we spent our last night in Frankfurt. With a giant stroke of luck, Wanda Jackson was performing a stones throw away from our crappy fluorescent pink hostel. After one song she blew us away. The devil’s girlfriend. Queen of Rockabilly. She is Rockabilly (no visible tattoos by the way). Her 2012 album, Unfinished Business, is mixed a saddlebag of rock, blues and country covers and originals that doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. It’s a fun and sassy album that pays tribute to the era the 75-year-old pint-sized, tassle wearing old school banshee reigned in. Listen to it.

SomethingEdward Deer
For me the realm of intelligent and visceral pop music was completely owned by the ladies in 2012 (see also the exceptional recent records from Bat for Lashes, Cat Power, First Aid Kit and Sharon Van Etten, to name just a few). But the album I listened to more than any other this year was probably Chairlift’s Something. It’s full of thrilling juxtapositions – spontaneous and energetic performances meet painstaking songcraft, super hooky 80s-inspired pop melodies sit alongside bizarre sounds you’ve never heard before in your life. Caroline’s angelic, crystal clear voice is used to deliver wounded and often darkly comic lyrics, while Patrick’s bass lines are just plain killer. The band has just released some early demos from this album and those bare bones recordings reveal just how much work went into making the finished product so great.

Summer SongsJake Holmes (Merri Creek Pickers)
My Left BootSummer Songs
This is the coolest album I’ve heard in such a long time, absolute stoner heaven. “Sharks in the water” will make your hair stand on end. Roll up and just put it on.

The LumineersAchoo! Bless You
The LumineersThe Lumineers
I (Ross) heard the single “Ho Hey” in about July, and it was love at first listen. Catchy, awesome americana-folk-pop. There’s a massive scene they are championing, and they’re doing it real well.

MuseumPatrick James
Ball Park MusicMuseum
I often love albums where you can discover something new in the music every time. For me, this is one of them. I happened to catch a Ball Park Music concert at the Metro Theatre in the latter part of the year and was blown away. Since then, I keep going back to this band and especially this record, even to the point of covering one of their songs at my own live show. The songwriting is so left of field and it never fails to surprise me. Every time I listen to this album, I feel it moves me in a different way and keeps me intrigued about their music.

HypnotisedThe Twoks
Pony FaceHypnotised
Mature, fuzzy, warm and dark. The sound of three lads who know exactly how their music should sound, but (having mastered the art of subtlety) don’t shove it down your throat. Hypnotised has beautiful layers and textures. Not only does the album creep up and grow on you, but each song does. Highlights are the amazing “Alabama” (featuring the coolest laconic percussive vocal) and the spirited “Holly Said”.

Who's Feeling Young NowJane Hendry (The Tiger and Me)
Punch BrothersWho’s Feeling Young Now?
I’ve been a big fan of these guys for a few years now and this album shows just how talented they all are. I love the way they are bringing together traditional bluegrass instrumentation and techniques with songwriting that is much more indie-pop. This particular album does this probably more than their previous releases, but their complex and intricate arrangements are still there in spades, coupled with some heartbreakingly good melodies. There’s quite a bit of swagger too! Top track (changes regularly for me) – “Hundred Dollars”, where Gabe Witcher (fiddle) takes the lead vocals and swaggers all over the place.

The RubensSally Balfour
The RubensThe Rubens
Soulful, rockin’ blues; can’t get enough of The Ruben’s debut album. This album stirs something new within me each time I listen to it, especially their single “My Gun”. That track always cuts straight through to my heart. It is no wonder The Rubens are this year’s triple j Unearthed Artists of the Year.

Seven DaysAndrew Drummond
Emmy BryceSeven Days
The songs are fun and catchy and full of 90s pop influenced goodness! The EP also showed what an artist (and team) with drive and vision can achieve in a short period of time, with numerous TV show appearances (both live and soundtrack) and a national tour. Seven Days by Emmy Bryce inspired me to keep dreaming.

Ashes & FireStu Larsen
Ryan AdamsAshes & Fire
I know it was released pretty late in 2011, but all year long I just always went back to it. A classic easy listening album. I love the simplicity, I love the instrumentation and I love the way Ryan Adams’ imagery takes me some place else. My favourite track off this album at the moment is the opener, “Dirty Rain”.

Warm in the DarknessLeah Flanagan
Liz StringerWarm in the Darkness
Liz is one of my favourite Australian songwriters. The quality of musicianship and songwriting on Warm in the Darkness is incredible and it’s nice to hear her rocking out with full band and horn section. There are moments when listening to this record that I suddenly get goosebumps. They remind me of how truly beautiful her voice is. Buy it. Favourite songs are “High Open Hills” and “Warm in the Darkness”.

Slay Me In My SleepPiers Twomey
Grand SalvoSlay Me In My Sleep
The paradox about Paddy Mann – aka Melbourne’s Grand Salvo – is how he’s both adored and celebrated while also being overlooked and unsung. His critically acclaimed albums come across (to me) like profound, melodically gorgeous, yet slightly awkward museum folk songs: pure and emotionally charged vignettes from another era. Enough has been written about 2012’s Slay Me In My Sleep being one of his very best. I’ll just add that the record’s “The Boy’s Story Of His Faithful Family Dog” reduces me to tears. If you’ve ever loved and lost a family dog – and if you let it – the song may evoke the same consequence in you.

Over The SunCountry Town Collective
Tinpan OrangeOver the Sun
We love Tinpan Orange’s new album. It’s quirky, unexpected and eerily beautiful. A bit like Portishead but more organic sounding, it could be the soundtrack to an old movie, a bit James Bond theme even? It’s definitely got some magic to it.

Swing Low MagellanSteven Barnard (Arbori)
Dirty ProjectorsSwing Lo Magellan
I was surprised and satisfied by the peculiar and purposed brilliance of this record. It satisfies so many corners of my affection as it effortlessly showcased a band that are so deliberate and intentional. From the intricate electronic sounds scapes, to the biting crunch of guitar riffs, to the sweet and often bitter harmonics, dull acoustic tones, manic riffs, intimacy, mania … Lyrically prophetic both socially and emotionally and musically nostalgic yet completely original. I listened to it over and over as it continued to claimed my satisfaction.

Odd SoulPaul Brown (Arbori)
MutemathOdd Soul
This album came as a bit of a surprise to me. Mutemath have been a favourite band of mine for a while and they always do something different with each album, yet manage to create a sound uniquely theirs. Odd Soul is a masterpiece of musicianship which in my mind brings together the Mutemath feel to a very 60s soul and psychedelic sound. It is a fresh sound (albeit retro) in a market saturated in same sounding music! Fav tracks: “Cavalries” and “One More”.

RedJames Hutchinson (Arbori)
Taylor SwiftRed
We’re forgetting the biggest album of the year, the one that defines this generation and will go down in the annals of history as a watermark in the second decade of this century – Taylor Swift’s Red. It is my emotional comfort when I’m home crying myself to sleep over a lost boyfriend at night and the musical incentive to get me through the day.

Born and RaisedSibylla Stephen (The Little Stevies)
John MayerBorn and Raised
First let me say, I haven’t heard many new albums this year as I gave birth to my son in June. And like many first time mums I’ve just been tumbling my way through his first year trying to keep my head above water. It sure has been fun though, and one new album that we have sung, danced and gone to sleep to is the new John Mayer, Born and Raised. I know it’s cheesy, and it’s not all that “cool” to admit it, but I’m a big fan of his. I’ve always loved his lyrics, he had me at “I’ll never let your head hit the bed without my hand behind it” … Swoon … And on this new album he’s done it again. It’s full of songs I can’t stop humming and lyrics I wish I’d come up with. And he seems to have taken a little turn towards a more alt-country sound in some songs which I love. But all-in-all its just a great pop record, my favourite. Don’t judge me!!!

Young NorthZoe Elliot
The Paper KitesYoung North
The Young North EP has managed to stay true to the Paper Kites sound while still feeling fresh. My two favourite songs are “Leopold Street” due to the romantic nostalgia I hold onto of my grandparents, and “Paint” as its beautiful simplicity brought me to tears when I first turned it on sitting alone in my car – it takes a strong lyric to break me.

Goat Rodeo SessionsBayden Hine (Packwood)
Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris ThileGoat Rodeo Sessions
Of all the albums that I heard over the course of 2012, the one that really stood out for me was Goat Rodeo Sessions – a collaborative album put together by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and one of my musical heroes Chris Thile. I first heard the album by way of a buddy, who told me I “had to listen to this”. Naturally I didn’t, until several months later whilst sitting in a car listening to The Punch Brothers’ latest album – at which point I remembered. The album’s title refers to a chaotic ruckus of sorts, a big ol’ mess that somehow just … works out in the end – exactly what this album is. I absolutely adore blended genres – especially blends of classical/folk/bluegrass – and so this album has been on high-rotation ever since! The stand out track for me is “Attaboy”, but if you can’t stand instrumentals and harmonies are your thing – “Here and Heaven” is sure to please.

TempestNigel Wearne
Bob DylanTempest
Yes, I’m another songwriter who’s a Bob Dylan fan but I had to choose this album because he’s still got it in spades. It’s more of a poetry reading these days but his phrasing is as good as it’s ever been. It’s pretty hard to beat a nasty 8 minute murder ballad and a beautiful 15 minute epic about the Titanic sinking. The man still has something to say!

The Rip TideJesse Lubitz (TinPan Orange)
BeirutThe Rip Tide
I started my year off with a live Beirut show in early 2012 and it’s stayed with me as one of the best shows I’ve seen all year. The songs on The Rip Tide seem effortless and the album flows as an album should flow. I love the quirky instrumentation and clever arrangements – it’s an album from a band who don’t sound like they are trying to sound like anything other than themselves.

Mullum Music Festival Announces Artists for 2012

Joe Pug
Image Courtesy of Joe Pug

Mullumbimby is a strange anomaly on the Australian music scene. Tucked away in the NSW North Coast with a population just above 3,000 (according to Wikipedia) Mullumbimby sees some of the most exciting artists in the country pass through on a regular basis.

And then of course there’s the Mullum Music Festival which attracts not only the best this country has to offer but also some of the world’s most talked about artists. Held from the 22nd to the 25th November, the Mullum Music Festival has just announced it’s 2012 program and for Timber and Steel fans it’s looking to be a treat. Among the artists this year are Husky, TinPan Orange, Mama Kin, Gossling, Joe Pug (above), Mia Dyson, Liz Stringer, Stiff Gins, Hat Fitz and Cara, Sara Tindley, The Rescue Ships, Rosey, Jack Carty and many more.

Tickets for the festival go on sale today and are available via the official festival web site, where you can also find a bunch of information about the event. The full list of artists is below:

The Abyssinians (Jamaica), Husky, Boubacar Traoré (Mali), Darren Percival, Tinpan Orange, Mama Kin, Nano Stern (Chile), Gossling, Joe Pug (US), Mia Dyson, Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes, Will & The People (UK), Bustamento, King Tide, Electric Empire, Tim Freedman, Joe Robinson, Liz Stringer, Aya Larkin, Stiff Gins, Hat Fitz and Cara, Suzannah Espie, Vince Jones, Winter People, Entropic, Sara Tindley, The Rescue Ships, Band of Frequencies, Darky Roots, Kingfisha, The Lucky Wonders, Juzzie Smith, Victoriana Gaye, Jojo Smith, Loren Kate, Round Mountain Girls, Gyan, ShakShuka, Rosey (Ireland), Scarlett Affection, David Ades, Kapcha, One Dragon Two Dragon, Lifeline, Potato Potato, Brad Butcher, Jimmy Dowling, Eleea Navarro, Starboard Cannons, President Roots, Mr Cassidy, The Windy Hills, Jack Carty, The Buckley’s Family Band, Uke Mullum, The Biggest Little Town Choir, Raise the Roof Community Gospel Choir, The Pitts Family Circus, Stukulele & Miss Amber, A case for Cultivation, Mae Wilde’s Secret Gigs, The Amazing Drumming Monkeys, The Lollipop Ladies, Flycycle, Street Parade, Youth Mentorship program, workshops, The Magic Bus and much more!

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2011


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.

Review: Whichway Presents Stiff Gins at Tone, Sydney

Stiff Gins
Image Courtesy of Stiff Gins

Whichway Presents Stiff Gins
1st June 2011, Tone

Since I rediscovered the Stiff Gins last year (after first seeing them in 1999 at The National Folk Festival) I’ve been keenly following their rise in popularity, especially in the local Sydney music scene. While they’ve been playing all over the place in the last 12 months I’ve only managed to catch them a couple of times so I was thrilled when I got the chance to see them at one of Sydney’s newest venues, Tone.

The Stiff Gins were playing as part of a showcase of indigenous artists put on by Whichway NSW. The other acts of the bill, PJ Gordon, Ngaratya and Dan Stockley, each brought diverse musical styles to the night from country (Gordon) to roots-rock (Ngaratya) and folk (Stockley) and were a wonderful lead up to the headline act. The night itself had a really relaxed, community vibe to it, possibly because most of the audience was made up of friends and family of the performers – something that I think really added to the chilled out atmosphere.

When Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs took to the stage with a drummer and bassist in tow I knew we were in for a treat. I’d previously only seen the Stiff Gins as an acoustic duo so getting the chance to catch them with a full band was definitely a plus. And as the set progressed I really felt the full band added an extra element to the Stiff Gins’ sound, leading me to comment that the performance reminded me very much of something by The Waifs.

Regardless of the fuller sound it is the Stiff Gins’ gorgeous harmonies that I was there to see. The set did start with some sound issues – soft vocals followed by muddy vocals – but two or three songs in everything was sorted and the harmonies were allowed to shine. Simpson and Briggs have been singing together for so long now that their duets seem effortless, almost like they were born to sing together. Add to that Nardi Simpson’s mastery of the acoustic guitar and I would have to say I enjoyed every musical minute of the performance.

Another result of the Stiff gins playing together for so long is the easy banter that comes between each song. It was probably helped by the community atmosphere in Tone that night (although they’ve been this way every time I’ve seen them) but watching Simpson and Briggs chat to and tease each other between songs felt like you were just hanging out with mates. There’s nothing manufactured or contrived about the Stiff Gins’ performance. From the “we feel cool by association” comment at the start of the set in reference to the other bands, to the genuine thank yous at the end this performance was definitely real.

Of all the songs performed by The Stiff Gins on the night my personal favourite would have to be “Beacon” written by Simpson as a tribute to her mother. Its soulful harmonies and beautiful sentiment really demonstrated everything that I love about these guys and why more people should be made aware of their music.

Finishing up without an encore (which surprised me, but the crowd didn’t call for it) I have to say that I was once again thoroughly impressed with The Stiff Gins. Having just released their album Wind & Water there are bound to be a bunch of shows for the girls in the near future – make sure you catch them and see what all the fuss is about.

And just one more note: The Stiff Gins were saying they’d put up their first video blog but not many people had watched it – so its embedded below for your viewing pleasure:

Exclusive Stiff Gins Giveaway

Stiff Gins
Image Courtesy of Stiff Gins

The Stiff Gins are headlining a stellar lineup of emerging indigenous artists at Tone in Sydney next Wednesday the 1st June and Timber and Steel have a double pass to give away to one lucky reader! All you have to do is “like” The Stiff Gins on Facebook and then drop us an e-mail (timberandsteelaustralia@gmail.com) with the subject “I Like The Stiff Gins” and your name. The first person to do this will have their name on the door (plus one) at Tone.

Coming off the launch of their stunning new album Wind & Water The Stiff Gins will be joined by Dan Stockley, Ngaratya and PJ Gordon for this Whichway presented artist showcase. If you miss out on our double pass don’t worry – tickets are available from Moshtix here.

Four Weeks Until The Snowy Mountains of Music

Skipping Girl Vinegar
Image Courtesy of Skipping Girl Vinegar

With news that the mountains got their first really dusting of snow over the last couple of days we thought it was time to remind you that The Snowy Mountains of Music festival is a mere four weeks away. If you’re keen to see artists as diverse as Ash Grunwald, Christine Anu, Dallas Frasca, Skipping Girl Vinegar (above), The Stiff Gins, The Bearded Gypsy Band, Eric Bogle and many, many more then we recommend you get in quick – early bird tickets close this Sunday the 15th May.

The Snowy Mountains of Music festival is due to take place over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend from the 10th to 13th June. A bunch of transport and accommodation packages are available with all the details on the official web site. Looks like it’s time to pull out the winter jackets, dust off your beanies and start getting read for a winter of fine music.

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