Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2017

Record Collection

Always our most popular post of the year! Once again we’ve sent out the request to the incredible community of folk and acoustic musicians covered on Timber and Steel and they’ve responded overwhelmingly with their favourite albums of 2017.

We’ve already given you our top 25 albums and EPs – now we turn it over to the artists. So much new music still to discover! So without further waffle may we present to you this year’s Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2017.

Sarah BelknerAlison Avron
Sarah BelknerBut You Are, But it Has
This album release was a long time coming and it was totally worth the wait. The lyrics are so easy to relate to, the production is sophisticated, warm and intriguing. Sarah’s voice and songwriting are absolutely sublime.

Gretta ZillerMichael Carpenter (Carpenter Caswell)
Gretta ZillerQueen Of Boomtown
Apart from having one of the most honest and accomplished voices in the Australian alt-country world, Gretta Ziller has developed into a world class writer in the genre. This album showcases how far she’s come in such a short time, combining her take on contemporary writing, with the amazing production of Paul Ruske. The album is strong and sensitive, ballsy and ambitious, without losing any of the heart you’d expect with the songwriting content. An outstanding release from an artist who has truly arrived, and drawn a line in the sand for the genre.

The East PointersÁine Tyrrell
The East PointersWhat We Leave Behind
What an impossible task, top albums, as I am only just sinking my teeth into so many of the amazing 2017 albums at the moment like Jen Cloher’s Jen Cloher, Declan O’Rourke’s Chronicles of The Great Irish Famine and so many more. But one album that has been top of my play list since release has been The East Pointers’ What We Leave Behind and I never tire of it, which is a sign of a great album. This album has great depth to it musically, lyrically and in production. There is a stunning simplicity to the way the three lads work together that creates a joyous sound much bigger than a three piece and I think they have captured it on CD which is sometimes hard to do. I love that they have been able to honour and respect their tradition and push its boundaries into some modern places. One of the stand out tracks for me is their co-write with Liz Stringer, “82 Fires”.

SOHNRosie Evelyn (Liam Gale and The Ponytails)
The general vibe is darkly sexy future blues, with simple, soulful vocals, driving percussion, major synth, and just enough movement to keep you going. A little bit James Blake, a little bit Allan Rayman.

Jed RoweLes Thomas
Jed RoweA Foreign Country
This album grabbed me instantly with the strength of its songwriting, quality of musicianship and directness of emotion. Very few songwriters I know can deliver the goods as writers and players like Jed can. The song “Tailem Bend” – a small town story with universal resonance – shows the level of accomplishment and expression he’s achieved and it’s a beautiful thing to hear.

Stu LarsenResolute
Not only is Stu a beautiful human being but also an incredible singer songwriter! Every song on this album is just beautiful and comes from a very honest and humble place.

Mexico CityM.E. Baird
Mexico CityWhen The Day Goes Dark
Why? Because they represent the real deal to me – no ego, no frills, no pretense, just damn good songs and tunes.

Hiss Golden MessengerBrooke Russell and the Mean Reds
Hiss Golden MessengerHallelujah Anyhow
There’s something about MC Taylor’s voice that makes me so happy. I’m fairly new to his music and while I’m diving into his back catalogue, this new one has arrived and I’m in love. Beautiful band sound, fab songs – something sentimental in it that feels warm to me. My rekkid for the summer!

Ryan AdamsRyan Oliver (Oliver’s Army)
Ryan AdamsPrisoner
I love that it’s a revered, adored singer-songwriter at the top of his fame, dealing with genuine emotions and pain in the public spotlight. It may be tragic, it might be self inflicted, but I still feel like he’s a true artist who is his own worst enemy and that comes across in his heart-break ballads.

The Homeless Gospel ChoirFrank Turner
The Homeless Gospel ChoirNormal
I’ve been doing shows with Derek in Pittsburgh for a few years and he’s always been good, but this record is the sound of an artist finding his voice and spreading his creative wings. It’s been absolutely jammed in my stereo since I got hold of it.

Brooke RussellKelly Day (Broads)
Brooke Russell and the Mean RedsThe Way You Leave
This year one album really ticked all my boxes – which sounds too clinical really for something that made me splashy cry while I was driving. I particularly love that it sits outside the kind of music I tend to lean towards, but great albums are often the ones that transcend your usual inclinations. Brooke has absolutely NAILED it with this release. Stunning production, exquisite songwriting, and the most luscious, authentic, rich voice that feels like someone blowing softly on the back of your neck.

Gretta ZillerMandy Connell
Gretta ZillerQueen Of Boomtown
Put together with care and love, produced beautifully, and full of arrangements that feel perfect, unpredictable and just right. Every song inspires a depth of feeling, making it a really rich listen all the way through.

Offa RexMackenzie Shivers
Offa RexQueen of Hearts
Being a true lover of Celtic music, this album inspired me as an artist more than any other. From quirky folk-rock (“Queen of Hearts”) to haunting ballads (“The First Time I Ever Saw Her Face”), there is just enough variety of instrumentation and mood to keep the listener completely captivated. And Olivia Chaney’s voice is arrestingly beautiful. Favorite track: “The Old Churchyard”

Fanny LusdenMelody Moko
Fanny LumsdenReal Class Act
I love the way Fanny has cemented her unique way of writing with the record, her blend of social commentary, vivid imagery and Australian culture is unlike anyone else. The production is lush and thoughtful and brings the album together beautifully.

Moses SumneyTulalah
Moses SumneyAromanticism
Choosing a favourite album is a hard ask, the first one that comes to mind (probably because I’m currently listening to it) is Moses’ masterpiece, Aromanticism. It’s impeccably well constructed; colour, texture, mood, feel, groove – it ticks all of the boxes and ticks them damn well.

The War On DrugsThe Once
The War on DrugsA Deeper Understanding
A super strong, sonically rich and atmospheric follow up to previous album, Lost in the Dream. Sounds like Ryan Adams, Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen adopted a kid in the seventies and this is the result of that happy home.

Jason IsbellBrad Butcher
Jason Isbell & the 400 UnitThe Nashville Sound
To make my decision for album of the year I simply refer to which album I’ve listen to most. It’s an easy choice really – The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. All class as usual, amazing sounds all throughout the record and Isbell’s songwriting is up there with the best of the best.

Jed RoweCat Canteri
Jed RoweA Foreign Country
Jed paints a beautiful and lush portrait of predominantly Australian characters and landscapes, past and present on this record. The depth of field and attention to detail in his songwriting is just wonderful and comes across as completely effortless. Sonically the album is paired back, which allows the strength and quality of the songs, performances and Jed’s voice to shine. If I can write a song like “Where The Water Meets The Sky” or “Tailem Bend” some day, I’ll be well pleased.

LordePepi Emmerichs (Oh Pep!)
Melodrama hits me in the heart every time. It’s lush, poignant, groovy and the songs make me think, all the while being incredibly catchy. Those are pretty much most of my favourite things in music!

TajMoLloyd Spiegel
TajMo: The Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ BandTajMo
The first time I heard Keb’ Mo’ I said “Man, this guy should sit in with Taj”. It’s about time they listened to me. Both these artists have the rare ability to modernise the blues genre while still giving it’s roots and traditions their rightful respect. Combined, this CD hit a nerve with me, in particular the gutbucket tracks “Don’t Leave Me Here” and “Diving Duck Blues”. Really though, you can’t put those two in a room and expect anything less.

Valerie JuneEmily Barker
Valerie JuneThe Order of Time
I learned about Valerie June on my trips to Memphis as she lived there for many years and has worked with a lot of the musicians I know out there. I heard “Long, Lonely Road”, the first song on the record, and I knew from then on I was going to love it. There’s so much space in the recordings and her unusual but beautiful vocals grabbed me instantly. I love how the production and her songs seamlessly blend a mix a folk, soul, pop and desert blues. It sounds fresh and cool, powerful and feminine.

The Ahern BrothersJoel Barker & The Low Company
The Ahern BrothersThe Ahern Brothers
Charming and insightful songwriting combining two voices made to sing together. Deserves to be in front of the masses. Astonishing live performances to boot!

Cigarettes After SexHusky
Cigarettes After SexCigarettes After Sex
It’s a fog of romance and nostalgia you can’t help but get lost in. Reminds me of being 16 and love sick, listening to Mazzy Star.

Lisa KnappSam Lee
Lisa KnappTill April Is Dead – A Garland of May
English folk singer Lisa Knapp has captured in this album a stunning insight into the melodic and archaic realms of May-time when all of England is blooming and the sense of ancient rites and mysticism is emerging from the dark winter. It’s an album that casts a rich and hauntingly magical spell and gives that sense of contemporary ancientness that all good folk singers are masters of.

Greg StepsFour In The Morning
Greg Steps & The Not For ProphetsThe Overland
There have been a lot of great releases this year, but our favourite from around Melbourne has to be The Overland by Greg Steps. The songs just scream of someone who has worked hard at honing their craft. Tightly woven lyrics painting little snapshots of Australia, from early morning walks in Melbourne to trains clattering across Queensland. It’s all underlaid with a warm, folky vibe that feels authentic without being derivative. The stand out track for us is “Famous Last Words”. It’s a folk song in the true sense of the word and weaves together thoughts on fame, colonialism, and folk heroes. It also introduced us to the amazing story of Breaker Morant.

Novo Amor and Ed TullettWildwood Kin
Novo Amor & Ed TullettHeiress
This is the perfect album to listen to when in need of some peace and tranquility amongst a busy schedule. They have released a set of live performance videos that capture their sound together so well; the two voices blend harmoniously together, creating an unbelievable sound of completeness and perfection. You can’t help feeling relaxed when hearing their music!

Leif VollebekkRiley Pearce
Leif VollebekkTwin Solitude
You know how people say they’ve had this CD in their car and have listened to it on repeat since they got it and you’re like “yeh right, no you didn’t”. Well now I understand that feeling. This album is everything. It’s emotive, it’s clever, it’s stripped and simple and it’s f#@king great!

The Teskey BrothersPaddy McHugh
The Teskey BrothersHalf Mile Harvest
When I first heard the track “Crying Shame” I thought that I was listening to a bunch of old African American soul men from Memphis. Then I saw a picture of the band and thought I was listening to a bunch of young white soul dudes from Memphis. Then I read they are from bloody Warrandyte in Victoria. I invited them to play live on my radio show Three Chords & The Truth and they absolutely killed it. Since then I have had the pleasure of playing on a few bills with them and can also report that they are top blokes to boot.

Big TheifFraser A. Gorman
Big ThiefCapacity
Adrianne Lenker is easily the most eloquent and beautiful songwriter I’ve heard in years.

Neil McSweeneyJon Boden
Neil McSweeneyA Coat Worth Wearing
I’ve chosen an album by Neil McSweeney, a stalwart of the Sheffield scene for many years. A Coat Worth Wearing is a fantastically literate collection of songs beautifully arranged and produced, and displaying the talents of a brilliant band of musicians including renowned folk stalwarts Ben Nicholls and Sam Sweeney. It’s an excellent album on so many levels and definitely my pick for album of 2017.

YirrmalKetch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show)
I met Yirrmal Marika in Melbourne at the Australian Americana Honors Awards this past October. Yirrmal stole the show. He is a culture man. I picked up Yirrmal’s new EP Youngblood; it is the best Americana record I heard all year long. It’s got 50,000 years of soul. Crank it up.

Nadia ReidTaryn La Fauci
Nadia ReidPreservation
This record was on repeat for many many months in my car this year. I had really been craving an exquisite, cohesive and beautiful album that I could fall for, hard. This album did all of that and more, which is why it is my album of the year for 2017. I also got to see Nadia play in Sydney at The Golden Age Cinema in April and the show was stunning, it made me want to run home and learn how to play my guitar with that kind of verve.

Ryan AdamsImogen Clark
Ryan AdamsPrisoner
This album sounds to me like beautiful chaos and distress. Ryan Adams has a way of tapping into human vulnerability and woe like I don’t think I’ve ever heard from another artist. This record is just another example of his way with words and melodies that together, form the most melancholy but simultaneously kick-ass comments on the human condition you’ll ever hear from any modern day songwriter.

Sgt PepperJames Daley (The Morrisons, Diamond Duck, Tawny Owl String Band)
The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 50th Anniversary Edition
I feel a bit a strange choosing a reissue as album of the year, but who cares, it’s Sgt Peppers. After all the music I have listened to in my life, nothing has ever captured my imagination the way The Beatles have. It is the most astonishing body of work in pop music, the same way Bach is to classical music or Shakespeare to literature. I discovered The Beatles as a teenager after I got a copy of The White Album for xmas one year and my life has never been the same. Hearing all the remastered tracks and outtakes on this reissue was a wild journey and reinvigorated my love for this music in a way I hadn’t anticipated – I have been listening to The Beatles non stop since it came out, like I’m rediscovering it all over again. There are some absolute pearlers on this – the alternate takes of “Strawberry Fields”, “Lucy In The Sky” and “Day In The Life” are really interesting. Hearing how they built these songs into what we know and love is a fascinating process. However the most astonishing track is the instrumental take of “She’s Leaving Home”. Being able to hear all the subtlety, intricacy and beauty of George Martin’s arrangement for strings/harp was such a joy. A real masterclass in arranging – plus you can sing over and pretend you are Paul McCartney, ha.

The War On DrugsDirewolf
The War on DrugsA Deeper Understanding
Don’t you just adore things that need only a moment to take a firm grip around your mind, heart and/or soul? Like a one in a million barista made coffee or takeaway Thai? Not that I’m directly drawing comparisons between those things and what I consider to be a modern day classic album. However that is how my body reacted when the first second of “Up All Night” passed by. The unmistakable soundscape, verb soaked /grunge driven guitars, the synergy of acoustic/electronic driving “Dire Straights” percussion, Adam Granofsky’s/Bob Dylan’s often confused voices are but the tip of a very large and colourful iceberg that make up the record at large. We’re only supposed to be confined to one sentence, and since I’ve already profoundly broken that line I’m going to insist you put this record on in the background and see how long it takes you to stop needle poking around on the internet and gain A Deeper Understanding.

Scott CookLiz Frencham
Scott CookFurther Down The Line
I listen repeatedly to a lot of albums for my work as an accompanist. Rarely does such an album make it past that stage into my ‘listening
for pleasure’ category let alone become my favourite. But Scott Cook’s warm and beautiful Further Down The Line is one such album. It captures his arresting live delivery and the songs are rich in detail and real, visceral experience.

Dermot KennedyHarrison Storm
Dermot KennedyDoves & Ravens
I remember stumbling upon Dermot’s music on Spotify and instantly connecting with it. I became really intrigued with his music and read in an interview where he explains his sound as a cross between Bon Iver and Drake, which is pretty accurate. This EP is full of rich lyrics and interesting sounds and each listen uncovers a phrase or sound you may have missed in the previous listen. This EP definitely inspired me this year and I am looking forward to what he releases in 2018.

Laura CorteseThe East Pointers
Laura Cortese & The Dance CardsCalifornia Calling
If there’s one album we could pick from 2017, we’d have to choose California Calling by Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards. These girls are ridiculously talented (watching them perform live makes you want to go home, practice and write better songs). Their latest album combines Americana, trad, pop and folk so perfectly. Organic, yet slick. Can’t see how anyone wouldn’t like it!

FeistAinsley Farrell
Pleasure is so intimate and fragile, yet very powerful. It tugs at all my heartstrings. I recently got the chance to see her live performance at The Opera House and it blew me away.

Leif VollebekkDustin Tebbutt
Leif VollebekkTwin Solitude
My good friend Hayden Calnin introduced me to this guy over a late night whisky, and I have been listening ever since. The lyrics verge on stream of consciousness without being aimless, while vocally, Leif somehow manages to ride the line between being completely vulnerable and completely in control at the same time. Put this on top of some of the tastiest drum sounds I’ve heard in a long while, and simple but stunning keyboard playing, and you’ve got yourself one hell of an album. There are few bells and whistles, there aren’t really any production tricks or shoe shine here, just honest stories, and raw but precisely executed sounds.

Phoebe BridgersWilliam Fitzsimmons
Phoebe BridgersStranger in the Alps
I came upon Bridgers from my bandmate, who had done some touring with her and I was pretty caught up in it immediately. Her voice is special and there is a wisdom in her words beyond her young years. The most exciting thing for me, however, isn’t the album itself, it’s knowing that there is only more and even better from her to come. Listen to “Smoke Signals”.

The Mae TrioThe Northern Folk
The Mae TrioTake Care Take Cover
We finally caught The Mae Trio at Dorrigo Folk this year after hearing good things for so long, and they blew us away. This is the kind of album that reminds you of how amazing our folk scene can be- heartspoken, cleverly arranged, beautifully performed and catchy as anything. “Call Me Stranger” is a particular favourite of ours, but each song on this record is so strong.

R.L. BoyceDom Turner (The Backsliders)
R.L. BoyceRoll and Tumble
It is the second album from a man at the heart of the Mississippi hill country blues tradition. It contains all the style and swagger, grit and power that comes from a musician who sets perfectly gritty grooves overlain with heartfelt vocals to achieve maximum emotion.

The Button CollectiveJoe Glover (Shelley’s Murder Boys, The Backsliders)
The Button CollectiveHall on the Hill
This album has been on constant repeat in my car, my workshop, and my Spotify from the first day I bought it – so beautifully recorded so that you feel like you are in the room with them as they emotionally belt out fantastic songs written by Brodie and brought to life by a bunch of great musicians. Hall on the Hill is an absolute cracker of an album and I think I’ll be religiously listening to it for some time to come – perhaps until their next one is released.

Willie WatsonShelley Eves (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
Willie WatsonFolksinger Vol.2
This album is such a clear winner for me, I’ve had it on high rotation since its release. Once again Willie brought his own feel to some classic folk songs, from the delightfully joyful harmonies in “Samson and Delilah” to his haunting take on “Gallows Pole”.

All Our Exes Live in TexasJimmy Murray (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
All Our Exes Live in TexasWhen We Fall
Such a pleasure to finally hear this debut album after hearing the band grow and play over the past few years. What an amazing collection of songs and of course the incredible vocal performances from all 4 of these superstars. I really loved the production on the album as well by producer Wayne Connolly which added lovely colour to the beautiful songs. ARIA award winners 2017!

Kat GoldmanRuth Hazleton (Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton, Bill Jackson)
Kat GoldmanWorking Man’s Blues
Nina Simone once said “It’s an artist’s duty … to reflect the times [in which we live]”. It’s been a fantastic year of new releases, though I’d like to highlight an album that nails the above brief and more. Canadian writer Kat Goldman’s Working Man’s Blues is challenging, at times fragile, brutally honest and incredibly insightful. Collectively, the songs explore contemporary working-class culture, often from the perspective of a lover who struggles to understand and accommodate the struggles of the working man. I’ve long been a fan of Kat Goldman’s writing. Her unique sound, mesmerising voice, distinctive compositions and feet-on-the-ground approach to her music make her a formidable artist of great integrity. Working Man’s Blues has been on high rotation here, and will be for some time to come.

Jed RoweBill Jackson
Jed RoweA Foreign Country
First thing that struck me about this record was the vocals and these songs provide a beautiful vehicle for a great voice. Next thing, the sparseness – the way I have been accustomed to hearing Jed over his journey. Jed Rowe has something to say – I admire that and this record puts him up there with the very best. Standout track for me is “Tailem Bend”. Beautifully produced by Jeff Lang.

Lilly HiattJames Allsopp (Ralway Bell)
Lilly HiattTrinity Lane
Picking one standout release for 2017 was pretty impossible in what was a year of exceptional music. Locally, Joel Barker and the Low Company’s Unchartered EP was a stand out. Otherwise, I’ve been talking up Lilly Hiatt since the moment I finished listening to Trinity Lane. Like all my favourite albums, it’s rooted in personal struggle, ebbs and flows perfectly, is filled with outstanding musicianship, and doesn’t try too hard sound like any one genre in particular. 10 stars!

Body CountMatt Black (The Bottlers)
Body CountBloodlust
Body Count’s sixth studio album Bloodlust emblazons a brutally honest sociopolitical conscience and fire eyed world view, teetering on the honed end of a pistol sight. I feel this is Ice T and band’s tried and true return to form with pinpoint, stand out tracks such as the narrative charged, “Black Hoody” and controversy ladened, “No Lives Matter”. A must listen for those thirsting for the truth beyond a media blurred world.

Bob DylanThe Welcome Wagon
Bob DylanTrouble No More – The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
You might call this choice dirty pool, as the music was recorded nearly 40 years ago, but it’s only now getting a proper release, so I’m technically in the clear. This is a collection of live tracks, demos, and outtakes from Bob Dylan’s so-called “Born Again” period, stuff folks (me included) have been downloading from various sketchy websites for years, and for good reason. The songs are great – check “Solid Rock” for a straight Gospel stomper, cue up “I Believe in You” for an arresting spiritual ballad – and so are many of the live performances (the backing choir is consistently blistering). Whether you’re a believer or not, Dylan clearly is here, and it makes all the difference.

The Mae TrioJohn Flanagan
The Mae TrioTake Care Take Cover
Sisters Maggie and Elsie Rigby have such beautifully contrasting songwriting styles, Maggie is a stone cold killer Americana writer and Elsie writes stunningly original melodies with uplifting pop hook choruses. With (no exaggeration) some of the best folk harmonies in the WORLD and Anita’s impressive rhythmic cello playing, this is a truly unique and heart-grabbing band and this album is them going all out with tasteful and at times epic production.

Georgia State LineNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Georgia State LineHeaven Knows
These guys applied to play at the Americana Music Association of Australia’s takeover of Late Night Alt at Tamworth in January. Paul Heggart from The Heggarties chose them site unseen from the applications purely based on what he heard when he listened to their pre-release recordings of this album. Hailing from country Victoria these guys are a six piece featuring Georgia Delves on vocals, and songwriting. They’re all accomplished instrumentalists in their own right and Georgia’s songwriting authentically channels the best of sophisticated country songwriting from the 60s and 70s.

Fanny LusdenSam Buckingham
Fanny LumsdenReal Class Act
I’m not just picking this album because Fanny and Dan are two of my favourite people! This album is, as the title suggests, all class. Fanny’s songwriting is beautifully Australian and the album is joyful, brilliantly performed by all involved, and completely without any ego – despite the outstanding success these guys have been earning. Fanny gives us all a lesson on how to be a ripper indie artist and how to make music that’s undoubtedly, authentically, your own. Roll on kids

LCD SoundsystemEm George
LCD SoundsystemAmerican Dream
I was moderately (read as *very*) excited when there were rumblings of talk about a new album from these guys, but like anything that was laid to rest, one always is slightly concerned that the revival won’t live up to what has come before it. So when LCD Soundsystem released their new album, I cautiously gave it a first listen and it did not disappoint. Every beat and melodic turn is so completely in tune to what has become their signature sound; that build up of tension and release, excitement and sadness, with inflections of irony that James Murphy grabs the listener with in his choice of lyrics marked with wit. There’s a touch of darkness and melancholy as each song seems to question the ending of things, the loss of once was, but that bright spark of beat this band is known for keeps it somewhere higher and closer within reach, slightly unobtainable so you keep wanting to hear it on repeat from start to finish again and again.

Aldous HardingCharm of Finches
Aldous HardingParty
Party swept us off our feet. Moody and textural, impeccable production awash with aural spectres. Horizon is addictive and moving. Aldous’ compelling voice and haunting poetics have us in thrall.

The Teskey BrothersMark Wilkinson
The Teskey BrothersHalf Mile Harvest
Amazing vocals and killer tracks full of old school soul. Sounds like neat whiskey and smokey bars.

The NationalBANFF
The NationalSleep Well Beast
I eagerly awaited The National’s next record, after Trouble Will Find Me kept me wrapped me up in its flawlessness for the last four years or there abouts. This year Sleep Well Beast won me over, with Matt Berninger’s candid yet agitated words luring me back into that deeply thoughtful, emotional and hauntingly beautiful sound I would’ve always come back for. The National perfectly blend understated harmony with organised chaos throughout all of their records, and this was no exception by any means. The meticulous musicianship and purposeful, but somewhat ambiguous lyrics continue unravelling more layers to this beast in itself every time I listen. This was the best record of 2017 for mine.

LankumKarine Polwart
LankumBetween The Earth and Sky
I can’t get enough of the murky drone-scapes and vocal edges of Lankum’s Between The Earth and Sky. In particular, the raw, reedy singing of Radie Peat on album opener “What Shall We Do When We Have No Money?” sounds like the ages. It’s the absolute antithesis of sweet.

The Wood BrothersBen Prest (Echo Deer)
The Wood BrothersLive at the Barn
I know it’s a live album but this release was my first exposure to the brother’s amazing songs, chops and harmonies. Their sound owes a lot to The Band, and “the barn” is at Levon Helm’s farm where he held concerts before he died, making the fantastic closing cover of “Ophelia” and dedication on “Postcards from Hell” all the more meaningful.

Jess LockeHollie Matthew (Echo Deer)
Jess LockeUniverse
A revisiting of the 80’s Australian rock sound ala Go Betweens with more sadness and slacker vibe. Killer matter of fact lyrics and chorus-y guitar sounds. Even better live. 5 Stars.

SamphaSimon Wegman (Echo Deer)
I hadn’t been aware of Sampha’s previous EP releases, but after Shazaming “Blood on Me” while in a tragically trendy sneaker store, I was moved to hunt down the British singer and producer’s debut LP. Sampha Sisay’s sensitive, soulful vocals and meditative piano (reminiscent of James Blake at his best) form the backbone of this record, while the thoughtful production touches throughout make me want to hit “play” again the second it finishes.

All Them WitchesAlexi Grivas (Echo Deer)
All Them WitchesSleeping Through the War
The latest album by All Them Witches has been my most played record this year. A four piece from Nashville – but they aren’t a country band – All Them Witches is a great new-wave heavy psychedelic band, with moments of light and shade. This record has them growing as writers and players, bringing new instruments and sounds into the mix. Can’t wait to see it live.

Sam OutlawRick Hart
Sam OutlawTenderheart
Simple, yet endearing melodies, layered with beautiful storytelling. It’s an album that is strong from start to end, in many ways reminding me of some of the great traditional country songwriters whom I love. Favourite tracks are “Now She Tells Me”, “She’s Playing Hard To Get (Rid Of)” and “Bougainvillea, I Think”.

Courtney Marie AndrewsJames Ellis and the Jealous Guys
Courtney Marie AndrewsHonest Life
I knew what my favourite album of the year was going to be when I saw Courtney Marie Andrews play in Melbourne in July this year. She’s got a tremendous voice and the lyrics stand apart from almost everything else I’ve heard this year in their insight and honesty. What makes her songs exceptional is the way they all seem to come directly from her own story and experience. These are her songs and this is her life. It’s an honest life.

Mike BarnettHamish Davidson (Davidson Brothers)
Mike BarnettPortraits in Fiddles
As a fiddle player and bluegrass fanatic, I am thrilled to see Mike Barnett create a record which to me is like a cross section of all the bluegrass fiddle music I’ve devoured in the last 27 years. He collaborates with some of bluegrass music’s most vibrant talent and shines new light on a great selection of fiddle masterpieces.

Angel OlsenKate Barker (Whoa Mule, Golden Whistler)
Angel OlsenPhases
I just can’t seem to get enough of Angel Olsen’s vocals and songwriting. Her work inspires me to sing like there’s no tomorrow!

George HarrisonTim Guy
George HarrisonWonderwall Music
I know this is a turn up for the books, this was released in 1968. I was in India a few weeks back, and as we descended into the ancient blue city of Jodhpur, I had this on in my headphones and seriously guys, it was incred. Place and time – but you know what I mean.

Sarah BelknerMel Parsons
Sarah BelknerBut You Are, But It Has
Sydney producer and songwriter Sarah Belkner knocks it out of the park with But You Are, But It Has. This record and its predecessor the Humans EP have been on high rotation for me all year. Brilliant songwriting, interesting and super clever arrangements and impeccable production. I will continue to listen obsessively.

Bill OrcuttMark Moldre
Bill OrcuttBill Orcutt
Orcutt wanders in and around the destruction, renovations and construction sites of melody. Tearing a well worn musical phrase apart and rebuilding it. Disassembling a traditional like it’s a jigsaw puzzle and putting the pieces back together in all the wrong places with gaffer tape and super glue. Attacking the guitar with a ferocious tenacity, short angry, dogged outbursts are followed by meditative beauty. “When You Wish Upon A Star” dances about the melody without ever really clearly stating the theme. “Ol’ Man River” is soft and dripping with the peaceful lapping of the Mississippi whist remaining dark and haunting, broken and fractured. Reminiscent of the solo work of Marc Ribot, Fred Frith or even the sonic explorations of Tom Verlaine in its angular assault to the senses. Jazz, traditional folk and the avant-garde smash headlong into each other with little regard for the trail of damage and re-creation left in their wake. Dissonant yet sweet, contemplative while remaining challenging. Bravely free and uncensored.

Loene CarmenCatherine Traicos
Loene CarmenLovers Dreamers Fighters
I’ve always loved the way Lo’s voice manages to be strong, vulnerable, sassy, gentle and flirty all at the same time, and on this record it achieves that in spades. Also the pacing and the production of this record are spot on.

King Gizzard And The Lizard WizardJeff Lang
King Gizzard And The Lizard WizardFlying Microtonal Banana
This is a rocking album, really fun to listen to. The band gets up quite a head of steam, the rhythm section powering with a relentless forward momentum and the various microtonal electric guitars stabbing and chattering over the top. Great riffs all over the album, fantastic energy and an adventurous, explorative mood throughout. It sounds to me like they’re having a load of fun.

Ryan AdamsJosh Rennie-Hynes (The Ahern Brothers)
Ryan AdamsPrisoner
Adams has so many albums and this is one of his best. Great songs, production and tones

Pony FaceCat Leahy (This Way North)
Pony FaceDeja Vu
I’ve always been fascinated with the sonic scapes that Pony Face create. I’m a massive fan of Shane Omara’s musical mind too, so when I heard he was a new member of Pony Face, it just made so much sense. This album really speaks to me. The way the songs tail in and out, the mesmerising, pulsing tremolo on “Mt Deja Vu” the driving groove in “Justine”. It’s pretty magical. Simon’s voice is just heavenly. He’s like some kind of grungy, modern-day crooner.

Nikki LaneRuby Boots
Nikki LaneHighway Queen
I tried to pick another album for fear of seeming biased, but I really do love Nikki’s album from back to front and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get past it for this year’s top pick, I fell in love with it on first listen and over 50 listens later it still remains my fave. There’s a storyline in every song that is so easy to latch on to and make your own whilst still being cleverly written, that and the infectious melodies that take up the prime real estate on this record are the things that almost make you feel like she’s written the album just for you, the listener, yet there is enough sincerity in there to know that it’s just as much for her as it is for you, the perfect balance really! Fave song on the album: “Foolish Heart”.

Nai palmTommy Spender (Mama Kin Spender)
Nai PalmNeedle Paw
I started listening to this record while I was having a bath and it felt like it really complimented the complete surrender to the hot water. I love Nai’s passion to her artistry. She is truly gifted with a confidence and commitment to her voice that verges on punk, but her vocal has such a developed technicality, it blows me away. It’s so great hearing where she is at without the sinewy and muscular musicality of Haitus Kaiyote winding around her sound.

Scott CookAlanna and Alicia
Scott CookFurther Down The Line
Scott Cook is a natural storyteller; his songs glow with empathy, wit and warmth. This is a beautiful album, but he is even better live.
His performance on the porch at Enda Kennedy’s house concert in Northcote, Melbourne was a passport to the heartland of folk songs as they should be, as they have always been.

Colter WallHarvey Russell (Peasant Moon)
Colter WallColter Wall
This is a sparse, flawless debut from an extraordinarily talented 22 year-old Canadian possessing an absurdly weathered baritone. Arranged mostly with acoustic guitar and pedal steel only, these songs are written with the assuredness and self-knowing of a veteran songwriter. At times channelling Haggard, others Townes, the dark, vivid storytelling is magnetic and stunning. These songs feel lived in, shaped by wisdom and experience. Here we have a voice of country music’s future.

Caroline SpenceJosie Rothwell (Peasant Moon)
Caroline SpenceSpades and Roses
I’ve adored Spades and Roses this year. The songs are gentle, personal, universal, with gorgeous, sonically diverse but simple instrumentation. From the gender politics of “Softball” to the twang of “Hotel Armarillo” to the cute, lyrically playful “Wishing Well” and yearning of “Slow Dancer”, they’re songs I love to listen to, to be swept away by – what a songwriter!

Bad // DreemsMark “Looch” Lewis (Wifey, Handsome Young Strangers)
Bad // DreemsGutful
A cracking second effort from the best thing to come out of Adelaide in a long time. Big old school pub rock sound, quality songs, gruff vocals and a solid rhythm section make these guys a step above the other contenders. Bad // Dreems have always been a fantastic live act and this album gets closer to nailing that intensity and rawness. There is a reason they supported Midnight Oil recently! Can’t wait to see what comes next.

Gang of YourhsGretta Ray
Gang of YouthsGo Farther In Lightness
It wasn’t a challenge in the slightest to fall completely, head over heels in love with Gang Of Youths’ record Go Father In Lightness. The lyrics throughout this album are phenomenal, philosophical, pegging together lines of innovative poetry such as “a weight that’s in youth” soon to be followed by more casual, laid-back slang “..that makes a dick of us all”. I felt that the literature, interwoven with conversational speech in this way served to make this album, an album that discusses and reflects on the pros and cons of one’s “limited life” as well as the exploration of what it is to be “human”, unbelievably moving and relatable. As a writer myself, but more importantly a listener, I perceived it to be nothing less of an honour to see the world through writer and frontman Dave Le’aupepe’s eyes whilst listening to this record, that is more than deserving of all of the acclaim it has received over the duration of this year.

Kasey ChambersTom Busby (Busby Marou)
Kasey ChambersDragonfly
I’ve spent a bit of time with Kasey and the Chambers family over the last couple of years and the more I’ve been able to watch her off stage, the more I have realised that she is a true and prolific songwriter. Constantly singing, always creating, forever exploring. That is what this record is, just like her, brave and genuine!

Kendrick LamarSahara Beck
Kendrick LamarDamn
This album has worked for me no matter what mood I’ve been in all through 2017. It’s one of those albums that, to me, will always be a classic. Driving down to the lake with the windows down loving every moment of each song. Thank you for making my 2017 that much better Kendrick.

Leif VollebekkHayden Calnin
Leif VollebekkTwin Solitude
Never has an album been so important. I’ve listened to this every second day, and it still feels as good as the first listen. It’s come to the point that I’ve started a petition to bring this talent to Melbourne. I’m addicted to the feeling Leif gives to me. Enjoyed best walking through chaos on a sunny day, forgetting the world around you.

Ulrika SpacekTom Stephens (Tesse)
Ulrika SpacekModern English Decoration
A lesson in the art of denial, an element is there and then it’s not. It’s driving and heavy, commanding attention, but somehow you can drift away at the same time. Melodies that have to be revisited again and again and then again.

Valerie JuneMatt Golotta (The Sweet Jelly Rolls)
Valerie JuneThe Order of Time
I listened to the first few songs online of The Order of Time when it first came out, then began calling record stores instantly to see if they had it in stock because I had to own it. This record seriously has everything I look for, its soulful, rocky, bluesy and country, with the right amount of sadness. I think I’ve listened to “Love You Once Made” every day this year since buying the record. “Got Soul” is a stunning pairing of soul and country that is this perfect happy way to close the record.

Daniel RomanoTamara Lindeman (The Weather Station)
Daniel RomanoModern Pressure
Definitely the record I listened to most this year. Just great. Perfect pop songwriting, wonderful wild drumming, insane bass playing, great solos, crazy organ jams, great everything (and every note played by Romano of course). What else do you want?

Big ThiefCy Winstanley (Tattletale Saints)
Big ThiefCapacity
After being introduced to ‘Paul’ from 2016’s Masterpiece on a late night drive, and subsequently watching their Tiny Desk concert, I have been enthralled with this band. I love Adrianne Lenker’s poetic, yet coherent and often confronting lyrics, and the stark arrangements of harmonically rich songs played with a nonchalance that belies their mastery.

Sara TindleyLucie Thorne
Sara TindleyWild & Unknown
There’s an extraordinary richness and directness to Tindley’s voice that is truly stunning. Wild & Unknown is a brave and beautiful collection of songs that’ll have you dancing one moment, weeping the next. A quiet masterpiece that creeps up under your skin and plants itself in your soul. I love this album.

Jen CloherAlison Ferrier
Jen CloherJen Cloher
I love everything about Jen Cloher’s self-titled fourth album. This comes close to the perfect album for me, it’s brilliantly written, performed, recorded and produced. Jen’s bare-faced honesty is incredibly brave and inspiring. Favourite tracks: “I Forgot Myself” and “Strong Woman”.

The Secret SistersThe Weeping Willows
The Secret SistersYou Don’t Own Me Anymore
Selecting your favourite album of the past 12 months is made all the more difficult when three of your favourite acts (Jason Isbell, David Rawlings and The Secret Sisters) all release LPs within the same calendar year. But whilst Isbell and Rawlings delivered sublime albums (as to be expected), the Sisters’ album is “all killer, no filler”, their best work yet, with no temptation to reach for the “skip” button! You Don’t Own Me Anymore is the charming trad-country harmony duo’s third album and most personal project to date. The writing is at times confessional, at others, nostalgic for simpler times; strength juxtaposed with vulnerability. Their soulful songs were lovingly and tastefully produced by good friend Brandi Carlile. Stand out tracks include “Tennessee River Runs Low”, murder ballad “Mississippi” (sister song to the wonderfully haunting, “Iuka” from their 2014 album, Put Your Needle Down), “Little Again” and title track, “You Don’t Own Me Anymore”. Check them out if you’re fans of sibling harmony (eg. The Everly Brothers) and/or the southern gothic stylings of Gillian Welch and The Civil Wars.

Lilly HiattSophie Klein (Little Wise)
Lilly HiattTrinity Lane
I saw Lilly perform at Third Man Records at AmericanaFest in Nashville, but the gravity of her songwriting only hit me afterwards, listening to her rocking 2017 album Trinity Lane on my headphones traveling around the States. The production, by Michael Trent of Shovels and Rope, is big, loud, gritty and more indie rock than Nashville alt-country. But Lilly’s voice still has a southern twang to it though and the melodies and words kick around my brain for days on end. “I just wanna rock n’ roll, scream out my and burn real slow” she sings on “Records”, and it makes me want to do the same.

Jamie WyattGretta Ziller
Jamie WyattFelony Blues
Although it’s been out for most of the year I’ve only just discovered Jamie Wyatt’s Felony Blues! It’s a rare thing for me to listen to something on repeat but since I’ve discovered her it’s all I’m listening to!!! It’s unashamed, uncomplicated, catchy, good old fashioned country music.

Christopher Coleman CollectiveThe Dead Maggies
Christopher Coleman CollectiveAh Winter
This is a work of art, from a guy that’s had a hard run and put his heart on his sleeve. The result is a deep, personal and moving album of mature songwriting. Musically it sits somewhere between Bright Eyes and Neil Young.

Steve EarleTristan Goodall (The Audreys)
Steve Earle & The DukesSo You Wanna Be An Outlaw
Equal parts devilish invitation and cautionary tale, this killer record was a tour van favourite as we hit the road after a break this year. Steve is in fine form, as usual, and while the album is boisterous and swaggering, it also manages to highlight his songwriting craft. Highlight: Willie Nelson growling “if you wanna be an outlaw you can never go home”. Giddy-up!

LogicSteve Barnard (Jon Cotton and The Book Keepers)
Riding my push bike past all the kids and their mothers, heads adorned in their icon of piety, devotion and religious identity. The burka is far more common in this corner of Sydney than most and it puts a smile on my face to see children enjoying their walk home from school with Mum. An old bogan crossing the road to the pub yells racial cliches about going back where you came from and then turns to me for my approval of his vitriol. I inform him I’m from overseas too, I just happen to be white and he is guilty of the grossest and purest type of racism. Racism is as blatant as the inability to see past difference and as subtle as the apathy that accompanies privilege. Everybody suffers either in their oppression or privilege. Everybody.

Lawrence GreenwoodTanya Batt (BATTS)
Lawrence GreenwoodP.S. I’m Haunted
Lawrence has been a favourite of mine for a long time with his previous project. It feels so nice to have a new album from him and my gosh wow. The melodic and lyrical genius within this album actually made me cry the first time I heard it. The journey this takes you on from start to finish is incredibly special. All of the amazing detail within the album leaves you finding something new each listen.

Gretta ZillerAndrew Swift
Gretta ZillerQueen Of Boomtown
Maybe I’m a little biased after spending so much time on the road with Gretta, but credit where credit’s due. Queen Of Boomtown is a solid record from start to finish. With underlying blues tones throughout, Queen Of Boomtown will have you tapping your feet, singing along and wiping away a tear or two again and again. Ziller is quickly being recognised as one of this country’s best songwriters and without a doubt one of its best vocalists.

Raise By EaglesSam Newton
Raised By EaglesI Must Be Somewhere
There is a great mix of upbeat and slow-burner tracks with a sprinkle of country here and there. The record is filled with great songwriting and heartfelt lyrics.

Ben SalterShane Nicholson
Ben SalterBack Yourself
I have a lot of favourite albums of 2017. It’s been a good year. But for me, one stands above the rest – Ben Salter’s Back Yourself. It’s equal parts diverse, brave, accomplished, intelligent, exciting, original, and just plain incredible, superior record-making.

Frank OceanThe Campervan Dancers
Frank OceanBiking
Ryan is arrested by the nostalgic visions of meatophorical bike-riding. Chelsea is delighted by how they manage to execute an extensive shouting outro with great aplomb.

The East PointersThe Little Stevies/Teeny Tiny Stevies
The East PointersWhat We Leave Behind
This recommendation is just as much about the album as it is about the live show, because TEP have done what is often very difficult to do and that’s to capture the energy and magic of their live show on record. As a band they’ve got the full package; great songs, impressive multi-instrumental musicianship, rich 3-part harmony, and to top it off they’re genuinely nice people. My favourites on the album are the vocal lead songs because I love a catchy melody and riff. But I also really enjoy the instrumentals because they include some super interesting harmonic changes through them that don’t always go where you’re expecting them to go. It’s an album that’s made a non-fiddler make it their new years resolution to learn how to play the fiddle, so it must be pretty good.

Songs From DanMelanie Horsnell
Dan TuffySongs from Dan
I loved Dan Tuffy’s record Songs from Dan because I love the quiet back of the valley live sound and the song “The biggest bastard who ever rode the west” is every musician-having-a-low-down-day’s anthem. And I loved King Curly’s new EP but biased as now we are making a record together, so not allowed to vote for that.

Les Poules a ColinJesse Periard (Ten Strings and a Goat Skin)
Les Poules à ColinMorose
Les Poules à Colin have never been a band to limit themselves. They are constantly pushing boundaries and exploring uncharted territory, which sets them apart from so many traditional music groups. They’ve grown so much as a band and Morose is a true representation of where they stand in the realm of traditional Québécois music and I couldn’t be more proud of them. This album has so many complex and beautiful layers to it, and has inspired me and taken me to places I didn’t expect.

Sarah BelknerJulia Johnson
Sarah BelknerBut You Are, But It Has
A record I have returned to repeatedly, finding more with every listen. The textures and arrangements glisten, but have this earthy, warm undercurrent. Her lyrics unfolded the more I honed in on them. Where I was wondering of their meaning upon first listen, months later her songs are resonating deeply with chapters and moments in my life. For me, there’s nothing more wondrous than finding a song that exposes one’s painful or wonderful experience as universal, and this album is rich with those gems. Standout track: “Cellophane”.

Jesca HoopAinslie Wills
Jesca HoopMemories Are Now
I describe this album to other people as “assertive folk” in that it has folk sensibilities and instrumentation but the song ideas are quite robust and angular at times which make it really memorable (ha! Pun not intended). Also, It has no drums which to me was really refreshing as most things these days are so banger/beat driven.

Trad AttackJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Trad.Attack!Kullakarva / Shimmer Gold
Every so often I spend some time seeking out what’s happening in other local scenes around the world, and Crooked Fiddle’s musical equivalents therein – thus leading me to Estonia’s Trad.Attack! (punctuation included). Part melodic folk pop, part updated trad folk complete with Estonian bagpipes, they sometimes come across as a Baltic equivalent to Ireland’s Kila, especially on the epic title track.

Big ThiefAngie McMahon
Big ThiefCapacity
I’ve fallen in love with this band and this album. The intimacy of the songwriting has captured me, and the so many moments in the lyrics and music have brought me to moments of realisation and clarity. Some albums make you really grateful for music and the power it has over your mind, and this year, for me, it’s been this one.

Lana Del ReyTori Forsyth
Lana Del RayLust for Life
I love that Stevie Nicks has a little part of this record, she also experiments with some rad sounds. Also, lyrically this record is incredible.

This Is The KitEmily Staveley-Taylor (The Staves)
This Is The KitMoonshine Freeze
We met Kate, Rozi and Jamie at The Funkhaus during the Michelberger festival in Berlin last year and thought they were all wonderful people making wonderful music. Then we saw them play this album live at Eaux Claires festival in the summer and were blown away. The record has so many lovely, rounded sounds on it. It feels soft, but it has a driving energy that keeps pushing it forward. Kate’s voice has a familiar, kind quality when she sings – who doesn’t want to feel like they’re having a conversation with a friend when they listen to music? It’s a self-assured album by a band who seem to really know who they are. And that’s a comforting presence to be in. Plus the tunes are fucking banging. And the horns rule.

Sun Kil MoonNigel Wearne
Sun Kil MoonCommon As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood
This year Sun Kil Moon has been on high rotation. Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood is so different, that I honestly can’t remember hearing anything else like it. Spoken word poetry, prose, and random stories (including a Chameleon vs a Cat), diary entries, muses on David Bowie and Ali augmented by busted-up Dad hip hop. It’s completely whacked and compelling. A slow burn that requires the lyrics booklet.

The Full Port Fairy Folk Festival Line Up

Port Fairy
Image Courtesy of the Port Fairy Folk Festival

The Port Fairy Folk Festival is undoubtedly one of the biggest events on the folk music calendar and once again 2017 is shaping up to be an amazing event.

The full lineup of the 2017 Port Fairy Folk Festival has been released and it features a bunch of amazing artists including Willie Watson, Melody Pool, Lior, Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders, Afenginn, Boo Hewerdine, Charm of Finches, Eddi Reader, Folk Uke, Gretta Ray, Martha Tilston, Mel Parsons, Paul Kelly & Charlie Owen, The Changing Room, The Crooked Fiddle Band, The Dead Maggies, The Waifs, The Wilson Pickers, The Young Folk and many more.

The Port Fairy Folk Festival takes place from the 10th through to the 13th March in Port Fairy, Victoria. For more information including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here.

The full Port Fairy Folk Festival lineup is below:

8 Foot Felix, Afenginn, Aoife Scott, Backsliders, Barry Versus Kelly, Bazzookas, Bennett, Bowtell & Urquhart, Big Rory & Ochie, Bikerina, Boo Hewerdine, Buckman Coe, Buried Country, Burke & Wills: The Expedition By Ashley Davies, Bush Gothic, Chaos Magnet, Charles Jenkins, Charm of Finches, Christine Collister & Michael Fix, Circular Circus – Heidi Hoops, Cookin’ On 3 Burners with Tex Perkins & Stella Angelico, Danny Spooner, Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier, Dog Trumpet, Don Walker, Dori Freeman, Dubmarine, Eddi Reader, Ewen Baker, Featherhead, Fem Belling, Folk Uke, Gawurra, Giant Seagulls, Graeme James, Gretta Ray, Hey Mammoth, Hollie Smith, Jemma & The Clifton Hillbillies, JVG Guitar Method, Karma County, Krazy Koala Puppet Show, Kutcha Edwards Trio, Les Poules a Colin, Lior, Lisnacrieve, Manu Delago, MarimbaTaters, Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders, Martha Tilston, Mel Parsons, Melody Pool, Mercan Dede, Mexrrissey, Mick Thomas & The Roving Commission, Miss Amber & Stukulele, Mr Qwirk, Mr Wizowski, Mundy, Nancie Schipper, Neil Murray, Nhatty Man & Gara, Nick Nicholas, Paul Kelly & Charlie Owen, Phil Wiggins & Dom Turner, Red the Clown, Roo Panes, Sarah Carroll & the Left Wing, Seamus Begley Trio, Sport Suzie, Steve Boyd’s Rum Reverie, Suzannah Espie, Kerri Simpson, Barb Waters & Alison Ferrier, Tash Sultana, TEK TEK Ensemble, The Bean Project, The Changing Room, The Chipolatas present ‘Chipolatino’!, The Crooked Fiddle Band, The Dead Maggies, The Drowsy Maggies, The Jerry Cans, The Low Down Riders, The Mik Maks, The Mission Songs Project, The New Savages, The Pinks Play The Blues, The Scrims, The Skeleton Club, The Southern Ocean Sea Band, The Waifs, The Wilson Pickers, The Young Folk, Thomas Hugh, Tim Wheatley, TimTim, Van Morrison’s “Masterpieces” Presented by Vince Jones & The Astral Orchestra, Vika & Linda, Warsaw Village Band, Willie Watson, Yirrmal

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2016

Child Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Devil on the Rooftop Announce Sydney Shows

Devil on the Rooftop
Image Courtesy of Devil on the Rooftop

Devil on the Rooftop is the brand new project from local Sydney legends Jess Randall (The Crooked Fiddle Band), Morgan Haselden (Mimosa) and Elsen Price. Mashing together music from a diverse range of folk genres including gypsy, celtic, jazz and bluegrass, Devil on the Rooftop (previously known as Pheonix Pie) are producing a pretty unique sound.

The trio have two shows in Sydney coming up – tonight at the Playbar in Surry Hills and then on the 11th March supporting Jess Randall’s other band The Crooked Fiddle Band at The Red Rattler.

Check out the full dates below plus a live video of Devil on the Rooftop’s track “Lark in the Orange Blossom”:

Wednesday 24th February – Playbar, Sydney, NSW
Friday 11th March – The Red Rattler, Sydney, NSW

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 3rd July


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Sydney’s Sam Newton released his new video “Bill’s Lost Love”. Details here

Tom West released his new EP Oncoming Clouds yesterday and will be touring it over the next week. Details here

Shane Nicholson released his new video “Secondhand Man”. Details here

– The Marlon Williams and Laura Jean Australian tour kicked off this week. Details here

– Wollongong based singer-songwriter Obscura Hail released his new single “Shaky Execution”. Details here

– Before they headed over to Europe The Crooked Fiddle Band released their new single “Kings of the Mud”. Details here

– We premiered the new EP from Kristafor Farrenkothen, Songs I Made In My Bedroom. Details here

Mumford & Sons announced their Australian tour dates including a Gentlemen of the Road event in Sydney and their new video “The Wolf”. Details here

– Central Coast duo Elwood Myre released their new live video “Howling Beach”. Details here

– Melbourne’s Mcrobin released his new single “In”. Details here

– Singer-songwriter Anna Cordell released her new video “I’ll Wait Here”. Details here

– Folk-pop singer Esther Holt released her new video “By Water”. Details here

– Wollongong based singer-songwriter Leo released her new single “Daniel”. Details here

– We streamed 1801, the new EP from Mid-North Coast singer-songwriter Johnny Jarko. Details here


– We picked the top ten albums from the first half of 2015 including releases from Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton, Laura Marling, Marlon Williams, Packwood, Rhiannon Giddens, Ruby Boots, Sufjan Stevens, The Milk Carton Kids, The Staves and Tolka. Read the blog piece here

Releases This Week

Part Of The PlanBronte

Slow Gum
Slow GumFraser A. Gorman

Finding Gold
Finding GoldHelen Shanahan

VenusJoy Williams

Songs Bedroom
Songs I Made In My BedroomKristafor Farrenkothen

Lucy Rose
Work It OutLucy Rose

The Monsanto Years
The Monsanto YearsNeil Young + Promise of the Real

Richard Thompson
StillRichard Thompson

Tom West
Oncoming CloudsTom West

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Tom West

Tom West

Tom West is one of Timber and Steel‘s favourite singer-songwriters and today he launches his highly anticipated new EP Oncoming Clouds (see above). To celebrate the Adelaide based folky has launch shows over this weekend in McLaren Vale, Sydney and Melbourne with some amazing supports including The Maple Trail and Oscar Lush.

Friday 3rd July – Cellar Door Sessions, McLaren Vale, SA
Saturday 4th July – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 5th July – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Alison Ferrier and Jed Rowe
Friday 3rd July – Treehouse on Belongil, Byron Bay NSW
Saturday 4th July – City Sounds at Queens St Mall, Brisbane QLD
Sunday 5th July – City Sounds at Brisbane Square, Brisbane QLD
Sunday 5th July – Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, Brisbane QLD
Thursday 9th July – 5 Church St, Bellingen NSW
Friday 10th July – Wauchope Arts, Wauchope NSW

Bearded Gypsy Band and Lovers Electric
Friday 10th July – The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide, SA

Bello Winter Music Festival
Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th July – Bellingen, NSW

Birds of a Feather feat. Jacqui Sterling & Friends
Sunday 5th July – Westernport Hotel, San Remo, VIC
Wednesday 8th July – The Drunken Poet, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 9th July – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC

Fraser A. Gorman
Friday 3rd July – Music On The Hill, Red Hill, VIC
Saturday 4th July – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Friday 10th July – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW

Helen Shanahan
Thursday 9th July – Mojo’s Bar, Fremantle, WA

Lacey Cole & the Lazy Colts
Thursday 9th July – Moonshine Cider and Rum Bar, Manly, NSW

Marlon Williams and Laura Jean
Friday 3rd July – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 4th July – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 5th July – Bello Winter Festival, Bellingen, NSW
Tuesday 7th July – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

Obscura Hail
Saturday 4th July – Dane Certificate’s, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 8th July – Jane’s, Wollongong, NSW
Thursday 9th July – The Union, Sydney, NSW

Owen Campbell
Friday 3rd July – Taps, Mooloolaba, QLD
Saturday 4th July – Royal Mail Hotel, Goodna, QLD
Sunday 5th July – Toowoomba Blues Club, Toowoomba, QLD
Thursday 9th July – Royal Oak Hotel, Launceston, TAS
Friday 10th July – The Homestead, Hobart, TAS

Porch Light Sessions feat. Catgut, Bec Bastoli, Maia Jelavic
Thursday 9th July – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

The Milk Carton Kids
Friday 3rd July – The Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 4th July – Bello Winer Music Weekender, Bellingen, NSW

Thomas James with Trent Williams
Friday 3rd July – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW

Tom Stephens
Saturday 4th July – The Front, Canberra, ACT

Tom West
Friday 3rd July – Cellar Door Sessions, McLaren Vale, SA
Saturday 4th July – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 5th July – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC

Friday Folk Flashback

“New York” – The Milk Carton Kids

If you’ve been lucky enough to catch The Milk Carton Kids over the past week or you’re going to see them this weekend at Bello Winter Music then you no doubt have this song stuck in your head. Because I know I do.

Listen to the New Crooked Fiddle Band Single “Kings of the Mud”

Crooked Fiddle Band
Image Courtesy of The Crooked Fiddle Band

Sydney chainsaw-folk favourites The Crooked Fiddle Band have just packed their bags and have headed off to Europe for a tour but they’ve left us with an awesome parting gift – their new single “Kings of the Mud”.

“”Kings of the Mud” is about festivals – the transient, dusty and muddy other worlds we visit regularly – and the way you just give in to the elements and get amongst the puddles,” the band explained. “You’ll also notice that it’s more of a song than is usual for us – lots of vocals going on, as well as some cinematic moments courtesy of Jess’ nyckelharpa (Swedish keyed fiddle), plus we finally got some of the yelling that we do live onto a recording! We recorded this one ourselves, we’ve had it kicking around for a while but hadn’t fit it onto an album. Hope you like it!”

Check out “Kings of the Mud” below:

Bluegrass @ Yulli’s For May 2015

Bluegrass at Yulli's
Image Courtesy of The Crooked Fiddle Band

After a month of in April Sydney’s favourite bluegrass jam and performance night, Bluegrass @ Yulli’s, returns this week with a very very exciting lineup.

This Wednesday the 20th May Bluegrass @ Yulli’s will once again take over the upstairs of Yulli’s restaurant in Surry Hills. As always the night will kick off with an all in jam from 6pm – BYO fiddle, mando, banjo, guitar, etc – followed by the feature show at 8pm.

This month’s feature band is made up of Crooked Fiddle Band alumni Jess Randall (fiddle) and Mark Stevens (mountain dulcimer, double bass) along with a who’s who of local bluegrass and folk musicians including Antony Mutch (mandolin), Michael O’Donnell (fiddle), Elsen Price (Contrabass), Morgan Haselden (guitar) and Zane Banks (banjo).

For more information on this month’s Bluegrass @ Yulli’s check out the official Facebook invite here.

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 11th April


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– New Zealand’s Tiny Ruins will be doing a very quick stop over in Australia as they head to Europe to support Neil Finn and have a handful of appearances planned. Details here

Daniel Champagne has announced a massive national tour to support his new album The Gypsy Moon – Volume II. Details here

– The new video from Huckleberry Hastings for Huckleberry Blues is odd. Details here

– Adelaide seven-piece Gemini Downs are launching their brand new EP Richard Doesn’t Roll Around Much Anymore tonight in Adelaide. Details here

Emily & The Woods have just released their new video “Helios”. Details here

– To celebrate his new single “Bones”, Dustin Tebbutt is heading out on tour this May. Details here

The Crooked Fiddle Band won the internet this week with their new clip covering the Game of Thrones theme. Details here

Andrew Bird has revealed a folky cover of the New Pornographers’ “Fake Headlines” for his contribution to the new Yellow Bird Project covers album Good People Rock. Details here

– Sydney’s Little Bastard are heading out on tour this June and July. Details here

Jinja Safari co-frontman Pepa Knight has released a very cool solo track “Rahh!”. Details here

Beverley Martyn has revealed “Reckless Jane”, the unheard track she co-wrote with Nick Drake in the 70s. Details here

Cocos Lovers released the surreal new clip for their new track “Under The Hawthorn Tree”. Details here

Johnny Flynn released his new live album Live in Washington DC this week. Details here

Drawn from Bees will be releasing their new EP Web of Thieves in May and revealed the first track “Calling You Out”. Details here

– Melbourne’s Graveyard Train have released a brand new video “Takes One To Know One”. Details here

Folk in a Box returns to Australia this weekend with shows in Perth. Details here

– Sydney duo Laura & Susie kick off their east coast tour tonight. Details here

– UK singer-songwriter Blair Dunlop released his new video “Something’s Gonna Give Way”. Details here

– Canadian singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega kicks off her Australian tour this weekend with an appearance at The Gum Ball. Details here


“I think the folk audience really appreciate that the artists are also people and they’re human and there’s none of that “oh wow, there’s a famous person”. People just come up and they talk to you like a human being. They don’t mind if your kid’s on stage with you because they’re upset – everyone’s camping together and everyone’s on the same page”Sarah Humphreys chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“Before the Quarry Mountain Dead Rats we all played music but a couple of the guys were more blues focused. And two of our guys now – our washboard player and our bass player – were more heavy metal influenced. And I played acoustic guitar – I never really played in a band before the Quarry Mountain Dead Rats but I could get around on a guitar. When we got together Sudsey, our banjo player, had just taught himself the banjo and he wanted something to jam along with” – Lachlan Alcorn from the Quarry Mountain Dead Rats chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

Releases This Week

Johnny Flynn
Live in Washington DCJohnny Flynn

Other Rivers
Other RiversMatthew and the Atlas

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

The Bad Shepherds

Bad Shepherds

Adrian Edmondson and his band of folk punks The Bad Shepherds are back in the country this month and have a bunch of gigs all over the country. Renowned for their ability to reimagine classic punk and new wave tunes in a folk style, these genre hopping shows are not to be missed.

Friday 11th April – Gum Ball Festival, Belford, NSW
Saturday 12th April – The Factory Floor, Marrickville, NSW
Sunday 13th April – Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoomba, NSW
Monday 14th April – Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW
Wednesday 16th April – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 17th April – The Soundlounge, Curumbin, QLD
Friday 18th April – Thornbury Theatre, Thornbury, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Boy & Bear
Sunday 13th April – West Coast Blues ‘n’ Roots, Fremantle Park, Perth WA
Wednesday 16th April – Mackay Entertainment Centre, Mackay, QLD
Thursday 17th April – Magnums, Airlie Beach, QLD

Byron Bay Bluesfest
Thursday 17th to Monday 21st April – Byron Bay, NSW

Christopher Coleman Collective
Friday 11th April – The Singing Gallery, McLaren Vale, SA
Saturday 12th April – A Music Warehouse Project, Adelaide, SA

Claude Hay
Friday 11th April – The Seaview Tavern, Woolgoolga, NSW
Saturday 12th April – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD
Sunday 13th April – The Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Daniel Champagne
Friday 11th April – Babushka Bar, Balarat, VIC
Saturday 12th April -Martians Café, Deans Marsh, VIC
Sunday 13th April – Bay Hotel, Mornington, VIC
Friday 18th to Saturday 19th April – Byron Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW

Devendra Banhart
Wednesday 16th April – Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 17th April – The Prince Band Room, Melbourne, NSW

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Tuesday 15th April – Palace Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Eleanor McEvoy
Sunday 13th April – Quarterdeck, Narooma, NSW
Thursday 17th to Monday 21st April – National Folk Festival, Canberra

Folk In a Box
Friday 11th April – Wolf Lane, Perth, WA
Saturday 12th April – Wolf Lane, Perth, WA

Gemini Downs
Friday 11th April – Jade Monkey, Adelaide, SA

Gum Ball
Friday 11th and Saturday 12th April – Belford, NSW

Jake Bugg
Wednesday 16th April – Palace Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 17th April – Palace Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Jason Isbell with Tift Merritt
Sunday 13th April – The Factory, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 16th April – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 17th April – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 18th April – Boogie Festival, Bruzzy’s Farm, Tallarook, VIC

John Butler Trio
Friday 11th April – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 12th April – Royal Theatre, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 13th April – Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul, NSW
Thursday 17th April – City Hall, Hobart, TAS

John Flanagan
Friday 11th April – House Concert, Copacabana, NSW
Sunday 13th April – House Concert, Wollongong, NSW

Josh Rennie-Hynes
Thursday 17th April – The Dowse Bar, Brisbane, QLD

Katie Harder and the Artful Dodgers
Friday 11th April – Tennant Creek Hotel, Tennant Creek, NT
Sunday 13th April – Monte’s, Alice Springs, NT

Kaurna Cronin and Ben Whiting
Wednesday 16th April – White Pickett Fence Sessions, Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 17th April – The Railway Friendly, Byron Bay, NSW

Laura & Susie
Friday 11th April – Arts Space, Wodonga, VIC
Saturday 12th April – Farouk’s Olive, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 17th to Monday 21st April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Leah Flanagan
Saturday 12th April – Pavonia Place, Darwin, NT

Lindi Ortega
Saturday 12th April – Gumball Festival, Hunter Valley, NSW
Tuesday 15th April – Armidale Club, Armidale, NSW
Thursday 17th to Saturday 19th April – National Folk Festival, ACT

Mark Wilkinson
Friday 11th April – Heritage Hotel, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 12th April – Captains, Bateman’s Bay, NSW
Thursday 17th April – Lizotte’s, Central Coast, NSW

National Folk Festival
Thursday 17th to Monday 21st April – Canberra, ACT

Paul Greene and the Other Colours
Saturday 12th April – The Commercial Hotel, Milton, NSW
Sunday 13th April – The Bird House, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Thursday 17th April – The Deniliquin Club, Deniliquin, NSW

Sally Seltmann w/ Wintercoats
Friday 11th April – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Sunday 13th April – Kelvin Club, Melbourne, VIC

Seth Lakeman w/ Suzanne Vega
Monday 14th April – Powerhouse, Brisbane, QLD

Steve Smyth
Sunday 13th April – Gumball Festival, NSW
Thursday 17th April – Forresters, Sydney, NSW

The Bad Shepherds
Friday 11th April – Gumball Festival, Belford, NSW
Saturday 12th April – The Factory Floor, Marrickville, NSW
Sunday 13th April – Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoomba, NSW
Monday 14th April – Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW
Wednesday 16th April – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 17th April – The Soundlounge, Curumbin, QLD
Friday 18th April – Thornbury Theatre, Thornbury, VIC

The Beez
Friday 11th April – Candelo Arts Society, NSW

The Button Collective
Friday 11th April – The Angry Pirate, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 13th April – The Wild Rover, Sydney, NSW

The Dead Maggies
Friday 11th April – The Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 12th April – Coogee Diggers, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 13th April – Union Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Monday 14th – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Wednesday 16th April – The Pier, Port Macquarie, NSW
Thursday 17th April – Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle, NSW

Tiny Ruins
Monday 14th April – Melbourne Folk Club, Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 15th April – RRR Performance Space, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 15th April – 2SER Live At The Loft, Loft Bar, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night (In The Pines)” – Nirvana

This week a lot of people have been commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain on the 5th April 1994. Their MTV Unplugged performance is still one of my favourites and it includes the Lead Belly track and folk standard “In The Pines” (recorded by Nirvana as “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”). The raw power in Cobain’s voice still gives me chills to this day.

The Crooked Fiddle Band Celebrate A Game of Thrones with “A Crooked Transformation”

The Crooked Fiddle Band
Image Courtesy of The Crooked Fiddle Band

Covering the theme from A Game of Thrones seems to have become a pastime for the internet, but that ends here with The Crooked Fiddle Band putting their ultimate stamp on the tune. And if that wasn’t enough they’ve put together a pretty epic clip to go with it – check out “A Crooked Transformation” below:

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