I’ve been trying to keep up with the best music releases in 2014 and, I’ve got to say, it’s been really difficult. There’s dozens of records released every week that are worth listening through. So far this has been a spectacular year for Australian music – and New Zealand music too, for that matter. So in the interests of patriotism and achieving my goal as a music journalist, which is to be a conduit between amazing music and hungry listeners, here are 10 Australian tracks released this year that you really need to hear.
I’ve included a Spotify playlist, but I encourage you to download these 10 tracks from iTunes.
‘Chase The Eclipse’
A swampy, boogie blues-rock track straight out of the ’70s, this song is a stand-out on Wagons’ epic new release Acid Rain and Sugar Cane. The break-down jam is really delish. I recommend listening to the whole record, it’s arguably the best Aussie release of the year so far. Admittedly, I’m a bit late to the table with the work of Henry Wagons, but I’m now going through the back catalogue and righting this wrong. Wagons is clearly a guru.
02. HOLY HOLY
‘House of Cards’
Holy Holy released their The Pacific EP this year and I’m really digging their sound. They create moody and mature rock, that echoes of a band I really loved – Youth Group. There’s a real complexity to their songwriting and an engaging atmosphere. Their ‘History’ single is good, but a little too ’90s anthemic Brit rock. I reckon ‘House of Cards’ is more original and really where it’s at. Check it out.
03. STEVE SMYTH
Well I’ve really raved about Smyth this year to absolutely anyone who will listen. His second album release, Exits, is a modern masterpiece which I’ll no doubt be listening to until the end of my days. ‘South Land’ really soars, as Smyth reflects on his time spent on the Southern coast of Australia. It’s also a showcase for both the raw power and fragility of his voice.
‘I’m Not Coming Back’
I first heard this song live at the Dungog Festival. There’s no mistaking the ’60s pastoral folk influences in Husky’s music, but these lads deliver it with sublime harmonies and melodies. I think this is a modern classic. I’m looking forward to hearing its home record, the upcoming Ruckers Hill. Admittedly, I thought it would be hard for Husky to pen a track more haunting than ‘History’s Door’ – but here it is.
05. DAVEY LANE
Lane is one of Australia’s rock superstars. A supremely talented individual whose varied tastes seem to be ultimately inspired by the British guitar gods like Brian May and Pete Townshend. He’s released some huge songs with past group The Pictures, but his solo work is aiming really high. And it delivers. ‘Komarov’ is fuzzy, psychedelic stadium rock with colossal riffs and oddball production. Brilliant.
06. BERTIE BLACKMAN
‘War of One’
Always evolving, Blackman is a giant talent. Her new record, The Dash, is a shimmering, electro pop fantasy that packs a lot of punch in just over half an hour. This single, ‘War of One’, is big, dense and mesmerising. And there’s a political message there too. This will surely be a summertime anthem.
‘Red Wine Fever’
It’s really hard to pick a fave tune from Demi Mitchell’s captivating record If We Don’t Leave Now, but there’s something particularly hypnotic about the lulling guitar and piano of ‘Red Wine Fever’. The lyric “I’ve been dancing with the Devil with two left feet” seems to perfectly distill the restless introspection and evocative lyrics of De’May’s debut album.
08. KIM CHURCHILL
‘Don’t Leave Your Life Too Long’
Much like his friend Steve Smyth, Kim Chuchill is a global traveller, but not a world-weary one. You could call his latest record, Silence/Win, a breakthrough, as it has introduced the guitar virtuoso to an international audience. What Churchill manages to do on his latest album is defy categorisation, sewing together surf folk, rock, pop and a host of genres in between, to create a seamless collection of songs that are wholly optimistic and uplifting.
09. LANIE LANE
When I interviewed Lane for her record To The Horses, which sonically drew on the work of icons like Nancy Sinatra and Dusty Springfield – and caught the ear of Jack White – the chanteuse assured me that her follow-up album was going to be different. It was going to be darker. I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t the incredible Night Shade. The first single, ‘Celeste’, is unlike anything else you will hear this year and it’s the jewel in a beguiling crown of a record.
10. HOLIDAY SIDEWINDER
‘Born On The Wind’
Holiday Sidewinder has been travelling around the world, recording the sexiest pop you’ll hear this year. Anyone that saw Sidewinder front the dark folk rock band Bridezilla, is already well aware of her sultry and alluring stage presence. Now we’re hearing that potent sexuality fused with a dance-pop soundtrack, a side of her musical tastes that was exposed on her Pnau collaboration, ‘Embrace’. ‘Born on the Wind’ and ‘Carousel’ hint at a really impressive record to come.