Almanac Music: My Favorite Australian Albums of 2014

Favourite Australian Albums 2014

Crikey – it wasn’t until I started to compile this list of my favourite Australian albums of 2014 that I realised what a really good year it has been. The realisation came by the ones I have had to leave out – Washington, Dan Sultan, Chet Faker, The Grates, Ned Collette, The Audreys, Jack Ladder, Rob Snarski and quite a few others – all put out music I have enjoyed this year. I have come down to the top ten just through what I reckon I have listened to most frequently since it came into my possession.  Being old school, and an avid supporter of Australian music, I mean by “came into my possession” that “I bought it”. Novel approach I know. And of course, being older than 50, by “bought it” I mean ”bought the CD”. No not vinyl. I don’t understand the attraction of the labour intensity of listening to vinyl records. I buy music on CD, immediately upload to iTunes and then copy to my phone and other listening devices for playing in the office, in the car, in the kitchen when cooking dinner and when out walking the dog. And very occasionally I listen to the actual CD.

 

Lanie Lane – Night Shade

This came out later in the year and was a real change from the country sound of her 2011 album “To The Horses”. Lanie Lane hasn’t gone as far down the pop path as Taylor Swift, but it is in that direction. However, I don’t mind pop music. This album has Lanie’s voice front and centre and makes for very enjoyable listening.

Augie March – Havens Dumb

After a six year break since their most recent album, Augie March put this out and it carries on from where they left off. I had the single “After the Crack Up” on my voting list on the Triple J Top 100. It may be the only one of my votes which actually gets a look in.

Luluc – Passerby

Like Augie March, the most recent album from Luluc, “Dear Hamlyn”, was back in 2008. Luluc are Zoe Randell and Steve Hassett and they spend most of their time these days in the US, but they have been in Australia touring this album, doing headline shows, and will be supporting First Aid Kit in Australia in March. They are also doing a Melbourne Zoo Twilights show with Sarah Blasko. That would be great. I saw them at the Northcote Social Club a few weeks ago and they are as good live as they are on the album. “Passerby” is a beautiful album.

C.W. Stoneking – Gon’ Boogaloo

Not sure what it is about six year breaks between albums, but that is how long since we had something from C.W. He is not everyone’s cup of tea; I do sometimes wonder how contrived the whole performance is. On this album, the sound has progressed with the introduction of an electric guitar and certainly improved with the vocal support of Vika and Linda Bull and Paul Kelly’s daughters Maddy and Memphis.

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – I’m In Your Mind Fuzz

Being as prolific as they are, King Gizzard put out two albums in 2014. This is the second of the two and it has featured in quite a few top tens around the place. It is almost a concept album with the first four songs on the album flowing on from each other. I am proud that in my solitary contribution to the 2014 Footy Almanac I was able to reference this band (it was better than talking about my football team). As a seven-piece including two drummers, they are a fantastic live band as well – they were just about my favourite at Golden Plains this year.

Laura Jean – Laura Jean

Laura Jean Englert is a Melbourne singer whose music is simple and stripped back. Prior to her 2011 album “A Fool Who’ll”, Laura Jean had come into possession of an electric guitar and it featured quite prominently. That has been eschewed this time around and she has reverted to acoustic, allowing the voice to come through and making for a folkier sound. The record also plays well live – I saw Laura Jean at a Chapter Music event during Melbourne Music Week where she had additional support from one of my favourite Melbourne musicians Evelyn Morris.

Teeth and Tongue – Grids

If you can label someone originally from New Zealand as a Melbourne musician, Jess Cornelius is another of my favourite Melbourne musicians. I saw her perform, I think, four times over the last calendar year and I still regret all the times I have missed her shows whether as headliner or as support. The report of her slot at the recent Meredith was very positive. My favourite from the album is “Newborn” on which she enjoys the vocal support of Laura Jean. The entire album is very strong.

Pony Face – Pony Face Presents Nebraska

This album came about as an outcome of a performance at Pure Pop records in St Kilda. It was one of a series of bands playing an entire album of covers. Such was the quality of the Pony Face performance that they decided to record the album and the result is fantastic. I am not a Bruce Springsteen fan so didn’t know the original. I am a fan of Pony Face and like most of the stuff they have put out and this was certainly no exception. I gave a copy to a friend who is a Springsteen fan. His verdict: needs more Bruce. The album includes four bonus tracks including a cover of “Born In The USA” which is not immediately recognisable!

Banoffee – Banoffee EP

There is a hint in the name of the album that it is not actually an album, but I decided to include it, partly because it is the only selection which is the actual first release from this artist. But even that is not entirely true – I have some of Martha Brown’s previous work from when she performed with Otouto. Listen to “Let’s Go To The Beach” and you will enjoy some delightful pop. Listen to “Ohhhh Owwww” and you will be looking around to see who might be offended by the language. I am looking forward to a full-length release from Banoffee in 2015 (?) as well as seeing her at Golden Plains this March.

Black Cab – Games of the XXI Olympiad

In compiling this list I haven’t made any attempt to put them in preferred order. But I have saved my favourite album ‘til last. Black Cab’s most recent album release was “Call Signs” in 2009. This 2014 album was a long time in gestation. So long that, as the release date neared, I pre-ordered my CD from the record company having forgotten that my contribution to the Black Cab Pozible fundraising campaign entitled me to a free copy of the album. Oh well. I now have the CD and can accept my Pozible “gift” in an alternative medium  –  I have opted for vinyl. Principles are so easily ignored. I read recently that Black Cab have noted that their audience has decreased in age as their music has evolved into a more electronic sound. I am one who has not dropped off, although I haven’t been to any of their live shows over the last couple of years despite free tickets. This is a concept album around the 1976 Montreal Olympics, particularly the East German swimming team who had a bit of performance assistance. Some albums just have to be played loud – this one is best enjoyed in the car on my way home from work. Or home alone. Black Cab are playing at Shebeen on January 25. I plan to be there.

For more Almanac Music have a look at our partner site Stereo Stories which publishes articles which bring together a song, a place, a time.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.

Comments

  1. Keiran Croker says:

    Thanks Andrew. Great list!
    Being an over 50 music lover myself many of these names are new to me. So thanks for the heads up.
    I’ll aim to check some of them out live or via record over the next year.
    Cheers, Keiran

  2. I think I may have almost heard of Angie March.

  3. Andrew Fithall says:

    Thanks Keiran. No problems with people our age keeping on top of what is coming out of local music scenes. I am a confirmed starter for Black Cab at Shebeen tonight. I have also talked Helen into coming along. Risky. If I wasn’t going there I would be going to The Gasometer in Collingwood for the double headline show of Teeth and Tongue and Fraser A Gorman. Fraser is a young bloke from Geelong/Torquay whose work I have been following for the last few years. His first album is coming out in 2015.

    My own 2015 collection has commenced. The two Australian albums which could well feature in the list this time next year are from Twerps and Pond. Twerps are a Melbourne jangle pop band. Have seen them live quite a few times and will again at Golden Plains. Pond are a WA band with cross-over of band make-up with Tame Impala. They are at Laneway, but unfortunately I won’t be.

  4. CJ Stoneking plays some good music.

    Glen!

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    AF,
    I’m ashamed to say that I’ve not heard of any of these artists. Couldn’t Gotye get a guernsey? At least he’s someone that I know…somewhat. Lots of catching up to do. Cheers

  6. Andrew- I like your list too. We went to the Laneway Festival yesterday here in Singapore, and it was great. I like their philosophy of generally featuring new-ish artists, unlike the recently departed Big Day Out which seemed to be confused about its purpose and core audience.

    Pond was excellent, and their new album is terrific too. Courtney Barnett and Angus and Julia Stone were great. Of the others, Royal Blood was the standout, and on current form must be one of the best acts on the planet. The Canadian Mac Demarco was also good in a sunny, Beach Boys way.

    Tame Impala must be due for a new album soon too. Their first two remain among my favourites!

    Thanks.

  7. Andrew Fithall says:

    PHIL -will have to get you along to a gig.

    Mickey – a Laneway is a great one-day festival which, as you say, goes for some newer acts. It is great that it has spread to Singapore. I love Courtney Barnett. She is great live, and more so since the addition of Dan Luscombe on guitar. I went to BDO only once – Arctic Monkeys and Neil Young were the biggest names, and while it was okay, once was enough for me.

    AF

  8. I’m stumped trying to work out my favourite album for 2014. However, my favourite gig(s) was attending the Echuca Winter Blues festival. Three days of great music including Kelly Auty, Phil Manning, Three Kings amongst the performers we enjoyed. Look forward to the 2015 festival, but prior to that we’ll be in Echuca for the Riverboat festival in February. Echuca rocks !

    Glen!

  9. Andrew Fithall says:

    Glen,

    The Winter Blues festival does well. So many free gigs. The band bookers are Hugo and Chris from the Blues Train and they get lots of their traditional favourites for Echuca. I missed last year and unfortunately will be absent again in 2015. The February Riverboat Festival line-up looks very good.

    AF

  10. Thanks for the list, Andrew.
    I must say that Dan Sultan’s “Blackbird’ was one of my favourite albums of the year, and was surprised not to see it on your list.
    I love CW Stoneking, love the Gon Boogaloo album, but I do reckon his schtick is one giant piss-take.
    Nebraska is my favourite Springsteen album, so I will definitely check out the PonyFace cover.
    Cheers
    Smokie

  11. G’day Andrew,

    Winter Blues is a great event. So much good music, wonderful venues.

    Riverboat festival in three weeks, means we miss out on the races in Corowa. Looking forward to Dan Sultan, Adalita, amongst others. It will be a pleasant weekend for us.

    Glen!

  12. What happened to the Merri Soul Sessions??? Are you deaf Mr F???

  13. Andrew Fithall says:

    I purchased Merri Soul sessions very late in the year Peter B and am enjoying the album immensely. Went to Mossvale music festival a couple of weeks ago and Paul and the others were the highlight. Sorry I have disappointed you with this omission?

    Saw Black Cab last night. Didn’t translate as well into the live performance but loved the venue – Shebeen.

  14. Quiet year for Mike Brady AF?

  15. Andrew Fithall says:

    JTH

    Mike Brady is that artist who came in at 101 on the Triple J hottest 100. Just couldn’t get him on the list. Not actuallt putting out an album in 2014 may have counted against him, but that is not the only reason.

  16. Agreed on Courtney Barnett. Still gaze happily from time-to-time at my signed mail-order EP.
    Vance Joy probably on my top 5.

  17. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great list Andrew. Very different to mine, but still quality. Agree with E.regnans on Vance Joy. Lanie Lane and Augie March especially good.

  18. Andrew Fithall says:

    E.regnans – I had the same experience with my Courtney Barnett order from Milk records. A lovely personally written note from the artist. I had a repeat experience when I ordered the Brighter Later album (which didn’t feature here because it was released in 2013) from the record company which is in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.

    JTH – in 2014 you had a foreword to the book written by James Keogh (Vance Joy), a male performing artist who went to St Kevin’s College and whose song topped the Triple J top 100. You can go back-to-back with all those criteria if you get Nick Murphy (Chet Faker). Pretty sure, however, he doesn’t have Keogh’s football background.

    AF

  19. Rick Kane says:

    Some great calls here AF with Lanie Lane, Luluc and Laura Jean. I still have to get around to Augie March (but know it’ll be great).

    No Mr Snarski? We’ll sort that one out over a beer.

    What did you think of The Smith Street Band and Sheppard’s albums?

  20. The People's Elbow says:

    The Smith Street Band is an actual band? I thought it was a clothing label for smug-as-fk, derivative Collingwood hipsters.

  21. Rick Kane says:
  22. My only disappointment with Courtney Barnett at Laneway was she didn’t play “Anonymous Club.” It’s swirling melodies remind me of Radiohead, Mazzy Star and Beth Orton- high praise from me! I guess it may not have worked for a big festival crowd.

  23. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Hey Keiran

    It’s easy to keep up.

    I’ve heard out of New York that The Strokes will be the next big thing.

    In the UK, keep an ear out for Franz and the Ferdinands.

    Both of these sound like nothing you’ve ever heard before.

  24. Keiran Croker says:

    Yeah Swish,
    I often think my nod to modern music is Pearl Jam, Ben Harper & John Butler though they have all been around for a decade … Or two!
    My favourite new cd is the Gospel of the Blues a compilation of Sister Rosetta Tharpe songs from 30’s & 40s. Now she can sing!

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