Almanac Music: 10 Favourite Austral(as)ian Albums of 2017

Again Luke Reynolds has set the standard for Almanac music reporting with his album and EP review for 2017. And again, as it was in 2016, my response is more focused. But rather than my favourite Australian albums of 2017, this one is my favourite Australasian albums. There is only one reason for the expansion, and it is this:

Aldous Harding – Party

Aldous Harding is from New Zealand and lived for a while in Melbourne (with then partner and fellow-New Zealander Marlon Williams) but has returned to her home country. The first pre-album-single release was Imagining My Man. It is the best song on the album, but just one of many gems. Aldous was the first-named artist for 2017 Meredith Music festival and the honour was well-deserved. Her actual performance in prime-time on the Friday night was brilliant. She seemed to go into a trance-like state with her eyes rolling back into her head. The crowd response was amazing and she seemed almost overwhelmed. An inspired bit of scheduling.

 

Imagining My Man

Horizon – Later… With Jules Holland

 

 

Pony Face – Déjà vu

I booked tickets to see Pony Face at Howler in Brunswick late January next year. Was surprised to receive an unsolicited email from the band with a link to a free download of this new album prior to its December release. Thank-you. Pony Face are a three-piece Melbourne band who have been around for quite a few years (since 2008) without making a lot of fuss. Their sound is grounded by the distinctive and melodic vocals of Simon Bailey. The album prior to this one was a 2014 release of a cover of the Bruce Springsteen album Nebraska. The album name Déjà vu amuses me, because I know of another album of that name. I have that feeling of….? Oh never mind.

 

https://ponyface.bandcamp.com/album/deja-vu

 

 

Alex Lahey – I Love You Like a Brother

My first bit of crossover with Luke Reynold’s list. For several years I have been trying to influence the listening habits of my (now adult) children. This is a bit of reciprocity as I now learn from them. This is infectious pop. A lot of similarity with some of Megan Washington’s work, particularly with several bouts of rat-a-tat vocals. This is her debut album but Alex Lahey has already performed at Splendour and SXSW. I am yet to see her live but that will be remedied. I hope.

 

I Love You Like A Brother – Live

 

 

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice

This qualifies because half of the partnership is Australian. I claim some connection to this partnership because I was in attendance that night at Shadow Electric in February 2014 when Kurt Vile (from Philadelphia) headlined and Courtney Barnett (from Melbourne via Hobart) was support. It was the night they first met. As a fan of both artists, I find their collaborative work very listenable with some originals, some covers of each other’s work, and even a cover of a Jen Cloher’s Fear Is Like a Forest. They spent recent months touring the album together through Europe and the US but have not given we Australian-based fans the pleasure of the live performance. Guest musicians on the album include Jim White and Mick Turner from Dirty Three and Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa. My favourite song is Continental Breakfast. I mean – where else are you going to have someone rhyme intercontinental friendships with continental breakfast?

 

Continental Breakfast

 

 

Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher

This is a natural follow on from the previous album. Jen Cloher has been in the music industry for well over a decade and success has been sustained but moderate. Much of the material for this self-titled album arises out of Jen’s response to seeing her wife and band member Courtney Barnett soar into the stratosphere of international stardom. I have seen this album listed high in quite a few “best-of-2017” lists (including Luke Reynolds’) and it is well justified. Chris Johnston writing in Meanjin connected the song Regional Echo with Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees. Jen’s tweeted response “Regional Echo was my attempt to write a song in the vein of You Am I’s ‘Hi Fi Way’ but I’d never seen the similarities with Chisel’s ‘Flame Trees’ nicely spotted.”

 

Analysis Paralysis

Regional Echo

 

 

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – The French Press

A couple of the band members (Tom and Joe Russo) are sons of friends of mine – Polly and Peter. Another of the band members practises family law in Peter’s suburban law firm so has a very understanding and supportive boss when he needs time off to tour with the band. And they have been doing a fair bit of touring. Helen (my wife) and I caught them at the Tote. They are great live, although a couple of songs into the set we had to move ourselves away from the front speakers and head to the rear of the room. I understand Tom was a bit jealous when his girlfriend’s band Suss C###ts got a spot on the Meredith line-up. But given RBCF are going to be playing Coachella in 2018, he doesn’t have too much to be envious about.

 

The French Press

 

 

Emma Russack – Permanent Vacation

Emma Russack tells a very funny story about a song she wrote when an ex-boyfriend who wasn’t into commitment, got engaged to someone else just three months after breaking up with Emma. And then asked Emma to sing at the wedding. That song is from an earlier release because as she said in an interview for Frankie magazine : “For the first time in a long time, the songs came out of contentment and reflection – as opposed to some kind of existential crisis or breakup.” I have seen Emma Russack live in a variety of settings including as part of a Melbourne Music Week event “Hush” at the Toff in Town early this year. It wasn’t a big crowd for her early (10.00am) Sunday set at Meredith but those who missed it should regret their tardiness.

 

Everybody Cares

 

 

Beaches – Second of Spring

A Melbourne band in the Chapter Music family, Beaches have taken what is now an unusual step of releasing a double album. A double album of multi-guitar-heavy psych rock. You just gotta love that. And even though there are seventeen tracks, there are none just making up the numbers. Lots of extended instrumentation. I read a review which drew comparison with Wooden Shjips, The Primitives and maybe some Pixies. Those comparisons all work for me. This release is probably best listened to at high volume on a long road trip with people like-minded in their musical tastes. Especially that last bit because this is not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea”. But I love it.

 

Void

When You’re Gone

 

 

Jade Imagine – What The Fuck Was I Thinking

Jade Imagine is the band of Jade McInally who is formerly of Jess Ribeiro’s band Teeth and Tongue (who have featured on my previous best-of lists). Out of Milk! Records (Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher’s independent record label,) this is Jade Imagine’s first album. Running to just six songs, it is probably an EP rather than an LP. The pick of the songs is Walkin’ Around. I have seen the band live just once – they supported RBCF at The Tote so I made sure I was there early enough to catch them.

 

Walkin’ Around

 

 

Thirty Days of Yes – Thirty Days of Yes

Have made a late change to my final entry because I couldn’t decide between a couple of specific artists, so have gone with this release for its diversity. This is a compilation album produced as a fund-raiser for the Yes campaign in response to the postal survey for same-sex marriage. It runs to 49 songs from 49 different artists, some of whom have already featured in this list. Some of the artists I knew nothing about so the album has been a good introduction. As expected, not all are to my taste but it is a rich collection. Any funds raised now go to LGBTQI+ organizations Minus18 and Twenty10. The link below is where you can buy this album.

 

 

Buy 30 Days of Yes from Bandcamp

The Also Rans

 

The ones I left of the list but could easily have included:

 

Leah Senior – Pretty Faces

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Polygonwanaland

The Teskey Brothers – Half Mile Harvest

Saskwatch – Manual Override

Methel Ethyl – Everything is Forgotten

Plus quite a few others

 

And because you never asked for it, here is my final 10 in my Triple J Top 100 list (not exclusively Australian).

 

About Andrew Fithall

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

Comments

  1. Mark O'Conor says:

    Always a treat.

  2. Andrew Fithyall says:

    Thanks Mark. Readers may be interested that the first comment comes from a fellow traveller to Meredith Music Festival. We hung around to the very end to see Suss Cunts finish off the festival. Worth the wait. We were near the front just to get in some shade. Late in the set a couple of women who had just competed in the Meredith gift pushed past us to get a good spot to see the band. They were still in their race-wear.

  3. An interesting and eclectic list as always, Andrew.
    And it is very interesting that, like Luke R, your selections skew markedly toward female artists. I always find it interesting that our respective tastes correlate brilliantly and also diverge wildly.
    How great is it when your children introduce you to new music that you really enjoy – I was fortunate enough to attend gigs with all three of my sons this year.

    Some random – and very honest – thoughts:
    I was surprised that you made no mention of Meg Mac or Vera Blue, two female artists whom I have enjoyed listening to this year;
    # Not a popular opinion, I know, but I really struggle with Courtney Barnett – I really find her annoying;
    # I was a late convert to King Gizzard, but worry that their prolific output is diluting the quality somewhat;
    # I was eagerly awaiting the Saskwatch album, but was fairly disappointed. Their biggest asset is singer Nkechi Anele’s voice (it is superb) but they persist with funky production techniques which merely detract from the music. I have seen them live when they do not do this. Having said all that “Fingerpainting” made my Triple J top 10;
    # Aldous Harding’s Horizon is simply a wonderful song – in this or any other year;
    # I really hope that the Teskey Brothers find the larger audience that they deserve, their album is excellent and I was impressed with them when they supported the Oils;
    # As mentioned in other fora, Gang of Youths “Go Farther in Lightness” was the standout album of the year for me – for once, the ARIA people got it right.

  4. Andrew Fithyall says:

    Thanks Smoke. Agree entirely with your King Gizzard comment regarding quality dilution with the level of output.
    Don’t know much about Meg Mac but really enjoyed her set as a support for Paul Kelly at the Music Bowl last Saturday. Gang of Youths (another support that evening) on the other hand did nothing for me. There was nothing really distinguishable about their music. The song (I don’t know the name) which the audience responded most to sounded a lot like The National – which isn’t a bad thing necessarily.
    A few of Bill’s friends also find Courtney Barnett annoying (looking at you Henry) and Bill commented her inclusion was the weak point in my Triple J votes.
    I do like the Teskey Brothers. Saw them for the first time at Meredith. They played well but annoyed me by naming all the band members and their instruments about three times – in a forty minute set.
    A few other also-rans I could have included are Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos (The Last Polaroid), Sand Pebbles (Pleasure Maps) and The Stevens (Good)

  5. John Butler says:

    Onya AF.

    You make me feel very out of touch with the scene nowadays.

    I’ll have to give Beaches a try. Sounds like a goer.

    Merry Christmas to Helen, you, and the kids (sorry, young adults).

  6. Luke Reynolds says:

    Andrew, well done on narrowing your list down to 10.
    Glad Alex Lahey made your list, love her album. Really hope you get to see her live, her shows are fantastic.
    Been a fan of Courtney Barnett’s previous work but just couldn’t get into ‘Lotta Sea Lice’.
    Had never heard of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, had a listen at work today and really enjoyed them.
    I really enjoyed 3 of the four King Gizzard albums, while you wouldn’t want them to be so prolific every year, full marks to them for making 4 very different albums and experimenting. You could never accuse them of being boring.
    Great work Andrew, always keen to see what bands you are listening to.

  7. Andrew Fithyall says:

    Best wishes to you and yours too JB. I reckon you will love Beaches. And I recall you being a Sand Pebbles fan.

    Luke – I am guessing it is Murder of The Universe that is the KGLW album you don’t enjoy. I really struggled with that one. I like the others but they just don’t have the hooks of their earlier releases. Haven’t seen them live for some time. They have a sizeable body of work to draw from.

  8. Excellent compilation A Fithall.
    This needs laminating and sticking next to the music box.
    (Do hyperlinks work through laminate?)

    As with Luke’s I will certainly be referencing this over the summer ahead.
    Jen Cloher was already getting heavy airtime at our place.
    Alex Lahey has recently joined her.

    And I love the whole lotta sea lice of C Barnett and K Vile.

    Readers might enjoy Chris Johnston’s piece in Meanjin – on Jen Coher’s song “Regional Echo” And its apparent common bloodline with Cold Chisel’s “Flame Trees.”
    https://meanjin.com.au/blog/echoes-of-australia/

  9. Luke Reynolds says:

    Spot on Andrew, Murder of the Universe is an album I found really hard to listen to.

    We’ve just listened to the Beaches double album at work. Outstanding, really enjoyed it.

  10. Much head-nodding as I read this Andrew with Alex Lahey, Jen Clother and Courtney and Kurt among my highlights too. Alex Lahey would be great live I’m sure with her mixture of energy and laconic self-taunting.

    Although she didn’t release much this year I particularly like another local female singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin.

    Much to try to catch next year. Am toying with a return to the Laneway Festival with Father John Misty, Wolf Alice and Mac Demarco draw cards for me.

    Thanks Andrew.

  11. Andrew Fithall says:

    I like the Laneway line-up as well Mickey. Cable Ties; RBCF; War On Drugs; Pond plus others. The stage that backs on to the river is a great place to watch/listen. Was there one year when the full moon rose over the back drop. But I am not so keen on the main stage set-up. Too long and narrow so it is easy to be a long way from the performer. Still considering.

  12. Did John Farnham have a quiet year?

    Love it AF. A tradition at the Almanac. With Luke.

  13. Andrew Fithall says:

    Thanks JTH. One year I will actually get in ahead of Luke Reynolds. An in an even more unlikely forecast, I will get you interested in something a little more recent than Farnham and you will actually come along to a gig. Then again, my youngest was born in 1997 – not 2011.

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