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It’s no secret around these parts that Adalita has put out of of the finest – and our favourite – Australian albums of the year.

Roll on the new video for Perfection – a stark, slow, wintery crawl through the mountains that matches the mood perfectly. It’s beautiful, and sad, and everything that the album has come to represent.

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One of the year’s most beautiful songs now has one of the year’s most beautiful videos. Gorgeous.

 

 

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The most anticipated Australian release of the year (in these parts) surely has to be Austalia’s ultimate supergroup: Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann… also known, of course, as Seeker Lover Keeper.

After long months (feels like years!) of teasing, the women have finally released some music onto our eager ears. And (we say with a slight exhalation of relief) it doesn’t disappoint. We’d gush and analyse and generally jabber on about the songs, but you can hear and feast your eyes on three of them quite easily yourself. We will say, however, that we love the idea that each is not merely singing their own words, but rather signing the words of their comrades. Beautiful.

Head to: http://seekerloverkeeper.com/

The even better news is that they’ll soon be hitting a venue near you. We’re in Row B at the Factory show. Where will you be?

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As a final part of the ‘exploration series’, lets put on our Transducers [nerdy 90s sci-fi reference] and take a brief look at the future.

The Jezabels

I’ll put it out there from the start: in 2010, no Australian band excited me more than The Jezabels. There were intelligent, dramatic, aurally opulent indie-pop gems littered throughout their EPs, combined with the vocal presence of someone who is surely one of Australia’s premier frontwomen. And herein lies my slight fear: if their album doesn’t deliver up to the promise of the EPs my music soul will be thoroughly wounded. It is, however, a risk that I am more than willing to take. 2011 could – indeed, should – be the year these jezebels are made good.

 

io echo

A fascinating swirl of bloodied-knife riffs and Cranberry-esque vocals. They’ve had a few support slots and raised a few eyebrows already – 2011 will be kind.

 

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Dan Auerbach is producing the next album for this young left-o’-centre alt-country artist.

 


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Continuing on from the previous post, we move now to the album category of ye olde Best Of list for this year.

The National – High Violet

Seemingly being mentioned on many a Best Of list year, there are no albums more deserving.The fifth studio album for the band finds them at their most striking – sweeping, explorative rock’n’roll landscapes with surging emotional undercurrents. There is something almost remarkably ‘easy’ about this album – yet the the turns of phrase and careful nuances make this an engaging listen throughout.

 

Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

On first listen, I knew this album would be a contender for my favourite album of the year. A steady step forward from her debut, without changing the formula too much, Marling reveals herself to be a first-rate lyricist as well as an emotive, striking singer (having that naturally smoky voice doesn’t go astray either!)  Much is said about about her young age, and perhaps so it should be – there is a real maturity on this album for one so soon into her career. If this is just the starting point I am intrigued by what else she will reveal in the years to come.

 

Worth mentioning:

Lissie – Catching A Tiger

I’m throwing in a mention for Lissie’s album here not because it was greater than other albums worth mentioning (Janelle Monae’s ‘ArchAndroid’, Robert Plant’s ‘Band Of Joy’) but because there was something fascinating about this particular debut. In many ways, it is the sound of two world’s colliding – Lissie’s obvious Americana, folky heritage (she regularly references Patty Griffin in her live sets) funnelled through the UK’s mainstream record label pop machine. There are tracks on this album with undeniable “alt-country” swagger – yet some of the pop hooks were among the catchiest and instantaneous I heard this year. Remarkably, it rarely sounds anything less than heartfelt and authentic – and impressive feat given it occasionally produces inclinations to take a wooden axe to some of the radio sheen. Ultimately, it was an album I found myself going back to more than I ever quite expected. Consider me intrigued and curious for album number two.

 


 

 

 

 

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And so it comes. The end of the year that was. For those of you who have been following my end of year lists (in various shapes and forms over the last decade) you’ll know they tend to ramble on and eventually transform into occasionally nonsensical, eggnog-fuelled ramblings. To save you from that possible pain this year, I am going to keep things short and sweet – simply exploring the songs, the albums and the artists who shaped my musical landscape in 2010.

We begin tonight with the songs.

Robyn – Dancing On My Own / Indestructible

Some may find it strange that I lead off proceeds with two very ‘obviously pop’ songs. Yet nothing about Robyn has ever been obvious, and her uncanny knack for finding the emotional core at the centre of pounding pop beats makes her, in my opinion, the finest pop music out there at the moment.

 

Janelle Monae – Tightrope

You probably don’t need me to tell you what it feels like to have an artist excite you. Not just a little ‘nod of appreciation’ excitement, but that tingling, chest-pounding excitement that stirs something inside. In 2010, Janelle Monae excited me. Her album was bold and adventurous, standing out even more so amongst a clutter of albums that were anything but. This particular song represents everything that is great, and will be great, about Janelle Monae.

 

Foals – Spanish Sahara

If there was a more beautiful, epic song released in 2010 I would like to hear it. As it stands, Spanish Sahara is the moment every musician strives for.

 


 

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2009: the year that the radio and my personal tastes started to collide. If you’d told me a year ago that I would stumble into my kitchen and hear some of my favourite songs playing on Triple J or Nova I would likely have stroked your hair lovingly before recommending a charming medical professional. But yet. There it was. Radio, it seems (despite the Triple J Hottest 100 shemozzle) begun a slight love affair with intelligent female songwriters and the charts began to follow suit.

As always, my end-of-year ‘best of’ is entirely subjective mix of my own emotional responses to the sound, mixed with a slight hint of critical objectivity. Are they, critically, the best of their respective genres? Perhaps not. But they are, at the end of the day, the sounds that moved me – physically, emotionally – and gave me the soundtrack to live my life to in ’09. Enjoy.

 

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Florence and the Machine – Lungs

More than just a dynamic and powerful vocalist, Florence and the Machine’s debut album was a diverse collection of moody, slightly left of centre (but surprisingly radio friendly) pop songs. With an often thriving percussive beat and an abundance of interesting turns of emotive phrase, this album – at a time where many of her contemporaries were looking to the past for inspiration – never felt anything less than remarkably fresh.

Highlight tracks: Drumming Song, Howl, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), Blinding

 

 

Florence and the Machine - Lungs


SONG OF THE YEAR: Sally Seltmann – Harmony To My Heartbeat

Arriving unexpectedly in the later stages of the year, Sally Seltmann – formerly New Buffalo and writer of Feist’s “1 2 3 4” – made an incredibly welcome return with the delightfully upbeat ‘Harmony to my Heartback’. The track is typically Sally Seltmann: jangly, hand-clappy, immediate pop but with enough intelligence, street smarts and unexpected twists to raise it well above your standard radio fare. Bring on the album.

Honourable mention: Bertie Blackman – Heart

Bertie continued to show why she is Australia’s most adventurous singer-songwriter.

 

 

GROUP OF THE YEAR: Metric – Fantasies

Canadian indie-pop-rock darlings Metric returned in 2009 with ‘Fantasies’, a shimmering (but never glossy) alt-pop-rock collection. Showing why she is one of the world’s most intriguing frontwomen, Emily Haines wraps herself in this material like a banshee – whispering, wailing and seducing her way through ten-tracks of pop-rock bliss.

Honourable mention: Gossip – Music For Men

Pop-punk trendsetters take a few Donna Summer pills and produce an unexpectedly dancefloor-driven album that works more than well.

 

 

SOLO ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Fever Ray

Taking the trademark sound of The Knife and transferring it to a beguiling, atmospheric, Karin Dreijer Andersson’s solo venture (under the moniker Fever Ray) was a lush, sensual and sometimes challenging album. With worldy beats (and a sometimes otherwordly feel) there was no other album quite as distinctive as this in 2009.

Honourable mention: Bat For Lashes – Two Suns

If Cat Power turned into a Brooklyn electro-pop-goddess you’d end up with an album close to Bat For Lashes’ ‘Two Suns’. As exciting and involving as it as listenable.

Honourable mention: Little Boots – Hands

Of all the mainstream, UK synth-influenced pop albums to drop this year Little Boots was bursting to the brim with catchy, well constructed gems.

Token male mention: Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up

The Scot with the stunning voice and musical range. Soulful, emotive and occasionally funk-driven.

 

 

LIVE PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: Sia

Providing the year’s most enchanting shows (March, Metro Theatre, Sydney) Sia showed herself to be an engaging, chaotic personality – and a stunning, spine-tingling vocalist.

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD: ONES TO WATCH FOR 2010

Marina and the Diamonds

After a swathe of great singles already released in the UK, welsh-born Marina and the Diamonds is poised to release a great album in the next year. With traces of Regina Spektor and Florence and the Machine, Marina and the Diamonds is a stylised, glamorous and adventurous indie-pop starlet in the making.

Emma Russack

Former lead singer of Australian indie band, Lola Flash, Emma Russack is set to (finally) release her debut solo EP early next year. While an early listen hints at a more jazzy direction than her lo-fo past, she is a strong songwriter with a rich, unique voice.

Ryan Meeking

Hirsute Australian singer-songwriter borrows shades of Jeff Buckley and Damien Rice – with his own superb songwriting and vocals thrown into the mix.

Sia

Having wrapped up working with Christina Aguilera, early previews of Sia’s new material show a sprightly, exciting dance-pop side to her repertoire.

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