The Spin Doctor, Iain Shedden, is always worth a read in the Weekend Oz as in each issue he gives a run-down on the latest music goss that piques his interest. And as it’s almost a given, at this time of year, that he, along with many other print pundits, will produce a best of for the last twelve months. Iain, judging by the image that accompanies his column, looks as though he is not that far off my age – sorry Iain – and it seems from a long reading of him that our tastes are similar. So I give a great deal of credence to his lists. For 2015 they are three in number – best live performances, best local albums and the best from overseas.
Father John Misty recently gigged in Yarra City and Iain went along, was blown away so listed him No.1 in the first category. I liked him too back in the day when he was simply known as John Tillman and I possessed a CD of his under that moniker. So when ‘I Love You Honeybear’ came out to some critical acclaim earlier this year I purchased it. Shedden himself listed it as his second fav overseas album. But I was disappointed with it after I had a listen. Despite all of the positive fuss about it, its hardly rotated in my music machine since.
So its all rather subjective you see, these lists. But they’re fun to compile. And there was much in the product of 2015 I did adore so the below rankings took a deal of thought – especially as one arrived at the lower reaches and there was much excellence remaining. So, for what it’s worth:-
1. Charcoal Lane 25th Anniversary Edition – Archie Roach (and friends) . Those ‘friends’ are the reason I purchased this as I already had the original in my collection, now passed on to my Katie. I know she’ll treasure it. The package contains a second CD of other artists presenting their takes on the iconic tunes the album contained. These include some duets between the great man and his lovely partner, Ruby Hunter, now sadly deceased. Artists of the calibre of Paul Kelly, Courtney Barnett, Dan Sultan, Gurrumul and Marlon Williams are featured. And I even love what rappers, Radical Son and Urthboy, do with ‘No, No, No’. Fancy that!
2. Sermon on the Rocks/Home Recordings – Josh Ritter. A signed copy of this came all the way from the US courtesy of my Josh-loving daughter and the whole shebang is a great vehicle for the diverse range of this singing troubadour. Belatedly his albums are now available in Oz.
3. Hollow Meadows – Richard Hawley . After an appealing aberration with his last collection, this former member of Pulp returns to what he does best. The Sheffielder is back in his croon groove and we’re all the better for that.
4. Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett. Partly raised under the benevolent gaze of kunanyi, this grungy Aussie songstress has taken the world by storm with her gritty, wittty vignettes of urban existence.
5. Beneath the Skin – Of Monsters and Men. The second issue from this Icelandic band even eclipses its acclaimed first – in this humble scribe’s opinion.
6. Carrie and Lowell – Sufjan Stevens. I’d largely forgotten about Sufjan after a purchasing a couple of his oeuvre a decade or so back. The reviews for this caused me to revisit him and I was not disappointed.
7. Faded Gloryville – Lindi Ortega. Last year Myf introduced me to Ray Lamontagne on 2JJ during my extended Briddy stay and this year it has been Ms Ortega. An Emmylou in the making. Thanks Myf.
8. The Travellin’ Kind – Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. And speaking of the above, the first collaboration of these two won a Grammy. This follow up, I feel, has a much better song selection.
9. Terraplane – Steve Earl and the Dukes. The old Copperhead Road man shows he has lost none of his alt country chops in this rollicking collection.
10. Absent Fathers – Justin Townes Earle. Son of the above chides his old man for the obvious – but these songs also celebrate the emergence from a dark place.
HMs – Eternal Return – Sara Blasko, May Day – Mark Seymour and the Undertow, Nanna – Xavier Rudd, Sound and Colour – Alabama Shakes, Marlon Williams, Hank Jr Sings Hank Sr – Hank Williams Jr, Django and Jimmie – Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Tracker – Mark Knopfler.
Discoveries – She and Him, Ryan Bingham