Another year ends, and all those music lists remind me how out of touch I still am. Still, making this list has come to be something I really look forward to each year. And as always, there was a lot of rad music made in 2013.
Paddy McHugh and the Goldminers – The snowmen
My favourite Paddy McHugh moment of the year actually didn’t involve this song. It was at a show when he introduced his old Sydney City Trash classic “Just The Country Coming Out In Me” by saying “I’m from the country, and I’m fucking proud of it.” I’ve lived in the city a long time now, but my whole body felt a rush of country pride during that song that I knew the people in the room who weren’t from the country would never understand.
Paddy’s album of this year, Trials And Cape Tribulations, is just a magnificent album that shows just how good folk music can be – it tells our history and our stories with heart, compassion and wit. And he is also a lovely bloke.
Year Of Scummery – Wadonga
Advance warning: there is a lot of folk punk in this list. Every year is a good year for people who like folk punk, but maybe my tastes or range are getting narrower these days. Anyway, Year Of Scummery were a folk punk institution this year – hitching and riding freight trains around the country, playing shows and busking with an ever-evolving cast of musicians joining in.
They did an album as well, but it doesn’t really capture the experience that is Year Of Scummery live, which I think this video does pretty well. Every show was great, but my best memory of the year would have to be a show we did in a Brisbane laundromat. Cam was looking like the crustiest man alive, and as he thrashed at his ukelele and screamed out the words, a few people very nervously edged into the room holding their baskets of washing.
Vélociraptor – Up the library bums
One of the highlights of the year for me was in April organising a tour of shows for the first time. My travelling companions, and in fact the inspiration for the tour, were Melbourne/France folk punk duo Vélociraptor. I saw them play 5 sets in a week, so their songs are pretty well imprinted on my mind. I still enjoy their album now though.
It was inspiring for me to hang out with other people doing DIY music and to try to organise a DIY tour myself. It wasn’t quite the epic trek across the country that you read about American bands doing, but it was pretty awesome still. Two of the venues we played had libraries in the room, so it was fitting for the band to play this tribute to hanging out in the library.
Sweet Teens – Hot breath on cold breast
In this list last year I included the song “All Indoors” by Tom Denton. A chance encounter with Tom in Sydney led to me doing a couple of shows with him, where he stunned the crowd with moments of genius. And that’s not just normal music journalism hyperbole. I guess you have to see it to understand, but something amazing happens when Tom picks up a guitar.
A bit later came his album with his band Sweet Teens, which matched Tom’s crazy poetry with catchy, mostly upbeat guitar rock. The result is an album that is fun, moving, smart, funny and deserving to be heard by more people than it has been.
Carrie and the Cut Snakes – We will be forgotten
In January, the long awaited Carrie and the Cut Snakes debut album was launched. In the middle of the year, Carrie left us for the home of country music, Texas. Brisbane lost a great musician and a great person, but she left us at least with this album, and the women’s art collective she worked so hard to start.
Carrie’s music is beautifully honest and deeply personal, and I find this song so moving. She has told me that it means a lot to her as a song, that it expresses a lot of her personal spirituality. Hopefully those Americans are enjoying it as much as I do.
Yes I’m Leaving – Creepyman
Ever since I first saw them play in a Stockton loungeroom years ago, Yes I’m Leaving have been one of my favourite bands. Any new music or chance to see them play is cause for celebration, and this year I got plenty of both, with a new album and their first trip to Brisbane (plus shows in Sydney and Newcastle, naturally).
The shows were predictably great, so is the album, and this song is up there with the best the band has done – that riff is ridiculously huge and heavy.
The Wild – Dreams are maps
Out of a very competitive field, The Wild have always been one of the most posi and enthusiastic of all folk punk bands – like motivational speakers with acoustic instruments. On this year’s “Dreams Are Maps” though, the band’s music has a new found grandiosity (and so many drum rolls!) It’s still folk punk, but folk punk played by people who’ve been listening to a lot of Arcade Fire. The result is an absolutely joyous album to listen to.
It’s a great album where I don’ really have a favourite track. I chose this one though because it’s a good example of the spirit of the album, and I love the lyric about waking in the park.
“When I woke up in a park surrounded by friends,
I knew these felon politicians wouldn’t stop us again.”
It could be written about the Occupy movement, but then anybody who’s ever slept in a park with their friends around them can probably relate a little bit to what they’re saying.
Virginia Sook – Frederic
I had heard that Virginia Sook were good but never heard the music when I contacted lead singer Lindsay about playing as part of the tour with Vélociraptor I mentioned earlier. Two thirds of a year later, I have seen them play loads of times and have definitely become a fan. Their delicate songs and lyrical imagery make every Virginia Sook show great, and the album that came out towards the end of the year was just as good.
I like all of Lindsay’s songs, but I had to pick one so I’ve gone for this one, inspired by the death of a pet, an existential crisis, and author Frederic Beigbeder.
Albion Gold – Bored and braindead
Another new musical discovery for me this year, Albion Gold are now one of my favourite Brisbane punk bands (even though they’re from the Gold Coast and lead singer Laura Mardon is originally from London). There’s nothing too technical about Albion Gold’s music, just speedy, catchy punk with an occasional metal guitar lick thrown in. But it’s fun, and Laura is not just a great singer, but visually transfixing as she jumps, crouches, stomps, paces around and spits out the lyrics.
I actually maybe like Laura’s solo acoustic stuff even more, but there are enough acoustic guitars in this list already, and Albion Gold were definitely a musical highlight of the year for me. Plus how could I leave out a song with lyrics like:
I’m sick of the social order
I’m sick of slut shaming
sick of the patriarchal system
and patriotic tribalism
I heard you telling rape jokes on your lads night out
you ever tell me to get my tits out for the boys
Well, I’ll kick your fucking teeth out
Ghost Mice – House of the undying
Definitely one of my lowlights of the year was getting kicked out of Brother Juniper House, the community/hospitality house myself and a group of others had started in South Brisbane. And then seeing us go our separate ways, taking with us the dreams we had talked so much about.
The same week we packed up the last of our stuff and had one last cup of tea, there appeared on the internet a split release from Ramshackle Glory and Ghost Mice, two of my favourite American bands. And in there, closing the Ghost Mice side , was this ode to punk houses. Brother Juniper House was definitely not a punk house, but there’s still a lot of our house there in the lyrics, like “I heard that someone’s coming to stay, no one knows them but that’s ok”, “the dumpstered bagels are getting hard”, and sadly “it’s bound to end the same, a failure to communicate.”
Even now listening to the song is a bit bittersweet (not helped by the band’s proposed Australian tour falling through), but I can’t help but have a bit of Ghost Mice’s trademark optimism rub off on me as they sing “this house will never die.”