Lester The Fierce isn’t quite as scary as her name suggests, but there’s still something dramatic and dangerous about this Melbourne chanteuse. I’m so taken with her breathtaking single “Holland,” which comes from her debut EP The Summer Deluge. Get ready for some enchantingly ethereal vocals and a whole lot of feathers.

Lester The First will launch the EP tomorrow night in front of her home town fans at the Phoenix Public House. Make sure you turn up early for support slots from Clue To Kalo and Mouth Tooth.

What do you get when you cross chamber music with comedy? The unusual but utterly engaging new shows from The Kransky Sisters and Topology!

After their incredible collaborative show in 2008, the comedy trio and the contemporary chamber ensemble will play five shows from tomorrow night through to Saturday December 3 at Brisbane’s Powerhouse. The two acts will fight for center stage until they “accidentally” join together for some not so spontaneous duets.

After these shows wrap the bands will take their act to The Netherlands and Belgium for gigs in January and February. I have no idea what the European audiences will make of the blend!

Tickets for these very special local shows are available now through the Brisbane Powerhouse.

Image used with permission from Heapsaflash

Western Australia’s Earl Cole and Chelsea J Gibson are ringing in the silly season with a festive dinner and show at Perth’s Bouchon Bistro on December 21.

A Swinging Christmas will see the local duo performing seasonal songs including “Winter Wonderland,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and my personal holiday favourite, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

Everyone’s budget is stretched tight at this time of year, but tickets are quite reasonable at $110 for the show and a three-course dinner. You can book yours by calling Bouchon Bistro on (08) 9387 3898.

Image used with permission from Earl Cole

Reece Mastin has shaken off The X Factor Australia curse and zoomed into the Australian singles charts with a number 1 debut. “Good Night” outsold all the other songs this week, and is hopefully the first of many milestones for the talented teen.

Rewind one year and the best Altiyan Childs could muster was a number 8 position for “Somewhere in the World.” I’d argue that Altiyan’s song was much stronger, but clearly Sony knows what the single buying population wants.
Reece’s X Factor mentor Guy Sebastian isn’t doing too badly either. His single “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is sitting pretty at number 7. It’s not a cover of the Bobby McFerrin smash, but it’s every bit as catchy.

Aussies aren’t exactly taking the singles charts by storm, but it’s been some time since I’ve seen two local acts in the top 10. Hopefully with the ARIAs reminding us of all the great Australian talent around, we’ll see more songs cracking the top 10 in the coming weeks.

The same goes for the albums chart, which is also dominated by international acts. The best we could muster is Triple J’s Like a Version 7 sitting at number eight. Cold Chisel’s tour has also inspired fans to invest in the new best of disc. It’s sitting at number 10 on the charts.

Click below for this week’s ARIA top 10.
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Boy & Bear and Gotye were the big winners at last night’s ARIA Awards ceremony. Boy & Bear took home five awards for their stunning debut Moonfire, including best album and best group. Gotye scooped four, including male artist of the year and best single for “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

That’s all the stuff you’ll read in all the other media outlets, so I thought I’d much rather talk about the way I saw this year’s awards. Honestly, it was pretty bloody good. Admittedly anything would look like a world class production compared to last year’s shambles, but I was impressed by the way things went off.

I’ve heard criticisms that some of the jokes fell flat, and some of the irreverent spirit of Aussie music was missing. Maybe. But most important for me was that the ceremony had real heart. I found myself genuinely moved at several moments: when Billy Thorpe’s wife and daughters accepted his posthumous ARIA for Tangier, when former Wiggle Greg Page stood with his fellow skivvy wearers as they were inducted into the Hall of Fame, when Delta Goodrem sang “The Day You Went Away” against the backdrop of the images of people the industry has lost, and when Missy Higgins joined Gurrumul for a gorgeous duet. I have no clue what they were singing about but it was the most touching musical number of the night.

For those moments I loved these ARIAs. They reminded us that the night should be about recognising and celebrating the amazing music we make as a country. We punch well above our weight, and we deserve a night that acknowledges that, without bringing in too many international guests or getting too fancy with the staging.

Last night wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly a step in the right direction. I’m not sure how much Go had to do with the broadcast, but I take my hat off to them for whatever part they played. Even if it was just ensuring these awards stay on free to air, it was important. And how refreshing to see the channel being the youth station it originally set out to be and offering something new rather than the countless Big Bang and Two and a Half Men reruns.

Boy & Bear and Gotye may have taken home the lion’s share of the pointy things, but as clichéd as it sounds, Australian music was the big winner last night. Click below for the other winners!

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Ben Wells & The Middle Names are the deserving winners of the latest Triple J Unearthed competition. You might remember me waxing lyrical about this Tasmanian indie pop-folk act way back in April. Since then they’ve sold out shows in their hometown of Hobart, undertaken their first three-state tour, and released a new darker single “A Good Read.” The Triple J victory is the cherry on top of a pretty impressive year for this act.

“A Good Read” comes from Bell Wells & The Middle Names debut EP House, Come Home, which will hit stores next March. Until then you can catch the band touring through Australia next month.

1 December 2011 – The Grace Darling Hotel, Collingwood
3 December 2011 – Pure Pop Records, St. Kilda (free acoustic instore appearance @ 3 pm)
4 December 2011 – The Front, Canberra
5 December 2011 – The Phoenix, Canberra (free)
7 December 2011 – FBi Social, Kings Cross
8 December 2011 – The Great Northern Hotel, Newcastle
10 December 2011 – Festival of the Sun, Port Macquarie
17 December 2011 – Republic Bar, Hobart
30 & 31 December 2011 – Falls Festival, Marion Bay

Image used with permission from Tiny Monster

Even grey skies and relentless rain couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm for catching Rai Thistlethwayte at Lizotte’s on Friday night. Catching the Thirsty Merc frontman solo was always going to be a rare treat, especially at my favourite venue.

With my belly full of salt and pepper squid and succulent pork belly I was ready to listen to the sweet sounds of local talent Jacob Pearson. I’d heard a lot of buzz about this youngster, and was thrilled to experience him first hand. His voice sat somewhere between Jeff Buckley and Howie Day, although his tunes reminded me more of John Mayer in his early coffee house days. Just like Mayer he’s a dab hand at the guitar, and the ukulele as well. He told us the way Rai Thistlewayte’s music had influenced him early in his career, and it reminded me how young he was. He seems much more seasoned than his years would suggest. He’s cute too; with the right exposure he could definitely be the next big thing. It’s a shame too many people chatted through his set because it was something special.

That feeling of witnessing something rare and precious continued as Rai took to the stage. He seemed to revel in these intimate surroundings, which were perfect for road testing new material and treating us to some of his favourite Thirsty Merc cuts. While singles were represented, the setting also gave Rai the opportunity to play his some of those album tracks that didn’t hit the charts. Personally I preferred these; I still don’t think I’m over the mass saturation of airplay “20 Good Reasons” received. The superb new tunes definitely have me excited about the next album. In this intimate setting with the hushed crowd I could focus on every lyric and every note and really take them in. Rai chatted easily with us, telling us about his recent songwriting trips and the tours he’s been taking. Lizotte’s facilitates that kind of show experience, the breaking down of the barrier between artist and audience. He encouraged us to get to our feet for a stomping new number and to sing along loudly with “In the Summertime.”

On leaving it was back to reality. The summery Thirsty Merc tune almost made me forget that The Coast is dark and gloomy at the moment. A good gig does that though. It takes you away from the real world and just lets you live with the music for a while. I think it’ll be hard to go back to those sweaty Thirsty Merc pub gigs after this one. The delicious food, comfy seats, and excellent music left me feeling positively pampered. What a way to ring in the weekend!

Image source: own photos

Jack on Fire recently released Sermons from the Eastern Seaboard, their dark follow-up to their 2009 debut album Stranger Cain.

These two tracks showcase the eclecticism of the release. “Less Than Ordinary” is devilish bluegrass, while “New Moon” feels more modern and haunting. Jack on Fire sounds so unique, and by all reports they’re just as gripping live.

Music lovers in their adopted hometown of Melbourne can see the band doing their thing at the EP launch. Jack on Fire will play the Phoenix Public House in Brunswick on December 2 ahead of a national tour in the New Year.

Image used with permission from Hooked Up Records

All too often I get excited about an album on the strength of its single, before discovering the long player doesn’t live up to the hype. It’s much rarer to find a disc that makes me appreciate the artist even more than I did before, but I found it with The Trouble with Templeton’s Bleeders.

I became enamored with the title track last month, commenting on its slow burning beauty. However just quietly I wondered whether that slow burning charm might wear a little thin and turn sleepy on an extended release. Happily Bleeders is about more than this mellow number. While it sits well on the album, it’s just one side of a very diverse artist.

I became excited at the opening track “When Will,” a song that started quietly but snuck up on me, enveloping me in such gorgeous sounds. The Trouble with Templeton has a real knack for creating soundscapes which make lush backdrops for his emotive lyrics. As a writer I was particularly drawn to “I Wrote a Novel”; it’s easy acoustic folk strumming and harmonica strains blend beautifully with the very personal yet relatable lyrics. After hearing such velvety vocals the gritty ones of “Someday Soon” took me by surprise, but they were so fitting for a track which channels the slave roots of rhythm and blues. I also loved the way the playful background vocals of “30 Something” propelled the tale of dissatisfaction.

I enjoyed listening to Bleeders so much that I was shocked when after just nine tracks, it was over. It really felt a little short, but that might not be such a bad thing. I was left wanting more, and surely that’s better than a disc that drags.

Bleeders is an impressive debut for this Brisbane singer-songwriter. I only hope he doesn’t leave us waiting too long for the next one.

Image source: The Trouble with Templeton Bandcamp page

Last night after seven years and countless laughs we said goodbye to Spicks and Specks. Who would have thought that a music quiz show with no prizes at all could become such a national treasure? While on paper it didn’t appear like much, its easy blend of comedy and musical trivia made it something truly special.

I can’t remember exactly when I started to watch Spicks and Specks, as is invariably the case when a program enjoys such a long run. But somewhere along the way it became part of my routine, something to look forward to at the end of hump day, something to miss during the non-ratings period at year’s end. Thank god for those Christmas specials!

I suppose we’ve got Rockwiz to take the mantle, but I think we all know it won’t be quite the same. Their rotating celebrity team captains aren’t around long enough to become as endearing as Alan or Myf. Julia Zemiro is lovely, but she doesn’t set my heart a-fluttering quite like Adam Hills. And while some of those ordinary Joes are interesting, they can’t hold a candle to the mix of musicians and comedians Spicks and Specks attracted over its 266 episodes. Can you believe there were that many? Yet every one still felt fresh.

I’m going to miss debating over the answers to “Musician or Serial Killer” and “Know Your Product” with my husband. I’ll miss annoying him with the Europe riff every time we settled in for “The Final Countdown.” I’m going to miss the laughs, and I’m going to miss feeling just a little bit superior when I knew the answers to the more obscure questions. I’m just going to miss it.

Last night we were treated to an extended hour episode, but it still didn’t feel like long enough. As Adam announced “The Final Countdown” for the final time, I looked around at him, at Myf, and at Adam, and began to cry. I didn’t expect those tears. I knew the end was coming after all. But I wasn’t prepared for the floodgates when it happened.

Thank you Adam, Myf, and Alan for seven wonderful years. Those two words can’t possibly express the joy you’ve given me and the rest of Australia over that time, but they’re what I have. I’m going to miss Spicks and Specks immensely, but I look forward to seeing where your careers take you next.

Image source: Mushroom and Rooster @ Flickr