I must admit, when I heard Wes Carr was performing under the name of Buffalo Tales, I thought it was as wanky as the next person. However, as I listened to his first album under this new moniker, the shift made perfect sense.

Roadtrip Confessions isn’t a Wes Carr album. While I enjoyed the pop-rock material Wes released after winning the Australian Idol title, it’s markedly different from the music he’s making today. There’s a lot more heart and subtlety here. It’s not so radio-friendly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not accessible. It’s just not obvious or formulaic.

This album is beautifully balanced. One moment we’re thigh-slapping along to “Amsterdam”, the next we’re taken to a more tender, poignant place when he duets with Scottish folk songbird Rachel Sermanni on “Crazy Heart”. The shifts could have been jarring, but the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar serves as an anchor for these beautiful songs.

It’s hard to single out songs on an album of such quality, but the introspective “Puppet Strings” and romantic “Tricks to Magik” are real highlights. The poetic, gorgeous lyrics of these numbers deserve to be listened to.

It’s interesting that Buffalo Tales’ has chosen to cover Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz” and Rihanna’s “Diamonds”. They’re two very different songs, but they’re both interpreted so cleverly. It’s a good reminder that singing covers, as artists do on programs like The X Factor, The Voice, and Buffalo Tales’ big break Australian Idol, isn’t such a bad thing. Perhaps he hasn’t moved so far from his alter ego after all.

It’s unfortunate that the release of Roadtrip Confessions has been overshadowed by the media natterings about Wes Carr’s new name, because this album is one of the best I’ve heard in recent years.

Image used with permission from the Planetary Group

It seems the wait was worth it for fans, who’ve sent Karnivool’s long-awaited new album Asymmetry to the top of the albums charts. One week in and it’s already the fourth fastest selling album of the year. It’s also history making for lead singer Ian Kenny, who becomes the first singer to nab two number one albums in the same calendar year with two different bands. Of course he paved the way for this achievement when his other act, Birds of Tokyo, scored a number one with March Fires in March.

Bliss N Eso’s Circus in the Sky jumped a couple of positions to take number three this week. Harrison Craig shows he’s still a force, landing at number four five weeks after the release of More Than a Dream. His fellow Voice competitor Luke Kennedy rounds out the top ten with his debut album A Time for Us.

Vance Joy’s risen two spots to become the only Aussie act in the singles top ten with “Riptide”. It sits at number ten this week.

Click below to see this week’s complete top tens.

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Boy & Bear have outdone themselves with the video for their new single “Under a Southern Sun”. The icy clip was filmed in New Zealand, and it contains so much breathtaking footage that I’m tempted to head across the ditch.

The film clip’s release is a timely reminder that Boy & Bear’s sophomore album Harlequin Dream will hit stores on August 16 ahead of the band’s national tour in October.

It’s been many years coming, but superstar duo The Darling Downs has finally graced us with another album, In the Days When the World was Wide.

Now the name The Darling Downs might not mean very much to you, but you’ll certainly know the names of the talent that makes up this very special double act. Kim Salmon was a key member of Scientists, Beasts of Bourbon, The Surrealists, and heaps more. Ron S. Peno made his name with Died Pretty. They’ve been friends for more than three decades, and have been making music for a decade. However, this is their first album together in six years. For the record, they never broke up. “We just had a break”, Ron says.

In the Days When the World was Wide takes its name from a collection of Henry Lawson’s works that Ron loved as a child. The album is striking in its simplicity, with songs that easily blend folk, bluegrass, and indie rock.

“It’s a songwriting cliché to say ‘the songs come from somewhere else’,” Kim says, “and I normally refute that idea. But I cannot explain why writing with Ron works; it’s mysterious. And because it’s mysterious, it seems quite magical.”

In the Days When the World Was Wide hits record stores today.

Image used with permission from Two Fish Out of Water

How good is RocKwiz this year? I must admit, the show used to be something I caught now and again. However when Spicks and Specks ended, it became compulsory viewing to satisfy my music trivia cravings. While I love yelling out the answers to the questions at my television set, the highlight for me is always those duets at the end. You just never know quite what you’re going to get, and it’s so often magical. One of my favourites in recent weeks was the coming together of Chet Faker and Saskwatch frontwoman Nkechi Anele for David Essex’s “Rock On”. If this doesn’t get you grooving, nothing will!

With their sophomore album Harlequin Dream slated to hit stores on August 16, Boy & Bear are giving fans another reason to celebrate. After eight months off the road, this esteemed Aussie act will make a welcome return to local stages to support the album’s release.

Following the success of their debut Moonfire, Boy & Bear made a conscious decision to return to their roots and record the follow-up where it all began, in Sydney. The act took a hands-on approach to the album, and earned a co-producing credit along with Wayne Connolly. Seattle’s Phil Ek, who’s worked with Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes, took care of the mix.

Harlequin Dream is available to preorder through iTunes, JB HiFi, Sanity, and other music retailers. But if you’re a hardcore fan you’ll want to visit the band’s website, where you can get the collector’s edition. This includes a deluxe set with vinyl and CD copies, a lyrics booklet, an artwork print, and one-of-a-kind Polaroid photo snapped by the band.

Boy & Bear will bring the music from Harlequin Dream and some old favorites to the following intimate venues later this year.

24 October 2013 – ANU Bar, Canberra
25 October 2013 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
1 November 2013 – Wool Exchange, Geelong
2 November 2013 – The Forum, Melbourne
7 November 2013 – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay
8 November 2013 – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast
9 November 2013 – The Tivoli, Brisbane
15 November 2013 – Waves Nightclub, Wollongong
16 November 2013 – Wrestpoint Showroom, Hobart
21 November 2013 – HQ, Adelaide
22 November 2013 – Metropolis, Fremantle
23 November 2013 – The Astor Theatre, Perth

Image source: Rene Pot @ Flickr

Western Sydney outfit Paper City Thief serve up good honest rock with their new single “TV and Liars” It’s such a powerful number, with a solid melodic core that makes it accessible from the first listen.

Paper City Thief’s come out of the ashes of A Broken Silence, who you might remember doing great things, including collaborating with Tim Freedman and Ozi Batla back in 2008. Following that band’s breakup, Daniel Bartulovich and Nathan Tuffin continued to work on new material. With a swag of new songs under their belt, they approached Andrew Haszard from Self is a Seed to fill the bass guitarist’s shoes. Paul Petrone, the former guitarist of The Initiation, rounds out the quartet.

“TV and Liars” comes from Paper City Thief’s debut album, which is scheduled to hit stores late this year.

The organisers of Parklife have decided to put their famous dance festival on hold to concentrate on a smaller party dubbed Listen Out. The creators have gone to great pains to stress this isn’t a festival; it’s an “intelligent dance music party”.

The 2013 line-up looks good, with Disclosure, Azealia Banks, and TNGHT – a collaboration between Hudson Mohawke and Lunice – all heading up the bill. The philosophy’s even better though. Listen Out’s been created as an antidote to the big music festivals, with a handpicked of lineup that’s the best rather than the biggest. You can also say goodbye to those timetable clashes, long hikes to stages, and the crowds you can’t relate to.

Get your tickets from the Listen Out website for the following shows. They’ll get more expensive as the date nears, so go procrastinating!

28 September 2013 – Centennial Park, Sydney
29 September 2013 – Ozone Reserve, Perth
5 October 2013 – Observatory Precinct @ Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
6 October 2013 – Cultural Forecourt @ South Bank, Brisbane

Sydney folk songstress Sam Buckingham is back with a brand new album I’m a Bird. It’s a collection of songs about travel, love, and life’s other adventures. The album is the follow-up to her EP Fragile Heart, which debuted at number three on the iTunes singer/songwriter charts.

The album features the single “Follow You”, which might just be one of the sweetest and most romantic tracks I’ve heard in months. There’s nothing grandiose about it, but it’s impossible not to get swept away by Sam’s angelic voice and heartfelt lyrics.

Sam’s been spending time in Nashville and New York City, but she’s back on home soil to launch I’m a Bird with the following intimate shows.

21 July 2013 – The Bird, Northbridge
28 July 2013 – The Workers Club, Fitzroy
1 August 2013 – The Front, Lyneham (Entry by donation at the door)
3 August 2013 – Hibernian House, Surry Hills
7 August 2013 – Lizotte’s, Kincumber
10 August 2013 – Royal Exchange Theatre, Newcastle
11 August 2013 – The Powerhouse, Brisbane (FREE)
28 August 2013 – Lizotte’s, Dee Why
30 August 2013 – The Wheatsheaf, Thebarton (FREE)

Hobart five-piece The Middle Names appeals to our inner couch potatoes with the video for their latest single “Full Friends”. The clip splices together scenes from some of the best TV programs of the past, including The Drew Carey Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Seinfeld. The track’s not bad either!

It comes from The Middle Names forthcoming debut album “I Need Space”, a record which almost didn’t happen. Five days before the band planned to head to Brisbane to record it, a fire ripped through their rehearsal space. All that survived was the band and their guitars. To add insult to injury, the band was stranded on the way to Applewood Lane Studios after their tyre was punctured. You know what they say about bad luck happening in threes though. Their producer Magoo suffered the last blow of bad luck when his house was burgled.

If they were a superstitious lot they might have abandoned the project altogether. But then we wouldn’t have this fun single, the album to come, and the tour which kicks off in their hometown tonight. Here are all the places you can catch The Middle Names over the next month.

20 July 2013 –Waratah Hotel, Hobart (supporting Gold Fields)
1 August 2013 – AFTR DARK @ Curtin Hotel, Melbourne
10 August 2013 – KITTENS @ Spectrum, Sydney
23 August 2013 – The Butter Factory, Burnie
30 August 2013 – The Ironhorse, Launceston
31 August 2013 – The Waratah Hotel, Hobart