I love checking in with artists and watching them evolve. When I first came across the music of Amanda Merdzan in 2010, she was creating beautiful stripped-back folky music. Fast-forward five years and her music is still beautiful, but it’s taken a different direction.

With her new single “Matter,” Amanda’s showcasing more of an electronic sound. The fragility and heart that first drew me to her music is still at the centre, but it has a dreamy new wrapper. This is just the sort of thing I can imagine putting on to chill out after a big week at work, or a big night out.

“Matter” is the first track lifted from Amanda Merdzan’s forthcoming EP, which will drop in 2016.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Ian Moss recorded his Six Strings album, a brilliant bluesy acoustic album with cuts from his Cold Chisel days and solo work, as well as some choice covers. We’re all used to seeing Mossy plugged in and rocking out, but that album and the accompanying tour showed us all a new side to this true Aussie legend.

To celebrate the album’s anniversary, Ian will tour some of Australia’s most intimate venues in stripped back mode.

“Doing these shows remind me time and time again that it’s all about how you play. I’m amazed at how much colour and variation and emotion I’ve been able to get with just voice, guitar and a foot tapping on the floor,” he explained. “Less is more.”

If you’ve never seen Mossy playing acoustically, you shouldn’t miss these shows. And if you have, well you know for sure you shouldn’t miss these shows!

26 February 2016 – The Palms At Crown, Melbourne
27 February 2016 – Theatre Royal, Hobart
4 March 2016 – Street Theatre, Canberra
5 March 2016 – Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong
11 March 2016 – The Events Centre – Playhouse, Caloundra
12 March 2016 – The Tivoli, Brisbane
18 March 2016 – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
19 March 2016 – Astor Theatre, Perth
24 March 2016 – Laycock Street Theatre, North Gosford
26 March 2016 – Cessnock Performing Arts Centre, Cessnock
2 April 2016 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Image used with permission from AAA Entertainment

After being so impressed with “When You Leave” last week, I couldn’t wait to hear the rest of Loren Kate’s EP Til Night Meets the Sun. My expectations were high considering the strength of the single, but this recording is truly something special.

The opening track “Silver and Gold” sets the scene a deeply personal country-folk number that shares memories of Loren’s childhood. The stories continue with “This Heart of Mine,” a poignant song about moving on after heartache. “Rollin’ Wheel” is a powerful glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes of a relationship on the brink of separation. Its emotions are palpable. “When You Leave” was already familiar to me, and I’m still in love with it. It feels like it belongs here. So often singles stand head and shoulders above the other tracks; they’re the obviously commercial choice that everyone loves. But that doesn’t happen here, due to the strength of this entire EP. After remembering the past on “Silver and Gold,” it makes sense to look forward with the EP’s title track and its closing number, “Til Night Meets the Sun.” It’s got a real quiet strength about it as Loren talks about her resolve for the future.

I love the organic arrangements of these songs. With acoustic guitars and violins the songs sound warm but understated. They give the tracks space to breathe, ensuring we can hear every lyric. As we should when an artist spins such gorgeous stories. There are no frills or tricks here. I imagine the songs would sound the same if we heard Loren jamming with friends at a party, or on the stage of some intimate Australian pub. Remember, you can do just that when she travels around the country on her EP tour next month.

Til Night Meets the Sun will be available on October 9.

Image source: Soundcloud

I do love Jordan Millar. He’s one of those rare artists that releases songs that I fall for time and time again. Even when he goes in a different musical direction, as he has with his new single “True or Nothing,” I’m right there with him.

I’m used to hearing Jordan creating very stripped back, organic music. “True or Nothing” has more of an electronic, almost dancey feel to it. The guitars are still there, anchoring the song, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on. Ordinarily I might call that distracting, but it works here.

Apparently Jordan decided to try something new after getting countless comparisons to John Mayer and Jason Mraz. I’m pretty sure once people hear this they’ll start calling him the next Ed Sheeran.

If this song is any indication, I’m excited to hear more of the new music Jordan promises to release next year.

Image used with permission from Small Talk PR & Management

You might remember soulful Perth songstress Shameem from her single “Under One Sun” which I wrote about last year. I can barely believe how much time has gone by, because hearing that song is still so fresh in my mind. It was just that good.

So I was excited to hear she’s hitting the road again to promote her album The Second City, a collection of songs she either wrote or co-wrote and co-produced. Along with “Under One Sun,” the album features “Beautiful Soul,” another killer track with standout vocals and lyrics that really cut through. I could show you the album version, but in light of her upcoming tour I figured sharing this stripped back performance was probably more appropriate.

I know it can be difficult to rouse yourself when the weather’s dark and dreary, but Shameem’s gigs are all free or close to it, so please get out and support this talented independent Aussie act.

1 October 2015 – Since I Left You, Sydney (18+ FREE)
2 October 2015 – Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle (18+ FREE)
3 October 2015 – The Thornbury Local, Melbourne (18+ FREE)
4 October 2015 – The Basement, Canberra (18+ $5)
7 October 2015 – The Menagerie, Brisbane (ALL AGES; FREE)
8 October 2015 – Treehouse, Byron Bay (ALL AGES; FREE)
9 October 2015 – The Loft, Gold Coast (18+ FREE)
10 October 2015 – The Upfront Club, Sunshine Coast (ALL AGES; ENTRY BY DONATION)
11 October 2015 – The Milk Factory, Brisbane (18+ $10)

An awful lot of time has passed since Short Stack first burst onto our scene and made all the girls squeal as they’re doing over 5SOS right now. So you might not realise that these Central Coast lads are only getting better. Their new single “Gravity” shows a maturity that only comes with a few more years out in the world.

“Gravity” is the first cut from Short Stack’s new album Homecoming (currently in stores), which has a fitting title considering it coincides with their return to the Australian scene after they relocated to London in late 2014. That decision saw them connecting with legendary British producer Chris Kimsey [The Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton, The Cult].

“We wrote this for about three years, and it’s the record that we’ve always wanted to make,” Shaun Diviney said in a press release. “It’s really raw, it’s really live, there’s not much production, and that means that when we play it live, it comes to life, translates.”

Given the lack of flashy production, we can expect the songs to sound amazing in the live arena. We’ll get a chance to do just that when Short Stack play shows all around the country this summer.

11 December 2015 – Brothers Leagues Club, Cairns (ALL AGES)
12 December 2015 – The Venue, Townsville (ALL AGES)
13 December 2015 – Mackay Entertainment Centre Foyer, Mackay (ALL AGES)
13 January 2016 – Prince Bandroom, Melbourne (ALL AGES)
14 January 2016 – HQ, Adelaide (ALL AGES)
16 January 2016 – Astor Theatre, Perth (ALL AGES)
30 January 2016 – The Metro Theatre, Sydney (ALL AGES)
6 February 2016 – The Tivoli, Brisbane (ALL AGES)

I’m making a point of getting a little blogging done today. After a week of early starts and late finishes, of a workload that always seems insurmountable, I needed a little music therapy. I found it in the form of Loren Kate’s song “When You Leave.”

I was actually sent the presser of this song back in September, but I firmly believe that the right song finds you at the right time. “When You Leave” is just the kind of mellow I need to relax right now. And the song, which was actually inspired by Loren losing a loved one, is just the kind of thing I needed to hear to remind me to just be here now, and not stress about what’s to come.

This is just stunning. What a special song. It comes from Loren’s EP Til Night Meets the Sun, which is now on my “must hear” list. After playing shows in Nashville this month, she’ll return home for the following dates.

10 October 2015 – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton (18+)
14 October 2015 – The Toff in Town, Melbourne (18+)
23 October 2015 – Red Mill Store, Bunbury (ALL AGES)
24 October 2015 – House Concert, Fremantle (PRIVATE CONCERT)
25 October 2015 – Kidogo Arthouse, Fremantle (ALL AGES)
31 October-1 November 2015 – Maldon Folk Festival, Maldon (ALL AGES)
7 November 2015 – Vegan Festival, Adelaide (ALL AGES; FREE)
8 November 2015 – The Cheese Factory Studio Gallery, Meadows (ALL AGES)
19 November 2015 – No.5, Bellingen (ALL AGES)
21-22 November 2015 – Mullum Music Fest, Mullumbimby (ALL AGES)

I’ve been meaning to write this article for the last few days, but somehow the time slipped away and it was dinner before I knew it. So I’m trying a different strategy today and writing it first. Paid work can wait. On Sunday night I headed to my old stomping ground of Newcastle to catch the ‘80s Mania show.

If you missed the memo, ‘80s Mania has seen Cutting Crew, Paul Young, Nik Kershaw, and Go West winding their around Aussie RSLs and delighting those of us who refuse to let go of one of music’s most entertaining decades. Now when I say we had Cutting Crew and Go West I use the term a little loosely. There were just a couple of members of these British acts, but the main talent was still with us and a super-tight band of young things helped make up the numbers. I’m not sure where they found these guys, but they did a wonderful job of slotting in with whichever act they accompanied at the time.

Cutting Crew kicked off the night with an explosive set. Nick Van Eede is a proper ‘80s star, with vintage moves like the one where you go down to your knees when you’re overcome with emotion and the one where you point out to the audience, convincing the girls that you’re singing right to them. It was as cheesy as it sounded, but it was so easy to get swept up in it. I don’t remember people waxing lyrical about guitarist Gareth Moulton in the ‘80s, but he blew me away. A song called “Till the Money Run$ Out” from a brand new album let us all know that Cutting Crew are more than just a nostalgia act. “(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight” was the song we all came to hear, and it delivered. A cover of REM’s “The One I Love” was an unexpected but incredible closer.

Paul Young followed, and after seeing him with Tony Hadley at the same venue a few years ago my expectations were low. I was glad of this, because it saved me being disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. Paul Young has so much charm. His songs, including “Every Time You Go Away” and “Love of the Common People,” were probably the strongest of the night. I knew every one, and sang along enthusiastically, both because I love them and because Paul just can’t cut it vocally any more. His voice lacks the range it used to have, and even the notes he can reach don’t sound nearly as strong as they did decades ago. On a night of such incredible acts, his failings really showed.

For the final portion of the night Nik Kershaw joined forces with Go West. A cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” opened a set which was a real mixed bag. They tended to play a cover together, then one act would go off to rest while the other treated us to their originals, before teaming up for another joint number. I was only born in 1980 so I didn’t know all of the songs, but they were performed so well that it didn’t matter. I’d actually seen Go West a few years back (also with Tony Hadley, because where he goes I follow), and they were every bit as good as I remember. The big hits “We Close Our Eyes” and “King of Wishful Thinking” were so much fun, but anything sounds good when Peter Cox is singing it. Nik Kershaw surprised me in the best possible way. I’d forgotten how much I love “The Riddle,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Good” took me right back to my childhood. “Sex On Fire” was an unlikely closer for these two ‘80s acts, but it was so much fun I don’t think anyone minded that it was a few decades after the shows themes.

According to Facebook, the organisers are already hard at work on ‘80s Mania 2016. After all the fun of this year’s event, I’ll be there with bells on.

Image source: own photos

In the vein of Vance Joy comes Michael Fuhrman, an exciting new singer-songwriter from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. He’s completely won me over with his beautiful acoustic single “London Town,” a song that reflects on a love when one half of the couple is away on the other side of the world.

The instrumentation here is perfect. The violins and drums add weight to the music, but the centrepieces are really Michael’s beautiful voice, his lyrics, and that lovely melody. There’s just enough going on here. The folks at Heliport Studios clearly know what they’re doing.

Apparently Michael plans to play some shows in Sydney over the New Year. Hopefully the rest of the nation will get a chance to see this talented musician in the flesh before too long too.

If you’re a hip hop fan you might have caught Dylan Joel supporting Seth Sentry on his recent Aussie tour. You might think after that playing more than 40 shows with Seth he’d be tired of life on the road, but he’s ready to get back out there for his first solo tour of the country.

Dylan’s set to tour this fair land in support of his debut album Authentic Lemonade, which is in stores now. It features the current single “Blank,” which has a great soulful sound which has really won me over. That’s Dylan singing too, proving he can do a lot more than laying down rhymes.

I’ve been told these shows are going to break the mould of any other gig you’ve seen this year. Expect the unexpected at the following shows.

2 October 2015 – Wrangler, Melbourne (Under 18s)
15 October 2015 – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
16 October 2015 – Boardriders, Gold Coast (FREE)
21 October 2015 – Transit Bar, Canberra
23 October 2015 – Goodgod Small Club, Sydney
24 October 2015 – Rad, Wollongong
30 October 2015 – The Workers Club, Geelong
7 November 2015 – Rocket Bar, Adelaide
8 November 2015 – Jimmy’s Den, Perth
13 November 2015 – Howler, Melbourne
27–28 November 2015 – Gorgeous Festival, McLaren Vale

Image used with permission from Flagrant Artist Management