I can hardly believe we’re at the end of the year already. This one seems to have flown by in a blur of home renovations, holidays, trivia nights, roller skating classes, and of course music. Speaking of, before we pop the champagne there’s just time for me to look back at the music that made 2015 so memorable for me. What got you going this year?

Top 10 Aussie Albums/EPs

1. Cast of Yesterday – Tim Wheatley
2. Absence – Alanna Eileen
3. Til Night Meets the Sun – Loren Kate
4. Limbo – Bad Pony
5. Love is the Great Rebellion – Ben Lee
6. Jess & Matt – Jess & Matt
7. Home Movies – Kevin Dolan
8. Change Colours – Reece Mastin
9. Twelvefour – The Paper Kites
10. Through the Forest – Benny Walker

Top 10 Aussie Tours

1. Joshua Radin
2. Sam Smith
3. Jack Carty & Jordan Millar
4. Anthony Callea
5. The Eagles
6. ‘80s Mania
7. Peter Cetera
8. Uncle Jed
9. Mark Seymour
10. Richard Clapton

What did you love in 2015?

Image source: hakee @ Flickr

Fresh from the release of their epic summer anthem “On & On”, PLTS are set to follow the sun along the East Coast with a string of shows next month.

The Byron Bay band will take Brisbane rockers Pro Vita along for the ride for all but the Broadbeach gig. With two of Australia’s most exciting up-and-coming acts on the bill, you can expect good times from the following shows.

22 January 2016 – The Northern, Byron Bay (FREE)
24 January 2016 – Broadbeach Tavern, Broadbeach
29 January 2016 – Sol Bar, Maroochydore
30 January 2016 – The Foundry, Brisbane

Like so many music lovers, I was saddened to wake up to the news that Stevie Wright has passed away at age 68.

This isn’t one of those bolt from the blue deaths. Stevie’s been battling ill health for decades. But that doesn’t make the news of his passing any less tragic. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when a person seems to keep soldiering on despite ill health you almost start thinking that they’re made from stronger stuff than the rest of us, and that somehow they’re just going to keep on keeping on.

Stevie rose to fame as the frontman of The Easybeats in the 1960s. I’ve often marvelled at the way that songs like “Friday on my Mind” and “Sorry” still sound fresh as daisies despite all the years that have passed since their release. For me though, the name Stevie Wright will always be synonymous with the epic “Evie.” It was only on Boxing Day that I gave the DJ on the radio a thumbs up for playing parts 2 and 3, rather than just cutting it off at part 1 as so many do. It’s one of the best story songs of all time in my opinion, and that story deserves to be sold in its entirety.

RIP Stevie. I hope you’re up there rocking out with all of the greats who’ve gone before you. Thank you for the music.

It’s that time of year when many of us are thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’re planning on quitting smoking or taking more time to smell the roses. I can almost guarantee that whatever’s on your agenda, it’s not as ambitious as the New Year’s resolution of Sydney singer-songwriter Peter “Blackie” Black.

Blackie plans to release a new song every day from January 1 through to December 31 via his Bandcamp page.

“There’s actually a million reasons why I wanna do this but to try and put it in a nut shell… I’ve been playing music my whole life, its wonderful. It just gets more wonderful every single day so while I’m still able I… wanna go nuts!!” he said in a press release. Hard to argue with that!

Recording so many songs that sound great takes money, so Blackie is asking music lovers to subscribe to his Bandcamp page to help fund his efforts. The $9 monthly subscription fee is a fairly small price to pay for 30 or so new songs. They’ll also be available for free, if you just want to dip your toe into this crazy experiment and see what it’s all about!

Image used with permission from RiSH Publicity

When Soundwave was axed recently, there was some chatter that Australia’s live music scene was dead. The Lockhearts are having none of that, so they’re throwing a party, and they’d love people who still believe in the strength of the local music landscape to join in the fun.

The Lockhearts will headline Old Mate’s Block Party, a music festival celebrating the great music coming out of Sydney’s inner west, or an inner-westival if you will. They’ll be joined by Papa Pilko and the Binrats, The Dead Love, The Cherry Dolls, The Daphne Rawling Band, The Mountains, and heaps more.

“These artists have been handpicked by us,” The Lockhearts confirmed. “They’re not just our favourite local bands but some of our favourite bands full stop. Think of this festival as our mix tape we made you to show you our feelings and put it in your locker in our free period.”

Old Mate’s Block Party will take over the Factory Theatre in Marrickville on January 30. Tickets are available from the venue for just $20.

Image used with permission from The Lockhearts

July might seem like an awfully long time away, but if 2015 has taught me anything it’s that the months are racing by at a rapid pace. Before your calendar gets too full, if you’re anywhere in the Territory, or just fancy a visit to this beautiful part of the country, you should lock in the 2016 Barunga Festival.

This year’s theme is “Celebrate Women, Celebrate Community Life,” so as you can imagine there’s a kick-ass lineup of women scheduled to play including Courtney Barnett, Jen Cloher, Justine Clarke, and indigenous act Wildflower. Gurrumul will also be there in solidarity with the ladies. And this is just the initial music line-up; you can expect plenty more superb acts to grace the Barunga Festival stage next year.

The 2016 Barunga Festival runs from July 10 to 12 at the Barunga community, approximately 70 kays south-east of Katherine. Tickets are on sale now from Moshtix.

Image used with permission from Revolutions per Minute

If you like Florence and the Machine, you’re going to love the Sunshine Coast’s own Taylor Payne.

With her debut single “Outsider,” this Queensland musician shows a similar knack for blending dark, moody lyrics with driving drum beats and toe-tapping melodies. Her voice also seems to have no limitations, twisting and turning up to those falsetto notes and back down again with ease.

Apparently Taylor’s set to play some local venues in 2016, so look out for those.

Merry Christmas Sounds of Oz readers! I hope that like me you’re lucky enough to be spending the day with family, some good booze, and pork crackle. All the essentials. Thanks for allowing me to share my passion for all things on the Aussie music landscape with you for another year.

I always like to share a Christmas song with you on December 25, but I was feeling like I’d already showed you all the best ones, until Rage played this last Saturday morning. I was a wee young thing in 1985, so I actually don’t remember The Incredible Penguins. Apparently this Aussie supergroup, featuring John Farnham, Angry Anderson, Jim Keays, Brian Mannix, Colin Hay, Bob Geldof (gee he loves a charity single doesn’t he?), and so many more superstars released this cover of “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” to raise funds for fairy penguin research. I just love listening to a version of this song that doesn’t have Yoko warbling all over it. The mullets are also incredible.

Merry Christmas everyone!

While I’m an avid viewer of The X Factor, I don’t think I’ve ever bothered to listen to any of the winner’s albums. They typically have little more than the performances on the show recut, and while I’ve enjoyed those at the time, I’ve rarely been in a hurry to hear them again. But this year we had Jess & Matt, an act that is so special that when I was sent a streaming copy of their self-titled debut album, I couldn’t wait to hit play.

Yes, this largely follows the same formula of other post-X Factor releases. We get the act in a studio to recreate what they did in the show just in time for a Christmas release. But the creativity of Matt & Jess, and mentor Guy Sebastian, makes this a little more than just an album of covers. Anyone who’s seen the show will know how under Guy’s guidance, the duo put their stamp on classic songs like “Dancing in the Dark,” “Heart of Glass,” and “You’re the One That I Want,” as well as newer tracks like “Lay Me Down” and “Do You Remember.”

The visuals were significant component of those performances, whether it was watching elaborate staging from Square Division or simply the couple gazing into one another’s eyes. That’s gone when you listen to the album, but nothing can take away the way these two voices harmonise so beautifully. Separately they’re already exceptional, but together, sublime. When we first heard the single “Nothing Matters” my husband and I felt Jess & Matt deserved a better song, and it still stands out as the weakest track on this album. But to sweeten the deal there’s also exceptional covers of two songs not performed on the show “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” and “Sister Golden Hair.”

Given that this is the post-X Factor release, it’s probably only going to reach the ears of those who only admired Jess & Matt on the show. But it deserves to be heard much more widely than that. I imagine everyone from the cool kids who listen to acoustic covers on Spotify to my parents really digging what Jess & Matt do. I urge you to take a chance on this album, because it’s much more than simply a snapshot of time spent on a reality TV show.

When I hit play on “Piano Dance,” I was struck by its grandeur. This sounds like the sort of thing a full flamenco band would play to accompany some gorgeous young dancers. But it’s actually the work of just one guy, Sydney multi-instrumentalist Byron Mark.

Apparently Byron’s been gigging and collaborating with people for years, but he decided it’s about time he released some music of his own. And so “Piano Dance” was born, a purely instrumental track featuring his handiwork on the piano, cajon, and dun-duns. It’s a really strong effort that is a real step up from most debut singles. More of this please!