From the moment the opening strains of “The Valley” wafted through my speakers, I knew I was going to like Thieves, the latest album from Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife. It’s one of those tracks that is so easy to listen to, an accomplished country-folk song with a poetic turn of phrase and seemingly effortless harmonies. I instantly warmed to Tracy’s rich husky voice and the use of the pedal steel guitar.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but this song was the ideal introduction to what this band does. Because song after song I was willingly taken on a journey, into moments captured so perfectly by the band. We’ve all been to those places before, the first sparks of love, a relationship that’s hard to move on from, loss that hits us hard. So many lyrics and songs struck a chord with me. “Wait On You” felt painfully familiar. I was so touched by “Ashes,” a song Tracy penned in memory of her late father, Wayne “Mac” McNeil. She plays his 1968 Gibson Hummingbird on the track, adding extra poignancy to a song steeped in so much emotion. After so much heartache, the joy of “Finer Side” is a lovely way to close the album. Lead guitarist Dan Parsons duets with Tracy on this bluesy number.

Thieves already seems like a classic album despite being days from its release. It’s an accomplished piece of work full of music that feels like coming home. Just like the very best classics, I’m sure I’ll be playing it for years to come.

Thieves is released on July 1. Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife will support its release with the following shows.

30 June 2016 – Union Hotel, Newtown
1 July 2016 – The Stag and Hunter, Newcastle
2 July 2016 – The Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland
3 July 2016 – Marrickville Bowling Club, Marrickville
8 July 2016 – Baha Tacos, Rye
10 July 2016 – Westernport Hotel, San Remo
14 July 2016 – Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, Brisbane
15 July 2016 – Night Quarter Markets, Gold Coast
17 July 2016 – The Triffid, Brisbane
22 July 2016 – Tanswell Hotel, Beechworth
23 July 2016 – Major Tom’s, Kyneton
31 July 2016 – Old Hepburn Hotel, Hepburn Springs
12 August 2016 – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton
15 October 2016 – Akoostik Music Festival, Wingham

Image used with permission from Annie Johnsson Publicity

What a thing of beauty is “Run” from Melbourne act Young Vincent. With sublime harmonies, poetic lyrics, and an awesome acoustic vibe, this is really the perfect track for a lazy Sunday.

Apparently this is the fourth single from Young Vincent, but one which sees the band taking a slightly different direction and expanding on their sound.

“It all started on my couch at home on the Mornington Peninsula. The bridge melody popped into mind, sparking the process of to-ing and fro-ing ideas with the band,” explained drummer Josh Walton.

Young Vincent has tour dates in the works, so listen out for them!

When I received a link to a trailer for Felix Reibl’s sophomore solo album Paper Doors I was a little disappointed. Not because it was a bad video per se, but because all of the behind-the-scenes studio footage of Felix mucking around with mates didn’t really give me any insight into what the album was all about.

I’m glad I watched it though, because when it finished YouTube found the audio of “In Your Arms,” one of the album’s lead singles. This duet with Martha Wainwright is apparently already at radio, but they certainly haven’t played it in my area. Which is a shame, because it’s such a great song.

If that’s not enough to get you excited about the September 2 release, the album also features duets with Little Birdy’s Katy Steele and Tinpan Orange’s Emily Lubitz.

“They all bring something out which is special to me,” Felix said in a press release. “When I’m able to sing really quietly, the presence of a female character adds some sparkle and character that brings another timbre in my own voice.”

An album that revels in quiet spaces like Paper Doors calls for a tour of some of Australia’s most intimate venues. Catch Felix bring the songs from Paper Doors and some old favourites to the following venues.

7 September 2016 – The Producers, Adelaide
8 September 2016 – Lizottes, Newcastle
9 September 2016 – Newtown Social Club, Sydney
10 September 2016 – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
11 September 2016 – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne

Sydney’s Billy Fox infuses soul and electronica beautifully in his latest single “Avalanche.” I just love its easy groove and gentle old-school hip hop vibe.

Billy noted that the song is a bit of a departure from his early singles.

“My first releases largely focused on electronic production, whereas with ‘Avalanche’ I’m revisiting my live roots to meld both forms of production together, which also relates directly to my live show and the way I perform my songs,” he explained. “I wanted people to really feel that, which is exciting moving forward into the next stages of refining my next body of work.”

While he hasn’t announced a tour as yet, I hear it won’t be too long before Billy’s playing shows along the East Coast.

With her sophomore album Blastoma, Ngaiire confirms that she’s one of the most exciting female voices in Australian music.

She has a knack of adding gravity to a fairly simple lyric, like in the opening track “Anchor.” In less capable hands the next number “Once” could be a cruisy love song, but I feel the yearning that elevates it. Co-producer Jack Grace’s vocal cameo in “Cruel” works a treat, with their very different voices playing off against one another beautifully. The dynamic rhythms and biblical undertones make “House on a Rock” a real standout. I must confess that the next handful of tracks didn’t grab me quite as much, but I was back on board for “Many Things,” which had me grooving in my seat. And I think anyone who isn’t moved by the gospel grandeur of “Fall Into My Arms” probably needs to check for a pulse.

Blastoma is like nothing I listen to, with an unusual blend of overdubs and effects anchored by more organic sounds. I might not have warmed to every track, but there’s so much soul in what she does. I’m talking real soul. Not the lightweight soul music with a pop bent that dominates the charts. I mean true, raw, sometimes gut-wrenchingly gritty soul music from the very depths of her being. And that is a very compelling thing indeed.

Blastoma is in stores now. Ngaiire is currently touring the album around the country. You can still catch her at the following shows.

24 June 2016 – Karova Lounge, Ballarat
25 June 2016 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
2 July 2016 – The Foundry, Brisbane
8 July 2016 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
9 July 2016 – Transit Bar, Canberra
24 September 2016 – Catani Gardens, St Kilda
1 October 2016 – Centennial Park, Sydney

Image used with permission from Positive Feedback

Last time Richard Marx was in Australia I was a newlywed. This blog didn’t exist, and I was working for a software company rather than myself. It’s hard to believe all of that was 10 years ago, especially when looking at the ageless 80s pop-rocker last Friday night, but as I’ve consulted Google it’s all true.

Last time around Richard was solo and acoustic, so I was excited to see him with a full band this time around. But before all that, Matt Cornell treated us with his musical stylings. I really appreciated his laidback blend of country and folk music. He’s such a talented songwriter, and honing in on his lyrics helped me truly appreciate what he was all about. I’m not sure he was the right fit for this crowd though. They seemed restless and so many of them chatted through his performance. Perhaps on a night sold on nostalgia, something more familiar would have been better received.

Or perhaps the crowd was just focused on the man they came to see, because they erupted for Richard Marx. “Endless Summer Nights” is the sort of song most artists would close with, but when you’ve had as many hits as Richard Marx you don’t need to keep anything in the tank. More smash singles followed, including “Take This Heart,” “Keep Coming Back,” and “Don’t Mean Nothing.” Richard informed us that he goes to enough shows to know what fans really want, and that new tracks would be kept to a minimum, to rapturous applause. I was thrilled to hear the new single “Last Thing I Wanted” though, a song which shows he still has a knack for crafting catchy tunes. He told us how thrilled he was that they’re playing it on stations that play Selena Gomez, when before he was only heard alongside artists like Bette Midler and Barry Manilow.

We all expected him to play “Hazard,” one of his biggest Australian hits. However, I’m not sure anyone anticipated Ronan Keating joining him on stage. I’m not sure the song really works as a duet, but the excitement Ronan’s appearance generated was something special. Personally, I was much more thrilled to see Jack Jones, the former singer of Southern Sons, on guitar for the night. I was in raptures when Richard told us he couldn’t let Jack go without hearing a little of “Lead Me to Water.” Jack’s voice sounds every bit as amazing as it did back in the day.

Another special moment came when Richard treated us to some of the many songs he’s written for other artists: the N*Sync song “This I Promise You,” Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father,” and Keith Urban’s “Long Hot Summer.” I didn’t realise Richard was behind these great songs, but hearing them sing them, it made perfect sense. I felt a little sorry for the folks who couldn’t quite hear when Richard became properly unplugged for “This I Promise You,” but honestly it was the best the audio sounded all night. The Enmore really has a lot to answer for in this regard. The performances of Richard and the band were on point all night, but the sound quality undermined their good work.

Poor sound quality aside, it’s impossible to have a bad night when you’re in the company of such a talented, giving musician treating you to so many fantastic songs. Hopefully he’s true to his word and doesn’t leave us waiting 10 years for the next visit.

Image source: own photos

Melbourne band Vallee first got on my radar with their single “Jungle.” Now with the release of their new EP Vices, I’m thrilled to explore more of their music.

It’s called an EP, but with seven tracks it’s really more of a mini album. That’s a testimony to the quality of this band. They couldn’t pick just four or five songs, as most artists do, because each and every one of the seven contained here really deserve their place. It’s always exciting to hear an act who can record something which genuinely contains no fillers.

When I’m reviewing music I like to take notes as I listen to it so I can remember my impressions. However, on my first listen of Vices my computer file contained just one word: energy. It runs through every song, engaging you and demanding you to listen. It’s also impossible to escape the themes of vice, from sex, drugs, and alcohol, to addictions to love and happiness. It’s meaty subject matter and Vallee handles it beautifully.

The opening track “Heroine” is so explosive, right out of the gates. It makes a clear statement, proudly insisting “We are here.” Each track is every bit as strong, with driving drums and vocals full of passion. “Jungle,” that first track that won me over, is given greater context among this EP of melodic rock numbers. I especially love “Spin,” which shows a more philosophical side to the band. The closing track “Cuba” showcases the undercurrent of rebellion which runs through the EP.

Despite being longer than most EPs, Vices maintains its energy and spirit throughout. It was satisfying from the first listen, yet I liked it a little more with every subsequent spin. Addicted? Maybe. There are worse vices though, right?

I can scarcely believe a couple of weeks have gone by since I caught Megan Hilty’s performance at the Theatre Royal, but it was a performance so strong that my memory has barely faded.

The press releases surrounding her maiden Australian tour promised a journey through the Great American Songbook, but her set featured much more than standards. She opened with “Keep Moving the Line,” from the TV series Smash, the first thing that brought her to my attention. As an ardent fan of the series, I was thrilled to hear more of its songs peppering the set, such as “Mr. And Mrs. Smith,” “Let Me Be Your Star,” and the breathtaking “Second Hand White Baby Grand.”

Most of Megan’s career has seen her on the stage rather than the small screen, so it was only fitting that her Broadway turns were acknowledged too with “Popular” from Wicked, “Backwoods Barbie” from 9 to 5, and “Suddenly, Seymour” from the role that got away in Little Shop of Horrors. Stories like the incidences surrounding the part endeared Megan to the already enamored crowd. She spoke in glowing terms of meeting Dolly Parton when cast in her musical and working alongside Idina Menzel and Katherine McPhee and regaled us of personal stories of life with her daughter and husband, the very dishy Brian Gallagher who plays guitar in her exceptional band.

There were the promised standards like “Almost Like Being in Love,” “That’s Life,” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” a lovely nod to her time channelling Marilyn as Ivy Lynn in Smash. Don Henley’s “Heart of the Matter” didn’t quite seem to gel with the jazz and show tunes, but it’s such a great song I didn’t really mind. Closing with “Rainbow Connection,” a song she plays nightly for her daughter, left us all feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

No matter what Megan treated us to, it was exquisite. She has such a stunning voice, and her Broadway training sees her connecting to the songs in a way few artists do when singing covers.

This was a fleeting visit for Megan, who had to catch a plane the next day to attend the Tony Awards. She assured us she loved our city and wants to come back for a longer stay. I hope she’s a woman of her word, because I think I speak on behalf of everyone at the Theatre Royal when I say we’d welcome her back with open arms.

The venue didn’t allow photography, so here’s a video so you can all see how amazing she is!

With the passing of another week we’ve got a brand new Aussie act on top of the ARIA charts. Thick as Thieves, the new album from The Temper Trap, sees the band scoring back to back number LPs.

The ARIA charts might state Jimmy BarnesSoul Searchin’ has slipped number three, but it’s worth noting that’s only because the charts consider digital sales. If you’re as old school as me, you might be interested to know Jimmy’s still selling more CDs than anyone else in the country.

Previous number ones Skin by Flume and Ripcord by Keith Urban are at numbers six and seven respectively. Flume’s “Say It” is also the lone Aussie single in the top 10 this week. It’s at number eight.

Here are all this week’s number ones.

Top 10 Albums
1. Thick as Thieves – The Temper Trap
2. 25 – Adele
3. Soul Searchin’ – Jimmy Barnes
4. Lemonade – Beyonce
5. Thank You – Meghan Trainor
6. Skin – Flume
7. Ripcord – Keith Urban
8. Views – Drake
9. Strange Little Birds – Garbage
10. Greatest Hits – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Top 10 Singles
1. “One Dance” – Drake feat. Wizkid & Kyla
2. “This is What You Came For” – Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna
3. “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” – Justin Timberlake
4. “Me Too” – Meghan Trainor
5. “Too Good” – Drake featuring Rihanna
6. “Just Like Fire” – Pink!
7. “Don’t Let Me Down” – The Chainsmokers feat. Daya
8. “Say It” – Flume feat. Tove Lo
9. “Panda” – Desiigner
10. “Cake By the Ocean” – DNCE

I’ve been a fan of Lucy Neville’s music since I heard her single “On My Own” nearly a year ago. However, with her latest track “Damaged Goods” I think she might have released her strongest single yet.

The stripped back treatment of this song makes it all the more haunting. I feel the vulnerability and brooding coming through. Its dark themes are beautifully juxtaposed with Lucy’s angelic voice.

”Although the original inspiration for ‘Damaged Goods’ was taken from an everyday conversation, the experience of writing the song was raw and cathartic and unlike any other song writing experience I’ve had,” Lucy explained in a press release. “This single is a bit of a different direction for me, but I wanted to follow my intuition and produce the song in the style that made the lyrics hit home.”

If this a sign of the new direction Lucy’s music is taking, I can’t wait to follow her on the journey.