Sydney songstress Helen Perris lays her soul bare with her brand new single “Be There.”

“Be There” is the type of empassioned piano-pop ballad which we hear all too rarely these days. The lyrics are deeply personal, penned while Helen was battling post-natal depression. However, the topic is tackled so cleverly that you don’t need to have lived through that hell to feel connected to this song.

“Be There” was named among the top 20 songs in the Listen Up Australia song writing competition this year. It comes from Helen’s forthcoming album.

This is the first day this week I haven’t had somewhere to be, some thing that takes me away from my desk and my writing. It’s the perfect day to be at home, a little chilly with rain hitting the tin of the patio roof just outside my window. On days like this you want music that feels easy and comfortable, mellow and acoustic-driven. I found that in Amarillo’s new album Eyes Still Fixed.

I’ve actually had this album sitting at the top of my inbox for a while. I call it new, but the Melbourne alt-country duo released it almost a month old now. While I would have liked to get to this review in a more timely fashion, I also think I found this album at the right time for me personally. This is what I needed to explore right now.

Eyes Still Fixed was written mostly on the road, in the remote hotel rooms of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. That laidback feel of escaping the hustle and bustle of the city comes through these tracks beautifully. The steel guitars are languorous and the vocals have a distinct Australian twang to them.

The opening track “All I Can See” is breathtaking for its sparseness. I love a song that gives the music and lyrics space to breathe. The nostalgic wistfulness of “Lemonade” is so charming. The simplicity of the title track is haunting. The summery “Look At You Baby” put an instant smile on my face.

Eyes Still Fixed is a beautiful collection of songs without the frills. With their honesty and organic charm, Amarillo has created an album that’s simply a joy to listen to.

Image used with permission from Annie Johnsson Publicity

I had to rely on this blog to tell me how many times I’ve seen Glen Hansard perform. It seems Sunday’s show at the Sydney Opera House was my fourth time seeing the Irish troubadour, yet the gloss never seems to wear off.

Funnily enough, when my husband and I tell people we’re seeing Glen Hansard we’re always met with blank faces. We mention the movie and stage musical Once, the song “Falling Slowly” it spawned, yet still there’s no recognition. I’m not sure why he hasn’t broken through to the mainstream yet, but I’m glad there are enough of us dedicated fans to see Glen sell out iconic venues like the Opera House twice over.

One of the things that keeps me coming back to see Glen is that every show is different. This time he was out promoting his newish album Didn’t He Ramble, so there were new songs to enjoy. He was also out here with one of the biggest bands I can remember, made up of members of The Frames, the act that saw him come to prominence, as well a string section and pianist.

Mercifully for a show starting at 9 on a school night there was no support act. Glen and his players walked out without fanfare, setting the scene for a show that was more about true talent than bells and whistles. And there we were, transfixed, for the best part of three hours. This generous set never felt laboured because Glen has so much quality music to draw from. The long set gave us time to hear the stories behind songs and enjoy extended jams which showcased the quality of all musicians on the stage. Everyone was so talented, but Glen is the one who demands attention. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performer that’s so committed to his songs, so connected to his music. It’s a raw, beautiful to see him strumming furiously at an instrument, crying out his lyrics.

Most of the songs drew from Didn’t He Ramble, but he still delved back into the old Frames and Swell Season catalogue for those of us who’ve supported his music all these years. “Star Star” morphed into “Pure Imagination,” a fitting tribute to the late Gene Wilder. A cover of “Astral Weeks,” a nod to his fellow countryman Van Morrison was another highlight for this woman who was raised on Van’s music.

There were also special guests. Glen brought up Peter, a busker he’d met on the streets of Sydney who played a stunning song he’d penned for his mother. Watching this young guy so overwhelmed to be on the Opera House stage, to be playing Glen’s guitar, to be so supported by a musical hero, was so moving. Peader O’Riada, a legendary Irish classical pianist also joined Glen for “Leave a Light” before treating us to a few of his own compositions. I don’t listen to a lot of classical music but I couldn’t help but be impressed by his talent.

As we were shuffling out of the theatre I heard the gentleman behind me turn to his friends and say “I have the feeling we just witnessed something really special.” I can’t help but agree.

Image source: own photo

Aussie expat Harry Heart has left me swooning with the release of his brand new single “Epiphany.” It’s a gorgeous heartfelt number that speaks so beautifully of the isolation that can come with chasing your dreams and how the right person can drag you out of that melancholy.

“I started writing the song as a lonely little bloke,” Harry says of the song, “which I had brought upon myself in search of a fruitful career as an artist. I had written half of a sombre song and then I met a girl who well and truly pulled me out of a rut.

“I think you can hear where I met her in the lyrics, around the time things sound optimistic. She is literally the other half of the song, feel free to interpret that as cheesily and metaphorically as you please.”

Harry officially releases “Epiphany” tomorrow. He’ll tour it around New South Wales with his five-piece band, the Harry Heart Chrysalis, next month.

4 November 2016 – Howlin Wolf, Wollongong
11 November 2016 – The Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle
13 November 2016 – El Sol, Cronulla
18 November 2016 – Lazy Bones Lounge, Sydney

Image used with permission from Bear Family

It’s the weekend! Even if you’re spending yours working like me, I hope you can carve out a little “you” time and celebrate it. When you do, do me a favour and start spinning “Like We Used To,” the funky new single from Brisbane’s The New Buzz. You won’t regret it.

This six-piece has such a right, polished sound that borrows from soul and funk traditions. That’s not so surprising though, because the members come from some of the coolest bands around including Dubmarine, Bullhorn, Laneous & The Family Yah, Bobby Alu & The Palm Royale, and heaps more. The band works in a really spontaneous way, heading to the studio whenever its members are in town at the same time and laying down tracks using vintage gear. It’s taken them two years to get together enough material to make an album, but when it sounds this good I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth the wait.

Until the album’s released, you’ll just need to be happy spinning this killer song. If you love it, make sure you head to The New Buzz’s PledgeMusic page where you can get a vinyl copy of the single and heaps of other cool stuff including lyrics sheets, launch tickets, and heaps more.

I prefer my Fridays leisurely, gentle introductions to weekends where I’m free to do exactly what I want. However, this one is nothing like that. I’ve got so much work on my plate that I know I’ll be chained to my desk for most of the weekend. When I’m under the pump like this, I look to music like Owls From the Swamp’s new EP Meteorite.

This recording is like a little oasis in a busy day. There’s a dreamlike quality to the music, which brings a modern electric edge to the folk genre.

“Starting All Over,” the single I was already familiar with, lulled me into the recording, instantly putting me at ease. The following track “Stepping Stones” took me back to my childhood, with its reference to throwing stones in the water and watching them ripple and warm, nurturing atmosphere. The title track “Meteorite” may be the dreamiest number of all. I almost get a sense of floating as I listen to it. It’s fitting then that the next song is “How Long Have I Been Sleeping?” It doesn’t quite rouse the listener from their dreamlike state, but rather ease them back into the land of the living. I love the acoustic guitar picking that anchors this song, which may be my favourite on the EP. “I Found You” is such a romantic way to end this beautiful EP. It’s such an honest declaration of love, heart-warming and so endearing.

I love the lush instrumentation of this release. It all sounds so pretty. There’s a lot of layering in the sounds, yet Owls of the Swamp never pushes things too far. This is another stellar release from the Aussie expat.

Meteorite is released on November 4.

Image used with permission from Pete Uhlenbruch

Aussie indie folk act Noah Earp has given us our first taste of his debut album Disinheritor with the release of the epic lead single, “The Raw and the Cooked.”

“The Raw and the Cooked is about a person who is trapped in a bad scene. At first she seems really cynical, but actually the cynicism masks a certain naivete,” Noah explained. “We all have this to some extent – nothing is too neat and nobody’s perfect. I liked the idea of a love song that wasn’t…in the end this pretty love song fragments into a million pieces, because life is scary and chaotic.”

Noah also made the charming clip that accompanies the single. Just see if you’re not grinning from ear to ear by the end of it!

Noah launches Disinheritor with a show at Melbourne’s The Toff in Town on October 27.

Whether he’s with Jinja Safari or performing solo, the work of Pepa Knight is always worth listening to. He continues the trend with his beautiful new single “Company.”

There’s something so appealing about this track, which has a modern dream-like quality mixed with more primitive jungle drums.

“This tune actually came about from a six-year long collaboration with a good friend of mine and genius songwriter Stephen Engstrom (AKA Stezrat). He originally sent me the idea back in 2010 and it only finally came together earlier this year while I was in-between mixing the final Jinja Safari album,” Pepa explained. “Now that JS has come to an end, I now have the headspace to move on creatively and excited to release more music in the near future.”

If that music sounds this good, I can’t wait to hear it.

After the success of “Swear Jar” and “Papercuts,” Illy’s next album Two Degrees was already destined to become one of the biggest sellers of 2016. But he’s just guaranteed that it’ll fly off the shelves with the release of another stellar single, “Catch 22.” Featuring guest vocals from British singer Anne-Marie, this is another insightful feel-good from one of Australia’s favourite hip-hop acts.

“Sometimes life isn’t about always making the ‘right’ choices. Some of the best times are when you do the opposite. Catch 22 is about knowing that,” Illy explained.

Two Degrees hits stores on November 11 and is currently available for pre-order. Illy will bring its songs to the people with some intimate launch shows in the largest capitals. In addition, Illy will play a bunch of summer festivals. Here are all the places you can catch him in the coming months.

29 October 2016 – Banana Fields Music & Arts Festival, Coffs Harbour
15 November 2016 – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
16 November 2016 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
17 November 2016 – Howler, Melbourne
29 December 2016 – Falls Festival, Lorne (SOLD OUT)
30 December 2016 – Falls Festival, Marion Bay
31 December 2016 – NYE Street Party, Newcastle
1 January 2017 – Falls Festival, Byron Bay (SOLD OUT)
7 January 2017 – Falls Festival, Fremantle

When my family first heard a stage musical based on the life of Bobby Darin was in the works, there was only one man we could imagine successfully taking on the role. That man was David Campbell. We knew he’d be impressive, but I don’t think we were quite prepared for just how good he would be.

Dream Lover really is David Campbell’s show. His Bobby Darin is a presence in virtually every scene, and he shines throughout. We’re first introduced in Bobby on the night of what would be his final performance. I’ve seen David perform the opening number “Mack the Knife” several times over the years, but with back-up dancers and a tight orchestra (who are celebrated on stage rather than buried in the pit as in so many musicals) the song reaches another level.

From there we’re taken on a journey through Bobby’s life. We see him as a child with stars in his eyes, as a hard-working rock-and-roll singer, and as the toast of Hollywood with Sandra Dee on his arm. We’ve seen this kind of rags-to-riches tale before, but most musicals tend to shy away from the darkness Dream Lover isn’t afraid to explore. Bobby Darin’s stellar catalogue of beloved music ensures the show doesn’t get too gloomy.

Stepping into Bobby Darin’s shoes is no small feat. This is the Bobby Darin story after all. This character isn’t always likeable, yet there must be a charm about him that helps us forgive his unrelenting ambition. He sings, he dances, and he gives the production its anchor. David makes all this look easy, as the very best stage performers do. I’ve long admired his vocal chops, but I didn’t realise how impressive his acting skills are.

Special mention must go to Caroline O’Connor, a stage veteran who took on the dual roles of Polly and Mary Douvan with aplomb. Hannah Fredericksen brought the right amount of sweetness and strength to her portrayal of Sandra Dee and Bert Labonte was also excellent in the role of Charlie, a paternal figure to Bobby.

Sydney is lucky enough to have the world premiere of Dream Lover, although I’m sure it will tour around Australia in time. And after that, who knows? This musical is certainly solid enough to leave the country and grace the stages of Broadway or the West End. However, unless David Campbell commits to taking the role abroad, I can’t imagine it’ll be as good as the original Australian production!

Dream Lover
is playing at the Lyric Theatre until at least November 27.