I absolutely love finding strong, relatable female voices. One of the latest to strike a chord with me is Elli Schoen, a singer-songwriter from Fremantle who’s just released her new EP Gold Mess.

The EP explores themes of growing up and moving on, whether it’s from romantic relationships in “Hard Heart” or from the family home in “Mumma.” I especially love the EP’s title track and our introduction to the EP, “Gold Mess.” Its lyrics about attraction that’s wrong despite feeling so right should resonate with most listeners.

Elli has such a beautiful, rich tone that sounds even stronger with the heavy drum beats that drive these tracks forward. She also knows how to pen a lyric that’s poetic, yet instantly accessible to the listener. In just four tracks, she’s won me over.

Gold Mess is out now. Elli Schoen is currently touring the recording. You can still catch her at the following shows.

6 May 2017 – The Firestation, Busselton
11 May 2017 – The Astor Theatre, s/ Tash Sultana
20 May 2017 – Babushka, s/ Airling
21 May 2017 – Mojos Bar, s/ Airling
25 May 2017 – The Marly Bar, Sydney
26 May 2017 – Bistroteque, Brisbane
27 May 2017 – The Worker’s Club, Melbourne
5 June 2017 – State of the Art Festival, Perth

I discovered Emilee South last year when she released her Halloween single “Howl.” I loved her sultry vocals and the song’s dirty, bluesy feel. There are more stunning vocals and vintage sounds with the release of Emilee’s new album, Motel.

Motel opens with a bold, rockabilly number “My Baby (Don’t Return My Calls).” This track is rollicking good fun and a wonderful way to set the stage for this retro-inspired album. The latest single “Old Flame” feels like pure vintage country. I could imagine it easily slipping into the set of Patsy Cline or Rosemary Clooney. “Howl” makes even more sense when it’s here beside its companion songs.

Emilee South is an old soul with a handle on classic rock, country, and soul sounds, but there’s also something fresh about what she does. The lyrics have a little bit more bite than the vintage-inspired music she was clearly influenced by. She’s no shy violet or damsel in distress, as she reminds us in songs like “Watch Out” and “Bad Things I Do.”

Motel drops on May 11. Emilee will launch the album with a show at The Gasometer Hotel in Collingwood on May 13.

Image used with permission from Emilee South

Ordinarily Kiwis move to Australia and we claim them as our own. Rarely do we lose Australian talents to the nation “across the ditch,” but that’s the case with Aussie-born New Zealand-based musician Thomas Oliver. He might not call Australia home any more, but he’s making music so special I think he still deserves a place on Sounds of Oz. His album “Floating in the Darkness” has just dropped, and it’s a real stunner.

He drew me in with the first song “Tenderly.” Its immediately accessible with a laidback, sexy groove. The sensual sounds continue with “Shine Like the Sun,” an intimate song that totally charmed me. I also fell for “Budapest is Beautiful,” a delicate track about appreciating a new city but feeling wistful because you’re not there with a loved one.

Thomas is an artist who shines in quiet moments. Songs like “Losin’” and the closer, “Tell Me Something New” are stripped back, with just an acoustic guitar and a voice, but they are some of the most powerful tracks on the album.

Floating in the Darkness gets you in with soulful hooks but settles into a gentler place. Some people might relegate it to background music, but it’s an album worth staying engaged with. Thomas Oliver has such a wonderful sound, from his husky low tones to his killer falsetto. He reminds me musically of a few artists I really admire, Ben Harper and Amos Lee. Floating in the Darkness might be a slow burn for some music lovers, but I think it’s a pretty special release.

See Thomas Oliver promoting Floating in the Darkness at the following shows.

7 June 2017 – The Grace Emily, Adelaide
9 June 2017 – The Milk Factory, Brisbane
10 June 2017 – Wesley Anne, Melbourne
11 June 2017 – Leadbelly, Sydney
Thursday 15 June – Babushka, Leederville WA

It’s rare to listen to music that’s truly different. The stuff that transports you to another world, taking you out of your comfort zone and making you wonder why you don’t listen to more music like it. But that’s just what happened when I listened to 24 Hours in Lapa, the debut solo album from Melbourne composer Tamil Rogeon.

I call it an album, but it seems like so much more than that. Perhaps opus is a more appropriate term. The press release calls is a “mesmerising 12-part song cycle built on Brazilian rhythms, an orchestral score, and subtle electronics.” It’s all these things and more.

24 Hours in Lapa tells the story of Joseph Martin, a young expat who was shot dead in Rio’s party district, Lapa, when he intervened in a mugging. He was celebrating his 30th birthday that fateful night. This musical collection uses the story of this man’s final hours to meditate on themes of vice, impetuosity, and life cut too short.

It’s an ambitious work for one’s first solo effort, but Tamil Rogeon is no stranger to the music scene. He’s part of the orchestral jazz group The RAah Project and the disco/house/funk trio Harvey Sutherland & Bermuda. He’s also been behind a tribute to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, performed by a 100-piece orchestra, a soundtrack to a concern screening of the drawn 2010 AFL grand final, and the Red Bull Beat Suite.

For 24 Hours in Lapa, Tamil Rogeon works with Orchestra Victoria and a host of talented vocalists. The result is quite simply incredible. The blend of Brazilian samba and orchestral elements in opening track “De Manha” intrigued me. But as I was introduced to more of the entirely instrumental numbers, 24 Hours in Lapa began feeling like the soundtrack for a Broadway musical. There’s a theatricality about it that’s familiar, although the exotic Latin beats make it feel fresh.

By the time I heard “Does Nothing End?” with sublime vocals from Krystle Warren, I was hooked. This magical, joyous song is so different from “Jealousy,” an edgy rapid-fire hip hop track featuring Raashan Ahmad which comes just a couple of numbers later, but this too is strong. Krystle Warren proves again to be a revelation with “Living in a Dream.” I love her rich tone, which reminds me a little of Nina Simone’s with its commanding presence.

24 Hours in Lapa comes together like a rich tapestry. It has stunning elements that can be appreciated on their own, but it’s when you look at the entire work that you’re truly struck by its impact. It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I encourage you to take a chance on it.

As my husband and I rounded the corner on Saturday night we both asked the same question at the same time: “Is that it?” The building in front of us had a sign advertising Bob Evans’ gig out the front, but it looked more like a beach house than any RSL. The parking lot was packed and families spilled out on the wooden deck, making the place look more like someone’s private party than somewhere we’d see a gig. Walking inside I was still a little confused. There were no poker machines, a decision by management apparently to make this place a little different, and only a flimsy curtain separated the “auditorium” (and I use the word loosely) from the restaurant. Hardys Bay RSL isn’t like any club I’ve been to, but the more I thought about it the more I realised it was the perfect place for an unassuming artist like Bob Evans to play.

We tried to grab dinner but the frazzled waitress told me they were far too busy to take our orders just yet. I joked that we didn’t think to book because everything is usually a bit casual on the Coast. She agreed and said she didn’t anticipate the rush either. As word of this place and its intimate gigs spread, perhaps she’s going to have to get used to it.

So instead we took a seat in the main room, a space that felt more like a nanna’s loungeroom than the venue for a gig. Plush sofas lined the walls which were decorated with framed photographs and ornate lamps. It was all very charming. Food came soon enough, the perfect accompaniment for the wine which was better than I expected from a small RSL.

When Bob Evans stepped on to the stage, which was really just a slightly elevated platform, there was little fanfare, save for the Christmas lights adorning his acoustic guitar. I have the feeling that suits a guy like Bob down to the ground though.

I must admit, I’m nowhere near as familiar with his music as many of the transfixed members of the audience were. But in such an intimate setting, you don’t need to know the songs. It’s a setting which lets you hear lyrics and appreciate new music. Not that I was completely in the dark. I was surprised to hear “Nowhere Without You” come out relatively early. He saved “Don’t You Think It’s Time” until much later in the set, but I don’t think the crowd would have minded what songs came out when.

Watching them singing along to all the words, you could see the adoration in their eyes. A few women were so taken by the music, or perhaps the wine, that they got up to dance. It’s no mean feat to boogie along to a guy playing folky music with an acoustic guitar, but I admired their enthusiasm.

It seemed the admiration was mutual, as Bob came out for encore after encore. At the very end he insisted we’d need to be quiet for this one, unplugged his guitar, and stepped off the stage. He did a slow lap of the room, charming each and every one of us, whether we knew the song as most did, or were hearing it for the first time like myself.

Sometimes when I see a show because I was offered tickets, I feel a little disconnect. I can see the way other people love the artist and wish I could be in the moment as they are. But instead I left Hardys Bay RSL feeling privileged that I’d seen a gig I wouldn’t ordinarily see that was so special. Fans catching Bob Evans as he winds his way around the country, you won’t be disappointed. Here are the remaining shows:

3 May 2017 – Clarendon Guest House, Katoomba
5 May 2017 – Camelot Lounge, Sydney
6 May 2017 – Brass Monkey, Cronulla
7 May 2017 – Heritage Hotel, Bulli
11 May 2017 – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba
12 May 2017 – 5 Church St, Bellingen
13 May 2017 – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
1 June 2017 – Baha, Rye
2 June 2017 – The Croxton Front Bar, Melbourne
3 June 2017 – Workers Club, Geelong
8 June 2017 – Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide
9 June 2017 – Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine

I’ve been so impressed by everything I’ve heard from Melbourne soul outfit The Meltdown. So naturally when the band released its self-titled debut album, I couldn’t wait to wrap my ears around it. And I’ve been listening ever since.

The opening track “Darkness Into Light” sets the bar high with its epic gospel feel. It’s such a strong way to start an album, but the rest of the album certainly doesn’t feel like it lags. Every song feels like a hit, with big brassy notes and plenty of swagger. “Don’t Hesitate” feels like it could have come straight from an Otis Redding record. It’s got such a cool groove. The swampy “How Funny is Another Man’s Pain” is another real highlight.

I love it when The Meltdown is big and brassy, but the band is equally effective when things are pared back. The poignant “Forever and Always” and the striking closing number “Colours in the Sky” show just how effective restrained songs can be.

The Meltdown is just so cool, soulful, with a hint of funk and blues. The band is one of the tightest working in the country, with sublime vocals from Simon Burke and its self-titled record is one of those albums that you want to listen to again as soon as it’s done.

The Meltdown will launch its debut album with the following shows.

21 April 2017 – Gumball Festival, Hunter Valley
5 May 2017 – Venue 505, Sydney
19 May 2017 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
16 June 2017 – The Republic, Hobart
30 June 2017 – Caravan Music Club, Melbourne

I’ve been conspicuously absent after taking another cruise. I know I just took one, but I’ve definitely been bitten by the bug. It’s easily my favourite way to travel. Only problem is, I end up feeling pretty flat when I come home.

It can be hard to shake me out of my funk, but if anything was going to do it it would be the advance stream of Tailored for Now – Eleven R&B Super Jams, CDB’s latest album waiting for me in my inbox when I returned home. Speaking of conspicuous absences.

Like so many Australian teenage girls of the ’90s, CDB were a significant part of my coming of age. I remember queuing to get their autographs one day at Sound World in Newcastle. So many things date that sentence. Does anyone do instore signings any more? And why have so many of the independent music stores closed? At any rate, I loved CDB as well as so much of the R&B music of the time. So to have the original members of this iconic Australian boy band back together paying tribute to that period in music, it’s the dream album I never knew I wanted. But does it deliver?

In a word, yes. If you loved the original songs, the music of CDB, or like me, both, you’re going to eat this up. Opening with “If I Ever Fall In Love,” Shai’s breakthrough a capella hit, is such a smart move. It makes the strong statement that CDB is back, sounding just as tight as ever. Without any music you can really appreciate just how insanely good the vocals are.

From there the party gets started, with floor fillers like “She’s Got That Vibe” and “Every Little Step.” There are softer moments too with hits like “End of the Road” and an a capella version of “All My Life” which in my opinion outshines the original. The final cut “90s Chill Medley,” featuring a little Tevin Campbell, Janet Jackson, Hi-Five, and Soul For Real, is a master stroke.

Under the wrong hands this album could so easily sound dated. But instead it feels fresh and so funky, a fitting tribute to the ’90s with slick production that makes it feel current. And CDB has lost nothing over the years. Their voices mesh as if they never went away. These guys could give any modern boy band a real run for their money.

Tailored for Now – Eleven R&B Super Jams drops on April 28. I hear word the lads intend to play some reunion shows to celebrate the album’s release, so I’ll let you know when those dates are locked in!

Image used with permission from Warner Music Australia

I was just 13 when The Yearning, Things of Stone and Wood’s debut album, was released. Like so many Aussies, I adored the band’s blend of folk, pop, and rock, especially the super catchy breakthrough single “Happy Birthday Helen.” I always regretted that I was too young to get to a pub and see them live. As is the way with so many bands of the era though, I got another chance when they hit Sydney on the weekend.

Things have changed a little though. I can’t imagine the band playing a matinee back in the ‘90s. There was something lovely about shuffling in to the old Sando after a café lunch though, knowing that the gig would be all wrapped up in time for tea. That we’d be back on the Coast at a civilised hour! As we’re all getting older, these things matter.

Charming indie folk duo The Old Married Couple warmed up the crowd. The real life husband and wife pairing delivered honest and quirky love songs that quickly won me over with their whimsy, and use of unusual instruments like kazoos and whistles.

The crowd surged forward when Club Hoy took to the stage. I must admit, I’m not sure where I was when they came out originally. All I know is that I had absolutely no recollection of this band that seemed to mean so much to so many people in the audience. I could certainly appreciate them though. They reminded me a lot of the Indigo Girls with their beautiful harmonies and powerful, personal lyrics.

Things of Stone and Wood though. When they came out I was on much more familiar territory. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Yearning (seriously, where has the time gone?) the band promised to play the album in its entirety, from start to finish. Unlike so much music from the ‘90s, these songs haven’t dated one bit. The band also sounds just as good as they did on that recording, or perhaps even better with their producer James Black now on keys and mandolin. The chemistry between the members of the band and their connection with the crowd was electric. I’m struggling to recall a show in recent memory where there was so much palpable love in the room.

The big singles like “Rock This Boat,” “Share This Wine,” and of course “Happy Birthday Helen” were received rapturously. But in a concert like this, every song has a special place in the heart of the audience, so the energy level in the room never dropped. After wrapping up The Yearning, the band had delivered just what they promised. But none of us were done. So we were treated to an encore of songs from Things of Stone and Wood’s other releases. I was reminded just how good “Wildflowers,” a song I hadn’t thought of in years, is.

Honestly, as I re-entered the real world I marvelled at just how good Things of Stone and Wood are. While this show was about nostalgia and celebrating their landmark release, it also served as a reminder that this band continue to be one of the best Australia has produced. There are a couple of shows on this tour left. If you can get out and see them this week at one of these gigs, I promise you won’t regret it.

29 March 2017 – The Spiegeltent, Hobart
31 March 2017 – Workers Club, Geelong
1 April 2017 – Sound Lounge, Currumbin
2 April 2017 – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane

Image source: own photos

With some time to myself today it seemed the perfect moment to actually sit down and write about the exceptional concert I saw in Sydney last Friday night. No, not Adele. You wouldn’t know it judging by all the media hype, but Sydney actually welcomed two more international stars that night: Jewel and Don Henley.

As a woman of a certain age, I was pretty excited about seeing folk songbird live. Sadly a dinner that ran overtime and some unexpectedly long lines outside the new ICC Sydney Theatre meant we were a little late, but what I caught was just what I’d hoped it would be. Just Jewel, who looks like she hasn’t aged a day since the ‘90s, her acoustic guitar, and that sublime voice of hers. I loved hearing hits from Pieces of You as stripped back as they were on that original album. “Foolish Games” had me welling up. I also developed a new appreciation for “Intuition,” a song I’d always hated because it seemed so overproduced. The acoustic mode really let its cutting lyrics shine. A special moment between Jewel and her young son, dueting on a song sung for generations in her family, tugged at the heart strings. She really made the most of her all-too-brief time on stage, sharing stories and songs with such warmth. There was even yodelling! I really hope to see her back in Australia soon, because she was superb.

After seeing The Eagles a couple of times before Glenn Frey’s untimely death, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Don’s solo show. I knew the songs would be good, but I wondered whether the Eagles’ tracks would seem a little lacking without the other Eagles voices in the mix. But Don knows what he’s doing. He assembled one of the tightest bands I’ve seen in some time, including three superb backup singers my husband recognised from The Voice US. He opened with a song from her latest album Cass County, “Seven Bridges Road,” a stripped back country number which really showcased the vocal talents of all on stage.

While this show was about touring Cass County, Don knows what fans want to hear. He promised us he’d do the occasional song for him, but plenty of songs for us, and he did. The set drew heavily from his days with The Eagles; wisely he stuck to those tracks where he originally sang lead vocals, ensuring they sounded just right to our ears. I was especially thrilled to hear “The Last Resort,” a song that Don admitted he hadn’t played for decades before embarking on these solo shows. Tracks from the ‘80s were also celebrated. Despite their advancing years they sounded so fresh, especially “The End of the Innocence” with its lyrics so resonant in the time of Trump. There were surprises too; I’m not sure anyone expected Don Henley to launch into “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

It took until the second encore for Don to address the elephant in the room and chat about Glenn Frey, his longtime collaborator who we so sadly lost last year. He told us how he missed him before launching into two of the songs they penned together: “Wasted Time” and “Desperado.” Such painful songs made more poignant under the circumstances. We took a moment, remembered, and then danced. It’s what Glenn would have wanted I think. “All She Wants to Do is Dance” was the perfect closer for Don Henley’s show, a performance that was about nostalgia but also celebrating an artist that continues to be at the top of his game.

He hasn’t even graduated from high school yet, but already Brisbane teen Xander Holmes is creating the kind of songs that musicians many years his senior would be proud of. His debut EP Ocean is an epic release made up of five tracks set to excite fans of artists like Matt Corby and Jeff Buckley.

Opening song and title track “Ocean” is an anthemic song that builds to a stirring crescendo. “My Will” and “Islands” are two of the strongest songs on the recording, in my opinion, with Xander’s dreamy vocals showing they’re up to the task, whether they’re contrasting with the urgent wailings of an electric guitar or keeping time with a driving drum beat. “Tidal” is an exquisite, atmospheric instrumental. A real master stroke. The closing track “Let There Be Light” is perhaps the EP’s most accessible song, a romantic piano ballad that really speaks to the heart. It’s much more stripped back than the other songs, yet for a track that speaks of love the way this one does I think the gentler touch works.

I love Xander’s voice and the way he’s built such beautiful soundscapes that complement it perfectly. Ocean is an accomplished EP that gives listeners a glimpse at a potential superstar of the future. It’s available now on a range of digital channels including iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify.