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.

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

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.

Young musicians have it tough. We’ve seen young performers make a splash on reality TV shows time and time again. They’re praised for having talent beyond their years, for being so good for their age, and then they’re soon forgotten about when the next wave of performers turns up. So it’s refreshing to see an artist like Ella Belfanti who has taken the time-honoured route of recording her debut release Going in Circles in her bedroom, then putting in the hard yards delivering it to music outlets like myself.

As a bedroom recording laid down with a two-line input audio, listening to Going in Circles is a very different listening experience than many music lovers are used to. Music has usually been polished within an inch of its life before we consume it. There’s something so refreshing about tuning into music that feels untainted like this.

I was instantly struck by Ella’s sweet voice. Not sugary sweet mind you, but pure and angelic with a commanding presence that draws you in. So do her lyrics. Songs like “Trying Not to Like You” and the irresistibly catchy “All of This” appealed to my inner teen who has never quite gone away. There’s such a quiet strength tempered by vulnerability in “Turn With the Tide” and “Make Up Your Mind.” “Focus” is perhaps the most ambitious song on the release, a haunting ballad that reveals an artist with so much potential. The closing track “Circles” is filled with so much longing, the perfect way to end this EP that explores early love and loss so eloquently.

Going in Circles is a collection of such good, organic folk songs. Songs that aren’t just good for the artist’s age, but good full stop. Ella shows great artistic instincts, building her sound with layered vocals and instruments (she plays everything from the guitar to drums, from flute to pencils tapped together in front of the mic!). Everything is in just the right place.

Remember the name, because Ella Belfanti has a big future ahead of her. Sydneysiders, you can see Ella play songs from Going in Circles at The Gasoline Pony in Marrickville on March 8.

I’m ashamed to write that Seven Long Years by Aussie expat Musketeer has sat in my inbox since late January. I’ve listened to it from time to time but I couldn’t quite get the words together to articulate my thoughts on it. So I left it there, knowing I wanted to write about it but waiting for the right time. As March approaches, I’ve decided there may not be a right time and it’s best just to push that writer’s block out of my mind and write.

Seven Long Years is such an interesting EP. It’s the short form of a concept album really. I’d thought that in four songs that might not work, that you’d need more material to really present a story without glossing over it, but Musketeer handles it beautifully. The EP tells the story of a 19th century British convict sent to Australia’s prison camp. It’s a tale anyone familiar with Australian history is well acquainted with, but one that should resonate with modern listeners in light of the ongoing asylum seeker debate.

The opening song and title track is the most upbeat number on the EP. It has a Mumford & Sons vibe that I really dig, plaintive but rollicking good fun. “Hollow” brings a more sombre and reflective tone to the EP. The following track “Johnny Red” is a stirring epic, a real highlight. “Ticket of Leave” rounds the EP out, leaving us on just the right note.

Musketeer’s raw, rich vocals and the lush orchestral arrangements bring the historic tale to life. The music has an interesting blend of nostalgia and new-folk vibes that instantly drew me in.

Seven Long Years is available for streaming and download on iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp. You can also get a physical copy from Musketeer’s online store.

Tour dates are yet to be announced, but Musketeer promises to take the EP to audiences in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia.

Image used with permission from Musketeer

As you’re reading this review, I’m relaxing on Kangaroo Island. I’m in a far more chilled out mood than I was when I wrote this, because I’ve been cruising down the East Coast for five days now. There’s something about taking a cruise, where I have nothing to do and an obliging crew of staff keen to take care of me, that just helps the stresses of the everyday melt away. I imagine Tom Busby and Jeremy Marou were in a similar mindset, albeit probably without the premium beverage package, when they recorded Postcards from the Shell House.

The Shell House that Busby Marou’s third album refers to is an old building on Great Keppel Island. The duo used to play songs there sitting around a campfire early in their careers, so it’s only fitting that they return to their roots and to the Shell House on this recording.

The duo doesn’t veer too far from their usual path with this recording. If you loved the cruisy acoustic folk-pop of their first two releases, this will be right up your alley. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve heard it all before.

While the duo is typically upbeat, some songs play in the shadows. There’s a real sadness and longing to the opening track “Best Part of Me.” I heard wistfulness in “Every Last Day in Between” that really tugged on the heartstrings.

“Paint This Land” has a stirring, epic quality to it. I can imagine it becoming the signature song for Australia Day. It just has that right amount of gravitas without feeling overly grandiose. The duo is collaborating this time around too. We’re used to Nat Dunn playing in the electronic space, but her appearance on the dreamy “Sleep On It” is one of the album’s highlights.

Postcards from the Shell House delivers easy, breezy, good vibes with just a hint of melancholy. It’s another solid release from this accomplished Queensland duo.

Postcards from the Shell House drops on February 17.

Image used with permission from Warner Music Australia