POETIC: Jen Cloher’s self-titled fourth album was a brilliant expression of jealously, loneliness and anger. Picture: Simon SchluterGIRL power reigned supreme in 2017. In the pop world, Lorde returned with a mature and bold second record Melodrama, while Taylor Swift continued herglobal juggernaut with Reputation. Women were also delivering some of the most compelling indie records in Jen Cloher’s self-titled opus and St Vincent’s Masseduction. The country and roots scene kept the trend firingthrough terrific records from All Our Exes Live In Texas, Valerie June and Kasey Chambers.
The Newcastle Herald brings you its music awards for 2017.
BEST ALBUMJen Cloher – Forgot MyselfJen Cloher (Jen Cloher): This might have been Cloher’s fourth album, but it was a creative rebirth for the Melbourne indie-rocker. After several years of being overshadowed by her younger partner, Courtney Barnett, Cloherannounced herself in this poetic masterpiece of jealously, loneliness and anger towards same-sex marriage opponents and music critics (who ironically, almost universally adorned the record). The sparse Velvet Underground-stylemusical accompaniment only accentuated Cloher’s lyrical power.
Notable mentions:Masseduction (St Vincent), Who Built The Moon? (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds), The Order Of Time (Valerie June), A Deeper Understanding (The War On Drugs).
BEST SINGLENot Worth Hiding (Alex The Astronaut): Often it’s all about timing. The best songs tap into the zeitgiest and Alex The Astronaut’s folk-pop ditty has become an unofficial anthem for the triumphant same-sex marriage campaign. The track is incredibly simple built around an acoustic chord progression, but by the time the strings kick in it’s soaring. Alex’s casual vocal delivery and personal lyrics, perfectly encapsulatethe experience of growing up for thousands.
Alex The Astronaut – Not Worth HidingNotable mentions:Green Light (Lorde), Wild & Weak (Waax), What Can I Do When The Fire Goes Out? (Gang Of Youths), Feet Don’t Fail Me (Queens Of The Stone Age).
BEST LOCAL ALBUMTeething (Brightness):Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, which quite frankly, drives the majority of the music business. Lake Macquarie’s Alex Knight, aka Brightness, tapped into that feeling beautifully on his debut record filled with driving acoustic guitar, hushed vocals and dreamy production. There is a cinematic quality in Teething’s lead single Oblivion that proves this is a masterful songwriter at work.
Brightness – OblivionNotable mentions:Rainy Day (The Owls),Untidy Lines (Rachel Maria Cox),Ouija Board Heartbreak Tambourine (Lachlan X. Morris). Yoch Bangers, Vol. 1(dave).
BEST LOCAL SINGLEJesus Let Me Fly (The Owls):Newcastle indie band The Owls have been producing wonderful garage and psychedelic tunes for the best part of adecade, but this was a real breakthrough. The song addresses Newcastle’s uneasy relationship with Christianity in this post-Royal Commissioninto Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse world.It begins with a chugging chord progression and psych riff before it explodes into a Britpop-style chorus.Sadly this song wasn’t released in the‘90s because it would have been a hit.
The Owls – Jesus Let Me FlyNotable mentions:Hope Recovery (William Crighton),kbye(Raave Tapes),Angry(Grace Turner),If I’m Smiling (It’s Because I’m Thinking About Zac Efron)(Rachel Maria Cox).
BEST NEW ACTBravo Victor: Part jazz, part pop, part R’n’B. Together the duoofJono Burgess (bass) andSophie Aked (vocals) have provided a sound not heard elsewhere in the Newcastle music scene. Their self-titled debut EP was powered by the singles The Duel and For All His Flaws andintroducedAked as one of Newcastle’s next great vocalists.
2018 PREDICTIONSThere’s plenty to get excited about in the Newcastle music scene in 2018. We can expect those lovable punks The Gooch Palms to drop a follow-up to their excellent 2016 album Introverted Extroverts and Mount Hutton-raised Nashville-based country star Morgan Evans will finally release his debut album for Warner Music Nashville.
Indie band Vacations will continue to build their foreign fan base when they make their maiden voyage to the US in March for the South By South West Festival. The band also plans on releasing their first album.
There will be continued speculation over the state of the Newcastle live music scene, especially with the iconic Cambridge and Lass O’Gowrie Hotels on the market and the loss of The Commons and Black Malabar. However, other venues like the Small Ballroom, Hamilton Station Hotel, Grand Junction Hotel and Lizotte’s will become more important stops of the touring itinerary.