1. Whipbird – Pretty for the Dirt
I discovered this delightful Brisbane folk band on Radio National’s Inside Sleeve. It’s a perfect mix of poetry, pop and violins. She sings, ‘Just remember I lay at the bottom of a lake / And you’re not such a stronger swimmer, boy.’ Hope they release an album in 2014.
2. Lisa Mitchell – Land Beyond the Front Door
I discovered this song waiting to leave a plane stuck on the tarmac. It made the delay worthwhile – thank you Virgin. I listened to more Lisa Mitchell than anyone else this year. Her quirky voice is sweet, playful and sadly happy.
3. Emilana Torrini – Autumn Sun
It’s not the Icelandic singer-songwriter’s best album, but I think this is one of her best songs, a beautiful ballad about fading youth which becomes a song about a fan who betrays her.
4. Lissie – Go Your Own Way
I will be quite happy to never see the Nicholas Sparks film preview for which this was the soundtrack. But it’s an achingly beautiful cover of the Fleetwood Mac song. I just wish I could get into the rest of Lissie’s work.
5. Deborah Conway and Willie Zygier – Book of Life
I thought Deborah Conway was just eager to get off Q and A when she suddenly stood up toward the end, but she was heading over to sing a song, and it’s a wonderful ballad with many years of pain and love in it. One of the few singers I liked as a ten year old in 1991 (“It’s Only the Beginning”) and like today twenty-two years later.
6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
It’s hard to pick out songs from Nick Cave’s new album, because it works so well as an album. It’s thankfully less heavy than their last release, back to the more introspective, slow rumbling I like best. It was a special thing to see them play in the amphitheatre in March.
7. Florence and the Machine – Bedroom Hymns
In the same movie session I fell for Lissie’s “Go Your Own Way”, I was also entranced by this song, the soundtrack to the preview for The Great Gatsby. It’s dark, catchy and haunting. It seemed perfect for the film; I was waiting for it eagerly all the way through when I went to see the film, only for it to never play – it was only in the preview. It’s also only a bonus track on the album, a strange choice, given I think it’s the finest track. The album itself doesn’t let up; the rest is just as intense, and perhaps less interesting.
8. David Bowie – Heat
In an album I haven’t got into, this track stands out, like an outtake from my favourite Bowie release, Heathen. It’s a surreal, ominous electronic epic.
9. The Innocence Mission – God is Love
Innocence Mission is the opposite of Florence and the Machine. An upbeat Catholic folk band with a husband and wife at its core, this song’s title sums it up.
10. Angus and Julia Stone – Living on a Rainbow
My friends were going on about these two years ago, and here I am coming very late to the party. Julia Stone sounds a lot like Lisa Mitchell, and this is a beautiful song.
Honourable mention: Adrian Crowley – Summer Haze Parade
Someone close to me told me to turn this off when I started playing it, because apparently he’s woefully tuneless. I wouldn’t know about; I just know he reminds me of Leonard Cohen on a good day.
You can find most of these songs on a Spotify list here.