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coverpic flag Australia - Full Moon 125 - 12/05/06

Aussie rules! Best of Australia 06
Brian's pick of the year

The best Australian releases of 2006 - as picked by Brian Stradbrook:

George Byrne's Foreign Water (Laughing Outlaw Records)
Beautiful widescreen production (by Tim Powles of The Church & Jonathan Burnside re Sleepy Jackson), aching pedal steel and vocals etched in the sleepy half dark. An exceptional debut album by a relatively new Australian artist, he makes it all sound so effortless. A wistful, melancholy, acoustic country masterpiece. Like a dark romantic Beck or Ryan Adams, finely crafted and so very very special.

Heligoland's A Street Between Us (Alone Again Records)
Another floating, mesmerising release from these Melbournians, further refining their art following 2003's Shift These Thoughts. A fuller, warmer production courtesy of local wunderkind J Walker. Icy chiming guitars, anchor-like bass and soaring vocal performances. Heaven sent.

Chris Whitley & Jeff Lang's Dislocation Blues (ABC Music)
Chris Whitley seemingly exited at the peak of his powers - and coupled here with Jeff Lang's vocal and guitar dexterity, it's downright phenomenal. The Dylan covers are worth the price of admission alone - a bittersweet and intense listen. They don't come as raw as this.

Radio Birdman's Zeno Beach (Crying Sun Records)
This ain't no stab at the past, nor is it a 'comeback album', it's just a cracking release by one of Australia's greatest rock bands. The Zeno songs are slotting into their live set as if they've been there since 1976. Aging, but who cares?!

Youth Group's Casino Twilight Dogs (Ivy League Records)
The track sequencing is telling - the much-maligned cover of "Forever Young" is listed last (and sounds lightweight compared to rest of this great album). Similar to the previous Skeleton Jar there's the deft lyricism and dramatic vocal delivery of Toby Martin and the ringing jangle and physicality the band bring to every track, especially "Daisy Chains". Ably captured by one of Australia's best (and busiest) producers Wayne Connolly.

Deepchild's Lifetime (Future Classic/Intertia)
Where Sydney electronic artist Rick Bull further refines his sound without losing the expansiveness that made 2003's What's Going Wrong? a masterpiece. The seamless quality of his sound selection undercut with gentle propulsive house rhythms makes for a booty shakin', sensual, dub-inflected experience. Lifetime will hopefully place Deepchild among his European peers.

GB3's Emptiness is Our Business (Rubber Records)
Second album after 2003's Circlework, with special guests adding much to flavour Glenn Bennie's shimmering guitar and electronic undercurrents. Striking appearances by Steve Kilbey, Sarah Blasko and Grant McLennan (possibly his last recorded moment, Go Betweens trainspotters!!). A sublime album.

Black Cab's Jesus East (Pharmacy Records)
Black Cab once again proves themselves to be masters of the album format, with hard driving rhythms, a kaleidoscope of vocal samples, disembodied sitars and assorted electronica. A great follow-up to the acclaimed 'concept' album Altamont Diary.

A year not only of new releases, but significant reissues:

The Triffids' Born Sandy Devotional (Liberation Music)
"Born Sandy has possibly the best opening moment of any record I've heard as Dave McComb's vocal comes straight in on the first lines of "The Seabirds" - "No foreign pair of dark sunglasses could ever shield you from / the light that pierces your eyelids, the screaming of the gulls...."
This is no ordinary song and this is so because Dave took a stand against the ordinary. He didn't care that we were recording a song that couldn't be easily reproduced on stage, he didn't care that it took him six months or more to write the defining couplet in the song: "She said what's the matter now lover boy, has the cat run off with your tongue / Are you drinking to get maudlin, or are you drinking to get numb?" He didn't care that that couplet kept him awake at nights, but he cared that, once it was in place, he had an extraordinary song to open an extraordinary record." (Graham Lee - 2006)

Tactics' The Sound of the Sound Vol 1 (Memorandum/Reverberation)
Compiles both the classic My Houdini and Glebe albums along with assorted sides, live cuts and outtakes. "Tactics are a band aware of their heritage, a band Australia and only Australia could have produced. Even though Tactics' influences are distinct - the Velvet Underground, Burning Spear, Neil Young, early Talking Heads, Love, Television, Roxy Music - they've been thoroughly assimilated and subsequently transcended; Tactics have created a sound of their own, an urgent, insistent sound without likeness in Australia or anywhere else in the world. Studdert's songs capture the atmosphere and images of life in this country, where our short, brutal heritage is never far away, like the aural equivalent of a Sidney Nolan painting." (Clinton Walker, RAM Magazine - 1981)

Honourable mentions:

Charlie Marshall - Travel Easy
Saoi - This Drowning is Dreaming
Brendan Gallagher - On Eve St
Maurice Frawley & the Yard Hands - Good Things
Louis Tillett - Soliloquy

Copyright © 2006 Brian Stradbrook e-mail address

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