edwin garland 2023

I have been making lists and, damn, it has been a huge year of music for me; so many records and so many gigs.  I cannot think of a year so jam-packed.  I could have made a Top Ten list by August this year. Best that I don’t count these off or it could be limiting.

1. Loud Hailers at the Hollywood Hotel, Surry Hills, NSW
Ben Fink
is one of the most tasteful and sonically powerful guitarists in town, evoking Blind Lemon Jefferson and Jimmy Page. Then there’s drummer Jordon. And vocalist Christa Hughes, who mixes it up, referencing everyone from Nina Simone to Lydia Lunch to a deranged Lisa Minnelli. Confrontational and soulful. Their gigs at the Hollywood set the place on fire. The Sydney inner city band to catch in 2024.

2. Fabels at the Hollywood
Ben Alyward and Hiske Weijers have been making music together for 13 years and have developed a cult following both in the inner city and Europe.  It’s a creative, surreal form of shoegaze with a huge palette of influences. They sit in their own space and avoid the pub rock tradition, forging their own identity and sound.

3. Yolanda Ingley  
I had four of Yolanda’s albums sent to me a couple of months ago. Six years of her work.  I was stunned and they have not left my CD player for three months. Yolanda is really our own Rodriquez; maybe not musically but certainly in spirit. She recorded her albums in her living room with some of Melbourne’s finest musicians. And to think she’s in her 60s. Soulful music and she combines Billie Holiday, Marianne Faithful and Amy Winehouse.

steve daggThe late Steve Dagg.   

The key to her music is Yolanda’s stunning phrasing and voice, and the saxophone playing of  Steve Dagg.  Unfortunately,  Steve recently passed away but was one most soulful players for many decades around Melbourne.

4. Pat Todd and Mad Macka at the Golden Barley
Those who were there know that it was special evening when these street-level musicians with one foot in punk rock and another in their own record collections played with stripped-back intensity, owning the real meaning of folk music. It was honest raw and honest, echoing everything from Dylan at The Gaslight to Townes Van Zandt at a dive bar in Texas.

5. Ed Kuepper at the Blue Mountains Civic Centre, NSW
Ed was sublime and with a stellar band to showcase his re-issued “Electrical Storm” and “Honeys Steel’s Gold” albums. Ed crooned with sonically tasteful guitar lines  There is not career in Australian musical landscape that compares to Ed Kuepper’s.  And, yes, it was the Gigs of the Year from many and pretty much the same for me.

6. Maizy Coombes and friends, Blue Mountains Theatre Centre
Yet another sell-out, this was a showcase of lesser-known players from the area who gave a stunning performance. Maizy, with gifted Blue Mountains musician Skye Evans on double bass, boasts stunning violin and sweet, countrified vocals in the vein of Emmy-Lou Harris or Iris DeMent.  Maizy has been recording and certainly has the songs for a sublime long-player.

7. The O-Sees at the Metro
John Dwyer delivered an intensely loud, powerful and at times take-no-prisoners set. The two drummers thundered and locked in to form the tightest rhythm section. Dwyer is mountain of intensity and creativity.  The band has a huge range of influences and dexterity. The song writhe and are quite creative, ranging from hardcore to roots music. At times, I felt the Metro's roof was going to be lifted.

8. Yard Act at the Oxford Street Arts Factory
Yard Act breezed through Sydney with little hype, while in the UK they’re filling 3000-seater halls up down the country. This band has shown that an Indie act can put out their own album and storm the UK charts.  And, live, they are intelligent with their Orwellian social observations of a working class poet somewhere sitting between Ian Dury and The Fall, drawing on a variety of influences from rap to beats to post punk guitar stylings. They have  a great rhythm section.  This is a really exciting, fresh new band taking on the system. Forty years ago, Crass did the same from the fringe of punk and stayed fully underground. Now, you can go Top Ten via your own cottage industry operation.

9. Chris Masuak and Dog Soldier Australian Tour
Chris came to Australia and had a highly successful east coast tour to reclaim his crown as the best Detroit-inspired street level player, not from Australia but from across the globe.  As the tour progressed, the band became a mean, tough fighting machine and word spread about how Dog Soldier was on fire.  The tough rhythm section of Stu Wilson and Tony Bambach blew away everyone who saw them.

10. Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle at the Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Well, this was the gig of the year.  Lucinda is proving to one of the most stunning writers of past four decades and delivered a set of soulful, lyrical and tough songs. Over the last few years, she has moved away from roots sounds to those of a classic, bar-room rock band. Always the gifted wordsmith, her Southern phrasing and bourbon-laced edge make her distinctive.  

She had hit a brick wall when hospitalised by a stroke. It was quite remarkable that she returned. She delivered stunning vocals that soared across the Enmore. Her band was a force of nature with the guitar sounds a stand-out. Lifting tracks off her 16 albums, she played for more than two hours.  Steve Earle was raw earthy and stoic with his lost tales of America and the characters that populate it.

11. Amyl and the Sniffers and Full Moon Flower Band. Rails Festival, Marrickville
It was the hottest  October ever recorded in Sydney, hitting almost 40 degrees Celsius, and only the most dedicated or mad got out there. There were so many acts but two stood out for me.

Full Moon Flower Band from Brisbane is ne most exciting thing I have seen in years. There is an intensity that draws on everything from Bauhaus to PJ Harvey. This band knows how to set up drama and relate a narrative. They even throw in a Spaghetti Western rock song. Lead singer-guitar slinger Kate Dillion is a force.    

Amy Taylor is the most powerful front person in Australia   There something so fair-dinkum about her and she is the wayward girl next door who rocks. The band really has shown a deep understanding of the Melbourne tradition of pub/yob rock pioneered by Lobby Loyde and Cosmic Psychos, but give it their own spin. They are tight like a machine, and are taking our music to the world. Brilliant.

12. “The Brokenwood Songs” - Carla Werner
Carla has been making music since she moved to Sydney via Brisbane and originally grew up in New Zealand. She started in Australia as a busker before graduating to The Hopetoun Hotel. She’s since performed on Top of Pops in the UK and has tour4ed with the likes of The Pretenders, Damien Rice, and The Jayhawks. She is living in LA where she works as a producer.

Carla is a spiritual and gifted singer and songwriter, experimenting with dub and beats. Her “The Brokenwood Songs” is stunning, eloquent, warm and earthy, and works best when Carla strips it back to a cello, acoustic guitar, drums and her own emotive voice.

13. Nick Masons Pink Floyd 1967-1972
I went into this gig quite sceptical and at $200 a ticket it was a punt. I felt it could one of those Penrith RSL tribute shows or it could be an event not be missed. I had read some astounding reviews in Europe, I started to feel more at ease.  What was delivered was sonically the best show I had ever heard and to experience those songs from “Pipers at The Gates of Dawn” in their full blown glory that the album only hinted at was a trip. Blistering, psychedelic sounds with an acid-inspired light show that was painstakingly brilliant. A once in a lifetime experience.

14. Ghosts of the Hopetoun Powerhouse Museum
This was a superb night with discussion, photos, interviews, live music and film. It was put together by Dr Liz Guiffe and Dr Greg Willis who devoted a year to getting heart of the inner-city music scene of Sydney’s Surry Hills, a breeding ground where mainstream and counter culture met. It was another time when Sydney rents were low and there were artists and musicians on every corner, and it is very important to document it. It was captured by the amazing photos of Bryan Cook. We were treated to amazing sets by the Loud Hailers, Adam Gibson, and Alannah Russack.  A superb night.

15. Honourable Mentions
There were other artists that stood out during this year.  Suburban Bukowskis always deliver an earthy, witty set. Sonic Garage is holding a flag for the twin guitar attack. Street level rock and roll is in good hands in The Darrens of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. A young Newcastle band, Camino Gold, plays melodic rock that reminds me of Britpop mixed with the Wall Flowers. Syntax Error play blisteringly loud, tight, creative post-industrial rock.

16. Movies:
Taylor Swift’s Eras movie broke all box office records. It was mind-blowing. For three hours, we witness the most successful tour in American music history, and the musicality was top shelf, spanning explosive kitsch and 10- minute ballads. Her masterpiece “Folklore” is one of the most stunning lyrical albums of the last decade. The Eras tour made KISS seem like an Eagles cover duo at the local Irish pub.

Mutiny in Heaven
This was one confronting, warts-and-all documentaries. Brilliant film making and there was no fat. There’s no third cousin-twice-removed who once knew the band appearing in it. The Birthday Party band members tell the stories and it is a powerful narrative.  Nihilism, drug abuse, violence and outlaws and heightened creativity and a fuck you to the mainstream. The Birthday Party still remains one most of the powerful and creative bands we have had over a short career that mixed the Stooges and Beefheart with extreme literature and Hieronymus Bosch.

Rest In Peace
Louis Tillett
Ron Peno
Patrick Emery
Steve Dagg