IF you merely judged 2018 by the pop charts you would be convinced that the only music being produced came from film soundtracks (A Star Is Born, The Greatest Showman), the nostalgic reissuing of back catalogues (Queen) or from Amy Shark.
But delve a little deeper and 2018 was a brilliant year for Hunter music.
We continued to punch above our weight in the world of alt-country and Americana as Tori Forsyth, William Crighton, Catherine Britt and Ben Leece released compelling records. That hot streak resulted in 15 nominations for Golden Guitars at next month’s Tamworth Country Music Awards.
Newcastle’s fertile indie scene also finally gained national recognition from Triple J due to excellent singles from Grace Turner, Raave Tapes, Fritz, Trophy Eyes and Gooch Palms.
Here’s the Newcastle Herald’s musical highs of 2018.
Joy As An Act Of Resistance (Idles): Fantastic title, even better record. The second album from these Bristol punks tapped into the zeitgeist of Brexit Britain, raging against racism and toxic masculinity. But Idles delivered it all with an ferocious energy and humour to offset the bleakness.
It’s best articulated in the lyric, “I'm like Stone Cold Steve Austin/I put homophobes in coffins.” Tracks like Danny Nedelko and Samaritans breathed with the spirit of Anarchy In The UK, to provide easily the most exhilarating punk album in years.
Notable mentions: Wide Awake! (Parquet Courts), Lost Friends (Middle Kids), Echoes In Blue (City Calm Down), Hope Downs (Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever).
Talking Straight (Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever): There’s been plenty of hype from the international press about the Melbourne five-piece and in 2018 they delivered on their debut album Hope Downs.
The pivotal moment is the pulsating and oh-so-Australian, Talking Straight. The jangle guitar riff sounds like The Church, the driving bass could be Midnight Oil and the vocals lend themselves to The Go-Betweens – the result is a shimmering piece of Australiana.
Notable mentions: Mistake (Middle Kids), F--kin ‘N’ Rollin (Phantastic Ferniture), You Let My Tyres Down (Tropical F--k Storm), Downtown Shutdown (The Presets).
Dawn Of The Dark (Tori Forsyth): The Kurri Kurri alt-country songstress had promised something special since she released her debut EP Blackbird in 2015. Dawn Of The Dark fulfilled the 23-year-old’s promise and surpassed it.
As the title suggests, it positioned itself at the gothic end of the country spectrum, with lashings of bluegrass and rock.
The maturity displayed by an artist in the infancy of her career was remarkable, as Forsyth addressed gender imbalance, body issues and broken love all with a haunting voice oozing with character and vulnerability. Surely a Golden Guitar or two awaits in Tamworth.
Notable mentions: Empire (William Crighton), Changes (Vacations), The Overflow (Demi Mitchell), Kira Puru – EP (Kira Puru).
Dead Or Alive (Grace Turner): Sometimes the best songs are the simplest. There’s isn’t much to Dead Or Alive; a basic chord progression of grunge-pop over a bass line and plodding drums, but when Turner’s voice lands in the chorus something special happens.
It’s real and emotional, and by the time Turner sings “boy, I worry so much about me sometimes,” you’re under the song’s spell. Almost half a million streams on Spotify can’t be wrong.
Notable mentions: Happiness (William Crighton), Broke Machine (Tori Forsyth), Suds (Raave Tapes), Molotov (Kira Puru).
Biggest Fool In The World (Fritz): Tilly Murphy, aka Fritz, graduated from St Francis Xavier’s College in 2017, but for her first post-school single she took her audience back to classic year 12 formal territory.
Director David Fulham did a marvellous job telling the humorous story of a humiliated Fritz getting sweet revenge on a high school jerk, played expertly by Raave Tapes frontman Joab Eastley. The video also features a who’s who of the Newcastle indie scene.
Notable mentions: You Can Count On Me (Trophy Eyes), Suds (Raave Tapes), Devil’s Tongue (William Crighton), Dead Or Alive (Grace Turner).
Fungas: If former Sony A&R man Chris Dunn rated you highly enough that he offered to co-finance a vinyl pressing of your debut album, there must be something there. After all Dunn is credited with discovering Something For Kate.
High school three-piece Fungas introduced themselves in August with a blistering psych-rock debut album Crocadilla Bonepipe. There were obvious comparisons to King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard, but it proved St Francis Xavier students Charlie Ross (vocals/guitar) Kevin Flegg (bass) and Frazer McDonald (drums) have serious talent and expectations are high for 2019.
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