BARFLY TOP TEN: Pig City Record co-owner, journalist and author Andrew Stafford
Jen Cloher - “Jen Cloher”
The Australian album of the year, and in many years. Name-dropping heroes who have gone before her – from the Saints to the Go-Betweens to the Triffids – Cloher proved herself the equal of any of them.
Peter Perrett - “How the West Was Won”
This album was miraculous on two levels: one, that Perrett was still alive to make it, two, that Perrett’s gift for droll wit and languid melody remained perfectly intact. His band includes his two sons, and they did the Only Ones proud.
Neil Finn - “Out of Silence”
In a good year for old stagers, Finn’s album was among his finest. Ten tiny, perfect pocket symphonies in the mould of the Beach Boys and late XTC.
Paul Kelly - “Life Is Fine”
Another old stager. Kelly returned to the charts – his first number-one, in fact – with an album that summoned the ghosts of his old band the Coloured Girls/Messengers.
The Dream Syndicate - “How Did I Find Myself Here”
Next to Peter Perrett, the year’s best and most unexpected comeback. The Dream Syndicate’s first album in nearly 30 years was as bracing as their celebrated debut "The Days of Wine and Roses".
The War on Drugs - “A Deeper Understanding”
Part of me says the War on Drugs are this generation’s Dire Straits, at least for the indie hipster set, but the other part can’t resist their widescreen Springsteen backed by Spiritualized approach, and this might be Adam Granduciel’s best set of songs yet.
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile - “Lotta Sea Lice”
While her partner Jen Cloher took her turn in the spotlight, Barnett teamed up with Philadelphian stoner Kurt Vile for this loose but enjoyable collaboration of Crazy Horse-style jams. Tellingly, its best song was a cover of Cloher’s "Fear Is Like a Forest".
Spiral Stairs - “Doris and the Daggers”
Former Pavement and Preston School of Industry guitarist Spiral Stairs, aka Scott Kannberg, took a minor right turn into slightly off-centre singer-songwriter pop. Bonus track: a 7” single dedicated to his time living in Brisbane called "Pig City".
Cable Ties - “Cable Ties”
Melbourne three-piece whose debut sounds exactly like what would happen if you were to cross Eddy Current Suppression Ring with Sleater-Kinney, marked by the guitar pyrotechnics and bolshie vocals of Jenny McKechnie.
Screamfeeder - “Pop Guilt”
No guilt here. Screamfeeder’s album was another comeback story – their first album since 2005’s “Take You Apart” – and it might be their best, notable for a more even split between songwriters Tim Steward and Kellie Lloyd.
With an honourable mention to…
Sabrina Lawrie - “Hush the Mountain”
With the necessary disclaimer that this long-awaited debut appeared on my own label, it would nonetheless feel remiss not to mention that it’s a brilliantly textured, deeply layered album by a genuine auteur.
Pig City Records