Since everyone else has posted their year end lists, we thought we’d join in and do that! It’s been a great year for folk music in New Zealand/Aotearoa, and we’ve enjoyed being part of it! This is our rough as Top 10, most placings are pretty flexible, we loved them all.
10. TUi MAMAKi – FLY
Tui’s beautiful album Fly came out of a longer than expected stay in Bulgaria. Three years of learning a new vocal technique and experiencing a different culture created an album that stands totally unique in releases this year.
9. FRASER ROSS – LIFE IS MAGIC, WHERE IS MY RABBIT?
Fraser Ross performed a house concert with us this year and absolutely converted the entire room. This album was on repeat on our road trips earlier in the year and theres some absolute gems therein, with a nice dab of humour to keep you on your toes.
8. MARLON WILLIAMS – MAKE WAY FOR LOVE
Obviously this has been an excellent year for Marlon, and pretty much any album of his was going to be one of the best of the year. While we love the album (songs like ‘What’s Chasing You’ and ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’ are absolutely standouts) it didn’t quite get to where we’d hoped it might.
7. EMILY FAIRLIGHT – MOTHER OF GLOOM
Depsite ‘Time’s Unfaithful Wife’ being previously released and the standout of the album for us, Mother of Gloom has facilitated a breakout year for Emily Fairlight. The album is deep and needs many listens, especially as you get to know and love Emily’s warbling and ethereal voice.
6. THE FRANK BURKITT BAND – RACONTEUR
This is the quintessential second album for a band – it’s a cracking step up for The Frank Burkitt Band. Racounteur is a finalist for the Tui for Best Folk Artist and a strong contender, and very well deserving. ‘Paint the Town’, ‘The Gypsy Barber’ and ‘Too Much Noise’ are absolutely going to be part of our playlists for years to come.
5. FABLES – PORTRAITS
Obvious conflict of interest declared at the outset, we are very proud of Fables debut, and our very own Second Hand Records debut. Jess Bailey’s lyrics and storytelling are what places this so high on the list for 2018. She has a knack for deftly putting together a complimenting cast of instruments for each song, and turns a phrase about novel situations with perfection. ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Fools in Bars’ are our picks to show off both lyrical and instrumental content.
4. TOM CUNLIFFE – TEMPLATE FOR LOVE
Tom returned with his second album and immediately made it clear he was trying something different. The huge voice, the stories and the folk sensibilities were still there, but mixed into this was a bit of playfulness and some multi-layered arrangements. The evolution of Tom Cunliffe is proving unpredictable and excellent. Take a listen to ‘Hollie’s Songs’ or ‘I’ve Been Bitten by an Old White Man’ as our first picks.
3. GREAT NORTH – THE CARAVAN RECORDINGS I
While this album only features a selection of new songs, it is a valuable and needed addition to the Great North catalogue. ‘Honey in the Whisky’ is a beautiful song, and one we’ve been waiting to be recorded for years. The new arrangements of previously released songs show why Hayden Donnell and Great North have won two Tui’s and are nominated for a third in as many albums. Their songs are stunning, no matter what instruments or how many musicians are playing.
2. BERNIE GRIFFEN & THE THIN MEN – DOORS WIDE OPEN
Bernie Griffen & The Thin Men returned with what was essentially a duo album with band. Kirsten Warner really came into her own on Doors Wide Open, and many of the standouts of this album are when she takes the lead. This is Bernie’s best writing yet, and if it’s any indication there’s only more to come. Raw honesty and heartfelt harmonies will pull you in and not let you go.
1. HOLLY ARROWSMITH – A DAWN I REMEMBER
Holly had a lot to top from her debut record. She’s done this with A Dawn I Remember. From opening ‘The Gardener’ to ‘Farewell’ and ‘Every Kingdom’ we could name half the album as songs to go and start with. The album is only short, full of sparse arrangements, centered on Holly’s voice and lyrics, and it contains no fluff, every song deserves its spot. Not something we’ll often say about an album. We’re watching with interest to see where Holly goes next and how her lyrics and themes evolve.
We’ve compiled a pick of these and other singles from this year in our 2018 Playlist here. Stay tuned for a couple of our other Year End lists.