For a format that has been decreed dead more times than you can count, the album sure has survived.
There was a time where it was thought to be moving out of fashion in favour of stand-alone singles. There was also a time where it appeared to be cynically appropriated by executives in the wake of the streaming era, over-stuffing albums to boost numbers and subsequent chart positions.
It should be noted, however, this has primarily been the discourse within an international perspective. For Australian music in the 2010s, it’s very much remained business as usual.
The album is what we take the most pride in; the thing that’s still seen as the big deal; the thing that can make or break you as an artist. This translates across every scene, every genre and every passing trend within Australian music. We went through a lot in the 2010s – we put away the floor toms at the front of the stage, we saw nu-folk come and go, pub-rock went from being naff to platinum-selling and we even briefly cared about the Stafford Brothers to the point of them getting their own television show. We’ve since moved on to more high-brow stuff, like The Veronicas.
As such, there were a myriad of game-changer LPs to emerge from Australia this decade – and, while we can’t get to all of them, here are 50 (one per artist, so no double-ups; and alphabetical, so no numeric quarrels) that assisted in sound-tracking the decade that was. From angry and anti-colonial, to loud and life-affirming, to electric and electronic… this was Australia.
A.B. Original — Reclaim Australia (2016)
With a decade of experience, Adam Briggs and Daniel “Trials” Rankine hooked up in the mid-2010s to make a resonant, bold protest album that was defiant purely by the fact it existed. Although filled with the kind of sneering, dark humour that Briggs has become known for, the album also gets decidedly intense when it gets to tracks like ‘Report to the Mist’ – a song that is still as potent and tragically timely as it was four years ago.
Beyond all details of its importance and its relevance, however, one key point remains: Reclaim Australia straight up fucking bangs.
Alpine — A is for Alpine (2012)
A key breakout of Australian indie at the start of the decade, Melbourne’s Alpine were a unique prospect. They were headed by dual lead vocalists, they were unapologetic about their blend of genres and their ability to create tension and release within the confines of the pop-song structure made them both essential listening and essential viewing in the live department.
A is for Alpine is defined by glossy singles like the groovy ‘Gasoline’ and the sultry ‘Hands’, but is also notable for its dreamy ‘Lovers’ suite that opens the LP, as well as the heart-wrenching, career-defining ‘Softsides’. A for effort.
The Avalanches — Wildflower (2016)
The butterfly that donned the cover of the album many never thought would come was a symbol of new life for The Avalanches, who did the impossible and provided a miracle in a year where such things were desperately needed. Wildflower is as adventurous, ambitious and unique as its cult-classic predecessor – and, at moments, equals it in terms of creativity and composition.
The sample work is second-to-none, the guestlist is both qualitative and quantitative and its technicolor dreamscapes are awe-inspiring. How do you escape a shadow that has loomed over you for 16 years? Simple: You fly above it.
Camp Cope — Camp Cope (2016)
Three women – one out of bands for nearly a decade; one who’d never been in a band, period — came together in a Melbourne kitchen circa 2015. One year later, Camp Cope were one of the most beloved indie bands in Australia – and it all began with this eight-track instant-classic, recorded in a matter of days and primarily tracked live.
The band’s three distinct playing styles — high-fretboard bass, punk guitar strumming and spacious, boom-thwack drums — tessellated and contrasted beautifully over raw, confessional lyrics. It immediately struck nerves and heartstrings — and still does to this day.
Cash Savage and the Last Drinks — Good Citizens (2018)
As both a new mother and an openly queer woman, Cash Savage wrote and released Good Citizens at a time where her country was actively trying to hold her down, question her motives and make her feel less human.
What better way to protest that than by figuratively opening the album with a song titled ‘Human, I Am,’ before backing it up with a string of sprawling, gut-punch protest songs. Musical comparisons to the likes of Nick Cave, k.d. lang and the Dirty Three are on track, but ultimately misguided. Cash Savage and the Last Drinks are about something bigger.
Ceres — Drag It Down on You (2016)
Prior to Drag It Down…, Ceres merely hinted at greatness — mostly by doing pretty convincing mimics of the classic emo revival bands. Here, they actualised said greatness by adding a firm, definitive stamp of identity and a widescreen production approach care of Los Campesinos’ Tom Bromley.
‘Loaf,’ ‘Choke’ and ‘Roll Ur Eyes’ have remained set staples, each laying out frontman Tom Lanyon’s innermost anguish as well as his recalcitrant, romantic hope. These are songs one sings with clenched fists, tears welling, in a sweaty room full of people that feel the exact same way. Deeply personal, yet uniquely universal.
Clare Bowditch And The New Slang — Modern Day Addiction (2010)
She might be better known to over-30s for Offspring than her own music, but Clare Bowditch was never the type to go quietly into adult-contemporary and Radio National. Her fourth album was a rebellious (by her standards, at least) shift into Casio keyboards and striking lyrical commentary.
Body image, political instability, the importance of family and civil disobedience are dissected by Bowditch’s honeyed vocals and propelled by her one-off backing ensemble The New Slang. It’s not for nothing that Bowditch’s new, excellent memoir takes its title from a track on here — by far, the best album she’s ever made.
Courtney Barnett — sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit (2015)
Few albums had as much riding on it as sometimes i sit did at the time of its release. It was a pressure that nearly buckled Barnett entirely — as evidenced by the lyrical content of her follow-up — but it’s worth noting that this album succeeded with flying colours.
It’s success entirely of Barnett’s own doing – released independently, written and recorded with long-serving bandmates and delivered with both a laconic drawl and a menacing snarl. The album’s key singles are standard-bearers of 2010s Australian rock, while deep-cut detours like the sprawling ‘Kim’s Caravan’ are just as captivating now.
Darren Hanlon — I Will Love You at All (2010)
Normally things like this are said to a universal groan, but there’s really no other terminology for it: Darren Hanlon is the songwriter’s songwriter. The Gympie native has always found articulate, clever and memorable navigation across the minutiae of anecdotal storytelling — and there’s a strong argument to be made that he never did it better than here on his fourth LP.
Sporting both his longest and shortest songs to date (both right next to one another on the album’s tracklist), I Will Love You at All is a charming, evergreen collection of folksy musings on heartbreak, homeliness and hope.
Dispossessed — Warpath Never Ended (2019)
The heaviness of Dispossessed’s music always went beyond the down-tuned guitar chugs, seismic drums and guttural vocals. The band made no bones about the fact it was explicitly about the ongoing Indigenous struggle — especially here, but abroad too.
“Warpath/Never ended/This land/Never ceded” went the refrain of the album’s title track; a grim reminder of the injustices done against our First Nations people. Dispossessed have since gone their separate ways, playing their final show last month in Doonside out in Western Sydney. Their message, story and undeniable truths, however, remain pertinent and pressing long after the final note rings out.
The Drones — Feelin Kinda Free (2016)
No-one knew Feelin Kinda Free would be The Drones’ final album when it came out. Hell, maybe not even they knew. Listening to it in that context, however, paints it in a whole new light.
Whether they’re pouring synth noise over everything, locking into unexpected grooves or sticking in the boot into whoever they seem fit (hi, Andrew Bolt!), The Drones are living like it’s their last day. It’s the sound of a band with nearly 20 years of baggage and at least a decade of weighted expectations lifted from their shoulders. By year’s end, they were gone… sorry, free.
DZ Deathrays — Black Rat (2014)
The six years leading up to Black Rat saw Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley go from dance-punk worship with a classic early-20s music video and a few bitchin’ riffs to a band ready to take on the world.
As such, Black Rat feels like the start of something big. Maybe it’s the widescreen production of Gerling alum Burke Reid. Perhaps it’s the involuntary headbanging that comes with tracks like ‘Reflective Skull’ and ‘Gina Works at Hearts’. Really, it could just be the fact that Black Rat is the sound of a band confidently, definitively and artistically coming into their own.
Flume — Skin (2016)
While his self-titled debut LP knocked down doors and scored some enviable Hottest 100 positions, Skin elevated Flume to arena status and even saw him take out the aforementioned countdown with the Kai-assisted ‘Never Be Like You.’
The Sydney-born producer and occasional ass-eater draws you into his world for an hour, all floating arpeggios and post-dubstep detours that would never be considered pop by any other metric. In Flume’s hands, however, it becomes inherently accessible and entirely compelling.
Put it this way: No-one else in this list is getting away with calling a song ‘Wall Fuck’. Hi, this is Flume.
Gang of Youths — Go Farther in Lightness (2017)
Few bands have actualised their vision in such a short period the way Gang of Youths did. With an intriguing backstory and a powerful debut, the Sydney band threw in everything but the kitchen sink for their all-important follow-up.
It’s an album of both high risk and high reward — its exhausting double-LP runtime and emphatic use of an orchestra could easily grow weary, and yet the album’s key moments still stand as some of the best songs to come out of this country throughout the 2010s. “I feel everything,” confesses frontman David Le’aupepe at one point. So did we.
Gareth Liddiard — Strange Tourist (2010)
The album credits for Strange Tourist read as follows: “Gareth Liddiard — play. Burke Reid — record.” That’s it. This is a solo album in the most literal imaginable sense — and, as such, there is no wall of feedback nor avalanche of drums for Liddiard to hide behind.
In turn, Strange Tourist is Gareth Liddiard at his most raw, exposed and vulnerable. Even when singing other’s stories — the album is topped and tailed by ruminations on Charles Blondin and David Hicks, respectively — Liddiard finds an uncanny way to make them his own. An uneasy yet powerful listen.
Gold Class — Drum (2017)
Always critical darlings over crowd favourites, Melbourne’s Gold Class made two excellent LPs before quietly (and heartbreakingly) dissipating in early 2018. While debut It’s You is an impressive effort in its own right, there’s something about Drum that gets it over the line as the stronger of the two.
The songs are punchier, coming harder within the dynamic framework, and the production is slicker yet never loses sight of the in-room live feel that gives the band their distinctive sound. From the love-lorn ‘Trouble Fun’ to the electric ‘Twist in the Dark,’ Drum saw Gold Class ensure their titular status.
Gordi — Reservoir (2017)
Beginning as a humble acoustic singer-songwriter, Sophie Payten took an unconventional route in order to find her voice: Disfiguring it. Reservoir sees Payten’s vocals chopped, warped, looped, distorted and AutoTuned so heavily it makes T-Pain sound like Marvin Gaye.
On paper, it seems confusing as to why a clearly-capable vocalist would handle their voice this way. Why it works, however, is the unbridled creativity and the raw-nerve emotion conveyed throughout — the slow-burn of ‘Long Way,’ the mournful ‘Heaven I Know’ and the wrought ‘Bitter End’ are just some of the album’s truly awing moments. Fearless, bold, immersive: That’s Reservoir.
Gotye — Making Mirrors (2011)
The fact Gotye is regarded as a one-hit wonder isn’t a disservice to everything else he has contributed musically. If anything, it’s made him a well-kept secret among Australians, many of whom felt all the feelings when he first broke through with a song of lost love in 2006.
Yes, Making Mirrors is home to that song. The story, however, does not end there at all — in fact, it’s really only getting started. The third Gotye album is full of dark underbellies, wry humour, stunning vocal runs and inventive arrangements. Really, it’s a wonder there was only one hit.
Harmony — Carpetbombing (2014)
Beginning with a spoken-word reading from the inimitable Don Walker, Harmony’s second album further strengthens the sharp, impactful contrast between the band’s two key working parts.
While the guitar churns, pierces and shrieks over rumbling bass and hard-hitting drums, the three female backing vocalists provide a lilting choral decadence that would feel entirely alien and disjointed in anyone else’s hands. The supergroup sextet — sporting alum from The Nation Blue, mclusky and Mod Con — offer a truly unique sound and aesthetic in the outer spectrum of contemporary Australian rock. On Carpetbombing, it is realised to its utmost, devastating potential.
High Tension — PURGE (2018)
Between their second and third albums, High Tension underwent radical transformation. Half the band departed, bringing in new recruits Mike Deslandes and Lauren Hammel to fulfil the roles of guitar and drums, respectively.
Simultaneously, vocalist Karina Utomo had begun investigating further into her Indonesian heritage, and her birth country’s history of war and societal upheaval. When High Tension returned in 2018 with PURGE, they returned at their hungriest, their most brutal and their most uncompromising. The album is 34 straight minutes of pummelling heaviness, a kind not offered up quite like any other band in Australian metal. A genre benchmark.
Hilltop Hoods — Drinking from the Sun (2012)
The 2010s saw the Hilltop Hoods ascend from festival favourites to an institution. They went platinum, broke chart records and became the first Australian hip-hop act to headline arenas… and then became the first to do it twice.
It all began with Drinking from the Sun, their strongest 2010s LP and a formidable contender for their best overall. ‘Shredding the Balloon’ is a rare instance where a Hoods song can genuinely be described as beautiful, while ‘Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom’ makes for a triumphant sequel to ‘The Hard Road’ as it follows the group’s unstoppable rise. Long live.
IDYLLS — The Barn (2017)
A year before IDLES blew up, a differently-spelled but identically-pronounced Brisbane band were creating an act of resistance of their own. After garnering international attention via Anthony Fantano’s seal of approval on 2014’s Prayer for Terrene, the noise-rock outfit went even further down the rabbit hole.
Vocalist/saxophonist Billie Stimple comes unglued across The Barn‘s half-hour runtime, eventually landing on a rhythmic shouting pattern to see out highlight ‘Maslows Dogs.’ The album incorporates no-wave, grindcore, jazz-punk and art-rock, culminating in the scorching 9.5-minute quasi-title track ‘In the Barn.’ IDYLLS haven’t been heard from since, but The Barn really says it all.
Jen Buxton — Don’t Change Your Plans (2011)
The first thing Jen Buxton does on her first and only solo album is fuck up. She laughs, makes the “incorrect” buzzer noise and starts again. It’s imperfectly perfect — and by extension, it’s true to the very nature of Don’t Change Your Plans.
Comprised of live takes and subtle overdubs, the album is regarded as seminal within indie-punk circles — and for very good reason, too. No heart is left unbroken when Buxton sings of love, loss and the in-between. Although considering herself retired these days, what Buxton achieved on one album alone outlasts what many songwriters can do across five.
Jen Cloher — In Blood Memory (2013)
Although In Blood Memory was technically Jen Cloher’s third album, it was her first to bare solely her name following the dissolution of her band The Endless Sea. It’s a key point of difference, and subsequently splits her career from 2000s folksy troubadour to 2010s rock queen.
Her transition from acoustic to electric (Judas!) may have been a brazen stylistic leap conceptually, but Cloher’s knack for introspective and deeply personal lyrical insight stayed true. Look no further than ‘Hold My Hand,’ the album’s closer, which remains the best song Cloher has ever written. For Cloher, life truly began at 40.
Jimblah — Phoenix (2013)
Through a string of excellent singles, a great Homeward Bound album and his tireless work raising the platform of indigenous artists, Jimblah has more eyes on him than ever in 2019. For those of you just joining, you best do your homework — truth is, the man born James Alberts has never held back.
On his second album, Jimblah fearlessly tackles rejecting stereotypes, holding true to yourself and dissembling the structures that figuratively and figuratively cage in his people. Phoenix is one of the most articulate, arresting albums released this decade — outside the framework of both nationality and genre.
Kate Miller-Heidke — Nightflight (2012)
Nightflight contained no break-out singles, nor did it achieve gold sales like either of Kate Miller-Heidke’s two previous albums. You’re being told this to exemplify why it’s dangerous to view these metrics as yardsticks for quality — were you to skip Nightlight, you’d be missing out on the best album of Miller-Heidke’s career.
Eschewing her usual MPDG quirks, Miller-Heidke instead comes into her own as a mature, complex songwriter. The songs are still catchy, but their depth is uniformly resonant: the heartfelt ‘Ride This Feeling,’ the sinister menace of ‘The Devil Wears a Suit’ and guaranteed tear-jerker ‘Fire & Iron.’
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard — Nonagon Infinity (2016)
Fun fact: If every King Gizzard album made it onto this list, they would take up 30 percent of it. They’d all qualify, too, given the septet have been releasing albums at an alarming rate since 2012.
So, how does one narrow it down to just one? It’d have to be the one that garnered the most attention. The one that pulled off its concept flawlessly, pushing the band to a whole other level. It would have to be their weirdest, heaviest, most fun and most exciting album. Really, it would have to be Nonagon Infinity. Open the door and enjoy.
Laura Jean — Devotion (2018)
Much like her peer (and former bandmate) Jen Cloher, Laura Jean made changes to her sound in the 2010s that introduced her to an entirely new batch of listeners. Devotion was a radical departure, shifting Jean’s attention from the guitar over to the Casio keyboard.
The end result was an icy, experimental outsider’s take on pop music — major chords and lush choruses from a left-field perspective. Lead single ‘Girls on the TV’ exemplifies Jean’s transformation, moving into a shuffle of hi-hats and bass beneath a glistening stream of reverberating keyboards and head-voice confessions. By album’s end, you’re hopelessly devoted.
Lincoln Le Fevre — Resonation (2012)
Resonation is set in Hobart, hometown of singer-songwriter and central protagonist Lincoln Le Fevre. The cast of characters across its tracklist, however, could be from just about anywhere — the mates we sing with, untrustworthy cliques, jilted exes, barflies at the local, the one who shits on their hometown but never leaves.
True to its title, the album is resonant in nature. Lines as simple as “Sometimes, I can’t look you in the eye” and “You make me feel like part of something good” are so effective you can almost hear the buzz of tattoo guns committing them to skin.
Luca Brasi — Stay (2018)
Speaking of the Apple Isle, it’s no secret the state’s biggest export this decade has been Luca Brasi. The Launceston natives have spent their 20s chasing their dreams, touring their brand of melodic punk extensively both here and abroad. On Stay, the dream isn’t over… but it’s taken its toll.
Tyler Richardson finds himself “on the bathroom floor/Trying to get clean” at one point; “coming apart at the seams” at another. “I felt a loss,” he sings on ‘Collisions.’ You feel it, too. Stay is an album of growing pains, processing grief and, through it all, making it through together.
Making — Highlife (2015)
Despite the fact they were easily one of the loudest bands on the live circuit, Making always felt like a hushed secret within Sydney DIY. Their sole studio album was just six tracks, but the terrain explored by the noise-rock trio across this half-dozen could easily outsize your average long-player.
Be it the furious mantra of ‘Come to Me’ or the unhinged, frenetic ‘Dream Job,’ Highlife captures lightning in a bottle and welcomes the oncoming storm with open arms. Only pockets of people interacted with Making in their time, but each will tell you the same thing: They were unforgettable.
Marcus Whale — Inland Sea (2016)
In-between tenures as one half of post-internet cloud-clubbers Collarbones, Marcus Whale explored a long-brewing concept. He’s long been one of Sydney’s key creatives across a multitude of projects, but nothing Whale’s ever worked on has managed quite the impact of Inland Sea.
Hypnotic beats, warbling bass-synth and washes of ice-cold ambience span out across the album’s vast production, with Whale using his unmistakable vocal to guide through every twist, turn, descent and uplift. Inland Sea is one of the most spellbinding experimental works this country has ever produced. For others, it would be a plateau. For Whale, a stepping stone.
Northlane — Singularity (2013)
A lot of evolution has taken place within Northlane — more than one realises, beyond merely changing vocalists. In an oft-maligned and dismissed genre, the quintet have brought a sense of validity, making the case that this is music to be taken seriously and to be viewed as artistry within its own right.
Realistically, there’s no way Northlane would have been able to reach that stage had they not released Singularity. Not only is it home to several signature songs, it’s also the first time in their careers they swung for the fences and certifiably killed it on every front.
Otouto — Pip (2010)
Before she was traversing the globe with Charli XCX and infiltrating American stadiums, Martha Brown — AKA Banoffee — was quite figuratively a world away. Alongside her older sister Hazel and Kid Sam drummer Kishore Ryan, Otouto made music that existed outside of any wider genre semantics.
Glitched vocals and plastic keyboards brushed up against jazzy electric guitar and literal pots-and-pans percussion, resulting in a sound that was uniformly theirs. ‘Tennis Players’ remains one of the decade’s best indie kiss-offs, while ‘Sushi’ is hearty, wholesome art-rock at its finest. Truly worth both discovering and rediscovering, no matter your respective entryway.
Outright — Avalanche (2014)
Let’s make something explicitly clear: “Female-fronted” is not a genre. When it’s said that Outright are the best hardcore band in Australia, that’s without any sort of pedantic qualifiers. They are a fearless, powerful band.
The term “important” is often bandied about condescendingly by those seeking clout, but it is hard to think of other words when you see what songs like ‘A City Silent’ and ‘Iron String’ mean to people when they’re performed. With its galloping guitars and hammer-smash drums serving as the unstoppable force to vocalist Jelena Goluza’s immovable object, Avalanche unquestionably lives up to its crushing title.
Parades — foreign tapes (2010)
Were one to listen to Party Dozen’s sax-driven noise or the sneering gutter-punk of Arse, you’d never guess that alum from both began the decade at the helm of Australia’s greatest indie-rock hope. Parades were an amazing rainbow dreamscape; a rainbow burst that faded far too early but stayed indelible within the minds of all those who got to experience them.
Its touchstones are very much of its time — you can almost see the confetti coming off the floor-toms in ‘Marigold”s majestic outro — but the multifaceted and layered songwriting still gives foreign tapes a freshness and endearing vitality.
The Presets — HI VIZ (2018)
Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes have always made music that’s political in a Trojan horse fashion– lest we forget, their biggest hit is perhaps the only club banger about asylum seekers. When it’s suggested that HI VIZ is political, it’s not explicitly. It’s a rave unto the joy fantastic in the face of adversity.
It’s aggressively bright; a beacon in the darkness being shone into a mirrorball. Besides everything else, the duo have never worked up a bigger sweat than the album’s centrepiece suite that transitions the thudding ‘Tools Down’ into the ecstatic ‘Feel Alone.’ Go hard, go home.
Royal Headache — Royal Headache (2011)
One day, Royal Headache were here. One day, they weren’t. Theirs was an unassuming, understated existence. So why are they remembered so fondly? Why are their shirts essentially the Sydney equivalent of a Nirvana shirt? Look no further than Royal Headache.
Save for maybe the instrumental track (‘2 Kinds of Love’), every song on this 26-minute album could send an entire crowd absolutely bunta. Remember the only time the cops have ever been called on a gig at the Sydney Opera House? That was Royal fucking Headache, man. It’s a fevered, soulful and hugely influential sound, nigh-on impossible to duplicate.
RÜFÜS DU SOL — Atlas (2013)
They started the decade as RÜFÜS, surfy Sydney boys with charming singles like ‘Paris Collides’ and ‘This Summer.’ The ended the decade as RÜFÜS DU SOL, three men at the top of Australian dance music and major international contenders. Atlas not only paved the way for their game-changing ascent, but for their genre on a national front.
After this dropped (and it dropped a lot), there were a dozen imitators at their heels. None, however, could quite match RÜFÜS’ sense of dynamics and pertinent blend of processed beats with key human elements. With Atlas, RDS were truly on the map.
Safe Hands — Montenegro (2013)
The pride of Newcastle hardcore, Safe Hands lived a thousand lives before they’d even put an album out. Despite a revolving-door line-up and a myriad of setbacks, the Novocastrians still persevered to create an assured, belligerent and affecting debut.
“Throw yourself to the wolves,” vocalist Ben Loutitt screams in the climax of Montenegro‘s crushing title track. “There is nothing left to lose.” The album was forged out emotional turmoil and hardship, and its impact upon each listen is insurmountable. Montenegro is both a leap of faith and a crash landing; a masterclass in the calm and the chaos of post-hardcore.
Seeker Lover Keeper — Seeker Lover Keeper (2011)
Having spent the decade prior on separate paths as three of Australia’s most celebrated songwriters, it was a no-brainer that the team-up of Holly Throsby, Sally Seltmann and Sarah Blasko would result in something delicate and beautiful. Few, however, could have anticipated the uncanny way these three voices would tessellate.
Normally, it takes familial bonds to achieve such close, precise harmony. On Seeker Lover Keeper, you’re listening to a debut album from a group that sounds like it’s been together for decades. Driven by percussive mastermind Jim White and bass maestro Dave Symes, Seeker Lover Keeper made folk-rock exceptional again.
Sia — 1000 Forms of Fear (2014)
There’s a lot to be made of Sia’s transformation from indie darling to pop conglomerate, and we’ve discussed as much. Here’s the thing: Usually, when an artist “sells out,” the quality of their music goes right out the window. When Sia made her first album as a popstar, it was one of the best she has ever made.
Of course the chart smashes ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Elastic Heart’ make their presence felt, but the emotive slowburner ‘Cellophane’ and boppy nu-rocker ‘Hostage’ (assisted by The Strokes’ Nick Valensi) prove the spirit of our South Australian heroine didn’t died out with going Hollywood.
Sparkadia — The Great Impression (2011)
After losing his entire line-up, Alex Burnett was at a loss as to how his band Sparkadia should proceed. After an 18-month hiatus, it was rebooted as his solo project and given a shiny new paint-job in the process.
The Great Impression was an album that made no bones about its lofty ambitions — it’s not for nothing that its two biggest singles were based, at least in part, off classics like David Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’ (‘…Downstairs’) and The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ (‘China’). Nearly nine years on, it remains one of the decade’s most confident, sophisticated pop-rock LPs. Reunion?
Tame Impala — Lonerism (2012)
2010’s Innerspeaker put them on the map, and 2015’s Currents cemented them as our prime international export. In the interim between them, however, Lonerism did something different entirely — it created the epicentre of Tame Impala itself.
Decade-defining singles and live staples take up the lion’s share of the LP, and even the deeper cuts hold up as some of the most interesting, detailed compositions Kevin Parker has ever written. Born out of ongoing isolation and a regressive state, Lonerism ironically ended up being Tame Impala’s ticket to the world. An elephant never forgets — on Lonerism, you remember everything.
Thelma Plum — Better in Blak (2019)
It’s said that it takes a lifetime to write your first album. Thelma Plum has lived a thousand lives at the ripe old age of 25 – to the point where she scrapped an entire album and wrote Better in Blak from scratch.
There’s a lot more to the story, but all you need to know is that, through all of her own adversities, Plum is living her best life here. She’s beautiful. She loves herself. She’s not angry anymore. She’s learning. She’s better — and no amount of bucket-hat fuccbois can block her shine or rain on her parade.
Toby Martin — Songs from Northam Avenue (2017)
Having spent the majority of his life within Sydney’s inner-west, Youth Group’s Toby Martin was keen to explore outside of his comfort zone when creating his second solo album. A collaboration with Urban Theatre Projects saw him relocate to the front porch of an abandoned Bankstown house.
He heard stories from the community, put them to music and brought in locals to play a range of unique non-Western instruments on the album. Although baring solely his name, Martin is more a vessel within Northam Avenue — an impartial narrator, giving a voice to those that would never have it otherwise.
Two Steps on the Water — God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye (2016)
There’s a lot of sudden, shifting moods on God Forbid…, the first of only two LPs from short-lived Melbourne trio Two Steps on the Water. Described simultaneously as “emotion punk” and “heavy folk,” the band combined nylon-string acoustic with the creak of violin as vocalist June Jones opened up about, in her own words, “themes of trauma, transness, violence, sex and sadness.”
It’s not a smooth, nor an easy, listen. It is, however, a record that is almost unspeakably beautiful, elevating beyond any stock-standard ideas of song structure and dynamics. You don’t just hear this album — you feel it.
Urthboy — The Past Beats Inside Me Like a Second Heartbeat (2016)
It’s interesting that the best album Urthboy has ever made is also the album that focuses the least on Urthboy himself. Rather, The Past… is an album largely about the stories of women — never condescending nor mansplaining, but rather through the lens of a late-30s man reflecting on lessons learned from them.
There are those he holds close (grandma, mother, daughter) as well as those lost to history (Lucy Dudko, Juanita Nielsen), all while assisted by his exceptional peers (Sampa the Great, Kira Puru, Jane Tyrrell). An intelligent, spellbinding hip-hop album that both accentuates and platforms the divine feminine.
Violent Soho — Hungry Ghost (2013)
There’s rags to riches stories. Then, there’s rags, riches, shittier rags and unbelievable riches stories. That’s Violent Soho, the Mansfield band who became an overnight sensation after nine years of rejection, empty pub gigs and McDonald’s job applications. Hungry Ghost was the band’s make-or-break LP. Spoiler alert: It made them.
From the rifle-crack snare signalling ‘Dope Calypso’ right through to the album’s moody title-track closer, Hungry Ghost is the sound of Soho hocking venom at the wall just to see what would stick. Did their last shot at the big-time result in a modern classic? Hell fuck yeah it did.
We Lost the Sea — Departure Songs (2015)
We Lost the Sea never expected to find themselves at the forefront of instrumental post-metal – least of all because they never expected to be instrumental. Following the tragic loss of frontman Chris Torpy, the surviving members opted not to replace their friend and instead proceed with the band together, in his honour.
The ensuing LP, Departure Songs, would ultimately say more than words ever could. The album is a shimmering, soaring and atmospheric opus, issuing in a whole new era for one of the most beloved bands within their community. With grace, We Lost the Sea found a way.
Little Scout’s Take Your Light, Troye Sivan’s Bloom, Jonathan Boulet’s We Keep the Beat…, Totally Unicorn’s Sorry, Scott Spark’s Fail Like You Mean It, Megan Washington’s There There, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, Holly Throsby’s After a Time, Dead Letter Circus’ This is the Warning, Paul Kelly’s Spring & Fall, HANNAHBAND’s Quitting Will Improve Your Health, Cloud Control’s Bliss Release, Hockey Dad’s Blend Inn, Snape’s Always, Something for Kate’s Leave Your Soul to Science, Jamie Hay’s King of the Sun, COLOSSVS’ Unholy, The Finks’ Middling, Jane Tyrrell’s Echoes in the Aviary, Ted Danson with Wolves’ WWTDWWD?, WAAX’s Big Grief, Mere Women’s Big Skies and Pinch Hitter’s When Friends Die in Accidents.
David James Young is a writer and podcaster who’s spent his 20s consuming as much Australian music as possible. He’d like to point out that if you read through all 5000-plus words of this and the only thing you take away from it is “but where was [album]?,” he seriously doesn’t know what to tell you. Find out more at www.davidjamesyoung.com.