Curating the following list of the top ten Australian albums of the year, in no particular order, was as always a challenge. Missing from my list are some wonderful musicians like Jaguar Jonze and Lisa Mitchell. The latter I absolutely adore but I honesty couldn’t find a spot here for her deeply emotive album A Place To Fall Apart. Those who did make it, did so because they truly had something to say creatively. Anyway, without further ado check out some of the outstanding albums of this year and as always I hope amongst them you find something worthy of your attention.
Meg Mac – Matter of Time (EMI).
Matter of Time, the third studio album for Melbourne-based artist Megan Sullivan McInerney aka Meg Mac took out the No.1 spot in Australia back in September this year. It was an incredible achievement giving the album had a turbulent path to the top of the ARIA charts. The story goes that McInerney’s third album was set for release in 2020, when the singer-songwriter had what she now describes as “a bit of a meltdown”. She wasn’t happy with the album and simply just wanted to start over again (Apparently only the title track survived the cull.) McInerney went into hiding, switched off social media and took a different direction in her songwriting. Then in early 2022 Meg Mac made a welcome return with her single Is It Worth Being Sad. Before long a string of single followed (and eventually the album in late September) showcasing once again the powerhouse vocals and pop-soul sensibility of a musician who really knows what she wants out of life and music.
Julia Jacklin – Pre Pleasure (Liberation Records).
Inspiration can come from anywhere and on Julia Jacklin’s Pre Pleasure, the Australian songwriter decided to focus her attention on relationships, particularly real human connections. Importantly, on Pre Pleasure the 30-something year-old Jacklin is telling us she quite likes the person who she is. In between a lot of inward soul searching one cannot ignored the fact that Jacklin has a hard time writing uplifting songs. Admirably it’s not full of the sadness of her previous effort Crushing (2019). It has wonderful moment that are definitely uplifting. But as a confessional singer-songwriter Jacklin is at her best when contemplating her life and the list of demands placed upon her. Ideas around sex and shame also finds Jacklin questioning her faith (Lydia Wears A Cross) and even asking a friend or lover to wait until she feel safe again (Magic). And on Be Careful with Yourself we find her pleading with a loved one and giving advice. Two songs that find their sweet spot are I Was Neon, a wonderful Indie pop track that features grungy guitar tones as its pillar and the album’s closing track End of a Friendship with its cinematic strings and wailing guitar solo.
Grace Cummings – Storm Queen (Sugar Mountain Records).
Grace Cummings delivered an impressive debut with Refuge Cove in late 2019. It included The Look You Gave, a song that oozed with wild exuberance in the form of her throaty howling vocals. Cummings has arguably outdone herself with her sophomore release Storm Queen, showing off her class and talent with hurricane strength. We all know Cummings is a gifted vocalist and she shines best on songs like Heaven, Always New Days Always and Up In Flames. Her indie folk leanings across most of the album sees her acoustic guitar take charge. On Dreams though a nice change of pace with the inclusion of keys and strings shows off her willingness to bend. But her best effort is heard on the title track where Cummings elects to solicit a barrage of sound and emotion. It’s a fitting statement that highlights Cummings bluesy songwriting strengths.
Camp Cope – Running With The Hurricane (Poison City Records).
For fans of Holly Throsby, Courtney Barnett and maybe even Ben Lee, Camp Cope’s third album, Running With The Hurricane, is definitely an alternative rock treat. The Australian trio have surprisingly taken a different route this time around especially with their sound. It’s a far cry from the very angsty How To Socialise & Make Friends (2018) which saw them for instance call out gender inequality in the music industry. The new album sits somewhere inbetween pop-country and Americana. It has a softer vibe which NPR notes trades rage for quiet confidence. A lot of the songs on the new album look inwards focusing on depression, longing, failed love and being exposed to other frailties. While these themes create the impression of being a hard listen, it is actually the opposite with upbeat melodies saving the day. Standouts include Caroline, Blue, The Mountain and Sing You Heart Out.
Gang of Youths – Angel in Realtime (Mosy Records/Sony Music).
I have always had a love hate relationship with Gang of Youths. A part of me wishes they would take a more traditional or modern rock music approach, something maybe that resembles the Queens of the Stone Age. Instead they have a very eclectic rock-pop sound which delivers a modern interpretation of rock and roll. On their latest album Angel in Realtime songs like In the Wake of Your Leave and The Angel of 8th Avenue lead the charge. But Gang of Youth are a band who is also happy to experiment with their sound and intuitive enough to still plug into the sound of electric guitars, anthemic hooks and raw emotion. In short, Angel in Realtime is an ode to frontman David Le’aupepe’s late father and leans heavily on themes inspired by death, grief and family. It’s fair to say Angel is one of the better albums released by an Australian act this year. I wouldn’t say it’s their finest work but what I do like is how all the songs connect well together in spirit.
Hatchie – Giving The World Away (Ivy League Records).
Don’t take for granted a good Covid lockdown album. Sure Giving The World Away comes at a time when the world is continuing to return to some semblance of normality but this new album by Hatchie has all the markers of a singer songwriter who spent time contemplating life in lockdown. Without trivialising issues around anxiety and self-esteem, Hatchie ventures down a road often taken by musicians, to explore and exorcise her own demons through song. She does it balancing her love of shoegaze guitars and dream-pop sensibilities. With a smorgasbord of songs to showcase (12 in total), let me highlight just one The Rhythm with its layered synths and guitars which acts easily as one of the most danceable tracks on Giving The World Away.
Vanessa Amorosi – City of Angels (Scream Louder Records).
City of Angels is the seventh studio album by Australian singer-songwriter Vanessa Amorosi. It comes at a time of real change for Amorosi who self-produced it. According to Amorosi it is an album which best describes who she is as a musician. It’s soul wrenching 17 tracks come in at just over an hour long (1hr 11mins) and features a myriad of musical styles but primarily gospel rock influences. This album is a world away from her signature pop song Absolutely Everybody (1999) which made her an international star. Back then she was barely twenty-years of age and the time since then she has grown more aware of her talents and self-confidence. The feel-good anthem Muhammad is a good place to start on City of Angels but circle back to the album opener Crash Now Burn and enjoy the ride of different genres and Amorosi’s stunning vocals.
Midnight Oil – Resist (Sony Music).
Since 1978, Midnight Oil have recorded 13 studio albums and now with Resist it could finally signal their last hooray as one of Australia’s greatest acts. Peter Garrett and friends are are all in their late 60s now. They have done it all, especially mixing their strong political views with music. Resist is no different, it too is fuelled by their potent love of protest and activism. It’s classic Midnight Oil and to be frank it’s likely one of the best rock albums you’ll hear in 2022.
Mallrat – Butterfly Blue (Dew Process/Universal Music).
After three EPs, the stunning debut album by the Brisbane-born, Melbourne-based Grace Shaw aka Mallrat is an empathetic statement from a young musician who understands the power of pop. The weary street-smart twenty-three year old’s Butterfly Blue is loosely thematically titled to represent ideas of reinvention, freedom and fleeting beauty. Though across its 11 tracks ideas more rooted in love, romance and heartache permeate the air. Sonically there are so many ways to describe this album from indie pop to dream pop to an alt-rock sound with pop. The middle of the album has a triple treat of songs beginning with Heart Guitar, Teeth and Rockstar. Teeth in particular is a standout with its gritty guitars and Rockstar plays into those dream pop influences.
William Crighton – Water and Dust (ABC Music).
It’s been four long years since William Crighton, the Australian troubadour (a poet who writes verse to music), released a new album. I have to say the wait was worth it. His third studio album Water and Dust is raw and honest and arguably his finest work yet. In fact, Water and Dust this year won the ARIA award for Best Blues & Roots Album of 2022. Like Midnight Oil, Crighton is a champion of Australia’s First Nations people. He makes it his job on his latest album to help us understand Australia’s past. Not only that Crighton who generally finds joy in writing songs about his own experiences and relationships, also focuses his attention on the environment. For instance, like a venomous snake his biting protest song Your Country is as good as anything veteran Midnight Oil has had to offer. In truth the Oil’s influence is heavily felt throughout, especially because Midnight Oil duo Jim Moginie and drummer Rob Hirst play on rollicking folk-rock gem’s like Your Country and Stand. It’s also wonderful to hear Crighton’s wife “Jules” on vocals. Interestingly, her influence while seemingly subtle is actually immense especially behind the scenes. Water and Dust is an album that requires repeat listens. It can be intense and jarring but ultimately it’s a rewarding impassioned folk-rock treat.
Wow, Robert. That is one impressive list. What’s more, it indicates that sisters are very clearly doing for themselves Downunder. Great stuff.
There are some strong albums here that would give the international brigade of artists a run for their money this year. Though I doubt if any would end up on ‘best of’ lists around the world. Julia Jacklin should be universally loved more but she’s probably too indie for some. The fixation on mainstream artists like Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Beyonce makes me wonder what listening habits are really like amongst music enthusiasts, writers and critics.
Stay tuned for my 10 Best Albums of the 2022. I’ve already unabashedly named my number one album via social media but the list will be out shortly.
Nice list! Most of these albums escaped my attention. I included tracks from the Camp Cope and Gang of Youths albums in my new music revue feature at the time they came out. Thanks for reminding me of their music!
Unfortunately, what tends to happen is I look at new music weekly and cheerfully forget what I covered in the past, especially when it comes to artists who are entirely new to me.
I completely missed the Midnight Oil album, which I’d like to check out. Grace Cummings and William Crighton sound intriguing as well, based on my very impression.
Until about 3 years ago, I had given up on new music, unless it came from an artist I knew. Once I realized it’s still possible to find decent new music, even when you’re mostly into the ’60s and ’70s, I started paying much closer attention. Now I feel it’s pretty much impossible to keep up – I suppose it’s a nice problem to have! 🙂
I’m thrilled you found something to like here! It’s always possible to find new artists to love. For me they often appear on my radar by complete accident through a search or related artist. In regards to Australian musicians, I’m always curious what’s happening closer to home.