It’s that time of the year when everyone gets together to list their favourite moments, memes and music of the year that has just gone by, and so we’ve decided upon our favourite Australian albums from 2019, as always, in no particular order.
We gathered together to seriously deliberate our favourite Australian albums that have come out in 2019, and here is our official list of the projects that we believe deserve the most praise.
Albums are listed in no particular order, we love them all equally for how incredible, genre-defying, danceable and blissful they all are in their own ways.
Julia Jacklin – Crushing
Julia Jacklin’s 2016 effort Don’t Let The Kids Win was an absolute tour de force for the Australian singer-songwriter. Songs were hazy, as if fresh out of a daydream, and plummeted from the highest heights straight into our stratosphere. But something was missing from that project – something that Jacklin has found with 2019’s flawless trove of treasures, Crushing.
Crushing is about exactly what you’d expect – falling in love. Falling out of love. Chasing love around suburban streets and tripping over onto the concrete, only to end up with a bruised knee that nobody can kiss better for you. Tracks like ‘Comfort’ are flowered with reminders that, quite simply, love hurts. There’s no balm here to combat how raw and painful falling out of affection with someone can be, instead, Jacklin takes you through every second of the pain, and in the end, you come out all the better for it. You’re crying, but you’re still way better than you were before.
Highlights: ‘Comfort’, ‘Pressure to Party’, ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’
Alex Cameron – Miami Memory
It only takes one listen to ‘End Is Nigh’ to understand the mentality that Alex Cameron had when entering this 2019 project. Each track follows the other like drunken footsteps through the hall of the mind, corridors coloured with a low-libido haze. Miami Memory is a raw and tactile project that doesn’t skirt around the facts, instead, it delivers them with vibrant punches, never missing a beat.
One such example would be the track ‘Divorce’, which possesses lyrical content quite unseen in the world of music today. The track is awash with theatrical fire, yet buries itself into a subject matter that can only be described as heartbreaking at best. This is the charm of Cameron, taking things like PC language and his relationship with his partner Jemima Kirke, and presenting them in ways that are accessible to the public. Through blissful beats and gaudy instrumentation, everything is on the table, yet nothing seems too bogged down in seriousness to bop along to.
Highlights: ‘Divorce’, ‘End Is Nigh’, ‘Stepdad’
Montaigne – Complex
Complex is an all caps sandwich. Starting with ‘CHANGE’ and leading you all the way to ‘READY’, the album is a theatrical amalgam of all the things Montaigne’s voice is beautifully capable of. The charm of this 2019 project comes from Montaigne’s willingness to not take herself too seriously.
Songs like ‘I am a Clown’ act as an anthem for everyone trying to make their way in the world before the decade inevitably ends, while the title track ‘Complex’ is disarmingly mesmerising for a track about the wrongs of people unwilling to change. Montaigne definitely outdid herself on her 2019 output, with songs carefully crafted to pop perfection. With gusto, she says what she needs to with her whole chest, and the result is one of the most honest and powerful pop projects of the entire decade.
Highlights: ‘Complex’, ‘CHANGE’, ‘I am a Clown’.
Tropical Fuck Storm – Braindrops
Listening to Braindrops is like being dragged through the outback, except there’s no sand and no dirt, there’s only thick black tar and the occasional pool of blood. Refusing to rest on their laurels, Tropical Fuck Storm took everything they established on 2018’s A Laughing Death in Meatspace, and completely upped the ante. There’s a certain raw, human tactility on every track presented, with Gareth Liddiard’s voice coming in every time with a droning, earthbound charm.
Channelling the likes of Captain Beefheart, Braindrops navigates the guts of politics, positions of power and modern culture, with a cutting knife driven by carnal need. The record feels human, and at times, realer than real. It’s a remarkable feat from the band with the best band name on the block, and smashes the doors wide open for their future sonic endeavours.
Highlights: ‘Braindrops’, ‘Who’s My Eugene?’
Japanese Wallpaper – Glow
Time and time again we’ve heard that pop is dead. We are constantly in a state of waiting for something new to shine a light in the dark of the recesses of the pop graveyard. In comes Japanese Wallpaper with his filigree soul and respect for the lost art of saccharine and lovelorn leanings in music. Every track on his brand new 2019 project Glow is bejewelled and glistening, bubbling over the edge with a brilliant pop sensibility.
Glow is an act of necromancy. Back from the past are sparkling synths, and rising from the ashes are feel-good anthems to last us many a year to come. Juxtaposing his deep voice with energetic production, Japanese Wallpaper has created a well-lit home for his newly risen creations, and this only marks the beginning for the young Australian.
Highlights: ‘Imaginary Friends’, ‘Tell Me What You Mean By That’, ‘Glow’
Bad//Dreems – Doomsday Ballet
After two years of no new music, Bad//Dreems returned to our ears in 2019 with the ferocious Doomsday Ballet. A musical response to the chaos in our world today, the record captures the band at their most pure, expanding their sound, moving away from the ‘pub rock’ classification that defined them, and making an album that is clearly what they wanted to make.
Featuring singles like the jagged ‘Double Dreaming’, and the slow-burning ‘Morning Rain’, Doomsday Ballet is already proving itself as one of the most beloved Australian rock releases of the year, with the band having hit the road for a number of sold-out shows which displayed why they’re one of the most intense bands both on and off the stage. – Tyler Jenke
Highlights: ‘Double Dreaming’, ‘Morning Rain’.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
It’s rare for a band to receive such unanimous, widespread acclaim for an album that’s released almost 40 years into their career, but then again, few bands are as revered and iconic as Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Releasing their 17th album only a few months ago, Ghosteen is a delicate, sparse record that tries to make sense of loss, while serving as a cathartic, joyful release in its own unique way.
One of the outfit’s longest record to date, Ghosteen is a towering behemoth in their discography, standing above all the rest as it proves that close to four decades in the game, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds are in no way nearing the end of their career, rather, they continue to get better with age. – Tyler Jenke
Highlights: ‘Hollywood’, ‘Sun Forest’
Sampa The Great – The Return
Sampa The Great wasn’t joking when she said that she might enter her final form. Bringing Australian hip-hop back into clear prominence, she quite literally returned to the top, releasing an hour and 17-minute long project that perfectly encapsulates everything that the artist is capable of.
Tracks like ‘Freedom’ feel like something that Madlib would conjure up in his studio with one of his frequent collaborators, and yet that’s just the thing, this album is no overseas export, it’s a gorgeous hotpot of homegrown talent, and it is simply delicious to the ears. With such an extensive tracklist you’d expect there to be at least one dip in quality on the long journey to the end, and yet there just isn’t. Sampa brings her A-game to every beat she makes her own, and the result is an incredible project free from flaws or lack of focus.
Highlights: ‘Final Form’, ‘Heaven’, ‘Freedom’.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Fishing for Fishies
While Infest the Rat’s Nest was an incredible 2019 output from the chameleonic superstars of Australian music, Fishing for Fishies tapped into something we haven’t heard from the band in a while. It’s joyous, unjaded, unspoilt fun, crafted with a political edge that takes aim at polluters, litterers and garbage dumpers who are destroying the planet. To get one thing straight, King Gizz always sounds like they’re just having pure and honest fun, but with Fishing for Fishies, this feeling reaches its absolute perfect climax, and it’s almost a challenge to not feel good listening to these tracks.
Tracks like ‘The Cruel Millenial’ were made for the open country road, as it sizzles and saunters in the blistering sun, inviting everyone near and far to take a dip into its cool waters. The aftermath – a sneakily conveyed political message that has used joy as its method of delivery. Pure genius yet again.
Highlights: ‘Fishing for Fishies’, ‘The Cruel Millenial’, ‘Plastic Boogie’
Sui Zhen – Losing, Linda
Melbourne singer-songwriter and art-pop auteur Becky Freeman, who performs under the name of Sui Zhen, is no stranger to the art of alter-ego and excellence in simplicity. On 2019 project Losing, Linda, Freeman sings from the perspective of the titular AI Linda, approach subjects of human fragility, loss, womanhood and pain with a kind of precious artificiality that makes everything irresistibly intriguing.
The dichotomy created throughout this ambitious project is one of reality versus abstract, consciousness versus distance, pleasure versus productivity. Backed by silhouettes of tropical beats, sparse electronic production and dizzying drum patterns, every song cuts out a shape for Zhen to slimly fit into and call her own. Whether it be singing sweetly or almost directly talking with androgynous robotic succinctness, Losing, Linda never loses its charm and gravitas, and remains to be one of the most interesting and constantly revisited projects we’ve heard all year.
Highlights: ‘Perfect Place’, ‘Being A Woman’, ‘Different Places’.
Stella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs
Nothing is really more joyous on this planet than a Stella Donnelly track. Her voice mesmerising, her accent Aussie as all hell, the instrumentations behind her always lush and feverous. The lyrical content of the songs? Poignant, punching and always taboo. This is the juxtaposition between sweetness and sour that only Donnelly has mastered. Tackling issues such as sexual assault, abuse and the general fuck-ups of mankind with a sweetly splendid voice is no easy task, but it’s what makes Beware of the Dogs so incredible.
Inviting you in with brisk guitars on tracks like ‘Old Man’, Donnelly makes it very clear from the get-go that if you feel comfortable listening to this album, there’s something wrong with you. These songs are weapons of destruction, taking down the disgusting traits of the world that are so pervasive in our society. Pervasive and barely ever talked about. And yet here, they are done so with delight. There’s something completely mesmerising about feeling joy while being presented incredibly morbid situations, but it’s this dichotomy that makes Beware of the Dogs an absolute gem of 2019.
Highlights: ‘Tricks’, ‘Old Man’, ‘Beware of the Dogs’.
Ali Barter – Hello, I’m Doing My Best
Ali Barter is just doing her best, and as always, it’s perfectly enough for us. On her brand new 2019 effort, Barter revels in masterfully riotous guitars and personally charged lyrics, mining the halls of her past to fuel the ambition of her future. The modern mindsets of never being good enough, feeling awkward with the idea of being ‘okay’ and casually keeping up with the pressures of existing are all packaged within this album, and it’s just a joy to hear an artist put into the words the anxieties and fears that plague our current climate.
“I just hope people enjoy it. I hope people sing along and I guess I don’t need it to be a message or anything outside of that.” said Barter in our interview with her earlier this year.
“I’m singing about some heavy topics. I feel like my songs are me sitting around with my friends telling them how I feel, so I want people to hear it and feel okay because someone else is feeling the same thing.”
Highlights: ‘Backseat’, ‘History of Boys’, ‘Ur A Piece of Shit’