Our readers poll for 2013 is done and dusted and it’s time to look at what you all voted for. Read the full results of the 4th Annual Readers poll here.

While 2012 was the year of prog-rockers Tame Impala with the world, as well as us, embracing their psychedelic charms, 2013 has proved to be far more of a mixed bag in terms of genre, showing us that variety truly is the spice of our musical lives.

Here is the list of the top 20 Australian albums of 2013 as voted by you, along with an in depth look at the top five records you deemed to be the best local releases of the year.

1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away (Bad Seeds Ltd)

Is it any real surprise that the first album in half-a-decade from the Dark Prince of Rock and his not-so-merry men would be crowned as the best Australian release of the year?

Following the blue-balled blues of Grinderman’s sexcapades (and 2008’s equally gnarled Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!), Cave and co.’s 15th studio release returns to lush soundscapes and subtler, sophisticated arrangements.

Diehards may have baulked at the idea of the besuited poet trawling Google and Wikipedia to ignite his lyrical muse, but the results – from the forlorn ‘We No Who U R’ and ‘Mermaids’ to the grand ‘Jubilee Street’ (and its meta-sequel ‘Finishing Jubilee Street’) – display all the narrative majesty and musical mastery we’ve come to expect from these sonic laureates.

While Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were rewarded with a string of critical accolades, awards, and their first-ever #1 album in their 30 year history, fans were gifted with another masterpiece and the signpost towards a rich new phase in one of Australia’s most beloved musical entities.

2. RÜFÜS – Atlas (Sweat It Out!)

A surprising win for the Sydney-bred indie dance trio, the umlaut-loving band’s debut album being voted in to the penultimate spot by Tone Deaf readers with an equal number of votes as The Drones’ sixth and latest album.

Then again, Atlas has all the makings of a bona fide sleeper hit. There’s singles that are as friendly to radio as they are personalised playlists, classy production that sits proud alongside the best the global dance scene has to offer, and all delivered in a veneer of effortless cool.

The opening ‘Sundream’ telegraphs RÜFÜS’s winning template as warm beats toil gently beneath blissful melodies, laidback vocals, and stirring synth-work. From the light tropical touches in ‘Take Me’ to the melancholy yet ascendent ‘Desert Night’, it’s a record that proves itself easy to listen to yet never strays from its dance-inclined insistence of the understated – yet essential – 4/4 beat.

A stylishly discreet listen that’s swiftly found itself an audience. And a sizeable, enthralled one at that.

2. TIE The Drones – I See Seaweed (Independent)

Make no mistake. The eight tracks that make up The Drones latest stormy, cinematic set is their finest yet. And in a career festooned with highly-regarded squalling, sprawling sets, that’s no small achievement.

That’s largely thanks to the strength of Gareth Liddiard’s songcraft, enriched by his Strange Tourist solo venture, showing that the frontman with the corrugated iron vocals could do restrained as subversively as he could roaring. But full credit is also due to the commanding ensemble that brings the music to its full scope, from the dreaded march of ‘Laika’ to the brawling ‘A Moat You Can Stand In’. The group now enhanced by the added dimension of permanent new addition, pianist Steve Hesketh.

Together they push beyond their creative limits into a new horizon of sonic vocabulary that tempers their well-honed ferocity with new-found delicacy; one listen to the vaudevillian closer ‘Why Write A Letter You’ll Never Send’ is proof of that.

Best of all, The Drones could have simply settled upon unleashing I See Seaweed into the wild, but instead accompanied its release with a full-blown return from ‘Australia’s best live band’, with a parade of winning festival appearances and not one, but two national headline tours. Acting as – to quote the original Tone Deaf review – “a bold, commanding reminder that while we need more artists like them, the Drones are one in a million.”

4. Big Scary – Not Art (Independent)

Long-term readers will already know that we here at Tone Deaf make no secret of our love of the AMP-deserving Big Scary, but it’s heartening to know that our dear readers share the same affections for the Melbourne twosome of Tom Iansek and Jo Syme.

While the pair have always been capable of creating musical equations that are far more than the sum of their parts, even the pair’s debut effort, 2011’s Vacation, couldn’t effectively signpost the creative growth Big Scary would achieve on its refined, romantic follow-up.

Taking inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources (post-punk, hip hop, DJ Shadow), Not Arts vivid canvas pairs the band’s familiar strengths (falsetto vocals, ornate pianos, verdant arrangements) and augments them with ambitious new aural bedfellows.

The record is daringly dotted with fragmented beats, surreal loops, a gospel choir (and an errant flugelhorn), framing these diverse elements into a beautiful collection of intelligent, profound songs, each offering a distinctive sense of character yet still contributing to a cohesive whole that’s unlike any album you’ll hear – Australian or otherwise – this year.

Not Art
is the work of major talent, fulling deserving of wider national (and via their Barsuk signing, international) attention, and the big, scary part is that it’s the sound of a band just getting started in stretching their creative wings. Who knows where they’ll soar to for their next full-length effort?

5. Jagwar Ma – Howlin’ (Future Classic)

If there’s one country more in love with the psychedelically-hued electro-rock of Jagwar Ma than Australia, it’s the country that inspired the Sydney-siders’ ‘Madchester’-friendly tunes.

British press fell over themselves to honour Howlin‘, regularly hailing the trio as ‘the next Tame Impala’, chiefly in the way that they gobbled up a history of UK’s most beloved dance rock hybrids and gave it back to them in a sun-drenched kaleidoscope that’s far more honorary evolution than cheap pastiche. Heck, when you’ve got Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher singing your praises, you must be doing something right.

Back at home, Australia took just as much breathless pride in Jagwar Ma, awards bodies accurately putting the band’s debut album forward for all manner of gongs.

At the core of all this hype is just a damn good record, arriving after two years’ worth of studied craft, the consuming six-minute long bangers (‘The Throw’, ‘Four’ and ‘Backwards Berlin’) hitting with an enthralling punch as much as the peppy yet precise numbers, like ‘Let Her Go’ and naggingly brilliant ‘Man I Need’.

If Jagwar Ma aren’t among your new favourite bands of the year already, then they more than possess the potential to be across what it sure to be a long, rewarding career.

The rest of the top 20 are…

6. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Float Along – Fill Your Lungs (Flightless)

7. Ngaiire – Lamentations (Wantok Musik Foundation)

8. Violent Soho – Hungry Ghost (I OH YOU)

9. Boy & Bear – Harlequin Dream (Independent)

10. The Cat Empire – Steal The Light ()

11. Birds Of Tokyo – March Fires (EMI)

12. Karnivool – Asymmetry (Cymatic/Density Records)

13. Dick Diver – Calendar Days (Chapter Music)

14. Pond – Hobo Rocket (Modular)

15. Ainslie Wills – You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine (Independent)

16. Cloud Control – Dream Cave (Ivy League)

17. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (Modular)

18. Kirin J. Callinan – Embracism (XL/Siberia/Terrible)

19. Illy – Cinematic (ONETWO)

20. Gossling – Harvest Of Gold (Dew Process/Universal)

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