Almanac Music: The Best Australian Albums of 2023

Cellophane by Holy Holy
Smokie’s best Australian album of 2023

 

This past year was yet another 12 months of quality, depth, and variety in new Australian music. When compiling this list of the best local releases for 2023, I was staggered to find that I had listened to over 100 new Australian albums. I am also aware that unfortunately – for very various reasons – there was loads of music that I did not get to. As always, my advice is that diving deep into the well of Australian music will richly reward the persistent. As an added bonus this year, given the sheer volume of music which I (mostly) enjoyed, this year I decided to produce a list of my top 50.

 

  1. Holy Holy: Cellophane

Never before has my opinion on the merits of an album changed so markedly between first and second listens. Probably because this style of music is not really my preferred, it was my youngest son who urged me to give it another try after I initially shrugged it off as ‘middling’. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist duo Tim Carroll and Oscar Dawson barely put a foot wrong on this, their fifth album; Cellophane is a wonderful blend of pop, dance and electronica – full of sing-alongs and highly enjoyable earworms. The best albums are quality from start to finish – and there is no filler here. Clever collaborations with artists such as Kwame Messed Up and Darcie Haven Heroes lend the album extra layers of interest and excitement. Just try to stop yourself grooving along to a track like ‘People Change’. The stand-out album of the year for me.

Track to try: ‘Pretend To Be’

 

  1. Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers: I Love You

They have been labelled ‘post-punk’, ‘post-grunge’, ‘riot grrrl’, but to me the Jean Teasers are simply an excellent rock band, and I cannot begin to say just how much I continue to enjoy this album. Tracks such as the belting opener ‘I Used To Be Fun’, with its catchy Go-Go-esque harmonies and the stomping riff-heavy ‘Treat Me Better’ showcase a young, confident all girl band that is definitely going places. There are a couple of minor misfires, but the wonderful acapella ‘Your House My House’, and the raw ‘Never Saw It Coming’ display a maturity, honesty, and confidence which belies their years. Interestingly, the album was produced by Holy Holy’s Oscar Dawson. I eagerly look forward to seeing them live.

Track to try: ‘Lights Out’.

 

  1. Teskey Brothers: The Winding Way

I suspect I was not alone in wondering how the first Teskey’s album without bassist Brendon Love and drummer Liam Gough might turn out. I need not have worried, for The Winding Way is a simply superb collection of songs. The album finds guitarist Sam Teskey at the top of his game, his bluesy style driving along tracks such as ‘London Bridge’ and ‘Blind Without You’. And it goes without saying that Josh Teskey’s emotive vocals are still simply peerless, as displayed on ‘Carry Me Home’ andRemember the Time’ – the latter track notable also for some ripping horns. The Teskeys continue to grow in stature, playing a heap of sold out shows in Europe and across North America this year.

Track to try: ‘Oceans of Emotions’.

 

  1. Minor Gold: Minor Gold

    If there is one genre of music which is under-represented in this country, I reckon it is the brand of folk produced on this album. Canadian-born Tracy McNeil has recorded some excellent music in the past, in particular with her band The GoodLife. But this collaboration with her partner, the Brisbane-based Dan Parsons, under the monicker Minor Gold reaches another level entirely. The production is relatively sparse, mainly relying on acoustic guitars and ensuring that the duo’s vocals are the focus. And they prove to be perfectly in sync, complementing each other on gorgeous tracks such as ‘Note To Self ‘ and ‘Way With Words’.

Track to try: ‘Don’t Change’.

 

  1. DMA’s: How Many Dreams?

This album again finds DMA’s straddling the line between sing-along pop music and straight-ahead rock songs (best exemplified by the guitar driven ‘Get Ravey’ and ‘Olympia’), and doing it better than anyone in this country. From foot-tappers such as ‘How Many Dreams?’ to ballads like ‘Dear Future’, DMA’s continue to display a range and versality which is beyond the reach of most of their contemporaries. Brilliantly produced and arranged, this another superb album from one of Australia’s best bands.

Track to try: ‘Fading Like A Picture’.

 

  1. WILSN: Those Days Are Over

This was a favourite of mine from the moment it was released in February. Singer Shannon Busch, who performs under the name WILSN, has a voice that is perfectly suited to the jazz and soul infused tracks on this, her debut album. Just listen to her range on the torch-like title track and the moody ‘Hurts So Bad’. Deft touches abound in the arrangements to give that voice the focus. If this is just the beginning of her journey, the music world is indeed her oyster.

Track to try: ‘If You Wanna Love Me’.

 

  1. The Vanns: Last of Your Kind

Although The Vanns have been around since 2012, I knew very little about this four-piece band from NSW prior to playing this record. Pleasingly, I was instantly surprised and ultimately rewarded by the strength and quality of the songs. It kicks off with the rollicking, anthemic title track and carries on through rockers such as ‘Haunted’ and ‘True Friends’. Impressive also is the band’s ability to change their pace on a track like ‘Making it out Alive’. Singer-guitarist Jimmy Vann has a dynamic presence up front, and the rest of the band are impressively tight.

Track to try: ‘Last of Your Kind’.

 

  1. The Cat Empire: Where The Angels Fall

Yes, I am a Cat Empire fan and have seen them umpteen times, including their final performance with the original line-up at Byron Bay in 2022. After the upheaval, it was an interesting decision by singer Felix Riebl and keyboardist Ollie McGill to continue on as the Cat Empire, adding a number of new musicians. It is fair to say that it was not unanimously supported by fans. But twenty years on, the new line-up has given the Empire a freshness that had been lacking since Rising of the Sun. I certainly was not expecting such an excellent album. Riebl is super-talented, having a hand in the composition of all the tracks. ‘Owl’ is one of his very best. Of course, the horns are still to the fore, as in tracks such as ‘Thunder Rumbles’ and ‘Money Coming My Way’ – but as usual on a Cat Empire album, the musical influences come from all over the globe.

Track to try: Owl.

 

  1. Pacific Avenue: Flowers

One of the last Australian albums I listened to this year, the catchiness of the tracks on Flowers hooked me from the start. And how could I not be hooked, when the opening track ‘Spin Me Like Your Records’ is one of the most infectious tunes of 2023? There are hints of 70’s prog-rock and 90’s US indie/college-rock, but mainly just plain old basic rock’n’roll from this four-piece from the south coast of New South Wales.

Track to try: ‘Leaving For London’.

 

  1. The Meltdown: Live At The Nightcat

I was late to last year’s It’s A Long Road, but had I heard it earlier it would easily have made my top ten for 2022. Probably another example of how this band continues to slide under the radar. But I am making amends with this live album, recorded in Melbourne just after the city emerged from its long Covid lockdown. Singer-songwriter-keyboardist Simon Burke’s enjoyment at being back playing live is palpable, and his soulful voice which is the highlight on this wonderful collection of songs. The Meltdown are simply a crack group of musicians, with a groove that is irresistible.

Track to try: ‘Better Days’.

 

  1. Floodlights: Painting of my Time;
  2. Teenage Joans: The Rot That Grows Inside My Chest;
  3. Hope D: Clash of the Sunstance;
  4. Dan Sultan: Dan Sultan;
  5. Body Type: Expired Candy;
  6. Cash Savage & The Last Drinks: So This Is Love;
  7. Fenn Wilson: Honey Dates Death / Ghazals;
  8. Gretta Ray: Positive Spin;
  9. The Summertimes: The Summertimes;
  10. Gena Rose Bruce: Deep is the Way;
  11. Robert Forster: The Candle & The Flame;
  12. Haille: This Is Love;
  13. Bec Stevens: Big Worry;
  14. Hannah Cameron: Holding Pattern;
  15. RVG: Brain Worms;
  16. G-Flip: DRUMMER;
  17. CIVIC: Taken By Force;
  18. Baby Cool: Earthling on the Road to Self Love;
  19. Ella Hooper: Small Town Temple;
  20. The Go Set: The Warriors Beneath Us;
  21. Hannah Blackburn: I Want to Love You;
  22. The Slingers: Sentimentalism;
  23. Carla Geneve: Hertz;
  24. RedHook: Postcard From a Living;
  25. Large Mirage: A Side to Blame (ep);
  26. Bad//Dreems: HOO HA!;
  27. The Grogans: Find Me A Cloud;
  28. Neil Murray: The Telling;
  29. The Murlocs: Calm Ya Farm;
  30. Cable Ties: All Her Plans;
  31. Urthboy: Savour;
  32. Tkay Maizda: Sweet Justice;
  33. Tia Gostelow: Head Noise;
  34. C.O.F.F.I.N.: Australia Stops;
  35. Ian Moss: River Runs Dry;
  36. Matt Corby: Everything’s Fine;
  37. Paper Kites: At The Roadhouse;
  38. Cold Irons Bound: No Place I Can’t find You;
  39. Charlie Needs Braces: Saltwater People;
  40. Angie McMahon: Light, Dark, Light Again.

 

International album of the year: The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein

My preference for listening to local music releases means that I do not listen to anywhere near as many overseas artists as I once did. However, I greatly enjoyed The National’s ninth studio album, which features appearances by Taylor Swift, Pheobe Bridgers and Sufjan Stevens. Sonically beautiful.

 

You can read more from Smokie HERE

 

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About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. The Grogans !?! Possibly relations of mine.

    Slainte,

    Glen!

  2. Karl Dubravs says

    Hey Smokie
    It was discovering your 2022 Best Australian Albums chart in Jan 23 that first drew me into the Footy Almanac space – & I’ve enjoyed being part of the FA family ever since – so a big thank you for that.
    Your 2023 chart oozes with Aussie albums that stand up with the best that the rest of the world has to offer.
    The nicest surprise (previously unknown to me) artist on your chart is RVG. They are definitely going onto my ‘best of 23’ list.
    Cheers & seasons greeting, Karl

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Interesting and very good list Smokie. There’s a few that cross over into mine, maybe a couple more than in other years! The DMA’s album is a ripper and you’ve summed it up perfectly.

  4. Another excellent summary Smokie and there’s a few on your list I’ll check out. Thanks for the guide!

    However, I was surprised that there was no love for Troye Sivan? That album is a ripper.

    Not that I should be commentating as I don’t listen to much Aussie stuff (hell, I just recently “discovered” King Stingray and they are brilliant). But I do like CIVIC and Teen Jesus. The TJ title track especially. Maple Glider was recommended to me, and I like her sounds and songs.

    Will def check out Holy Holy, Minor Gold and a few others.

    Cheers

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    Thank-you Smokie.

    As a service to you and especially to me (because there was much I had not heard), I have made a playlist of 3 or 4 songs from each of your top 10 albums, including all your specific song recommendations. I have also included your 11th pick from Floodlights, as it is one of my favourites for the year, and they were my favourite band at Meredith a couple of weeks ago.

    https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0bGhJZjWUCoP5k4tNhOaMr?si=dc5a50a7bd074641

  6. Thanks for the groundwork Smokie. Looking forward to adding a few new tunes to my current playlist which has become a bit stale..

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