The 20 Best Australian Albums of 2018 (So Far…)!

As we enter July, a stacked second half of 2018 awaits us when it comes to new music and if the first half was anything to go by, music fans are in for a good one. We’ve been poring over some of our favourite homegrown releases of the year so far, from Middle Kids‘ long awaited debut, to stunning records from Divide and DissolveCourtney Barnett and Emily Wurramara.

Check ’em out below.

20. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

The sophomore album from Melbourne hero Barnett was always going to have a huge amount of hype behind it, following in the steps of the widely acclaimed Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. A smaller, tighter package and her debut, Barnett explores more introspection on Tell Me…, though this album shows the songwriter operating at possibly her most ambitious and courageous writing fumes yet.

Balancing moments of tenderness (“Sunday Roast”) with blistering punk energy that flies in the face of anyone ready to throw the term ‘one-trick’ pony at her (“I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch”), Barnett goes through somewhat of a creative overhaul, shaking off the lingering shadow of Sometimes I Sit… and embracing what’s only shaping up to be a very cool new chapter of her musicianship.

19. CITY CALM DOWN – Echoes in Blue

Sitting down to listen to City Calm Down’s second album Echoes In Blue left me open to an holistic experience that not only entices you to listen thoroughly again and again, but also provides a unique insight into those exact moments in life that enable you to take on a bigger picture perspective.

Dissecting the album, there are definitely tracks that do immediately stand out more than others. Not only due to the tempo they’re played in, but the ability of the band to seemingly write about and create songs that mirror your exact experiences. This is something I’ve always liked about City Calm Down. Where some bands (whether they do it knowingly or not) seem to almost talk down to their audience through their lyricism and experiences, City Calm Down make music that anyone in this current age can relate to.

18. WOODES – Golden Hour 

The new EP from Woodes is a striking release from the young songwriter and definitely, a statement of intent. She’s been championed as one of the east coast’s most exciting songwriters and musicians to emerge in the last few years and as you dive into Golden Hour, the hype is realised.

An intoxicating listen from the jump, Golden Hour is more than just “Dots” and “Run For It”, though these singles are definite highlights. Established on this record is a musical representation of a storm in a tea cup; the way Woodes crafts arrangements to highlight brightness within darker ambience is beautiful and constructs a sonic journey you’ll want to immerse yourself in immediately.

17. SLOWLY SLOWLY – St. Leonards

Another long awaited album, the second studio record from Melbourne’s Slowly Slowly met all our expectations. Evocative and passionately heart-wrenching in all the right places, St. Leonards is the perfect album for punching to feelings of nostalgia and lessons learned by young people navigating their way into adulthood. Speaking with Ben Stewart about the making of St. Leonards earlier this year, it was evident that the album underwent many different changes before landing with this, the final version – it makes sense too, you listen through it and you can feel the frustration, the restlessness and eventual satisfaction that bursts its way through in the album’s second chapter.

Coming in after the success of their debut, Chamomile, Slowly Slowly demonstrated their constantly growth and maturity as musicians and songwriters, while flying the flag for Melbourne’s strong rock scene.

16. Middle Kids – Lost Friends

Following on from their self-titled EP last year, the now four piece have put together what has proved to more than justify their universal love.

From the outstanding and immediate “Mistake”, to the punk infused “On My Knees”, the honest “Bought It” or the loving “Don’t Be Hiding”; guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Hannah Joy constantly continues to cement her spot as one of the best front-people in the country.

15. Divide and Dissolve – Abomination

This Melbourne duo have been forming for themselves a strong presence within local community and unsurprisingly, international opportunities have come calling for this strong, tense and forceful brand of heavy music.

Between Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill, some beautiful music has been made, contrasting this album’s title entirely – Abomination. What we have here are eight instrumental tracks that have constructed a dark, brooding atmosphere. Built off stories of their ancestors, water, rivers and forests, the record maintains a sense of eeriness. Whether it’s in the throttling bass of “Reparations”, or the spine-tingling “Resistance” (the album opener described above), Abomination strikes as an album with a lot of emotional terrain attached, to navigate.

14. Emily Wurramara  – Milyakburra

Multi-instrumentalist Wurramara released a beautiful album in Milyakburra earlier this year; a striking debut from an exciting songwriter. Still well connected to the sounds first introduced on 2016’s Black Smoke EP, Milyakburra sees Wurramara expand on her huge talent for expressing beauty, pain, and triumph in her stories on record.

This album is a celebration of her culture and the traditions that have formed her upbringing – personal and creative – not to mention a great moment for Wurramara as an activist too.

13. DZ Deathrays – Bloody Lovely

DZ Deathrays have long held a reputation as one of Australia’s most beloved rock acts and in between the release of Black Rat and their latest, Bloody Lovely, the band have been continuing to grow their international profile, while reminding fans on the home front why their music has the substance worth pouring time and fandom into.

Edging away from the punky adolescent attitudes that have marked previous releases, Bloody Lovely is DZ Deathrays in a more mature creative space, aiming for the anthemic and hard-hitting rhythmic thumps that have marked recent live experiences. Bloody Lovely is perhaps the band’s most developed release to date; the pieces of the puzzle fall in line crisply and perfectly, this is a rock album with defined precision in instrumentation pushing it.

12. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Hope Downs had big shoes to fill, particularly after RBCF’s French Press EP was quick to land in the embraces of fans and industry alike with such intensity. But here we found ourselves, with an Australian debut album that will serve as an excellent entry point for one of Melbourne’s finest groups.

Though they’re signed to Sub Pop and the acclaim that has come with it has positioned RBCF well in the international spotlight, they haven’t lost their distinctly Australian sound, which is a big highlight of Hope Downs. Guitar work is excellent here, marking clean and slick production as well; for fans of The Ocean Party and Dick Diver in particular, Hope Downs is going to strike a chord.

11. Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace

If you ever went into this listening experience expecting a Drones’ offcut, you would have been severely mistaken. The debut album from Tropical Fuck Storm is a vibrant and frenetic record that showcases not only Gareth Liddiard‘s ever impressive songwriting chops, but the excellent dynamic between himself, Fiona KitschinErica Dunn and Lauren Hammel too.

Any rules set in place for how to do an experimental rock record were well and truly discarded with A Laughing Death in Meatspace; instead, we hear the band jumping gleefully into deconstructed, epic electronic tones and soundscapes, railing guitars and a swift and biting wit from Liddiard that embraces paranoia, strife and chaos, all in one. Brilliant.

10. Tom Lyngcoln – Doming Home

A sucker punch of a record, delivered by one of the best guitarists out of the country’s punk/rock scene, Lyngcoln’s Doming Home is one of the best albums of this year, but in our opinion, remains one of the most underrated too. Deeply intimate and intricate in its development and execution, Doming Home is an insight into Lyngcoln’s songwriting, yes, but it’s also an intriguing portrait of an artist who is still shedding layers to his fanbase and newcomers alike.

There is no note delivered out of line on this record, each strum and sound we hear on Doming Home has a purposeful, evocative punch behind it, forming an intense musical tapestry that we can’t wait to see continued to be built on with future releases.

09. Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders – Blue Poles

Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders’ Blue Poles continues to further the intrigue-filled mythology the band has long-established around their music. More than just Kirin J Callinan and Donny Benet, The Dreamlanders craft a melodic and darkly humorous soundscape for where Jack Ladder himself pounces with that addictive croon and striking neo-noir pop flourish that has made him (and the band) so endearing to Australian audiences over the years.

Blue Poles is perhaps Jack Ladder in a more ‘relaxed’ space, this album felt more accessible to the newcomer when first release, but this isn’t to say it’s lost any of the intelligence that marked previous releases. Sweeping bouts of romanticism meet waves of self-awareness in the music that brood with dark beauty; this is an album to sink your teeth into time and time again.

08. Ball Park Music – Good Mood

Beloved Brissy indie group Ball Park Music blessed fans with their new record Good Mood back in the opening months of 2018 and the final result? It’s an album that very much represents the growth of the band from shiny indie rock upstarts, to a more refined, adult grasp on the genre driven by many a Brisbane-band back in the early 2000’s.

The essence of early Ball Park is still there, but where Good Mood shines is in its effortless progressions and individualistic presentation. The band has approached this album with high ambition, with the final result coming across brilliantly. Tick, tick, ticking off the boxes each time. Optimistic, playful and well-rounded, Good Mood landed as one of Ball Park Music’s best releases yet.

07. High Tension – Purge

Melbourne’s High Tension have always been well regarded for their blistering and passionate delivery of music that has connected well with the core of most heavy and metal fans but with their newest album Purge, High Tenno have powered up the defibrillator to its highest percentage in injecting a piercing jolt of metal through to each listener.

From the album opener “Red White Shame”, through to “Bite The Leash (Burn)” and “The Legacy”, there you’ll find some of Karina Utomo‘s best moments on record, though throughout, the vocalist is at her most vicious by a bloody country mile. A personal record and a statement of continued presence High Tension grasp within the scene, Purge is cathartic and a massive stride forward for the band. Horns all the way up.

06. Laura Jean Devotion

A record of gorgeous pop music, Devotion by Laura Jean is an album that came out just as winter was properly setting in and we needed a record that would fill us with warmth and bring us out of the frump. Laura’s long been making folk-pop music that has engaged and connected with her audience beautifully but Devotion sees her strip it all back, in presenting some of her rawest moments of songwriting yet.

Intensely personal and a masterclass in how to convey brilliantly layered music without going overboard and over-indulging in instrumentation, Laura Jean’s Devotion is full of colour and personal flourish – an excellent release from one of Australia’s best songwriters that, with this album, more people are set to discover.

05. West Thebarton – Different Beings Being Different 

The debut album from the Adelaide seven piece properly saw West Thebarton step out well and truly from Bad//Dreems’ shadow and established them as South Australia’s newest rock legends in the making. Different Beings Being Different is marked by its loaded sense of nostalgia and love for a hometown, as well as the ups and downs of balancing the 9-5 of suburbia with the calls of success from out of town.

It feels like an album unfolding in real time; the members of West Thebarton are embracing the first proper waves of national success with the release of this album, as well as international festivals on the very near horizon, yet they all still have jobs outside the band to keep things rolling and the electricity on. It’s an album that has very real stories in its roots, which is perhaps what has made it so relatable – rock and roll ready to be consumed. Consumed hungrily.

04. Luca Brasi – Stay

By this point, Tassie favourites Luca Brasi are well into their groove of delivering music that is grounded in emotion, tales of relationships, loss and triumph. Their new album Stay, is no different, though the band has continued to push their own creative envelope in bringing this one to life. Tyler Richardson has never sounded better or more impassioned than he does on this album; rallying vocals complement the moments of vulnerability and man, does this band have their dynamic down pat.

Overall, an excellent addition to the Luca Brasi discography and definitely a defining moment for the band. They’ve loaded this one up with heavy jams that will prove to be some long standing favourites, without sacrificing moments of quiet and introspection (as much as Luca Brasi can allow, anyway), a rare quality to be pulled off well.

03. Jack River – Sugar Mountain 

As the first album of the artist also known as Holly Rankin, you’re exposed to the sugary highs of sweet pop, whilst also left mourning within the depths of despair and complete heartbreak. A forewarning to those either reading this, or listening to the album: You’re going to have a good time listening to the album, but you’ll be sad, and you won’t know why. One of the reasons is the personal tragedy that tinges much of Jack River’s lyrics. The loss of her sister fourteen years ago left Rankin in a state of despair, turning to song-writing as a vice to help her through something that no one should really ever have to deal with.

On a bright note, the album is a pearler. There are the reasonably upbeat tracks, which come in the shape of the pre-release singles. Most notably is “Ballroom”, a song of pure grace, a killer chorus, and just a hint of real depression. A comment on people’s ability to hide their true moments of sadness, “Ballroom” is Sugar Mountain at its peak.

02. Gurrumul – Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)

Easily one of the most important releases 2018 is going to see from an Australian artist, Djarimirri is a perfect representation of the late Dr. G’s musicianship and the level of artistry he had achieved before his unfortunate passing. Again drawing on his Yolgnu culture, Djarimirri is a painting of his childhood, his upbringing and images of his surroundings; the way Dr. G would construct such stories and waves of emotion through his music was so intensely unique and beautiful that on this album, the listener is sucked in from the beginning.

A beautiful marriage of language and western music, so effortlessly too, Djarimirri has a bittersweet tone because of the circumstances of its release but all this aside, it bursts with the joyous emotional energy that marked so many of Dr. G’s records and live performances. A record that will become a classic in time and certainly, a snapshot of one of the country’s best performers.

01. The Presets – Hi-Viz

If you’ve been a long time fan of The Presets, Hi Viz won’t be treading unfamiliar territory, though it’s exciting to comprehend what this album will mean for new fans, or those music listeners who may have just been casual listeners before. I was too young to appreciate Beams when it first came out but I have a strong memory of listening to “Kicking and Screaming” for the first time when I bought Apocalypso on CD back in 2008. That record opened part of my mind I’d previously shut off to electro music, much less electro music made in Australia, and it still remains one of my favourite albums to date.

Hi Viz is a defining point for The Presets; they’ve made their return in a climate flushed with young producers climbing their way to the top but make no mistake, they’ve dropped a great How To Do It Right record with this, their fourth studio effort.

Additional words by Dylan Marshall.