It is my favourite part of the year, the time where I get to sit down and work out all of my favourite releases of 2013 and today I want to share with you the top eleven albums released by Australian artists in 2013. There has been an amazing amount of music released from Australia in 2013 and I got to review a lot of it. Here are my picks in terms of the best – please read and enjoy
Top Eleven Australian Albums of 2013
1. “In Blood Memory” by Jen Cloher
When I reflect on what makes a great album I think about the way an artist attacks all my senses. There has to be an initial explosion from the moment you turn the album on that pulls you in and just takes over your world. A great album will infect you deeply with every inch of it swirling in your head. It will be all you think about, it will consume you to the point of needing to clear schedules just so you can hear it. You’ll arrive to work 15 minutes late just so you can hear that bit more of it in your car stereo. A great album will block out all of the cruelty of the world and in its place create a world of beauty designed by your own imagination. Some albums simply sound great and you can acknowledge the craftsmanship that went into its creation. Other albums, the ones that matter and the ones that are timeless will never need to be explained beyond the way it leaves you changed. An album is merely a piece of dialogue between you and the artists involved, sometimes it can be simple small talk but other times it will erupt years of meaningful conversations and answers to your questions. It will serve as the ultimate imaginary friend and will help you celebrate life no matter the occasion or emotion. A great album will be a timeless artefact that helps give meaning to your life and act as the best voice for that internal yearning that you feel.
That is what happens when I listen to “In Blood Memory” and it is only in its infancy in terms of its release and the time I’ve spent with it. It is the right album for the space I find myself in at this current moment and regardless of what people believe or interpret as “being successful” I know within my own heart and from listening with my own ears that Jen Cloher has made a new modern classic that should be worshiped and ripped off by anyone and everyone looking to make a timeless piece of art.
2. “I See Seaweed” by The Drones
I don’t think I could ever give a bad review to The Drones. I believe that it is impossible for me to ever find a fault with the music that this band makes. It is everything I love about rock n roll and they always explode all kinds of revolution when I listen to them. I don’t mean to sound crude or competitive or “well you just have no taste” but regardless of my “don’t get offended you fevered ego” plea you’re probably still going to take it wrong. Blah, fuck it, I’ll say it – I think The Drones make the entire modern legion of Straylian band’s sound redundant. If that modern legion was a food group they’d be the empty (and very dangerous) calories contained in fast food and The Drones would be a well prepared (possibly fully organic / potentially vegan) feast. You leave satisfied and content, not bloated and full.
Blah blah blah blah blah though, I don’t want to tangle this review up with paragraphs of why “sample a” is better than “sample b” because honestly it is none of my business what music people choose to like. My job is to review the new album from The Drones called “I See Seaweed” – so let me go from the a to the z of why this album is a brilliant piece of art.
Again, like all of the bands previous albums this record is an exercise in making sure that you listen without distraction. Clear your schedule, take the day off work and avoid a Friday / Saturday night of partying to stay inside glued to your headphones and this album. This is a journey album, you hang on every note and you go on the ride. There are some new cosmic touches that are added to the usual dust and crazy horse slacked out guitar noise. The music on “I See Seaweed” surrounds you, it engulfs your environment until you are in a cocoon of nightmarish divinity and stark late night highway swirls. There is a loneliness and spooky feel to it all and somewhere buried deep inside the stories being spun there is a real sense that loss has somehow themed these songs. I always get deeply moved at the way songs flirt with a sense of beauty but then before they get too refined and layered they rip themselves apart and become excursions into pure self-destruction and chaotic bliss. Over the course of eight tracks the band unfolds deep noise meditations that appeal to everything that aches within you. More aftermath than initial detonation, each track creeps then floats then elevates to a preacher screech and within seconds resurrects a haze of space that heightens the suspense and thrill of the chill. It rarely gives you a chance to remain grounded and you’ll unlock new levels of emotion and also wonder what the fuck just happened. Like a foreign injury, your heart and soul will never truly be the same again and when the noise settles and resolves the smile will return to your face. This becomes the moment that you understand the power of sound, more than before and you’ll mourn the fact that there isn’t enough time in your day to listen to this album on repeat. You’ll walk around your house searching for ways not to return to the album and try and throw yourself into something else but while you attempt to be still your mind will be humming every note inspiring you to boycott routine and return to the album, like a hit and run lover. You won’t get answers, only questions and that is what good rock n roll should do.
3. “She Beats” by Beaches
As an album “She Beats” is an extreme exercise in divinity and as the album stretches out you find yourself hypnotised by the messy swoony ached dynamics of each song and you just bliss the fuck out waiting for that late night breeze to save you from all of this despair. This is some truly stunning guitar noise and unlike the science of other current psyche rock humans this music is totally free with the improvised moment being the pivotal instrument in orchestrating such soul power.
Fuck, this is the band that should be worshiped instead of all of that indie hype machine psyche rock trash agenda being pushed by more popular outlets of radio and media. All of that hype machine psyche rock trash misses the soul power and BEACHES are way more fucking divine in the way they communicate musically that I find it difficult to put words to how beautiful it is.
Don’t waste time on the popular vote, invest now in BEACHES and do everything you can to source a copy of “She Beats” and make sure you fucking pay top dollar because BEACHES deserve all of your love and your money.
I may be late to the party but I’m sure as fuck not going to be leaving any time soon because BEACHES make the kind of noise that I love to get lost in.
4. “All Our Wires” by Seja
I could listen to “All Our Wires” for days and believe me when I say that I have. There is a considerable amount of intensity swirling in and out of the sunshine pop. All of the songs carry those hits of late afternoon sun and surround you with their warmth. There is however a degree of emotional chaos inside the warmth and the album itself never lets you rest easy. This is clearly pop music made by a broken hearted human for other broken heart humans who at the best of times feel misunderstood by the world around them. The sadness all throughout this record is overwhelming and the deep heavy ache that I hear in every song is a thing of beauty. There is no agenda to this music other than honestly expressing the rawness of being open to other humans in the hope of being loved back.
On “All Our Wires” SEJA opens herself up, as she always does, and shows a degree of vulnerability lyrically that allows you the listener to connect to these songs. Each song illustrates what a master communicator SEJA is as a creative human being and as I continually point out again and again, if you want to be an artist that connects with other humans you got to be a great communicator. Dynamically and Stylistically SEJA crafts a wonderful wall of mechanically aided landscapes through various keyboards and synths but although a large portion of her arsenal is of this nature musically there is a very human element to it and its warmth and sincerity is what allows for the mood of the album to build and rush in and out you, it’s a fucking thrilling experience.
The real highlight of this album though is the wonderful fifth track “Imaginations In Hyperspace” which is just such a right on piece of pop music. I’m fairly certain all of the other humans reading this will understand what I’m talking about when I say that I want to marry this song and live with it forever. There is nothing more amazing then when you have a song just hit you and it flows through every inch of you and heightens your emotions to a point where you feel this kind of yearning that almost makes you want to burst it hurts so much. That is the kind of song that “Imaginations In Hyperspace” is and it just takes me away man, far far far far away from the absolute chaos of this fucked up world and I love that, more than I love anything else in the world. To have a beautiful piece of music just transport me away like a fucking spaceship to some other dimension where I can breathe in something more beautiful than the mediocrity of this place called earth that I have to share with these animals known as humans is a healing experience indeed and “Imaginations In Hyperspace” provides this kind of escape. This is by far one of the most beautiful songs of 2013 and you’d be a fucking fool to ignore it.
At the end of the day that is what the whole album does to me, it just acts like fucking rocket ship that takes me so far away from myself and you have no idea how beautiful that feels as a human being who struggles to feel like they belong in this ocean of chaos known as life. That is the power of a great song and a great album and “All Our Wires” does that to me and then some.
Believe me when I say that your decade will be improved once you listen to the wonderful sound that is “All Our Wires” by SEJA who remains to be one hell of an amazing artist that deserves all of your time, money and love because we need her music in this world.
There is nothing more refreshing then hearing and feeling something this real, thank you SEJA for making a fantastic album with “All Our Wires,” you are a star.
5. “Winter Haunts” by The Rational Academy
So what makes “Winter Haunts” so wonderful and important?
Well the easy answer is the great care that has gone into its creation but I reckon I need to go a bit deeper to sell you the spook. The music has a loose feel but there is also a strict pop discipline pulsating through every track. All of the musical experimentation and noise helps give context to the pop songs lurking underneath. It isn’t about showing off either skill, each song is a meeting place of extreme ideas condensed into smooth pop communications. You can tell that each band member is well versed in the history of music and the way it can influence your sonic dialogue. This is the album the band has been building too for their whole career and even though they have always been unique, the sounds that seduce you on “Winter Haunts” are their strongest yet. The album is a masterpiece of aches and shakes full of hypnotic swirls that take you away to landscapes of beauty and inter-dimensional time travel. This is inside music, to be consumed on your headphones alone, with the lights out as you contemplate every corner of your existence. As the title suggests it haunts and it is clearly coming from four haunted individuals who are collecting all of their internal worlds and through the power of music painting us a picture of their spooky shivers. This is indeed music for people who feel and who need to go deep when they invest in sound. There is not one bad moment contained throughout this album. To reduce it to even simpler terms, “Winter Haunts” gives me the same feeling that I get when I fall in love with a beautiful human being, that feverish feeling of being consumed with that famous Pisces prayer of “I love you so much, it makes me sick,” oh yes indeed you’ll crush hardcore on the sounds of this album.
So what the fuck are you waiting for, move, move, move and fucking buy this amazing piece of art and tell every single person you encounter about it.
6. “All Day Venus” by Adalita
I cannot express enough just how majestic this record is. Adalita Srsen is an achingly talented, beautiful musician. From the opening strains of ‘Annihilate Baby’ through to the closing notes of ‘Rolled In Gold’, All Day Venus hit me in the gut and clawed at my heart. The melodies, musicianship and songwriting take me back to a time before I started writing music myself; a time before I analysed songs and pulled them apart to figure out how they worked. This is an album I just want to absorb in its entirety.
7. “Sounds From The Other Side” by Tumbleweed
Look, I’m not going to dissect this album scientifically for you because it doesn’t deserve that. What this album deserves is for you to buy it, put it on your stereo and to turn it up very loud and let the worries of the world pass you buy. I know that in 2013 every one is busy talking about how great bands like Violent Soho, Dune Rats, Bleeding Knees Club, DZ Deathrays, John Steel Singers, Cloud Control and Tame Impala are at making alternative rock n roll that is linked to all things stoner, psyche, pop and rock. I just don’t have time for those bands because they just don’t have it, all of those bands are like a collective weak handshake compared to Tumbleweed.
Believe me when I say that Tumbleweed still have it and then some. On “Sounds From The Other Side” Tumbleweed prove that their return is not an exercise in Nostalgia, this is about the evolution of the riff and the evolution of all things great about psyche drenched rock n roll. From start to finish this album is a journey that showcases a band whose maturity has lead them to make a sound that is familiar yet still about pushing the boundaries of their original dynamics. This album is about the amazing chemistry that the original line-up of Tumbleweed had and still has; this is unfinished business and a totally mature take on the already flawless sound created by the band between 1990 and 1995.
There is a new progressive spirit rolling in and out of the mountainous riffage with more focus on the psychedelic side of things with Richie’s brilliant melodies giving so much beautiful emotional direction to the behemoth guitar riff orchestras on display. On top of the riffage there is an amazing swagger from the rhythm section with that beautiful Jay Curley Bottom End giving an ugly yet soulful intensity to the sludge of the guitars.
For a very long time I thought that “Mumbo Jumbo” represented the natural evolution of where Tumbleweed had to go as a band. After sitting through “Sounds From The Other Side” it has become quite clear that this is not the case because the music made by Tumbleweed circa 2013 is more intense, heavier, and weirder and covered in a hell of a lot more psyche and prog dynamics than Tumbleweed circa 2000. What “Sounds From The Other Side” represents is the natural evolution of the Tumbleweed sound circa 1995. Much like the re-united Dinosaur Jr whilst the band leans on the spirit of their formative years (1990 to 1995) the creative growth the band illustrated post Galactaphonic (Return To Earth and Mumbo Jumbo) is still on full display even though only three of the five members were present during this era.
Career Logistics aside, the main point to focus on is that this is not about Nostalgia and it is the first new steps of a new path for Tumbleweed. There were always going to be similarities stylistically to the bands older material but like Soundgarden did with King Animal, there is also a new mood for a new decade of progression. The importance of “Sounds From The Other Side” is in the fact that it re-establishes the band right back where it belongs, making incredibly vital alternative rock n roll.
As a fan of Tumbleweed I get chills every time I press play on this record. I am literally flawed with how brilliant the album is and I feel blessed to have Lenny, Jay, Steve, Paul and Richie back together making noise once again. When I first heard Tumbleweed, the term Stoner Rock was not something that existed in my vocabulary, but as the years progressed I started to understand that the love I started to have for “that sound” all started 18 years ago with Galactaphonic. In 2013 I feel like I’m a bit of a Stoner Rock fiend even though I hate the genre term myself but I guess I just love “that sound” which it’s attached to. To hear one of the pioneering bands of that sound making something so vital and so progressive in this current climate of mediocrity is so fucking refreshing.
I am in love with this album and I’m still discovering it which thrills me even more. There is longevity to this album and I feel like it will take me months to fully find all of the wonderful little nuances of each and every track. I may be a fan of lot of different genres of music but nothing gets me off like a really great rock record and “Sounds From The Other Side” is a fantastic and totally exquisite piece of rock n roll.
I can’t wait for the next ten years of Tumbleweed history, thank fuck they are back.
8. “Self-Titled” by Spiderbait
I’ve found it hard to turn this album off because Spiderbait are incredibly smart with the way they weave pop skills in and out of their music. What really hit me about this album are some of the darker lyrical tones and themes of the record. I felt like I’ve possibly made this point about a lot of bands I’ve reviewed recently but there are some heavy themes of loss and musings on mortality on the brand new Spiderbait record. There are an incredible amount of references to escape and whether it is a heavy dose of fiction or a truthful tale of desire and need for disconnection remains to be seen. There are some truly beautiful moments that erupt as a result of this darkness and although it’s not a new dynamic within the sound of Spiderbait it certainly carries with it the wisdom of age and a maturity of humans who have collectively seen and felt a lot of varying emotions since we last heard from them.
Three songs in particular that demonstrate this darkness are the beautiful intergalactic space jam balladry of “Supersonic” the mournful funeral march sunshine of “Mars” and the kaleidoscopic simplicity of “Goodbye” all of which carry an angsty dirge and reflective pace. Whilst these songs are carefully placed within the brighter rock / pop tones of the rest of the album these are the songs that jumped out at me when I listened to the record as they carried with them a new kind of ache that I hadn’t heard inside the Spiderbait sound before. A terrible sense of loss radiates from these three songs with a heavy sense of sadness.
This mood infects the rest of the album in more subtle ways with lead single “Straight Through The Sun” carrying the same kind of angst but trades sadness for a middle finger and the freedom of saying “Fuck You” to the world around you and just going full speed ahead into the unknown. This punk rock gallop via Motorhead snarl is continued on album highlight “Miss The Boat” which is one of the best Spiderbait songs you’ll ever hear, just balls to the wall rock n roll goodness. To harp on an earlier point, I really must refer back to the brilliance of “Supersonic” which quite frankly is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It’s no secret how much I love the sound of Janet’s voice and the way she can spin all kinds of beauty with it. On “Supersonic” Janet is in fine form and showcases her flawless talent for being a pop singer with the vintage synth sound and Carole King AM frame of the song separating it as the best thing on this record and no doubt a future hit single.
There is so much I could say about the new “Self-Titled” Spiderbait album but I think the beauty of this record is that it opens up a new decade for the band. There is an incredible amount of evolution present on this album that will allow for another 20 years of music to be made. I love Spiderbait and once again they have proved that the importance to making timeless music is to dig deep into your soul and communicate honestly. The darkness of this record is what thrills me and whether or not the band are musing on loss related to death or just the turmoil of human relationships it suits the band and I look forward to this darkness being explored deeper on the next couple of records.
This is a flawless collection of pop music that bows down to the bliss of rock n roll fury and like all good music, takes you to some pretty intergalactic places when it’s just you alone in your bedroom with your headphones and your thoughts.
9. “Hidden Horizons” by Ghost Notes
All of the joy and disappointments pour out of these songs and the lack of vocals add to the intensity because you as the listener have full artistic license to dream up your own meanings and landscapes purely by digesting the emotional performances of each song.
The intense Australian sense of melancholy on display is in line with the stark yet beautiful ache illustrated by artists like Dirty Three and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. I also hear the yearning and swoony late night doom-jazz sounds of a band like Bohren & Der Club of Gore but I also wonder if a band like Boards of Canada didn’t also influence the direction of Ghost Notes sound. All of these comparisons aside, it is safe to say that even though I use the above mentioned bands as a way to compare it needs to be said that Ghost Notes truly have their own sound and “Hidden Horizons” is the perfect example of how unique this band is.
Look, you can be the kind of human who looks to impress other humans by remaining plugged into what hip modern culture sells you as art soaked independent music or you could actually really colour outside the lines and stand behind a band like Ghost Notes. You may not impress the hip modern vultures but you’ll at least have a pure heart and clean soul for rejecting the beige regime of people just playing “songs” and finally engage something truly unique, envelope pushing and genuinely emotional. When I muse on the power and importance of Brisbane music bands like Ghost Notes are the ones I’m willing to stand behind and be proud to say are from the same music community that I participate in.
Ghost Notes are an absolutely fantastic bunch of humans making future music for those of us who desire something unique. Their brand new album “Hidden Horizons” is a flawless illustration of when art triumphs over commerce and that the most relevant, dangerous, experimental and emotional independent music is being made by the humans completely disconnected from the cocksucking thundercunts of that big indie dollar machine.
10. “This Is Not The End” by Baby Animals
Suze DeMarchi has possibly the greatest female rock & roll voice of all time.
It’s an absolute pleasure to hear her in front of a virile, muscly rock & roll band again. Sonically, not much has changed since 1991, DeMarchi is in phenomenal voice throughout the entire record, and the band sounds like the late 90′s and 00′s never even happened. This is an unashamedly big, stadium rock record, full of Dave Leslie’s guitar solos, a rock-solid rhythm section, and that voice.
That voice also has a lot to say. The album kicks off with lead single ‘Email’, a volatile stab of anger that sounds like it’s aimed squarely at DeMarchi’s ex-husband Nuno Bettencourt. Real heartbreak and anger seem to be at the heart of the record, and this means that nothing comes across as manufactured or forced. The end result is that in this day in age it sounds completely refreshing and new, even if the band is stuck in 1991.
11. “I’m A Bird” by Sam Buckingham
I have loved listening to this album for the past week, fuck; it is so amazing that I find it hard to find the words to describe it. There is just an amazing quality to the songs and the tales being spun by Sam and the album has been birthed from an intense amount of heartbreak experience.
The other wonderful thing about “I’m A Bird” is the humour sprinkled across these heartbreak tunes. I love the beautiful cynicism of the lyrics, direct and cryptic but full of stories that you can tell were lived quite deeply by its author. I hope she fell in love with her muse after all the drama, I hope it was worth the fight because this album made me want to fall in love, with something, with someone. I found myself yearning for that youthful exchange of asking a human out for a coffee and that “whatever happens” adventure that can occur after that moment, you know where you summon the courage to steal a kiss or two. That is what this album inspires in me when I listen to it, the romantic and the need for a romantic connection with another human being.
I’m sure glad I discovered this album, because it has been the perfect late night soundtrack for standing on my back deck as I sip chai tea, smoke a cigarette and just indulge the silence of late night bliss.
Stay tuned for our Top Eleven Australian Singles / Ep’s of 2013
By: Dan Newton
All Reviews written by Dan Newton except “All Day Venus” by Adalita and “This Is Not The End” by Baby Animals which were written by Clint Morrow