Debuts that were worth the wait, intensely personal records about grief, deliberately impersonal exercises in craft, latter-day career classics… it’s difficult to draw sweeping conclusions about the releases that have made NME’s mid-year report of the best Australian records of the year to date.
We have six more months left in the year and many more incredible releases left to come, but let’s celebrate what we have right now. Here are the 15 best Aussie albums of 2022 so far.
Stank face moments abound in ‘Foreign Language’, the debut mixtape by Korean Australian hip-hop mavericks 1300. Nerdie and pokari.sweat’s production is bassy, bold and bright but never predictable – witness the deep groove and AutoTuned melodies of ‘UMUM’, or the chiming callback to Biggie on ‘Rocksta’.
Hopscotching all over these chaotic confections are rappers rako, goyo and DALI HART, who have swag in spades and gleefully shit-talk their haters in both English and Korean. Fuelling their motor-mouthed flows are the thrill of landing an audacious bar and the sheer joy of rapping circles around others – no wonder ‘Foreign Language’ is such an infectious listen. Karen Gwee
1300’s ‘Foreign Language’ is out now.
Ball Park Music
‘Weirder & Weirder’
Few bands make it to LP7 with the same energy or passion they had in “the good ol’ days”, but sporting their stickiest hooks, tightest playing and sharpest songwriting, ‘Weirder & Weirder’ is Ball Park Music’s best record yet.
- READ MORE: Ball Park Music: “That ‘Fuck it!’ attitude is more prevalent in the band than ever before”
The band wrote it at their lowest point, yet it’s inescapably upbeat, and although it landed at the start of a brutal winter, it feels tailor-made for summer festivals, road trips and beaches. Even its subtlest flourishes – like the grit spiking the otherwise beautiful pop melodies, or the twinkly atmospherics that add an extra dash of magic to the soundscape – make ‘Weirder & Weirder’ a home run for Ball Park Music. Ellie Robinson
Ball Park Music’s ‘Weirder & Weirder’ is out now via Prawn Records.
‘Everything Is Dangerous But Nothing’s Surprising’
Of all 2022’s debut albums, Body Type’s had the most scenic route. A half-decade of gigging and EPs had already established the band as a compelling force of Sydney indie music, meaning that ‘Everything Is Dangerous But Nothing’s Surprising’ wasn’t the proving ground most debuts are.
- READ MORE: Body Type on their fiery debut album: “I was trying to occupy the space that is so stereotypically male”
Perhaps what’s most interesting, then, is just how big the band are swinging here. ‘The Charm’ is career-best throat-shredding fury, ‘Sex & Rage’ lives up to its title and the six-minute slow-burn of ‘An Animal’ is completely mesmerising. They may have taken their time, but one thing is perfectly clear: Body Type aren’t fucking around. David James Young
Body Type’s ‘Everything Is Dangerous But Nothing’s Surprising’ is out now via Poison City Records.
‘Running With The Hurricane’
It’s been four years since Camp Cope taught us ‘How To Socialise & Make Friends’ and now they’re back, older, wiser and more mellow than before. ‘Running With The Hurricane’ is a glorious example of a band stripping back their hard exterior and welcoming us into their new sound.
The trio haven’t discarded their power emo roots entirely, but the guitars are softer and the drums less commanding. Georgia Maq’s lyricism has also become more poignant and introspective, giving the singer space to showcase her stunning vocals on ‘The Screaming Planet’ and ‘One Wink At A Time’. Greta Brereton
Camp Cope’s ‘Running With The Hurricane’ is out now via Poison City Records.
Self-aware lyricism meets sick EDM production on ‘Tilt’, an album of pure unhinged and untethered hedonism delivered with the unique charm that has become synonymous with Confidence Man and Confidence Man only.
To make an album sound like it doesn’t care at all is a tricky task that requires a sharp ear for sound and aesthetic. Luckily, Confidence Man are a band whose drawcard is their ability to revel in the gleefully raucous facets of dance pop and not take things too seriously. They prove across its 12 tracks that they’re sharper than ever and more importantly, their vision for their output is unshakeable. Sosefina Fuamoli
Confidence Man’s ‘Tilt’ is out now via I OH YOU.
The DJ/producer’s “artist” album can be predictable, even boring: cut banging beats, bring in big-name vocalists, boom. But, with ‘Palaces’, Flume switches things up. Harley Streten conceptualised ‘Palaces’ while staying in New South Wales’ riverlands – and it’s a sonic retreat that’s alternately ravey and ambient.
Led by a celestial Caroline Polachek, the hyper-glitch ‘Sirens’ surreally manifests the pandemic’s dystopian dread, while MAY-A shines on the baile funk hit ‘Say Nothing’. Flume also collaborates with Damon Albarn on the meditative title track, which single-handedly gives Gorillaz’s comeback ‘Humanz’ a run for its money. ‘Palaces’ shows Flume’s uncanny ability to read a crowd – and the culture. Cyclone Wehner
Flume’s ‘Palaces’ is out now via Future Classic.
Gang of Youths
‘Angel In Realtime.’
Gang of Youths have made their ‘Achtung Baby’. Their third album ‘Angel In Realtime.’ presents a matured and refined version of the band and their sound, fusing influences from time spent in the UK – Britpop, UK garage and drum’n’bass – with sounds of Oceania that frontman David Le’aupepe collected on his journey to reconnect with his Samoan heritage in the wake of his father’s death.
- READ MORE: Gang Of Youths: “Every artist should be able to tell the the story of their culture and their history”
This album is about grief, but also rediscovery and celebration, matching the band’s stadium-sized rock to Le’aupepe’s own personal evolution. Sosefina Fuamoli
Gang of Youths’ ‘Angel In Realtime.’ is out now via Sony Music Australia.
‘Giving The World Away’
Hatchie is purposeful and assured on ‘Giving The World Away’. In her previous material, including 2019 debut album, ‘Keepsake’, she chronicled ill-fated romanic liaisons. But this new record is about self-knowledge, Harriette Pilbeam reliving mental health struggles in the resounding single ‘Quicksand’.
For the album cover, Hatchie cosplays as Claire Danes’ angelic Juliet from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. The cult ’90s soundtrack could well have been a sonic touchstone. Embracing heavier guitar, synths and percussion, Hatchie sheds shoegaze nostalgia, instead hybridising industrial, grunge and electronica. Imaginative and regenerative, ‘Giving The World Away’ finds Hatchie spreading her wings. Cyclone Wehner
Hatchie’s ‘Giving The World Away’ is out now via Secretly Canadian & Ivy League Records.
Jaguar Jonze’s ‘Bunny Mode’ is the sound of trauma being exorcised on the dancefloor. “You could’ve destroyed me, but then I got loud,” Deena Lynch declares over staccato synths that owe as much to Alison Goldfrapp as Trent Reznor.
- READ MORE: Jaguar Jonze: “I had grown and healed so much, and forgot what it felt like to be where I used to be”
From incandescent rockers (see ‘Punchline’) to stadium-ready ballads (‘Little Fires’), Jaguar Jonze has crafted an unpredictable electro-pop album that shows off her versatility as a songwriter, her voice snapping easily from a snarl to a whisper. ‘Bunny Mode’ is a call to arms and a defiant refusal to be cowed into silence. Chris Lewis
Jaguar Jonze’s ‘Bunny Mode’ is out now via Nettwerk.
The Lazy Eyes
Playing together since the members’ not-so-distant early teens, The Lazy Eyes flex that longstanding rapport all over their confident – and self-produced – debut album. The four Sydneysiders settle into a pillowy groove while exploring the competing hues of psychedelia’s sonic rainbow. They’re not in any rush either, as heard on six-plus-minute voyages like ‘The Seaside’ and ‘Where’s My Brain???’.
Tempering King Gizz-esque jams with the dreamy depth of Tame Impala, The Lazy Eyes dish up intense freakouts naturally alongside the sweetest and most optimistic of melodies. This psych-pop isn’t confined to past glories – rather, it has infinite room to grow. Doug Wallen
The Lazy Eyes’ ‘Songbook’ is out now.
Mallrat and earnest songwriting go hand in hand. Grace Shaw has long had the ability to take the ups and downs of adolescence and weave them into relatable, bright and catchy pop numbers that soundtrack the Australian teenage experience.
- READ MORE: Mallrat: “When pop music is done with respect for the listeners, it’s perfect and exciting and beautiful”
We get the same lyrical honesty on ‘Butterfly Blue’, but Mallrat is older now, and it’s reflected in the maturity of her music. Though some songs still bottle that childlike innocence (‘Wish On An Eyelash’ and ‘Butterfly Blue’), she exudes a newfound vulnerability and contemplative edge, baring it all in ‘Arm’s Length’ and I’m Not My Body, It’s Mine’. Greta Brereton
Mallrat’s ‘Butterfly Blue’ is out now via Dew Process.
‘Are You Haunted?’
Jake Webb’s ghosts are far more than mere spectres. On the Perth art-pop polymath’s fourth album a former lover – played by Stella Donnelly – demands recognition on ‘Proof’, the planet’s plight intrudes on ‘Something to Worry About’, while ‘Neon Cheap’ suggests the seductively sharp edge of social media.
With an eclectic palette of jagged synths and jinking rhythms, these songs are invocations that pivot between clarity and confusion so that they form their own reality. Dispensing with boundaries, Webb makes the unknown tactile. He’s called the album his “least personal record yet”, but these spirits bear his distinct fingerprints at every turn. Craig Mathieson
Methyl Ethel’s ‘Are You Haunted?’ is out now via Future Classic.
‘By The Book’
Purely on premise, Partner Look could have been dismissed as too cutesy: two musician couples combining to create a band named after identical dressing. But their debut album is a perfect storm of indie-rock pedigree (the band sport members from Cool Sounds and The Ocean Party) and the exciting premise of a blank slate to work with.
With a sonic spectrum that ranges from steadily-building jangle-pop (‘Partner Look’) to Play School whimsy (‘Grasshopper’), ‘By The Book’ revels in its charm and doesn’t hide its dorkiness in order to score cred points. And really, why should it? David James Young
Partner Look’s ‘By The Book’ is out now via Spunk Records.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
The world is run by people who show up, and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are as consistent as a grandfather clock. The Melbourne quintet’s third album ‘Endless Rooms’ arrives bang on time with a healthy advancement of their jangly guitar sound courtesy of more overt political themes (‘Tidal River’) and winding, cinematic touches (‘My Echo’).
- READ MORE: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: “Lennon, McCartney, Harrison were in competition with each other. We’re not”
Somehow, the triple threat vocals of Fran Keaney, Tom Russo and Joe White never crowd each other. On ‘The Way It Shatters’, White steps forward and scathingly asks “If you were on the boat, would you turn the other way?” in a neat extension on the forward-thinking lines from previous cuts (‘Mainland’). Mikey Cahill
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s ‘Endless Rooms’ is out now via Ivy League.
‘Turn It On!’
Romero arrive fully formed on this head rush of a debut album. Bolstering anxious proto-punk momentum with Alanna Oliver’s soul-trained vocal swagger – she once sang in a Blues Brothers tribute act – the Melbourne five-piece joyfully split the difference between The Strokes and Sheer Mag.
For a band that rarely slows down to catch its breath (especially live), it’s surprising that the best song here might just be ‘Halfway Out the Door’, a hook-riddled ballad halfway through the tracklist. It’s also the clearest showcase of Oliver’s casually passionate delivery, which promises a crossover appeal well beyond even those gloriously scuffed guitar runs. Doug Wallen
Romero’s ‘Turn It On!’ is out now via Cool Death Records & Feel It Records.