Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but it’s been an excellent year for new music. Our favourite Australian albums of 2022 come from all across the genre spectrum. There’s soulful and all-consuming hip hop, neo-psychedelic house music, club-ready trap, buoyant bedroom pop and deeply intimate indie folk.
The objective of this article is not to place works of art in competition with each other, but to celebrate just some of the many great Australian albums to come out this year. Honourable mentions go to our favourite local EPs of 2022: Elsy Wameyo’s Nilotic, RONA.’s Closure and Agung Mango’s Man on the Go.
Music Feeds’ Favourite Australian Albums of 2022
Cool Sounds: Like That
On his latest album as Cool Sounds, Melbourne-based multi-instrumentalist Dainis Lacey bypasses the jangly and sometimes bucolic pop sound of his previous releases and re-routes into 1980s new wave, disco and post-punk territory.
“Like That feels like an album where I’m flexing my musicianship a little more,” Lacey told Music Feeds.
Lacey has always been an intrepid creator, which has made attempts to pinpoint Cool Sounds’ signature sound somewhat futile. But Lacey’s work is reliably inspired, and never more so than on Like That, his first release via Chapter Music. (Listen/buy)
e4444e: I Spend All Day Drawing a Circle
e4444e’s third LP in as many years is full of landscape ambience and a strong sense of place. Meandering, atmospheric stretches are interspersed with buoyant bedroom pop. It’s like a hike or a bush walk, with each song a landmark, a little oasis in the long march.
I Spend All Day Drawing a Circle never stays in one position for too long, but neither is it in a rush. Influences appear and withdraw. Recordings gel with live guitar. Drum samples couple with birdsong. But the album shines most when the songs arrive and demand your attention. (Listen/buy)
Taste, the debut mixtape from Melbourne/Naarm-based DJ, producer and songwriter FOURA, flirts with UK garage, breakbeat, bass and house music without pledging allegiance to any one style or movement. The record’s genre agnosticism is reflected in FOURA’s choice of collaborators – Big Skeez, r.em.edy, NIK NAVY, Fresh Hex and Jordan Astra all supply guest vocals, helping FOURA execute deviations into Afroswing, 2-step, hip hop and UK garage.
“My favourite part of the writing process is the flow state,” FOURA told Music Feeds. “Not thinking about the end result, just allowing my emotions to flow out in the way they want to and seeing where that ends up, rather than going into the session with a preconceived idea.” (Listen/buy)
Julia Jacklin: PRE PLEASURE
Julia Jacklin’s third studio album, PRE PLEASURE, speaks of what it is to be human, and it may be her rawest work yet.
Jacklin’s lyrics are often so personal that a close listen can make you feel as though you’re peeking through a keyhole and witnessing someone else’s private moment. But despite being deeply intimate, Jacklin’s work is painted with broad enough brush strokes for it to remain relatable.
PRE PLEASURE sounds sad, but there’s something hopeful in its self-awareness. Part of Jacklin’s songwriting process is to “force [herself] to put words to those feelings,” and this tack forces attentive listeners to view themselves under the same emotional microscope. (Listen/buy)
Jade Imagine: Cold Memory
jade imagine’s second album, Cold Memory, builds on the sly dream pop psychedelia of 2019’s Basic Love. Alongside arrangements rooted in guitar, bass and drums, Cold Memory is furnished with gothic production details, organ sounds and electronic programming.
“All we wanted to do was make a really live feeling record,” the band’s in-house producer Tim Harvey told Music Feeds. “Just get that live feeling, maybe some programmed stuff as well – a bit of Broadcast, a bit of Deerhoof. Things like that. Bit of trip hop.”
Vocalist and songwriter Jade McInally was encouraged to pursue a new direction in her lyrics. “I had this realisation that I wanted to project some kind of positive spin on these new songs,” she said. “Rather than focusing on the anxiety and letting that be the leading feeling in the song, I wanted the leading feeling to be, just have fun, shake it up, or whatever.” (Listen/buy)
Laura Jean: Amateurs
After 2018’s synth-centric Devotion, Laura Jean reengaged with guitar-led, full band arrangements on her sixth album Amateurs. The record affirms Jean’s position as one of the country’s most captivating melodists, bending vocal phrases into unconventional shapes as a way of representing the untidiness of one’s inner life.
The album starts with the jangly and raw ‘Teenager Again’, which introduces Jean’s psychoanalytical lyrical tendencies. Aldous Harding and Marlon Williams provide backing vocals on the song. Amateurs‘ most dynamic song, ‘Too Much To Do’, features strings from Finnish-born Australian composer Erkki Veltheim, accentuating the song’s Anatolian rhythms.
On ‘A Funny Thing Happened’, Jean demonstrates her singer-songwriter bonafides. There’s a pressing solemnity to the song despite the foregrounding of dream pop guitars and cresting vocal melodies. Like much of the album, it’s at once serious and soothing. (Listen/buy)
Jesswar: LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG
Jesswar’s debut mixtape is a bass-heavy, trap-flavoured affair with spare production, personal lyrics and occasional moments of softness.
Lyrics range from the extremely personal – “Real tears in my eyes, should I lay down and die?” – to a wider view on gender, race, and the way money moves around. A guest verse from Erica Banks on ‘BAD LIKE RIRI’ is a big tick in the club night column. Turn it up and you can feel the energy of a venue full of moving bodies.
There’s a club-friendly pulse to the record and a consistency in its sound that can make it feel like a banger night out. Jesswar’s claim in ‘CARAMEL BARS’ is dead on: “I got bars that will put you in the pavement.” (Listen)
Jitwam was born in Guwahati, Assam, in North Eastern India. Soon after, his family migrated to Australia. Later, Jitwam travelled extensively, winding up in the melting pots of London and New York. The concept of “home” is one of the themes of his latest album Third.
The album subliminally explores immigrant history, diasporic experience and Third Culture identity. Opener ‘India’ is a deep groove with a neo-psychedelic twist. Lead single ‘Brooklyn Ballers’ is among several tracks with a hip-hop swagger. The hectic ‘Stranger Danger (In The Streets Of Life)’ sounds like Genesis Owusu crashing a DFA Records party in its punk-funk heyday.
Throughout Third, Jitwam showcases a brand of house music that is funky and soulful, yet transgressive. (Listen/buy)
Tasman Keith: A Colour Undone
For his debut album, A Colour Undone, Tasman Keith brought in Western Sydney’s Kwame to executive produce. Kwame encouraged Keith to embrace R&B and pop and to even sing, resulting in songs like ‘LOVE TOO SOON’, a romantic bop. Keith duets with Jessica Mauboy on ‘HEAVEN WITH U’, which sounds very JAY-Z and Beyoncé circa ”03 Bonnie & Clyde’.
Lyrically, A Colour Undone is personal, philosophical and poetic. It captures Keith amid a phase of accelerated growth, as he was “having to deal with some shit.” The MC ponders human connection, emotional immaturity in a relationship, the cult of machismo, intergenerational trauma, and community expectations as a First Nations man.
The album retains Keith’s trademark braggadocio, as heard on the lead single ‘5FT FREESTYLE’. But above all, A Colour Undone expresses sorrow, joy and resolve. (Listen/buy)
Workhorse: No Photographs
Workhorse is the project of Adelaide-based multi-instrumentalist Harriet Fraser-Barbour, a member of Wireheads, Fair Maiden and Ripple Effect Band. Fraser-Barbour conceived Workhorse in 2016 as a loose collective with herself at the centre. The project’s debut album, No Photographs, infuses alt-rock classicism with shades of Lynchian dream-pop and queer western films.
It’s a lush, immersive record made up of songs that are as textural and atmospheric as they are immediately captivating. Album standout ‘Mary Maiden’ is a reimagining of Joan Baez’s ‘River in the Pines’. Workhorse transform the sparse, acoustic folk of the original into a hypnotic, melancholic track featuring electric guitar chords, understated strings and Fraser-Barbour’s dreamlike vocals.