In many end of year best albums of 2022 put together by outlets such as The Guardian and NME, there has been a distinct absence of antipodean bands – an astounding omission given the depth of quality exhibited by Australian and New Zealand artists in 2022.
For the past few years, to counterbalance this annual bias, I have put together a top fifty favourite albums (including EPs) from the antipodean region. This year, under the Backseat Downunder label, Backseat Mafia’s Australian and News Zealand team has expanded considerably, and the list now includes contributions by the team, adding depth and variety to the list.
Given the volume of releases (and this year there seems to have been a lot more than usual as artists emerged from their COVID lockdown bedroom studios), the list only reflects stuff we have heard and that reflect our personal music tastes – and therefore the list is of our favourite releases, not necessarily the best (and after all, music should not be a competition). The list includes a couple of albums that were not reviewed in full on our site (although the singles were).
Internationally, the albums I personally enjoyed most were ‘Skinty Fia‘ by the formidable Fontaines D.C. as well as the astonishing debut ‘Versions of Modern Performance’ from Horsegirl and Charlie Clark‘s ‘Late Night Drinking‘.
We have also added a list of favourite live gigs.
Deepest thanks to our antipodean team, including – Andrew Fuller (AF) in Hobart, Deb Pelser (DP), Jo Foster and Cody Stebbings (CS) in Sydney, Suzanne Phoenix in Melbourne, Tania Ogier in Brisbane, Stephanie Cartwright and Clare Mackey (CM) in New Zealand and Skye Sampson in Adelaide.
This list is in no particular order.
Arun Kendall (Senior Editor)
Backseat Downunder Favourite Australian/New Zealand albums of 2022:
Hatchie – ‘Giving The World Away’ – The sun always shines brighter when Brisbane dream pop shoegaze queen Hatchie releases another sonic gemstone, and her second album, ‘Giving The World Away’ is an absolute shimmering triumph. 9.5/10 (AK)
Fazerdaze – ‘Break!’ – There is a rougher hewn edge to ‘Break!’: guitars positively buzz and jangle with an angry fuzz and the vocals create a distant, almost dissociated attitude-laden thrill. The sound is more mature and to a degree a little more world weary than we saw in her epic debut album ‘Morningside’. 9/10 (AK)
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – ‘Endless Rooms’ – This album exhibits the band’s trademark pop sensibilities and keenly crafted sense of humour and wit. The remorseless insistent and wandering bass creates a liquidity and sense of endless movement under the rippling, splashing guitars and the whip smart vocals. 8.9/10 (AK)
King Stingray – ‘King Stingray’ – One of the most gloriously joyous bands I’ve ever seen, and those familiar with me and my writing will know I’m generally inclined towards the more melancholic and the miserable. Infective, while currently a much maligned concept, is the fitting description of the self-titled album and the music. The powerful vocals mix Yolŋu Matha and English languages: a unique fusion of indie rock and First Nations music, creating something that is fresh and exciting. 8.6/10 (AK)
Adalita – ‘Inland’ – To say that this album is possibly Adalita’s finest solo work to date, may be open to conjecture and subjective opinion. However, there is no denying that it is a musical salve destined to be a balm for the ears of not only her many fans, but of many a good-music lover. 9/10 (AF)
Greta Stanley – ‘Real Love In Real Life’ – There is a sophistication and finesse to the album that is further evidence of Stanley’s growth as an artist. Stanley’s voice is as delicate and ethereal as ever, with its subtle Australian accent and a yearning, melancholic brush. The instrumentation is multi-layered and delicate with a syncopated beat and distant sonic trills, creating a shimmering undercurrent. This is a statuesque pop album with its indelible melodies and dream pop sparkle. 9/10 (AK)
These New South Whales – ‘These New South Whales’ – Three years on from sophomore release, I Just Do What God Tells Me To Do, the third full-length release from These New South Whales delivers in spades. 9/10 (AF)
Alannah Russack’s Entropy Band – ‘As Memories Pass Each Other’ – This is a beautiful album – it feels close, personal and intimate, journeying as it does across a lifetime of regret, loss and reconstruction with a sense of resilience and a spark of hope. The instrumentation gathers in its arms a suite of glorious, raw emotional instruments and sounds that gently gambol and play under Russack’s powerful vocals, encompassing a country twang and indie sensibility and imparting a certain sense of grandeur. 9/10 (AK)
Holly Hebe – ‘Party Mix’ – ‘Party Mix’ is ironically titled – this EP is a gentle repose – open, vulnerable, studied and delicate. Hebe displays a nuanced songwriting that is honest as it is melodic, filled with melancholy and yearning, hopelessly romantic at times and worn out and tired at other times. It is a breathtaking debut. 9/10 (AK)
Blackbirds F.C. – ‘Magiclands’ – The themes of ‘Magiclands’ perfectly capture a perfect elision between memories and the comfort they bring, and the anxieties of our current reality with nature and the environment a palimpsest for our anxieties and insecurities. And Blackbirds F.C. deliver it in such a perfectly beautiful package with gentle strings providing a comforting sweep under the crystalline guitars and vaulting melodies. This is gloriously epic material. 8.5/10 (AK)
Dave Graney and Clare Moore – ‘In A MistLY’ – ‘Dave Graney & Clare Moore in a mistLY’ is a lounge room besuited and arch delight – theatrical, fey and imbued with a faded sense of innocent delight and debauched excess. It reverberates with a delightful, playful sense of a fin de siecle wake, soaked in Absinthe and filled with a resigned joy as the ship goes down. 8.7/10 (AK)
Verticoli – ‘The Echo’ – ‘The Echo’ is to some extent an album of incredible contrasts – from punky slamming thunder that roars like an out of control bushfire to restrained Antarctic chills and a cold distant delivery. It is an album of the elements: a reflection of the Tasmanian land from which it springs: a world of contrasts that can terrify and thrill within seconds, leave you agape with its raw beauty and power. 8.7/10 (AK)
Jo Meares – ‘Dream Hotel’ – ‘Dream Hotel’ is a magnificent tour de force: an assemblage of pure emotion that breathes softly down your neck and take possession of your very soul. Enchanting, transfixing, mesmerising: weaving an indelible spell. This is pure magic. 9.5/10 (AK)
Slag Queens – ‘Favours’ – Whilst Slag Queens are inspired by DIY no-wave music and the feminist politics of Riot Grrl, much of their music bears the hallmarks of pioneering 80’s bands such as Joy Division/New Order, Pylon, The Cure, The Raincoats and even hints of earlier B-52’s. 8.5/10 (AF)
The Great Emu War Casualties – ‘Quiet Bat People’ – Quiet Bat People’ is a glorious and diverse collection of stars in the firmament: emitting glitter and light while being made of something quite substantial and profound. In this EP, The Great Emu War Casualties have succeeded in creating out of the dour times in which we live, something that pushes against the darkness and shines with a musical radiance and lyrical intelligence. 8.7/10 (AK)
Salarymen – ‘Head In The Sand’ – Salarymen have perfected a luminescent sixties-infected pop sunshine buzz in their songs, which have been collected in a dazzling array in their new EP ‘Head In The Sand’. 8.5/10 (AK)
Tanya Lee Davies – ‘Dreamland’ – The entire album evokes a sense of a cozy cocktail bar lounge, replete with red velvet curtains and a deep sense of longing. All delivered with an arched eyebrow. The gentle guitars and understated rhythms serve the delicious vocals which deliver wry, wistful stories of love, longing and loss. 8.4 (AK)
Gary Gray and Ed Clayton-Jones – ‘We Mainline Dreamers’ – We Mainline Dreamers’ is a whole operatic piece, a complete movement (like a ship tossed on a wild sea), something to immerse yourself in and to wallow around with abandon. Scything guitars and wailing songs, a certain dissonance and dischord: this is a collaboration that has taken 40 years to make and as such has matured beautifully like a fine gallon of wine. 8.5/10 (AK)
Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy – ‘The Strange Life of Persephone Nimbus’ – With the mix of Kennedy’s multi-instrumental retro sci-fi shimmer and sparkle and Kilbey’s spiritual aestheticism and lyrical mysticism, the result is as ever something that exceeds the sum of its parts to achieve something quite magnificent. 9.5/10 (AK)
Key Out – ‘afterville’ – There is an afterglow that lingers long after ‘afterville’ has finished. It is an album that reflects the enormous talent that is Patrick Haid and his band. Every track is a treasure: evocative, floating in the ether with a restrained dynamism and blinding brilliance, heartbreakingly beautiful in stature and eye watering in its emotion and strength. 9.6/10 (AK)
Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird – ‘Smiles of Earth’ – Smiles of Earth’ delivers a wide screen epic masterpiece that consists of endless horizons, wide open plains, red dirt earth and a sparkling firmament. Deep inside every track is an element of optimism and romanticism, albeit a world view seen through the bottom of a whiskey glass in a late night red velvet lounge where a spark of hope glimmers in the opaque smoky air. CTBNF have cornered the market in sonic euphoria. 9.3 (AK)
Johnny Hunter – ‘Want’ – ‘Want’ is a masterpiece of new wave post punk indie imbued with a punk sensibility. The inherent muscularity of music and imagery is leavened by an erudite sensitivity and an indelible ear for pop melodies that makes this a stunning debut. 9.4/10 (AK)
The Double Happiness – ‘Roadhouse’ – This is an ambitious album that eschews standard indie pop tropes – it develops a style that is like nothing else around, it tells tall stories, personal vignettes and pognant reflections over a vast sweeping vista of endless horizons and red dusty earth, with guitars that weep and wail, gnash their teeth and reverberate and shimmer. 8.8/10 (AK)
Terra Pines – ‘Downbeats’ – Downbeats’ is a thoroughly satisfying collection of psychedelic substance-laced candy: a creative tension between sweet and sour, delicate melodies and baseball bat hits to the head, vulnerability and muscle. It is an ambitious and enthralling album brushed with a delightful gothic darkness and buzzsaw cut delivering the sweetest of pop melodies with a melancholic sneer. 9/10 (AK)
FLOWERTRUCK – ‘Partly Cloudy’ – ‘Partly Cloudy’ is an exuberant series of jaunty ditties that tell a darker story but ultimately leaves room for hope. FLOWERTRUCK combine enthralling story-telling through vivid, personal poetry with a jangling angular musical attack that sparkles and shines across ten shimmering tracks. The album is a sonic triumph, while the band can take their place amongst the exciting roll call of contemporary antipodean bands that carry the torch of those who preceded them. 8.8/10 (AK)
Prudence – ‘Negatives’ – Taken as a whole, ‘Negatives’ is just that: a reversal of light collected into twelve songs, darkened outlines that shimmer imperceptibly with Crandles’s voice a distant presence observing the vicissitudes of life through the dark miasma of the music. It feels like a deeply personal journey into the heart of darkness albeit with a delicious indulgent, cathartic sheen that seems to emerge at the end into the sunlight. It is a magnificent journey to be taken on. 8.5/10 (AK)
Liquid Nails – ‘Liquid Nails’ – For mine, this is one of the best album releases of 2022 thus far, not only here in Tasmania, but anywhere. At a relatively short 24 minutes in duration, the album is just long enough to not make one feel overwhelmed by its’ furious intensity. 9/10 (AF)
The Valery Trails – ‘The Sky Is Blue’ – ‘The Sky is Blue’ is a glorious collection of antipodean indie pop vignettes from Brisbane outfit The Valery Trails – an album that is anthemic and bold. 8.7/10 (AK)
Jodi Phillis – ‘We Need To Be Free’ – On her new album ‘We Need To Be Free’ Jodi Phillis sends a message of hope, love and personal growth to those who have endured so much trauma during the past few years. 9/10 (DP)
Spacey Jane – ‘Here Comes Everyone’ – A sophomore album is never easy, but Spacey Jane prove they’re up to the task and have delivered a gloriously warm and melodic follow up to ‘Sunlight’. 8.5/10 (DP)
Polish Club – ‘Now We’re Cookin’ In Hell’ – Polish Club’s new album is a rollicking barrel of fun with some wry humour and acute social observations that’ll make you want to party like there’s no tomorrow. 8.5/10 (DP)
Lewis Goldmark – ‘Cut and Flash’ – ‘Cut and Flash’ is quite a triumph: it sounds like nothing else around at the moment yet has an easy familiarity and pop sensibility that nods at the swinging sixties of Carnaby Street, arches a knowing and perfectly manicured eyebrow at Britpop and forges its own shimmering path. 9/10 (AK)
Eliza and the Delusionals – ‘Now and Then’ – Eliza and the Delusionals emerge from the Covid pandemic with an album that draws on the best of the 90s and early 2000s and delivers a rocking punch that leaves you reeling with delight. 8.8/10 (DP)
High Ace – ‘Snowcap Menace’ – The brainchild of Australian folk-rock husband & wife duo, Jeff Lang and Alison Ferrier, Snowcap Menace is a virtual cornucopia of the pair’s musical influences and varying styles, ranging from blues, ethno-folk and alt-country through to alternative rock…..and while this may sound like utter musical confusion, it all blends rather seamlessly together to form an aural experience demanding to be heard and ultimately, enjoyed. 9/10 (AF)
Mallrat – ‘Butterfly Blue’ – At the heart of this album is pure unadulterated pop: shimmering glowing tracks that emit rays of golden sunshine that showcase Shaw’s beautiful vocals and poetry. Her voice has the range and velvet tones of Dusty Springfield: soft and yet powerful in delivery. 9/10 (AK)
Screamfeeder – ‘Five Rooms’ – ‘Five Rooms’ is a thunderous and evocative album: filled with a certain melodic sweetness that is underpinned by a raw, organic instrumentation with shades of light and darkness, subtle at times, fuzzy and muscular at other times. 8.5/10 (AK)
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – ‘Night Gnomes’ – ‘Night Gnomes’ came out fittingly at midnight, lurking in the quiet darkness, waiting for the prime listeners to play the fluid brilliance through any form of speakers whatsoever. 9/10 (CS)
Nik Brinkman – ‘Unplugged’ – Without the shimmering production frills and standing before us in their collective birthday suits, the songs on the EP highlight the basic truth: Brinkman is a songwriter of immense capability. Unadorned, these three tracks are exquisitely crafted gems, highlighting Brinkman’s sonorous vocals, the superglue melodies and the über cool laconic lyrics. 9/10 (AK)
Silk Cut – ‘panda’ – ‘panda’ has a distinct space/folk feel: a mix of dreamy, ambient vocals and instrumentation with layered harmonies and sparkling guitars. The singular thread throughout is the anthemic choruses, buttressed by an extra-terrestrial spaced out psychedelia. 8.5/10 (AK)
EWAH and the Vision of Paradise – ‘The Warning Birds’ – ‘The Warning Birds’ is a palimpsest for beauty and decay, wild and turbulent landscapes with the intrusion of modernity and the threats and ugliness this can entail. The music is ethereal and bold, the lyrics eviscerating and personal, creating something that can be heartbreakingly beautiful while tearing holes in your heart with a sense of loss. 9.2/10 (AK)
Christopher Coleman and the Great Escape – ‘The Great Tasmanian Escape’ – ‘The Great Tasmanian Escape’ is quite simply a masterpiece. With touches of folk and americana, it is a gripping narrative tale borne on the shoulders of the most impeccable instrumentation. Coleman’s poetry is moving and heart breaking, filled with intimate details and emotions and bursting with colour and movement. With his lyrical sonic landscapes, Coleman has captured the heart and soul of Tasmania reflecting all of the colours in the pallete – the dark and grim shades of history and personal grief as well as the bright rays of resilience, defiance and love. 9.3 (AK)
Ben Salter – ‘Twenty-One Words For Happiness’ – The album is best experienced as an immersive whole – a series of quickly moving observations that are individually quirky and restless but which combine into an experience that is mesmerising and hypnotic. Salter as ever captures senses and emotions, inspired no doubt by the atmospheric hallowed halls of MONA. 8.8/10 (AK)
Noir Et Blanc – ‘Wallflower’ – ‘Wallflower is a immersive and ethereal journey: carrying us deep into Ramsay’s creative world that sonically evokes the minute patterns of our existence – our natural world – with immeasurable beauty. 8.5/10 (AK)
Mild Orange – ‘Looking For Space’ – Mild Orange emit incandescent rays of sunshine in their new shimmering album ‘Looking For Space’: a dream pop classic that sets a high benchmark for 2022. 9/10 (AK)
Maxine Gillon – ‘Ultra Lounge‘- With ‘Ultra Lounge’ Gillon has brought us an imagined vision of a down-at-heel chanteuse as she passes along seedy streets and nightclubs, the result is a captivating and thought-provoking EP. 8.8/10 (DP)
Our favourite gigs in Australia and New Zealand in 2022:
Arun Kendall: A bout with COVID accompanied by a subsequent reluctance to engage with crowds as, well as the unfortunately small number of bands touring Tasmania, limited my exposure to live music this year. Dark Mofo supplied the usual batch of high-quality gigs – Cate le Bon, Baxter Dury and Kid Laroi being prime examples of fantastic gigs I got to attend, and I also thoroughly enjoyed venturing out to see Caelo (the live performance of work by local Hobartian Abe Parsons). The highlight for me, though, was seeing Christopher Coleman and the Great Escape playing an open-air gig in Salamanca Square for the MONA FOMA Festival early in the year.
The live performance was an absolute delight: the band clearly enjoying themselves (I love it when unmiked performers can be seen to be bellowing the words) and creating a harmonious and infectious atmosphere. It felt a true privilege to be in such an intimate COVID-restricted venue to see a performance by a band that should be a lot bigger than they are. This was a command performance and a privilege to witness.
Deb Pelser: Trying to choose a favourite concert for the year is like trying to choose your favourite child. It’s basically an impossible task. I have seen so many great concerts this year, from Sharon Van Etten who has the voice of an angel, to Aldous Harding with her quirkiness and amazing songs and obscure lyrics. Amyl and the Sniffers absolutely slaying a capacity crowd at the Enmore – a mere three years after I first saw them play the Paddo RSL. Perfume Genius supported by the sublime Hand Habits – an unforgettable night. Courtney Barnett inviting us into her personal space – touring in support of her latest album with its candid and sincere lyrics.
The joy of seeing Tropical Fuck Storm in a pub setting in Newtown, with fans peering in through the windows , desperate to get into the packed out venue, whilst the band played a set so fierce it pummelled you into submission . Fabels at the Factory with their wide, musical landscapes mesmerising and so surprising. Wet Leg totally living up to the hype, playing an exuberant set to a crowd who were absolutely overjoyed to be seeing them at the small and intimate Lansdowne. Everyone had that sense of knowing that great things await this band and acknowledging how lucky we were to be seeing them at this point in their career. Then there was Sam Fender, channelling the Boss for a new generation. The Sydney stalwarts such as Crash and the Crapenters, Downgirl and Second Idol who continue to contribute to keeping Sydney’s music scene so vibrant. The energy and in-your-face attitude of Voiid and Full Flower Moon Band, delivered with such force that it made me rock back on my heels, like I’d taken a blow from Muhammed Ali.
But my concert of the year was Jen Cloher’s performance at Waywards, Sydney where she channelled Patti Smith and re-established herself as Australia’s own poet laureate and social conscience. All power to her and I can’t wait for her new album-out next year.
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis brought Carnage, transcendence and humour to a packed Opera house.
But… Jen was the best.
Stephanie Cartwright: The live music scene jumped straight into top gear as covid restrictions were lifted in Aotearoa. This was somewhat overwhelming and exciting, with a kid at the candy store tinged with “holy crap there’s a lot of people in this room” vibe. It was an absolute treat and honour to review some long standing kiwi favourites such as The Blackseeds to world stage contender Reb Fountain.
A new discovery for my playlist this year was Mel Parsons, someone who’s name was familiar along with some of her popular hits, though I hadn’t yet indulged my senses into the full Mel Parsons experience. With the release of her album “Slow Burn” starting to make waves, I was curious to catch one of her shows out of an impressive 15 date line up. The venues and cities featured spoke highly of her loyal fanbase and after the first set of her show at The Isaac Theatre Royal Christchurch, I understood why. With deep smoky vocals, a supremely tight band and lyrics that wrap around and pluck at the heartstrings, that could have been enough for Mel to earn a well deserved place on my spotify playlist. It was the energy of the group, flawlessly raw vocals, solid driving delivery and the salt of the earth humour that had me rounding up a crew to drive half the day and night back to catch another show at the end of the tour. Check her out, you won’t regret it.
Suzanne Phoenix: 2022 started strong with two Tropical Fuck Storm gigs, first at Torquay Hotel and then The Forum, both hot, sweaty and crazed, big smiling faces all round. I caught them again in August at The Croxton Bandroom and discovered Party Dozen as one of the supports. The encore was a cover of Cold Chisel’s ‘Saturday Night’, which Gareth declared was the greatest song ever written, and all the support band members joined them along with Foxie and Ralph the dogs. Nothing could top this moment for me in live music really. Gig of the year.
Other contenders were Cash Savage and the Last Drinks who I saw more than any other band; I always think I really don’t need to see them again but as soon as they start it hits me how phenomenal they are. Blake Scott’s intimate, solo show downstairs at The Curtin, where it was so packed he stood on his guitar case to play, is a memory I will hold dear. New obsession with CW Stoneking after seeing him front row at a seated, very rowdy show at The Memo, Healesville, what a character and a talent. Discovered Sappho live to be truly brilliant at GraceyFest, Shotkickers. My first time seeing The Hard Ons with Tim Rogers at Hotel Westwood was everything I hoped it would. Melbourne’s Reclink Community Cup finally returned with Cash Savage and Private Function just killing it. The debut gig of RJ Andrew (Richard), drummer of seminal shoe gaze band Underground Lovers at Brunswick Artists’ Bar was another special moment.
Amyl and the Sniffers with their final gig of their ‘Comfort to Me’ tour was just perfect at The Pier Bandroom, Frankston, wonderful to see them tour fit on their home turf again. Canberra’s punk rock queens Glitoris returned to at The Tote again with songs from their yet to be released new album.
And finally, unusually, I finished off my live music year with a couple of massive stadium shows at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Guns ‘n Roses and then Billy Joel! But TFS still the top of the list.
Andrew Fuller: I have found this a completely impossible task to break down to just one favourite gig
for the whole of 2022. Being the great lover of live performance that I am (nothing brings me greater joy than seeing good musicians bring joy to a live audience) and the sheer number of gigs I go
to see in a year, it is challenging for me to narrow it down to just one.
I was overjoyed at having the opportunity to see (soon-to-be) Grammy Award winning blues player, Cedric Burnside (the grandson of the late, great RL Burnside) not only once, but on consecutive
nights at two different venues across southern Tasmania. (pic of solo acoustic guitar player). The other
international act was an act from the Dark Mofo festival, Spiritualized. I have long been a lover of great psychedelic music, and to see the ex-Spaceman 3 supremo, Jason Pierce (aka J Spaceman) was
a treat I never thought I would get to experience
However, it came down to two Melbourne acts who came across to Hobart. The first was a band that attracted me simply by their name – Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice.This turned out to be a wonderful discovery gig with these fantastic post-punk art-rockers with a social conscience playing a great set. However the next Melbourne band to blow me away was Mannequin Death Squad which for me was the best gig for 2022.This two-piece garage-punk band created such a huge sound mixed with a heap of pop sensibilities that I couldn’t help but be super impressed.
We would like to thank the record labels, PR Agencies, venues and promoters who have helped us with reviews, honoured us with premieres and given us accreditation. Finally, and in particular, we would like to thank all the obscenely talented bands out there who have given us so much joy.