Feature: Backseat Downunder’s 50 Favourite Antipodean Albums and EPs of 2023

In many end of year ‘best’ albums of 2023, there has been a distinct absence of independent antipodean bands – an astounding omission given the depth of quality exhibited by Australian and New Zealand artists in 2023.

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 antipodean team has expanded, and the list now includes contributions by all the team, adding depth and variety to the list.

The post COVID boom continues with an amazing volume of releases this year, so, as always, the list is limited to the music we have heard and reviewed, although we do include some albums we didn’t get a chance to review but we might have covered the singles.

What this list reflects is that there are an enormous depth of music talent that gets overlooked by the media, both domestically and overseas and which never gets the recognition they deserve. I should stress too that I am always wary of calling anything the ‘best’ – music is not a competition and this list is merely our favourite albums and EPs that we listened to and enjoyed. I should also stress that there is a lot more we haven’t covered due to limitations in time and resources.

Deepest thanks to our antipodean team, including – Andrew Fuller (AF) in Hobart, Deb Pelser (DP), Jess Hutton (JH) in Sydney.

This list is in no particular order.

Arun Kendall (Senior Editor)

Backseat Downunder Favourite Australian/New Zealand albums of 2023:

The Church – The Hypnogogue: ‘The Hypnogogue’ does prove one thing: The Church (and indeed Kilbey as the pilot of this version of the vessel) will not bow out quietly. A collaborative effort, it is without doubt that the combination of the rich, luscious instrumentation from seasoned, experienced musicians, and the resonant, resounding melodies and cinematic anthems have created one of the band’s best records. If it is a swansong, it is an elegant epitaph for a band that has made an enormous contribution to music.(AK)

Victoria – Treats: ‘Treats’ perfectly captures the vicissitudes of life with warmth and compassion, wrapped up in a series of tracks that positively sparkles. Sometimes, all that glitters is in fact gold, and this album is pure gold from start to finish. ‘Treats’ is simply stunning and it has rapidly become for me a contender for one of the albums of the year. (AK)

Mako Bron – Halfway Home: ‘Halfway Home’ glitters and sparkles with a poignancy and poetic lyricism delivered over a scintillating instrumentation, layered and nuanced but ultimately thrilling with its anthemic stadium ready voltage. Mako Bron continues to create beautiful pop songs that glitter and shine in the darkness, and Brookman deserves a much wider audience.

Died Pretty – Live At The Forum: The pop majesty of Died Pretty shines through in every track: soaring melodies and a precise delivery that is as fresh and enchanting as it was forty years ago. It is a sweet and pretty pop with a barbed-wire spine and an inherent heart of darkness. (AK)

The Paper Kites – At The Roadhouse: The album has a wonderful cornucopia of musical styles, all of which combine to make The Paper Kites the fascinatingly tasteful band that they are. The band seamlessly blend and weave Americana, folk and rock in the most delectably organic fashion so as to reach the near perfection this album aspires to imbue upon its listeners. (AF)

Juice Webster – Julia: ‘Julia’ is a collection of shimmering and beautiful tracks borne on Webster’s diaphanous vocals, sweet and soft and filled with a yearning melancholia that bleeds into every note. (AK)

Pop Filter – CONO: ‘CONO’ stands as both timeless and genre-defying, shining a spotlight on Pop Filter’s undeniable talent. This album refuses to fade into the background; it demands attention from start to finish, unveiling itself as a complete and masterful journey. (JH)

Vincey – I’m With You: The album is a spaced out psychedelic brand of electronica. The result sees a heart thumping vibrancy to the instrumentation, which coupled with Giarrusso’s fey melodic delivery creates a delicious contrast. This is not an alternative Underground Lovers album – as, indeed, none of the other individual members’ solo work has been. It has a distinctly Vincey sound, mixing vivid organic vocals with a pulsating beat and a dreamy sonic landscape. (AK)

The Wreckery – Fake Is Forever: ‘Fake is Forever’ feels like a revelation, a raw and unapologetic exploration of the human condition through the eyes of a band that’s seen it all. (AK)

The Silversound – The Silversound: The Silversound is an album for the ages, and is a grand opening for this road-hardened collective of Australian music scene fringe identities. Whilst the title of supergroup may not sit that well with the band, the fact is that this is a super album from a super band. A must buy for any serious music lover. (AF)

The Summertimes – The Summertimes: The debut self-titled album from The Summertimes is an iridescent ray of light, replete with soaring choruses, horn fringes and an overwhelming collection of jingle jangle-encased anthems that shimmer and glow. (AK)

The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – Fronzoli: ‘Fronzoli’ is a banging album that’s perfect for the scorching Australian summer. Whether you’re out back with a cold one or cranking up the volume in your living room, this album has something for everyone. Jack McEwan and the band have poured their hearts and souls into this record, and it’s an adventure worth embarking upon. (JH)

Gena Rose Bruce – Deep Is The Way: ‘Deep Is The Way’ is a triumph of experience and growth, touched with an innocent wonder at the world expressed in lyrical grandeur and delicacy. Melancholic and sparse, each track is an ethereal joy, seeped in a glacial majesty and filled with urgency and pain and yet resilient and powerful. (AK)

follow – Old Haunts: There is something about the sound of follow that is glacial and celestial: like the night skies above their home town of Hobart with a panoply of glittering stars at the often frozen southern edge of the world. Their new album ‘Old Haunts’ is quite simply put magnificent. It is a collection of instrumentals that carve out a trail of jangling guitars and synths over relentless rhythms like a brilliant array of constellations and shooting stars. (AK)

Robert Forster – The Candle and the Flame: ‘The Candle And The Flame’ is a gracious and beautiful album. It feels almost like a farewell – filled with poignancy about the past and a resolution and acceptance about the future, expressed in Forster’s poetic eloquence without any of the wryness or cynicism of the past. It feels like Forster at the very top of his artistic powers with a collection that is consistent in quality and emotional strength. (AK)

Nat Vazer – Strange Adrenaline: ‘Strange Adrenaline’ is a beautiful and thrilling second album from Vazer. It moves from a folk based contemplative base to something brilliant and incandescent at parts – all polished by Vazer’s incredible vocal range that positively shimmers like a mirage in the hot desert. (AK)

greenhouse – Centre of the Universe: ‘Centre of the Universe’ is a brilliant and compelling collection of shimmering anthems – imbued with a profound pop sensibility, worthy of filling stadiums yet intimate and delicate at the same time. It is pure pop, graced with an indie sensibility – massive in scale with a cinematic wide-screen sonic delivery and moving in parts. (AK)

The Ronson Hangup – Centaurus: ‘Centaurus’ is a brilliant album – a genetic code firmly implanted from lush sixties folk with the jangling guitars and luscious harmonies and yet one that reflects the zeitgeist – a dark resonance exists throughout – a modern inflection of melancholy and tristesse under the sparkling exterior. (AK)

Radio Free Alice – Radio Free Alice: This EP is a refreshing and pulse-quickening debut that is both exciting and bold. While wearing esteemed musical influences on their sleeve, the delivery is unique and contemporary, filled with a louche swagger and insouciance far beyond their years. This band is going to be big. (AK)

R.J. Andrew – Black River: ‘Black River’ is a momentous journey that travels across a widescreen vista filled with muted colours engendering a dreamy reverie. It feels intimate and raw at times and yet is carried by momentous all encompassing sonic waves that are immersive and moving. (AK)

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers – I Love You: It’s like your best friend giving you a reality check while shredding on guitar. With harmonious vocals and a fearless approach to rock, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers are rewriting the rules and carving out their own path in the industry. (JH)

Philippa Nihil – Find Her Way: Each track in the album individually has an airiness and light that floats like puffs of clouds in the firmament and that combine as a whole to be something substantial and thunderous. Light features strongly throughout the album – something life affirming and dreamy at times but also something that illuminates the darkness and mirrors life. It is an album imbued with pop sensibilities and a dramatic scope – wry, posed and joyous but filled with deep reflection. (AK)

Lachlan Denton – Furnishings: Furnishings are those things that add practicality and joy to our everyday lives – filling our empty spaces and environment with our personalities and a sense of home. ‘Furnishings’ is a fitting epithet for Denton’s beautiful album: each song a profound dedication to those people, places, memories and possessions that fill the void in our lives and provide comfort and joy. (AK)

Hot Coppers – Hot Coppers: This album is a melodic masterpiece – a blend of pastoral eccentricity with the village green archness of XTC and the pop mastery of Britpop era indie rock, all wrapped up in a dream pop cloak threaded with a warm, melancholic intelligence. (AK)

Fingerless – Love, Death & Prizes: ”Life, Death & Prizes’ is an astounding collection of sonic gemstones – wandering across the universe with a degree of precision over a variety of genres from shoegaze psychedelia to krautrock via Gregorian chanting. On this scintillating journey, Fingerless display an incredible level of innovation and creativity, underpinned by an astounding level of musicianship with pop sensibilities and a grand theatricality. (AK)

The Woodland Hunters – Small Mercies: After a decade of making music together, The Woodland Hunters continue to weave that magic, and have offered up a small masterpiece of independent Australian music, and are sounding as vital as the day they began. (AF)

Amanda Brown – Eight Guitars: ‘Eight Guitars’ is an absolutely beautiful series of vignettes coasting on trembling guitars and indelible melodies that shine and linger on. It has an imperious presence: quiet reflective and poignant. It seems built upon a lifetime of memories, love, regret loss and aching joy. (AK)

Jen Cloher – I Am The River, The River Is Me: Jen Cloher is back after an absence of 5 years with a warm and insightful album that cements their place as one of our greatest singer songwriters. (DP)

Chavez Cartel – Man’s Best Friend: ‘Man’s Best Friend’ is beyond superlatives (although to be honest I’ve plundered my reserves in trying): it is a scything, eviscerating slice of pure rock’n’roll that roams and plunders the sonic landscapes at will and delivers something completely fresh and unique: cathartic filthy rock that is a pleasure to wallow in. (AK)

Dead Famous People – Ballet Boy: Pure pop lies at the heart of this album, imbued with an innocence and embellished with sky-scraping melodies and jangling guitars. A sense of optimism and romance without a shred of cynicism pervades the album – a much needed panacea to our world. (AK)

Ernie Bell – She’s Not Your Cupid: Released through the legendary Flying Nun label, the new album ‘Not Your Cupid from Tāmaki Makaurau’s Erny Belle is an absolute treasure. Delicate and nuanced, it has an indie pop style with a folk tinge and yet there is a electronic voltage throughout that is thrilling. (AK)

Georgia Mulligan – Nothing Wrong: It’s a collection of songs that will resonate with those who appreciate indie music that stirs the heart and soul. Mulligan’s unique voice and storytelling ability are something to be cherished in the ever-evolving landscape of Australian music. (JH)

Damien Binder – Bright Side: Like a museum of sonic treasures, ‘Bright Side’ collates Binder’s enticing releases under one roof, unearthing a few more delights and in the process delivering one of the strongest and most cohesive releases of the year. (AK)

Babaganouj – Jumbo Pets: ‘Jumbo Pets’ is a treasure trove of gems – enhanced by a style that gently wanders across genres with a steady pace but with a golden thread of a wry delivery, a self-deprecating sense of humour and indelible melodies that shine through. (AK)

Ben Salter – Sublimation: ‘Sublimation’ …distills the more indie pop side of Ben Salter’s earlier trilogy, showcasing his capacity for writing shimmering melodic songs that are threaded with a dry wit, and a twisted pop sensibility. (AK)

Gareth Koch – Ghost Stories: ‘Ghost Stories’ consists of mesmerising sonic tales filled with a stunning range of instruments and sounds, which coalesce in a thrilling series of vignettes that evoke faraway lands, visceral emotions and exciting, thrilling moments. (AK)

Georgia Knight – Hell On Bent Street: The EP ‘Hell On Bent Street’ from Melbourne chanteuse Georgia Knight is a deliciously dark and frosty delight that circles and prowls like a caged tiger filled with restrained anger and a delicate refrain. At every note there hangs a haunting aura, spacious and expressive, gothic and dark. It is a remarkable debut that belies Knight’s youth. (AK)

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – The Silver Cord: In a world where many artists find comfort in their signature sound, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard fearlessly march to the beat of their own Simmons drum. (JH)

Lisa Caruso – Stretching: ‘Stretching’ is an enigmatic collection of songs – deeply personal and yet dealing with universal themes and carried triumphantly on Caruso’s velvet vocals and a bed of electronic-centered instrumentation that builds up visceral layers and lush atmospheres.(AK)

Matt Malone – For The Term Of My Natural Life: ‘For The Term Of My Natural Life’ is not an easy journey but it is one that is fascinating and immersive. It is a dark and foreboding vessel with imperfections that let in a little light of hope and redemption and leak a little sorrow and pain into the universe. The instrumentation is precise and sharp – emotional, scything and eloquent and as poetic and dark as the vocals and the lyrics. (AK)

Mark Moldre – Nambucca Fables: This is classic Moldre territory: an ability to sonically capture feelings and memories like an aural photograph, framed in a beautiful setting and delivered with a raw naked emotion that lingers in your mind for an eternity. (AK)

Merci Mercy – Like An Orchid: ‘Like An Orchid’ blooms with alt-pop brilliance. From the heartfelt ‘Shovel’ to the catchy vibes of ‘Lonely & Horny’, each track paints a vivid emotional canvas. Merci, mercy fearlessly weaves tales of love and growth into captivating melodies. (JH)

Sand Brothers – Too Much Sky: ‘Too Much Sky’ is a brilliant and stately release – filled with a certain poignancy and veracity, unashamedly Australian, unashamedly pop, willing to experiment with sounds and emotions that combine to create nine classic, immersive tracks. (AK)

Sunsick Daisy – Breathe In…Breathe Out: It’s an EP of two halves – the first three tracks are subtle gentle dream pop before the shackles are thrown off and the band veers into a harder shoegaze territory. But the golden thread running though out are the gossamer vocals, reflective personal lyrics and jangling guitars that combine to create an ethereal and majestic mantle. It is quite frankly outrageous that a band so young can produce something so posed and polished. (AK)

The Belair Lip Bombs – Lush Life: The Belair Lip Bombs are purveyors of the most magnificent brand of blistering indie pop and ‘Lush Life’ captures their energy and songwriting, with a delicious air of yearning threaded throughout. (AK)

Cam Butler – Strings Magic: This is a fascinating collection of moods that perfectly capture Butler’s composition talents: eloquent and stately at times, brash and zesty at other points, sometimes both elements combining within the same track but above all moving and emotional. (AK)

Rinehearts – Full Bloom: The shimmering, jangling guitars and harmonies of Perth band Rinehearts seemingly captures the brilliant bright Western Australian sunshine in their sound, and temper it with just a shake of yearning and melancholia.(AK)

Hillsborough – Comin’ Back For You: This is an enormously satisfying album filled with aching emotions, cinematic vistas and scything guitars. (AK)

Anna Smyrk – Cortisol and Blue Light: ‘Cortisol and Blue Light’ is a package that delights and entertains with a melodic pop majesty suffuse with an indelible glow. (AK)

T. G Shand – Cinnamon: ‘Cinnamon’ is a testimony to T.G. Shand’s ability to create shimmering glacial imagery from the sounds – waves of sparkle and glitter that flow through the notes and creates a mesmerising dream state. (AK)

Karen Vogt – Losing The Sea: This is a sonic representation of yearning delivered across six layers that ebb and flow like the tides and with a magnetic, transfixing pull like the full moon on a starry night. It is an album to immersive yourself in and float across the vibrant surface in a reverie, a veritable ocean of tranquility and repose. (AK)

The Grogans – Find Me A Cloud: The Grogans are a band that dabbles in sounds, genres and styles – experimenting with tone while maintaining a low-fi thrum. There is something uniquely antipodean in the process – an overall sense of bacchanalia, sunshine and drifting coastal waters, a carefree existence in a Kombi van on the open road. Very refreshing. (AK)

RVG – Brain Worms: The band has developed a more muscular and sparse sound: Vager’s vocals, while higher in register, exude a powerful, sneering and combative attitude undercut by a vulnerability. (AK)

RINSE – sinkerº: RINSE has left behind the pretty icing that decorated his past productions and gone for the jugular with production-centred recording showcasing his skills in the studio. And yet the very genetics in his songwriting remain – an ear for melody and arrangement that result in epic cinematic songs that seem hedonistic and bacchanalian. (AK)

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  1. […] the world last year, making it to the top of many lists of albums of the year (including our own Backseat Downunder list). Powles is also a bit of an experienced producer in his own right and has just release a thrilling […]

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