Record of the Year

A great record is something to be treasured. Putting together a cohesive collection of songs is a daunting task for any artist, and these Sydney artists have really raised the bar. Each of these albums gripped us from start to finish, start to finish, start to finish, on repeat. Now the task of crowning 2016’s finest falls to you!

Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win

Nothing as meticulously laid back as Julia Jacklin’s Don’t Let the Kids Win came out in 2016. Jacklin’s playful sense of wit and nonchalant storytelling masks a serious degree of personal insight. She careens through friendships and lost identities; using her commanding voice to weave little life lessons into her songs. Don’t Let the Kids Win is a monument to what so many artists struggle to capture: real authenticity. Julia Jacklin might have studied the greats throughout her career in music, but now, guitar in hand, she can take her place as one of them.

L-Fresh The Lion – Become

Western Sydney MC L-FRESH The LION shares a bold, powerful vision of overcoming adversity. He teaches us what it means to accept change, and how to wrestle control over your own identity and future. His 2016 album Become stretches L-FRESH’s range in all directions—on his ethnic identity he feels soulful and reflective, on cultural difference he’s acerbic, on self-worth he’s come straight from war. L-FRESH sharpens “tolerance” and “diversity” from throwaway words into personal dispatches and fierce battle cries. Few records are as relevant to our city’s cultural diversity as Become.

Marcus Whale – Inland Sea

A longtime icon in Sydney music, Marcus Whale has taken his time in delivering an album under his own name. Inland Sea is well worth the wait. Whale’s previous work in Collarbones and BV (formerly, Black Vanilla) has brought him a wide audience, and with Inland Sea, he gives us back a piece of himself. He stands naked on the album’s cover, shielded by a thin layer of smoke. It’s a stark introduction to a deeply personal meditation on land and identity. Whale’s natural hand at electronic production meets his formal education in contemporary classical music, crafting a dark and atmospheric record that’s held together by his artful, rhythmic vocals.

Rainbow Chan – Spacings

Rainbow Chan has spent years refining her music production, songwriting and stylistic range. She’s reached a clear peak on her first full length album, Spacings. It’s a bold vision, boasting a theatrical flair that never overshadows delicate moments of tenderness and introspection. The album’s early hits, ‘Nest’ and ‘Last’, have Chan firing at an unassailably high level, comfortably seating her alongside the year’s very best pop musicians. We’ve been devoted supporters of Rainbow Chan since the beginning of her career, and it’s a huge pleasure to see her talent solidify into Spacings, a truly remarkable record.

Ribongia – Escapisms

Ribongia is an old Florentine word meaning chaos, rowdiness, general mischief and pandemonium. It’s a sly moniker for Sydney electronic artist Antonio Rosselli Del Turco. His 2016 EP, Escapisms, is a rich fusion of African tribal percussion and vocal samples, shimmering steel drum lines and big jungle bass. It should be a cacophony of disparate sounds—a mess, in other words—but Escapisms takes turns at both the tranquil and the rowdy, more mischief-making than all-out chaos. It takes a deft hand to form this kind of propulsive, richly textured club sound from such diverse range of styles, all the while maintaining Ribongia’s trademark loose-fitting safari sheen.

Shining Bird – Black Opal

Shining Bird locked themselves away for long recording sessions deep in the Blue Mountains over the last two years. We wondered what they’d return with, whether it’d ring with same quintessentially Australian rock majesty of their breakthrough album Leisure Coast. Leading singles ‘Helluva Lot’ and ‘I Can Run’ assured us there was magic on the way. The rest of Black Opal brims with the nostalgic spirit that always made Shining Bird a force to be reckoned with—a unique way of looking backward and forward at once, a great survey of all the things that make this land of ours great, and a guiding hand through the challenges we still need to address.