Album of the Year

Despite the digital age’s persistent threats to its primacy, the album is still the pre-eminent format – allowing artists the freedom to indulge their creativity in greater depth, and make more complex and substantial statements. In 2019 these Sydney acts delivered cohesive collections that kept us locked in from start to finish. Which was your album of the year?   

 

Dispossessed

DISPOSSESSED – Warpath Never Ended

A 9 track exhibition of blackened death metal, Warpath Never Ended uses melodic dissonance, razor sharp guitar-work and crushing rhythmic intensity as a vehicle to doze over the empty rhetoric of a self-proclaimed nation state built on lies, murder and exploitation. With an unapologetic disregard for lip service and symbolism, Warpath Never Ended makes listeners acutely aware of the complicity and entitlement that all settlers have benefitted from since colonisation. Tackling state violence and systemic inequality, DISPOSSESSED use their album to amplify the voice of the movement that will not rest until the oppressive structures of colonialism are dismantled and Indigenous Sovereignty is restored.

Photo: Zsuzsanna Dominika Ihar

Dying Adolescence

Dying Adolescence – Please Be Kind

Please Be Kind is the second full-length from Bleeding Knees Club and Neighbourhood Void member Mikey Barker’s bedroom emo project Dying Adolescence. As he moves out of his teenage years and into his twenty-somethings, Please Be Kind finds Mikey reflecting on the obsessions, influences and passions that shaped his adolescence. Brimming with melodic radiance, dreamy, swelling guitar tones and melancholic vocals, Barker’s songwriting reaches for a transcendent, whispered relatability that takes emo back to its lo-fi, homespun origins. Encompassing new beginnings and old ends, the songs on Please Be Kind are both inward and outward looking, downcast but determined to move forward and committed to being and doing better, piece by piece.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Low Life

Low Life – Downer Edn

Five years on from their cult debut, Sydney’s Low Life reemerge with their second LP, Downer Edn. Overflowing with sludgy, pummelling melodies, Downer Edn sees the outfit return with an expanded lineup, more polished production and a wider sense of ambition while their visceral, defeatist punk remains characteristically tattered and frayed at the edges. Low Life offer a subversive view of their hometown, one which brings to light the griminess and the seediness, the gritty realities that underlie the glittering iconography of life in Sydney. It’s this guttural desperation which pulsates throughout the streets and an eternally rotating cast of troubled characters who populate the city which colours Downer Edn and, in Low Life’s world, gives the harbour city its spirit – as well as its everlasting capacity for redemption.

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Lupa J – Swallow Me Whole

Having already established herself as one of Australia’s most boundary-pushing and forward-thinking pop auteurs, Lupa J uses her spectacular and devastating debut to showcase the full and wondrous breadth of her talent, reaching artistic heights. Swallow Me Whole is the sound of a young artist laying herself bare, breaking down old her old self and building herself back up again over the space of an album. Along the way, Lupa J uses her art to discover the person beneath, working through themes of sexuality, healing and falling in and out of love over maximalist, heart-breaking fantasies of escapism. Her songwriting treads this duality with undeniable pop sensibilities and dense, twisted production. Lupa J’s debut album represents new beginnings, both for herself personally and for an artist who has finally, fully arrived in Sydney’s musical landscape.

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Collarbones

Collarbones – Futurity

Touching on themes of devotion, romantic hope and queer futures, Collarbones’ long anticipated fourth LP is an album about crushing that remains deeply skeptical about its own fixation on crushing, carving out a space to unpack its own romantic tendencies. Futurity matches this emotional instability with a constantly shifting sonic palette that morphs between the warped bass of deep desire and hazy, sensual Frank Ocean-style ballads. Full of euphoric highs and fragile lows, Futurity is an album that feels everything. It’s the sound of throwing your all in, even if you’re terrified of the outcome. Futurity is all-consuming, an overwhelming wall of emotion that simultaneously crushes you beneath it while allowing the eternal promise of a perpetually slightly-out-of-reach future.

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Julia Jacklin – Crushing

Written in the desolate aftermath of a broken relationship and fresh off two years of incessant touring, Crushing is Julia Jacklin reclaiming her own body, exploring various forms of agency, autonomy and alienation, as well as how people can embed themselves within our bodies and minds. With Crushing, she understands that trying to untangle someone from your life happens in small steps, in between the emotionally contradictory moments of brutal honesty and self-reflection, somewhere between confusion and clarity, regret and relief, doubt and resilience. Julia Jacklin finds this all within herself on her devastating and redemptive second record, an album which we’ve all, in our own ways, also lived through.

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