Record of the Year

Despite the digital age’s persistent threats to its primacy, the album (and its relatives) 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 2021 these Sydney acts delivered cohesive collections that kept us locked in from start to finish. Which was your record of the year?   

 

NGAIIRE – 3

Ngaiire’s third album sees her grapple with new motherhood, her identity as a woman of colour from post-colonial PNG, navigating a whitewashed Australian music industry and exploring a bolder level of creative freedom than she has before. Co-written and produced by Paris-based, Sydney transplant Jack Grace, ‘3’ is deftly layered with entrancing gospel harmonies, decorated with soft electronic overtones and a percussive heartbeat that lays the groundwork for Ngaiire’s most impressive work yet.

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Marcus Whale – The Hunger

Having previously embodied the persona of the fallen angel Lucifer in his 2020 album of the same name, Marcus Whale continues his exploration of mythological and queer-iconography by using the relationship between a vampire and its victim – a lonely cowboy – as a vehicle for exploring the tensions between life and death, sensuality and gore, fear and yearning.  

Comprised of an entrancing mixture of delicate piano-led ballads and frenetic, arpeggiated synth-scapes, The Hunger weaves a macabre but beautiful story of transformation fueled by the power of desire and lust.

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Low Life – From Squats to Lots: The Agony and the XTC of Low Life

Continuing their tradition of documenting the reckless underbelly of sin city, Low Life stay true to their DIY ethos while allowing their sound to develop into something a little more textured and withdrawn. Gauzy guitars, gleaming synths and the odd string arrangement decorate the anthemic grit that Low Life has become synonymous with. Conveying Low Life’s familiar nihilism and brutality, Mitch Tolman’s lyrics paint a picture of a life where dreams get broken, affection is fleeting and the everyday world bears a heavy weight. Despite all of this, From Squats To Lots is an ode to resilience through the grind; a testament to those who revel in the The Agony And XTC of Low Life and a tribute to those who didn’t make it.

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Indira Elias – Songs from a Moon // Songs by the Sun

‘Songs from a Moon // Songs by the Sun’ is an album presented in two parts. Part one was largely written while Indira Elias was fresh out of school, living in Paris – exploratory and curious, painted with youthful courage and naivety. Part two, written here at home, sees Elias come into her own – traversing grief, heartbreak and joy at once. Both halves come together to form a whole nothing short of epic. Equal parts grandiose and sincere, peppered with soaring harp, rolling drums and angelic harmonies – ‘Songs from a Moon // Songs by the Sun’ is a debut well and truly worth the wait.

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Caitlin Harnett & the Pony Boys – Late Night Essentials

Folding notes of Americana and 70’s radio rock into their whisky-soaked alt-country, the four-piece evoke the oppressive, windless days and long, sticky nights of summertime with lush melodicism, soaring saxophones and twangy guitar licks. Coloured by a warm resilience and an aching tenderness, Caitlin’s vocals cut through the band’s backdrop with a tactile sense of honesty and a slow-burning emotional acuity that consoles the heart while also pulling it apart, surveying regret, relationships and trying to find a way to a better you.

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BLESSED – Music Is The Medicine

Ghana-born, Western Sydney-raised singer, producer and songwriter BLESSED deconstructs genre barriers and challenges the traditional ideals of a rockstar with his debut mixtape. Evading labels and categorisations, what brings together the oft-undefinable ‘Music is the Medicine’ is BLESSED’s guitar playing, which ranges from crunched-out, emo-inflected riffs to shifting, melancholic layers of atmospherics. Above all, BLESSED’s debut is his own paean to the uniquely redemptive powers of music, charting a journey of introspection, self-discovery and heartbreak as mediated through the solace and healing provided by art.

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