Record of the Year
Ok real talk are you a playlist girlie or an album girlie? Despite the digital age’s persistent threats to its primacy, the album (and its relatives the mixtape, EP, compilation, etc) is still the pre-eminent format for music delivery – allowing artists the freedom to indulge their creativity in greater depth, and to make more complex and substantial statements. In 2023 these Sydney acts delivered cohesive collections that kept us locked in from start to finish. Which was your record of the year?
Ziggy Ramo – Sugar Coated Lies
Sugar Coated Lies is the soul-baring record of rapper, musician and producer Ziggy Ramo, and an introspective look into the way intergenerational trauma manifests. Considered, commanding and confident, the Wik and Solomon Islander artist’s effortless lyrical flow simmers above production that calls back to the golden era of hip-hop, while adorned with fresh sonic flourishes. Textural soundscapes unfurl throughout the record, with elements ranging from restrained guitar to eruptions of maximalist production, further proving Ziggy Ramo’s talents not only as a powerful songwriter, but a formidable producer.
Photo courtesy of nominee
Skeleten – Under Utopia
Skeleten’s debut record is an exercise in considered groove, meticulous production and top shelf songwriting. Atop sonic textures of dance, electronica, and RnB, Skeleten’s vocals stream through, airy and spaciously-mixed. Under Utopia faces a despairing, cynical world with transformative sincerity; written before and during lockdown, the album is not so much a rejection of the collective trauma of the pandemic as it is a calm acceptance of the struggles of the years past, and a gentle reminder that no matter what, at the end of it all, we still have each other.
Optic Nerve – Angel Numbers
Angel Numbers is the debut album from Sydney punks Optic Nerve. The band have quickly become a force of the Australian underground – evolving their raw, hardcore sound, with a distinct country twang, alongside lush studio instrumentation. 33 minutes and 33 seconds long, Angel Numbers is crafted with absolute intention – speaking in signs and in symbols, Optic Nerve invite you to imagine meaning into being. In their words: “If you desire like us, your desires will always exist beyond the constraints of this violent world.”
Photo: Madeleine Elliott
Ninajirachi – Second Nature
Second Nature is the vast and impeccably crafted debut mixtape from Sydney artist Ninajirachi. Exploring futuristic and ecstatic club sounds, Second Nature showcases Ninajirachi’s talents as a producer, with a precise ear for detail and a singular ability for immersive world building. Whether you’re listening on a dancefloor or in your headphones, Second Nature marks the producer undoubtedly as one of this country’s most talented.
Photo: Billy Zammit
Julia Jacklin – PRE PLEASURE
PRE PLEASURE is a quintessential Julia Jacklin album; it is at once starkly intimate, and completely universal. Drawing on the generational gap between mothers and daughters, rekindling friendships and navigating the meaning of true love – there’s always been a sense of knowing and quiet observation in the music of Julia Jacklin. Set to delicate arrangements – at times sparse and at other times playful and soaring – PRE PLEASURE is a generous and welcoming collection of songs that marks a confident metamorphosis for one of the country’s most beloved songwriters.
Photo: Nick Mckk
Dylan Atlantis – VIOLET
Since their first single release in 2021, Dylan Atlantis has come a long way in sound, expression and artistry in their record, VIOLET. Completely written and self-produced by Dylan, it boasts clean RnB tones with indie reverberating guitar licks and processed vocals. Much like the record’s namesake, the hues of a summer sunset, VIOLET is an embrace of nuance, bittersweet memory, and introspection that leaves a lingering sense of yearning – a beautiful exercise of empathy.
Photo courtesy of nominee
Collarbones – Filth
Despite each of the eleven tracks on Filth presenting a different expression of Collarbones’ multi-faceted sound – from ethereal guitars heavy with reverb to pulsing and percussive rave-ready cuts – a throughline that connects each song on the record together is Collarbones’ impassioned songwriting, addictive hooks and stirring choruses. Sonically Filth sees the duo paying homage to the sounds that have inspired them since their inception – nu metal, experimental pop and 90s club music – and reinterpret those genre conventions to conceive a wholly original sound that is undeniably Collarbones.
Photo courtesy of nominee
Bract x BAYANG (tha Bushranger) – REDBRICKGOTHIK
The streets of Sydney come alive on REDBRICKGOTHIK, a collaborative album between Sydney DIY industrial/noise trio Bract, and rapper BAYANG (tha Bushranger). A product of three years of experimentation between the two, REDBRICKGOTHIK is a brutal assault of sonic energy. Waves of whirring distortion and rattling percussion from Bract weld with sharp, angular bars from BAYANG, a staunch declaration of working class rage.