This year has given us plenty of musical gems, such as Gang of Youths’ Go Farther in Lightness, Quiet Ferocity from The Jungle Giants, and an endless stream of King Gizz records. So much, in fact, that it’s been very tough to keep up.
There are always a few albums that slip under your radar the first time around, and while there are dozens we could have included, we’ve compiled a list of seven great records you might have missed this year – from mature releases, to stunning debuts.
Nic Cester – Sugar Rush
Some might not have given the Jet frontman’s new music a chance, but there’s an awful lot to like about his debut solo offering Sugar Rush, released earlier this month.
Every track is laden with groovy bass, and the European character of his new band The Milano Eletrica ensures that this is more than just a retread of his earlier work. The album moves in new directions, Cester’s voice often awash with heavy reverb, and there are plenty of surprises throughout – from the pairing of delicate bursts of flute and jarring keyboard on ‘Psichebello’, to the emotion-drenched vocals of ‘Hard Times’, which take centre stage as the singer reflects on the challenges of impending fatherhood.
There are even some sensual RnB vibes on the album that bring Cester’s impressive falsetto to the fore, including the brass-laden ‘Neon Light’ and ‘Who You Think You Are’ – the latter recalling the infectious guitar licks of Melbourne multi-instrumentalist Harts.
Cester’s record-breaking career with Jet was always going to be hard to follow, but as he’s stepped away from the pressures of fronting a huge global touring act and been able to shake off the restrictions that come with it, his music is proving all the better for it.
The Creases – Tremolow
Uptempo rhythms. Carefree vocals. Brash sonics. Those elements have bled through the music of the Brisbane indie rockers since their first single from 2013, ‘I Won’t Wait’, and they combine with a contagious pop sensibility on their anticipated debut record Tremolow.
While pace-wise there’s nothing too dynamic about the album, it’s laden with songs capable of becoming genuine live anthems, with particular credit going to the singalong moments on ‘Everybody Knows’ and penultimate track ‘Were Young’.
The unexpected depth of the release comes from the gospel-inspired tunes, however, featuring backing choruses throughout, and a particular highlight in the soulful vocal runs of Talei Wolfgramm (The Wolfgramm Sisters) towards the end of ‘Is It Love’. Wonderful.
Cloud Control – Zone
Despite the Sydney trio being called Cloud Control, it’s the vocal clarity of frontman Alister Wright that comes to the fore on their third album, coming together over three years and across all sorts of studios and homes.
Rather than being disjointed as a result of its protracted birth, the record instead reflects the compelling level of introspection built over the years. While featuring a mean guitar solo and delicious harmonica, ‘Goldfish’ also ruminates on not being the person you once were, while album closer ‘Find Me In The Water’ – written by Wright’s brother Doug – explores the feeling of finally washing away the feelings of doubt that come with being surrounded by modern day problems.
A long time coming, then, but well worth the wait.
Kllo – Backwater
For the last few years, cousin duo Chloe Kaul and Simon Lam have been building a rep as one of Australia’s top electronic prospects, both here and overseas, with their brilliant combo of UK garage-tinged production and wonderfully soulful vox.
After their previous efforts, we were expecting something pretty special, and we weren’t disappointed. With singles like ‘Predicament’ and ‘Downfall’, it was easy to imagine that the duo had become a bit downcast of late, but their beautiful melancholy is balanced by bona fide sample-based dancefloor-fillers like ‘Virtue’ and the warmth of album closer ‘Not Like Them’ – a wonderful debut across the board.
Husky – Punchbuzz
The Melbourne indie folk duo already had two well-received releases under their belt from 2012 to 2014, but it was a move to Berlin for nearly a year that allowed them to rework their sound on third album Punchbuzz, shared in April.
‘Cut The Air’ is the standout tune, the visceral lyrics and layered harmonies transporting you to another world on a bed of low acoustic guitar, and overall Punchbuzz is marked by a restrained intensity and unique rhythmic textures – possibly their best effort yet.
Brightness – Teething
On this somewhat hidden gem are the ideas that came to Alex Knight in between playing drums for various bands in the UK, and his solo debut couldn’t have come soon enough.
Released in June, Teething is tied together by its wondeful lo-fi production, spanning the crackling in the background on ‘Waltz’, to the huge drums and guitar throughout, and these elements combine with a deep sense of melancholy (highlighted on the dissonant ‘Holy John’) to create a collection of songs defined by their raw honesty – lyrically and sonically.
We’re already waiting for the follow-up, and we very much hope that Knight will throw himself entirely into the next record, and not leave us hanging too long.
Nai Palm – Needle Paw
With a Grammy under her belt for the world-conquering neo-soul of her work with Hiatus Kaiyote, Nai Palm stripped things back entirely with her anticipated solo debut, but Needle Paw carries with it a lot of what we love about the band – namely, undulating vocal melodies.
An intimate acoustic record, it’s tailor-made for a set on the the snug corner stage of a dimly lit jazz club, a feeling accentuated by the reworked Hiatus tracks and masterful covers (not shying away from the greats in Bowie or Hendrix) smattered throughout the record.
It’s an album that gives Nai Palm the chance to show off her strengths as a composer within the sparse confines of an acoustic setting, as playful and eccentric as anything she put together with a full band in tow – a wonderful companion dish for Hiatus fans, but an excellent record in its own right.