2022 was another tough year for the Australian music industry, but the country’s artists didn’t stop producing the goods.
As we all tentatively emerged from live music hibernation, wondering if the worst was behind us, it was a joy to witness the wealth of albums that soundtracked the year.
Several acclaimed artists returned with stunning third albums, while just as many made debut albums of such dizzying quality that it felt like they’d been around for many years.
Below are Rolling Stone AU/NZ‘s 10 best Australian albums of 2022, placed in alphabetical order, but these were just the tip of the iceberg.
Body Type – Everything Is Dangerous but Nothing’s Surprising
It takes a special band to enter the exhausted landscape of post-punk music in 2022 and make it sound refreshing, but that’s exactly what Body Type achieved on Everything Is Dangerous but Nothing’s Surprising.
From the alluring precision of opening track “A Line”, the Sydney foursome’s long-awaited debut album is thrillingly formidable, the assured lyricism and innate interplay almost unnerving at this early stage.
One of the best Australian debuts in many years, there’s a reason the band have been invited to support the likes of Wolf Alice on tour recently; everything is dangerous but there’s nothing surprising about the success of Body Type.
Camp Cope – Running with the Hurricane
The Melbourne trio powerfully enhanced their visceral sound on Running with the Hurricane. Recalling the melancholic and weighty indie-rock of Chastity Belt, their third album is overflowing with self-aware songwriting and dynamic musicianship. Hearing yourself in Georgia Maq’s heartfelt howls in these songs was cathartic and enveloping.
Running with the Hurricane emphasised something that was already abundantly clear: Maq, bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and drummer Sarah Thompson are one of the tightest and most understanding rock bands of their era.
Listen to Running with the Hurricane
Delivery – Forever Giving Handshakes
Melbourne garage-punks Delivery didn’t even exist two years ago, but they’ve enjoyed a rapid rise over the past year-and-a-half.
Composed of members from other sterling bands in the city’s close-knit music community, Delivery’s debut, Forever Giving Handshakes, captures five musicians who sound like they’ve finally found where they belong.
They play with a bustling immediacy, always on the front foot, switching vocal duties effortlessly, and trading guitar lines for fun. Mixing punk energy with garage whimsy, Delivery have landed on a buoyant sonic formula that works wonderfully for them.
Supporting slot for the likes of Tropical Fuck Storm and Party Dozen have already gone down well, and now spots at festivals such as Golden Plains have already been secured for next year. Expect Delivery’s second album to follow pretty quickly from the astoundingly consistent outfit.
Listen to Forever Giving Handshakes
Flume – Palaces
One only needs to consider the list of collaborators on Flume’s third album to know the producer’s current standing on the global music stage. Caroline Polachek and Blur and Gorillaz icon Damon Albarn could work with anyone they wanted, while it’s testament to Flume’s support for the new generation that rising stars like MAY-A also appear on Palaces.
And crucially Palaces also contains plenty of exquisite electronic music, Flume unleashing chaotic and strange cuts that showcase his singular production talent.
Having also marked the 10th anniversary of his seminal debut album this year, Palaces is a reminder that he’s really only getting started.
Listen to Palaces
Gang of Youths – angel in realtime.
Gang of Youths may have made fans wait a very long time to hear their follow-up to 2017’s Go Farther in Lightness, but when it finally arrived, the quality of angel in realtime. was worth the wait.
Dynamic frontman Dave Le’aupepe delves deeper into his personal history than ever before, considering his family identity and the loss of his father.
Yet the intensely personal nature of the band’s third album is never alienating, with the open storytelling containing profound relatability. The healing process is never easy, and Gang of Youths’ rousing rock rhythm brilliantly captures the momentousness of the journey.
Listen to angel in realtime.
Isabella Manfredi – izzi
Well-known as the former lead singer of The Preatures, Isabella Manfredi came flying out of the traps on her debut solo record.
A joyful collection of songs celebrating self-confidence and independence, Isabella sounds like a winning combination between the kick of Stevie and the charm of Kylie, while she also maintains a keen awareness of contemporary pop sounds.
In a turbulent year like 2022, sometimes an uplifting glistening pop song of the sort that Isabella effortlessly unveils on izzi was just what was required.
Listen to izzi
Julia Jacklin – Pre Pleasure
Julia Jacklin’s third album, Pre Pleasure, isn’t just one of the best Australian releases of the year; it’s one of the finest songwriting collections in many years.
A confessional lyricist with few current equals, the songs on Pre Pleasure see Jacklin vulnerably wrestle with her religious upbringing, her relationship with her body, and her battles with anxiety.
Both empathetic and wry, these songs are short stories in the making, the words of an artist really developing her command of storytelling. Bring on the fourth album.
Listen to Pre Pleasure
King Stingray – King Stingray
Awards aren’t everything in music, but sometimes the sheer volume of nominations don’t lie: Northern Territory rockers King Stingray’s self-titled debut album racked up nominations across Australia, including four nods at the 2022 ARIA Awards (they won best Breakthrough Artist).
“King Stingray may be one of the most exciting rock bands to emerge from this country in a generation,” Rolling Stone AU/NZ wrote earlier this year, and that doesn’t feel hyperbolic.
King Stingray toss out fiery uptempo anthems throughout their debut that, while being supremely lively and fun, also act as spirited odes to country and community. Debut albums don’t come much bigger than this one.
Listen to King Stingray
Meg Mac – Matter of Time
It takes a strong artist to throw out a full suite of new songs, but Meg Mac is that artist. Disillusioned with what she’d recorded for her third album, the singer-songwriter moved to a secluded cottage in rural New South Wales to record an entirely new set of songs.
Finally given the proper space and time, Matter of Time was born, Mac’s powerhouse vocals all the greater for being fully confident in what she was singing.
The journey may have been fraught, but it was worth it in the end: Mac’s “grand statement” became her first album to top the ARIA Album Chart, after coming tantalisingly close previously. A matter of time indeed.
Listen to Matter of Time
Thelma Plum – Meanjin
The singer-songwriter’s highly-anticipated EP is a beautiful love letter to her titular hometown. Written “in between lockdowns and floods,” Plum got tenderly reflective when creating the record, thinking back to her youth spent in the Queensland city.
The EP contains a multitude of sounds, from propelling driving songs (“Backseat of My Mind”) to piano ballads (the truly beautiful “Baby Blue Bicycle”), all tied together to Plum’s meaningful sense of place.
Affectionate and considerate, every city deserves a record like Plum’s to celebrate and acknowledge its memories.
Listen to Meanjin