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The 25 Best Australian Albums of 2023

The exciting and innovative albums Rolling Stone AU/NZ writers couldn’t get enough of in 2023

The best Australian albums of 2023

L-R: Troye Sivan, Angie McMahon, Genesis Owusu

2023 has been another year of excellent releases by Australian artists, but you’d be forgiven for not thinking that if you’d looked at the ARIA Albums Chart at any point over the past 12 months.

“From cultural cringe to clogged charts: why aren’t Australians listening to Australian music?,” The Guardian asked in June, sparking a period of heavy online discussion about the potential reasons Australian releases were being overlooked in favour of the music of global artists.

The discussion between Australian journalists and publicists and music lovers was thoughtful, encouraging, but it was also inescapably disheartening, there being a prevailing worrying feeling that this country’s relationship with its artists and their music was, perhaps irrevocably, damaged, at least in a commercial sense.

As 2023 came to its end, and Rolling Stone Australia‘s writers started preparing our shortlist of the best albums of the year, one thing became clear: Australians continue to produce some of the most exciting, innovative, and noteworthy music in the world.

In our list of the 25 best Australian albums and EPs of the year, which you can check out below, there are legends reminding us of their pop power and local rappers taking on the world; there are scrappy indie rock bands just fighting to be heard and myriad incisive singer-songwriters with monumental stories to tell.

In our 25 picks there are some evident chart monsters, but there are just as many albums that didn’t receive the commercial (or even critical) success that they deserved. The talent is there, the talent has always been there, and when 2024 rolls around, be mindful of this: that US superstar doesn’t need you to buy the deluxe version of one of their old albums, but your local Australian artist needs you to check out their record.


The Kid Laroi, ‘The First Time’

A debut full-length album that was worth the wait. The Kid Laroi was patient in releasing The First Time, aiming to “release the best music possible,” and the 20-year-old First Nations rapper largely proves that his prodigious talent has staying power.

Collaborations with the likes of K-Pop favourite Jungkook and London rap sensation Central Cee satisfy more casual listening – Laroi has to chase surefire hits at the commercial level he’s operating at – but there’s plenty of deft lyricism elsewhere, the rapper getting vulnerable about life and love. The future is bright for Laroi, but we already knew that.


Ziggy Ramo, ‘Sugar Coated Lies’

“This is what I’m ready to give you, and this is what you’re gonna get,” Ziggy Ramo told Rolling Stone AU/NZ about his  latest album.

The Wik and Australian South Sea Solomon Islander hip hop artist doesn’t hold back across 11 songs, navigating complex themes such as generational trauma and toxic masculinity, and more broadly reckoning with the inner conscience of our country and ourselves.


Spice World, ‘There’s No ‘I’ in Spice World’

An album so elementally Australian in structure and sound that it feels futile to attempt to describe it with words. Spice World may be the scrappy underdog in this list of global successes and lauded artists, but they deserve to be here.

Featured in Rolling Stone AU/NZ‘s Up Next series earlier this year, the Fremantle band possess a style that’s so profoundly and peculiarly Australian that they couldn’t possibly hail from anywhere else. Steeped in this country’s grand tradition of dusty jangle pop, they recall the humble DIY of the wonderful Bedroom Suck Records roster.

There’s No ‘I’ in Spice World is homespun and rustic. It’s wilfully unvarnished. It’s quietly melancholic. The songs are odes to the power of friendship in an increasingly isolated time, and often it sounds like the four-piece made the music to just be played for themselves, a hang-out record for the end of the world. But Spice World’s songs are too sweet and real to be kept secret.


Teenage Dads, ‘Midnight Driving’

Charisma can get you far in music but it’s not everything, so it’s lucky that Teenage Dads have the songs to back up their pleasing personalities.

The boys from the Mornington Peninsula have been speeding to stardom over the past couple of years, and they were rewarded with the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist Award at the 2023 ARIAs last month.

Their 2023 EP, Midnight Driving, showcases why such prestigious awards are coming their way. Featuring enough infectious hooks and driving guitar lines to fill several records, Teenage Dads’ latest EP is buzzy indie rock recorded and performed at the highest level. It’s impossible to listen to a song like “Teddy” and not be carried away by its gripping energy.


The Teskey Brothers, ‘The Winding Way’

Rolling Stone AU/NZ cover stars for a reason. The Teskey Brothers have been shaping their blues rock sound for years now, and all the hard work and hard yards pays off on their third album in style.

The Winding Way exquisitely combines sonorous vocals and rumbling blues rhythms, brothers Josh and Sam performing at their collaborative peak. The Teskey Brothers aren’t setting out to reinvent the wheel on their third album, but when these songs sound as soulful as this, who cares?


Gretta Ray, ‘Positive Spin’

Taylor Swift’s influence may be felt throughout Gretta Ray’s second album, but the Australian artist’s own songwriting gift is what shines brightest.

Positive Spin is catalogues the dizzying nature of one’s early 20s, Ray contending with the trials and tribulations of emerging adulthood. This isn’t new territory in pop – far from it – but it’s testament to Ray’s ability that she finds pockets of insight through her perceptive lyricism.

The songs are filled with heartache and melancholia, but resolutely upbeat melodies maintain the musician’s optimism. With a quickly growing fanbase, the direction Ray takes on her third album will be fascinating to witness.


DMA’S, ‘How Many Dreams?’

The UK’s current favourite Australian band delivered the goods with their fourth album.

Cleverly expanding their sound by incorporating flourishes of Britpop, electronica, and more into their traditional indie rock songs, How Many Dreams? achieves exactly what a successful third album should.

Tommy O’Dell, Matt Mason, and Johnny Took have always performed tightly together, but they’ve never sounded more confident as a trio on their latest record. Worthy Best Group winners at the 2023 ARIA Awards.


Polaris, ‘Fatalism’

It’s impossible to discuss Polaris’ excellent third album without mentioning the contribution of the band’s late Ryan Siew, whose passing just a few weeks before its release added even more weight to an album that was already shaping up to be monumentally heavy.

As the last Polaris album made with Siew in the lineup, Fatalism stands as a towering achievement, and it’s a collection of songs that furiously cements Polaris’ position as one of the most formidable metalcore bands in the world.


Cable Ties, ‘All Her Plans’

Rousing anger meets radical community. After their previous album, Far Enough, was somewhat waylaid by the onset of the pandemic, Cable Ties definitively made up for that with the release of their third album this year.

All Her Plans is a bruising listen for much of its run time, the Melbourne trio battering their way through songs about the woes of Australia’s healthcare system, the complexity of family relationships, the importance of mental health, and much more, but it all culminates in a moment of radiating hope: “Deep Breath Out” is the best closing song on an album this year, Jenny McKechnie unloading a deeply autobiographical tale of love overcoming adversity, of humanity rising above everything else. Cable Ties are a punk rock band to be cherished in turbulent times.


Tkay Maidza, ‘Sweet Justice’

Sweet Justice is the sort of success that makes one grumble that it took Tkay Maidza seven years to release her second album. After releasing her self-titled debut album in 2016, the rapper and singer was patient, evolving at her own pace, and the decision pays dividends on her newly released second album.

Maidza’s cheekiness and confidence courses throughout Sweet Justice, as she extolls the virtues of living well as being the best revenge over misogynists, industry losers, and anyone else that gets in the way.

She flits between pop and hip hop and R&B and other genres effortlessly, keeping the energy high. Here’s hoping it’s not another seven years before we hear Maidza’s third album.


Kylie Minogue, ‘Tension’

What is there to really say? Kylie has proven herself to be adept at reinvention before, but her latest return to the spotlight might be her most enjoyable yet.

Three decades into a stunning career at the pinnacle of pop, one of Rolling Stone AU/NZ‘s Icons dropped “Padam Padam” and instantly changed the world. The intoxicating anthem quickly went viral; the US, the country that had for so long reacted lukewarmly to Kylie, even finally embraced her.

The rest of Kylie’s latest album, Tension, isn’t quite as alluring as the future dancefloor favourite “Padam Padam”, but there are still moments of EDM and pop goodness peppered throughout the record. Here’s to the next reinvention, Kylie.


Jen Cloher, ‘I Am the River, the River Is Me’

An album that could have also been on our list of the best New Zealand albums of the year. Jen Cloher deeply connected with their Māori heritage on their profound fifth album, one of Australia’s most consistent songwriters opening up their heart to their Aotearoa culture.

Much of I Am the River, the River Is Me is contemplative and thoughtful, to be expected given Cloher’s vision for the album, but there are also plenty of lighter moments to enjoy, particularly the wry “My Witch”, which featured Georgia Maq, Alice Skye, and more of Cloher’s contemporaries in its fun music video.


Maple Glider, ‘I Get Into Trouble’

To Enjoy Is the Only Thing marked Maple Glider out as one of Australia’s most promising singer-songwriters in 2021, and its follow-up, I Get Into Trouble, equals and expands on the successes of her debut.

Operating under the Maple Glider moniker is Tori Zietsch, an artist gifted with both soothing vocals and striking storytelling. Over nine songs, she grapples with her family history, suffocating religion, and widespread sexism, finding a way through those thorny issues by reclaiming her personal agency.

Zietsch’s second album, though, doesn’t wallow in self-seriousness: it’s also a tonne of fun (as seen in her silly music videos made with Bridgette Winten), the sound of someone just enjoying being able to make a living out of being a music artist. A songwriter to be treasured.


RVG, ‘Brain Worms’

A worthy winner of the 2023 Soundmerch Australian Music Prize, despite facing seriously strong competition from many artists in this list.

Already one of the best post-punk bands of their generation, RVG somehow just keep getting stronger. In Romy Vager they have a performer and songwriter who could lead any band in the world. They’re someone who can have you in fits of laughter and pondering the fragility of existence in the span of one song, which they do so several times throughout Brain Worms.

Somehow Vager and her formidable band have felt slightly underrated, even in their own country, but the AMP triumph should help change that for the better.


Angie McMahon, ‘Light, Dark, Light Again’

It takes a special artist to make you feel less alone in the vastness of the world. Angie McMahon, seeking solace from her anxiety, found transformation in nature and being alone with herself, and she freely instilled her renewed spirituality into her art.

McMahon’s second album is the result, a sometimes unsparing listen that doesn’t offer easy answers but instead provides comfort through shared experience. The singer-songwriter still struggles with self-doubt in her songs, but she has a stronger sense of her place in the world, which makes all the difference. The songs are more cinematic and expansive than on her previous releases, a sign of her growing assuredness.

Much of McMahon’s lyrics become mantras, for both her and her listeners, reminding us to relinquish, breathe, and find light through the darkness. The light, she reminds us, always comes again. We’re lucky to have brave songwriters like McMahon embracing the feelings we’re afraid to face.


Genesis Owusu, ‘Struggler’

It was never in doubt that Genesis Owusu would deliver a mighty second album, was it?

After the rapper and singer’s debut, Smiling With No Teeth, conquered Australia in 2021, expectations were high for Owusu’s follow-up album; if his debut hinted at the presence of a generational talent, Struggler confirms that this is indeed the case.

Owusu’s genre-hopping collection gave him his second consecutive ARIA Award for Best Album, while it was also shortlisted for the 2023 Soundmerch Australian Music Prize. The songs are excitingly eclectic, Owusu changing moods and tone at will. His vision of himself as an artist is secure, even at this early stage of his career.

The Ghanaian-Australian artist will somehow have to top his first two successes on his third album, but it would be unwise to bet against him doing just that.


Troye Sivan, ‘Something to Give Each Other’

Troye Sivan begins his latest album with intent. As soon as the addictive “Rush” surges forth, both he and his listeners are locked in. It’s an unsubtle beginning, certainly, but one that clearly sets the tone for what’s to come: a whole lot of unbridled fun.

Sivan’s third album is a marvellous ode to euphoria and hedonism, the sound of someone assured in who they are as a person and artist. Sivan’s queerness proudly powers Something to Give Each Other, the songs standing as testaments to the transformative nature of finding comfort in one’s own identity. For someone who came out very publicly a decade ago, it’s impossible to ignore the liberation that Sivan is enjoying in 2023. He’s joyful and horny, seeking pleasure and finding it wherever he looks.

The songs on Sivan’s album are dripping with sweat. They feel so alive because the artist who created them was feeling so good when he made them. Just look at that album cover: Sivan smiles ecstatically, his face nestled securely between a friend’s legs in a moment of genuine connection.

In the public eye from a very young age, Sivan was always going to be a global pop star, but Something to Give Each Other has sent him into the musical stratosphere. His album has dominated charts around the world, including in his home country and the US, the market he craves. Where once he was a nervous musical guest on Saturday Night Live during his Bloom era, Timothée bloody Chalamet is now doing entire sketches about Sivan’s twink allure on the late night comedy show. Sivan the Superstar is here; he’s “One of One,” as his Rolling Stone AU/NZ cover story rightfully declared.