We is officially past the halfway mark of the year, and it’s been a fantastic six months for Australian music so far. July has a mighty task ahead of it to set the tone for the latter half of 2023, but it looks set to be another home run.
This month brings us fresh records from e.g. Golden Features, Jack Ladder, Simona Castricum, Thandi Phoenix and more. Also expect great debut records from Bad Juju, Blusher, Immy Owusu and more.
There’s plenty more for us to enjoy in July, but for now, let’s explore these 10 jaw-dropping new records.
Like the titular milkshake flavor, ‘Blue Heaven’ is a bit ambiguous at face value: it’s bright and fun and charges forward with explosive energy, but it’s underpinned with searing waves of angst and melancholy.
Bad Juju have been making waves in the underground emo scene since 2018, but with this sharp and adventurous debut album, the Melbourne band are poised for a well-deserved break into the big leagues.
‘Shall we go to the dance?’
With their debut EP Naarm/Melbourne pop trio Blusher asks a very important question: ‘Should We Dance?’ The answer is a resounding “YES!” they argue with tracks like ‘Backbone’ and ‘Dead End’ – very tight and polished pop songs, masterfully tailored for maximum brain-stick and mid-arvo festival bops while still bursting at the seams with an incomparable spirit and authenticity. IS
With 2018 debut ‘Sect’ and 2020 Odesza collaboration ‘Bronson’, Tom Stell proved himself very capable of delivering crisp, crystalline dance floor fillers. On ‘Sisyphus’, Stell doesn’t play it safe, gets bigger, more visceral, more intense. The album’s best moments turn grinding, metallic textures into frantic, raucous bangers, contrasted with silky smooth vocals like on ‘Butch’ or the Rromarin-assisted ‘Yield’.
Latest single ‘Flesh’ starts as a smoky, sweaty club warmer before finally giving way to an ecstatic melody and waves of ethereal synth pads. It’s one of many moments on ‘Sisyphus’ that delivers that fulfills the great promise of dance music: total, swelling release. Alex Gallagher
On his massive debut album, Immy Owusu creates a vibrant, immersive soundscape with his self-described brand of “Afro-delicate” music. Drawing on his Ghanaian heritage and familial roots and filtering it through a lens of kaleidoscopic psychedelic, tracks like opener ‘Appellation of Elevation’ and sprawling highlight ‘Nyame Kasa’ burst with color and texture, with a sharp sense of groove that drives them forward.
Owusu’s vision is brought to life with an ensemble that includes members of Surprise Chef, Karate Boogaloo and the Senegambian Jazz Band, sublime backing vocalists and the drumming of his father, Kojo Noah Owusu. AG
‘Tall Pop Syndrome’
What if Jack Ladder – borderline, deep-voiced gothic crooner – was a synth-pop star? That’s the premise of Ladder’s seventh album, on which he swings just as sharply away from the big chamber pop of 2021’s ‘Hijack!’ as possible.
Opener ‘Home Alone’ – an infectious, euphoric ode to dancing where nobody’s watching – ends with Ladder echoing Daft Punk’s ‘Teachers’, rattling off a list of musical heroes such as Prince, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, who are “in his house” when he boogies alone. By weaponizing his influences with a MIDI controller and pairing electronic experimentation with his unmistakable baritone and darkly comic lyricism, Ladder has created a new classic, more than a decade after the beloved ‘Hurtsville’. AG
Cut from the same cloth as fellow Naarm/Melbourne indie gems like Camp Cope and Angie McMahon, Rin McArdle deals in uplifting rock that balances low-key soundscapes with intense intent.
The bluesy edge of this eight-track debut makes it particularly unique, while the Georgia Maq-assisted ‘Something Blue’ shines between the two singers’ yin-and-yang harmonies. McArdle shouldn’t be slept on, and if this album tells us anything, she’s destined for greatness. IS
For years, Simona Castricum’s synth-pop has captured what makes the music of Depeche Mode and New Order so powerful, making cold, digital sounds feel not only warm, but unmistakably human. Never has Castricum done it as effectively as her fourth album.
It’s both her most sonically refined – shimmering synths, atmospheric textures and pulsing electronic beats moving hypnotically around each other – and the one that feels the most emotive. You can hear the deep heartbreak and grief that shaped the record (which Castricum has described as a tribute to his late friend and musical collaborator, Daphne Camf), but it feels cohesive, and it so obviously comes from a place of love, honesty and introspection. AG
Russell Fitzgibbon is a man of many interesting thoughts, and on his debut album as Skeleten he packs them into a neat, albeit labyrinthine package of trippy sounds and swirling vocals.
When he released the single ‘Territory Day’, he said he “felt that expression of simple longing, traveling through time and space, thinking about the power of all the desires and struggles that traverse the globe like radio waves”. Therein lies the spirit of the Skeleton – not to answer the questions that cannot be answered, but rather to embrace and celebrate the mystery of it all. IS
Thandi Phoenix ramps up the house influence on her long-awaited second EP – the follow-up to her massive self-titled effort from 2019 – with busy, club-ready beats drenched in soul.
The vocals soar overhead as Phoenix revels in her luminosity, softening that brilliance with subtle undertones of emotional depth. The exuberant ‘Banathi’ also stands out with a poignant guest spot from Ntunja. IS
Hearing Slingers feels like listening to Motels’ ‘Total Control’ for the first time. Songs like ‘Down to the Bone’ draw equally from nostalgic, cinematic pop and big heartland rock between the crush of loneliness and the impossible joy of connection, making the minute feel huge. In less capable hands, these songs could devolve into pastiche, but here they only feel powerfully, achingly real. AG