Let’s dive into exactly who we think is breaking through this year.
After a rocky couple of years, Australian live music is back and firing on both cylinders. We’ve scoured the band rooms and clubs across the country to bring you the next crop of artists that we reckon you’ll be hearing – and seeing – a lot more of in 2023.
From glitchy electronica to banging hip-hop, low-key instrumental boogie and serious pop vocals, it’s all here and ready for your ears. Let’s dive into exactly who we think is breaking through this year.
Nairobi-born, Adelaide-based singer, rapper and producer Elsy Wameyo has been surfing a steady stream of hype thanks to festival appearances and support slots, but the release of her Nilotic EP last year puts her firmly in the frame for her own hero moment. Armed with an explosive sound that takes in everything from gospel and funk through to window-rattling trap, Wameyo immediately calls to mind Tkay Maidza, another South Australian whose vision was too big to be contained on record, as well as Angelique Kidjo and Sampa The Great. Currently touring with a 7-piece live band, Elsy is one to check out before her shows become waitlisted.
Listen: River Nile.
Merchants of noise and legends of the live circuit, Party Dozen is a Sydney two-piece that thunders into eardrums with a tornado of saxophone, drums and bass drones. The duo has an international cult following and a co-sign from Nick Cave himself, who lent vocals to their recent single ‘Macca The Mutt’. Built around thundering loops and the ecstatic caterwauling of Kirsty Tickle, who runs her sax through more pedals than a metal guitarist, they’re a truly unique band that manage to frequently nail the often-tricky balance of volume, energy and groove. Bring earplugs. Thank us later.
Ninajirachi is a producer originally from NSW’s Central Coast who through an unparalleled work ethic and love of experimentation has landed herself at the forefront of Australia’s burgeoning hyperpop electronic movement. Her songs (and live sets) fizz with sugary energy, drawing in a range of influences, crushing them through Ableton processors and delivering them at high speed. But aside from the bit-crushed drums and synth waves, Ninajirachi’s recent mixtape Second Nature, which includes songs like ‘Start Small’ and the Montaigne-fronted ‘One Long Firework in The Sky’ has proven she also has a natural ear for melody. She’s spent most of last year destroying festival stages; expect her to be headlining them pretty soon.
Listen: One Long Firework In The Sky.
Grandiose hyperbolic statements are par for the course in the music world but believe us when we say that WILSN has one of the most unbelievable voices we’ve ever heard. She’s got the sort of jaw-dropping range that’s normally associated with an Adele or a Mariah; huge, effortless and shiver-inducing each and every time. WILSN’s Americana-influenced pop has been slowly gathering steam, with each audience member stumbling out of her show a convert, but this is undeniably her year. Her debut album drops in February, preceded by a dynamite ballad with Josh Teskey of Teskey Brothers. If the era of music talent shows has left you somewhat immune to blockbuster vocal performances, prepare to change your tune. WILSN is the real deal.
Listen: Those Days Are Over.
Sunny melodies and jangly guitars come standard for Sydney indie duo Royel Otis, who take notes from forefathers Dick Diver, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and The Go-Betweens while crafting something firmly their own. With a handful of EPs under their belt and a live show that’s already taken them to the UK and Europe, the boys also have the enviable honour of being the only other artist signed to Ourness, Genesis Owusu’s label, founded by mastermind producer and manager, Andrew Klippel. With melodies that stick like surf wax and propulsive drumming to match, they’re definitely a pair of cards to keep in your back pocket. Watch out for their new EP ‘Sofa Kings’ coming soon.
Listen: Kool Aid.
Ruby Gill grew up around the forests in South Africa before landing in Melbourne, where she’s taken her keen love of wildlife and keen social observation and melded it into a stunning folk package that continues to win over new audiences across the country. Her debut record made it onto high radio rotation both here and overseas, but it’s in a live setting, typically with only vocals and her acoustic guitar, that Ruby really shines. Whether she’s blasting the patriarchy or singing about panic attacks in car parks over palm-muted chords, her music will grab you by the soul and stubbornly refuse to let go. If you’re a fan of Laura Marling, Angie McMahon, or Gretta Ray, we’ve just found your new favourite artist.
Enigmatic, exquisite and extremely underrated, Nick Ward has been producing and writing increasingly sophisticated music since he was a teenager messing about on Soundcloud. Crafting a sonic universe that sits at the intersection of electronica, R&B, glitch-pop and alternative, Ward’s penchant for switching gears, often mid-song, has gained him a serious fanbase – and a publishing deal while still in his early 20s. His ability to lushly soundtrack complex narratives around sexuality, masculinity and grief, seemingly on any instrument he touches, puts him in the realm of auteurs like Perfume Genius, Frank Ocean and even our own Daniel Johns. His 2022 EP “Brand new You’, was highlighted by the Guardian as one of the 21 best albums of the year alongside Flume, Body Type, Midnight Oil and Sampa the Great. On stage, his delicate compositions get extra muscle with a full band treatment, showcasing his unique ability to hit differently, no matter how or where his music shows up.
Sometimes you can’t tell what a musician did before they started making music, but for Jerome Farah, there’s no mistaking that the man is a dancer. Crackling with energy, swagger and positivity, Farah’s high-octane rap/R&B sounds great on speakers but really kills it live. He cut his chops co-writing with other Aussie stars like Tash Sultana and Winston Surfshirt, but the clutch of singles he’s put out on his own clearly point to where the real gold is. Put Jerome on a stage or in a booth and he’ll bark like ODB, glide like Usher and strut like Prince. It’s party music of the highest order, but it’s also seriously well-written. Here’s hoping that his long-awaited album drops this year. We’re here for it.
Listen: Concrete Jungle Fever.
The Melbourne jazz, funk and experimental scenes have been the subject of loads of attention over the past five years, thanks in part to the UK’s obsession with artists like Hiatus Kaiyote, 30/70 and Harvey Sutherland. Slightly adjacent but no less cult-adored is instrumental-boogie outfit Surprise Chef, who are releasing stellar records like it’s going out of fashion that pulls together 70s groove, film score arrangement and super tight soul drumming. Their eclectic mix of influences and prolific output could see them become Australia’s answer to Khruangbin, certainly not a bad place to be in 2023.
Listen: Pash Rash.
Best known as one quarter of beloved Sydney band All Our Exes Live In Texas, Hannah Croft’s newest solo outing leans on the lush instrumental stylings of alternative country and pop. An excellent story-teller and adventurous writer, Baby Velvet’s ruminations on love and relationships runs the full gamut from delicate folk through to balls-to-the-wall indie rock in the vein of Jenny Lewis and Sharon Van Etten. With one record under her belt and likely more to come shortly, she’s one to check out before she gets as popular as her band already is.