What a year in music it's been... A year we were cornered into expressing ourselves in our most inventive and defiant ways yet. A year we saw queer culture take centre stage in music. A year we saw Indigenous voices disrupt the stagnant peace. A year we will not forget, not just for the stories that made news, but for the incredible work we came eye to eye with. We figured there was no better time to celebrate Australian and New Zealand voices in music than now.
So welcome to The Noisey 100. We like to think of it as a somewhat definitive list of the best local releases from the past year, voted by the music industry and Noisey's team of editors and writers. Really it's the songs that made us dance, think, thrash, fume, and smile. But mostly dance.
We saw new wave, punk, ambient, pop, techno and EDM make the list—a testament to the writhing diversity we're met with every day at a music publication. But most of all we were reminded that music out of this part of the world is fucking incredible. And that to say we're looking forward to the coming year would be one hell of a gosh darn understatement.
So here it is. The first ever Noisey 100.
1. Spike Fuck – "Guts"
Listen: it's no secret Noisey are big fans of Spike Fuck. We've been pretty upfront about it. As we suspected, though, we weren't alone in feeling that her four track EP Smackwave was one of the most significant releases out of Australia last year. Spike's debut lit a city on fire, inspiring and bewildering audiences with its incredible frankness, and the kind of storytelling where the heartbreak is bettered only by the humour. Spike's ability to spin beauty from the grisly—death, drug addiction, and the complexity of being transgender—is remarkable, and somehow manages to catch and then untangle the completely fucking mystifying experience of being alive at this particular point in time.
"GUTS," produced by Elliot Munn and released first on Soundcloud early last year, was the song that introduced the world to Spike. It is devastating, illuminating, sweet, complicated. And if it weren't for its pop sensibility and beautiful melody—which helped spit shine the sorry subject matter—audiences the world around might have ended up face down in foetal position on the carpet at first listen. Instead, we found ourselves dancing alone to it on repeat, a bottle of wine above our heads, drunken tears held back—just.
2. Flume – "Never Be Like You"
We know that EDM isn't everyone's cup of tea—still trying to figure out what that's about—but that doesn't necessarily mean we believe you when you say that the hopeful tinkle of those opening bars in Flume's Opus "don't" make your arm hairs stand on end.
"Never Be Like You" was the undeniable standout on the Sydney-born, Hollywood-bound producer's second studio album Skin, which saw cameos from Raekwon, Little Dragon, Beck, Vince Staples, and Tove Lo. The single, which currently has just under three hundred million Spotify streams, featured Canadian singer Kai and told an ever-familiar story: someone leaves someone for someone else; lives to frickin' regret it.
And while we know we may eventually get sick of hearing it in Ubers while spectacularly pissed, or thundering from passing cars full of jacked up tradies who are actually, wow, really hot, we just can't overlook the brilliance in Streten's songwriting.
3. DMA's – "Delete"
DMA's are a band so good that nobody's even noticed their name is absolute shit. The apostrophe: what is it doing there? Is the band's name an abbreviation of "DMA is"? Probably not. We suspect the boys just fucked that one up a bit, and by the time they realised it, they were already well on their way to becoming the best guitar band in Australia, so it was too late. This may well be why the oddly pommy accents get a hall pass, too.
Truly, who has time to be critical when they're writing songs as good as "Delete?" It's the band at their very best: writing brilliant chart topping songs that are both accessible and super disarming. We get the sense it could be quite an enduring record—a classic, even.
4. Dispossessed – "System Collapse"
Back in May we made the call that Dispossessed were the most uncompromising, unapologetic and important band in Australia. We stand by that. The Sydney band's debut album Insurgency blasts elements of metal, punk and other music that speaks of spirit and resistance.
"System Collapse" begins with feedback and guitar that builds until a guttural howl takes over. This is music born from unapologetic fury. This is essential listening.
5. California Girls – "Skin on Skin"
"Skin on Skin" is the type of song you play before you walk into a party full of people that make you a little nervous, or the sort of record you let convince yourself that your body isn't a weird shape, seriously, it's fine, you look good. When you hear that line, "I am a Powerhouse" you gotta believe it a little bit.
It is basically a more effective version of those positive affirmations your psych is always trying to get you to do, because it actually does get caught in your head on repeat. That is to say, "Skin on Skin" is catchy enough to be a pop song. California Girls would be quite good writing those too, if this whole 'alternative music' thing ever gets tiring.
6. waterhouse – "Empty Gallery"
Experiencing a large portion of the spectrum of human experience all at once might sound like a very unpleasant thing, and in most circumstances, it probably would be. You feel that way listening to "Empty Gallery," the most emotive and devastating song on a record full of emotive and devastating songs by melbourne's waterhouse, but miraculously, it's very, very good.
"Empty Gallery" is the centrepiece of an EP bearing the same name, released on Air Max '97's imprint DECISIONS: a big choral expanse of classical music disguised as electronic music. It's a sad song, and uplifting song, and even a bit sexy sometimes, in a sort of grieving, desperate way—"It's not enough, no it's not enough."
Is this how people who believe in God feel after Church? Cleaner and calmer with some sort of renewed sense of hope in things? That's a nice thought.
7. Tyrannamen – "You Should Leave Him"
Tyrannamen vocalist Nic Imfeld does this cool thing on stage where he points and signals out his bandmates. It's a fun homage to 60s R&B that shows an appreciation that the raucous and soulful punk band is a collective sum of its parts.
On "You Should Leave Him," though, the finger should be pointed squarely at Imfeld as he gets down on his knees and begs you to leave some dude. "You should leave him and be with me. You, me, we could have it so great" he bleats, as the Melbourne five-piece smash out a ramshackle melody that brings to mind The Undertones and the power pop moments of Royal Headache. We're leaving him right now.
8. Jikuroux – "Slow Pressure"
Remember when we were all like, "Electronic music: it's good and that, but computers can't make a song with soul." That ended up being complete rubbish, didn't it? Turns out computers make some of the most gripping music in the world.
A perfect example: Jikuroux's "Slow Pressure" from her Ruptured Pulse EP. The Sydney producer's songs effectively exist in same the space as club music, but sound like they've signed a very different social contract. They're more exacting and delicate than their brutal, clanging peers: Jikuroux breaks away from the trend towards soundtracking an apocalypse.
Instead, "Slow Pressure" is a song for inquisitive listeners. It does ask that you stay engaged, and keep track of the multitude of sounds, all cavernous wet, and glassy, but it'll reward you for your attention, too. A little Britney Spears cameo reminds you "Slow Pressure" is more human than machine.
9. Manu Crook$ – "Assumptions"
This may well incite a riot in the goddamn streets but we're going to say it anyway: Manu Crook$ might be one of the only Australian hip hop artists whose sound would actually fly in the States.
Just one year ago, the Sydney-based triple threat (rapper, singer, producer) released "Drive Me Crazy" on Soundcloud. Since then we've seen nothing but gold: "Everyday," "Blowin' Up," and his best effort yet, "Assumptions"—which premiered back in December on Beats1 with Zane Lowe.
The bouncing trap single was the perfect end to an already huge year, showcasing Manu's incredible potential as an artist—watching him perform it live is truly something else. With his first EP set for release any day now, we're getting as shredded as possible in anticipation for the launch tour mosh pit. Lids off, people. Lids……... off.
10. UV Boi – "If She, If He"
"If She, If He" was the crowd favourite from March's L-UV EP, and we've gotta say: Absolutely. Absolutely, dude. A wonderfully textured electronic almost-R&B track that could just as easily lull you into sleep as it could soundtrack a loose as all f*ck night out, the song has now earned over half a million plays on Spotify.
It's not all that surprising that Brisbane producer UV Boi is making music this good—being "discovered" by Ryan Hemsworth more than three years ago, after releasing only two tracks on Soundcloud, made for promising beginnings. But that hasn't made the journey any less satisfying to watch.
Rounding out the top 10 in perfect fashion, "If She, If He" is such a fitting example of the unique and ingenious sounds coming out of Australia and New Zealand right now. Such an exciting time to have ears.
11. BV – "Run"
12. Sarah Mary Chadwick - "Makin' It Work"
13. The Drones – "Taman Shud"
14. Christopher Port – "Bump"
15. Scraps – "She Devil"
16. Gussy – "Looking at Myself"
17. Lonelyspeck – "All My Skin on the Air"
18. Mouth Tooth – "Memory Foam"
19. DJ MacKeeper – "Pipe PSI"
20. Purple Pilgrims – "Forever"
21. Habits – "Ether"
22. BEAD – "VIAL"
23. Whipper – "Chase the Rainbow"
24. Spike Fuck – "Tomorrow We Get Healthy"
25. BV – "HUH"
From here on out, we haven't embedded tracks. To hear the full Noisey 100 list, play the below Spotify playlist. Continue reading the top 100 below.
26. Flume – "Say It"
27. DMA's – "Step Up the Morphine"
28. GL – "Hallucinate"
29. Oscar Key Sung – "Hands"
30. California Girls – "Euphoria "
31. SIA – "Cheap Thrills "
32. Soft Hair – "Lying Has to Stop"
33. Still Works – "Half Full "
34. Terry – "Hot Heads "
35. NUN – "Can 't Chain"
36. Carla Dal Forno – "Fast Moving Cars"
37. Lower Plenty – "Bondi's Dead "
38. Camp Cope – "Jet Fuel Can 't Melt Steel Beams"
39. Wives – "Buried"
40. Rolling Blackouts CF – "Julie's Place"
41. Dro Carey – "Queensberry Rules ft. KUČKA"
42. Elisabeth Dixon – "Technique of Self"
43. DJ Plead – "Levant Motors"
44. Two Steps on the Water – "YoYo"
45. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – "Jesus Alone"
46. Holy Balm – "Fashion"
47. SHOUSE – "Whisper"
48. Air Max '97 – "Face Up"
49. Hex – "Wives"
50. Marcus Whale – "My Captain"
51. Tyrannamen – "I Can't Read Your Mind"
52. Habits – "Reverend Mother"
53. Scraps – "Touch Blue"
54. Ela Stiles – "Black Metal"
55. DMA's – "Lay Down"
56. Sampa the Great – "Blue Boss"
57. Client Liasion – "World of Our Love"
58. Collarbones – "The Cut"
59. Brendan Welch – "Homosexual Love Song"
60. Kllo – "Bollide"
61. Tkay Maidza – "Carry On"
62. Corin – "Void"
63. Lost Animal – "Too Late to Die Young"
64. Air Max '97 – "Hounded"
65. Purple Pilgrims – "Thru Evry Cell"
66. Dispossessed – "Light Part II"
67. Oxen – "Bell"
68. BV – "Up in the Flesh"
69. Donny Benet – "Working Out"
70. Martin King – "Pepsi"
71. Mouth Tooth – "So Good"
72. Beach Boy – "Bad Kittens"
73. Fishing – "Yuwa"
74. NO ZU – "Raw Vision"
75. Harvey Sutherland – "Priestess"
76. Primo! – "Bronte Blues"
77. Julia Jacklin – "Leadlight"
78. LOSSLESS – "Full Raichu"
79. Ngaiire – "I Can't Hear God Anymore"
80. Vilette – "Beige"
81. Big Smoke – "Honey, I"
82. Krakatau – "Thasis Montes"
83. MZWÈTWO – "GOD SAID"
84. BUOY – "Clouds and Rain"
85. California Girls – "Hidden"
86. Methyl Ethel – "No. 28"
87. Fortunes – "Justin Bieber"
88. BLESSED – "Insanity"
89. Leisure – "Nobody feat. Goldlink"
90. Scott and Charlene's Wedding – "Don't Bother Me"
91. Kerser – "Bad Habits"
92. Tracy Chen – "Eggs"
93. PNAU – "Chameleon"
94. Baro – "Fuck The Judge ft. Remi"
95. SMILE – "Boundless Plains to Share"
96. Simona Castricum – "No Allegiance"
97. Seekae – "Turbine Blue"
98. Genesis Owusu – "Goondocks//CBR ZOO II (Sabretooth)"
99. LiL BO WEEP – "i wrote this song 4 u"
100. Chook Race – "Hard to Clean"
In a beautiful and fitting twist of fate, Noisey are presenting Noisey 100 #1 Spike Fuck's free show at Shimmerlands this Friday at University of Melbourne, Parkville. Cyanide Thornton is supporting kicking off at 6pm.
Noisey would like to thank everyone who was involved in the making of this, particularly the artists, label runners, writers and critics who gave their time to vote, with care and consideration—this list is as good as it is for a reason. We'd also like to congratulate all the artists who made the top 100: considering the scale of great music released this past twelve months, this is an incredible feat. Until next year!