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2023 In Review: The Sydney Tracks We Loved

$'s Favourite Tracks Of 2023
Image:'s Favourite Tracks Of 2023

Every Wednesday, we compile a playlist of every single band that's playing in Sydney over the next 7 days. It involves listening to snippets of dozens and dozens of songs — but sometimes we've just gotta let the full track play out, and some of those become mainstays in our listening. You'll find plenty of those standouts below. And, of course, some of these are songs we first heard live, and then raced home to hit that repeat button (not to mention the Buy button).

These are the songs that got us off the couch on rainy weeknights to hear them live, soundtracked long Saturdays of rental inspections, jolted us into checking out new scenes and venues, were dropped into group chats with a barrage of exclamation points, lured drunk punters up during DJ sets to ask for track IDs, and rewarded whole rooms for showing up for the support. These songs are proof, if anyone needed more, that Sydney is so back. Enjoy.

You can stream this list (but buy the music too)

Let's get the obvious out of the way first: online streaming is fantastic for taste testing, but isn't the way to actually support your favourite artists.

Instead, whenever you can, buy digital music direct from the artist — or even better, buy it on physical media. We'll link to all online stores or Bandcamps below (although keep in mind that Songtradr, the new owners of Bandcamp as of this year, are actively taking steps to ruin this platform and it may not offer the services we know and love for much longer).

With all that said, streaming is currently how most of us consume recorded music and the easiest path to discovery, which is why we make a weekly playlist sampling everyone playing in Sydney each week. So, with the above caveat (and it is a significant contributor to 48% of musicians considering leaving the music industry in the last few years)...

Pick your fighter:'s Favourite Sydney Tracks of 2023

This list is presented in alphabetical order, but the playlist is presented in an order for listening experience.

Image: ARSE - Kaputt

ARSE - 'Kaputt'

From forthcoming album "Kaputt" (Grupo Records, 12" vinyl and digital)

Long a mainstay of ARSE's yobbothrash live sets, 'Kaputt' has landed in recorded form hinting at the forthcoming namesake album's greater sonic depth compared to their earlier recorded output, while doing a fantastic job of representing the chaos of the three-piece's head-melting shows. – JH

Image: Bayang x Bract - REDBRICKGOTHIK

Bayang (tha Bushranger) & Bract - 'Skinhead Rap!'

From album "REDBRICKGOTHIK" (Black Wire Records, cassette and digital)

It's my album of the year. I can't put it any more plainly than that. This lightning-in-a-bottle collaboration between abrasive Inner West noise lords Bract fused with Harry Baughan's restless, endlessly prowling, snarling delivery speak volumes of the lived experiences of the characters in Harry's head — whoever they represent. Powerful storytelling, obliterating sonics. A very exciting time for Sydney music. – JH

Image: Behind You - Dreading

Behind You [ft. Marcus Whale] - 'Dreading'

Single (self-released, digital)

Another Sydney band that has unlocked the secret to sounding absolutely fucking huge. In this case: gigantic dry live drums, rude square waves sitting right inside your ears, multitracked post-hardcore shouting, more twists and turns than a 20 minute Yes prog opus, and one of Marcus Whale's most sublime guest appearances to date (see if you can spot how many times he appears in this list). And just when you think it's done... – JH

Image: Bridge Dog - Counterweight

Bridge Dog - 'Counterweight'

Single (Friendly Stray, digital)

When we invited Bridge Dog to be one of the acts who DJ'd at our first venue takeover in October, Grace and Brian showed up with one of the most unimpeachable sets of dream- and power-pop classics I've ever heard. 'Counterweight' sounds a bit like an Alvvays song with a Belle & Sebastian bridge, and I want to be clear that they are on the level of these songwriters, not just aping them. But don't let the sweet melody mislead you into thinking they're shy — by the final minute this ode to anhedonia and disconnection is washed (but never overwhelmed) with a towering, delicious, aching squall of guitar feedback. World-class. — CW

Image: Cammy Cautious and the Wrestlers EP

Cammy Cautious and the Wrestlers - 'Feet Up'

From self-titled EP (digital and cassette)

Scrappy and trashy garage rock with a snarling brattiness. It paces and cooks along at a consistent temperature, but it never boils over. – JH

Image: Carnations EP

Carnations - 'Videodrome'

From EP "Carnations" (Urge Records, cassette and digital)

This swirling, giddy slice of nouveau Australiana shoegaze contains an absolute gem of a song nestled amongst layers of reverb, ringing guitars, and vocals anchored by a grinding bass line. It's transcendent live. – JH

Image: Casual Fan - Bono's America

Casual Fan - 'Waiting'

From EP "Bono's America" (self-released, cassette and digital)

More lush than the smell of the Town Hall-QVB lower concourse. The Bono's America EP was produced by Liam Judson of Belles Will Ring, and has the same propulsive open-road aura as his work for Rolling Blackouts C.F. Because to be cringe is to be free, I will tell you that I played this in the car during the drive out of actual literal Joshua Tree, and it was exactly right. – CW

Image: Collarbones - Filth

Collarbones - 'Ripe For Filth'

From album "Filth" (self-released, digital and T-shirt)

Apocalyptic, visceral, instant classic. The Fury Road of songs about getting railed into oblivion. Collarbones forever. — CW

Image: Downgirl - Manic EP


From EP "Manic" (self-released on digital, 12" vinyl and CD)

This is searing, entertaining, unignorable, stake-a-place rock music in a long lineage of the genre that has always resonated across front bars and music venues alike. I'm sure this band has left many a lad or dad reconsidering their gender politics while on a late night drinking at the Duke with the boys. And they fucking rock. – JH

Image: Dying For Meg Ryan - Dunce

Dying for Meg Ryan - 'Dunce'

Single (Candy Apple Island)

Seamlessly integrates a Blink-182 reference, blogosphere-baiting 00s razorblade guitars, and an idiosyncratic delivery that trojans a fearsomely bitter condemnation of our extremely stupid political moment. – CW

Image: FRIDAY* - Darling EP

FRIDAY* - 'Dying In The City'

From EP "Darling" (self-released, digital)

A drum and bass street racer about a hazy anxiety that feels all too familiar amongst Sydney-dwellers. – JH

Image: G.U.N - Kink Punk


From album "Kink Punk" (self-released, digital)

Put it on. You'll be screaming it to yourself in the mirror in your underwear in no time, Fight Club style. – JH

Image: HANDSOME GANG - Every Second We Try

HANDSOME GANG - 'Running Out Of Time'

From album "Every Second We Try" (Dot Dash, digital)

We're all about community here at SM and Sydney stalwart HANDSOME threw herself into affirming the power of community this year, roping in pals from across the city's queer pop scene for a whole album of collabs and multiple joyous parties. This caffeinated, delicate little slice of bedroom DnB, featuring flowerkid and St South, gets under the skin with its nervous, looping hook before releasing in a hopeful burst of meridian-tickling sunshine. — CW

Image: Holliday Howe - Scarz

Holliday Howe - 'Scarz'

Single (self-released, digital)

There's something in the water in Sydney's hyperpop scene. It's cooking at a ferocious temperature, and it feels like something huge is going to happen. The thing that keeps making a huge impression on me in this extremely diverse and broad universe is the confidence that's present. Holliday Howe embodies this: her shows are gigantic, swing-for-the-fences stuff, and it doesn't matter if it's a quarter-full room or a rammed art space: she's doing nothing in halves. This track runs at a breakneck BPM, melodic candy shards being hurled like projectiles in a video game. It won't leave your head. – JH

Image: ioakim - backseat

ioakim - 'backseat'

Single (Sony Music Entertainment)

Restless, catchy, slick as hell with that lil Thomas Mars croon, as shiny and moreish as a foil sleeve of buttery crackers. Try to stop at just one. — CW

Image: LILPIXIE - Melody Gardens

LILPIXIE - 'On The Block [ft. Ealing]'

From EP "Melody Gardens" (self-released, digital)

The size and ferocity of this production is something else. LILPIXIE embodies all of it live. It's clear they're just getting started. – JH

Image: Low Flung - The Wheel

Low Flung - '3pm'

From album "The Wheel" (Snail Editions, 12" vinyl and digital)

How to describe Danny Wild's latest ruminations in his new album/art film combo? A meditative mix of field recordings, modular synth signal buzz, clicks, pops and noise... a stark, vibrating, often unsettling landscape that is nonetheless always reaching for glimpses of beauty and ecstasy. A highly recommended view and listen. — JH

Image: mumfighter - Kung Fu

mumfighter - 'Kung Fu'

Single (Rollerblade Records)

The Centrelink speedrun king of Marrickville does not miss. Catching him live is a top 5 priority for me in 2024. WARNING: If you're over 35 this masterpiece may induce some kind of psychosomatic 8-bit dirty-meat hangover. – CW

Image: Optic Nerve - Angel Numbers

Optic Nerve - 'Tonic'

From album "Angel Numbers" (Urge Records, 12" vinyl and digital)

What a year for this essential Sydney band. This track exhibits the balance between Jackie De Lacy's breathless ranting over a vaguely spaghetti western-infused garage track. – JH

Image: Pan-Pacific Grand Prix - What's The Point Of Anything?

Pan-Pacific Grand Prix - 'What's The Point Of Anything?'

Single (Evening Records, digital)

Emerging squarely out of Sydney's "Country and Inner Western" scene and fronted by Evening Records founder Ross Tipper comes this deceptively cruisy number that sounds as much like The War On Drugs jamming with Paul Kelly as anything in the more twang-rich territory that you might ordinarily associate with this universe. Put it on the roadtrip playlist. — JH

Image: Perfect Actress - Perfect Actress

Perfect Actress - 'Perfect Actress'

From EP "Perfect Actress" (self-released, cassette and digital)

This song first punched us in the face at their debut show in the dying days of 2022, and we thanked it and asked for another. Respect Lindsay Lohan and we will respect you. (Also: if you're playing the Marcus Whale project drinking game, take a sip! And that's Naomi Kent from Carnations on the mic.) — CW

Image: R.M.F.C - Club Hits

R.M.F.C. - 'Rock Tune'

From album "Club Hits" (self-released, vinyl and digital)

There's something deeply conceptual about Rock Music Fan Club's sound: it's flat and unbelievably dry both on record and live (those drums! that bass! that crunch and crackle!), the ringing twelve-string electric, the krautrock-like discipline in the hypnotic lope of everyone droning a chord cycle, the rise and fall of the dynamics. R.M.F.C know exactly what they're doing. — JH

Image: Safety First - Why Is Being Successful So Hard?

Safety First - 'Office Romance'

From EP "Why Is Being Successful So Hard?" (self-released, digital)

The dolewavey, matter-of-fact verses of this ode to shit desk jobs burst into a kaleidoscope of fuck-it-all harmonies and chiming guitars in the chorus. It's cynical, swoonworthy, and totally charming. — CW

Image: Sam Windley - Pink and Nervous EP

Sam Windley - 'Lady Zombies'

From EP "Pink and Nervous" (self-released)

Sam Windley's phenomenal, conversational songwriting often reminds me of Stella Donnelly's, raw and blunt and sharp at the same time like a freshly broken fingernail, but this one stands alone. It stopped me in my tracks as I was making the playlist one week and squatted in my brain for months afterwards. A witchy, uneasy cocktail of sing-song repetition, claustrophobic tones, and muddy little footfalls on the left side of the piano to make Fiona Apple proud. Listen to it or I'll hex you. — CW

Image: Sevy - Whats the Move

Sevy - 'Whats the Move'

Single (self-released, digital)

A gorgeous, fleeting reflection that sounds like it's still warm after cooking in Sevy's DAW. Sublime pads wash over evaporating vocals. – JH

Image: Shady Nasty - Hardstyle

Shady Nasty - 'Hardstyle'

Single (self-released)

This three-piece are an intoxicating blend of hardcore, jazz, Tortoise-like post-rock, cloud rap and God knows what else. Their mastery is apparent, and it needs to be seen live to be believed. – JH

Image: Sidney Phillips - I'm So Tired Of Being Staunchly

Sidney Phillips - 'IGET In My Pocket'

From album "I'm So Tired Of Being Staunchly" (stealthyn00b)

A lot of pop music in this emergent age is bite-sized fragments that, strung together, form a series of vignettes - many of them slice-of-life reflections on moments in characters' lives, whether real or invented. This gorgeous little minute and 30 seconds gives a perfect setup for this 26-song LP (which clocks in at 61 minutes), a glimpse into the headspace of a world constantly spinning around a narrator. — JH

Image: Sun Run - Beach EP

Sun Run - 'Crime'

From EP "Beach" (self-released)

Emo will never truly die. There’s something about the how this band clicks on record that nails the visceral impact of their live show. Authentic, soaring, satisfying. — JH

Image: TRAUMA$QUAD - Tower of Babel

TRAUMA$QUAD [ft. Blackbird, VALDOXAN, Bloodset] - 'Rakka Rakka'

From album "Tower of Babel" (self-released)

Western Sydney right now is just too rich a seam to map out. I can't tell you enough about the geographies, sub-scenes and warehouse spaces, who's-playing-with-who, who's-recording-who, how it works, what it do. (If you know where people are doing good writing on this subject, let us know!) But the mysterious TRAUMA$QUAD are dropping unbelievably gigantic, confident, swagger-rich short bursts of distorted bass, and this track is a fantastic taste of what's going on in the stew. — JH

NB this cover differs from the
Image: Vv Pete - Frauds Single Cover NB this cover differs from the "Reworks" EP cover

Vv Pete - 'Frauds [DJ Plead rework]'

From EP "Frauds (Reworked)" (Trackwork)

Bottom of the alphabet, but top of the pile — 2023 was the year of Vv Pete. The Mount Druitt rapper's creative partnership with producer Utility has resulted in heater after heater, and she took custody of thousands of new fans opening for Denzel Curry at the Hordern in April. 'Frauds', with production credits from Cassius Select as well as Utility, technically came out in late 2022, but in order to not have to pick a favourite out of her three equally perfect 2023 singles we have opted to cheat and include this phenomenal remix from Plead. It's a spare, unrelenting showcase for Pete's pneumatic flow and delicate, husky texture. Accept no substitutes. — CW

Caitlin Welsh
04 Jan 2024