Three of the best Australian albums of 2018

Gurrumul Yunupingu

Djarimirri (Child Of The Rainbow)

At a time when cultural appropriation is a hot topic, Gurrumul’s Djarimirri (Child Of The Rainbow) showed how a cross-cultural collaboration could be done with respect and spectacular results. A fully sanctioned blend of traditional Yolngu songs set to string arrangements inspired by minimalist neoclassical composers Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt, Djarimirri drew upon the cyclic repetition of both musical traditions, with the pulse of the didgeridoo replaced mostly by cellos. The late singer’s angelic voice floats above it all. His friend, producer and arranger Michael Hohnen says that Gurrumul’s music was about bringing his culture to the world; his family broke with cultural tradition to allow his name and image to be used, to preserve his memory and giant legacy.

Camp Cope

How To Socialise And Make Friends

One of the best music stories of 2018 was the growing international acclaim for Melbourne’s Camp Cope, whose album How To Socialise And Make Friends was the perfect soundtrack for the #MeToo moment it spoke to. Even before the album’s release, the single The Opener had lit the touch paper on the endemic sexism of the rock festival circuit and the Australian music industry generally. It’s not an easy listen – Georgia McDonald’s vocals are all over the place – but hers is a perfectly imperfect instrument for an unstable age, and the songs are unerringly direct, honest and true. Within a decade, the next generation of female singer-songwriters will be coming to her with thanks.

Courtney Barnett

Tell Me How You Really Feel

The album following an artist’s first major flush of international success is often a challenge. But if anything, Courtney Barnett’s Tell Me How You Really Feel was better than its predecessor, Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit, and an even bigger advance on her earlier EPs. At a brisk 37 minutes, it sees Barnett curb her verbosity into 10 tightly written pop nuggets. They’re all gold. An incredible four singles (Nameless, Faceless; City Looks Pretty; Need A Little Time and Sunday Roast) were pulled from the album before its release and the catchiest of the lot, Charity, was the fifth. But perhaps the best song of all was Walking On Eggshells, which lopes along like a lost Neil Young & Crazy Horse classic. Long may she run.

First published in The Guardian, 27 December 2018 (joint bylined)

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