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(Credit: Far Out / Press / Abby Gilliardi)

Music

Far Out 40: Celebrating the 21st-century boom of Australian alternative music

@TomTaylorFO

When Nick Cave was growing up in the far-flung Australian town of Warracknabeal, he and an unruly group of outlaw buddies voraciously absorbed the rock ‘n’ roll culture slowly washing ashore in the land of Aus. As youngsters, these Birthday Party bandits adhered to the popular Australian notion, at the time, that there was no inherent culture down under and you’d have to venture overseas to experience art. 

“Everyone wants to leave Australia,” Nick Cave once ventured, “We’re raised to think that culturally everything happens elsewhere. Australia has no inherent culture amongst its white inhabitants… So, anyone having any interest in art or music or whatever left Australia.” He latterly hot-footed around the world rocking up in Berlin, Brighton, Sao Paulo and more and a lot of Australian artistry journeyed with him.

Such is the troubled British colonial history of the place, that cultural notion may well have proved true for the white denizens for a long time. In a musical sense, this was particularly true as INXS held the fort and didn’t receive a vast amount of reinforcements. Sure, great bands sprung forth, but like the sprawled cities, they were few and far between and often they left before a scene could build in their wake. Hell, even Colin Hay moved to Los Angeles!

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Now, you descend into the bowels of a near-secret Sydney establishment, clad with fluorescent spray paint on the walls, and the sound of a homegrown buzz is evidence that you have entered an edifice of a scene borne in the underbelly. From the likes of Frankie’s Pizza and other such beer-swilling hotspots scattered across the mammoth continent, alternative music has boomed, been honed and found a place to call home. This, in short, has made Australia the thriving alternative musical capital of the world for the very first time. 

At the start of this rise is unfairly besmirched bands like The Vines who successfully paired indie with something naturally psychedelic from the crooked lands down under. Thereafter, other bands followed suit and now there is almost an entire set of Australian sub-genres. The bedroom-bound vibes that Kevin Parker pretty much invented are now ubiquitous in all sorts of global genres and the scratchy sort of sun-bleached punk of the emergent Amyl and The Sniffers is catching on in areas like LA, while the brilliance of Peep Tempel storytelling can be heard in post-punk bands like Yard Act and more. Even the children’s entertainers are now in on the act: enter The Wiggles. 

Below we have collated a playlist 40 of the best alternative tracks from Australian artists in recent times. With a strict rule of one song per act, we crammed as many varieties as possible into the mix, but it is a measure of just how healthy Australian music is at present that many superb musicians missed out. Thankfully, there’s always scope for more. Let’s just hope that it can be sustained and culture is supported. Straya!

40 alternative Australian anthems:

  • ‘Elephant’ by The Wiggles
  • ‘Sense’ by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
  • ‘Waiting Around for Grace’ by Pond
  • ‘Solitude is Bliss’ by Tame Impala
  • ‘Rayguns’ by The Peep Tempel
  • ‘Elevator Operator’ by Courtney Barnett
  • ‘Don’t How to Keep Loving You’ by Julia Jacklin
  • ‘Hates My Boozin’ by Peter Bibby
  • ‘L.S.D.’ by Skegss
  • ‘Sentimental and Monday’ by Holy Holy
  • ‘French Press’ by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
  • ‘Rose Pink Cadillac’ by Dope Lemon
  • ‘Foreign Language’ by Flight Facilities
  • ‘Jungle’ by Tash Sultana
  • ‘Our Place’ by Verge Collection
  • ‘Cold Summers’ by Crepes
  • ‘Calendar Days’ by Dick Diver
  • ‘Cold Feet’ by Jack Ladder
  • ‘Dream Cave’ by Cloud Control
  • ‘Konichiwa’ bu Donny Benét
  • ‘Security’ by Amyl and The Sniffers
  • ‘Palo Alto’ by Jack River
  • ‘Tieduprightnow’ by Parcels
  • ‘Far From Born Again’ by Alex Cameron
  • ‘Southern Sun’ by Boy & Bear
  • ‘Morning Sun’ by Babe Rainbow
  • ‘Those Eyes That Answer’ by Ryan Downey
  • ‘King Brown’ by Barkaa
  • ‘Found God in a Tomato’ by Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
  • ‘Easy’ by Tiny Little Houses
  • ‘Must Be Love’ by Electric Fields, Tseba
  • ‘Regional Echo’ by Jen Cloher
  • ‘Heavy Heart’ You Am I
  • ‘Questions’ Middle Kids
  • ‘Get Free’ by The Vines
  • ‘Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin’ by Phantastic Ferniture
  • ‘Believe’ by DMA’s
  • ‘Beware of the Dogs’ by Stella Donnelly
  • ‘I Wanna Be Everybody’ by Hockey Dad
  • ‘Smoko’ by The Chats