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December 21, 2023

Adelaide’s best music of 2023

It's been a banger year for SA music, and these are our 10 absolute favourite singles that'll keep rotating on our playlists into 2024.

  • Words: Helen Karakulak, Claudia Dichiera, David Simmons and Charlie Gilchrist
  • Graphic: Jayde Vandborg

Each month, CityMag scours social media and rummages through our inboxes to compile Adelaide’s best new releases for our column.

Whether it’s rap, punk, indie, alternative, folk or experimental, we include a bit of everything. There’s only one crucial criteria: they must be local artists. As much as we love San Cisco, Peggy Gou and of course, Taylor Swift, it’s local artists and venues that need our support. So, we’ve listened to a lot of music this year, and after much deliberation, we’ve narrowed it down to our top ten favourites.


Listen to this playlist on Spotify.

If you’re a South Australian band or musician with a new release, let us know about it.

Helen Karakulak’s picks:


Aleksiah has been on an upward trajectory since her sweet debut ‘Fern’ at the end of 2022 put her on our radar. Since then, she played Groovin’ the Moo as Triple J’s unearthed artist, supported Lime Cordiale and Kita Alexander and headlined her own tour. ‘Pretty Picture’ is the track that tops it for us. The song details aleksiah’s feelings after, at 19 years old, her photos were stolen and photoshopped into illicit images. Her vocals on this single expose what we think is aleksiah at her best. Raw, unapologetic feminist rage in a track that sounds like it would fit in on the soundtrack of 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You.


Maybe it’s recency bias, but we F with Jon Ann. The self-proclaimed loud & sad band have showcased the pub punk anthemic direction they want to go with this single. The vibe of ‘F with me’ transports us to the Cranker with a cider in hand and sneakers stuck to the floor. It’s emotive and leads with heavy riffs and angry lyrics. Jon Ann have told us they’re here, we’re asking where will they go next.


We’ve said it before, we’ve said it again and we will keep saying it: MANE is Adelaide’s own mix of Florence and the Machine meets Maggie Rogers. After a busy year of touring with USA dates including SXSW in Austin, Texas, MANE is doing Adelaide proud. Her sophomore EP Caught in the Undertow was released in September this year and ‘We Run’ has been on our playlists ever since. The softly upbeat track features her romantic vocals and poignant lyrics.  The city has well and truly got around her, selling out her gig at the Grace Emily in October to kick off her Australian tour for the EP. MANE is certainly on CityMag’s list of ones to watch as we’re sure she’s in for another year of quietly confident bangers in 2024.

Claudia Dichiera’s picks:


2023 was the first year I was introduced to Plastiq. The first listening experience I had was when interviewing Liam Sommerville, also known creatively as CAPITAL WASTE. He created a Plastiq alternate universe at The Light Room after digitally designing the music video for Plastiq’s song ‘killer’. From that moment, I was hooked. When ‘Dolphin’ came onto the scene, I recognised it was more upbeat than the last. It was stuck in my head for days. No complaints from me, however, as I loved the electronic mix and creative choices when it comes to the dominant duo.


In 2023, the South Australian music industry gave us many highs. However, there was one particular low. We lost one great duo to retirement as we know it — Collarbones. Travis Cook, one half and the Adelaide-based producer out of the duo, told us in May that their final album, Filth, is disjointed and came out of a process of trial and error, with “guitar-heavy tracks near these quite electronic ones”. CityMag’s top pick from the final album was ‘Ripe for Filth’. It was soft and had us headbanging in the CityMag offices with delight.


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David Simmons’ picks:


‘Evil Eye’, the cornerstone track on The Empty Threats’ stellar new LP Monster Truck Mondays, punches you right in the heart and twists it with a flourish. Doused in hazy melancholy and guitar pedal effects, ‘Evil Eye’ is an anthem for inner-strength and finding self-purpose in a chaotic world. “To see, to feel, to live I’ll try / We die, we love, we multiply / Grow up, be fine, you’ll just survive”. For 2024, optimism is in. Find it within The Empty Threats’ technicolour tunes.


Strict Face’s Steps Twice Tumbled EP was the lead release from Melbourne outfit ILIO Record’s sub-label ILIOBLK, and what a way to kick off a new series. The producer’s well-honed style shines through most on ‘Coin Counter’ – a relentless beat that pops and splatters with a chrome-like sheen throughout the track’s four-minute runtime. If this EP scratches your itch, make sure to also suss his second release of 2023: Modern Rubble.


Nothing makes me feel more confident than slamming in my earphones, pressing play on something heavy, and stomping through the CBD. Sleep Talk’s latest release Have You Ever Seen a God has soundtracked many of my after-work trips to the grocery store – mundanity eased by the band’s unrelenting approach to hardcore. ‘Easy Stroke’ is the standout from the record: an ode to unfulfilling sex and things left unsaid to bygone lovers.


We’re all getting older. Nothing highlights the drudgery of time passing more than a year coming to an end. Street Legal is keenly aware of our mortality. On ‘Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow’, frontman Matt Hayward croons about an 80s star “with a cherry bomb smile”. Is it a beautiful ex, or one’s former self with a head full of hair? We don’t get many answers on this single bursting with nostalgic tones inspired by New Order through the lens of 2000s blog pop, but who cares? After all, we are all ‘hair today’ and gone tomorrow.

Charlie’s Gilchrist pick: 


With its dreamy vocals and crunchy sitar, Adelaide psych outfit’s mind-bending tune ‘Into Me I See’ is a blend of classic 60s raga rock and neo-psychedelia. When I first heard this six-minute song, I instantly thought of The Babe Rainbow’s ‘Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest’, while the synth interlude reminded me of early Tame Impala. The accompanying trippy music video with its intense psychedelic patterns by local visual artist Miles Dunne a hundred per cent lives up to the warning “[t]his video contains strobe effects that may affect photosensitive viewers.” I’m a sucker for all things 60s, so of course I was going to choose this as my favourite South Australian song of 2023. On a final note, when listening to this song you should take John Lennon’s advice to “turn off your mind relax and float downstream.”

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