Music has a way of connecting us to our past and culture. It can transport us to a time and place that we may never have experienced, and it can evoke memories of something we loved in the past. Australia is known for its incredible music, from the classic rock of AC/DC to the contemporary pop of Sia.
With this in mind, here is a detailed list of iconic albums from the entire musical history of Australia, with special attention paid to the contributions made by Indigenous Australian musicians.
Yothu Yindi – Tribal Voice (1991)
This album contains some of the most popular songs by Yothu Yindi, including “Treaty” and “Djäpana (Sunset Dreaming)”. The lyrics are focused on Indigenous Australian perspectives and experiences, making this an important album for understanding Indigenous culture and music.
Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust (1987)
This album is widely considered one of the best rock albums ever released in Australia. The lead single “Beds Are Burning” was an international hit, propelling Midnight Oil into the mainstream spotlight. Even today, its socially conscious lyrics still resonate with audiences around the world.
Paul Kelly – Gossip (1986)
This was Paul Kelly’s breakout album, and it spawned several hits such as “Before Too Long” and “Darling It Hurts”. In addition to being a commercial success, Gossip also won several ARIA Awards for Best Album and Best Male Artist at the ARIA Music Awards in 1987.
Cold Chisel – East (1980)
Cold Chisel’s 1980 release East is considered one of their best albums to date due to its catchy melodies and powerful lyrics about love, life, loss, and everything in between. The album went double platinum in Australia after its release and spawned several hit singles including “Standing on the Outside” and “My Baby”, both of which remain staples at Cold Chisel concerts today.
John Butler Trio – Sunrise Over Sea (2004)
John Butler Trio’s third studio album Sunrise Over Sea made them household names both locally and internationally, thanks to its blend of folk-rock tunes such as “Zebra”, “Old Man”, “What You Want” as well as its unique lyrical content about love, relationships and politics.
Savage Garden – Affirmation (1999)
This pop duo, comprising of Darren Hayes & Daniel Jones, achieved global success with their second studio effort Affirmation, which featured popular singles like “I Knew I Loved You” and “The Animal Song”. The album was certified 8x Platinum in Australia alone, and remains one of the country’s most successful records to date.
Goanna – Spirit of Place (1982)
Goanna’s debut studio album Spirit of Place was an instant hit when it was released back in 1983, thanks to its unique blend of folk-rock tunes and political themes such as Aboriginal rights and environmentalism that resonated well with young Australians at that time. They even scored a major hit with their single “Solid Rock (Sacred Ground)”!
Jimmy Barnes – For the Working Class Man (1985)
Jimmy Barnes’ solo studio album For the Working Class Man is widely regarded as one of his best works ever released. Packed full of hard-hitting rock tracks such as “No Second Prize” and “Working Class Man”, this record put Jimmy firmly on the map and paved the way for his later successes.
Kylie Minogue – Fever (2001)
Kylie Minogue’s eighth studio effort Fever became her biggest selling record to date after being certified 11 times platinum in Australia. This dance-pop gem features some classic hits like “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and “Love at First Sight” that quickly catapulted Kylie into superstardom.
Archie Roach – Charcoal Lane (1990)
Charcoal Lane is widely regarded as Archie Roach’s magnum opus, thanks to its unique mix of blues influenced folk tunes about Aboriginal identity and struggle coupled with heartfelt lyrics sung by Roach himself. Tracks like “Took the Children Away” and “Down City Streets” remain fan favourites even today.
Crowded House – Crowded House (1986)
The self-titled debut album from Crowded House was an instant success and spawned several hits such as “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong”, both of which remain staples on radio stations around Australia today.
INXS – Kick (1987)
Few albums played as big a role in bringing Australian music to an international audience than Kick by INXS did in the late eighties, featuring hit singles such as “Need You Tonight”, “New Sensation” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. This record continues to be hailed as one of Australia’s all-time great albums.
Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear (2014)
After spending much of her career behind the scenes writing songs for other artists, Sia finally broke through into mainstream consciousness with her 2014 record 1000 Forms of Fear, which included chart-topping singles such as “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart”.
AC/DC – Back in Black (1980)
Few bands have had such an influence on popular culture around the world than AC/DC, who released their sixth studio album Back in Black in 1980, their first reappearance after the untimely death of original front-man Bon Scott.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads (1996)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ ninth studio album Murder Ballads is widely considered to be one their greatest works ever, thanks largely to its experimental blend of bluesy rock ‘n roll with gothic themes that make it stand out from anything else recorded at the time or since.
Give these albums a listen today
When it comes to iconic Australian music albums, there are tonnes out there from different genres spanning different eras – but what makes these so special is not only their timelessness, but also how they capture our shared history and culture through their music. If any of the albums featured on this list were new to you, do yourself a favour and give them a listen now!