Music to Soundtrack Sem 2

Graphic by Bella Rough

Uni is back, so we’ve curated a list of the best Aussie releases of 2023 so far to get you through it

With semester 2 well and truly in session, you might already be dreading the study grind, or maybe you’re looking forward to any number of social events. Whatever the case, you’re probably in need of a little music motivation (we certainly are!). Whether you’re looking for an uplifting track, a gently reflective indie-pop number, or something that belongs on a late night DJ set, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Together we’ve curated our top 10 best Aussie releases (and no, they’re not properly ranked) of this year so far…and that’s not all…

1. Change Has To Come – Mo’Ju

Picked by: Zoe

How best to start off a playlist meant to get you through another uni semester, than a track permeated with a longing for community and delivered by Mo’Ju and their captivating neo-soul vocals. Set over subdued bass and a funky guitar line, Mo’Ju insists that “change has to come” to a society where personal connections and protecting “all the things [we] believe in” is more important than ever. I really could not recommend exploring the rest of Mo’Ju’s discography more. Based in Naarm, Mo’ju has explored their Filipino, Wiradjuri and queer identities through their songwriting, encapturing personal complexities, self-empowerment and political nuance. If you’re in the mood for powerful storytelling and just all-in-all brilliant music, Mo’Ju is for you.

2. Alright OK – Stace Cadet

Picked by: Fynn

Stace Cadet’s latest dance tune is infectiously happy, with whimsical vocals assuring the simple but comforting message of “it’s alright”. With blissful electronic production, the track functions as a fail-proof serotonin booster. If any song will get you through the gruelling lows of a semester, this is it. The track was written to help cope with the stress of “being fed a constant barrage of content, information, aspirations and general craziness”, which pretty appropriately sums up uni life. To follow the much needed mid-week high, chase this song up with Stace Cadet’s other 2023 release, ‘Light Me Up’, which is guaranteed to get you through to the weekend, up and dancing.

3. Too Much Fun – Memphis LK

Picked by: Zoe

This track really is “too much fun”. Self-taught DJ and producer Memphis LK juxtaposes euphoric 90s-esque dance production with lyrics that tell the story of someone perhaps pretending they’re okay and having “too much fun” in the wake of a breakup. Memphis LK’s soft vocals also bring a certain pop nostalgia to the track, and delivering infectious hooks which are bound to get stuck in your head: “Why do you call me to work it out?/ I worked it out without you/ So, say you’re sorry a hundred times/ We might be fine”. Though perhaps not conducive to a genuine study sesh, ‘Too Much Fun’ could be a much-needed kick at the end of the day.

4. State of Mind – justina.

Picked by: Fynn

‘State Of Mind’ is just so. Much. Fun. Justina (stylised: justina.) is both a mastermind lyricist and beautiful vocalist; two features which are more than evident on this track. With rap verses and sound bites, the track is dynamic and constantly exciting from start to finish. Similarly to ‘Open Up My Eyes’ by Muftiday_Project, which Justina also features on, the wholly unique sound of this song makes it so irresistable. If you’ve ever seen Astral Juice live, you’ll know Justina for her show-stopping stage presence. This presence translates perfectly on this track, with Justina’s lively personality being felt strongly throughout. However, ‘State Of Mind’ stands on its own as a track that lives outside of Astral Juice’s whimsical neo-soul, and does a a brilliant job defining Justina’s solo sound.

5. Drunk in Luv – 1300

Picked by: Zoe

For a mixtape which was pulled together in record time over Discord, <3 (2023) is beautifully cohesive and doesn’t lack any of 1300’s usual creativity. The same can be said for its first track, ‘Drunk in Luv’. With lyrics like “넌 아직 strolling around my mind, 안 떠나지” (“You’re still strolling around my mind, you’re not leaving”), ‘Drunk in Luv’ really showcases nostalgic lofi production elements (my favourite moment happens at the 2min mark). Together, producers Nerdie and pokari.sweat, and vocalists rako, goyo and DALI HART bring together a track which absolutely delivers, as per their usual, a catchy hook: “Drink 하고 또 까먹어버려
Where to go? 갈길 잃은 drunk in love” (“Drink and forget again/ Where to go? Lost, drunk in love”). For me, this is the perfect afternoon uni commute song.

6. Open Up My Eyes – MuftiDay_Project (feat. ATARI Y)

Picked by: Fynn

Pioneered by local hero, Callan Andrews-Arabi, Muftiday_Project is one of the most exciting creative projects emerging in the Sydney/Eora scene. ‘Open Up My Eyes’ marks the first installment in a series of collaborations that seeks to bring together up-and-coming artists from different styles. The track bridges the worlds of ATARI Y’s hip-hop sounds with the instrumental magic of many of Astral Juice’s musicians. Produced by the infamous Remy Nettheim, ‘Open Up My Eyes’ is the shared product of a myriad of creatives, coming together to create a refreshingly unique track. This funky and fun song is exactly what you need on your sem 2 playlist to help get you through the rest of the year.

7. Blak Britney – Miss Kaninna 

Picked by: Zoe

Proud Yorta Yorta, Yirendali and Kalkadoon woman, Miss Kaninna, brings smooth, confident delivery and gripping energy with debut single ‘Blak Britney’. This “anti-establishment anthem” combines hard-hitting, truth-telling lyrics with Miss Kaninna’s perfectly balanced genre-blend of old-school hip-hop, R&B and pop. From the outset the message is clear: “Government said I would fail/ Mm. but still I prevail”, asserts Miss Kaninna. This is a track to have on repeat all sem; it’s cool as hell, “nothin’ but brilliance”, and I absolutely cannot wait for Miss Kaninna’s next release.

8. I’ve Been Thinking – Amnesiac 

Picked by: Fynn

If we’re talking about tracks to get you through the uni semester, look no further than ‘I’ve Been Thinking’, the feel-good debut track from Amnesiac. With brilliant vocals and instrumentation, this track feels like it belongs in the beginning of a coming-of-age film, but in all the right ways. Dreamy and melancholic, there’s so much to love here. And don’t you worry, there’s even a sped up TikTok version on the way. In all seriousness, this track is so professionally written and mixed that it feels as though it immediately belongs on mainstream alternative radio.

9. Just Like Me – Sarah Yagki 

Picked by: Zoe

Sometimes (or many times) there are points in the uni semester where you just need a good cry, and this is certainly a song to soundtrack those moments. Heartwrenching but undeniably beautiful, ‘Just Like Me’ “is about watching a loved one suffer through their lowest points of mental health, and the impact it has on you as you watch it unfold”, said Yagki about the track. Complete with Yagki’s trademark ethereal vocals, the build-up throughout the songs’ 3mins 19secs is consuming. Beginning with gentle acoustic guitar, the introduction of steady drums, dreamy, reverbed electric guitar and layered vocals surge into a haunting climax: “You’re just like me/ you never really leave…I use you, you use me”. Be kind to yourself this semester; hug your friends and reach out if and when you need to.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 — Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 — Mental Health Line (NSW): 1800 011 511

10. breakfast roll – Charli Lucas 

Picked by: Fynn

Charli Lucas is on a roll (pun proudly intended) this year, with this brand new single coming off the back of her other amazing single, ‘Anthem For Loners’. ‘breakfast roll’ is delightfully mellow, with enough emotions and danceability to get you appropriately in your feels this sem. The track is chock-full of clever lyricism and satisfying guitar riffs. “But lately I’ve been thinkin’ I should bare my soul over coffee and a breakfast roll”, sings Lucas in the chorus of this vunerable indie-pop tune. Overall, its an absolute must listen. Don’t just take my word for it, check it out for yourself!

Haven’t had enough? SURG has a Spotify account! Below you can find our full Sem 2 playlist (because let’s be honest, 10 tracks just doesn’t cover it).

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