Museum of Brisbane

Madeleine Johns’ High Rotation Playlist


Over the past 18 months I have been fortunate to work on an exhibition about one of my all-time favourite topics: music. Music has always been a big part of my life, so to curate an exhibition about the last 30 years of Brisbane’s popular music scene has been a highlight of my career.

Curating High Rotation consisted of a lot of moments that went like this:

“I love that band! Wait…they are from Brisbane?”

“I have never heard this song/band/artist before, but it is now my favourite of all time.”

“I’m so glad we are only focusing on the last 30 years, because this list of amazing artists is already far too long.”

From the garage rock of the 90s to the indie bands in the 00s and electro-pop of today, Brisbane’s music scene continues to grow and diversify. Today, with the likes of Kaylah Truth, Violent Soho and Cub Sport, there is such a mixed bag it’s impossible to pigeon-hole Brisbane’s music scene into one style, genre or sound.

Favourite songs are very personal and are often connected to special memories and moments in life. Having grown up in Brisbane, I feel that way for many of these songs. They are different from each other but reflect how my music tastes have changed over the years. Those in their early 30s will probably relate to a lot on this list, or my reasons for liking them. So, without further ado, in no particular order, here are some of my favourite Brisbane songs from the past 30 years.


Savage Garden, ‘I Want You’

I am secretly proud that I still know all the words to this song. I am also extremely proud that I can recognise ‘To the Moon and Back’ from the weird space noise at the beginning, before the bass comes in at 5 seconds. I was young in the 90s and I had this CD on repeat.


Regurgitator, ‘! (The Song Formerly Known As)’

It may be an obvious choice, but this is such an amazing song, it has to go on the list. I dare you to put on this song and try not to dance. TRY! It’s simply impossible.


Powderfinger, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’

I remember working at Brumby’s when the album Vulture Street was released in 2003. I decided that my Sunday morning shift from 6am-12pm would pay for it. I caught the bus to Indooroopilly Shopping Centre later that day and bought the CD from HMV. It was the first album I purchased with my own, hard-earned money, and hence it holds a special place in my heart.


The Butterfly Effect, ‘Crave’

I was a massive fan of The Butterfly Effect during my early uni days. Their music went perfectly with my black outfits, red-ish hair and eyeliner. I remember seeing them live at the QUT Guild Bar, dancing and singing along with some random guy in the mosh pit.


Ball Park Music, ‘It’s Nice To Be Alive’

If you’re feeling sad, put on this song. It is the happiest song I know.


The Grates, ‘Sukkafish’

I’ve always loved The Grates for their incredible energy, and warm demeanour. Meeting Patience and John during the development of this exhibition was one of my greatest moments (pardon the pun).


WAAX, ‘Labrador’

WAAX are absolutely killing it right now. Releasing their debut album, touring the country with their passionate songs and boundless energy…these guys are going places and I want to get on that train.


The Jungle Giants, ‘On Your Way Down’

The Jungle Giants’ latest album Quiet Ferocity is one of my favourite albums at the moment, regardless of where they are from. And they are from Brisbane. This is one of those songs I can’t help but sing along to.


Mallrat, ‘Better’

With a sweet voice but a down-to-earth attitude, there is no wonder Mallrat is taking the world by storm. I was tossing up between putting ‘Groceries’ or ‘Better’ on this list, eventually deciding that ‘Better’ was better. I’m not convinced I made the right decision. They are all great songs.


Tia Gostelow, ‘Hungry’

When I first heard this song, I had it in my head for about a week and kept playing it on repeat. It was a good week. I love her voice and I love her song writing.


If I could make this a list of 20 songs, Confidence Man, Thelma Plum, Hungry Kids of Hungary and Yves Klein Blue would feature, amongst others. But alas, this is only a top 10 list. How difficult this is just goes to show how much talent has come out of Brisbane over the past 30 years. I am certainly looking forward to what the next 30 brings.

– Madeleine Johns, Curator


Want to listen to Madeleine’s High Rotation playlist? Head over to Spotify.