Let's throw this year in the bin by talking about the music we love. It's been the longest twelve months of our lives, and as per usual we've clung to music to get us by. Whether it's an act of escapism, a pick-me-up, or a lockdown rave session, we've been blessed with some massive LPs from our local heroes.
So as we get to the end of the year, we countdown some of our faves in no particular order.
Ball Park Music - Ball Park Music
Australian favourites Ball Park Music extend upon their previous works in a linear fashion, with their latest releases complimenting their ongoing distinctive style and bringing it to the forefront of the Australian indie genre. With hints of hopefulness cascading along with waterfalls of synths, soaring vocals and catchy guitar riffs, their whole album is full of tracks that will get stuck in your head. This latest self-titled album shows the flexibility of the band, and their ability to cement themselves firmly in the hearts of everyone through emotion-packed tunes that are meant to be shouted in a jam packed festival mosh.
Faves: Cherub, Day & Age, Head Like A Sieve, Spark Up!
Stevan - Just Kids (Mixtape)
Stevan’s debut album Just Kids (Mixtape) features lo-fi drums, dreamy vocals, catchy riffs and laid-back beats. The mixtape incorporates pop, rock, r'n'b and hip-hop influences to create a warm and whimsical indie sound. The self-taught vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist writes sentimental tunes with themes of escapism.
Faves: Time, Warm
Kuya James - ISA
Kuya James' groundbreaking debut album ISA shines a light on the Asian Australian music community and beyond, representing this country’s melting pot of cultures in 2020. Infusing punchy electronic beats with oriental soundscapes and spanning genres from hip hop to disco, this record is as diverse as the artists featured on it. With themes of ancestry and individuality, artists can even be heard singing and rapping in their native tongue, making it truly a transcendental feast for the ears!
Faves: No Country, Goodbye
Violent Soho - Everything Is A-OK
Violent Soho’s fifth studio album Everything Is A-OK is a fresh direction for the Brisbane rockers. Instead of the headbanging and aggressive undertones fans are familiar with, we’re treated to a cathartic and introspective look on facing modern expectations. There’s a plethora of moody tracks that still fit within their grunge sound, but this time, the angst is expressed through purposeful storytelling rather than screaming into the void. It’s a fitting album for the clusterf*ck that is 2020 and reminds us that while everything is not okay, we can still hold onto the moments that make it bearable.
Faves: Canada, Sleep Year, Slow Down Sonic
A.Swayze and the Ghosts - Paid Salvation
A true showcase of Australian-alternative rock, A.Swayze and the Ghosts prove their undeniable post-punk cool on their debut album Paid Salvation. It’s hard to believe the Tassie favourites are still flying under the radar after delivering a debut album as clean, tight, angstsy and perfectly loud as Paid Salvation. A politically motivated album, the band screams and shouts about everything from problematic social media to tall poppy syndrome. Punchy lyrics, and even harder-hitting riffs; this album is completely reminiscent of late 70s Aus Pub-Rock. A debut album for the ages - everyone should be listening to A.Swayze and the Ghosts.
Faves: Suddenly, Nothing Left to Do, Mess of Me, Connect to Consume
Vacations - Forever In Bloom
Forever In Bloom marks Vacations’ tightest, wooziest and most contemplative collection yet. The album features tracks which recall their earlier surf-rock sound and evoke their Novocastrian roots, along with some glossier jams and more impassioned ballads which reflect their edge towards the pop scene and make this album feel fully realised. Forever In Bloom builds you up with pulses of high-energy songs, only to bring you back down with some slow burners as if to say “Just let the sauce simmer”. And then it explodes. The result is a juicy, flavour-intensive piece of holistic music that somehow manages to perfectly capture both a moment in time, and a universal experience. Play it if you want a bop, or play it if you want a silent cry; it won’t disappoint either way.
Faves: ‘Panache’ (feat. Sarah Sykes and Craterface), ‘Wildflower’, ‘Take Care’
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Sideways to New Italy
The Melbourne quintet have developed from an already fantastic debut album released just a couple of years ago. Sideways to New Italy delivers more of the same energetic, jangly guitar work and tight songwriting that saw them emerge as one of Australia's latest indie rock darlings following the release of 2018's 'Hope Downs'. It's a joy to listen to these boys in full form as they weave guitar leads around each other and swap between vocal duties among their unorthodox lineup, which features three singer-guitarists, Fran Keaney, Tom Russo, and Joe White. This form peaks on the album's centrepiece, 'Cars in Space', where the band kick up the tempo even higher than usual and jam like there's no tomorrow; it's sure to be one of the catchiest tracks of the year.
Faves: Cars in Space, She's There, The Second of the First, Cameo, Falling Thunder
Lime Cordiale - 14 Steps To A Better You
Keeping us on the hook with a slow but steady drip of singles, golden indie princes Oli and Louis Leimbach proved it worth the wait for sophomore album, 14 Steps To A Better You. On brand to their namesake, Lime Cordiale served freshly squeezed alt melodies and hooks classic enough to edge themselves into the category of popular picnic essentials, whilst still holding strong to their quintessential off-beat zest and quirky tang that makes them so uniquely noteworthy in indie hearts. Fashioned in the style of a ‘self-help’ album, the boys curated a catalogue of tunes aiming to improve oneself in the fields of finance, love, fame and environmentalism; a feat slightly undermined by the fact that each song is an absolute bop. An album saturated with cruisey beats, groovy haze, a peppering of distinctive jazzy licks and the occasional kazoo toot has propelled Lime Cordiale from a little known alt-niche, to scooping up ARIA awards and helming the gateway from the mainstream as ‘baby’s first indie band.’
Faves: Dirt Cheap, Following Fools, No Plans to Make Plans, On Our Own.
Peter Bibby's Dog Act - Marge
How does an artist get more real after having already opened a song with the line, “Hello, my name is c**t”? Well, Peter Bibby’s strategy was to throw out all predisposed rules of songwriting and just go f*cking nuts. Rugged, charming, odd, and heartbreakingly sincere are words that can be used to describe Bibby's Dog Act’s third album. Marge is a medley of raw Australiana; tunes that, though wildly varied in topic, pacing and style, still hold the common thread of being resolutely genuine. An allegorical sea shanty about failing mental health ('Oceans') is followed by a screeching of wikipedia-esque facts on a shitty South Australian town he’s never been to ('Whyalla'), leading into a bitter, rollicking track about a selfish woman ('Your Mum'), concluding with a melancholic ballad slandering the dairy industry and his woeful lack of calcium ('Calcium'). A minutes-long explicit-laden recording of Peter sustaining an injury whilst recording that's tacked on to the end of 'Craigieburn’ emphasises the fact that this album is really doing its own thing. Though maybe not his most cohesive or easily palatable body of work, it's certainly Bibby at his most raw, experimental and interesting.
Faves: Calcium, Oceans, Whyalla, Your Mum.
DMA’s - The Glow
DMA’s' experimental third album, The Glow, sees the trio embracing new beginnings as they move slightly away from their Brit-pop roots and into a sound more identifiable with their synth-pop contemporaries. Offering psychedelic sounds and funky synth grooves, the triumphant vocals from Tommy O’Dell continue to soar; DMA’s' ability to produce anthemic, goose-bump inducing tracks only intensified within the sound explorations of this album. As the trio continue on their upwards trajectory, it would be remiss of me not to give this album my glowing recommendation.
Faves: Silver, The Glow, Learning Alive, Criminals, Hello Girlfriend
Mimi Gilbert - Grew Inside the Water
Grew Inside the Water is a hauntingly gorgeous indie folk album brought to us by Melbourne-based artist Mimi Gilbert. Gilbert is a powerful story-teller with an utterly mesmerising voice, creating captivating songs to stir your emotions. This album features stripped-back instrumentals and gentle vocals to leave a lasting impact.
Faves: Grew Inside the Water, Dark Stor
Hockey Dad - Brain Candy
Brain Candy is Hockey Dad’s most evolved album yet, the wholesome duo maturing in more ways than one as they lose some of their familiar chaos to create a cracking album that explores multiple genres. Filled to the brim with contagious tracks, Brain Candy feels considered, the boys staying true to their catchy riffs, insane drumming and captivating storytelling, whilst investigating many influences including 90s grunge, psych-rock, even an emo-ballad. Appealing to a vast spectrum of emotions, Brain Candy is the go-to album of the year, remaining just as poignant whether you’re driving by the beach with the windows down or navigating through torrential rain. Either way, every track deserves to be cranked up.
Faves: In This State, I Missed Out, Tell Me What You Want, Good Eye, Heavy Assault
Cosmo’s Midnight - Yesteryear
This long-awaited sophomore album from electronic duo, Cosmo’s Midnight, was finally unveiled during the latter part of this year, right in time for some summertime groovin’. Known for their upbeat, party-starting sound, Yesteryear sees the pair moving away from overly produced sounds to more organic instrumentation. This provides us with a range of versatile songs that can be enjoyed equally at a party, a poolside BBQ or during an evening stroll. Yes, we can dig it!
Faves: C.U.D.I (Can You Dig It), Down For You feat. Ruel, Unwind, Yesteryear, Have It All feat. Age.Sex.Location
Tame Impala - The Slow Rush
The long-awaited fourth studio album from Tame Impala did not disappoint. The Slow Rush is Kevin Parker's continuation of the irresistible psychedelic pop sound that catapulted the Tame Impala project to global superstardom on 2015's Currents. This time around, he's incorporating even more influences from electronic and dance music, producing a track-list that's packed with earworms and has spawned a handful of huge hit singles. The record saw Tame Impala clean up at the 2020 ARIA Music Awards, winning five trophies including the Album of the Year.
Faves: Breathe Deeper, On Track, Borderline, Is It True
Bjéar - Now, There Are Some Things That Will Change
A synth-pop discovery that soars about most records released in 2020. An enigmatic Bjéar delivers a rollercoaster of sound assortments that travel between bright, anthemic power tunes, to dark and grisly experimentation. With distinct Bon Iver influences shining through, Bjéar encapsulates so much in such little, a master-class in nuance.
Faves: Prophet, Pilgrimage
Miiesha - Nyaaringu
This is not just an album of incredibly polished r'n'b and elevated soul but a remarkable collection of songs that express the highs and lows of the Indigenous experience. There's powerful honesty in the slow burning tracks. There's plainspoken fury in the gospel tinged storytelling. There's indestructible energy in her voice. This is an album you have to listen to and its one that will leave you asking ‘what happened.’
Faves: Twisting Words, Blood Cells, Drowning
Gordi - Our Two Skins
Astute introspection, delicate vulnerability and soaring synth work, Gordi returns with a sophomore album that sets her above the rest. With two Triple J award nominations and an ARIA nomination, Our Two Skins proves there was no sophomore slump for this frontline worker. There is an intimacy in this record, a heightened level of wordplay and an etherealness that touches the heart gently, but with purpose. Skins is all facets of a hurricane - the calm, the storm and everything in between.
Faves: Aeroplane Bathroom, Volcanic, Unready