The Top 100 Songs of 2020, Part Four: 40 – 21

Welcome to the top 40! The cream is really rising to the top here. Remember, catching up on the list thus far is as easy as one, two, three! With that out of the way, let’s do it to it.

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40. Ashley McBryde – Never Will

Consider the title track as a statement piece. One could certainly do this across both of Ashley McBryde’s major-label LPs – and, by proxy, link “Never Will” as a spiritual successor to the modern Opry classic “Girl Goin’ Nowhere.” Much like “Girl,” McBryde once again goes toe-to-toe with those who doubted her. Rather than not believing she’d make it, however, this time they’re saying the good times won’t last. It’s louder and more defiant this time around, backed with rousing electric guitars and a mantra that could reflect McBryde’s entire career: “I didn’t/I don’t/I never will.” Country’s realest, freshest voice.

39. Caligula’s Horse – Autumn

Rise Radiant, the fifth studio album from Caligula’s Horse, is replete with bombast and layered instrumentation, itself zigging when you expect a zag and vice versa. There’s something to be said, then, for a song like “Autumn.” Rather than immediately throwing listeners to the wolves, it gently fades in on a lone acoustic guitar and the subdued, tender vocals of frontman Jim Grey. The prog-rock grandiosity eventuates, yes – there’s a bass solo that leads into a guitar solo – but “Autumn” succeeds primarily as a daring venture for a band that could easily but unfairly be dismissed as by-the-numbers.

38. Baby Beef – Sticking Around

A Layman’s introduction to Baby Beef: Imagine Matt Berninger fronting the Pet Shop Boys. Both the same baritone and quizzical lyrical nature follow, matched with synths and programming that are pure, unabashed kitsch. Still, that’s just a starting point. As a song like “Sticking Around” proves, there’s more to the Beef than meets the eye. All three vocalists create standout moments for themselves, while the spaghetti-western guitar adds an unexpected twang to the otherwise glacial synth-pop. There’s no-one currently on the Australian circuit quite like them – and songs like this, fitting to its title, attest to their staying power.

37. Polaris – Vagabond

Although they didn’t get much of a chance to celebrate it, Polaris ascended to the top of the foodchain in Australian heavy music in 2020. The Death of Me not only cleared the bar set by their impressive 2017 debut The Mortal Coil, it set a new benchmark for their contemporaries entirely. We listen now to the album’s centrepiece, wholly exemplary of this fresh standard. If you’re not coming to the dance with riffs that bounce as hard, drums that slam as aggressively and hooks that feel as all-encompassing as “Vagabond,” ask yourself: What the hell are you doing here?

36. ONEFOUR – Welcome to Prison

Of course, one can’t document the rise of Western Sydney’s ONEFOUR without also addressing the ever-present elephant in the room. A Rooty Hill incident landed key members of the group in jail, leaving only two on the outside to keep the name alive. To their credit, ONEFOUR have done a fantastic job of this – not least of all for keeping shit very, very real in their lyrical content. “Welcome to Prison,” as its name suggests, hits even harder than something like “In the Beginning” purely for how much heart, honesty and introspection lies within it. They remain Sydney’s realest.

35. Ty Dolla $ign feat. Kanye West, FKA twigs and Skrillex – Ego Death

Was there a greater example of ego death in 2020 than Ty Dolla $ign releasing a song named after it from an album titled Featuring Ty Dolla $ign? Ty always plays John C. Reilly to countless artists’ Will Ferrell. “Ego Death,” then, might be his Walk Hard. It’s still flanked by others’ star power (including Kanye’s best verse in years), but also serves as a showcase of an underrated leading man. This also wasn’t a hit, but give it time and it has every chance of attaining cult-classic status. Rightfully so, too. It’s the soundtrack to a thousand boogie nights.

34. 5 Seconds of Summer – Wildflower

Is there anything more fun than cosplaying decades you weren’t around for? 5SOS – who were all born in the mid-90s – finally get to indulge on a full-blown 80s moment on “Wildflower.” It honestly makes you wonder why they hadn’t gone for it sooner. Those synth stabs! That squeaky-clean guitar! The wallop of the gated snare! Take a dash of solo Phil Collins, add a splash of solo Peter Gabriel, and you’ve got the genesis of “Wildflower.” Maybe a pinch of Talking Heads, too – ’tis the season, after all. As comforting as a pair of giant shoulder pads.

33. Waxahatchee – Fire

It’s always been easy to feel what Katie Crutchfield is singing. She’s always possessed a raw, soulful voice within the indie-rock spectrum that has housed moments of vital vulnerability across her five albums as Waxahatchee. What “Fire” does is make you see what she’s singing. “West Memphis is on fire/In the light of day.” You can see the horizon, the smoke, the terror and the beauty in a moment like that. A bittersweet countryside journey, laden with impeccable harmony and bold structure. “Fire” encapsulates one of the most compelling pieces of songwriting yet in a career defined entirely by them.

32. Something for Kate – Supercomputer

At a time when many of their contemporaries have resigned themselves to the nostalgia circuit and Days On The Green, Something for Kate deserve to be commended for existing in the present tense alone. Even if their new stuff wasn’t up to scratch, at least they were still making it. That’s what makes songs like “Supercomputer” all the more defiant and baffling: Something for Kate are still making some of the best music they’ve ever written. Paul Dempsey’s ongoing sci-fi dalliance continues in a blaze of orbiting synths, pounding toms, rousing na-na-nas and a fiery guitar outro. No nostalgia necessary.

31. Nothing Really – Yuck

“Do you think I’m yuck?” Vic Austin voice cracks into a higher register as she asks the song’s titular question. “I adore you,” it adds. Perhaps a separate point, but perhaps the two are wholly intertwined. Like Roger Sanchez’s tragic “Another Chance” video, Austin and her Nothing Really cohorts begin the song with a full, giant heart that is eventually shriveled and shrunken by the cruel nature of the outside world. It’s vital, purposeful indie rock – the kind one loses themselves in for days on end, hooked on a feeling. There’s never an answer given, but silence speaks volumes.

30. Genesis Owusu – Whip Cracker

Much like “This is America” before it, much of “Whip Cracker”’s power lies within its visual accompaniment. Kofi Owusu-Ansah stares directly down the camera barrel, shot in black-and-white as he unflinchingly calls out his targets. By the time the video bursts into colour, blood is dripping from his mouth. It’s one of the year’s most perfect videos for what ended up being one of its hardest-hitting songs. Owusu’s acidic bile is egged on by thudding drums, which turn on a dime into a dance-punk apocalypse around the song’s halfway point. It’s complex by nature; unrelenting in execution. Whip it good.

29. Run the Jewels feat. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha – JU$T

When the tracklist for RTJ4 preempted its release, one particular odd-couple feature pairing raised eyebrows – and, believe it or not, it wasn‘t Josh Homme and Mavis Staples. Of course, Run the Jewels had history with Zack de la Rocha – but what of Pharrell, whose happy (pun intended) disposition felt immediately at odds with the harsh reality of RTJ? As it turns out, this fab four complement one another perfectly. It’s all there: Williams’ syncopated hook, El-P’s rubbery beat clatter and prolix wordplay, Mike’s effortless verse, de la Rocha’s scene-stealing finale. “JU$T” is a legend convention meets social revolution.

28. Tame Impala – Lost in Yesterday

One of the more interesting musical elements at play on the last two Tame Impala records has been the lessened emphasis on guitar. What happens when you remove such a key element from what is, for all intents and purposes, a rock band? You get in the groove. “Lost in Yesterday,” tellingly, sports the best Impala bassline since “The Less I Know the Better.” A bustling drum shuffle – equal parts “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “The Moment” – muscles in, while an aviary of synth squalls colour in atop of the rhythm. Reinvention never felt so revolutionary.

27. Miiesha – Twisting Words

The title of Miiesha’s debut Nyaaringu stems from her native Pitjantjatjara. It translates to “what happened,” and the Queensland singer is true to it across inter-generational storytelling and heartfelt odes to her past, present and future. “Twisting Words” shows us what happened when Miiesha was underestimated, overlooked and spoken over. Spoiler alert: It made her mad as hell, and she’s not gonna take it anymore. She’s flanked by a pristine neo-soul arrangement, which builds from a warm bed of keyboards to a righteous guitar solo. It feels real, and it feels right. Believe the hype: Miiesha is the total package.

26. Gordi – Extraordinary Life

Three years removed from jaw-dropping debut Reservoir, Gordi found herself adapting and evolving. Not only was she musically recalibrating following her first album’s kitchen-sink maximalism, she was simultaneously experiencing loss in tandem with new love. With this, consider “Extraordinary Life” the centrepiece of Our Two Skins. It’s a resolute piece of folktronica that doesn’t shy away from matters of the heart. In fact, it thrives upon them. It comes from a place of open sentiment and quiet desperation, with the kind of emotion that lingers long after the final chord rings out. It’s vintage Gordi, but simultaneously brand-new. It’s extraordinary.

25. Pearl Jam – Dance of the Clairvoyants

So much got forgotten from the first quarter of 2020, their existence alone may shock you. Case in point: You forgot Pearl Jam put out a record, didn’t you. You also forgot that the lead single was a massive gamble – a new-wave, post-punk hybrid; hardly recognisable when put next to “Alive” or “Jeremy.” Here’s the best-kept secret of all: “Dance of the Clairvoyants” is the best Pearl Jam single since at least “The Fixer,” maybe even “Do the Evolution.” It’s a strutting, positively Byrne-ian musical revelation. A Pearl Jam song like this only comes around once in a lifetime.

24. Miel – I’ll Be Holding

The cover of Miel’s debut album Tourist Season sees her leaning back, eyes closed and mouth agape. It’s part daydream, part free-fall. Such a tableau feels pertinent to the sensations caused by its second single, “I’ll Be Holding.” It’s a rush of wind to the face as the city flies by in a flash, internalising a complex situation in the medium of retro-tinged dream-folk. It’s a moment to get lost in, throwing your body into an arm-flailing tube-man trance. “I’ll Be Holding” is the sound of dancing like no-one’s watching, and lord knows that kind of release was needed here.

23. The Chicks – Julianna Calm Down

For 20-plus years, the Chicks had the loudest voices in the room and knew how to use them. They called out from wide open spaces, killed Earl and refused to make nice. They took it to 11 and never turned down… until now. “Julianna Calm Down” brings the trio into close quarters with their nearest and dearest. They get real for a moment, showing a side they’ve never quite shown before. It’s the kind of tenderness that can only come from three loving mothers, passed on with the kind of wisdom that can only come with knowing each other mile-long.

22. Tigers Jaw – Warn Me

When Tigers Jaw shared their first new music of 2020, it was with a caveat: This won’t be on the album. There was one coming (still is), but you wouldn’t find “Warn Me” on it. This is a good thing, in hindsight – insofar as that you can appreciate “Warn Me” strictly on standalone merits. There’s plenty of those, too: Teddy Roberts’ double-kick thrash injects new life behind the kit, while Ben Walsh’s double-whammy of a wordless pre-chorus and a howled hook is testament to his songwriting skills. When they put their minds to it, Tigers Jaw are practically peerless.

21. Something for Kate – Waste Our Breath

Paul Dempsey claims that “Waste Our Breath” is about “trying to find an empty space.” He’s right, of course – it’s his song, after all – but perhaps the best thing about Something for Kate is that they’ve always left things open for interpretation. Whatever you hear is right too. The song’s “checkpoint on the shortest day of the year” could mean everything and nothing. “This show”? What show? Your call. It’s futile and fascinating, powered by Dempsey’s towering presence and the resilience of his long-serving rhythm section. Fill this empty space however you see fit. It’s yours now, people.

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Have a listen to all 80(!) of the songs on the list so far, in order, via Spotify below:

Check back soon for the final installment! 2020’s almost done, thank the lord.

The Top 50 Gigs of 2019.

I went to 233 shows in 2019. These were the best ones:

50. Youth Group @ The Foundry, 15/11
49. Seeker Lover Keeper @ The Lansdowne, 12/7
48. Anberlin @ Enmore Theatre, 26/5
47. The Magic Numbers @ The Triffid, 21/3
46. Bugs @ North Wollongong Hotel, 17/11
45. Florence + The Machine @ The Domain, 26/1
44. La Dispute @ Cambridge Hotel, 19/9
43. Allday @ Hordern Pavilion, 24/8
42. Two Door Cinema Club @ Enmore Theatre, 28/11
41. Frenzal Rhomb @ Cambridge Hotel, 21/12
40. Dune Rats @ Metro Theatre, 13/9
39. High Tension @ The Lansdowne, 10/8
38. Rob Thomas @ ICC Sydney Theatre, 13/11
37. Splendour in the Grass @ North Byron Parklands, 19/7 – 21/7
36. Underoath @ Hordern Pavilion, 12/9
35. WAAX @ Cambridge Hotel, 23/8
34. The Story So Far @ UNSW Roundhouse, 19/4
33. Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals @ Hordern Pavilion, 9/1
32. Paul Dempsey @ Oxford Art Factory, 15/6
31. JPEGMAFIA @ Oxford Art Factory, 2/10
30. Ms. Lauryn Hill @ Qudos Bank Arena, 7/2
29. Pianos Become the Teeth @ Rad, 16/2
28. Laneway Festival @ Sydney College of the Arts, 3/2
27. The Barking Spiders @ Factory Theatre, 28/12
26. Gang of Four @ The Zoo, 7/11
25. Turnstile @ Factory Theatre, 16/1
24. Dispossessed @ Greeny’s House, 1/11
23. Mitski @ Oxford Art Factory, 4/2
22. Phil Collins @ Qudos Bank Arena, 23/1
21. Making Gravy @ The Domain, 14/12
20. U2 @ Sydney Cricket Ground, 23/11
19. The 1975 @ ICC Sydney Theatre, 21/9
18. Azim Zain and His Lovely Bones @ The Front, 6/6
17. Download Festival @ Parramatta Park, 9/3
16. The Monkees @ Sydney Opera House, 18/6
15. Kacey Musgraves @ Enmore Theatre, 12/5
14. The Chemical Brothers @ The Dome, 2/11
13. Fleetwood Mac @ Qudos Bank Arena, 27/8
12. The Flaming Lips @ Sydney Opera House, 30/9
11. Yours & Owls Festival @ Stuart Park, 5/10 – 6/10
10. Charly Bliss @ The Lansdowne, 23/7
9. Deafheaven @ Manning Bar, 28/2
8. Four Tet @ Enmore Theatre, 7/3
7. Totally Unicorn @ Rad, 11/6
6. The Cure @ Sydney Opera House, 28/5
5. Death Cab for Cutie @ Sydney Opera House, 11/3
4. Childish Gambino @ Qudos Bank Arena, 24/7
3. Iggy Pop @ Sydney Opera House, 15/4
2. Dear Seattle @ Rad, 16/6
1. IDLES @ Oxford Art Factory, 28/1

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Kylie Minogue @ ICC Sydney Theatre, 6/3; Eagles @ Qudos Bank Arena, 14/3; Tropical Fuck Storm @ UOW UniBar, 30/3; Party Dozen @ Oxford Art Factory Gallery Bar, 25/4; Post Malone @ Qudos Bank Arena, 8/5; Midnight Oil @ Anita’s Theatre, 23/5; 5 Seconds of Summer @ Factory Theatre, 3/7; Foals @ Hordern Pavilion, 17/7; Friendly Fires @ Metro Theatre, 22/7; You Am I @ Annandale Hotel, 6/9; Troye Sivan @ Hordern Pavilion, 20/9; girl in red @ The Lansdowne, 8/10; Fucked Up @ The Gasometer, 9/10; Northlane @ UNSW Roundhouse, 11/10; Courtney Barnett @ Howler, 22/10; Grinspoon @ Waves, 31/10; DZ Deathrays @ The Triffid, 8/11; Slim Set @ The Lansdowne, 23/11; Genesis Owusu @ Vic on the Park, 30/11; Spacey Jane @ Wollongong UniBar, 4/12.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

1. FONTAINES D.C. – Dogrel
2. 100 gecs – 1000 gecs
3. Brittany Howard – Jaime
4. Copeland – Blushing
5. Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows
6. Totally Unicorn – Sorry
7. Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
8. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center
9. American Football – American Football
10. Clairo – Immunity
11. Charly Bliss – Young Enough
12. Thelma Plum – Better in Blak
13. WAAX – Big Grief
14. The Twilight Sad – IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME
15. Youth Group – Australian Halloween
16. Seeker Lover Keeper – Wild Seeds
17. Knocked Loose – A Different Shade of Blue
18. Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
19. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance
20. Ceres – We Are a Team
21. The Cranberries – In the End
22. Turnover – Altogether
23. Pedro the Lion – Phoenix
24. Lambchop – This (is what I wanted to tell you)
25. PUP – Morbid Stuff
26. Miss June – Bad Luck Party
27. Eat Your Heart Out – Florescence
28. Baroness – Gold & Grey
29. Dispossessed – Warpath Never Ended
30. Palehound – Black Friday
31. Angel Du$t – Pretty Buff
32. Battles – Juice B Crypts
33. Collarbones – Futurity
34. The Chemical Brothers – No Geography
35. Ceremony – In the Spirit World Now
36. Bon Iver – i,i
37. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Fishing for Fishies
38. Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold
39. La Dispute – PANORAMA
40. No Haven – Deep Ends of Shallow Lives
41. House Deposit – Reward for Effort
42. Witching Waves – Persistence
43. Miranda Lambert – Wildcard
44. Show Me the Body – Dog Whistle
45. Tacocat – This Mess is a Place
46. Sheer Mag – A Distant Call
47. DZ Deathrays – Positive Rising: Part 1
48. Kate Davis – Trophy
49. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
50. Somos – Prison on a Hill

The Top 100 Songs of 2020, Part Three: 60 – 41

Time to cross over into the top half of the list, just as the sun sets on The Bad Year. You’re almost in the rearview mirror, you prick!

For those catching up, fear not. Part One and Part Two are standing by.

Alright, let’s rock.

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60. Amy Shark – Everybody Rise

Amy Shark has never been the best at first impressions. Commercial success aside, she lead off her Night Thinker EP and Love Monster LP with their two weakest tracks (“Adore” and “I Said Hi,” respectively). For the upcoming Cry Forever, though, Shark has promptly stuck her best foot forward. “Everybody Rise” is career-best catharsis, prompted by Goodnight Nurse alum Joel Little assembling the catchiest synth orchestra this side of “I Write Sins.” It’s doomsday pop with a crack in everything, taking the intricately introspective and pushing it to the masses. It’s no longer just hers anymore, you see. It’s everybody’s.

59. Tame Impala – Breathe Deeper

“If you’re thinking I can’t hold my own/Believe me, I can.” So begins one of the key tracks to Tame Impala’s fourth album; a line that became increasingly defiant in nature throughout 2020. Tame ended up as one of the year’s most inexplicably-reviled acts – perhaps not assisted by “The Less I Know The Better” ascending to the top of triple j’s decade-end Hottest 100. Maybe it’s tall poppy… or, in this instance, high poppy. Whatever it is, songs like the synth-wielding roller-disco of “Breathe Deeper” proved that Parker could indeed hold his own. He still has lots to prove.

58. IDLES – Grounds

Speaking of previously-beloved bands: Boy, do people fucking hate IDLES now, huh. Not even millennial tastemaker Anthony Fantano could sway The DiscourseTM from trashing the band, which kept going almost to the point of being a meme. Admittedly, September’s Ultra Mono wasn’t as striking as the one-two combo of its predecessors. However, it still had an ace up its sleeve in the form of “Grounds.” Jon Beavis’ “Fix Up Look Sharp” beat and a booming Kenny Beats production assist allowed for the band to defiantly swagger down the street. Don’t get it twisted: these are still men on a mission.

57. Sweater Curse – Close

The great hope of Brisbane indie pulled together an exceptional A-list to work on “Close.” Former next-big-thing Alex Lahey co-wrote with the band, while Ball Park Music‘s Sam Cromack produced. Needless to say, the lead single from their Push/Pull EP was one that felt like a proper arrival. The trio endeavour to take things to the next level and promptly succeed. Through glistening guitars, pounding drums and one of their most striking choruses to date, Sweater Curse edge closer and closer to being their city’s top export. It’s no longer a case of “if,” but “when.” The Curse ain’t broken.

56. The Beths – I’m Not Getting Excited

Much like their first album, Jump Rope Gazers opens with a rush of nervous energy. Such is its frenetic nature, however, “I’m Not Getting Excited” makes its predecessor “Great No One” sound like “Kumbaya.” It’s a spiral of word-vomit and urgent guitars, pushed along by the driving backbeat of new-kid drummer Tristan Deck. How do you sum up two years of non-stop touring into two minutes and 42 seconds? The Beths have found a way. Of course they have. This is how you open up an album, people – with both a bang and a whimper. Get listening. Get excited.

55. Protomartyr – Michigan Hammers

Not many songs throughout 2020 sounded more or less exactly like their title. Protomartyr’s exceptional single “Michigan Hammers” is the standout example of songs that did. It pounds away incessantly, keeping 16th notes running on the drums and cymbals throughout. Its guitars are knife-edge, while a horn section tempers an acidic bile rather than any sort of jazz-bar smooth. Joe Casey, up front on vocals, barks out the scarce but succinct lyrics with his quintessential sense of authority. This is working class music from a working class American state. It’s motorik from the Motor City. It’s Michigan fucking Hammers, dammit.

54. Headie One feat. AJ Tracey, Stormzy and ONEFOUR – Ain’t It Different [Remix]

Wanna feel old? There are people of legal drinking age that weren’t born when CrazyTown first flipped the Chili Peppers’ “Pretty Little Ditty.” Hell, Headie himself was all of seven. Did this childhood memory prompt the sample flip from the ever-reliable Fred Again..? Inconclusive, but credit to everyone involved for inventively reworking it alongside a chipmunked Lady Saw. Further compliments, too, to the hip-hop elite in the mix with One and Fred here. Not only do AJ Tracey and Stormzy lend ample muscle, but Sydney’s ONEFOUR prove they can hang with the giants of the industry. Different, but good different.

53. Georgia June – Baby Blue

Synaesthesia, in the most Layman of terms, is defined as “coloured hearing” – that is, translating sensations between senses, and essentially seeing sounds in the process. Even if you’re one of the many that aren’t synaesthetic, “Baby Blue” will appear to you in this very shade. Its 80s-soundtrack synths and reverb-tinged drums recall an age of innocence; its hues brush broad strokes across the refined guitar lines. The vocals glue the whole affair together, mournful yet simultaneously resplendent in nature. “The sky was painted just for you,” goes the chorus. You can picture it already. Your hearing is permanently coloured.

52. Georgia June – Don’t Leave Me Hanging Out to Dry

Bob Dylan boasted of containing multitudes in amidst the chaos of 2020. Sydney pop-rockers Georgia June probably have an idea where he’s coming from – although their eponymous vocalist might see herself more as a rainy day woman than a master of war. On their second single of the year, the quintet picked up the pace with a sneering rock shuffle. It’s paired impeccably with a kiss-off vocal, a rumbling rhythm section and an increasingly-rare but always-welcome bonus: A guitar solo mimicking the melody. Chef’s kiss for that one. Listen to “Don’t Leave Me” and you, too, shall be released.

51. Run the Jewels feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier – Ooh La La

There was a meme doing the rounds this year captioned “Make music that makes people do this face,” accompanied by a photo of a kid with his eyes and mouth scrunched up. You know the look – mostly because you definitely pulled it the second the kick and snare dropped in on “Ooh La La.” El-P’s jaunty piano chopping against an incessant, irresistible Greg Nice sample had more heads nodding than Will Smith and Paul McCartney combined. If El and Mike swaggering atop this molotov cocktail wasn’t enough, wait until DJ Premier gets in on the cut. Ç’est très bon.

50. Violent Soho – Lying on the Floor

No-one’s accusing Violent Soho of doing co-writes with Nostradamus or anything. That said: Releasing a song with the hook “Lying on the floor/Is all I wanna do” a month prior to global lockdowns, from an album titled Everything is A-OK? They had to know something was up. All gags aside, we should be thankful that the album made its way out into the world when it did. Tracks such as “Lying on the Floor” certainly, to borrow a phrase from The Kids, hit different. Doesn’t hurt that it’s more sharp, precise post-grunge from arguably the best Australian band doing it, either.

49. The Beths – Dying to Believe

The lead single from The Beths’ top-shelf second album is equally capable of rolling with the punches as it is landing a few of its own. It opens with Thin Lizzy-aping guitarmonies, rolls into urgent snare-rim clicks, departs into early Strokes jangle before blowing up its own spot with a pure, unadulterated power-pop chorus. Yet another masterclass in structure, songwriting and performance by one of the best working rock bands in the world, let alone their native New Zealand. Not enough for ya? How about Rose Matafeo doing a train announcement? All aboard, motherfuckers. The Beths are here to stay.

48. Tigers Jaw – Cat’s Cradle

Tigers Jaw had to rebuild after three-fifths of their line-up departed in the mid-2010s. When backed into this corner, however, they came out of it with their best album in 2017’s spin. What fate, then, awaits their first album as a newly-expanded four-piece? If “Cat’s Cradle” is anything to go by, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Brianna Collins proves yet again she’s the band’s not-so-secret weapon. Her steely synths cut through the brisk power chords, while the vocals make for one of the band’s most irresistible melodies to date. The throughline from Harry Chapin to the emo revival is complete.

47. Ashley McBryde – Martha Divine

It’s odd to think of a murder ballad as “subversive,” but just about every little thing Ashley McBryde does could be considered as such. The second single from her major-label sophomore Never Will sees her taking down the most unlikely of enemies: Her dad’s new girlfriend, presumably following the death of the protagonist’s mother. Actually, “protagonist” might be too strong a word. “Anti-hero”? You don’t know who to root for, but the song’s rambunctious country-rock shuffle makes sure you’re there for every last shovel bludgeoning. “I’ll say the Devil made me do it,” she reasons. Hell yeah you will, Ashley.

46. Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Death

You know how when “Lust For Life” starts with that clatter of drums and you know shit’s about to kick off? That exact feeling hits when the title track of A Hero’s Death begins. As both the first taste of the album and the first song the band released post-Dogrel, it was imperative that the Dubliners got everything right. As luck would have it, Fontaines’ momentum kept the ball in play – and, furthermore, progressed on their established sound through adaption and evolution. It’s darker, meaner and tougher, but still resolving to maintain its fighting spirit. Life ain’t always empty.

45. Phoebe Bridgers – Kyoto

What kind of year did Phoebe Bridgers have? Career-wise, she went from being an indie darling to a personality trait. The SoCal singer-songwriter has become to alt kids what The Office is to Tinder normies. Credit where it’s due, though: Better Oblivion Community Center’s employee of the month has been putting in the work. “Kyoto” revels in both majesty and misery – who else could make a line like “I’m gonna kill you” sound so goddamn triumphant? Her prolix lyricism employs hammer-swing subtlety amidst fuzzed-out power chords and a Neutral Milk style trumpet line. It all works. It’s Phoebe, bitch.

44. Floodlights – Matter of Time

Written amidst national protests raising awareness of the Australian government’s ongoing climate inaction, there’s a simple sincerity to Floodlights’ lead-off to their debut studio album. It’s not proporting to be bigger, smarter or more powerful than it is. It’s humble, working-class rock from inner-Melbourne suburbia – think Scott & Charlene’s Wedding in their honeymoon period. It’s striking, catchy and quietly resolute by design. When all four band members hone in on the chorus of “It’s all just a matter of time for you,” you’re on their side. You’re heading to the protest on the same tramline. You believe in them.

43. Bob Vylan – We Live Here

Bob Vylan may have kicked off 2020 as a complete unknown, but this rolling stone made a point of gatecrashing the UK scene with a menacing, cutthroat EP and a take-no-prisoners approach. This is the story of the hurricane: a black English millennial spitting bile at the racist infrastructure held up by Boris and his white supremacist clowns. Self-hatred has been instilled in Vylan since he was a child, and “We Live Here” is the menacing, piercing sounds of him refusing to let it win. This is the sound of the Union Jack burning while smashing a guitar into it.

42. Touché Amoré – I’ll Be Your Host

Grief became a huge part of the Touché Amoré canon circa 2016, when their Stage Four LP left no stone unturned concerning the passing of a loved one. A side-effect of this came with touring the record, where frontman Jeremy Bolm became a stand-in outlet for other’s trauma. When he screams that he “didn’t ask to lead this party” here, it’s coming from a place of exhaustion and inner conflict. “I’ll Be Your Host” is the centrepiece of October’s Lament, both for its unbridled emotion and its searing musical intensity. It’s a meta-narrative on the band, and an endearing testament.

41. Code Orange – Underneath

Born of an expansive yet insular hardcore scene, Code Orange always shot for something bigger. Something that would cause friction, both within their bubble and outside it. Provocative, yes, but also prevalent. “Underneath,” which arrived less than two weeks into 2020, felt every bit the mission statement for the band’s defiant reinvention. Tinged with an industrial backbeat, packed with an alt-metal chorus, swerving into mathcore chaos for chaos’ sake. No-one sounded quite like this for the 50 remaining weeks of the year – not like they could come close, anyway. These are not the kids of yesterday. They’re the future.

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And there you have it! To listen to all 60 songs thus far, crank the Spotify playlist below:

Part four comin’ atcha sooner than you think!

The Top 100 Songs of 2020, Part Two: 80 – 61

Welcome back, y’all. First up, if you missed part one: Don’t worry! You can click right on these underlined words right here and you’ll be magically whisked away to it.

And now, on with the show!

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80. Caitlin Harnett & The Pony Boys – 5am

If you’ve seen Caitlin Harnett live (if you live in Sydney, you almost definitely have), you’ll know “5am” is hyper-literal, single-entendre storytelling. The lyrics details exactly what happened with an old fling of Harnett’s, and couldn’t be more specific if it tried. Such is her everywoman ability, however, Harnett makes it easy to step into her R.M. Williams. The alt-country swagger exudes from the rustic guitars and its Levon Helm-esque drums, while the chorus is about as pop as it gets while still keeping its Akubra on. Bonus points for Andy Golledge’s exceptional guest harmonies, too. Stay gold, Pony Boys.

79. EGOISM – Happy

Although it was the fourth single from the Sydney duo’s second EP On Our Minds, “Happy” existed in the band’s live show well over a year prior. It undertook quite the journey to get to where it ended up on record, however, including a restructuring and a freshly-minted rhythmic calibration. As such, it took a moment to get used to the song in its new context. Ultimately, however, the song didn’t lose its heart – just as well, given that’s kind of EGOISM’s forte. Atop of shimmering guitars and amidst impeccable harmony, “Happy” endeavours to turn that frown upside down.

78. Pillow Queens – Holy Show

As much as we remember explosive album intros, there’s a lot to be said for openers that take time and ascend through steady builds. Indeed, Kacey Musgraves once opined she’s “alright with a slow burn” on an album opener just so. Pillow Queens aren’t comparable otherwise – they’re Irish, for starters, and genuine indie darlings as opposed to poptimist shrapnel. Still, they’re on the same wavelength as far as “Holy Show” is concerned: Reverb-heavy, captivating in its grandiose slow-mo reveal and arrestingly harmonious. You’re now prepared for In Waiting – which, not for nothing, is one of the year’s best.

77. Lily Morris – Grand Illusions

Much is made of class tourism in Australian music. Those that live in the proverbial big smoke are chided for attempting to appear as though they’re not. You won’t have that trouble with Lily Morris, who resides in the Southern Tablelands and knows all the ins-and-outs of the three Rs: remote, rural and regional. “Grand Illusions” captures a moment in time – it is to middle Australia what “Streets Of Your Town” is to Brisbane; encapsulating a specific place with focus and attention to detail. It’s the new sound of dolewave in the slashed Newstart era, making the ordinary extraordinary.

76. Vacations feat. Sarah Sykes and Craterface – Panache

Newcastle indie kids Vacations had a weird year – like, weirder than most. They ended up as unexpected stars of TikTok, and then decided that a near six-minute song with a completely unrelated AutoTune outro would be an ideal single from their new album. And guess what? They were right. Sure, it’s defined by the framework of its unexpected collaborators – Sunscreen‘s Sarah Sykes, as well as alternative hip-hop duo Craterface. Simultaneously, however, “Panache” reflects Vacations’ sonic evolution and their grander-scale ambitions, as guitars take a backseat in favour of glassy synths and disco-ready basslines. Groove is in the heart.

75. Weezer – Hero

We’re at least 15 years removed from Weezer being permanently written off. Why, then, do they insist on writing these late-period power-pop smashes while no-one’s looking? It’s like The Singing Frog, where the titular character will only perform for this one guy. Everyone else gets a meagre croak – read: “Africa.” This, from the long-delayed Van Weezer, churns along with walls of guitar and some classic Pat Wilson drum muscle. It then gives way to their best chorus in years. It’s another ode to innocence lost, but it still feels as fresh as when Weezer actually were kids and outcasts.

74. Hockey Dad – Itch

For a band defined by its youthful exuberance, it’s a rare moment to find them – to borrow a phrase – in this state. They arrive at “Itch” an emotional wreck, exhausted by the world around them and pushing their last burst of energy into burning the whole thing down around them. The howled chorus of “I’m okay/I feel safe” serves as one of the year’s most strongly antithetical musical contrasts. The desperation to this song serves as the band’s biggest musical departure since its inception. To release it as a single was bold, certainly, but ultimately a much-needed push.

73. EGOISM – You You

A word so nice, they sang it twice. Really, it’s pretty impressive that only a select few had chanced upon this double-up before – and even then, Odetta Hartman and Malaria! didn’t lay out the titular phrase the same way. In a sense, that sums up a lot of what makes EGOISM great – they hone in on established ideas and give them a new home in which to flourish, tweaking them to the point of being quintessentially theirs. Few other bands in Australia carry such a confident stripe of identity, and even less can forge such pristine, impeccable indie-pop.

72. Party Dozen – Auto Loser

The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney once said The Stooges’ “Down on the Street,” quote: “makes [him] wanna walk the streets with a switchblade.” Listening back to the song’s snarling one-note groove and four-on-the-floor strut, you understand exactly where he’s coming from. One gets the feeling he’d say the same about fellow two-piece Party Dozen, who here ostensibly turn “Billie Jean” into a noise-jazz dark alleyway. Rather than splatter the canvas as they normally do, P12 instead colour between the lines. It’s out of character, but they still have a wide palette to draw from – and they’re still making masterpieces.

71. AC/DC – Shot in the Dark

The bar was admittedly the lowest it’s ever been for Acca Dacca on their umpteenth comeback trail. Still, for Angus and co. to return in such a confident, definitive manner – in their 70s no less – left jaws agape. “Shot in the Dark” is, for all intents and purposes, the best lead single the band have delivered since the almighty “Thunderstruck” nearly 30 years ago. The unstoppable force of the returning Brian Johnson is propelled along by the immovable object that is the returning Phil Rudd – all while Angus lays down one of his hardest, bluesiest riffs yet.

70. Dua Lipa – Break My Heart

Another one bites the dust every time Dua Lipa steps up to the mic. Jilted exes, playboy pretenders, her pop contemporaries – truly, she’s evolved into a proper force to be reckoned with. Still, this doesn’t mean she’s let herself off the hook entirely. Yes, even the hottest pop star on the planet – in every sense – is prone to make mistakes in the throes of the club. He looks like her next mistake, but she can’t help herself. Especially if there’s a state-of-the-art disco groove being laid down at the same time they lock eyes across the room.

69. Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion – WAP

68. Tired Lion – ~Cya Later~

The first time that Tired Lion did Like a Version on triple j, they covered Violent Soho’s understated “Saramona Said” with a dash of the Smashing Pumpkins’ opus “1979” teased for good measure. “~Cya Later~” feels like figurehead Sophie Hopes’ attempt to create a song of her own that melds the musical and thematic structures of both. It certainly helps having an actual member of Soho in her back pocket (Mikey Richards plays drums here), but even putting that aside you’re looking at one of the year’s most resplendent, heartfelt odes to apathy. A post-grunge apocalypse never felt so inviting.

67. Bugs – Can’t Get Enough

Forget the semantics of pub rock, indie rock, garage rock… Bugs make power-pop. Clear-cut, straight down the line power-pop. “Can’t Get Enough” is a career-best demonstration of that – hell, its opening “WOOOO” is timed directly for both the first pool cannonball of the summer and the first stagedive once restrictions lift. With a spring in its step and just the right amount of distortion layered atop its major chords, the single effortlessly bounds from its twinkly verses to its bunny-bounce chorus. It even throws in a shit-hot bridge, just for the fuck of it. Now they’re just showing off.

66. Cry Club – Don’t Go

What took you so long? “Don’t Go” was, ostensibly, the first Cry Club song – in spite of “Walk Away” being released first, way back in 2018. For whatever reason, the duo could never get the song on the good foot. Enter Gab Strum, AKA Japanese Wallpaper, who assisted the band in dragging the song kicking and screaming out of the doldrums. When that big-business chorus rolls through town with its 16th-note hi-hats and pulsing guitars, you’re so thankful they gave it one more shot. Not only is it an album highlight, it’s living proof of patience as a virtue.

65. Squid – Sludge

“Sludge” starts off decently enough; a sort of subdued take on the “House of Jealous Lovers” beat with some steely bass locked it. Once drummer/vocalist Ollie Judge goes into the red levels, screaming about scraping his teeth off the floor, however? Shit gets crazy. Car-alarm synths take over, a ride cymbal is hit so hard it sounds like it’s splitting in two and the one-chord jam somehow goes even harder than it had been before. You know those viral videos on YouTube or Instagram or whatnot with the caption “WAIT FOR IT”? That’s “Sludge,” in a nutshell. Behold: Disco’s inferno.

64. Dry Cleaning – Scratchcard Lanyard

Usually when a band is referred to as the best new band in Britain, it’s some sort of hype puff-piece tacked onto another Arctic Monkeys also-ran whose career ultimately proves to be as asymmetrical as their haircuts. There’s something different about Dry Cleaning, though. For one, they probably don’t want to be the best new band in Britain. They’re detached, deadpan and distant by design, and it’s perhaps this very notion that draws listeners to them. “Scratchcard Lanyard” deepens the band’s ties to proto post-punk, all while weaving an increasingly-complex post-modern narrative in tandem. Their audience loves it. Don’t you?

63. Car Seat Headrest – Hollywood

We knew this era of Car Seat Headrest was gonna be weird the second that Will Toledo chucked on a gas mask and started referring to himself as “Trait.” The rhetorical of just how weird, however, would ultimately receive an answer in the form of “Hollywood.” Imagine coked-up millennials getting their hands on the riff from The Sonics’ “Have Love Will Travel,” cranked up a drum machine over the top of it and launched into a tirade about good ol’ Tinseltown. A disaster on paper, sure, but in execution it made for one of their most fun singles to date.

62. ONEFOUR – Home & Away

“Home & Away” hits as hard as brass knuckles to the jaw, man. It’s proper staunch trap, with the group’s flow impressively filling out the beat’s nooks and crannies with both vitriolic wordplay and hyped-up ad-libs. The song reflects on ONEFOUR’s saga, with the kind of twists and turns you’d normally expect from a soap opera but are unfortunately all too real. Key members are still serving in prison, meaning there hasn’t been an official ONEFOUR show in over a year. Still, no matter where they are, ONEFOUR are our shining stars. Don’t let them go. Let them stay forever.

61. Vacations – Lavender

Songs are often praised for lacking “bells and whistles,” so it’s honestly easy to forget that such excesses can actually be a lot of fun. Does “Lavender” need that weird tape-loop effect on its guitars? Does it need the flurrying undercurrent of bongos and percussion? Of course not. You wouldn’t want this song without it, though – it’s in the ivy league of prep-indie indulgence, and its doubling down deserves to be commended. Plus, isn’t that chorus just to die for? Feels weird to be yearning for the days of Yves Klein Blue and Last Dinosaurs, but here we are.

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Listen to the entire DJY100 thus far in the Spotify playlist below:

Come back next week for part three!

The Top 100 Songs of 2020, Part One: 100 – 81

We’re back! After simply not having time to write a 2019 feature on the best songs of the year, 2020 has thankfully allowed for a lot of spare time for whatever reason. Can’t think why.

Anyway, in case you missed it here’s the supplementary list – 50 songs I loved from this year that just missed out:

As always, DISCLAIMER: This is not a list of the most popular songs, nor is it a list curated by anyone except myself. These are, in my view, the best songs of the year. Disagreement and discussion is welcomed, but ultimately if you have any real issues with any songs that are ranked too low, too high or not at all… make your own list!

– DJY, December 2020

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100. Luca Brasi – Every Time You’re Here (I’m Gone)

Nearly a decade on from the rallying cries of “Fuck the drab, fuck the dreary/Fuck world weary,” Luca Brasi enter their 30s absolutely exhausted. On the fourth single lifted from their next album Everything is Tenuous, they continue to reflect on a sense of place and belonging in an environment that’s constantly shifting. Tyler Richardson’s barbed-wire melodicism and forthright lyrical conviction is muscled to the front of the fray, care of the band’s walloping drums and urgent pop-punk guitars. The end result makes for one of Luca Brasi’s strongest singles to date. After all, there’s nothing more honest than home.

99. Midnight Oil feat. Jessica Mauboy and Tasman Keith – First Nation

After re-emerging in earnest three years ago, there was a bittersweet nature to hearing the Oils perform decades-old songs which remained entirely pertinent to the sociopolitical landscape of the present day. On their first album in 18 years, then, Midnight Oil kept their eyes firmly on the target on the colony – and they didn’t come alone, either. Despite their contrasting vocal styles, Peter Garrett and Jessica Mauboy blend in impressive harmony. Elsewhere, firebrand MC Tasman Keith hops atop Rob Hirst’s razor-sharp groove and rides it to the front of the protest rally with aplomb. Always was, always will be.

98. Kate Miller-Heidke – Little Roots, Little Shoots

As someone who has spent the majority of her career behind a piano, the last couple of years has seen Kate Miller-Heidke drastically change her approach. Both Eurovision and The Masked Singer saw the Brisbane native in elaborate performance scenarios that lent themselves to extravagance and melodrama. Album five Child in Reverse felt, in many ways, like an extension of this new universe. Its centrepiece and lynchpin is “Little Roots, Little Shoots,” where Miller-Heidke’s beloved piano is chopped and screwed into a jittery future-pop beat care of producer Evan Klar. High risk? Certainly. The end result, however, is high reward.

97. Kylie Minogue – Magic

“Do you believe in magic?,” Our Kylie asks in the chorus of her best single in a decade. Really, being a Kylie fan is one and the same. The amount of odds the artist formerly known as Charlene has had to overcome would be insurmountable for a lesser performer. Nevertheless, she persisted – at 52 years young, Minogue sounds as vibrant and excited as she did when she first donned the gold short-shorts some two decades prior. The neon-tinged PhD production accentuates every moment here, while the chorus twirls with such ecstasy you might spontaneously don rollerskates. Keep spinning, Kylie.

96. Juice WRLD and Marshmello – Come & Go

A year on from his untimely and tragic passing, Jarrad Anthony Higgins is gone but certainly not forgotten. A string of posthumous releases and singles have kept Juice’s legacy afloat – including collaborations with idols like Eminem and blink-182. The strongest of the batch, however, came in the form of an electric team-up with EDM producer Marshmello. Powered by persistent guitar and hypercolour synth gloop, Mello’s contrast-heavy beatwork allows Juice’s vocals to both float in the abyss and skyrocket into the stratosphere. It’s yet another exercise in genre-hybrid excellence that celebrates both a surviving legacy and a prosperous, burgeoning one.

95. The Buoys – Already Gone

The Buoys have become one of the most formidable live rock bands in Australia. Their kinetic energy, rousing on-stage unity and knack for all-in harmonies ensure every show is a memorable one. Better yet, this year’s All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere EP captures just enough of their lightning in a bottle to ensure their recorded work maintains a similar energy. There’s a certain 70s flair to “Already Gone” – it does, after all, share its title with an Eagles hit. Still, it maintains just enough garage grit to go as hard as a soft-rock number can. Yeah, The Buoys.

94. Dua Lipa – Levitating

Let’s face it: We wouldn’t let just any old popstar call us “sugar-boo” now, would we? On an album that seemingly had an endless supply of smash hits, Dua Lipa kept the disco inferno tempered with one of the year’s straight-up coolest songs. Where else among the heavyweights of 2020 would you find stabs of synth-strings, a talk-box jam and a rousing rabble of “yeah yeah yeah”s? Imagine some sort of cross-section between Chic, Charli XCX and Sophie Ellis Bextor and you’re about halfway there. Not even a bog-average remix featuring a phoned-in DaBaby verse could block “Levitating”’s mirrorball shine.

93. Amy Shark feat. Travis Barker – C’mon

A phrase so common it’s been used by everyone from The Von Bondies to Little Birdy, not to mention serving as both the name and entire lyrical content of one of the best Hives songs. In the hands of Amy Shark, however, “C’mon” becomes a desperate emotive plea. Her second single of 2020 was built on the rock-solid foundation of a surprisingly restrained Travis Barker drumline and the production flourish of old mate M-Phazes. While her forays into out-and-out balladry have been hit-and-miss over the years, “C’mon” finds a sweet spot – fitting, given it’s in such a sour mood.

92. Cloud Nothings – Am I Something

Cloud Nothings move so fast that it can be hard to tell when they’re on the rails as opposed to off them. It certainly doesn’t help things that they’re flanked by Jayson Gerycz, one of the most hyperactive limb-flailing drummers in modern rock, but it comes down to Dylan Baldi’s lyrical psyche just as much. The titular question is asked over and over throughout the song’s flurrying three-and-a-half minutes, growing increasingly desperate and intense as sparks fly off the guitars and drums. Nearly a decade removed from Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings still operates on volatile ground. It’s something, alright.

91. E^ST – MAYBE IT’S ME

Part “Close To Me” pastiche, part zoomer synth-pop bouncehouse, all E^ST. The Sydney singer’s debut album I’M DOING IT took its cues from a myriad of sounds and styles. Essentially, view it as a Trojan horse of sorts – bright major chords and upbeat instrumentation may colour her music, but a dark underbelly and internal conflict is soon to be exuded. One of several singles, “MAYBE” runs out of people to blame for E^ST’s problems. This results in one of the year’s great faux-triumphant choruses, with a bonus hook that mimics a robot breaking down mid-sentence. E^ST: Keeping pop weird.

90. Headie One x Fred again.. – Told

The end of the 2010s saw a revived boon for UK hip-hop, which has quantifiably carried over into the new decade. 26-year-old Headie One emerged as one of the top new contenders this year, scoring two UK top-five hits – including one cosigned by omnipresent hitmaker Drake. Of particular note, however, was his excellent collaborative mixtape with prodigious producer Fred again.. – Headie’s Jigga may well have just found a Timbaland in this pairing. Look no further than GANG‘s chilling opener, which places sub-bass club doof beneath stiff piano chords to create a fascinating post-dubstep exercise in tension and release.

89. Annie Hamilton – Californian Carpark Concrete

Little May alum Annie Hamilton ain’t so little anymore – and neither is the world surrounding her. “They say if the crocs don’t get ya/ Then the sharks will,” she warns over drop-D guitar and the thud of a bass drum. Everyone is out to get her, but Hamilton holds firm. There are darker corners to her writing, but enough light shines through to allow for you to see your way around inside of them. It’s this use of juxtaposition and imagery that allows her to forge something truly memorable. Bask in its reverberating resplendence, but beware its hardened exterior.

88. Huck Hastings – It’s Alright, It’s Cool (Commitment Issues)

You only know it was never going to last once you’re looking in the rear-view – this year, as they keep telling us, is all about hindsight. It’s with this framework that newcomer Huck Hastings laments a will-they-won’t-they in which the differences range from trivial (“I like white/And you like dark”) to toxic (“100 endings/101 new starts/I still run to you”). It’s a 50s pop song – four chords, double-hit snares – with millennial anxiety poured atop, with some niche antipodean references for good measure. It’s also one of the year’s most accessible, engaging odes to queer relationships. Cool, indeed.

87. Sylvan Esso – Ferris Wheel

Remember Sylvan Esso? They’re back – in pop form. The indie darlings of 2014 have kept a modest profile since their initial breakthrough, but have continued to forge a respectable career out of body-moving electronica in their post-“Coffee” ouput. This, the lead single to third album Free Love, is easily the strongest track they’ve released since that aforementioned breakthrough moment – Nick Sanborn’s hip-swivelling beat is a pure rush, accentuated and complemented in turn by Amelia Meath’s irresistible smoke-and-honey vocal delivery. “Can’t wait to do it/Can you?” she posits. “NO!,” she yells back at herself. The feeling’s mutual, you two.

86. Hockey Dad – In This State

In their few before-times gigs, Hockey Dad were opening with “In This State.” Brain Candy was months away – hell, the single release was months away – and they still made sure it got its road innings. Why, exactly? Think about it: They may have never written a more perfect kick-start. Zach Stephenson’s solo first verse adds calm before the storm, as Billy Fleming gets in the pocket and pounds out driving, insistent rhythms. They soon bowl themselves over with the power of their own chorus. We’re not off to the races here – we’ve somehow broken the sound barrier.

85. illuminati hotties – content//bedtime

There were better songs released in 2020 than “content//bedtime” – its position on this list should confirm that alone. Nevertheless, however, but: There was no snarkier song released this year than this one. It’s the centrepiece of a 22-minute fuck-you “mixtape” made exclusively to piss off the exact people illuminati hotties wanted to piss off. A deceptively-menacing hardcore feedback intro gives way to utterly goofy pop-punk by way of Toni Basil cheerleader chants – for what? Fuck you, that’s why. Even in its endeavours to be completely annoying, “content//bedtime” is just as catchy as any of the hotties’ in-earnest singles.

84. Allday – After All This Time

Allday’s next move was always going to end up being further removed from hip-hop. He is to the genre what Taylor Swift was to country – a one-time devotee, now an estranged cousin, twice removed. Few, however, could have anticipated a full-on pivot into indie-pop, with The Delta Riggs and Gang Of Youths alum Joji Malani laying the groundwork. It’s crystallised and dreamlike, as indebted to the 90s as someone who was born in the 90s can be. It might just be Malibu Stacy in a new hat, but you’ve got to admit – it looks rather fetching on him.

83. Azim Zain and His Lovely Bones – You Just Hit the Jackpot, Tiger

Kuala Lumpur-via-Canberra’s Azim Zain became one of Australia’s emo-revival stalwarts on his last EP, home to the unforgettable “Dreams I Could Recall.” Now stationed once again in South-East Asia, the singer-songwriter has swung for the fences on debut album Be Good. “Jackpot” sees Zain reflect on both where he is, where he isn’t and where he’s got to be. “I’m the one who has to leave,” he sings – before screaming it moments later, tussling with the weight of such a realisation. It’s gripping, honest, emotive and entirely enthralling. He paints a picture as well as Spider-Man slings a web.

82. Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross

“They’re gonna nail me to a neon cross,” bemoans alt-country upstart Jaime Wyatt on her second album’s title track. Succinctly, Wyatt matches small-town judgement with evangelical kitsch – in turn, concocting one of the genre’s finest 2020 moments. Her liquored vocals – equal parts Sarah Shook and Lurleen Lumpkin – rings out from behind the chicken wire as the pedal steel shimmers and the galloping snare cuts through the dirt-roads and dive bars. Hell, when she sings of “pitiful perfume,” you can even smell this song. That’s how good Wyatt is. For those that like their country rough and ready.

81. Alex the Astronaut – I Think You’re Great

Alex Lynn makes simple songs that also happen to be entirely effective. When a voice at the end of “I Think You’re Great” remarks that she’s a genius, you’re inclined to believe them after what you’ve just heard. With a pinch of Darren Hanlon and a dash of Paul Kelly, Alex turns in a career-best sing-along that’s entirely endearing and quintessential by design. It doesn’t set out to be anything grander in scope – and yet, almost unintentionally, it evolves into something anthemic. Put it this way: You haven’t wanted to “doo-doo-doo” this hard since “Walk On The Wild Side.”

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Listen to the DJY100 thus far in the Spotify playlist below:

Back next week with part two!

INTERVIEW: In Hearts Wake (AUS), October 2013

Boy oh boy, anyone remember this lot? Five white boys from Byron – but, get this, they play HEAVY stuff?? Man, where have I heard that one before? Anyways, I never cared for this band too much if I’m perfectly honest, but I remember the guy from this band being polite enough. They were also good with environmental philanthropy, so kudos to that. I haven’t even looked at this article since I sent it off to my editor all those years ago, so let’s see if it holds up.

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Can one band make a difference? In Hearts’ Wake believe so. Vocalist Jake Taylor introduces us to The Skydancer Project.

It’s safe to say that Byron Bay quintet In Hearts’ Wake have accomplished quite a bit in their relatively short lifespan as a band. They’ve toured both nationally and internationally, scoring slots with bands like Enter Shikari and iwrestledabearonce; and dropped their debut album, Divination, in August of 2012. As the band enters the next stage of their careers, coinciding with their most ambitious project to date, the band’s lead singer Jake Taylor affirms that they have picked the exact right time.

“I feel that, until this year, working with UNFD and working with managers, we didn’t have the resources at our fingertips; to be able to really delve into this kind of project like we are now,” he says. “With the network that we have and the fanbase that is behind us, we felt like there was no other time than now to do this.”

Welcome to The Skydancer Project, an inventive and creative take on a charity drive. “Skydancer,” the band’s new single, has been released on a pay-what-you-want basis. No matter how little or how much you put towards buying the song, all of its proceeds will go directly to three non-profit charities. The song deals with the preservation and heritage of indigenous cultures of the world; specifically relating to the stories of Native American-Indians who were iron-workers in New York City, who would walk the beams tens of storeys above the ground creating what would become the city’s iconic skyscrapers.

“My mother isn’t a Native American, she just grew up there,” explains Taylor; the “there” alluded to referring to the Mohawk region of the state of New York. “I was affiliated with the land, and I’ve travelled it. That’s how I became face to face and eye to eye with their culture and got to really be engaged with it. I was really taken – I found the stories and messages they had to share to be very inspiring.”

“I’ve been a good ten times in my life in various blocks,” he continues; explaining his connection and his fascination with the culture. “My first real memories would actually not be in the Mohawk region itself, but in New Mexico; when I got to visit a few of the reservations. It was like venturing into another world – we’re talking mudhuts with ladders going between buildings. I would have been about five at the time, and back then you could actually visit the reservation. These days, the white man is a lot more cut off from those type of areas. It was quite an experience. New Mexico is a real hub for so many reservations and cultures that are all around there.”

When it came to choosing the charities that In Hearts’ Wake would work with on “Skydancer,” Taylor did some extensive research and scratched substantially below the surface to find people and groups dedicating their entire lives to improving the ones of those less fortunate. The first group chosen was Red Dust Role Models, a group who devise and enact health programs within regional Aboriginal communities within Australia. Secondly, the band enlisted the Seventh Generation Fund, who describe their work as “dedicated to promoting and maintaining the uniqueness of Native peoples and the sovereignty of tribal Nations.” Finally, proceeds will also go to the Hardcore Help Foundation, who work within poverty-stricken areas of Kenya providing medical assistance and much-needed supplies.

“I wanted to find three organisations that weren’t glorified companies that were taking profits from donations to fund their business,” says Taylor on the selection of the three charities. “Literally 100% of the profits that these organisations take in go to their causes – they put their money where their mouths are. We also wanted to reach in on a grassroots level, which meant not going to a charity like, say, World Vision. Not because they don’t deserve it, but because we wanted to touch on the smaller organisations doing the rounds.”

The importance that weighs on a project as big as Skydancer is something that is certainly not lost on Taylor – not only are three organisations involved, but the band’s ever-expanding group of fans are being ushered into issues and ideas rarely spoken of or touched upon within the heavier spectrum of Australian music. Rather than be daunted by such a prospect, however, the vocalist exudes positivity and optimism. He completely realises the importance of Skydancer for his band, his audience and his affiliated charities.

“For the organisations that we’re working with, this also opens their audience up to our audience,” he says. “I say this with 100% confidence: Our audience are people that are willing to listen and wish to sing along. This is the kind of community that gets behind anything that needs its support, whether that’s donations or crowdfunding or helping a band to tour. They are on board with the greater good – and with the great work that these organisations are doing, I feel like it’s a win-win situation.”

Exactly where the band will take The Skydancer Project from here is unclear even to those in the band itself. Ideas such as bringing volunteers from the charities out on tour, further benefit shows and even travelling to Indigenous communities to perform are all in circulation. For now, however, Taylor is focused solely on what is in front of him and the rest of In Hearts’ Wake – the seemingly infinite possibilities of Skydancer.

“As a band, we always want to implement change,” he says. “We’ll take it as it comes, of course; this being the first proper launch into this world. I would definitely like to keep this going, though, and making it a part of what we do without making it too serious – we want it to be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.” He concludes on a sentiment that is difficult to disagree upon: “There has to be positivity in it.”

INTERVIEW: Mayday Parade (USA), October 2013

I was getting right into writing for Blunt at this point, and it doesn’t get much more Blunt niche than a band like Mayday Parade. Clean-cut pop-punk boys making adorable little tunes, a true proper hangover from the MySpace era. I don’t remember a single song by these guys, but by gosh they were so darn polite that I could have gone out and bought their entire discography based on charm alone.

Around this point, I think I’m really getting the hang of feature writing. I know as much because I was even creating a convincing article about a band I didn’t really care about, and I was starting to pick up more and more work around this time. Not to toot my own horn or anything… he said while building a website dedicated entirely to himself. Anyway, Mayday Parade!

***

Pop-rockers Mayday Parade are here to break hearts and chew bubblegum – and they’re all out of bubblegum. BLUNT spoke to frontman Derek Sanders about the band’s monstrous new album.

The next time you’re told that the Gen Y age group is lazy, perhaps it would be wise to point the perpetrator in the direction of Florida’s Mayday Parade. Since forming in 2005, the quintet have shown a devotion to the write/record/tour cycle that’s borderline evangelical. It’s taken them across the world several times and allowed them to accumulate a fanbase that’s nearly 1.5 million strong on Facebook alone. The cycle continues on into their fourth studio album, Monsters in the Closet, and momentum has not waned for a second.

“Usually, what happens is we record an album, we release it and then we’re on the road for a year or so touring it,” explains Derek Sanders, the band’s lead singer and occasional guitarist and keyboardist. “In that time, a lot of us are usually working individually on song ideas; so a lot of these songs started out as things we were writing on the road. We got together in January at a beach house in Florida, and we spent about a month together writing the album.”

Although he asserts that Monsters in the Closet has developed a vibe of its own as an album, Sanders certainly agrees that if you’ve found yourself tapping your feet and singing along to any of the band’s prior three albums – 2007’s A Lesson in Romantics, 2009’s Anywhere But Here and their eponymous 2011 release – then there is a very strong chance that you’ll enjoy what they have to offer this time around. “It definitely sounds like a Mayday Parade record,” he says. “If people are fans of the old stuff, then they’ll probably be into this as well. Obviously, we tried to do things a little bit different – I think with each album, we try to go a little more outside the box and incorporate everyone’s ideas. It’s all about becoming more comfortable with writing together. This album was just the next logical progression.”

One of the more significant changes that came with the writing and recording of the album was the further inclusion of every band member in the songwriting, rather than centring all of the responsibility around a sole member of the group. “Usually, it’s myself and Jake [Bundrick, drummer/vocalist] that will come up with the ideas or the starting points to the songs; and then we’d finish it all together as a band,” says Derek. “The biggest difference about making this album, though, was that there were a couple that Cabbage [aka Jeremy Lenzo, bass] had the idea for; and one that our guitarist, Brooks [Betts], came up with. Everyone was much more involved for the writing this time around, which is really cool – it made the record mean a lot more to everyone.”

Interestingly, for songs that were essentially born while writing on the road, none of the songs that are featured on Monsters in the Closet were road-tested before making their way onto the album in question. As Sanders justifies, however, it was a matter of not presenting rough drafts that could end in a shambles; and being confident and certain of new material. “We actually haven’t played any of the new songs live yet,” he confesses. “At the time of our last tour, we hadn’t even finished recording the album. We’d given thought to it, but it just seemed to early to play them. We wanted to get them worked out and rehearsed before we tried them out live. The tour we’re about to head out on will be the first time we ever play them, and I can’t wait. It’s always a lot of fun to play stuff for the first time and get a reaction to it. It really keeps things fresh.”

As well as the new album, Mayday also have a very unique project in the works in the form of a photo book, documenting their eight years together as a band; with the finishing touches being added as we speak. “I think the first test copy will be with us really soon, and I’m really excited about it,” says Sanders with a notable tone of enthusiasm. “Tom Falcone is our photographer and videographer. He and our merch guy worked really hard on this book, putting together everything. There are photos from years back when we first started the band up until now; and a lot of fan-submitted stuff, major tours, recording each album and international stuff. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time, and I’m really glad that it’s finally working out.”

Talk eventually turns to Mayday Parade’s relationship with Australia, which they have visited three times and attracted bigger and bigger crowds with each return. While many bands will generically talk of how much they love [insert country here], Sanders gives an elated description of his experience with Australian audiences.

“The last tour we did with We Are the In Crowd and Heroes for Hire was so much fun,” he says, speaking of their sold-out run of headlining dates in December of 2012. “We always love it over in Australia. The first time we went was with Paramore and Hot Rod Circuit back in 2007, and that was such an incredible experience for us. We came back with Soundwave in 2011, and to this day I count that in our top three things we’ve ever done as a band.”

Although he is not at liberty to say exactly when the band will be returning, he hints that it will be sooner than we think. “Australia has been amazing to us – it’s one of the places internationally that we’ve seen the most growth,” he says. “In-between doing the Paramore tour and doing Soundwave, there was this dramatic difference. There were so many people that came out that second time around. It’s really built up faster in Australia than any other place we’ve ever been. We definitely want to keep coming back.”

INTERVIEW: Every Time I Die (USA), January 2013

So in case you hadn’t heard, I’ve done a lot of ETID interviews. This was my first time speaking to someone that wasn’t Keith, however – his brother, Jordan, was on the line this time around. This was to promote the band’s upcoming appearance at the Big Day Out – what ended up being the penultimate Big Day Out, actually. I hadn’t written for AHM for a few months, but they knew I was such an ETID fan that they could get me back in just for it.

It’s an okay feature, but I did have to make a change here.

So, one of the hot-button topics around this time was Laura Jane Grace. I, and basically everyone around me, had no idea about trans people at this point. This was our first proper exposure to it, and as such a lot of us didn’t exactly know the etiquette surrounding discussing trans people. I deadnamed Laura in this article, and I’ve promptly removed and reworded that part of the article. I normally leave them up as is, bad syntax and all, but this was the only time I really had to step in and check my past self. I don’t blame me for not knowing, but it’s something that present-day me has control over. So there’s that.

***

Endless touring, clothing lines and one of 2012’s most exciting punk/hardcore records – just another year in the office for EVERY TIME I DIE. AMH’s DAVID JAMES YOUNG caught up with founding guitarist JORDAN BUCKLEY to discuss the year that was, as well as ETID’s imminent appearance at the 2013 Big Day Out.

Make no mistake about it – this ain’t Every Time I Die’s first rodeo. Over fourteen years and half-a-dozen studio albums, the band have cemented themselves as not only one of the genre’s most shit-hot live acts, but even as an influential force that younger bands will often imitate but never surpass.

2012 was another champagne year for the five-piece, sporting a new rhythm section and not only their first album in three years, but potentially their best LP yet in Ex-Lives. With so much going on within the ETID camp, it’s difficult for Jordan Buckley – Keith’s younger brother and one of three remaining original members – to pin down just a few highlights from the year just past.

“I had a great time on Warped Tour, actually,” he offers up after running through a few ideas. “I got to take my clothing line out with me, and I had my own tent up. That was really cool – as well as the shows being great, I actually put an insane amount of time into drawing and designing everything. I guess when you’re watching all of your hard work pay off all day long in the form of when I get to play on stage; as well as people really liking my designs. It was a summer where I felt like just being rewarded every day.”

The clothing line in question is Jordan Buckley World Wide – or JBWW for convenience’s sake – which featured drawings, cartoons and designs by Buckley on t-shirts and hoodies. Jordan says that he began JBWW not as a means to get involved with fashion; but rather that it was an outlet for his art. “I’ve been drawing all my life,” he explains.

“I started doing it a lot more around five years ago, but I didn’t really know what to do with what I was making. I wasn’t really in the position to be doing gallery shows, because the people that like my art aren’t really going to be the kind to be dropping five grand for a painting. I decided to do the clothing thing because that was the easiest way to achieve most of the goals I had set – getting your art out to being seen and making it affordable. A kid at a show might not be willing to put down a thousand dollars for a framed piece – but they can probably throw in a twenty for a t-shirt.”

Indeed, Every Time I Die is a group of individuals that truly seem to have creativity oozing from them. It sees as though the band simply don’t have time for anyone within the band that isn’t 110% committed to the output. It was this that lead to the departure of drummer Mike Novak following the release of the band’s last album, 2009’s New Junk Aesthetic. Ex Lives was the band’s first LP with new sticks-man Ryan Leger, and Buckley insists that this was a major contributing factor to the album’s creative process.

“Even though it was our sixth album, it really felt like making our first one,” he says. “It was less painful. We were trying more things, different things. With Mike in that later period, it honestly felt like we were auditioning riffs at some points. There were times that he wouldn’t even play if he didn’t like your riff. We’re all about trying everything now. Who knows? We could end up doing something that we really like. Some days, we were like ‘Hey! Let’s write a song that has a banjo!’ or ‘Let’s just write a song with two riffs and call it a day.’ It was different things every day for this record.”

After previewing the Ex Lives material in Australia during some headlining shows in September 2011, the band return for their first-ever Big Day Out and for their first shows here since the record was released. Buckley is particularly excited about the line-up, including his childhood heroes in the form of headliners the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There is one act, however, that not only make up the higher-profile punk/hardcore contingent, but have also been one of the most talked-about acts of 2012. Coincidentally enough, it’s also the band that will be playing straight after ETID on the main-stage: Floridian punks Against Me!, who made headlines in 2012 following the news surrounding the transition of frontwoman Laura Jane Grace.

“We’ve been very good friends with them over the years,” says Buckley. “We’ve done a bunch of Warped Tours with them. I’m an Against Me! fan. I had heard the references across the albums and actually gotten them. So when the news came out, it wasn’t a shock thing – it was more of a ‘Wow, hey did you see this?’ thing. I remember we were in Europe, and it was all over the internet. We all just thought it was really cool, y’know? We haven’t seen them since, just because our paths haven’t crossed – but I’m really looking forward to seeing them. They’re an incredible band. It is what it is. More power to her!”

INTERVIEW: Every Time I Die (USA), March 2012

Man, I have interviewed Every Time I Die so many times. I never would have guessed how many times I’ve done it before going through this archive, but it’s a lot. I guess it makes sense, really – they were touring a lot, and they were churning out records. They have to be one of the most scarily consistent bands in heavy music. They have a sound that’s theirs, but they’ve never gotten samey or stale across their career. Here, we’re talking about Ex Lives, which remains one of my favourite albums of theirs. The interview isn’t too bad either, considering I was still figuring out a lot about feature writing in these first few years.

***

When you’re after a good time in the field of rock, punk, hardcore or metal, it’s rare that you’ll go past EVERY TIME I DIE. With a discography and list of achievements as long as your arm, the band have finally dropped their new album Ex-Lives after a nearly three-year wait…and, just quietly, it might just be their best work yet. Vocalist KEITH BUCKLEY got on the line with Australian Hysteria Magazine to shoot the shit and discuss the making of this stellar record.

“The Sabres won!” exclaims Keith Buckley as cheers erupt from the bar which he is standing out the front of. Ever the professional, Buckley has moved away from the noise in order to speak to Australian Hysteria Magazine. He may have missed the final moments of his beloved Buffalo Sabres taking out a huge NHL victory, but it doesn’t seem to concern him that greatly. After all, he is bursting with excitement to talk about Ex-Lives, the sixth studio album from his band Every Time I Die and his return to the ETID fold after going on tour with hair-metal supergroup The Damned Things.

Buckley spent most of 2011 working as a double agent of sorts, hitting the road with TDT in support of their debut, Ironiclast; as well as working on Ex-Lives in his time off. Both bands were on the line-up for the Soundwave Revolution festival in September of 2011, but fate was not kind to the festival and it ended up folding before a single stage had even been set up.

Thankfully, both ETID and TDT toured, the former doing a handful of headlining shows and the latter joining the consolation-prize Counter-Revolution line-up. “The fact that I can say that Van Halen screwed up my year is actually kind of awesome,” says Keith with a big laugh. “That said, them cancelling actually worked out for the best for us. The Damned Things got to come out and play, which was awesome, and all the shows I got to play were really, really fun.”

New songs were premiered on that tour – including the pulverising first single “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” – but Ex-Lives had not reached completion at the time of the September tours. Regardless, Buckley was hugely enthusiastic about the album and its sound: speaking to AHM at the time, he emphasised that Ex-Lives was “not just another Every Time I Die record” and that the material was “honestly some of the best stuff we’ve written.” Even with the album finished, however, Keith is still as excited about the record as he was back then.

“We’ve been sitting on it for months, which is crazy,” he says. “We’ve had time to really build up some hype for it and put out the video [for “Underwater Bimbos”] and stuff like that, so it’s kind of like we’ve gone into training to generate interest for this record before we tour it. We’re very excited. I still love it just as much as I did when we were recording it, and it’s crazy to me that we’ve been sitting on it for so long. Normally, when we’re done with a record, it’s straight out so we don’t have to worry about it leaking.”

Naturally, this perceived break from tradition leads the discussion to the topic of album leaks. Both Ironiclast and the band’s previous record, 2009’s New Junk Aesthetic, leaked online prior to the official release date, and so Buckley is questioned as to what a leak means to both him and to the band.

“It honestly depends on how close it is to the release date – because, sometimes, it can actually help a lot,” he responds. “When you get to the point when you’re worrying about record sales… I mean, that’s not the kind of band that we are. We’re not Katy Perry. We’re not Rihanna. We’re just a hardcore band – record sales don’t really justify anything for us. We still go on tour and play to kids who know the words to our songs – whether they downloaded it or bought it, they’re still coming out to the shows to hear the songs live. That’s kind of the point, huh?”

Talk then returns to Ex-Lives – a record which, for what it’s worth, sounds as though it will absolutely thrive in the live environment. With breakneck drums, howled vocals and punishing guitars left, right and centre, it’s an album that expands to new horizons for the band without losing sight of what made them an excellent band to begin with. The album, tellingly, was very rawly recorded, and presented quite a different style of recording process for Buckley in comparison to New Junk Aesthetic. “I was working on the vocals with everyone else in the band watching me while it happened, which is something I’d never done before,” he says.

“Normally, I’d do vocals for the song and then hear the band’s critiques of it later on when they came down. I’d take their comments on board and then go back in without them and do it again. This time around, though, I was doing the takes with all of them watching behind me, which was really weird. I was making all of my mistakes right in front of them. It’s weird, because a lot of people seem to think that if you’re going to perform in front of an audience, that you must not be that self-conscious. But I am. Extremely. Doing that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. They’d never heard me make those mistakes before. It was good, though – I’m very open to input from the others, and I’m not a diva. It’s a band. It’s a democracy.”

With Ex-Lives finally ready to go, Every Time I Die are finally preparing for a full-scale tour, starting in North America and quickly moving onto the rest of the world. Quizzed on a potential Australian tour, however, and Keith is somewhat hesitant. “Oh, man, I really don’t know,” he says with a laugh. “Honestly, with so much going on I really don’t know when we’ll be able to get back down there. At a stretch, we’re gonna aim for November and see how that goes.” It might be awhile off yet, but do yourself a favour while you’re playing the waiting game and go give Ex-Lives a spin. There’s a very strong chance you’ll like what you hear.