The Top 100 Songs of 2021, Part Five: 20 – 1

I began writing about my top 100 songs of 2021, the DJY100, on November 29, 2021. I finished writing about my top 100 songs of 2021, the DJY100, on March 31, 2022. I very nearly gave up, because I was exhausted and checked out and besides everything else, who wants to read a 2021 best-of at the start of April the following year? Is this some sort of joke? An April Fool’s? Ultimately, it got to the point where I was openly challenging myself to get this shit done – I lingered on the top 10 for weeks, especially. I’m really glad that I stuck with it. If a job’s worth doing, after all.

Before I get out of here: You can catch up on the entire list via Parts One, Two, Three and Four.

Thank you so much for reading. It means a lot. I’ll be back in about eight months or so to get into all of this again. If I get this next one finished in February 2023 then it’s over for you bitches. La la love you.

– DJY, March 2022

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20. Dry Cleaning – Strong Feelings

What’s your favourite turn of phrase in “Strong Feelings”? Is it “Emo dead stuff collector”? “Spent ₤17 on mushrooms”? “Seems like a lot of garlic”? “It’s Europe”? There’s no wrong answers – and that, by proxy, can also be said of Dry Cleaning themselves. Whether you’re drawn to the rumble of the rhythm section, the Andy Gill-style guitar shapes or the droll, desert-dry delivery, you’re absolutely spot on. “Strong Feelings” was among the upper echelon of cuts from the band’s debut New Long Leg – which, itself, was among the upper echelon of 2021 albums. The top really suits them.

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL – Next to Me

Not to be all “before it was cool,” but those that knew RÜFÜS DU SOL before 2018’s Solace look at the world the Sydney expat trio have created for themselves with utmost awe. In the case of “Next to Me” and its jaw-dropping music video, that’s quite literal too. Entire universes rising and falling in syncopation with the song’s own vast landscape seems like both the perfect accompaniment and the most succinct reflection on how far RÜFÜS have come. From its solitary piano tinker to its orbiting synth spirals, everything within “Next to Me” feels properly, emphatically monumental by design.

18. TURNSTILE – BLACKOUT

Hardcore has never been the kind to shy from gory details, but the dark underbelly of “BLACKOUT” is one unique package. It’s a song about wanting your roses while you’re still alive, ruminating on the fragility of life itself – all while loud guitars slam against booming drums and percussion. It may seem at odds, but the song’s extroverted nature is Brendan Yates taking his anguish and reaching out his hand to a captive audience – as if to ask, “are you with me?” They are, of course – especially when “the main bit but slower” kicks in. Bust it.

17. Big Scary – Bursting at the Seams

After over a decade as a band, Big Scary’s fourth album Daisy made some significant changes to the mulitifaceted duo’s already-complex narrative. Amongst them came drummer Jo Syme’s long-awaited (and well-deserved) debut on lead vocals. Enter “Bursting at the Seams,” a fascinating styles clash between synth-bass disco and baroque pop in the spirit of “Love is In the Air.” Syme finds herself in the midst of new romance, and consequently tangos between love and lust. “All I want is to feel” is a bold line in its own right; when it’s suffixed with “love,” all bets are off. Terrifyingly good.

16. Olivia Rodrigo – good 4 u

Behold: The song that kicked the door open on Olivia Rodrigo’s multitudes, showing the wholly-attentive universe at large she could provide more than tear-stained balladry. It’s still at odds with the perennially jilted ex, but this time Rodrigo is pissed. Well, as pissed as one can get in mainstream pop songs – somewhere below “Caught Up There” but above “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).” Was there a better a capella on the charts this year then Rodrigo red-levelling “LIKE A DAMN SOCIOPATH”? Fuck no there wasn’t. If Rodrigo is supposedly in the business of misery, business is booming.

15. The Goon Sax – In the Stone

On Mirror II, The Goon Sax built up enough stamina to not only outrun their familial comparisons, but prove that theirs was a band prepared to go the distance. What’s interesting, though, is this much isn’t immediately apparent on “In the Stone.” In a slow-motion bloom over repeated listens, the song reveals the sum of the band’s parts in the best way possible. Louis Foster and Riley Jones circle one another in the verses, eventually actualising their synergy in the chorus that keeps on giving. Across persistent momentum and a constant stream of guitar jangle, a new legacy is solidified.

14. The Sunday Estate – Fight Me

There are certain instances you can sense with a band when you’re at the start of something big. Sometimes you’re on the money (Gang of Youths), others you’re way off (Hair Die), but that initial feeling is invariably exciting. Said feeling flutters through the pristine guitars and rumbling drums of “Fight Me,” which was not the first offering from Sydney quintet The Sunday Estate but unquestionably the first to make a lasting impression. Under the serious moonlight of tumultuous new romance, the song wrestles and writhes like late-night kisess under the watchful eye of a rainy city. Can’t fight it.

13. Middle Kids – Stacking Chairs

“Stacking Chairs” and its titular phrase feels like an unlocking: of the song, the album it’s from and the band who wrote it. “When the party’s over/I’ll be stacking chairs.” That’s love. That’s palpable love. It’s about being there when it all falls apart; about the company you keep and carry with you – root of the root. It helps that Middle Kids have hung what’s among their best-ever songs onto this rich sentiment. The bright guitars ricocheting off the military snare, the twinkling synthesizers and impeccable close harmonies showcase the Kids at full strength. The party ain’t over yet.

12. Wave Racer – Look Up to Yourself

The best 1975 song of the year was not written by The 1975. Instead, it came from a Melbourne bedroom and from a returning artist that could well have been potentially lost to the future-bass boom of the mid-2010s. It was only through a bold reinvention that Wave Racer survived – and not only that, but positively thrived at the helm of the project’s debut album. “Look Up to Yourself” is defiant in its brightness – released amidst the darkness of Australia’s 2021, it lifted spirits and provided the soundtrack to reclaiming self-belief. Once again, we race for the prize.

11. Gretta Ray – Bigger Than Me

Like most women her age, Gretta Ray grew up on Taylor Swift. She’s come to see the world through “eras,” as snakeskin sheds and butterflies rise from stolen scarves. Unlike her heroine’s clumsy foray into bombast, however, Ray lost none of her reputation rolling out her debut album Begin to Look Around. In fact, it only became stronger. Through clockwork precision and delicate layering, not to mention an assertive confidence not present in her teenage catalogue, “Bigger Than Me” took to big city life with aplomb. It’s a new world out there, but Gretta Ray is unquestionably ready for it.

10. Middle Kids – Questions

Precisely 14 days into the year 2021, Middle Kids released “Questions”. It was not the first single from their second album Today We’re the Greatest, nor was it the most successful – that would be “R U 4 Me?” on both counts there. It is, however, the single greatest song that Middle Kids have ever written. There is a very good reason that it is still holding water with such a high placing on such a list, created almost a full year on from its release.

Indeed, “Questions” is the earliest released song on the entire list – had it been released literally a week or two prior, it would not qualify. So what stood the test of time, exactly? Two things: Maximalism and calibration. The former is nothing new to the Sydney trio, of course – they arrived in a drum-roll of grandeur as early as their debut EP – but it’s the latter that’s the key to unlocking “Questions.” Instead of immediately rolling out the cavalry, the song instead builds from shimmers and glitches that are guided by hand – quite literally, as the flamenco claps pierce through the treacle of wafting synthesizers. Tim Fitz rolls through next with easily the greatest bass-line of his career, all stabs and spirals; Hannah Joy’s glowing guitar weaving between it on an upward ascent.

By going slow and steady, rather than setting off the confetti cannons in its opening moments, the trumpeting arrival (again, literal) of the song’s crescendo feels all that more rewarding and triumphant. It also plays in tandem with Joy’s lyrical framework, which is constantly seeking validation high and low in amidst the greater throes of uncertainty and indecision. Even with all the whistles and bells, when it subsides there is no grand conclusion or resolution. That’s what sticks with you – the ongoing, compelling intrigue and mystique that comes with that constant sense of seeking. When it comes to “Questions” in the grand scheme of 2021’s great singles, the first cut is the deepest.

9. The Kid LAROI feat. Justin Bieber – STAY

It’s a long way from the concrete jungle of Gadigal land to the bright lights of Hollywood. Not only has The Kid LAROI made it feel like a stone’s throw away, however, he’s broken down a myriad of barriers along the way for young Indigenous artists seeking a global stage. It hasn’t come easy, nor has it come without its own degree of backlash, but what pathway to success has? He’s part of the lexicon now, and it’s time to start putting respect on the name. “STAY” has a lot to do with this paradigm shift. Not all, of course – the Billboard smash “WITHOUT YOU” did a chunk of groundwork – but what eventuates over its 150 seconds and change of this urgent, neon-glow rush of lover’s-plea pop is a potential fully realised.

LAROI has often been labelled a rapper in the same way that Post Malone and his late mentor Juice WRLD have – insofar as the cadence and aesthetic being there to a degree, but their flows ultimately possessing too much melody to count as hip-hop in its more traditional sense. What’s interesting about “STAY,” then, is how it ostensibly serves as his audition to be the biggest pop artist in the world. Between the coarse rock-star delivery and the howling woah-ohs, a portrayal of the artist as a young Lothario comes into formation by ways of the perfect storm.

It’s gunned for with a formidable assist from two artists that have scaled the mountain themselves and lived to tell the tale: Charlie Puth and Justin Bieber. The former is responsible for the irresistible keyboard motif and the stabs of falsetto in the indelible hook, showing his prowess as one of the most distinct and compelling pop writers working today. The latter, meanwhile, makes for the jewel in the crown of 2021’s comeback king – after a disastrous yummy-yum 2020, this suave second verse recalls the Biebs at his mid-2010s peak in the best possible way.

There’s an argument to be made, then, that “STAY” is amalgamate of pop’s recent past with its present, ultimately creating something that could well be indicative of its future. For something forged beneath blinding lights, there’s a darkness on the edge of the city that feels like an old friend when “STAY” unfurls. You’ll want to stick around – may as well, after all, considering The Kid LAROI will be doing the same.

8. Lil Nas X feat. Jack Harlow – INDUSTRY BABY

The best thing Kanye did in 2021 was keep his mouth shut. No, seriously. There were moments of bliss to be found amidst the oft-delayed Donda, of course, but between his 19th nervous breakdown and the endless tirades and the unholy alliance forged between Mr. Jesus is King and Mr. Antichrist Superstar… well, you get the picture.

The best thing Lil Nas X did in 2021 was keep running his mouth. No, seriously. There were moments of bliss to be found amidst the long-awaited MONTERO, of course, but between his Satanic shoes and his new status as QPOC provocateur and the unreal music videos and the constant slam-dunks of Twitter conservatives… well, you get the picture.

Enter: “INDUSTRY BABY,” a patchwork of teamwork in tandem between two artists that have defined Black excellence in their prime. With West on the brassed-off beat to end all brassed-off beats, he allows Lil Nas to pull a classic Ye stunt: Talk his shit again. It’s a victory lap from an artist that most thought would only get one trot around the racecourse before the horse was taken off the old town road and behind the barn. It’s a double-down from an artist that had already cemented their 2021 GOAT status by literally pole-dancing into Hell and killing Satan. Oh, and why not make a megastar out of internet darling Jack Harlow while we’re at it – with what is in top contention for the best guest verse of the year.

“INDUSTRY BABY” is a great escape from the clutches of one-hit wonderdom – by this point, Lil Nas has built a boat with Tim Robbins and he is outta here. It’s at this point you realise that the hook isn’t “I’m the industry baby” – as in, he’s a newcomer – it’s actually with a comma in tow, ie. “I’m the industry, baby.” This is an arrival of the grandest kind.

7. Gretta Ray – Cherish

For a few years there, Gretta Ray was under cover of darkness. This has twofold meaning: Not only was she secretly working away on what would eventuate as her debut album, but everything she was putting out was released within the long-cast shadow of her 2016 single “Drive.” Written and recorded by Ray while still in high school, the singer-songwriter captured lightning in a bottle with an ode to young love that already felt like a classic. It was a heartfelt, endearing and endlessly rewarding song – which, in the hands of a lesser performer, could well have been her downfall.

Rather than attempt to repeat what was achieved there, Ray instead opted to keep the car running rather than hit the roundabout. If “Drive” was the car flying off at the end of Grease, then “Cherish” is the stark realisation between Sandy and Danny that this machine cannot survive in the atmosphere off true love alone. While she’s floating in a most peculiar way, Ray mourns an inevitable end over the waft of distant synths: “It’d be so brave of me to walk away,” she laments – a line so good that she opens and closes the song with it.

As the drums bring her reality hurtling down to earth, the desperation kicks in. “What do I have to do?” she asks in the song’s wrenching chorus. She’s trying to rekindle an old flame, but her match is long burnt out – just like her. High-school romance doesn’t last, and your childhood sweetheart is called that for a reason. When you’ve only just recently become legally recognised as an adult, however, there’s an unshakable sense of forever-lost innocence that comes with its demise. This isn’t just a better song than “Drive,” it’s the best song Gretta Ray has ever made. Better yet: You know now, for absolute certain, that this title will change hands once again. She is capable, she is strong, she is ready… she is cherished.

6. MAY-A – Swing of Things

In one of her earlier singles, “Apricots,” Maya Cumming boasted that she was “Something you don’t know you want.” Within that context, she was attempting to get inside the head of her crush – and, let’s face it, she probably succeeded with that kind of exuberance – but it’s also simultaneously reflective of her stature within Australian pop music. You might not have known you wanted to hear from a scrawny lesbian teen attempting to merge Avril-era punk-princess attitude with the sheen of 2020s pop, but once you’ve spent a bit of time in MAY-A’s world you start to see the bigger picture – it’s a want that quickly shifts into a need.

This is a young artist with “star” written all over them. Want proof? Here’s “Swing of Things” to get the point across. Equal parts hot pink and icy turquoise, this is Gen-Z pop that finds a way to shimmer within its verses and ultimately shine within its chorus – all while keeping its teeth gnashed and its underbelly dark. It’s pulled together by timid visionary Gab Strum (AKA Japanese Wallpaper) on production, whose ricocheting snares and distinctive beds of electronic warmth accentuate the song’s peaks and valleys. Still, it says a lot that even such a big name behind the boards is ultimately playing second fiddle to Cumming’s irrepressible presence – at once tangled-hair messy and leather-jacket cool. An island of such great complexity, this kid.

It’s a curious balance to strike between a stark, intimate confessional that can only come from direct personal experience, which is then transformed into a song that is broad and bold enough to fill out the upper tiers of an arena. This may well be the niche that MAY-A is carving for herself – a diary entry and an open book all at once. If so, it will get easier and easier to get into the swing of things as far her blossoming career goes. It’s something that – now, finally – you know that you want.

5. EGOISM – Lonely But Not Alone

Given they share most of the same letters, you’d expect the words “lonely” and “alone” to be synonymous. In reality, however, there’s a deeper relationship between the two ideas than surface value would suggest. Silverchair’s 2002 opus “Across the Night” sees Daniel Johns opine: “I don’t wanna be lonely/I just want to be alone” – the paradoxical anxious state of longing for company, but simultaneously finding yourself unable to be around people. On her 2006 track “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely),” honorary Australian citizen Pink wants to stew in her emotions even though she’s got someone on call – in this moment, the notion of being lonely is more enticing than being alone.

Would you have ever picked Sydney duo EGOISM to serve as the Venn diagram between Silverchair and Pink? Again, it goes beyond what surface value would suggest. The group started in high school and was originally more interested in a heavier approach to guitar music before eventually settling into artistic pop – remind you of anyone? Originally starting as outsiders, they’ve since flourished into standard-setters with a slew of certified hits to their name – remind you of anyone? Thus, somewhere in-between Diorama and I’m Not Dead, comes “Lonely But Not Alone.”

What does this script-flip mean, exactly? Weaved between its strummed bass, slick production and four-on-the-floor gridlock is a back-and-forth on last-leg relationships. It’s about sending things off with both a bang and a whimper – craving intimacy, but knowing it won’t seal up any old wounds in the process. Scout Eastment knows she’s just “another pretty girl that you messed up,” while simultaneously acknowledging that “we make up/bubble and pop” – like Bachelor Girl before her, she knows they’re bad for her but she just can’t leave them alone. In the hook, Olive Rush craves “love to borrow,” where once the transaction is complete you can “give [them] up tomorrow.” Just enough to take the edge off; just enough to last through the night.

“Lonely But Not Alone” feels, in part, like an equal and opposite reaction to 2020’s “Here’s the Thing.” While that song breached the difficulty in letting go, “Lonely” breaches the difficulty of sticking around. It’s their most ambitious pop production yet, and this shot at the moon has landed them among the stars. If Australian radio cared about supporting local music because they wanted to, not because they had to, this would have dominated the airwaves throughout 2021. Who knows, maybe TikTok will make it a hit in 2024. See you there.

4. Allday – Void

There’s a cynical framework wherein one could place Allday’s foray into indie based off his background in hip-hop – one that’s understandable, too, if you’re only across his early-to-mid 2010s output. Really? The “Fuckin” guy? The “Send Nudes” guy? What would Mr. “You Always Know the DJ” know about guitar music beyond “Girl in the Sun”? As it turned out, he knew way more than anyone was originally willing to give credit for – and so did the people he surrounded himself with while making Drinking with My Smoking Friends.

“Void,” the album’s second single, was another collaborative effort between himself and the aforementioned Gab Strum, AKA Japanese Wallpaper. Ever since the crossover of their link-up “In Motion” circa 2017, Strum has served as instrumental in Allday’s stylistic reinvention. One could argue, then, that this serves as the logical conclusion of Japanese Wallpaper renovating the frat-house that was Allday’s early work into something more architecturally sound. The song’s spiralling guitar (care of DMA’s strummer Matt Mason) feels right at home on a loop around Strum’s cooing ambient beds of electronics and Allday’s wry, tender vocal delivery.

Simultaneously daring and dreamy, it portrays a different Allday to the one we’re used to – even when juxtaposed with the singles it sandwiches on Drinking‘s rollout, both “After All This Time” and “Stolen Cars” offer a far livelier and more pop-friendly iteration of this approach. “Void” longs to be heard above the billboard noises and the city streets, offering a secret garden for listeners to revel in. It’s part reinvention and part redemption; part love-lorn and part love-lost. It’s a backyard D&M as much as it is a bedroom confessional. In a matter of minutes, Allday changes the course of his career permanently with “Void” – and it’s a rainbow road you hope will be pursued long after the final chord rings out.

3. King Stingray – Get Me Out

Place is extremely important to the music of King Stingray. As Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu sings in the first verse of the band’s second single: “There’s a place where you live/And a place where you grow.” The place where King Stingray live is East Arnhem Land, a remote community in the Northern Territory on Yolŋu country. Despite its disconnect with the rest of the Australian music community, it has served as a hub of some of the most significant names in the country’s history – among them Yothu Yindi, from whom two members of Stingray descend from, and that band’s own alum Gurrumul.

The place where King Stingray grow, however, could be anywhere – even with only a handful of songs out, they’ve already effectively purchased a ticket to the world. They’ve already set alight stages across the country, earning a reputation as one of the most intuitive and energetic new bands on a scene that’s been in desperate need of both revival and new blood. Of course, these places of living and growing are not always mutually exclusive – there’s a lot to learn from the place you were born and raised, even if so much of what we deem as life experience circles around how much we’ve travelled. If you’ve travelled for too long, you could well outgrow the place where you grow – and that’s what “Get Me Out” ultimately comes back to.

Time is also extremely important as a factor here, arguably as much as place is. When “Get Me Out” was released, it came at a time when many Australians were unable to see their friends, families and loved ones – even neighbouring suburbs felt like an ocean away in the throes of lockdowns. “The sun goes down in the distance/I wish that you could see this,” Yunupiŋu laments – a bittersweet acknowledgement that we’re all seeing the same sun set across unceded land, but we’re not able to experience it in this moment as one. “Get me out of the city” – a plea that was not only heard, but well and truly felt.

“Get Me Out” works as a lockdown-era anthem in ways that “Stuck With You” or anything from Bo Burnham’s Inside never could – while those were largely self-serving ego trips, “Get Me Out” possesses an earthly and organic universality. Its humble pub-rock approach recalls their fellow Northern Territorians the Warumpi Band, mixing the heritage of guitar-based music with their own Indigenous tradition and even their own Yolŋu matha for good measure. It’s distinctive and definitive – in other words, Australian rock in its truest sense. No matter the time or place therein, King Stingray will always have this moment as their own.

2. CHVRCHES feat. Robert Smith – How Not to Drown

The bigger Lauren Mayberry got, the harder she fell.

You can see the trajectory of CHVRCHES’ leader purely from the trio’s live performances – she went from a statuesque figure, clinging onto an extensive mic cable for dear life, to a defiant stage commander wielding a wireless like nobody’s business. She emerged from her cocoon as a brilliant butterfly of contemporary synth-pop, suffering no fools and standing her ground – and people just fucking hated that. Whether it was misogynist trolls or Chris Brown fans – which are one and the same, but that’s another story – there was an ongoing fear that Mayberry would ultimately be taken asunder by this hideous side of her success story.

There, Lauren Mayberry stands – statuesque once again, but this time, in a sense that she refuses to back down. “I’m writing a book on how to stay conscious when you drown,” she sings – an arresting, eye-opening and borderline heart-stopping opening line, and far from the only gut-punch that would ensue over the next five minutes. Mayberry had already begun work on dismembering her would-be destroyers on the group’s previous single, “He Said She Said,” but its chirpy synths and quasi-dubstep chorus drop meant its attack was somewhat defanged upon arrival. Not so with “How Not to Drown” – in fact, this may well be the most acerbic and caustic song CHVRCHES have ever made, along with their greatest.

This is a song of survival – from abuse, from defeatism, from darkness. It’s a song that melds new wave and post-punk with the band’s usual electronic fare, creating something that revels in its sinister nature and dares you to take a step forward into its shadows. It’s assisted by The Cure’s Robert Smith, someone described as an “all-time hero” by the band themselves, who takes Mayberry’s lyrics to their own private palace of disintegration (via, naturally, Disintegration) without ever purporting to speak for her – rather, he stands alongside her and the band, as a peer. When the two sing the line “I wasn’t dead when they found me,” its impact is nothing short of astounding.

The harder Lauren Mayberry fell, the stronger CHVRCHES got. Here they stand, risen from 20,000 leagues under the sea and as tall as towers. Is that the best you’ve got?

1. Liz Stringer – First Time Really Feeling

Liz Stringer never saw it coming. Surely not.

Somewhere in the cold of Canada, in 2018 – two years before the world was upended, three before what she was about to do would ever see the light of day – the veteran singer-songwriter committed “First Time Really Feeling” to record. A keyboard hummed while the persistent drums took their place, and a guitar fumbled about getting ready – there’s even a bung note in there, but no-one seemed to mind. Six minutes later, Stringer and her makeshift ensemble of airtight session musos had laid down what has come to be the signature song and modern opus of a writer and performer never truly given her roses.

“First Time Really Feeling” was recorded what feels like a lifetime away from what we know now, but in spite of that it’s found its own context and its own rhyme and reason. At a time when many are learning to start again, Stringer’s words know what you’re going through – she had to go through that, too. To her, the titular phrase comes in the wake of her sobriety, where what she was attempting to process from a cold-turkey standpoint was bordering on a foreign concept. It was a new and uncertain place, but also one that centred on an exciting premise: The possibility.

Amongst a build of steady guitars, and guided by her resonant and smoky vocals, Stringer draws a line in the sand between her past and her present. She needs a clean break, a get away; a photo opportunity, a shot at redemption. “I just want to get out/Before it starts/To hurt me,” she sings, hurtled against the hustle and bustle of her heartfelt heartland rock. No-one said this was going to be easy, but the greatest journeys all start with a single step. By venturing forth, Stringer puts herself first – which is a miraculous feat in and unto itself, and one that should be thoroughly commended.

No, Liz Stringer never saw 2021 coming when she made “First Time Really Feeling” in 2018. As far as 2021 goes, however, it wouldn’t have made sense without “First Time Really Feeling” being a part of it. This is honesty that can’t be ignored. This is love. This is loss. This is a reeling body from a sunburnt country feeling the frost of a new terrain for the first time. It’s a new possibility. Couldn’t we all use one of those.

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Listen to the DJY100 in its entirety below:

Tracks by non-male artists = 50
Tracks by Australian artists = 49

Multiple entries:

Green Screen (99, 61), Phil Fresh (97, 69), Kwame (97, 49), CHVRCHES (88, 2), Billie Eilish (86, 35), Justin Bieber (84, 9), Squid (81, 40), The Goon Sax (80, 15), Amyl and the Sniffers (79, 75), Halsey (76, 55, 54), Citizen (73, 53), Fred Again.. (68, 30), Silk Sonic (60, 37, 29), Olivia Rodrigo (50, 16), Turnstile (43, 18), Lil Nas X (39, 8), Middle Kids (13, 10), Gretta Ray (11, 7)

Thanks again. For everything.

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!

INTERVIEW: The Getaway Plan (AUS), November 2011

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Damn, dude, remember these guys? Very much of a time and place for MySpace kids from Australia. “Where the City Meets the Sea” was an end-of-school anthem. We all kinda grew up with this band. Then, we kinda moved on. Having them back in 2011 on a reunion tour was like “Oh, hey! Cool!” Then it kind got old. They’ve since made two albums no-one listened to and half the band has left – which is especially funny when contrasted with one of the quotes in this interview.

This one’s a Q&A. I initially didn’t quite like doing these, but I think I’m a bit more used to it by now – I do a lot more these days in terms of formatting. This one’s a bit too casual for my liking – I’d occasionally fall into the “hey bro, what’s goin’ on?” line of question formatting. Still, it’s funny to read now.

– DJY, May 2016

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AHM: Hi Matt! The Getaway Plan had only split up for something like 18 months when the reunion was announced. It’s probably the shortest break-up time we’ve ever seen! What triggered the idea in the four of you that perhaps you’d made a mistake?
MATT WRIGHT: It was more that our relationship as friends got better. Eventually, we got into the flow of just hanging out and talking – after awhile, the idea came up to make another record. It seemed silly not to.

With that said, you had already settled into your own band [Young Heretics] when the announcement of The Getaway Plan getting back together. Surely there were worries that the same problems would arise again, and that maybe the whole thing could turn bitter quickly?
Not at all. It was all really, really clear and obvious from the get-go. It just worked. All the problems that we had before were irrelevant – it just felt great. We are really dedicated to this band now.

In April, the band headed out on the Reclamation tour, which was the first official tour that you guys had done since the split. How did you find it?
It was absolutely amazing. The shows ruled, dude – especially the two shows we did at the Metro in Sydney. The tour was everything we hoped it would be and more, man. Back when announced the single reunion show that we did, the response was fucking insane. The show in Melbourne sold out in, like, seven minutes or something. It totally threw us. We were laughing at the fact that it happened, we just couldn’t believe it.

You guys premiered a lot of new material on the tour, including a song with Jenna McDougall [of Tonight Alive] on vocals. Is that song going to be on the album?
Yeah, it’s called “Child of Light.” Jenna wasn’t available to sing on the studio version, unfortunately. We did, however, get a children’s choir in for the song.

A children’s choir? No shit!
Yeah, dude! It was fucking crazy.

That’s so stadium rock – it seems like that would be something that you wouldn’t have even considered trying in your early years. That must have been a really interesting experience for you guys.
We’ve always been a little overly ambitious when it comes to recording and stuff, but to pull that off…man, it was just incredible. On this record, we’ve got orchestras, choirs, double basses, horns, everything. We kind of went all out for this one [laughs].

You might as well! This is, after all, your triumphant return.
Exactly!

Let’s talk about the writing of Requiem. One can only imagine it was a very different experience to creating Other Voices, Other Rooms.

It was quite different; because Clint [Ellis, guitarist] was away for most of it, off touring with [the] Amity [Affliction]. He’s left them now, but it was pretty difficult for him and us trying to balance those commitments.

So, with Clint gone, did that mean you were writing most of the guitar parts?

It was more like we were writing songs without lead parts and then letting Clint come in later to record his parts. For the most part of the writing, it was just me, Dave [Anderson, bassist] and Aaron [Barnett, drummer] in a rehearsal studio together. Clint came in around February for a week and got to recording instantly. He was loving the songs – he’d been listening to what we’d been doing thanks to that thing called the world wide web. Maybe it’ll take off [laughs]. It was alright in the end – we were closer at the end because of it. He’d actually written a lot, too. He’d been writing on the road. It was still pretty stressful for all of us, though.

With Amity growing so popular, was there ever a fear that he might choose them over you?
I dunno. I think that now that we’re back, the idea of anything changing, any members moving or anything like that…[trails off] …it’s not gonna happen. [laughs] But if it did, you’d be sure that it would definitely mean the end of this band. We wouldn’t be The Getaway Plan anymore. But everything has turned out so well, and we’re all so happy with the record – I can’t see this changing anytime soon.

Did you make a point to change your sound from the one established on Other Voices, Other Rooms?
We didn’t really intentionally try to do anything. You should expect something different, though – quite different. It has been four-and-a-half years since our last record. We’ve grown a lot in that time, and have a much greater understanding about working with one another. I’m not gonna say that it’s a Young Heretics and Amity hybrid…but it’s pretty different. There’s a song on the record which is probably the heaviest song we’ve ever written, which is really caustic. You’ll know it when you hear it. The whole thing is really diverse, though.

One last thing: With all of this new material, is there any chance of hearing some Hold Conversation tunes on the Requiem tour later this year?
We’ve kind of decided as a band that we’re not really going to be playing those songs anymore. They were great for awhile, but it’s been so long and we broke up for two years – those songs just don’t mean as much to us anymore. Imagine you’re a kid, right, and you do a painting when you’re four years old – imagine being asked to paint that picture for the rest of your life. Those songs don’t really represent the people that we are anymore. It’s not that we’re embarrassed by them, but they just don’t fit stylistically with us as a band. The setlist is pretty full as it is, anyway.

So we’ll never hear The New Year again live?
Aww, never say never – but, for now, it doesn’t look like it. [laughs]

The Top 100 Songs of 2015, Part Two: 80 — 61

Here we are for part two. Response was unreal last week, thanks for checking it out and sharing it around. Here we go again! Part one here.

80. The Sidekicks – Everything in Twos

“Everything in Twos” turned up less than a month into 2015; dropped its bags and set up shop. It wasn’t going anywhere – nor should it have. Ducking and weaving through shimmering guitars and bouncing drums, it’s the type of power-pop that packs lyrical density to complement the bright, bursting tone; straight from the John K. Samson and John Roderick school of songwriting. Once you’ve surrendered to its wide-eyed charm and heartfelt, harmony-laden chorus, there’s no going back. It clocks in at 2:47, but you’ll be under its spell within the first 30 seconds – or your money back, guarantee.

79. FIDLAR – 40oz. On Repeat

The cheap beer has run dry, there’s no cocaine left and FIDLAR are not as stoked on the whole ‘stoked and broke’ thing that they were a couple of summers back. They’re still making belligerent, snotty garage pop-punk at its core, but the opening number on August’s Too saw them get a little more up-close and personal with their feelings – anger, depression, confusion et al. A dash of wurtilizer and toy piano is just enough to note growth and maturation on their part. Not a complete reinvention – because, duh, FIDLAR – but it keeps you guessing. Listening, too.

78. Bad//Dreems – Bogan Pride

Sure, these Adelaide natives enjoy a torn flanny and a smashed tinnie as much as the next bloke. Even with this in mind, Bad//Dreems are acutely aware of their native land’s major issue with hyper-masculinity. As the guitar scratches urgently against a pounding punk beat, “Bogan Pride” tears down beer-swilling muscle junkies with bitter, unrepentant fury. The irony of more of these types attending Bad//Dreems shows as their profile continues to (deservedly) rise probably won’t be lost on the band. At least they’ll always have this. Bonus points: The only song in the list to feature an exasperated “FUCK’S SAKE!”

77. Brendan Maclean – Tectonic

With synth arpeggios that orbit the planet and gated snare that could knock out Phil Collins in a single hit, “Tectonic” is the furthest that Mr. Maclean has ever ventured from the piano. Much like when Tim Freedman whipped out a keytar in the second verse of “Thank You,” the crowd was confused. But then, they cheered! And oh, how they danced! “Tectonic” is a pulsing, twirling piece of interplanetary pop – a shot in the dark that resonates in high definition. You could say the song was how Brendan got his groove back if only he’d never lost it.

76. Philadelphia Grand Jury – Crashing and Burning, Pt. II

Five years ago, the Philly Jays premiered a new song on tour entitled “A New Package for You,” another archetypal rush of knockabout indie-pop with a wild side and a spring in its step. For the band’s comeback album, the song was resurrected – a new hook, a slightly-slower tempo, a new hair-metal guitar break into the bridge and a bit of sprucing up here and there; hence the “Pt. II” suffix. Its origin story alone is indicative of how the track encapsulates their past, present and the future – it’s “A New Package” in a new package. Get excited.

75. EL VY – Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)

The National’s Matt Berninger hasn’t always written zingers (lest we forget “Sometimes, you get up/And bake a cake or something” or “Standing at the punch table/Swallowing punch”), but initial listens to his side project’s first single will have you scratching your noggin over whatever mumbo-jumbo he’s spouting off. ‘Triple Jesus’? ‘A saltwater fish from a colourblind witch’? Who knows? Moreover, who cares? The thing about “Return to the Moon” is that it makes perfect sense in clear spite of itself. It’s a pop oddity; a guitar swagger, an off-beat handclap.If Berninger’s enigmatic charisma can’t win you over, perhaps nothing can.

74. Best Coast – Feeing OK

Five years ago was the summer that Best Coast’s debut, Crazy for You, was the ultimate girl guide – an album full of lyrics to quote endlessly on Tumblr while others would reblog and add the phrase “figuratively me!” Not to discredit that album whatsoever, but the best parts of the band’s third, California Nights, are when they’re tackling some of the bigger issues than boy problems and weed. On the album’s opener, Bethany Cosentino laments being there for everyone except herself; learning slowly but surely how to start putting her well-being first once again. It’s figuratively a great start.

73. Sweater Season – Charley

For a band quite figuratively less than a year old to be delivering a song as confident in nature as “Charley” is the equivalent of your infant child skipping the ‘goo-goo’s and ‘ga-ga’s entirely and skipping ahead to reciting a Shakespearian sonnet. In one swiftly-paced and smartly-written piece of proto-grunge indie, the band establishes a dual guitar tone to kill for – all sunshine and radiation – while simultaneously tossing killer one-liners like “I forget what I regret” – later transmogrifying into “what I have left,” for full effect – on top, almost as an afterthought. Damn baby geniuses.

72. The Sidekicks – The Kid Who Broke His Wrist

Steve Ciolak has never shied away from deeply-personal writing – it’s where he embraces it the most that his songs shine. That being said, there’s something about the way he reminisces on childhood spent and a youth now lost to a man on the verge of his thirties that, for whatever reason, feels somehow – importantly – different. It resonates in a way one might not initially expect – perhaps to do with how he still sees so much of himself in the boy that he once was; still finding himself unable to make a proverbial fist. Heartbreaking – and bone-breaking.

71. Citizen – Heaviside

For a band that used to recall acts like Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World, it’s strange that Mogwai and post-Deja Brand New are immediate comparison points when discussing the quietest moment from Citizen’s fascinating second LP. Yes, it’s a departure – and a major one at that – but the faded, distant shimmer of the guitar and the immediate, raw-nerve vocals that feel as though we have cut to the core of what this band is – and, more importantly, what it can be. For a song about purgatory, Citizen sure know where they’re headed on “Heaviside.”

70. Rihanna feat. Kanye West and Paul McCartney – FourFiveSeconds

A Barbadian, a black skinhead and a Beatle walk into a bar… yes, the year’s most unlikely combo were also behind the year’s most unlikely pop smash. Not that these three haven’t seen a hit or two in their lifetime – least of all Macca – but it was the manner in which “FourFiveSeconds” presented itself that made for such an intriguing prospect: Quiet. Unassuming. Raw. Soulful. No braggadocios raps, no “na-na-na”s, no nostalgia. Just an unplugged, intimate moment with true music royalty. A true career highlight for each – and given their combined history, that says a remarkable deal.

69. The Smith Street Band – Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face

The night Tony Abbott was elected, The Smith Street Band played a sold-out Corner Hotel, telling their captive audience that this was not a man to be trusted or one that spoke for them. In the year of Abbott’s demise in the public eye, it began with this furious, damning five-minute suite detailing his evil, hateful ways in explicit detail. It’s the angriest song the band has ever recorded – and, as it stands now, their most important. “A change is gonna come,” Wil Wagner warned, echoing sentiments of the late Sam Cooke. Less than a year later, it did.

68. Seth Sentry – Violin

No-one likes to see the clown crying. When Seth Marton isn’t goofing off, flirting with waitresses or talking about hoverboards, he’s capable of eloquent and passionate introspect. An open letter to an absent, arrogant father, “Violin” is Seth’s most private and painfully-personal song. As Marton’s cathartic furor rains down, so too does his discontent and malaise over how things have panned out. The song’s lynchpin comes in the form of its first and last line – which are one and the same. It brings the song full circle, leading one to hope against hope the bastard hears every last word.

67. White Dog – No Good

From the warehouses, garages and four-track recorders of Sydney, White Dog emerge with fists swinging and teeth sharpened. “No Good” seethes. It radiates from the back of cracked, split-open radio speakers. It prowls the streets of the inner-west wielding a switchblade. It’s the loudest, rawest and most primal sound to erupt from the DIY punk scene this year – and most other years, too, if complete honesty is allowed. If you’re not getting the message already – or maybe you just weren’t paying attention – remember this: “No Good” is the antithesis of its own name. That’s punk as fuck.

66. Major Lazer feat. DJ Snake and MØ – Lean On

Diplo is King Midas – everything he touches becomes gold. DJ Snake is King Henry VIII – he’s a wild motherfucker that’ll chop people’s heads off for the thrill of it. MØ is the lady of the lake – she holds the sword with all the power. By some bizarre head-on collision, the three have been pitted against one another in a three-way dance – and everybody wins. “Lean On” was, for many, the highly sought-after ‘song of the summer.’ More importantly, it was an assertion of pure dominance for both the charts and the dancefloor. Just go with it.

65. The Story So Far – Nerve

The best pop-punk right now is made by kids raised on Through Being Cool that are through being cool. Beyond empty slogans and Tumblr drama lies music that can be artistic, cathartic and genuinely engaging. The Story So Far have evolved into such an act, having grown up before their audience’s eyes and winding up on the wrong side of their 20s with a bad attitude and some killer riffs. Subsequently, “Nerve” stands as one of the most righteously-angry songs of both TSSF’s canon and the calendar year. Any self-respecting rock fan needs to hear them out on this one.

64. Endless Heights – Haunt Me

When Joel Martorana gave up screaming and turned his attention to singing two years ago, it was a confusing and suspicious move to some genre stiffs. As his voice rings out on “Haunt Me,” however, one struggles to recall Endless Heights without it being there. It suits the hypnotic drone of the guitars and the brisk drumming to absolute perfection, and presents itself as further evidence that the change in direction for the band was undoubtedly the right decision to make. Succinctly, “Haunt Me” gets a lot of work done in a considerably-short time. The power of Heights compels you.

63. Justin Bieber – Sorry

It takes a lot for a man to own up to his mistakes – especially if that man was, up until quite recently, a boy despised on a global scale. With an A-team of producers spreading the good word on his behalf – in this particular instance, Sonny “Skrillex” Moore – Bieber’s path to redemption is a gruelling, arduous one for us to undertake. As long as songs like “Sorry” keep turning up, however, the path shall be paved with gold. Anyone not left dancing in the spirit of the song’s phenomenal video just isn’t Beliebing hard enough in themselves.

62. Josh Pyke – Be Your Boy

Sure, he’s a bit more Smooth FM than Triple J these days, but there’s a lot to be said for the fact Josh Pyke has never changed his stripes for anyone. He’s always been a hopeless romantic, a dreamer and an old soul – and all of this entwines beautifully on what is unquestionably his best song in years. Layered percussion and cooed backing vocals prove to be a warm bed for Pyke’s rekindled-youth flame to rest upon; and its sweetly-sincere chorus will do the rest of the job in worming its way into your heart. Ahh, Pykey. You’re alright.

61. Silversun Pickups – Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)

When photos of Silversun Pickups first surfaced, many thought that the voice they were hearing belonged to bassist Nikki Moninger. Naturally, they were in for a world of shock when they inevitably saw Brian Aubert step up to the mic, but “Circadian Rhythm” is a Sliding Doors moment of sorts that shows what life would be like if it was actually Moninger that took the lead. As luck would have it, it’s a total delight – a more subdued and intimate moment from a band that normally go to 11. This, indeed, is a dance well worth immersing yourself in.

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Part three up next Monday! 

Don’t forget you can download the podcast version of Part Two here.

FBi Radio’s “Out of the Box” – October 22, 2015

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In October of 2015, I was asked to be a guest on Out of the Box, a one-hour lunchtime program every Thursday on Sydney community station FBi Radio. The premise of the show, which was hosted at the time by the absolutely delightful Ash Berdebes, is to look at a person’s life through the music that they love; with the guest programming eight songs that mean something to them. I was honoured to be asked on the show – which has also featured really cool guests like Paul MacThe Umbilical BrothersÓlafur Arnalds and Evelyn Morris aka Pikelet – but I was fretting quite a bit over what to choose. I think I put together a fairly solid and diverse list; all songs that meant something huge to me at different parts of my life.

Here are the songs I chose. You can also listen to the entire hour, which features a pretty honest chat with yours truly, by streaming it through FBi’s Radio On Demand by clicking here.

A huge thank you to Ash for asking me on and for her producer, Rachel, for doing a great job. I worship this station, and couldn’t believe my luck that I got to be involved with a show.

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Sesame Street – Imagine That

I picked this song for two reasons. The first is that it is the first song I remember truly loving and knowing all of the words to. I would have been three, maybe four when I first heard it. I was fascinated by all of the music on Sesame Street – Jim Henson would go on to become one of the biggest parts of my upbringing, through both Sesame Street and the Muppets. I think the reason that this song stuck out to me was that it was about using your imagination but also remembering that being you is the best because no-one else can be exactly like you. Ernie sings it, and I’ve always loved Ernie almost entirely because of this song. There’s also “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” which also clocked me square in the feels. I forgot about this song for a few years and then rediscovered it. The day that I did I cried and cried and cried. It all came flooding back to me. I also picked this song because I knew for a fact that it would have never been played on FBi before.

The Cruel Sea – Takin’ All Day

The Cruel Sea were the first band I ever saw live. I bought Over Easy when I was eight years old because I liked the cover. I later saw this video on rage and felt very grown-up for liking an “adult” band playing bluesy rock music. I wanted to play drums, so I wrote to Jim Elliott, the band’s drummer, via their PO box. He wrote back and we stayed in touch for many years. In 2002, they announced a show in St. George’s Basin. My dad took me – even though it was an over-18s gig – and I got to meet Jim and had a poster signed by the entire band which is still on my wall to this day. James Cruickshank recently passed away, and I know a lot of people are rediscovering The Cruel Sea – I hope this helps.

The Forest – The Bear

Flash forward to 2008. I’m in my final year of high school and a lot is going on – I’ve discovered that I have Asperger’s, having been diagnosed as a child but never told; I’ve ostensibly come out as bisexual at a Catholic high school and I’m angry, confused, lonely and trying to find sense in what’s happening in my life. Around this time, I see a band play at a local community hall called The Forest. They’re a “skramz” (emo/post-hardcore/indie) band from rural Queensland. Although they identify as Christian and I was quite outspoken against Christianity (high school rebel!), their music was so intense and passionate that it got through to me. As long as I treated the imagery as just that, we had an understanding.

I bought their self-titled, homemade EP that night. Every day before my final HSC exams, I would play it as loudly as I possibly could – somedays I’d even scream along if I was walking by myself. Javed, the band’s lead singer, works in video games now and lives in Sydney with his wife and his beautiful daughter. He may be done with this band, but I’ll forever be grateful to him for that EP and getting me through that time in my life.

Parades – Hunters

I loved Parades. More than I’ve loved a lot of bands. To this day, I have no idea why they put up with me – I was probably so annoying and so clingy. Still, they became friends – really good friends. People I trusted and cared about and wanted to hang out with. foreign tapes was another album that got me through a lot – a major break-up, more struggles with anxiety, the utter loneliness of my uni degree. The hours of travel I undertook to see these guys play – eight times in total before they split – was always made worth it.

I picked this song from the album because I once screamed the “SO IT GOES ON ENDLESSLY” part so loud I started crying. In the front row. These two other guys thought I was crazy. I lost myself in the moment. Parades allowed me to do that. I wish they were still around.

Lemuria – Mechanical

2012 features the worst thing that has ever happened to me – the untimely and accidental death of my mother to a one-person car crash in April – as well as the best week of my entire life – going to one major international gig a day from Monday November 12 to Sunday November 18; seeing Radiohead, Refused, Beck, Silversun Pickups in Adelaide, Ben Folds Five in Adelaide, Harvest in Sydney and Coldplay. The soundtrack to both of these parts of my life was the album Get Better by Lemuria. I discovered the band through a random blog some years before but had never properly given them a listen until one of their songs came on shuffle not long after my mother’s passing. It helped me through and was there for me whenever I needed it – there were weeks where it was all that I listened to. It made me feel like there were others out there that were just as lost and confused as I was.

Getting to meet Lemuria when the came to Australia in 2014 was such a huge thing for me. Nearly broke down telling them what their music meant to me. One of the highlights of my life was getting to sing “Lipstick” from Get Better with the band at Black Wire Records. I chose the last song from the album because of all the times I have screamed along the “SHUT UP” refrain until I literally couldn’t anymore; as well as it being a highlight of their show at Hermann’s Bar – surrounded by friends singing along so loudly that Sheena, the band’s singer, gave up singing into the mic and just let us carry it.

mowgli – Slowburn

Cameron Smith, Curtis Smith, Dave Muratore, Eleanor Shepherd and Jay Borchard have all been friends of mine for quite awhile. Eleanor, the bass player, I’ve known since we were in primary school. I met Cameron in 2008, watching his old band Epitomes play every other weekend. Dave was brought in as the lead guitarist for a band I was playing with at the end of 2009; a few months after meeting Jay for the first time at a La Dispute show – which is, ironically enough, the same situation in which I met Curtis, Cameron’s brother, in 2011 to complete the set.

I bring up the fact that I am friends with all of them – even though Curtis is no longer in the band – purely because I want to state that the fact I think mowgli are one of the best bands this country has produced in the 21st century is not because they are my mates. It’s because their music speaks to me on the same way that The Forest did all those years ago – they capture my rage and my passion and my disconnect from the world around me. I have seen mowgli play live over twenty times, and each time I am utterly blown away by their talents. This was my favourite song of 2013 by a considerable margin – I still rank it as one of my all-time favourite songs. I think everything about it is perfect.

The Smith Street Band – Belly of Your Bedroom

This was included as a shout-out to Poison City Records, the Poison City Weekender and the remarkable friends that I have made through both. I was almost intimidated by the scale of the Weekender at first – I arrived at my first at the age of 21, incredibly anxious, nervous, excited, overjoyed and overwhelmed. I’ve since felt immediately at home there – I almost feel like part of the furniture. The Weekender is a time when I am connected with friends from all over – some that I see every week, some that I only get to see for that weekend. Once all the shows and the side-tours surrounding it are done, it feels like the end of camp to me.

I have made so many great mates through the community that Poison City has created – the fact they have made the queer, anxious yeti (as I sometimes call myself) feel so welcome and so loved speaks volumes about the environment of it. At the centre of the Poison City universe is The Smith Street Band – I chose my favourite song of theirs, which ostensibly deals with being the weaker part of a relationship (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt) and features the vocals of another dear friend, Lucy Wilson.

Georgia Maq – Footscray Station

Since 2009, I have played solo under the name Nothing Rhymes with David. I’ve been lucky enough to share a stage with some remarkable songwriters. None have challenged me in the same way that Georgia Maq has. I find her music endlessly fascinating, remarkably engaging and uniformly brilliant. I see so much in her that she is often too self-deprecating and unaware to see in herself. I fear that she will never, ever know how good she is. Each time I watch her perform, I more or less sit in stunned silence – when I’m not compelled beyond my will to sing along, of course.

I find the storytelling in this song so incredible – it took me a good half a dozen listens to fully comprehend it. Everytime I’m in Melbourne and I find myself out at Footscray station, I think of this song and I can’t help but smile. The first time I saw her live, she couldn’t believe that I knew every word to this song and that I was in the front row singing along. I couldn’t believe I was the only one.

INTERVIEW: Title Fight (USA), April 2011

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I did this interview in bed. No, seriously. I forgot it was happening and then had the phone given to me at quarter to eight in the morning, leaving me to scramble to grab my recorder and try to remember what questions I had. It’s also worth mentioning that the first time I heard of Title Fight was when I was asked to interview them. Joey from Hysteria used to spring a lot of relative unknowns on me at the time, but they all ended up being favourites – The Chariot, letlive., these guys. Learning on the job!

Anyway, for an interview that was essentially Wayne Brady’d, this turned out alright. Not great, but what can you expect given the circumstances? I got to do another Title Fight interview this past December, and it turned out WAY better. I’ll share that here eventually.

– DJY, February 2015

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After building up a solid underground reputation, Title Fight are ready to break through to the other side with their long-awaited debut album, Shed. Combining a sense of melodic pop-punk and ruthless hardcore, Shed is the kind of album that will last in your mind far longer than its half-hour playing time. Australian Hysteria caught up with Jamie Rhoden from the band to discuss the new album, a change in recording style and their inaugural visit to the country.

AUSTRALIAN HYSTERIA: Hey Jamie, how’s your year been so far?

The year has been really good! Although we haven’t done much with it so far. We finished recording in December of last year and were pretty much home until now. We did a short tour of Canada with Comeback Kid and maybe two other shows besides that. Our record came out at the beginning of the month, and people are excited about it! We go on tour in two days.

It’s understandable that people are excited. That’s a pretty long time to be sitting on the record! Was than an executive decision – “the man” making you wait that long?

[Laughs] No, we kinda chose that time ourselves. We were trying to push for it to come out earlier, around March, because they said that the record will take two months to get from the final production stages into the pressing and all that other stuff that I don’t understand. Then everything took so long, with the mastering and the artwork and taking forever to get into contact with people, so it got pushed back a little bit. We weren’t mad at anyone – I mean, it would have been cool, but it’s really good timing for us. I think it’s worked out for the best.

Fair enough. You must be excited now that it’s finally out there, though?
Yeah, it’s definitely a big weight off our shoulders. We’ve been anticipating this for a long time – it’s our first full-length and our first release with SideOne [Dummy Records]. It’s a really big thing for us, and we had a lot of pressure. People were always going to say whatever about this – “they signed to SideOne? They sound like this now! They suck!” All that usual crap you hear whenever a band does something. So far, though, people have been really supportive. I’ve got no complaints at all!

What was the recording process for Shed like? Was it all that different to when you guys have recorded previously?
A huge difference. The other two or three times that we’ve been in the studio, it was literally somebody’s basement that we turned into a studio. We were there for three days, and finished all the songs in the studio. We were unprepared and rushed – we wanted to get everything out as soon as we could. With this one, we spent basically a year writing the album itself, and then when we went into the studio, we did two weeks of twelve-hour days. It was our first time in a real studio with a producer. All these things were really new to us, but we tried our best to make the most of them. Even though two weeks is a really long time, a lot of people who go into these big studios will be using them for months at a time. They have a day for a drum part, a day for a vocal take. We got everything done at once. It was a long time for us, but there was still a lot for us to pack in. I think, for our first time in a situation like that, we were as prepared as we could have been.

With that said, being in the studio for such an extended period of time, was there ever an underlying fear that perhaps you might be overthinking the process?

Sometimes. I think in the writing of the album, that’s especially what happened. We were afraid that we were going to write a song and we’d get reactions like “that songs sounds exactly the same as this one,” or that “that song sounds nothing like this one.” Just this fear that we would write something that wasn’t “us.” We kind of got to the overthinking point when we were really focusing on the writing, where that fear would keep creeping into the songs. “I don’t want it to sound like this,” or “I don’t want it to sound too much like that,” or whatever. We had to sit down and say to ourselves: “Why do we care?” Why do we care what it is, as long as we’re happy with it? Let’s just do our own thing – and that’s just what we ended up doing.

A debut album is always seen as a pretty big landmark for a band – was it important to make a strong first impression?
Yeah, we had that idea when we were going into record it – we wanted to make a statement, I guess you could say. I think it’s a great example of who we are as people and as songwriters and as a band at this point in time. We really wrote songs that we needed to write.

What songs from Shed would you show to someone in order to best represent what the album is about?

There’s a couple of songs that come to mind. There’s a song that we wrote called “Society,” and the entire idea behind the song is that we’re the kind of band that writes these short, fast, aggressive songs. Why can’t we write a short, slow, angry, aggressive song? We drew influence from bands that we all love but perhaps doesn’t come out that much in our music. I think it’s a cool song that kind of sticks out in its own way, and I don’t know how people are going to react to it. I’m really excited about showing it to people.

You must be looking forward to playing these songs live?
Oh, yeah. The last time we recorded was in December of 2008. We’ve been playing pretty much the same songs since then. Don’t get me wrong, those are great songs. At the same time, though, when you do the same thing at every single show, it gets fairly boring and redundant. We’re just excited to play anything new at all. But the fact is we really like the songs that we wrote, and we’re really excited to play them.

Tell us about the tour you’re about to start – we’ve heard it’s pretty massive!
Yeah, we’re doing a full U.S. tour, and it’s with Touché Amoré, The Menzingers and our friends in Dead End Path. It’s a tour that we wanted to be big, but we also wanted it to be on our terms. We wanted to be touring with bands that we like, that are diverse and that we can have a good time with. It’s gonna be cool – it’s our first-ever proper headlining tour in the States! We’ve toured a lot in the past year, but we’ve never had something big like this before.

Sounds exciting. And then you’re bringing Touché to Australia with you for the first time!
Yeah! I don’t know if we’re bringing someone else out or not – we’re working on it, but we don’t have any more info yet. But we’re coming in September! It’s our first time crossing the equator, and it’s gonna be really cool. We love going to places that are extremely foreign to us, and it’s definitely gonna be a crazy experience. Especially with Touché! We can’t wait.

INTERVIEW: The Wonder Years (USA), April 2011

I’ve been a huge Wonder Years fan for years and years and years now. Genre regardless, I see them as one of the realest bands one could hope to encounter in the current musical climate. There’s no bullshit here, no genre politics, just a group that want to be the best band that they can be in their own way. I’ve interviewed Dan Campbell, their lead singer, twice now. Despite being a fan, I felt slightly unprepared for both; and, in turn, they’re not features that I think are my best. Dan does give me some pretty good insight here, though. As I’ve said before, I really start to find my way as an interviewer around 2011. Everything here is purely for archival purposes – and for my own measly entertainment.

– DJY, February 2015

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Last year, The Wonder Years released a remarkable sophomore in The Upsides, subsequently tearing venues across Australia apart with en-masse singalongs and stage-dives aplenty. Having just warmed up crowds for Parkway Drive, we now turn our attention to the band’s brand-new album. Entitled Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, there is no doubt it will keep both old and new fans satisfied with its aggressive streak and endearing choruses. Australian Hysteria got the chance to catch up with the band’s irrepressible lead singer, Dan “Soupy” Campbell, to chat about the album, the shows and that funny-looking bird that’s turning up everywhere…

Australian Hysteria: Hey Soupy, how’s it going?
Dan “Soupy” Campbell: Hey, it’s goin’ good! Got a little bit of a headache, but we’re on tour and we’ve pulled over to do a couple of interviews. We’re in the middle of a seventeen hour drive, so I’d rather be doing this than sitting in the back of the van doing nothing. [Laughs]

Let’s talk about the new record. It’s come out quite quickly – about eighteen months, in fact – since you guys released The Upsides. Was that a conscious decision, to get the material out as soon as possible?
Y’know, it’s not like we were writing along the way and just needed to put out all these songs. It was actually that we had toured non-stop for about a year, and then we said ‘Okay, let’s take two months off and write a record.’ The difference between our first record [2007’s Get Stoked On It!] and The Upsides was a couple of years because we were in school and we weren’t able to take the time that we needed away from that to focus on writing a record. Now that we’re a full-time band and don’t have anything else holding us back, we were able to say when we finished touring and to take that time to write a record. I mean, you can only tour so much before you start boring kids at shows.

How much of this material was written on the road?
I think that there are two songs on the record that had started before we sat down to write the record. Neither of them were finished products, though. They were more like little ideas. So, really, everything on this record was written during that two-month block that we set apart to write the album.

What has the response been like to the new material when you’ve been playing it live?
It’s been great, actually. I’m a music fan, and when I go to a show and I hear a band say “Hey, how about we play a new song?” I just go “Goddammit!” [Laughs] It’s like, I don’t wanna hear a new song. I wanna hear the songs that I know. So, for us, it was like “Let’s not play any of these songs until the kids have heard it.” So we released Local Man Ruins Everything and made sure people had a couple of listens before we started playing it at shows, just so that people could be engaged with it and be a part of the experience. I think a lot of Wonder Years shows are about the group experience. It’s less us performing towards you and more about all of us doing it together – the crowd and the band. For us, it makes more sense to let you in on the song than for us to spring it on you.

Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing – That is an incredible title that you’ve put to this record. Tell us a bit about it.
It’s actually based on the first line of an Allen Ginsberg poem, America. His line goes “America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” So it’s a bit of a re-contextualisation of Ginsberg. The record is, to an effect, rooted in that poem. I feel like it’s consistently in dialogue with America the same way that Ginsberg was in his poetry. It made sense to co-opt that line.

It might seem weird to some long-time fans to see the same band who used to sing about Cap’n Crunch not too long ago write these very heavy melodic punk songs. Was there a notion to make Suburbia… more of an aggressive record?
I’d like to start by saying that while this album was written by the same people that wrote Get Stoked On It!, I don’t feel like it’s the same band. A lot of times in life, you’re a different person as you grow up. Obviously not physiologically, but you know what I’m talking about. I think where we are, in our mental and emotional state right now, it’s completely different from when we wrote Get Stoked On It! I almost consider it a completely different band.

As far as the aggressive edge to the record, I feel that the answer to that is twofold. The first is the production of Steve Evetts. Steve’s goal was to capture the raw live energy from when The Wonder Years play shows and to translate that to record. I think he did an amazing job of it. Secondly, I think it’s a lot about how people perceive it. We’ve had people listen to Local Man Ruins Everything and tell us that it’s so awesome that we’re way more aggressive. We’ve also had people listen to the song and tell us that it’s so awesome that we’re more chilled out. It’s really about what you, as a person, take away from a song.

Geoff Rickley from Thursday wrote this awesome article for Alternative Press where he said that for the several months in-between recording and releasing a record, it is your record. But as soon as the fans have it, it is their record. They’re going to perceive it based on whatever schemata they already have in their brain, they’re going to receive it differently. So, you might think it’s more aggressive, and someone else might think it’s more chilled out – and, in some respects, I agree with both. The goal was to do all of that. We wanted to make a record that was louder and quieter; faster and slower; harder and softer than anything we’ve ever done. Why just stretch in one way? Why not prove to people that we can do all of this and still be a pop-punk band?

He’s on the front of The Upsides reissue, he’s on the cover of Suburbia…, he looks like he’s the seventh member of the band in the new press shots. Who is this bird, and what can you tell us about him?
He’s a pigeon. We’ve named him Hank. He’s a bit of everything. I would describe Hank as a physical manifestation of The Wonder Years. I know that’s a bit of a mouthful, but what I mean by that is a pigeon that, as an animal, lives exclusively where it is not wanted. It’s a tough life, but the pigeon doesn’t give a fuck. I think, for a long time, this band was a band that couldn’t get noticed by anyone in the music industry. A lot of times, that would indicate that it’s time to pack it up and move on to another project, onto a new part of life. The thing about The Wonder Years – and the thing about this current pop-punk movement in general – is that we all said “Fuck that! Fuck you if you don’t want to be on board. We’re going to do this ourselves.” While the pigeon doesn’t have the consciousness to say something that, I feel that’s more or less how the pigeon would respond.

That’s very true about the pop-punk movement. We had some great pop-punk tours in Australia last year – you guys, Fireworks and Valencia, to name a few. Even though not all the shows sold out, all the reports would talk about just how passionate the fans were, and how big the energy was in the shows. How important has The Wonder Years’ live show become?
I think our live show is everything. I think that our live shows show the passion that we have for this music that can’t be shown in our records. You have to be there, you have to watch our faces. You have to see what we do. You have to be a part of it. The great thing about The Wonder Years is that it’s a shared experience. I remember the first show we played in Australia was a sold-out, 300-capacity room. That’s amazing for us. It doesn’t always have to be 3000 people there for it to be a unique experience.

A lot of the time, the greatest shows I’ve ever seen have been in basements or houses or legion halls. It doesn’t have to be a huge sound system with a fucking laser system and a fog machine. Sometimes, your favourite show is watching your favourite singer throw himself off a speaker stack into a crowd. That’s what a lot of pop-punk does right now. As a scene, we kind of banded together and said that we don’t need the rest of the world. If you want to be a part of it, you’re welcome. But if you don’t want to be a part of it, it’s not going to stop us. That’s the same way with Man Overboard, Transit, Fireworks, Such Gold, Title Fight…we’ve come together and we’ve said that we’ll be here, whether you like it or not.

Anything else is contrived and derivative. If you’re spending all of your time as a band trying to get signed to a major label, then you’re not doing it right. There are bands out there that can make entire careers out for themselves without any use of a label, especially now with the advent of the internet. I mean, look at Odd Future [Wolf Gang Kill Them All] right now – they’re killing it. They did it by themselves. If you want it bad enough, you can get it.

 

Top 50 Albums of 2014, Part Two: 40 – 31

He’s at it again! Part one is here ICYMI.

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40. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

There’s an endless stream of great lyrics that flow through Modern Baseball’s second album, but perhaps its most telling moments come through its asides, its mumbles and awkward fumbles. “Yeah… about that…” comes with awkward pauses on ‘Fine, Great,’ while the line “I could not muster the courage to say a single word” practically falls over itself in ‘Apartment.’ It’s an awkward and uncomfortable record, but in a way it has to be in order to convey the dissatisfaction and blank, distant gazes that come with such sighing honesty among its smart pop-punk and understated alt-rock. Whatever forever.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Two Good Things, Notes, Your Graduation.

LISTEN:

39. DZ Deathrays – Black Rat
Spotify || Rdio

With the wizardry of Gerling alum Burke Reid guiding them, Brisbane’s finest party-starters maintained the rage on their all-important second album. It’s worth pointing out that there was far more to the album than what was presented on surface value: While DZ kicked their boots into several slices of snarling garage rock, they also found themselves slowing to a crawl and exploring the possibilities of more than one guitar – let’s try a half-dozen. Why not? Black Rat is the sound of a band expanding their empire, refusing to be either restricted or defined by what’s previously been laid out.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Northern Lights, Reflective Skull, Gina Works at Hearts.

WATCH:

38. Jane Tyrrell – Echoes in the Aviary
Spotify || Rdio

A supporting player that has had people begging for a lead, Jane Tyrrell is regarded as one of the finest vocalists to emerge out of Australia’s hip-hop community. Here, she takes those lessons learned and breathes fresh life into them. Assisted by a stellar team of producers and multi-instrumentalists, Tyrrell revels in deep, dark secrets; conveyed with the kind of sorrow that can only come from raw-nerve connections to every last lyric. At once breathily intimate and unreachably distant, Echoes is the sound of an artist taking flight for the very first – and certainly not the last – time.

THREE TOP TRACKS: The Rush, Echoes in the Aviary, Raven.

LISTEN:

37. Mere Women – Your Town
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

The bloodline of Mere Women runs through DIY punk, indie rock, basement electronica and warehouse post-punk. It fits in everywhere and nowhere at the exact same time; such is the nature of its genre traversing and integral versatility. Truth be told, there’s very few bands that quite match what it is that Mere Women do, and that’s never been more the case than on Your Town. Each note feels cacophonous, cold to the touch and bristling with anxiety and defeat. It all falls into place, painstakingly detailing what happens when things between people disintegrate into nothing at all. Truly jawdropping.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Our Street, Golden, Home.

LISTEN:

36. Outright – Avalanche
Bandcamp

There is no band in Australian hardcore right now more important than Outright. There is no band in Australian hardcore right now that will sit you down, shut you up and give you the severe reality check that you need the way Outright will. No album in Australian music this year was able to encapsulate such fury and such authoritative defiance like Avalanche did – and in such a short amount of time. How much more evidence do you need in order to see Avalanche as a milestone for its scene and its genre? Do we have everybody’s attention now?

THREE TOP TRACKS: A City Silent, Troubled, With Your Blessing.

LISTEN:

35. Megan Washington – There There
Spotify || Rdio

What kind of year has it been for Megan Washington? It’s all out in the open now. Everything. She’s publicly confessed to having a stutter, told all about a failed relationship that even had a wedding on the cards… hell, she’s even performing under her full name now. The details are not spared on There There, and its seemingly-cathartic release benefits both her and those that have always perceived her to be an excellent and important songwriter. This is Washington’s single best collection of songs, and those that investigate its innermost secrets are the ones that will be rewarded greatest.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Limitless, Marry Me, My Heart is a Wheel.

WATCH:

34. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Spotify || Rdio

It doesn’t matter if it happened when she dropped her debut, when she teamed with David Byrne or even when she stole the show during SNL: You’ve fallen in love with Annie Clark. As St. Vincent, she has been responsible for some of the most arresting, envelope-pushing art-rock this side of the century. Not only was this reaffirmed on her self-titled LP, it showcased some of the finest examples of it. Whether she’s shredding with the flair of an 80s metal star or tiptoeing around delicate arrangements with the grace of a ballerina, the love affair remains in full swing.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Digital Witness, Bring Me Your Loves, Birth in Reverse.

WATCH:

33. Tiny Ruins – Brightly Painted One
Spotify || Rdio

Hollie Fullbrook may be a particularly quiet artist, but there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about her that will stun you into silence. She’ll be recalling a specifically-detailed story from her childhood at one point, falling helplessly in love with a nearby worker at another. What ties it all together is both Fullbrook’s knack for stunning melodies and impeccable, tidy arrangements incorporating warm horns, pinches of strings and her exceptional rhythm section. Brightly Painted One deserves to be seen, heard and known.

THREE TOP TRACKS: She’ll Be Coming ‘Round, Me in the Museum, You in the Wintergardens, Ballad of the Hanging Parcel.

LISTEN:

32. Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter
Spotify || Rdio || YouTube

It was always going to be driving a hard bargain in order to make people care about Slipknot again. Six years have passed since their previous record, a tragic loss almost ended the band entirely and perhaps their best-known player exited the fold permanently. It’s either on account of this or in reaction to it, but The Gray Chapter is an album that overcomes every obstacle. It’s an album that makes the impossible possible, pounding its fists through the coffin and rising up to complete unfinished business. It’s the sound of a band who won’t go down without a fight.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Custer, Sarcastrophe, The Devil in I.

WATCH:

31. J Mascis – Tied to a Star
Spotify || Rdio || YouTube

On paper, an acoustically-oriented record from one of the most prominent, inventive electric guitarists of the past 30 years would appear to be fruitless, confusing and counter-productive. One pities the fool, of course, who would ever think to doubt or question the motives of one Joseph Donald Mascis, Jr. Whatever style of music he lends his formidable songwriting abilities to, the Dinosaur Jr. mainstay is sure to make it a worthwhile endeavour. Star marks his strongest solo album, delving into Nick Drake-esque introspect and sweetly-soft falsetto. It betrays what you know him best for, making it all the more fascinating.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Every Morning, Me Again, Wide Awake.

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Top 50 Albums of 2014, Part One: 50 – 41

It’s the most magical time of year — list season! A couple of days ago, I kicked into my top 100 songs of the year, which you can catch up on over here. Over the next month, I’ll be sharing that as well as my top 50 albums of the year. While there was a lot of controversy over the fact that no album went platinum this year, I feel it’s more a sign of the times than an indication of the quality of the music released in 2014. Across the 300-plus albums I experienced throughout the year, I completely ran the entire spectrum; from the uplifting and inspiring to the menacing and terrifying and back again. Let’s take a look now at the records that defined the year for me and see what you think. Love them? Hate them? Haven’t heard them? Let me know!

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HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Hilltop Hoods, Lanie Lane, Indian, Colossvs, Panopticon, Fishing, Swans, Xerxes, Sturgill Simpson, Collarbones, Mary Lambert, Cynic, OFF!, Shellac, Mastodon, The Roots, Woods of Desolation, The Magic Numbers, Spoon and Pharrell Williams…

50. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
Spotify || Rdio

Did you honestly ever expect to see or hear from Elly Jackson again? After her universe of hype imploded in her early twenties, she’s made sure that if La Roux was to ever return, it was going to be precisely calculated and on her own terms. The hooks are just as sharp, the production just as crystallised and pristine – but it’s delivered with a smarter and more restrained look at broken hearts and ambiguous relationships. Think of Trouble in Paradise as less of a sequel to the project’s exceptional 2009 debut and more of a reboot of the franchise.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Silent Partner, Kiss and Not Tell, Tropical Chancer.

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49. IDYLLS – Prayer for Terrene
Bandcamp

From the depths of Brisbane, a firebrand of heavy Australian music re-emerged with a new lineup and a new approach to their tactical, cacophonous grindcore. The introduction of squealing, churning saxophone mixed in a touch of the avant-garde, while the album’s longer songs allowed the band to explore their own musical surroundings with arresting, impressive results. Prayer for Terrene was more than just some sort of post-apocalyptic soundtrack – it was the sound of a band realising its full potential and making the most out of it. An essential step forward from a band leading the pack in their field.

THREE TOP TRACKS: PCP Crazy, Crashing Boar, Lied To.

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48. Behemoth – The Satanist
Spotify || Rdio

Everything about The Satanist is defiant. A band venturing into its tenth album should have none of the vitality and maintained-rage that is omnipotent and omnipresent within the tracklisting here. Furthermore, The Satanist is defiant in respects to to Behemoth itself still being here – frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski was struggling with leukaemia for a couple of years, a devastating blow in any context. Perhaps it’s this that has given the band the rush of adrenalin it needs – a scream to the heavens, a clear and open statement of unfinished business. The devil rides on.

THREE TOP TRACKS: The Satanist, O Father O Satan O Sun!, Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.

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47. Loudon Wainwright III – Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet)
Spotify || Rdio

At 68 years young, the senior Wainwright has a lot of grief with you people. His dog’s misbehaving, there’s nowhere to get a beer, the news is always awful and – to top it all off – he might have depression. Maybe. If he doesn’t, he will soon. At least, so we think. It doesn’t matter what subject he tackles – it’s always given a unique spin and approached with Wainwright’s distinct kind of wry, often black, humour. With The Blues, the Third remains one of the more underrated songwriters around. He just hasn’t had his respect paid – yet.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Harlan County, Harmless, Man & Dog.

WATCH:

46. Chumped – Teenage Retirement
Spotify || Rdio || Bandcamp

The cover art of Teenage Retirement is a photo of a dude on his lonesome, chilling out in his pool and watching the world go by. It’s reflective of perhaps the best way to enjoy the debut album from this exceptional Brookyln outfit who, in a way, are picking up where albums like the Speedy Ortiz and Waxahatchee records from 2013 left off. It all ties into forward-thinking alternative rock with an all-important and oft-ignored central female voice – and as far as that realm was concerned, few dominated with such aplomb the way Chumped did. We’ll all float on.

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THREE TOP TRACKS: Hot 97 Summer Jam, Old and Tired, December is the Longest Month.

45. Miranda Lambert – Platinum
Spotify || Rdio || YouTube

Country’s crazy ex-girlfriend next door doesn’t do things by thirds. Her albums are always packed to the brim, with an A-team of producers, co-writers and instrumentalists filling each song. It’s this that has allowed her to rise to the top of the food-chain on her own terms – while her bro-down peers want any random girl up in their truck, she’s telling the same dudes that they “can’t ride in her little red wagon.” She may as well be saying that they couldn’t lace up her boots – and she has the songs to back it up. Giddy up.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Priscilla, Platinum, Old Shit.

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44. Vales – Wilt & Rise
Bandcamp

Sometimes, what you need is a record of furious, unforgiving post-hardcore. Not that fringe-flicking shit with the superfluous keyboardist and the neck tatts – we’re talking about the purest definition of the term, insofar as that it’s a progression from the standards and moulds set. Wilt & Rise goes beyond your average tough-guy shit and is completely devastating on its own terms, delivered with pure conviction and a seething, unshakable rage. The band are not only the most important new voice being heard above the drone in their native UK, they’re threatening to do the same on a global scale.

THREE TOP TRACKS: White Horse, Dead Wood, Wildfire.

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43. Copeland – Ixora
Spotify || Rdio

Immediately, there was a sense that Aaron Marsh and co. were headed far beyond any cash-in reunion territory when they announced their reformation – there was a new album on the way, six years removed from their finest hour, You Are My Sunshine. If Ixora did anything as an album, it validated their return to the fold. Copeland remains Aaron Marsh’s most important vehicle, with each new song delivering on stirring indie rock and heartstring-plucked balladry that stand up with any of their prior works. Ixora blossoms and blooms, reminding listeners to never take bands such as these for granted.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Ordinary, Erase, I Can Make You Feel Young Again.

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42. Neil Cicierega – Mouth Silence
Soundcloud

User:neilcic has been responsible for more internet sensations than you’d ever begin to think. Put it this way: If the phrase “Snape, Snape, Severus Snape” means anything to you, then there’s plenty more where that came from. Here, Cicierega delivers a sequel to his Smash Mouth-obssessed debut, and no-one is safe. He continues to terrorise the world of pop culture and 90s nostalgia with some truly nightmarish pairings – Soundgarden and The Carpenters, System of a Down and Elton John, Oasis and Oasis. It’s jarring, it’s bizarre and it’s hypnotising in its brilliance. Keep the internet weird, son. BEST!

THREE TOP TRACKS: What Is It, Wndrwll, Crocodile Chop.

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41. Mariachi El Bronx – Mariachi El Bronx
Spotify || Rdio

Barely a year after yet another exceptional record from The Bronx, their alter-egos have emerged in a fanfare of trumpets, percussion and enough sing-alongs to last until The Bronx V. Despite an all-too-simple game plan and a very specific stylistic palette to draw from, MEB have substantially matured their sound across three albums; adding in a much-needed personal touch to the traditional folk music. There’s a lot of introspection going on in regards to the album’s lyricism, which serves as a beautiful contrast to the outward and extroverted music. Their greatest achievement yet – it’s high-time you joined the procession.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Everything Twice, Sticks and Stones, Right Between the Eyes.

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