It’s been an unforgettable year, and whilst things have been up in the air the positives that came from 2020 was of course music. Singing at home, singing in the car, our favourite musicians kept the happiness flowing. So naturally in what’s been quite a year for us too, our origins year, we’ve put together a list of our top 20 favourite albums of the year. Be sure to take a gander through our website and see how many artists released new music via our interviews, news and reviews. Naturally we can’t wait for 2021 as the tunes continue! Without further adieu here are the top 20 of 2020…
20. PAID SALVATION - A. SWAYZE & THE GHOSTS
Tasmanian band, A. Swayze & The Ghosts have brought back classic 70’s rock on their debut record, Paid Salvation. Fronted by Andrew Swayze, the band bring brashy sing along melodies, energetic riffing guitars and pounding rhythms to the collection of songs. Whilst the raucous record incites carefree, energetic feelings, the album navigates serious subject matter lyrically. Commenting on the control of social media, ecocide, tall poppy syndrome, religion and more, the record stands out against other emerging Australian artists experimenting with the same sonic sounds. The well-pieced record feels like a live gig. It perfectly encompasses the energetic and fast paced nature of a rock’n’roll set with tightly wound production that provides the perfect soundscape for Swayze to unleash his inner most thoughts, setting serious subject matter to a fun palette of sounds.
19. PUNISHER - PHOEBE BRIDGERS
Punisher is the second studio album from Phoebe Bridgers showcasing the artists’ sharpened and studied songwriting. Written and recorded between the summer of 2018 and the autumn of 2019, Punisher showcases the musicians irresistibly clever and tenderly prolific lyricism that is candid, conversational and multi-dimensional.
18. RTJ4 - RUN THE JEWELS
Run The Jewels made their return with their fourth release, RTJ4. With record comments on real-world politics, significantly mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement. Serving as a tribute to the foundations of hip-hop, the record verges on a revolution, calling for change within the current global climate, speaking to the roller coaster year that has been 2020.
17. CHROMATICA - LADY GAGA
Lady Gaga returned to the brazen electro-pop realm that catapulted Gaga to superstardom on Chromatica. Utilising disco synth pop, lush strings and sharp and erratic beats, the record is a personal exploration of the woman behind the pop star: her struggles with fame, addiction, her longing to be loved, to be free and to heal. Split into three parts, Chromatica draws back on 90’s retro influences, taking its listeners back to the world of voguing. The record is a well rounded examination of Gaga’s psyche and an album about love and acceptance. It calls back to earlier moments in the musicians career but also shows the growth the popstar has undertaken, lyrically, musically and personally. It plays with modern sounds and experimentation. It is the singers most personal and straightforward record to date. Gaga is still taking risks but also knows what works for her.
16. SET MY HEART ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY - PERFUME GENIUS
Describing the record as an album about connection to Apple Music, Mark Hadreas’s fifth LP under his alter-ego Perfume Genius. Set My Heart On Fire Immediately continues the musicians musical collaboration with producer Blake Mills on the cinematic record that offers intimate moments of introspection. Moving between genres and musical styles throughout its duration, the record bases itself around Americana pop and post rock’n’roll sounds. With his mesmerising vocals taking centre stage along with his striking lyricism. Complete with gorgeous melodies and captivating arrangements, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is a powerful and focused body of work.
15. 14 STEPS TO A BETTER YOU - LIME CORDIALE
Lime Cordiale’s sophomore record navigates and comments on everyday life situations. Dealing and commenting on love and friendships, referencing the camaraderie of friendships and the intimacy of companionship. With the title parodying self-help books, the tracks offer lessons to their listeners. The record promotes kindness and helping not only the people around you, but the world itself. 14 Steps To A Better You has a nostalgic feel to it, yet still feels current and relevant. It is a body of work that shows not only the sonic development of the band throughout their career but also the growth they have undertaken within their personal lives.
14. AFTER HOURS - THE WEEKND
Once again, The Weeknd has delivered a damn good body of work. The sleek After Hours is the musician at his best. Featuring the mega hit Blinding Lights, the record covers a variety of themes, from love in its many facets to violence, loneliness, fear and so much more. Bringing in retro R&B and pop sounds threaded throughout the release, the musician returned to the earlier atmospheric soundscapes and piercing falsetto that rose him to acclaim. Full of glitz, glamour and self-indulgence, The Weeknd continues to propel to new heights.
13. FUTURE NOSTALGIA - DUA LIPA
British musician Dua Lipa cemented herself as one of the most formidable forces in pop music with her sophomore record, Future Nostalgia. Infusing 80's disco inspired within a contemporary soundscape, Lipa transports listeners back in time through a bevy of hit tracks that empower. In a year when it was impossible to take to the dance floor, Lipa inadvertently created the soundtrack of a home disco party. Turning out hit after hit, Future Nostalgia was complimented by the release of a remix album, Club Future Nostalgia and a stellar livestream by the singer herself which featured appearances from Elton John, Kylie Minogue and Miley Cyrus.
12. ALL OUR FRIENDS - STUMPS
After gracing 2020 with one of the best single releases of the year, Sydney trio STUMPS have delivered on their debut album All Our Friends. Tackling themes of love, toxic masculinity, having a damn good time and mental health. The record showcases the bands effortless movement between genres and sounds, creating a listening experience that is truly unique, yet feels like you’ve listened to the record everyday for a year. Each song explores different avenues of themes that play into mental health, creating an open and inviting place that allows for contemplation and conversation. Infusing references of 70’s and 80’s and the alternative rock of the late 90s and early 00s, the record is full of indie-rock melodies and riffs with a particular focus on their unique approach to disco, taking a more contemplative approach, working together perfectly. Fishers deep lyricism and baritone vocals perfectly contrast against the nostalgic dance soundscapes presented throughout the release, with each song meticulously crafted to evoke emotions within the listener.
11. THE GLOW - DMA’S
THE GLOW is arguably the bands best release to date. Each track feels fresher than the last with the trios songwriting and musicianship skills having elevated to a whole other level. The album encapsulates their manic live shows and is a further exploration of the bands signature style, without feeling overdone. The conceptual theme that is threaded throughout the record is change and adapting to it. Not only lyrically, but sonically. The record does a great job at combining guitars and percussive instruments with synthesised sounds and digital electro-pop beats, something that could prove disastrous when not perfectly balanced. Yet, DMA’S have perfected their craft and produced a record of timeless tracks, yet again proving why they are one of Australia’s greatest bands. THE GLOW was recorded at the historic Westlake Recording Studios in Hollywood and mixed by multi-Grammy Award winning producer Stuart Price, famously known for working with The Killers, New Order and Madonna to name a few.
10. CALM - 5 SECONDS OF SUMMER
On CALM, Aussie band 5 Seconds of Summer continue to showcase the growth of their musicianship and the direction of their sonic sound. Continuing their particular brand of alt-pop they began exploring on Youngblood, Calm is the most experimental body of work from the four-piece. Each track is uniquely crafted to hold its own whilst also immersing itself within the record as a whole. Seemingly split into two sides, the first half of the record is brashy and traditionally structured songs. Around Wildflower, we shift into more fluid instrumentals whilst offering more vulnerable lyricism and vocal performances from frontman Luke Hemmings. Whilst CALM is a collection of stellar songs from the band, the records standout moments find their place within Not In The Same Way and Lover Of Mine.
9. NOTES ON A CONDITIONAL FORM - THE 1975
Any fan of The 1975 knows to expect the unexpected. Throughout their career, the band have crossed genres and musical styles, exploring themes of political unrest, drug use, the internet, love, sex, life and more. Their long awaited fourth record, Notes on a Conditional Form, (the bookend to their Music for Cars era) is no exception. Sitting at 81 minutes long, the album crosses genres and musical styles ranging from punk to electronic to orchestral. However, dance and pop music is the most evident musical thread throughout the record. While 81 minutes may seem long for an album, the listening experience feels more curated. Sharp turns and songs that juxtapose each other sonically. Spoken word, autotune, orchestral interludes and punk vocals. It’s an album to be taken in. Sitting in your room listening, dancing around your house listening to Matty Healy navigate the complexities of his own mind. Musically and sonically, the record has no boundaries with glitchy electronic sounds, garage rock guitars, indie pop, reggae-pop, melancholic ballads and alt-rock set to a ride of emotions, self-reflections and powerful messages on the current state of the world. Notes on a Conditional Form is their most ambitious release to date, and that ambition paid off to produce a beautifully curated album.
8. DISCO - KYLIE MINOGUE
Australia’s Pop Queen hung up her country boots and reclaimed her pop throne on her fifteenth studio album, Disco. On the record, Minogue delivers one of her most curated and direct body of works, synthesising everything we love about the nostalgic sounds of the 80’s, where disco music ran wild. With each era of music, Kylie reinvents herself, conquering whatever she puts her mind to. This new era of music is no different. You can’t help but be filled with joy when listening to Disco. Minogue has crafted a perfect listening experience, imbedding feelings of nostalgia within each track. The modern interpretation of disco is sincere and fun, it is authentic. There’s no bells and whistles and cheap tricks, just a deep understanding of an era that changed and shaped the music industry as we know it today. The warm glow of Disco centres around Kylie’s phenomenal vocal performance, sounding as strong and defiant as she is sweet and noble. The body of work has come together to create a memorable listening experience, with each track having its own place and never feeling underwhelming. Each song serves a purpose for the overall narrative of Disco, working in unison to create one of Minogue’s best albums to date.
7. ORCA - GUS DAPPERTON
On his sophomore record, Orca, Gus Dapperton leaves behind themes of heartbreak, instead navigating pain and suffering, and the path to healing and redemption. His experiences whilst on the road formed the conceptual basis and exploration on Orca, navigating feelings of depression, being trapped and unconditional love woven into an outstanding alternative soundscape. Whilst the record is thematically less universally relatable to wider audiences, the musicians knack for storytelling and evocative lyrics provide a vulnerable space where listeners can tap into each track and find a piece to grasp. Orca is an ambitious body of work which expertly highlights Dapperton’s skill as a vocalist and songwriter. Euphoric and introspective, Dapperton produced the album himself, bringing on Spike Stent on mixing duties. Sitting at 10 songs, there is a comforting feeling to the poignant record, yet also exhilarating. His signature growling vocals and effortless, yet meticulously crafted production shine from start to finish. More self-reflective than his previous releases, Dapperton has created one of the years most exhilarating and vulnerable releases.
6. PETALS FOR ARMOUR - HAYLEY WILLIAMS
Hayley Williams releasing a solo album is not a phrase the Paramore front woman ever thought would be uttered. Yet here we are, three years since Paramore released their latest album, with her debut solo record, Petals for Armour. Petals for Armour is an album that Williams herself has said explores sounds that wouldn’t necessarily fit the rock band she has spent the majority of her life in. The record is spilt into three parts, with the first two having been released throughout early 2020. Each part has its own sound and deals with different themes within the records overall thread of navigating ones inner emotions. From the albums darkest moment, the opener Simmer, Williams takes us on a journey of self reflection and growth from a dark place to a softer, lighter one, evident in closing track Crystal Clear. There’s funk, blues, 80’s synth pop and so much more on this versatile record. When listened to sequentially, Petals for Armour is a feast for your earbuds. There is a sense of intimacy, almost as if the listener is having a conversation with Williams. Petals for Armour may not be as loud as a Paramore album, but it is a beautifully poignant record that navigates ones own emotions. Williams has created a timeless body of work in her own right.
5. TENDERNESS - LOLAWOLF
Made up of actress and singer Zoë Kravitz and drummer and producer Jimmy Giannopoulos, electropop duo LOLAWOLF quietly made their return earlier this year with their second studio album, Tenderness. The record is an evolution from the duos debut, with a more stripped back approach to production making it feel more considered than their debut. There are still experimental tracks and bold electro pop beats, but the vulnerability of Kravtiz’s vocals and lyrics paired with Giannopoulos’ production creating a whole new atmosphere, whilst still maintaining the wild and erratic sounds the duo have delivered over the years. Tenderness expertly showcases Kravtiz’s versatility as a vocalist, producing emotion stirring effortless vocals but also moments of gutsy rapping. She doesn’t need to belt out high notes to get her point across. It’s hard not to groove along to the record and it is equally as hard not to feel vulnerable when listening. Tenderness is the duos best release to date, a surprise release that is hopefully an indication of the future of the group. Kravitz and Giannopoulos have created a timeless record.
4. MANIC - HALSEY
With each record, Halsey pushes the boundaries and refuses to be constrained by genre. On her third studio record Manic, the musician moved away from the R&B exploration of hopeless fountain kingdom whilst also abandoning her traditional format of a concept record. Instead, the singer takes listeners on an emotional rollercoaster that examines her psyche and pours out her heart and soul for dissection. The poetic lyricism of the record conceptually navigates love, heartbreak, personal growth and mental health. It is a document of her transition from a teenager into adulthood, addressing repressed feelings and emotions that still play out within her life as a twenty five year old. Set out as an attempt to capture her manic state of mind, the record shifts from pop, to rock, to country and all spectrums of musical genres.
3. EVERMORE - TAYLOR SWIFT
On her second release of the year, Taylor Swift continued to prove she knows no boundaries. Her foray into the sonics of folk and alternative sounds is soothing and comforting, whilst also distracting you from the realities of the world for sixty one minutes. Complete with vivid lyricism and Swift’s trademark knack for storytelling, the record is more subdued than its predecessor, but just as sharp and innovative. Full of dreamscapes and breathtaking vocal performances from Swift and her collaborators, the record once again brings the magical nature of Swift’s earlier record into a more mature light. This spectrum of emotions and sounds is dark yet beautiful, fearless yet pulled back, perfectly imperfect, subtle and introspective. Swift’s venture further into the woods she explored on folklore proved to be another standout moment in the musicians career.
2. PLASTIC HEARTS - MILEY CYRUS
The musical chameleon that is Miley Cyrus delivered a phenomenal and carefully curated body of work with her seventh studio album, Plastic Hearts. The deeply considered record is a statement from the singer, shaped by the loss of her home in a California wildfire, and her divorce. She brings all the pain, suffering and guilt that shrouded these events to the collection of songs, offering up a vulnerable examination of her own thoughts and emotions. Cyrus doesn’t hold back, she never has. Open and honest, she knows no musical boundary. Cyrus’ influences for the record ranges from Metallica to Britney Spears, showing how the versatile artist isn’t defined by genre. Exploring rock music is not an easy task for someone who was considered a pop-princess during her teenage years, but Cyrus stepped up to the task and delivered one of her best records yet. Seven albums in and Miley has brought a new breath of authenticity to her music. It feels like she was meant to be a rock god, with her gritty and lyrical prowess.
1. FOLKLORE - TAYLOR SWIFT
folklore is a breathtaking album that is full of dreamscapes and ethereal vocal performances from Swift. The album is reminiscent of earlier Swift tracks Innocent and Safe and Sound, even 2017’s New Years Day in its pared back nature. There’s no flashy production, no belting high notes. Instead her vocal performance reaches new depths and tones seldom exhibited on her previous releases. Her most experimental album is built upon raw guitar sounds, cascades of piano and swelling string arrangements. Throughout the album, Swift explores the loss of innocence, something she has been fixated on throughout her career. Swift is presenting her most vulnerable side on a soul searching body of work, that has moments of climax before returning to softer sounds and emotions. This spectrum of emotions and sounds is dark yet beautiful, fearless yet pulled back, perfectly imperfect, subtle and introspective. The records unpolished nature makes it one of Swift’s most intriguing releases to date. It is authentic, real and raw. Each listen leaves the listener more immersed in the magical world Swift has created on folklore.