The bizarre year that was 2020 ending up being such an epic year for music releases, we’ve asked New Music Columnist Zac Fahey to give us his Top 20 releases for the entire year. Here they are, in no particular order (full Spotify playlist here):
Paper Round – ‘Rabbit Hole’
Paper Round were marked as ones to watch after the release of their effortlessly cool single ‘Rabbit Hole’ back in May. Led by a beautiful sounding organ, the track slowly builds in intensity, finishing off with a fabulous crescendo of guitars and vocal harmonies. Offering a healthy mix between Britpop and modern psychedelica the band created a sound that was unlike any other at the time. Likely due to the pandemic ‘Rabbit Hole’ was all we heard from Paper Round this year, fingers crossed for new material in 2021.
Jade Jupiter ‘HEART-BREAK’
The bar was set extremely high with the very first track I reviewed for 2020. ‘HEART-BREAK’ from 21-year-old Gold Coast singer/songwriter Jade Jupiter is an absolute stunner. Opening with a beautiful piano part, the track slowly progresses with the introduction of layered vocals, synth sounds and some very tactful production techniques. An endearing track that only got better with time.
Eliza And The Delusionals – ‘Swimming Pool’
Eliza And The Delusionals had big plans for 2020; releasing ’Swimming Pool’ at the beginning of the year alongside the announcement of a 28 date US tour. Unfortunately the tour was cut short due to COVID, just before the band were set to showcase at the biggest music conference on the planet – SXSW. However, an unfortunate situation does not take away from the brilliance of this track. ‘Swimming Pool’ sees the band present a rich body of sound led by soaring guitars and timeless vocal melodies to create a nostalgic familiarity that will have you dreaming of days past.
Michael McCartney – ‘Too Long’
‘Too Long’ was the entry statement for Michael McCartney’s ambitious 12 month release plan which has now seen him release 12 tracks over three EPs. With rock at its core, ‘Too Long’ borrows pop sensibilities from Harry Styles while carrying the swagger of Mark Ronson. Featuring an all-star cast of collaborators, McCartney worked with fellow Gold Coaster’s Ian Peres and producer Mitch Finglas to create this well-crafted vintage pop stunner.
Peach Fur – ‘Funkn Oath’
Peach Fur’s five track sonic journey of an EP ‘Awake’ is intriguing from start to finish, taking unexpected stylistic turns, plying with unconventional time signatures while leaving space for extended instrumental parts. The band did an excellent job of defining their own style with this release by keeping their sounds generally clean rather than fuzzed out and rough around the edges like psych rock contemporaries King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard. ‘Funkn Oath’ is the highlight track but the EP is best consumed as a whole.
Love Level – ‘Bad Buy’
Laying dormant for almost 12 months the track was given a new life after being resurrected and reworked by their good friend Callum MacDonald from fellow Gold Coast band Daste. ’Bad Bye’ kicks off with one of the catchiest hooks of the year and never really lets up, resulting in an absolute earworm that will be buzzing around in your head all day.
Ladia – ‘Happy For You’
After blowing us away with her 2019 single ‘Leave Me Stranded’, Ladia exceeded expectations with her first release of the year for 2020 ‘Happy For You’. Simplistic, squeaky-clean production sits behind Ladia’s soulful vocals, delivered with the kind of relaxed intimate confidence of Billie Eilish. With its interesting pitch shifting call response parts the chorus takes the song to the next level resulting in an overall pop package that comfortably sits on the same level as any high rotation radio hit we heard this year.
Lily Papas – ‘Jackson’
After coming onto the scene in a big way with her successful debut 2019 ‘Wild’, we predicted that Gold Coast vet nurse by day could be our next Amy Shark coming into 2020. With COVID stalling release plans, Papas held off like most other artists but eventually gave us what we expected with her alluring single ‘Jackson’. More of a low key number ‘Jackson’ showcases Papas’ depth as a musician while still managing to find that pop edge reminiscent of Lana Del Ray. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Lily Papas is destined for great things, definitely one to watch.
Beckah Amani – ‘Standards’
Written during the height of the recent Black Lives Matter movement ‘Standards’ is a beautifully composed blend of folk/RnB that offers a firsthand reflection on Beckah Amani’s experience with white privilege and the weight of bearing black skin. Amani’s impressive vocal range is pushed to the limit conveying the intense emotion that the songs message portrays. This track is everything that music should be and will leave you completely floored.
Veople – ‘Maverick’
With everything set to 11, Veople rightfully describe the ‘Maverick’ as their boldest, loudest and most intense statement to date. Led by a man-possessed on the drums the fully instrumental ‘Maverick’ powers forward with the help of wild synths and some impressive electric guitar parts. Skip your morning coffee and take a hit of Veople’s ‘Maverick’ to get you pumped for the day instead.
Lastlings – ‘Take My Hand’
Lastlings ‘Take My Hand’ was the first release on the duo’s new label Liberation Records and helped skyrocket the band even further onto popularity through 2020. Written about two people unprepared to let go the track is emotive electronic pop at it’s finest and has stood tall as one of the strongest releases to come out of the Gold Coast all year.
Tully John & Liza-Jane – ‘Airport Lights’
Based around a driving acoustic guitar pattern, ‘Airport Lights’ is complemented by sparse piano and delicate strings sections. Stunning contrasting male/female vocal performances express the beautiful story of a long-distance relationship between the two members. Expression of authentic passion and love for one another brings the listener into their world, creating a truly mesmerising experience.
Tomorrows Forecast – ‘ur baby’
Drawing influences from early San Cisco, Tomorrows Forecast put their own spin on the tried and tested indie-pop formula with their jangly guitar driven single ‘ur baby’. The defining charm of the track lies in its simplicity and the carefree nature of the call/response vocal parts. Bursting with joy ‘ur baby’ still leaves a smile on my face every time I hit play.
Saint Lane – ‘Hickeys’
With a simplistic beat over a chilled reggae guitar loop, Saint Lane’s catchy melodies and carefree vocal style prove that sometimes less is more. ‘Hickeys’ marked a departure from Lane’s standard rap swagger, showcasing a vulnerability and depth that earned him national recognition this year.
Bianca Power – ‘I Need You’
Building from sparse percussion and electric guitar into a haunting jazz-influenced band track, ‘I Need You’ is a slow burner gelled together beautifully by Bianca’s sensational vocals. Said to be written about fresh high school freedom the track displays the musical maturity of a seasoned artist with vocal depth and control to match. Listen with headphones to grasp the true intimate delicacy of this beautiful piece of music.
Family Jordan – ‘Big Grass’
This track is exciting for many reasons; not only is it an excellent single that will get your toes a-tappin’ but was also the first signing from brand new Gold Coast label ‘Holiday Maker Records’. ‘Big Grass’ is timeless folk at its finest, complete with violin accompaniment and train chugging percussion. The commanding baritone vocal of singer Jordan Rochefort is delivered with a rough Australian twang that gives the track an irresistible charm.
Karl S. Williams – ‘Hungry’
One of Gold Coast’s most loved musicians Karl S. Williams released his sophomore album ‘Lifeblood’ on 2 February. Seven years in the making, the 11 tracks did not disappoint, bringing his signature heartfelt blues together with a notable progression towards a heavier, more fully-fledged band sound. All killer, no filler from start to finish, ‘Lifeblood’ is an absolute winner but it’s the heartfelt epic ‘Hungry’ that stands slightly above the rest. Goosebumps every time.
Chutney – ‘Genie’s Lamp’
The first offering from Chutney’s EP ‘Genie’s Lamp’ was a five minute epic that solidified these pioneers of condiment rock as one of the Gold Coast’s most exciting new bands. Recorded locally at Lovestreet Studios the track tips its hat to classic indie rock by channelling the punchy guitars of The Strokes while keeping things modern with the vocal delivery and song structure reminiscent of Catfish & The Bottlemen.
Daste – ‘About Us’
Understated yet deeply intricate, Daste’s ‘About Us’ sees the band tactfully blend live and electronic elements together with catchy vocal melodies to produce a sound reminiscent of early Chet Faker. Lyrically the track hit the mark during COVID, empathising with those who battle with uncertainty in times of change.
JVMIE – ‘You Don’t Even Know That I’m Alive’
Written in hotel quarantine ‘You Don’t Even Know That I’m Alive’ is one piece of a fantastic body of work JVMIE has released as a reaction to uprooting her life in the USA and relocating to the Gold Coast. Stripping things right back, JVMIE produced a spacious, slow burning electronic track that will have you relaxed and floating after the first 10 seconds. Think Massive Attacks ‘Teardrop’ meets Dido’s ‘White Flag’ and you’ll end up somewhere close to this atmospheric gem.
BONUS: EDITOR’S PICKS
“I love love LOVE this list of Zac’s. But there were a few tracks that crossed my desk throughout the year that I would have included on my own Top 20 list, so I’ve exercised some editorial muscle to include some of my additional personal faves below!” – Natalie O’Driscoll, Blank’s Managing Editor.
The Blackwater Fever – ‘My Weakness’
These guys have a dark, moody rock vibe that suits my inner disenfranchised 90’s Gen X teenager perfectly. Makes me want to break out the old goth gear. I can definitely see why they’re so popular.
TYDE – ‘Skin on Skin’
Ella Belfanti is just so talented. I love her vocals (hello, Florence!) and her unique percussive style of guitar playing. I remember this song was a nice surprise – one that made me stop working and really listen. A quality debut by this trio.
Brett Hammond – Turn n Runaway
Brett’s entire first solo EP ‘Streets Talk’ is bloody impressive, no less because he played all the instruments and did all the vocals. But as a big fan of Karnivool, The Butterfly Effect and Tool I couldn’t go past this particular single which channels all three of those bands. This is such a car banger for me, my five-year-old already knows all the words.
JVMIE – ‘In The Deep End’
The only artist with two mentions here, JVMIE’s ‘In The Deep End’ won out over Zac’s choice for me, mainly because of its trancey, plonking bells, soaring pre-chorus and fabulous video. The ultimate Sunday arvo chill track.
Casey Barnes – ‘We’re Good Together’
Gold Coast Music Awards Artist of the Year for 2020 Casey Barnes has had more than one chart-topping release this year (and well deserved, too), but if I had to choose one fave, then it would have to be February’s ‘We’re Good Together’, not only for its bangin’, solid country rock chorus and fabulous vid but also because it brought the sexy in a serious way!
Hussy Hicks – ‘Gather Up The People’
With so little time to listen to all the music that comes across my desk, something needs to grab me right away, which ‘Gather Up The People’ – title track of Hussie’s latest album – definitely did, with its sultry guitar riff and super sharp production. The strongest release to date from these crazy talented babes, IMO.
Alisha Todd – ‘If You Wanna’
Not my normal style of music, but I recognise talent when I see (and hear!) it, and when I first heard this track I realised that Alisha Todd has talent in spades. Plus she’s just so goddamned adorable, and the clip for ‘If You Wanna’ is joyous perfection. I dare you not to smile when you watch it.
Want to listen to everything on the list in one go? Check out our Top 20 for 2020 playlist below: