2020 has been trash. It’s been a dumpster fire. It has been so bad for literally every single one of us that, somehow, the past six months have lasted for twenty five years.
We’ve seen the country’s worst bushfires, we’ve seen – and are still seeing – a global pandemic that has effectively shut down our regular way of life and, somehow in the midst of that pandemic, we’ve seen a powerful and overdue social uprising.
2020 has been draining, but at least the music has been great. While the music industry itself has been suffering beyond compare with the complete halting of touring thus leaving countless people unemployed, music itself has been thriving. Isolation has left artists more time to stew in their creativity, and the results help add a glistening diamond in the rough that has been the past six months.
We’ve had absolutely stellar albums from overseas stars like Fiona Apple, Perfume Genius, Lady Gaga, HAIM and Bob Dylan to name a few. We’ve also seen artists achieve superstar status like Rina Sawayama, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, Bad Bunny and more.
But, more than ever, Australian music is absolutely flourishing. We’re being exposed to a more diverse music scene, with more diverse storytelling, than ever before. Here are just 20 of the best tracks this country has produced this year thus far.
Alice Skye – Grand Ideas
‘Grand Ideas’ marks Alice Skye’s second release on Briggs’ record label Bad Apples Music, and she is two for two. It’s understated and reserved, but her voice glistens as she gives praise to her imagination for helping her escape even the darkest of places. With Jen Cloher on production duties, ‘Grand Ideas’ is a reminder to us all to visit the living room inside of our heads.
Becca Hatch – 2560
She’s barely an adult, but Becca Hatch’s songwriting shows depth, humility and self-awareness far beyond her years. Hatch is always one to keep her Samoan and First Nations heritage weaved in her craft, and ‘2560’ is an ode to her home of Campbelltown. Written with the same sort of freedom that gave Lorde her ticket to global superstardom, ‘2560’ is one of the year’s best R&B songs, full stop. Her voice delicately waltz between richness and weightlessness, as she firmly takes the driver’s seat to take you through her love letter to the Western Sydney suburb.
Cry Club – Obvious
Cry Club are very quickly making a name for themselves with their brash brand of indie-pop, and ‘Obvious’ is the third part of their impressive hat trick, set by ‘Robert Smith’ and ‘DFTM’. ‘Obvious’ is a deeply infectious reminder to just let go for a couple minutes, because everyone’s going through the same shit.
DMA’S – The Glow
The evolution of the sound of DMA’S has been subtle and gradual since their 2014 debut, but their forthcoming album THE GLOW is shaping up to be a real peak of their career. While every track we’ve heard from it so far has been stellar, the title track feels like a real bridging moment between where they’ve been and where they’ve headed.
E^ST – Maybe It’s Me
Mel Bester has an effortless knack for giving lyrics that are deadpan yet drowned in colour, remaining entirely relatable the whole way through. In the lead up to her debut album I’m Doing It, E^ST has given us banger after banger, but there’s magic laced within the self-deprecation of ‘Maybe It’s Me’ that’s as hopeful as it is heartbreaking.
Flume – The Difference (feat. Toro y moi)
How we didn’t see the stars aligning to show us that Flume would give us a drum and bass track is beyond comprehension, but here it is. And it’s great.
G Flip – Hyperfine
‘Hyperfine’ has lived many lives. G Flip first premiered it on tour in 2019, then she played it as her original song on Triple J’s ‘Like A Version’ earlier this year. That means that, when it finally received an official release, fans across the country were already well-versed with it. Yet and still, it sounds better with every listen.
Gordi – Sandwiches
Gordi is fast proving herself to be one of the country’s greatest songwriters, and her latest album Unready is all the proof you need. The album is stacked with emotional integrity and honesty that feels unreachable within ourselves, but it’s the heartbreaking lead single ‘Sandwiches’ that leaves you breathless. The way her voice whirls around you as she suffers under the weight of the absence of a lost one leaves you winded, gasping for air. It’s the sort of sombre gut punch that’s hard to achieve, and Gordi pulls it off without a flaw.
Jack Colwell – A Spell (feat. Sarah Blasko)
Jack Colwell and Sarah Blasko as a duo are a force. With unshakable voices and keen eyes for theatrical and orchestral production, they leave you no choice but to stop what you’re doing listen. Colwell’s voice is commanding yet subdued, gripping you by the heart until the fade out. His entire debut album, SWANDREAM, tells stories of travesty and the quest to find yourself in a world that once would have criminalised his existence, but it’s ‘A Spell’ that feels the most cathartic. It beams and explodes with emotion, as Colwell and Blasko unleash all they have to over a quiet and scarce melody.
Kee’ahn – Better Things
Gugu Yalanji, Jirrbal, Zenadth Kes artist Kee’ahn’s debut single ‘Better Things’ isn’t the loudest or most boisterous of entries into the game, but it’s one that everyone will remember. With a voice like silk that melts over a smokey rich melody, it’s a shame that ‘Better Things’ can’t receive the live treatment it deserves right now. This is, if nothing else, therapy via song – for both Kee’ahn and anyone who hears it. It’s a song that warms you from the inside and courses through every vain, stretching to every limb.
KYVA – Dollar Sign
Capitalism is a tough thing to grasp and a tougher thing to challenge – it’s all most of us have known. It can be hard for anyone to accept their tricky relationship with greed and money, and KYVA attempts to make that acceptance with ‘Dollar Sign’. It’s 3am, red wine R&B at its finest with KYVA’s voice reaching bass-heavy lows and neck-tingling highs in just a few breaths.
Miiesha – Twisting Words
There’s nothing more to say about Miiesha and the lead single of her collection of songs Nyaaringu that hasn’t already been said, but we’ll say it anyway – this is the type of song that makes an artist a legend.
Ninajirachi – Alight
‘Alight’ is easily one of the best pop AND one of the best electronic songs the country has delivered this year. With fluttering vocals akin to Mallrat and the thumping production akin to Flume, Ninajirachi has managed to carve a lane that’s all her own. Her recent EP Blumiere is a smorgasbord of different sounds, and ‘Alight’ is easily the most reserved, but it’s the one where her craft and her vulnerability shine the brightest.
Northeast Party House – Shelf Life
Northeast Party House have bounced from sound to sound over the past eight years in an attempt to find their fitting. By name and by nature, the Melbourne band are partiers, but it wasn’t until the release of their third album Shelf Life that they took the mechanical bull by the horns and they’re showing no signs of falling off. The album’s title track is a strobe-lit rave-ready anthem with slurred chants and abrupt whistles that’ll keep you going even when you feel like your knees are going to give in from under you.
ONEFOUR – Say It Again (feat. A$AP Ferg)
No hip-hop act in this country’s history has had a rise to stardom as fast, as explosive and as scandalous as Western Sydney’s ONEFOUR, but they keep laying out receipts on the table. Their collaboration with A$AP Ferg is rambunctious and its forceful, merging the worlds of drill, trap and greater hip-hop into one mosh-ready warning – it pays to listen up.
RedHook – Dead Walk
RedHook are proving themselves to be masters as conceptual songwriting, finding effective yet innovative metaphors to tell their stories through. With ‘Dead Walk’, RedHook go full horror movie as lead vocalist Emmy Mack laments on secrets coming back to haunt her. It’s a brazen, head-jerking, exhilarating heavy affair, but the adrenaline whirling through you will have you coming back for more.
Tame Impala – Lost In Yesterday
In direct contract to RedHook’s warning of the past becoming the present once again, Tame Impala’s ‘Lost In Yesterday’ – a standout from Kevin Parker’s time-themed album The Slow Rush – is an effort to bury the past for good. That, of course, is futile – which Parker learns throughout The Slow Rush – but ‘Lost In Yesterday’ is an amalgamation of everything that made Tame Impala one of the country’s biggest musical exports. It’s simple, it’s bombastic and it has a pristine layer of pop gently cloaking it.
Tia Gostelow – Psycho
‘Psycho’ is, above all else, Tia Gostelow realising her worth. An absolute anthem for those that have been played, lied to or gaslit, Gostelow’s story of succumbing to what other people tell her about herself is one that’s all too painful and all too real.
Tkay Maidza – Shook
It’s mindblowing to think we’ve known Tkay Maidza for seven years now, considering her career has reached so many different sonic points that only a true veteran might achieve. But that’s Maidza’s appeal – she never does the same thing twice, and she’s always unpredictable. ‘Shook’ was yet another sharp left turn for her, delivering a festival ready quaker that shows off her ability to ride a beat better than anything else she’s put out so far. Every bar is dipped in fire as she sounds like she’s having more fun than ever and, as a result, we are too.
Ziggy Ramo – April 25th
Just listen. And then listen again. And then again. This track is going to be, if it isn’t already, an important moment in 2020.