Mantra-like, hypnotic, fluid and rolling. That’s the first impression of Mt. Mountain‘s new track ‘Aplomb‘. It sits in the psych rock camp but it possesses a looseness that’s a defining factor in what makes the song so great. Propelled by some fine bass playing and guitar that is equally important as a rhythmic tool, singer Stephen Bailey intones lyrics over the Krautrock moodiness and warm cymbal splashes below.
The song is the first single from the Perth band’s forthcoming new album Centre (Feb 26th, 2021). The band have shared stages with notable down-under comrades like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and ORB, as well as a long list of international heavy-hitters including Sleep, MONO, Thee Oh Sees, Acid Mothers Temple and Moon Duo.
Despite the weirdness and social and political fracturing of 2020, there were still plenty of great albums that saw the light of day – and that light was a salvation for many. You can check out our Post To Wire (alt-country, cosmic Americana & dark folk) Favourite Albums of 2020HERE and Favourite AU & NZ Albums of 2020HERE.
Here are our 40 favourite albums of the year, ranging from alt-country to electronic, ambient to indie rock, post-punk to soul.
* Full disclosure – I worked on the publicity campaigns for the Golden Fang and Buddy Glass albums
On our favourite AU/NZ album of 2020, Thomson delivers his most accomplished work to date… ‘Sunday Girl’ is the closest Thomson’s got to a pop song, ‘Roll Away The Stone’ is smoky, winding blues, while ‘See The Wheels’ could roll on forever with its effortless groove. ‘Fatal Ribbon Highway’ is a dreamy slow dance, cosmic, heavy-lidded and sparkling and just one example of the diversification Thomson has brought to his impressive songwriting on Golden Exile.
9 Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern
A new name for us and what a way to announce your arrival. Restrained songwriting with some exceptional lyrical content, Die Midwestern is built on poetry of the finest quality, delivered in a wonderful roughed-up country voice.
8. Moodymann – Taken Away
We couldn’t stop listening to this when it came out. Like a mix of D’Angelo circa Black Messiah, soul-jazz and futuristic electronic space funk. It was all in the rhythms, the breaks and the soul of it all. Deep hypnosis par excellence.
7. SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is)
An album (and its follow-up UNTITLED (Rise)) completely of it’s time politically and socially, yet timeless in its blend of soul, funk, r&b, trip hop and more.
For us, Isbell was off his game on his last album The Nashville Sound but here he’s fully resumed his mantle of one of the finest songwriters of his generation. Lyrically and melodically there are gems galore right across Reunions. It was one of those albums that constantly inspired repeat listens throughout 2020.
4. Coriky – Coriky
Coriky are half of Fugazi (Ian Mackaye & Joe Lally) with Amy Farina (The Evens) and it’s the iconic DC band that they swerve closest to in the stop/start, quiet/loud dynamics and lyrical repetition, though it’s a less caustic, more intimate and organic vibe overall. Great drum sound on this damn catchy and gently visceral record.
3. Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death
The Irish quartet sought to find different angles to approach their second album after the success and touring of Dogrel. They were hugely successful too. Widening their palette, going for denser guitar textures and rhythms that dug deeper and with more insistency. The vocals were just as earnest if more detached, observational and aloof. The key success to the album was that they showed they weren’t one trick ponies and look to be in it for the creative long haul.
2. Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways
Once again Bob brought the element of surprise with this immense piece of work. Bold, literary, graceful, funny and highly moving. We thought his muse may have taken an early retirement with the endless touring and American songbook albums taking up his creative real estate. But no, Bob was back, hunched over his typewriter, casting an eye over the last century of pop and political culture, weaving in heartache and devotion. Nobody can bring together universality and the minutiae quite like the master.
1. Young Jesus – Welcome To Conceptual Beach
An intoxicating blend of post-rock and indie rock that in my mind ranged threw up comparisons to Talk Talk, Lift To Experience, Talking Heads, Wild Beasts and Radiohead. This was an album that created a sonic world to escape to, with heady and evocative ideals and some incredible dynamics in the arrangements.
Cable Ties’ debut album introduced a band built on fiery punk passion and melodic post-punk intensity. Now, three years later, they taken that template and made the loud parts louder, the hooks catchier and pushed their visceral and primitive 70s rock shapes more to the fore.
Sonically, the band’s sound still recalls the stinging guitar leads and interesting song shapes of Sleater-Kinney and the brittle energy of Bikini Kill, but things are most interesting when they counter the short sharp bursts of punk energy with deep digs into repetition and heavy riffing. Krautrock insistency combined with the distorted wash of guitars on the seven minute Lani and the pummelling, deconstructed noise aspects of the equally long Anger’s Not Enough make for hypnotic listening.
Jenny McKechnie’s howls of critique and dissent still ring loud and clear, blending with the personal when she sings lines such as “My uncle Pete, he’s complaining ‘bout the Greenies, he says they’ve gone too far and I say Pete, they don’t go far enough.” She’s been writing political songs since she was singing folk songs in her bedroom but now she has the perfect vehicle for them. Far Enough is the sound of a band locked in total unison, taking chances and playing with righteous clarity. Anger is indeed an energy.
‘Manifesto’ is the second Sprints track we’ve posted in the last few months and much like ‘Drones’, this one hits in all the right places. Wild guitar noise, mantra-like vocals and a rhythm section that knows its Krautrock and post-punk – taut and unrelenting, funky and tough. This is the title-track from the Dublin quartet’s new EP coming in 2021.
Of the song, singer and songwriter Karla Chubb says:
“Manifesto is all about control, and the seeming lack of it we have sometimes – control over our own lives, our own bodies, our own societies. Written during the time of the Repeal the 8th referendum in Ireland, it’s a call for equality.
Life can feel like it’s unravelling around you. We see our countries fall in and out of economic crisis, we see the homeless crisis worsen by the day, we see the rapid rise of addiction and drug problems, and nothing is being done about, yet when it comes to telling women what they can do with their own bodies, that’s when people (the bigots) step in and show up? It baffled me.
Manifesto is about turning your cheek to the critics and bigots and those who judge and doubt, to try shake the shackles of everyday existence and mundanity and go carve your own path. “
This new track from Brighton UK-based Public Body jerks and twists, shudders and pivots in all the right places. Conjuring up a fractured collection of frantic post-punk rhythms that somehow all come together in a head-nodding, nerve twitching song that digs in deep, both sonically and in its subject matter – capitalism and government hierarchy.
‘Table Manners’ is the fifth in a run of singles the band has released in 2019/2020. Last week the band announced they’ve recorded a new EP which is great news after such a strong bunch of tunes so far.
There hasn’t been a lot of heavy music this year that has moved us and it was a refreshing surprise when we came across this track from instrumental Irish group A Burial At Sea. It’s post rock at the metallic end of the spectrum where changes happen in an instant amid the guitar crunch and clever drumming.
What makes these guys standout from many other exponents of the same kind of thing is that they have a two-piece horn section. When they enter for a defining mid-song interlude, the pummelling metropolitan chug is replaced with desert vistas under wide open skies, like Calexico jamming with Isis. It all collides in the final third where the sound billows and blossoms in an eruptive, cascading coterie of guitar notes.
The track comes from A Burial At Sea’s sea-titled album that came out last month. Check it out on Bandcamp.
The first thing that struck me about Danish band Leizure is how much they remind me of some Australian bands, in particular the much-missed The Scare as well as Melbourne group Witch Hats who have been pretty quiet for a few years now. Given the sound and influences those bands no doubt share, a line can be drawn through Iceage, Ought, Viagra Boys, Birthday Party, Gun Club and other gloriously nihilistic-sounding acts.
In all of these bands there’s the howl and intellectual angst of slashing guitars and primal vocals over post-punk rhythm sections and Leizure do it damn well. ‘Nightmare‘, complete with it’s skronkin’ horns, comes from the band’s excellent new album Primal Hymns which came out at the end of October on Five Foot One Records. It looks to be their debut LP after an EP and a string of singles and it stands tall as a gripping, sonically hedonistic and wild swinging post-punk/art rock record.
The EP, featuring covers of iconic songs by Wire, XTC, The Comsat Angels, The Korgis and The Passions is out now via Basketcase Records/Redeye Worldwide
Australia’s favourite jangly guitar/paisley popsters Ups and Downs return with this five track EP of covers of much-loved new wave and post punk tunes from the ’80s!
They say the past is ‘another country’, and it is well worth revisiting as Ups and Downs lovingly reclaim alternative classics by XTC, Wire, The Passions and The Comsat Angels.
One of the EP highlights is the band’s gorgeous take on The Korgis hit ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ (written by James Warren). They perfectly capture the swoon and melancholic sway of the song, treating it with a gentle strum and shimmer. The icing on the cake comes in the form of legendary Australian-expat Rick Springfield who contributes a beautiful and yearning psychedelic guitar solo that adds a classic Beatles-esque feel to the recording.
Elsewhere the group convey the melodic rush of Wire’s infectious classic ‘Outdoor Miner’ with spirited headiness, they make XTC’s ‘Are You Receiving Me’ one of their own, find a tough-edged drive to The Comsat Angels’ ‘Independence Day’ and apply a darker and warmer moodiness to The Passions’ ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’, with sublime results.
The EP cover artwork has a fascinating back-story, as Darren Atkinson explains, “The girls on the cover were fans of Ups and Downs back in the late ‘80s and used to follow us around to gigs and send us presents. On one occasion they sent us a package that had photos of them dressed up as us, taking the piss out of various official promo shots,” he laughs.
(1) Are You Receiving Me – (XTC, 1978) “XTC have influenced all of us over the years. Are You Receiving Me is a classic exploration of isolation and breakdown in communication. We kind of slowed it down and twisted it around a bit.” – Alex
(2) Independence Day – (The Comsat Angels, 1983) “It’s one of those touchstone songs that helped the band define its sound in the early days. It’s been part of our repertoire since just about day one. Its dark and angular nature continues to cast its shadow over what we do.” – John
(3) Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime – (The Korgis, 1980) “It’s a beautifully sad song that continues to haunt me to this day. We’ve even iced the cake by getting a bona fide rock star, Rick Springfield, to play lead guitar on it. Rumour has it that Ups and Downs are Rick’s second favourite band after The Church and I’m OK with that.” – Greg
(4) I’m In Love With A German Film Star – (The Passions, 1981) “We were early Passions fans and used to play this song live regularly in the 80s. We even used a photo of their album cover in our psychedelic live slide show. It’s a song that still moves me nearly 40 years after first hearing it.“- Peter
(5) Outdoor Miner – (Wire, 1978) “We started playing Outdoor Miner live in the late ’80s. I have no idea what the lyrics are about, yet the song is almost heartbreakingly melancholic. Wire have always been able to find beauty among the noise and chaos.” – Darren