The 30 best albums to come out of Melbourne in 2020, part one
18.12.2020

The 30 best albums to come out of Melbourne in 2020, part one

Blake Scott (image by Mia Mala McDonald) and Sweet Whirl (image by Annie Llewellyn)
Words by Tom Parker

We spotlight the first 15 albums of the two-part feature, ranked in no particular order.

Well that’s a wrap – 2020 is finished, finito, done, dun, gone, seeya, bye, catchya, fuck off… Where am I going with this?

We’re all relieved to say goodbye to the worst year of our lives, and while the grief of 2020 is behind us, there have been many musical nuggets that have helped pull us through.

If it wasn’t for the below albums, I’m not sure we would’ve coped, and so it’s to these artists that we all, Melburnian or not, give our utmost gratitude.

Thanks for getting me through 111 days of lockdown; thanks for getting me through my puzzles, my breadmaking, my board games, my emotional chats, my times peering out the window, my times lying on the bed looking at my ceiling, my bored times and my frivolous times.

From the danceable electronica of Andras’ Joyful to the gritty garage of Vintage Crop’s Serve to Serve Again, the bubbly instrumentals of Mouche’s Live From The Bubble and the hip hop beats of Silentjay’s Summer Drive Fonky Ride, there’s been a soundtrack for every occasion.

So without further ado, here’s the best albums to come of Melbourne in 2020, part one.

Pop Filter – Donkey Gully Road

Just released, Pop Filter’s Donkey Gully Road is one of the best jangle-pop releases of the year and stands as the perfect soundtrack for your backyard daydreams. The record reveals five bandmembers working in complete unity, punching out gentle folk songs one after the next. From record highlight ‘Waiting To Be Now’, to ‘In A Dream’ – a song that yearns for the road – and wonky closer ‘Fitzmaurice Kincaid’, Donkey Gully Road is sparse and explorative.

Vintage Crop – Serve to Serve Again

Vintage Crop produce music that’s angry and opiniated. It’s vehement and barefaced but that doesn’t take away from the band’s addictive melodicism. Circling around lead vocalist’s Jack Cherry’s clear and clean dictation come jumpy angular guitars and driving basslines. Serve to Serve Again is Vintage Crop’s pre-eminent release and I just can’t wait for what’s to come.

Eggy – Bravo!

Listen to Eggy’s surrealist pop and feel the cosmic shivers that are akin to a Cate Le Bon record, or the bizarre Le Bon/Tim Presley collaborative project DRINKS. Their music is weird but there lies its charm. Melding post-punk, garage rock and power pop, Eggy’s debut album Bravo! is certainly one of the most intriguing listens of the year.

The Green Child – Shimmering Basset

The Green Child is the cosmic pop fusion of Mikey Young and Raven Mahon. The former is the legendary Melbourne artist and music engineer of both a solo project and Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Ooga Boogas; the latter is a furniture maker and the former member of Grass Widow. Their 2020 album Shimmering Basset is not quite as tantalising as their 2018 self-titled debut, but it’s still a ride.

Blake Scott – Niscitam

Blake Scott’s debut solo album is the most fascinating and intrepid rock album to come out of Melbourne in 2020. As The Peep Tempel dissolved, Scott stepped away, started a family and slowly reconceptualised his music. What resulted was Niscitam – a record that beams of Peep Tempel sensibilities but is idiosyncratically Blake. Remarkable music.

Mouche – Live From The Bubble

You might be familiar with Tim Karmouche via the fantastic Melbourne guitar-pop band Crepes or through The Murlocs, for which he is the keyboardist. Mouche collects the dreamy pop fragments from Crepes and delivers them unadulterated, and on Live From The Bubble, listeners are encouraged to chill out and enjoy a jazzy odyssey through the outer realms of space.

Sweet Whirl – How Much Works

Sweet Whirl’s How Much Works is one of the year’s most underappreciated releases. It’s bold, brave and feels supremely finished. The album has its singular moments – through memorable tracks ‘Patterns of Nature’, ‘Sweetness’ and ‘Tail Light’ – but has been pieced together with the whole ten-track jaunt in mind.

Thibault – Or Not Thibault

I must admit, Thibault’s Or Not Thibault took me a few listens to get into. A self-confessed Stereolab fanatic, I’m not sure why I didn’t warm to it off the bat. Maybe it’s the supremely high bar that Laetitia Sadier and her band have set for other astronauts to follow, or maybe it’s just one of those albums that takes a while. Needless to say, this album came on in spades.

Traffik Island – Sweat Kollecta’s Peanut Butter Traffik Jam

My music critique is underpinned by a penchant for the bold and bizarre. You’ll find a lot of albums on this list either clamber for minimalism or they’ve tried to be different, without being heedless. Traffik Island, the project of Zak Olsen (Orb, The Frowning Clouds), must have experienced some sort of personal reawakening over the journey because the difference between his first and second albums is considerable. But I love it and Sweat Kollecta’s Peanut Butter Traffik Jam is a trip in all the best ways.

Simona Castricum – Panic/Desire

Simona Castricum’s 2020 album, Panic/Desire, explores synth pop, darkwave and queer electronic disco, as well as more abstract, dreamy soundscaping. Her best album to date, the record features the standout track, ‘Supertouch’ – a track characterised by a pulsating minimalist beat that sets the tempo for m8riarchy’s tale of a transcendent influence – a ‘supertouch’.

RVG – Feral

RVG’s new album, Feral, has earned accolades across Australia for its continuation of Romy Vager’s magnetic storytelling. Prior to Feral, you could have argued that RVG were still a burgeoning name on the Australian music circuit but this album has solidified their repute.

Andras – Joyful

Electronic music isn’t ordinarily fitted to the album format – the track-by-track structure confuses the genre’s intrinsic flow – nevertheless on Joyful, Andras has delivered something to behold. From the pulsing ‘Honeybird’ to minimalist heater ‘Live Forever’ and the delicacy that is ‘River Red’, this record comes at you from all angles.

Mildlife – Automatic

On 2020’s Automatic, Mildlife took the explorations from their debut album, Phase, and decorated them with even more weirdity and intrepid adventure. With album two, it’s no fluke, and Automatic epitomises that and then some – the six-track release sees Mildlife create their own nu-jazz galaxy, where martians wander and aliens explore.

Silentjay – Summer Drive Fonky Ride

If you look up the word ‘underrated’ in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Silentjay, the Melbourne beatsmith known for his work with the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Sampa The Great and Jace XL. On his 2020 beat tape Summer Drive Fonky Drive the producer takes us back in time, melding hip hop, R&B, soul and house beats as if we’re at a ’90s block party.

Primo! – Sogni

This all-girl post-punk outfit are one of the hardest-working outfits in Melbourne and their April album, Sogni, delivered them widespread recognition from home and afar. There’s many stellar cuts from the LP, but ‘Perfect Paper’ is a minimal garage dream that bears some weird instrumental tidbits the likes of Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall would be proud of.

Stay tuned for part two of the Top 30 set to be released early next week.

Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.