As this unforgettable year winds down, some of your favourite 2SER music presenters look back on a huge year of releases and pick through their favourites!

ANOTHER ANGLE WITH LYNDON PIKE (Wednesdays 2pm-4pm & repeated Saturdays 1pm-3pm)

Cleo Sol – Rose In The Dark
The voice behind a huge 2020 tune, namely “Wildfires” by SAULT, Cleo Sol and producer Inflo have taken classic 70s soul and 90’s neo-soul into 2020 for a sophisticated and gorgeous album with a distinct UK flavour. Her voice is just outstanding – what I love about her singing is the effortless control and restraint – never falling back on anything cliched or overly clever. At the age of 30, Cleo is making music for a mature audience who recognise all the touchstones within this near perfect collection of songs. Like the SAULT records, Rose In The Dark seems hard to find on vinyl in Australia, perhaps due to 2020 problems. Hopefully they will be able to reach the wider audience they deserve in 2021.

Hachiku – “You’ll Probably Think This Song Is About You”
I listened to a lot of female vocalists throughout 2020. I think the sweeter tones were a welcome relief to the upheavals and endless drudgery of the news cycle that was spewed at us all year. Anika Ostendorf aka Hachiku who was born in Michigan, then grew up in Germany, studied in London, and relocated to Melbourne, has often been branded with the “eccentric” tag, but her songs are much more than that. The nuanced pop of “You’ll Probably Think This Song Is About You” is a fantastic showcase for her unique voice and sense of melody. As good a song as you’ll hear this year – a slow calypso dream with echoes of a past decade undecided. A reedy international accent and the ooo la la’s coupled with the languid reverb island guitars – perfect.

Luke Vibert – Rave Hop
Luke Vibert released not one but four great albums in 2020. Rave Hop does exactly what it says on the tin – a cheeky melee of old school rave and house samples and cut ups set to hip hop beats and lyric grabs. It’s a fun, funky exercise in nostalgia aimed squarely at the early 90s warehouse and underground club goer. Vibert, unlike his Cornwall cohort Aphex Twin, never went down the rabbit hole of experimental excess and he’s perfectly ok with that. How many producers do you know that will sometimes happily recycle vocal samples over albums spanning several decades? It’s for this reason his fans love him – he’s always been about the beats, having weird fun and making you dance and spin.


Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions
I missed out on seeing my family for quite a while since they were all up isolating in the country. The long road trips, driving around the farm in an old paddock basher, missing out on family moments, all stuff that I missed dearly during 2020. This album reminded me of the trips I took and the highways I drive on the way up. There’s a real sense of vulnerability and reflection on this album, despite being a former guitarist for Drive-By Truckers, it’s Jason’s lyrics that hit you right where it hurts. My top pick on this one is “Dreamsicle”.

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Bridgers is back baby with something so wonderful. It’s hard to believe it’s just her second album with her clever lyricism and brilliant indie rock backing, but she’s very quickly becoming one of our favourite artists. Without a doubt, “Chinese Satellite” is my favourite from this one. Combining her brilliant words with an atmospheric, almost artfully soundscaped track, this is one that I still can’t stop spinning.

Caitlin Harnett and the Pony Boys – Late Night Essentials
If you’ve ever met her or seen Caitlin Harnett live, you’ll know that despite her melancholic sound, she is full of life with the best sense of humour. Late Night Essentials is a classic whiskey-drenched alt country rock record with the Pony Boys backing up Caitlin’s honest story telling. “5 am” has become a constant on my playlists this year. If the song enough wasn’t enough to get you into it, you’ve got to hear her tell the story behind it.

CURVED RADIO WITH GAYLE & MR.K (Sundays 10pm-Midnight)

Brigitte Fontaine – Terre Neuve
Brigitte Fontaine is a fabulous outsider who has survived 81 years, and is still rocking it. She is a poet, novelist, actor, playwright, musician, and a living treasure. She has been described as avant garde but has worked with very interesting musicians including Stereolab, Jean-Claude Vannier, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Archie Shepp, Sonic Youth, Areski Belkacem, Gotan Project, and Grace Jones. Brigitte can still keep the world waiting with baited breath for her next album, she never disappoints and still manages to confront, even at 81 years of age.

Olivia Louvel – SculptOr
Olivia Louvel’s SculptOr is an astonishing work of electronica wrapped up in a sophisticated conceptual approach drawn from the creative process, words, and writings of the late English sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Using IRCAM’s AudioSculpt (a graphical sound shaping software), Olivia does indeed ‘sculpt’, shape, and mould her sounds. Like a painter, moving and mixing oil paint around a palette, the attentive listener can feel the size and scale of sounds being formed in the headspace as rich and varied sonic textures are teased out and made manifest as if you were running your hands over the surface of a sound wave. SculptOr is a highly visceral listening experience which continues Olivia’s bold explorations into the plastic possibilities of shaping voice and electronics alongside sound visualisation and live performance. An absolute aural treat on headphones which reveals more nuanced flavours with each listening. Yummy!

Scattered Order – Everything Happened In The Beginning
Legends and drivers of the Australian post-punk and industrial scene, Scattered Order’s Everything Happened In The Beginning marks four decades of fearless innovation in sound-making. First track on the album, “And Then There is Revision”, jumps out the gate with bombast as it tears through a revisionist history of the band’s recorded output name-checked in the lyrics. With that matter so succinctly and cleverly dealt with, the remaining five tracks offer some familiar SO stylings twisted around fresh territories of sound. Exploratory yet grounded, this tension of looking back whilst breaking new ground is at once thrilling and deeply engaging. Closing composition, “National Adjustment Scheme”, offers up nostalgic tones steeped in reverie and romanticism. It’s a startling direction for SO which at first shocks, but only serves to highlight that longevity and innovation are the benchmarks for this outfit. Here’s to the next forty years!


Natalie Slade – Control
Control is the incredible debut album from Sydney based vocalist Natalie Slade. Combining soul, jazz, folk and R&B, Natalie’s timeless vocals dazzle across ten stunning tracks, perfectly complemented by rich, live instrumentation and vibrant production from Haitus Kaiotye’s Simon Mavin. I first met Natalie on the Departure Lounge in 2014, and she’a still is a regular through the Friends As DJs segment.

Mildlife – Automatic
When their debut album Phase was released in 2018 it didn’t so much explode onto the scene as it did ooze. Their mellifluous mix of jazz, krautrock, and demon grooves was the word-of-mouth sensation of that year among open-minded DJs and crate diggers. The centrepiece of Automatic is the title track where the band sound like Kraftwerk and Herbie Hancock on quarantined lockdown in Bob Moog’s Trumansburg workshop. It’s both a departure from, and quintessentially Mildlife. This is music you can dance to rather than ‘dance music’ and it’s all the better for it.

Various Artists (Plug Seven Records) – Seven Wonders
A testament to Wondercore’s relentless support of Australia’s forward-thinking beat makers and neo-soul bands; and to Plug Seven’s commitment to the magic of analogue music, as seen at its Melbourne record store and nearby studio. It’s in this laneway studio filled with recording equipment dating back to the 1940s where the bulk of Seven Wonders was recorded to tape by Plug Seven founder Ari Roze. Recorded largely over two weeks, the majority of the tracks on Seven Wonders were captured in one take, bottling the raw energy and virtuosity of Melbourne’s most accomplished, established and emerging players. There’s an antipodean take on P-Funk from Laneous, characteristically enigmatic vocals from soul singer Allysha Joy and a free-flowing instrumental from Sampa the Great collaborator Dave Rodriguez, aka GODTET. Several tracks include production and background instrumentation from Hiatus Kaiyote’s rhythm section Perrin Moss and Paul Bender.

Parbleu – Danse Cette Zik!
The debut LP from this enigmatic group of musicians is a multicultural fever dream, wherein energised expanses of dynamic disco, futuristic funk, and cinematic jazz fusion are coloured over by warming vibes of Caribbean dub, Latin tropicalia, and sunshine Afrobeat. Evocative instrumentals intertwine with breathtaking vocal performances, which move between sleepy-eyed soul serenades, mystical melodic chants, and expressive diva enchantments while pads swell in support—sometimes sparkling like ocean glass, other times raining down like a Morricone symphony.


Surprise Chef – Daylight Savings
I have no idea what’s in the water in Melbourne but the year saw a succession of truly awesome folk/soul/jazz/groove outings from bands down south. Karate Boogaloo released a killer new album, as did Bananagun (and a number of others), and then there was this superlative offering from Surprise Chef. Listen out for an interview/feature with them on Dirt Music in January.

Emma Donovan & the Putbacks – Crossover
What a voice. What a band. What a combination. Emma Donovan’s previous album was a totally wonderful soul/R&B outing and Crossover continues in that mode – and goes one or two (or three) steps better. ED’s voice is amazing, and in the Melbourne-based Putbacks she has the perfect band. I totally loved everything about this record. Play it loud and feel it in your soul and your dancing feet.

JK Group – The Young Ones
Melbourne again. I’ve always listened to a real lot of jazz but I’ve probably never listened to it as much as I did in 2020. For some reason that I can’t totally explain it seemed the perfect music for the times. Plus I must say that I was working on a new book and like the lack of distraction of voices and lyrics. JK is Josh Kelly, a very fine saxophonist and with his fellow musicians he’s created a record that’s both knowingly aware and respectful of tradition whilst forging a distinctive and contemporary approach.

THE HANDS OF TYME WITH ANDRE (Thursdays 2pm-4pm & repeated Saturdays 8pm-10pm)

Various Artists (Finders Keepers) – Strain, Crack & Break: Music From The Nurse With Wound List
UK “anti-band” Nurse With Wound were lumped with the Industrial tag, but were actually coming from a long tradition of surrealism. The hidden history of their musical inspirations was a printed alphabetical “dedication inventory” on the back of their 1979 debut. That soon became a check list of outsider music that resonated well beyond NWW’s fan base, with many records so obscure that some thought that they were made up. Stranger still was the fact that they were all released in the late ’60s to the mid ’70s, barely five to ten years before this NWW album came out. You can trust Andy Votel’s Finders Keepers Records to be the first label game enough to try to compile this music. The first volume explores some of the French artists on the list and it shows how downright weird music could be in the ‘70s, especially in Europe where prog-rock was more about the avant grade and radical politics than dragons and eight minute bass solos.

THE OUTPOST WITH VINNY RAMONE (Thursdays 12pm-2pm & repeated Sundays 8am-10am)

Suicide Country Hour – Dark Town
All my favourite alt-country bands seem to come out of Queensland these days – Halfway, Suicide Swans, and now Suicide Country Hour. Dark Town is SCH’s 2nd record (but not too many ever heard their self-titled debut from 3 years earlier, which is just as great). Recorded by Dr. Rock and released on the indie Swashbuckling Hobo Records label, Coxy and Simmo write and sing all the songs and the band features guitars, banjo, violin, accordion, piano, bass, and no drums at all (no drummers, no dramas, as the band states). The songs are dark, bitter, and filled with sadness, as the Dark Town title suggests. The best song on the record starts off sounding like a love song, but when you dig in deeper you realise it’s about Siimmo’s dead dog.

Country Westerns – Country Westerns
The self-titled debut record from Nashville, Tennessee 3-piece garage rockers Country Westerns. Singer-songwriter-guitarist Joseph Plunket teamed up with former Silver Jews drummer Brian Kotzur in 2016, with the late great David Berman (Silver Jews, Purple Mountains) being a regular drop-in at rehearsals. In 2019 Sabrina Rush completed the band line up on bass. Encouraged by Berman, Country Westerns went to NYC to record with esteemed producer Matt Sweeney. The end result being one of the dirtiest sounding country-rock records since The Replacements.

Dawn Landes – Row
Dawn Landes has performed and collaborated as a vocalist and instrumentalist with Sufjan Stevens, Hem, Justin Townes Earle, Will Oldham, and Josh Ritter among others and has also released albums as a member of all girl trio The Bandana Splits. Row is Dawn’s sixth full length record and a concept album with 18 songs about the true life journey of adventurist Tori Murden McClure, who’d also grown up in Dawn’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and in 1999 became the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Row features numerous guest vocalists including Will Oldham and Ben Sollee and was seven years in the making as a musical theatre piece that was to be performed as a Broadway style production in 2020, until the pandemic brought it to a halt.


Girls Of The Internet – “I Don’t Want To Lose You”
This group is out of New York. I’ve been a big fan of other material they have produced, but this track especially stands out and has been on solid rotations at home, in the car and at the beach. It has feelings of garage house which I love, and the live dub version is a perfect 6am sunrise melter.

Setwun – “Fade”
The virus had us locked down in our homes and studios, which has resulted in some amazing production efforts during these troubled times. Setwun released a ton of great material this year. Very musical, very much on the soul tip. Check this release out as well the fantastic In Search Of the Butubutu.

Deadbeat & Paul St. Hilaire – Four Quartets Of Love & Modern Lash
This is the second collaborative album by Deadbeat and Paul St. Hilaire (aka Tikiman) and has been on high rotation in my playlists all year so it had to get a mention. I heard it first in Winter when the rippling bass and washy chords reflected the season, both icy crisp and campfire warm. The haunting and memorable vocals from St. Hilaire aren’t easy to forget once you’ve heard them. Fave track: “War Games”.

Hicstep – Escape from Prison Island
When I first played Hicstep on the show, I received lots of positive responses so I haven’t been shy to rinse this EP throughout the year. The record was made by a bunch of talented Melbourne artists, who (relatably) felt the need to flee the shores of a depressingly conservative Australia. They found themselves in the creative epicentre of the world, Berlin, where they wrote and recorded this EP “during a hot Summer in a small apartment in Kreuzberg”. I highly recommend you seek out this delicious slice of Berlin inspired, Australian made music. Fave track: “Breakfast in Kreuzberg”.

India Jordan – For You
I love releases that take you on a journey, and where you can hear the personality of the artist jumping out of the speakers. This is something I’m always looking for when selecting music for our Monday night show, Shadows of Tomorrow. This EP from IndIa Jordan shines like a beacon, and if it were a painting it would be full of bold bright splashes of colour over a steely landscape. Fave track:” Emotional Melodical”.

THE SPACE IN BETWEEN ANDRE (Tuesdays 10pm-Midnight)

Hiroshi Yoshimura – Green
The Space has been loving the numerous Japanese ‘80s ambient reissues of recent times, and June saw the overdue official release of what is almost the sound’s holy grail. This 1986 album from Yoshimura attempts to convey “the comfortable scenery of the natural cycle known as GREEN”, rather the colour itself, and is a great place to start with this sound. Green is a beautiful example of music that was always more about becoming aware of your surroundings than inducing fractals inside your eyelids. Even though his re-discovery may have been started by YouTube algorithms, an officially licensed reissue means you can finally hear his music as the artist intended, and his estate may actually earn something from it.

STATIC WITH BERKO (Thursdays 8pm-10pm & repeated Saturdays 8am-10am)

Thibault – Or Not Thibault
A wide-eyed wonder of space-age pop, genteel baroque rock and motorik psych grooves from a band spearheaded by Nicole Thibault, formerly of 1990s lo-fi charmers Minimum Chips. Finally returning to making music after raising a family, she did so with a sharpened sophistication, and there was a vibrancy and proficiency on songs like “Drama” thanks to a backing band made up of members of Traffik Island, Parsnip and The Ocean Party. It also deals with some more adult-world themes – “Centrelink” paints a touching picture of trying not to cry in the face of welfare struggle, while “Chatty Cathy” examines the unique club of misogynist, negative-connotation female-name putdowns. But by and large it is an album of joy – “Spanakopita” (named after the Greek pastry) was about having the magic of being able to write music again, when you thought it was possibly gone forever (“Something came and made you smile”). A titanic return. Listen to the “Static” interview with Nicole from Thibault here.

Tiña – Positive Mental Health Music
It felt highly appropriate in the turmoil of 2020 to release a record called Positive Mental Health Music, but Tiña’s debut album had a pure and poignant mission. Written by frontman Josh as a cathartic way of working through his own mental breakdown, the single “Golden Rope” demanded in its lyrics “Let’s talk about mental health”. But it was never preachy or po-faced – these were slightly surreal, self-deprecating songs that gave you a lift and a wink at the same time (the soaring chorus of “I Feel Fine” was solely concerned with “Dicks in the sky, vaginas in my mind”). Musically the band traded in slacked-jawed psych-pop and daydreamy soft-rock, all helmed by UK super producer Dan Carey (black midi and Fontaines DC) who himself had a light and playful approach to the tunes. Positively ace. Listen to the “Static” interview with Josh from Tiña here.

Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club
An album and band built on-the-fly from the ground up by teenaged frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant, after its first line-up disintegrated last year in the wake of their debut single and subsequent signing to Heavenly. Syd found refuge and inspiration in the city of Sheffield, teaming up with producer Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys and Amyl & The Sniffers), who himself had spent time in electronic forebears Add N To (X) and Fat Truckers. You could hear the sound of that city in the album, from the deadpan synth-pop of “Tomorrow” that recalled peak Human League to the bile-filled rant against a right-wing TV commentator on “Cook A Coffee” that gave The Fall a run for their money. But it wasn’t just a throwback – there was a forward-thinking rave-punk spirit that meant you’re much more likely to find this band in a sweaty club basement at 4am, rather than any middle-aged men’s clubs anytime soon.
Listen to the “Static” interview with Syd from Working Men’s Club here.


Lisa Caruso – In Feelings
For most artists, the way to a debut record can be a long and convoluted path, with the end result usually representing a period in time that can never be replicated. It also sets a bar for which the artist can step away from, knowing that the initial body of work is something worthy of their time and effort. This can certainly be said for the debut album from Lisa Caruso. In Feelings brings together years of performing, writing and touring in conjunction with personal challenges, self-doubt and sickness.

100 – “Psych”
100 might have only released one song in 2020, but when my favourite track of last year was also by them, one is enough to keep me going till next year. “Psych” starts with the best lyrics you’ll have heard all year and then doesn’t hold back for the following two minutes. Lead singer, Rowen Tucker, barks over a booming bass, pissed off at overly aggro testosterone filled men whilst the drums drive relentlessly with molten lava licks of guitar in between. Reminiscent of Fugazi with an Australianism that is endearing and feels relatable to our mood, 100 have a knack for creating punk music that you want to scream along with, if you can work out the lyrics.

Darby, Rossarie, LIZDEK – “Dissipate”
A collaboration between Central Coast producer Darby, Perth vocalist Rosarrie and Canadian producer Lizdek, “Dissipate” not so sneakily makes my top songs from 2020. It’s bright, it’s carefree, it’s dance-y as hell and it’s everything I wanted 2020 to be (that didn’t quite happen). The delicate vocals balanced with the bouncy production and euphoric builds make this a track to remember. It’s the kind of electronic music that makes you shut your eyes and smile when you hear the drop. It reminds you of happy days spent with friends and will have you busting for a confetti cannon and fireworks after the last set at a festival. Turn the volume up and enjoy!

New Wave Infinity – “Run From The Pain”
A later runner in the game, New Wave Infinity’s collaborative album drop All Corners burst into my life in mid-October. Their latest drop, an album featuring over 60 creative credits from musicians and artists across Melbourne, highlights not only the power of connectivity in these COVID times, but also the talent of collaboration for elevating individual talent to a whole new level. Picking a single track off this album is hard enough in itself, with the amount of genre diversity and dynamic sound, but I found myself reaching for one song in particular over and over again. “Run From The Pain” is credited to 5 artists within the collective – Nomad, REYKO!, NOMAD!, BOY CURSED, IconicBeats the track demonstrates exactly how a collective can and should work. Smooth, high-quality production that elevates the individual flow and style of each MC, but links them together so seamlessly that the listener is eased into the next voice without so much as a second thought.

WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS (Saturdays 6pm-8pm & repeated Mondays 2pm-4pm)

Surprise Chef – “New Ferrari” 

With a bunch of high quality funk releases within Australia this year, it was a tough one to call as my favourite release. But one particular track called New Ferrari, from Surprise Chef’s second LP, Daylight Savings, made it cross the line first by just a bumper bar! Not too sure if Coburg funk quartet found it a particular challenge to follow up their highly regarded big seller debut LP from 2019 All News Is Good News, but they have cooked up for a second time, a big beat funk album that again is hard hitting with all the distinctive Chef flavours and nuances. The skill sets this band holds is astonishing! What shouldn’t come as a surprise with this second LP, like their debut album that was also released under their own modest College Of Knowledge Records production, is that it has already had a bunch of reissues from reputable label Mr. Bongo. That right there says there’s something special in this recipe of musical masters!


Gordon Koang – Unity
I thought a lot about the role of community this year and the joy it brings. In moments where that seemed difficult, Gordon Koang’s debut was a reminder why. Released through the stellar Music in Exile label and initiative, ‘Unity’ is the 11th album from the South Sudanese, Nuer musician who now calls Melbourne home. Born blind, Gordon began playing music on the streets of Juba as a young man and has become a bit of a grassroots hero and voice for the Nuer people. Despite experiencing first hand the pain that rifts between people can bring, this record has such an uplifting message of peace, love and unity. Affectionately known as the ‘King of Music’ in South Sudan, I think that title stands true here as well.

Crack Cloud – Pain Olympics
Led by frontman/drummer Zach Choy, the Vancouver collective has been described as a form of therapy for its members, many of whom have come up against addiction and work in harm reduction. There’s a palpable sense of urgency which runs deep on the record, and how can you not feel that with the chest-beating rhythms on “Tunnel Vision”, or the terse noise-rap on “Favour Your Fortune” that feels weirdly meditative. The resurgence of post-punk has been steady and most notably from the British Isles, but if you were left wanting more from those releases, I suggest that you head a little further West to Crack Cloud who will likely fill that gap.

Floodlights – From a View
With a sound as confident and fleshed out as Floodlights, it’s hard to believe that the band only began 2 years ago and with half of their members learning instruments to be in the group. Many of these songs took inspiration from an epic Melbourne to Kimberley road trip, which makes this the perfect companion for your next long-haul drive. It’s clear that the band have been influenced by a rich history of Australian and New Zealand guitar pop, but there’s a type of considered empathy and self-awareness in their songwriting that sets them apart from most.


Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
Over the past twelve months, the one album that really caught my ear more than any other – the one that I keep returning to again and again – has been Katie Crutchfield’s Saint Cloud. I’ve listened to it countless times now and I’m still struck by how outrageously good it is. Songs just seem to run through her effortlessly: from opener “Oxbow” to the closing title track, Crutchfield’s gift for crafting earworm melodies and knotty lyrics really shines through. There’s very few songwriters at Crutchfield’s level at the moment, and her latest record is one I can already tell is going to stay with me for years to come. Saint Cloud is my pick for the best album of the year.

Bill Callahan – Gold Record
Bill Callahan almost seemed to undersell his latest album to the public. Following a bit more than a year after the autobiographical Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, Callahan told the press that Gold Record was a scattered collection of songs that hadn’t made their way onto other albums, some of them sitting around for a decade or written for other singers. But from the first line of opening song “Pigeons” – ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’ – it’s clear we’re hearing an invigorated Callahan in love with songwriting itself. It’s as if he is still discovering the limitless potential of his craft: Callahan takes us through such diverse subjects as cowboys, exploding pigeons, and Ry Cooder, each time squeezing the poetry dry until he creates something beautiful. Maybe Callahan sees Gold Record as a toss-off, but his toss-offs beat most other musicians’ personal bests.

Sweet Whirl – How Much Works
My third pick goes to Melbourne singer-songwriter Esther Edquist’s sophomore album How Much Works. In regularly listening to advance copies of albums for the station this year, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out how quickly it can feel like you’re listening to the same indie rock record over and over again. But from the second that Edquist’s voice appeared on opening song “Sweetness”, I knew that this album was something special. Edquist seems to take her inspiration from piano balladeers like Randy Newman and Sarah Blasko: her songs take their time and are happy to occupy an inner space, rather than calling for attention. But it was her voice that really struck me – if I didn’t already know, I would’ve guessed such a powerful and expressive voice could only belong to a decade-long pro, not someone on their second album. How Much Works is a supremely confident work from an exciting new voice in Australian music.

Tuesday 15th of December, 2020

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