Well, 2020, the year that was anything but normal. With COVID-19 shutting down the entire world, it also took away half my livelihood (travelling and live music).
But let’s have a look at the good that 2020 brought into my life. This year was the year I finally allowed myself to find some solid ground and actually stay put in one place (shout out to Brisbane becoming the first city in five years where I could stay put!). With my job in the tourism industry one of the first to go back in March, I put all of the extra time on my hands into writing for Wall of Sound and helping out Browny.
I ticked off some huge interview goals this year, from the likes of All Time Low’s Rian Dawson, Sleeping With Sirens’ Kellin Quinn all the way to world-renowned music producer/Goldfinger frontman, John Feldmann. After finding out I was the only Australian music journo to review Machine Gun Kelly’s latest album, Tickets To My Downfall, I’d say my time with WoS is only getting better with every year. The massive success we saw with MGK definitely helped push the pop punk genre back onto the mainstream pedestal towards the backhalf of 2020, with many upcoming bands in the genre like Yours Truly and The Middle Room, as well as leading frontrunners like Stand Atlantic, Seaway and Knuckle Puck given an extra boost for their album releases this year.
While pop punk is most definitely my speciality genre, I still have an ever growing soft spot for metalcore and post-hardcore releases. With The Amity Affliction being my absolute faves in this arena, I loved their release earlier this year with Everyone Loves You, Once You Leave Them. Make Them Suffer’s album this yearwas an amazing effort too. ‘Erase Me’ has to be one of my favourite metal releases of 2020 by far, as was ‘Above My Head’ from Polaris. However, my fave Aussie metalcore act this year goes to Wake The Blind. Everything they’ve put out so far is straight up gold, and I can’t wait to see them hit further heights.
Oh yeah, and 2020 was the year I finally got some permanent ink!
TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2020?
#20 – Seaway – Big Vibe
Canadian pop punkers Seaway returned with their first album in three years, and this one’s a big vibe. My heart has a big ol’ soft spot for Canadian artists (hello, my favs are Simple Plan!) and Canada in general, having lived over there for two years, so I am stoked the Seaboiz made a comeback in 2020. They’ve still got it.
#19 – Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts
Haters gonna hate, but this album is actually her best work in years! While there were a few songs that reminded me of her Hannah Montana days, Miley Cyrus singing 80s rock ‘n’ roll and disco pop is a super fun vibe, and I’m all about it. Definitely recommend to give it a listen if you can.
#18 – Silverstein – A Beautiful Place To Drown
This was a huge record which saw Silverstein dabble in many musical styles from metalcore to pop punk, where they even teamed up with the likes of Caleb Shomo, Pierre Bouvier, Aaron Gillespie and Princess Nokia. A thoroughly enjoyable record for all music fans.
#17 – Halsey – Manic
The queen of alt/pop, Halsey, dropped one of the better pop releases this year, then went up another level and collaborated with Machine Gun Kelly for easily the best song of 2020 (but more on that later)!
#16 – Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
This album was on my nonstop rotation when it came out earlier this year. From tracks like ‘Cool’ to ‘Physical’ and obviously the hit track ‘Don’t Stop Now’, Future Nostalgia was one of the better pop albums in the mainstream in 2020. Shout out to my UK favs Hot Milk who dropped a bangin’ cover of ‘Physical’ as well.
#15 – Four Year Strong – Brain Pain
Four Year Strong also returned to form in 2020 with this record, which also featured one of the best pop punk tracks of the year, ‘Learn to Love the Lie’. In saying that though, Brain Pain is full of chuggy riffs and pop punk goodness, with ‘Usefully Useless’ and ‘Mouth Full of Dirt’ standout tracks.
#14 – Belmont – Reflections EP
Upcoming Chicago pop punk outfit Belmont dropped their fantastic debut release on Pure Noise Records this year, proving they’re one of the most promising acts to watch in the genre right now. Reflections blends catchy hooks and meticulous riffs into a neat collection of songs which kinda leaves you wanting even more. Hey Belmont, how’s that full-length coming along?!
#13 – Wake the Blind – Broken Casket EP
Another fire act to watch closely next year—hailing from Melbourne, Wake the Blind absolutely nailed their debut release, Broken Casket this year. These boys will be huge in the next year or two, I reckon.
#12 – Yungblud – weird!
I absolutely LOVED Yungblud’s earlier release, 21st Century Liability back in 2018 and even bought a ticket to his Sydney show that year. While weird! saw the alt/pop icon dive more into poppier territory and saw him team up with Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker once again, this album proves that Yungblud is hot property right now and so he should be. I fucking love what he stands for, and the music industry needs more role models like him.
#11 – Dune Rats – Hurry Up and Wait
What finally drew me into the Dunies was their Blink-182 esque pop punky jam ‘No Plans’ which goes down as the theme song of 2020 (For real though, how many of us actually had plans this year?). Hurry Up and Wait was a standout album released way back in January, and luckily the boys snuck in a SOLD OUT national tour before the world shut down in March. Stoked that a joint-filled Dune Rats moshpit was my last gig pre-Covid too.
#10 – Yours Truly – Self Care
Sydney pop punk four piece Yours Truly unveiled their debut full-length on UNFD this year, and oh my, what a decent effort! Self Care is an album I definitely needed in 2020, with songs like ‘Vivid Dream’ allowing me to reflect on all the rad travel experiences I’ve had over the years. ‘Together’ also got me through hard days this year when I just couldn’t cope with what was running in my head. I’m enjoying watching these kids grow into the band they’re becoming—they’ll be unstoppable one day.
#9 – The Amity Affliction – Everyone Loves You, Once You Leave Them
The Amity Affliction have become one of my all time favourite bands to see live these last five years, and they’re quickly catching up to Simple Plan with the amount of shows I’ve seen (not to mention the number of overseas shows experienced thanks to following Warped Tour in 2018!) ‘Soak Me in Bleach’ received a beating on my nonstop rotation this year, as did ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ and ‘Aloneliness’. Fuck the haters, Amity are hands down one of the best bands ever to come out of Australia. I wonder if we’ll get a second round of Heaven & Hell Festival in 2021?
#8 – Make Them Suffer – How To Survive A Funeral
Perth metalcore act Make Them Suffer dropped one of my favourite metal tracks this year with ‘Erase Me’ and the entire album also did not disappoint. I’m also looking forward to seeing this band live one day, here’s hoping that day lies in 2021.
#7 – All Time Low – Wake Up Sunshine
Baltimore pop punkers All Time Low came back swinging with their latest album, Wake Up Sunshine which I found myself jamming along to almost everyday for two weeks at one point. Their track ‘Monsters’ has gradually grown on me as each month this year flew by, and my only request of the boys is—why didn’t you collaborate with Demi Lovato sooner?!
#6 – Ocean Grove – Flip Phone Fantasy
This was the most lucrative, anticipated album of 2019 and oh boy, it was worth the wait. Ocean Grove evolved their grungey nu-metal ways and marked the beginning of a music revolution with Flip Phone Fantasy. This was a solid release, one of the top standouts coming out of Australia this year.
#5 – Bring Me The Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror EP
‘Kingslayerrrr’—need I say more? Okay, for nine tracks, this “EP” really should be considered an album. Each single released in the lead up to Post Human was absolute fire and Bring Me The Horizon are in a league of their own here.
#4 – Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall
Changing musical styles completely was a big win for Machine Gun Kelly, as was teaming up with the G.O.A.T. Travis Barker. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that MGK releasing Tickets To My Downfall is the beginning of the resurgence of pop punk in the mainstream.
#3 – Knuckle Puck – 20/20
I apologise to pop punk fans everywhere, but I’m sorry I didn’t jump on Knuckle Puck sooner. 20/20 was the album that finally reeled me in, and the pop punk album we all needed this year. Every song is a straight up anthem, in particular, ‘R.S.V.P’ and ‘Tune You Out’ which I had on repeat for weeks upon its release. Better late than never!
#2 – blackbear – Everything Means Nothing
Andddd the best pop album of 2020 goes to US emo rapper Blackbear. I’m way too busy to keep track of everything playing on mainstream radio or Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist these days, but Everything Means Nothing was an overall enjoyable listen. Can’t recommend songs like ‘Queen of Broken Hearts’ and ‘Half Alive’ enough.
#1 – Stand Atlantic – Pink Elephant
Sydney pop punkers Stand Atlantic came out on top this year with easily the best album of the year. Each song on the album is a banger in its own right, and Pink Elephant perfectly represents the genre’s past, present and future. While the band obviously got affected by the worldwide shutdown of COVID-19 (they’d be touring the shit out of this album right now), I’d say Pink Elephant won’t leave our ears for quite some time. Boy is 2021 looking ever so good for Stand Atlantic and the rest of their pop punk counterparts…
TOP 15 SONGS OF 2020?
#15 Neck Deep – ‘When You Know’
#14 Paperweight – ‘The Kids On The Ground’
#13 Polaris – ‘Above My Head’
#12 Grenade Jumper – ‘Heat Wave’
#11 We Set Signals – ‘Where Were You’
#10 Hot Milk – ‘June Gloom’
#9 All Time Low – ‘Monsters’ (featuring Blackbear & Demi Lovato)
#8 Bring Me The Horizon – ‘King Slayer’ (featuring BABYMETAL)
#7 Make Them Suffer – ‘Erase Me’
#6 The Amity Affliction – ‘Soak Me in Bleach’
#5 Eskimo Callboy – ‘Hyper Hyper’
#4 Knuckle Puck – ‘R.S.V.P.’
#3 Sleep On It – ‘Falling Further Faster’
#2 Stand Atlantic – ‘Jurassic Park’
#1 Machine Gun Kelly – ‘Forget Me Too’ (featuring Halsey)
TOP 10 MUSIC VIDEOS OF 2020
#10 All Time Low – ‘Monsters’ featuring Demi Lovato & Blackbear
#9 Waxflower – ‘Again’ (featuring Caitlin Henry)
#8 The Amity Affliction – ‘Soak Me in Bleach’
#7 Hot Milk – ‘California’s Burning’
#6 Machine Gun Kelly – ‘Bloody Valentine’
#5 Stand Atlantic – ‘Blurry’
#4 I Prevail – ‘DOA’ (featuring Joyner Lucas)
#3 In Hearts Wake – ‘Hellbringer’ (featuring Jamie Hails)
#2 Bring Me The Horizon – ‘Obey’ (featuring Yungblud)
#1 Eskimo Callboy – ‘Hyper Hyper’
LAST GIG YOU CAUGHT BEFORE COVID
DUNE RATS – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane QLD
BIGGEST HEARTBREAK OF 2020?
Biggest shoutout to my boys in Sleep On It. The band ended suddenly earlier this year in what had to be the biggest heartbreak of pop punk in 2020. The band had slots on Slam Dunk Festival (UK) and Four Chords Festival (US), and were no doubt set for huge things. Obviously, they got fucked over by COVID-19 side effects hard, as did many bands. Their last release Pride and Disaster was a 10/10 effort and remains one of my favourite records of the last two years. Fingers crossed some of the guys can return to music down the track in some way, shape or form.
HOW DID COVID/LOCKDOWNS AFFECT YOU IN 2020?
Lost my day job to COVID back in March and without the ability to travel, I guess I allowed myself to find some solid grounding in my life. Getting laid off my day job allowed me to give more time to projects I felt more passionate about, found more time to learn new skills and got more of my adult life in order.
BIGGEST THING YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF THIS YEAR?
Sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s okay to take more time for myself. I’m so much more aware of my mental health and when I’m on the verge of a burn out these days, I’ve found new ways to cope with the shit in my head. It’s really as easy as taking a social media detox, regularly going to the gym (yes, for the first time in my adult life I finally worked out a proper fitness routine!) and going for a drive to the beach.
FAVE NEW BAND/S DISCOVERED IN 2020
Local: We Set Signals (Brisbane)
National: Grenade Jumper (Sydney)
International: The Middle Room (USA)
NEXT BIG AUSSIE ACT/S TO WATCH IN 2021?
Dropping in on two upcoming Aussie acts who you should most definitely watch in 2021…
Wake the Blind absolutely killed it with their debut EP, Broken Casket earlier this year. I fucking love their blend of nu-metalcore, and any heavy band who can turn a pop punk fan like me into a ‘core fan is an absolute winner. Looking forward to watch these guys blitz it in 2021 (and an opening slot on I Prevail’s pending Australian tour would be ace too, I guess)
Paperweight came into our lives midway through 2020 with their energetic, nostalgic blend of pop punk, channelling heavyweights Sum 41 and Neck Deep. They haven’t even played their first show yet, but these guys are quickly rising from nobodies in the scene to becoming your new fave Aussie favourites. Expect this four piece from Melbourne to be getting all up in your ears and music venues all over Australia in 2021. Stand Atlantic, look out—Paperweight’s coming in hot!
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2021?
I’m going to join in with Browny and Ricky on their Tom Delonge and Metallica interview dreams in 2021 and say that scoring a chat with my favourite twins in music, Benji & Joel Madden (Good Charlotte) is going to be my biggest music goal of next year. The band’s been unusually active on their social media recently, so no doubt they’re planning something big for the year ahead.
Here’s hoping 2021 brings us new albums from Simple Plan, State Champs, Beartooth and A Day To Remember. I’m looking forward to broadening my musical horizons with While She Sleeps and Architects. Here’s also hoping that Avril Lavigne makes the best album she’s made since The Best Damn Thing with John Feldmann next year.
I’m very much looking forward to the resurgence of live music (and half my livelihood) next year, with Stand Atlantic’s national tour, the return of Good Things Festival, the launch of Inverted Festival on the Gold Coast AND Full Tilt Festival right here in Brisbane next year. Things are definitely looking up in 2021!
Yearly wrap up by Tamara May (@citylightstam on all things social)