It’s time to make like a good little homing pigeon and return to the biggest and best records of 2020 – our ‘choice cuts’ – by way of impressive stats, STACK reviews, and from STACK‘s conversations with the artists themselves.


Album cover for After Hours by The WeekndThe Weeknd, After Hours

IN NUMBERS

20: Number of countries in which After Hours went to #1, including Australia, the US, UK, and the artist’s native Canada

1: Number of takes it took The Weeknd to complete the Vevo-filmed performance video of In Your Eyes with Kenny G, in which the two musicians ran through three different sets

632,000: Number of people who posted TikTok videos in the Blinding Lights Dance Challenge (including several professional dancers and celebrities such as Nicole Scherzinger and Jessica Alba)


Taylor Swift FolkloreTaylor Swift, Folklore

IN REVIEW

Cardigan is the sound of Taylor’s headcheck as she changes lanes onto Highway Del Rey; there’s more than a few similarities to Lana’s cinematic Americana style, with a muted beat, strings, and gracefully lazy slurs between notes – along with a super intimate, breathy delivery. ‘Dancing in your Levis, drunk under a street light’ is a lyric that could have been torn from any of Del Rey’s dreamiest cuts.

Meanwhile, decadence and hedonism prevail in The Last Great American Dynasty, the tale of a wealthy woman living up to and exceeding the pearl-clutching expectations of the Joneses –and it’s based on a true story! The song is about the former owner of Swift’s mansion in the affluent beachside neighbourhood of Watch Hill, Rhode Island: a kooky heiress named Rebekah Harkness, who was known for her extravagant spending, arts patronage, and insistence on being weird.” – ZKR


ALbum artwork for Imploding The Mirageby The KillersThe Killers, Imploding The Mirage

IN REVIEW

“Since that moment in 2004 when you first heard the jewelled little guitar line which you’d come to learn signals the beginning of Mr Brightside, The Killers have sold over 28 million albums across the world and toured their tushes silly. Sixth album Imploding The Mirage continues the ferocious trend; incorporating guest spots from some remarkable names both emerging (Weyes Blood) and established (kd lang), the record explores themes of overcoming sorrow through the strength of friendships and fam, and moving forward into joy and celebration.”– AC


The HU, The Gereg

IN NUMBERS

67 Million: Number of times viewers have watched The HU’s clip for Yuve Yuve Yu on YouTube

2019: The year The HU were awarded the Order of Genghis Khan – the highest state award in Mongolia – for promoting Mongolian culture around the world

3: Number of The HU’s bandmembers (out of 4) who contribute traditional Mongolian throat singing to the group’s tracks

11: The highest chart position The Gereg reached internationally – which was in Australia!


Tame Impala Slow RushTame Impala, The Slow Rush

IN REVIEW

“Simultaneously retrospective and prospective (‘Eventually terrible memories turn into great ones’), Tame Impala’s fourth album opens with One More Year and closes with One More Hour – the passage of time closing in. It’s impossible to focus on anything else – even Insta scrolling! – while digesting The Slow Rush: an elegant, inventive masterpiece that conjures up sonic stardust with added ripple-dissolve flashback effects. Parker is in a class of his own.” – BC


Album cover artwork for Keith Urban The Speed Of Now Part 1Keith Urban, The Speed Of Now Pt 1

IN REVIEW

“Some beats, then some banjo. So starts Keith Urban’s most musically adventurous outing yet, a thrilling mix of new meets old. On his 11th studio album, you sense that Urban can’t quite work out whether he’s a good ol’ boy or a contemporary pop act. It could have been an uneasy mix, but somehow it works. There’s a surprise around every corner (including a duet with Pink), and the record ends with the modern country classic We Were, which even includes a shout-out to Def Leppard. ‘I am who I am,’ Urban concludes.” – JJ


Five Finger Death Punch, F8

IN NUMBERS

“A couple of thousand”: Number of punters (according to guitarist Zoltan Bathory) who reportedly stormed the photo pit during 5FDP’s 2010 Download UK set, after lead vocalist Ivan Moody challenged the audience to crowd-surf up to the stage

13: Number of countries’ album charts in which F8 reached the top 10

1: Number of Billboard Awards 5FDP received in 2020; they were crowned Active Rock Artist of the Year


Album cover artwork for The Modern Medieval by Something For KateSomething For Kate, The Modern Medieval

IN CONVERSATION: PAUL DEMPSEY

“Songs are obviously a pretty condensed format for storytelling, but if you can assemble words in a certain way then it can result in several dimensions of meaning, even if it’s not literal meaning. You can convey a lot of information and feeling and emotion and visualisation in just a few words… I enjoy the challenge of trying to use words in such a way that the listener feels like they’ve experienced something much more expansive and mutli-layered than a four minute song. It excites me to explore what’s possible.” – ZKR


Album cover artwork for vinyl of The Makarrata Project by Midnight OilMidnight Oil, The Makarrata Project

IN REVIEW

“A sequel of sorts to 1987’s Diesel and Dust… The Makarrata Project (the title refers to a Yolngu word ‘describing a process of conflict resolution, peacemaking and justice’) sees the Oils collaborate with Indigenous artists, both old and young, including Kev Carmody, Frank Yamma, Troy Cassar-Daley, Jessica Mauboy, Dan Sultan and Alice Skye. The result is another Aussie classic.” – JJ


Brad Cox My Minds ProjectionBrad Cox, My Mind’s Projection

IN REVIEW

“Single Drinking Season is full of bluesy electric guitar, cowbell, gospel-style female backing vocals and Cox’s signature smooth pipes, while Give Me Tonight is a sweet ballad in classic storytelling style. There’s plenty more to sink your teeth into here: the bomp ‘n’ stomp of the title track’s fat sax and suspenseful organ licks is particularly satisfying. Coxy is ready and rearing for stardom.” – AC


Album cover artwork for PWR/UP by AC/DCAC/DC, PWR/UP

IN CONVERSATION: ANGUS YOUNG

“Yeah, of course, I still experiment. I’m not trying yoga or standing on my head – doing a balancing act on my pinky or something. ‘Look at that guy, he can do that thing like the little hand in The Addams Family!’ If I could do that I’d be asking for a bonus. I’m underpaid.” – ZKR


The Chicks, Gaslighter

IN NUMBERS

2020: Year the group dropped the word ‘Dixie’ from their bandname, citing its negative association with the American Civil War

14: Number of years between the critically-acclaimed Gaslighter and The Chicks’ previous album, 2006’s Taking The Long Way (which won five Grammys)

13: Number of Grammy Awards won by the band in total

2: Number of different charts in the US on which Gaslighter debuted at #1 (Top Albums, and Top Country Albums)


Bruce Springsteen Letter To YouBruce Springsteen, Letter To You

IN REVIEW

“In a world of fear and division, Springsteen has given us an album of understanding and hope. As JFK said, ‘What unites us is greater than what divides us.’ Springsteen has crafted a classic that shows that the personal is more important than politics… This is old-school communication: genuine, personal, believable… He still believes that music can save us.” – JJ


Guy Sebastian, T.R.U.T.H.

IN NUMBERS

17: Number of years since Guy won the first Australian Idol competition (2003)

2019: Year Guy was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of his “significant service to the music industry and charitable initiatives”

3: Number of ARIA #1-debuting albums Guy has released (including T.R.U.T.H.)

2: Number of ARIAs won last year by T.R.U.T.H. single Choir (Video Of The Year and Song Of The Year)


Ocean Alley, Lonely Diamond

IN CONVERSATION: MITCH GALBRAITH

“Our songwriting process is organic and free-flowing… It’s quite a complex dynamic when I come to think of it, but while it’s all happening, it doesn’t feel that complicated – it’s just what we know. But there’s no rules or guidelines as to what the end product should eventually be.” – ZKR


Lady Gaga Chromatica album coverLady Gaga, Chromatica

IN REVIEW

“Mining the most commanding elements of ‘90s dance, Chromatica is a glistening platter of whopping house beats, soaring yells-to-arms, and propulsive, agile synths… We’re flung into party-caves occupied by the spirits of La Bouche, C&C Music Factory, M People, and in the case of giant closing track Babylon, Madonna (which riffs on Vogue right down to the spoken-word portions). Chromatica is movement and celebration, but also a request to be heard and supported despite human flaws – and it also is, in turn, a promise to return the embrace with total devotion.” – ZKR


Pearl Jam, Gigaton

IN NUMBERS

7: Number of years between Gigaton and the release of Pearl Jam’s last studio album, 2013’s #1 smash Lightning Bolt

1850: Year the pump organ Eddie Vedder plays on Gigaton track River Cross was built

21: Number of album charts across the world on which Gigaton reached the top 5 (#3 in Australia)

11: Number of US-top-5-debuting albums Pearl Jam have released in a row – including Gigaton (NB: That’s every single studio album they’ve ever released!)


Album cover artwork for Unreleased by PowderfingerPowderfinger, Unreleased

IN REVIEW

“Most of these tracks display the guts of the band’s earliest material: a little more given to slashy or stumbling (never fumbling) drums, abrupt and angular interludes, fanging away on an electric guitar chord for far longer than is decent, and swears (“Stick it right up your ar-e” –Lou Dolmand). It’s a neat game picking out familiar motifs, but you’re just as likely to get a curveball to the crotch if you aren’t paying attention.” – ZKR


Queen + Adam Lambert, Live Around The World

IN CONVERSATION: ADAM LAMBERT

“People were really protective of Freddie after the film [Bohemian Rhapsody] and I love that, actually; he deserves that, his memory. I love that he’s at this icon status and he’s a hero. I like that people get defensive of him, because I get it! Hallowed ground. I’ve watched Freddie, and instead of copying him it’s more like, ‘Well, what was he trying to get across? What was the idea here?’ That’s what I try to focus on.” – BC


Gorillaz Song Machine Deluxe VinylGorillaz, Song Machine Season One: Strange Timez

IN REVIEW

“The set opens with this drip-fed Gorillaz project’s crowning moment: the luminous Robert Smith-featuring Strange Timez, with its demented keys that sound like they’re being played by a posse of spiders on crack. Elsewhere, there’s animated Elton John crooning “on a peach blossom highway” (The Pink Phantom); the unmistakable, show-offy thrumming of Hooky’s low-slung bass (Aries); Damon/2D playing melodica and evoking retro Clint Eastwood vibes (MLS); and the late, great Tony Allen’s unparalleled drumming finesse (closer, How Far?). Idiosyncratic, buoyant and brimming with innovation.” – BC


Tim Minchin, Apart Together

IN CONVERSATION

“[The album has] this balance between letting it be whimsical – which it definitely is – and playful with words – which it sometimes is – but it still leans on that craft I’ve been trying to develop of making people not know whether they should be laughing or crying… The fact is that I don’t have vibrato, it’s a bit nasally, but it’s my voice, and I know how to tell stories with it, and I know how to tell the truth with it.” – ZKR


Kylie Minogue DISCOKylie Minogue, Disco

IN REVIEW

“More than an account of guaranteed disco, funk and house moves, Disco jumps through styles like it’s backstage of the catwalk: piano stabs on Real Groove, the choral New Wave of Say Something, sci-fi Daft Punk-y posturing on Supernova, the chattering beach party atmosphere of Monday Blues. A perfect sample platter for the restless.” – JC


Dune Rats Hurry Up And WaitDune Rats, Hurry Up And Wait

IN REVIEW

“Now, there have been some disturbing rumours that Dune Rats were all grown-up and mature. Fortunately, Hurry Up And Wait proves they’re still potty-mouthed pop stars. But dismissing Dune Rats as dumb rockers would be selling them short. If Weezer were a bunch of Brisbane bogans they would sound like Dune Rats – and, yes, that’s a compliment. Hurry Up And Wait is a series of short, sharp jabs that will leave you punch-drunk but smiling.” – JJ


Hockey Dad Brain Candy album coverHockey Dad, Brain Candy

IN REVIEW

“Entrenched in a rich lineage of savage Australian rock thrashers and hopeful burnouts, Hockey Dad’s immediate ascent has been marked with track after track of riffage-backed ennui and Brain Candy only exhibits it at its absolute best. Every song here builds on the band’s strongest elements: careening sing-alongs, introspective stompers, and a sense that though this may all come crashing down at any minute, maybe we’ll get through this together.” – NW


puscifer existential reckoningPuscifier, Existential Reckoning

IN NUMBERS

2: Number of bands aside from Puscifer for which lead creative Maynard James Keenan is vocalist (Tool and A Perfect Circle)

~25: Number of years Keenan has studied Jiu-Jitsu, having practised under Brazilian 9th degree red belt mixed martial artist Rickson Gracie

4: Number of major motion pictures on the soundtracks of which a Puscifer track appears, including the first three Underworld films

25: Years to the day between the release of Existential Reckoning and the first appearance of Puscifer, on HBO sketch comedy series Mr Show (which was itself 12 years prior to the release of Puscifer’s debut album!)