It’s been a crazy year, and a depressing year, so perhaps we all retreated more into our record collections to seek out that fleeting joy. On my end, I spent a lot of time running/walking in the ‘burbs, so these are the records that played the most in my life…thus they are my Favorite Albums of 2020. The validity means little to anyone other than myself, but since you stop by, perhaps come by and check out my list!
And, just an FYI…there are 30 bands, and I linked back to Bandcamp pages so you can buy directly from the artists…except that one band because apparently they’re too cool…even though that album rips.
So, lists are pretty arbitrary, especially for a site like ours, where you mostly know what you’re going to get each day. But, still, I always fall for the “Best Of” lists, though this year, I’m personally staying away from the numbering system; it just doesn’t really mean much to me these days. That said, I do spend a lot of time covering Aussie acts, more than most, so for me, its fun to revisit my favorites. Without further hoopla…here’s my Top Aussie Releases of 2020.
Not more than a handful of months ago, we were treated to the debut LP by Pop Filter, a group largely made up of the songwriters from the Ocean Party; it was a glorious visit from old friends; they also took some time out to share a Rock n’ Recipes with us. Those old friends were able to get back together and write an entire new album, which they sort of dropped out of nowhere today. They chose not to offer singles, celebrating the release as its own standalone story, and in that, we all get the joy of listening to the whole thing together! Right now, I’m stuck on “Tree Change” as my favorite, but I reckon that’s because I’m in a sad bastard sort of Thursday. Love this group so much. Donkey Gully Road is now available via Bobo Integral.
The story of Pop Filter as a band is quite long, although Banksia is their debut LP. But, that story is easy to find for those who wish, so instead, I wanted this post to reflect how the a group of friends was able to cope with tragedy by writing an album full of wonderful pop songs. We dive in a little bit to the process that went into this record, plus, Mark is so kind as to share his recipe for Chicken Fricassee with Porcini Mushrooms; you can really impress your friends with “something you just threw together.”
ATH: The band is essentially a gang of songwriters/friends working together. How does the editing process work for you all? Does is change from songwriter to songwriter, or is there a routine approachyou all use when it comes to completing a track?
Mark: It genuinely changes song to song and album to album. Sometimes things arrive pretty much done, with a lot of parts already written. Sometimes things are jammed into place. Sometimes things sort of accumulate as we record them. With Banksia, because it was all done so quickly, we basically started recording things before wed even heard the vibe of the song. Then figured it out piece by piece, adding things and trusting that Snowy would be able to mix it into a nice shape. Theres a lot on the album that is first or second take. Most of my guitar parts Im just improvising to the song. It was very loose.
ATH: There’s a huge backstory/history to Pop Filter, but does Banksia represent something new, aside from the name? Does it feel like you have to start all over? And to a certain extent, is it a relief to have it under your belt, so to speak?
Mark: It definitely doesnt feel like starting over exactly. It feels more free, in a way. Because were releasing ourselves from the expectations of what being a band means. Were going to be less interested in concrete things like whos in the band, whats the album title, whos putting it out, whats the artistic statement – and more interested in the simple act of getting together and playing music. For me, its a kind of relief to lose some of those more careerist aspects of being in a band and focus on the real reason we play together in the first place, which is because were friends. In a world where the worth of everything is determined by the clicks it garners and the money it makes, it feels like an act of rebellion to focus on togetherness and friendship as the most important thing about an artistic project – rather than focusing on making a product. I think i speak for everyone when I say that I would make these albums with these people even if no one ever heard it and we never showed any of it to anyone. That would be just as valuable to me.
ATH: Is there a story behind covering “Romance at the Petrol Station?” Any particular connection that brought that song into the album process?
Mark: Everyone in the band has always loved that song and that first Stolen Violin record was Zacs favourite album. Lach had wanted to cover it for ages so it felt like the right time to do it.
ATH: Most of this record has been promoted throughout a global pandemic. How does that affect the way you, as a band, go about promoting the album? Plans for any live streamsor that sort now that it’s out in the world?
Mark: We havent really talked about it I guess. Obviously wed be touring if we could. Most of the band is under a serious shelter in place lockdown in Melbourne while Im free and relatively easy in a totally different state so I can at least go to the pub to celebrate the release. No plans for anything yet.
ATH: I admit this is a tough one to answer, but who brought the best songs this go round?
Mark: A lot of the songs were written in the four days we were recording so not many of us were very prepared! I like them all really. They all hit different feelings and vibes for me. I love Curtiss song Visions of You, and Nicks Kit Home, Jords songs didnt have lyrics at first so I loved hearing all the mixes back months later and discovering the songs anew. Jord pushes his voice to these amazing places on his tracks which I think is super thrilling. Dunno, mate. Theyre all good. You tell me!
ATH: Is there a story to your recipe, or any personal significance, other than you just enjoy cooking it?
Mark: I cook this all the time. Its my oh, this, I just threw something together show off dish. It has bugger all ingredients but is stupidly rich and delicious. Its a Marcella Hazan recipe and its like alchemy. I serve it with a crisp lettuce salad with heaps of Olive Oil, Mustard and Lemon. And crusty bread.
Chicken and Porcini Fricassee
A whole chicken – broken down in four pieces. (Keep backbone for stock)
40g Dried Porcinia Mushrooms.
100ml ish of dry white wine. I try to use resiling because I also like to drink that.
A can of Cherry tomatoes.
That’s literally all the ingredients. This recipe rules.
– Soak the Porcini Mushrooms in about 400ml of boiling water for about 20 minutes. Keep them hanging out in that awesome umami mushroom water! Dont throw it away.
– After youve broken down your chicken pat the skin dry and salt and pepper it liberally.
– Get a decent sized pan (I have a biggish stainless steel one) nice and hot and add a big glug of olive oil.
– Place the chicken pieces skin side down in the pan and reduce heat a bit to medium-low. Leave them on that side for like 15 minutes until theyre really brown and crisp. Then flip em and give them another 5 mins.
– Chuck the wine in and let it bubble for a bit until it doesnt smell quite so boozey. About 3 mins.
– Pour in the mushrooms and the amazing juice theyve been soaking in, along with the can of cherry tomatoes, and bring to a boil.
– Turn heat down to low and half cover the pan. Cook for about half an hour. Turning the chicken every so often.
– When the chicken is definitely cooked through but not horrid and dry take it out and set aside for a bit.
– Then you want to reduce the sauce down so its barely watery at all, its just super charged mushroomy, tomatoey slightly wet mush. It will look brown and gross, do not worry. It is meant to look like that.
– When the sauce is thick and mega rich (prob 7ish mins), salt it to your liking and return the chicken to warm through.
– Serve it in a bowl with salad and bread. You can squeeze a lemon over it if this is your thing. You can also garnish with parsley if thats the vibe.
– Impress your friends with something you just threw together
This Friday we’ll all be able to take on the joy of the debut LP from Pop Filter, but before we get there, the band dropped one more tune to tease the release. In my mind, this is exactly what I expected when I first heard about this band forming; a steadying blend of the best in casual pop listening. It’s charming in its unassuming nature, careful to never step too far into world, yet happily bubbling along with these delightful melodies. The group joining in unison just after the 2 minute mark is just one such treat…a little pop nugget you can put in your pocket on your way out the door. Banksia is out Friday!
One of the album’s that’s high upon my personal radar is the debut from Australia’s Pop Filter, a band that features various players in the scene we’ve grown to love. One of the perks of this band is that they’ve always worked as this collection of great songwriters, with Mark Rogers taking the main role here to revisit a song he begun back in 2014. I love the inviting aura of the song, lightly strummed guitar with Rogers’ sublime melody rising on the crest as a distant guitar cries somewhere out in space. But, just as you hit the 3 minute mark, you get a treat, as the whole band joins in stomping their way to a catchy closing with a reminder that “its better than giving in.” Pop Filter will release Banskia on August 21st via Osborne Again/Bobo Integral.
While Pop Filter might be a new incarnation, the band’s members have been writing songs together for quite some time. One of the core songwriters, and is Lachlan Denton, whose voice always feels like home to me, whether its in the song he penned below, his solo work or his various other projects (with Emma Russack for one). Little keyboard stabs flesh out the tune from the start, building in some ambiance while the drums right the ship and the Denton stretches his voice across so perfectly. I love the crisps notes of the guitar; you can almost hear the warmth of the strings as they vibrate sound. The outfit will release their debut Banksia in August of this year!
We heard news of Pop Filter on an all Aussie compilation from earlier this year, but we had no idea how quickly the band were ready to drop their debut LP. Those who recognize the familiar faces in the video probably won’t be shocked at how quickly (and amazingly) these songs seem to have come together. They’re all masters of casual pop stylings, allowing the chorus to include the whole band for this charming hook that you take with you when the song’s done playing through your speakers. Always endearing…their debut Banksia will be out on August 21st via Spunk/Bobo Integral/Osborne Again.