The Rock Curator Awards 2020

Welcome to the first ever awards from The Rock Curator (taking over from The Boono Awards of previous years).

2020 was a tough year for the music industry with the cancellation of live performances, but there were some fantastic releases this year. In my opinion this would be one of the strongest years musically for some time, but that may be based on the fact that I was exposed to more music than ever this year.
I was invited on to Dave Mohr’s radio show on Launceston’s City Park Radio for what became a regular monthly two hour session and for the second hour of each show we highlighted new releases from new and recent bands (formed 2010 at the earliest). This forced me to seek out new releases for each of our appearances, and this turned out to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

This year I didn’t fuss as much about the fact that rock doesn’t have the same impact on record charts these days as in the past.  I just feel appreciative and relieved that there is still so much good music out there if you know where to look for it. That’s not to say that some of the best albums didn’t have a degree of chart success as well but typically rock albums are purchased by the artist’s fan base in the first week of sales causing them to reach their highest chart position in week one before they slide back down through the numbers, sometimes amazingly rapidly.  The exception to this rule is the trend-resistant, always resilient AC/DC who at the time of writing has just enjoyed four weeks on top of the ARIA Charts with ‘Power Up’. After dropping to 3 in the fifth week, they rebounded to number 2 in the 6th week.

After listening to my two hour playlist of the best songs of 2020, it became evident to me how wide-ranging ‘rock’ is as a genre. There are slow tunes, tunes you can dance to and tunes to bang your head to.

Concerts have always been an important part of my life and unfortunately due to COVID-19 these couldn’t go ahead this year so I missed out on seeing a fairly impressive list that I had purchased tickets for – Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Helmet, Live, Bush, Stone Temple Pilots and Supergrass. Here’s hoping concerts from international acts come back sometime soon. I imagine that at least the first half of 2021 will be quiet or possibly ruled out.

In the meantime there are some excellent livestreams from your favourite acts to watch and I am looking forward to getting up in the early hours of January 1 to watch KISS live from Dubai.

So without further ado, here are the winners of The Rock Curator Awards for 2020.

Song of the year

3. ‘Sunburst’ – Stone Temple Pilots
A beautiful tune that showcases this excellent acoustic album from STP. Be sure to wait for when the song seems to come to an end as a string section comes back in to provide an even greater ending. Jeff Gutt has proven to be a superb choice for the front man role following Scott Weiland’s passing. The musicianship on this track is fantastic, and it’s a perfect album closer.

2. ‘Age of Machine’ – Greta Van Fleet
A moody mid-tempo number, this is an indication of Greta Van Fleet’s increasing musical palette. There is certainly pressure on them from rock fans and media to come up with the goods as since their initial releases they have been touted as the ‘next big thing’ in rock and hopefully a band that will return rock to the top of the charts. I am eagerly awaiting their second full-length album due in April 2021. In the meantime I find myself returning to this song regularly as the overall dark tone and the outro in particular demand and reward repeated listens.

And the winner is…

1. ‘JUNKIE$’ – Ocean Grove
One of my musical highlights of the year was hearing “One time for the bass to make you go…” on a Friday night AFL telecast.  Ocean Grove was my favourite musical discovery of 2020 and ironically this came about via a US website to learn about an Aussie band. What a tune! It has a big, dirty groove that harkens back to early 2000s nu metal and then transitions into a quieter soaring chorus and back again. The vocals are great. I get a buzz each time I hear this and it was clearly my favourite song of 2020.

Excellent songs (rounding out the top 5)
4. ‘Bobbie’ – The Weeks
5. ‘Monoglot’ – The Weeks

Highly Commended songs
‘Thousand Golden People’ – Ocean Grove
‘Going Soft’ – Sports Team
‘The Pink Limit’ – Biffy Clyro
‘Odyssey’ – Joyous Wolf

And the Best of the Rest
‘Blue Devil Inn’ – Holy Roller Baby
‘Slips’ – The Weeks
‘We Have To Move On’ – Inhaler
‘Superstar’ – Ocean Grove
‘Being Them’ – Fake Names
‘My Way, Soon’ – Greta Van Fleet

Album of the year

3. ‘Perdida’ – Stone Temple Pilots
A beautifully constructed acoustic album was certainly an interesting change of pace for fans of STP and presumably the band themselves. The musicianship is extremely high calibre throughout and the De Leo brothers, Dean and Robert, are capable of producing interesting musical statements album after album. Not a rock album as such but a brilliant diversion for the time being before their next studio album presumably goes back more to the sound fans are accustomed to.

2. ‘A Celebration of Endings’ – Biffy Clyro
This debuted at No.1 on the UK album charts and has a rating of 84 out of 100 on Metacritic, which indicates “universal acclaim” and rightly so. To place highly in these awards it’s an advantage to be able to show versatility in styles and Biffy Clyro has certainly done this here, sometimes even within the one song. The album features catchy commercial rock, soft, pretty tunes and crunching heavy rockers with some string section pieces added for good measure. This is a great album and Biffy looks set to be one of the big name acts in the UK for the next few years with a headline slot at Download Festival on the cards if it goes ahead.

And the winner is...

1. ‘Flip Phone Fantasy’ – Ocean Grove
My favourite release by an Australian act since Tame Impala’s ‘Lonerism’ way back in 2012 and the first local act to win this award since then. It reached No.8 on the ARIA charts.
This is an album that really rewards listening to from start to finish as they go from tunes close to nu metal to whispered acoustic numbers, bright bouncy rock and even hints of disco on one track.
The linking factor in all of the tunes is a catchy hook. Each track has one somewhere in the vocals or music. The best tracks are where the chorus and music soar together and take you with them. The vocals are excellent throughout. How this wasn’t nominated for an ARIA Award is beyond me.

Excellent albums (rounding out the top 5)
4. ‘Fake Names’ – Fake Names
5. ‘Twisted Rivers’ – The Weeks

Highly commended albums
‘Paradise’ – Cold Years
‘Pressure’ – Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown
‘Gigaton’ – Pearl Jam

And the best of the rest

‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’ – Creeper
‘Power Up’ – AC/DC
‘The Slow Rush’ – Tame Impala
‘Strange Days’ – The Struts
‘The Main Thing’ – Real Estate
‘Frenzy’ – Holy Roller Baby

Bring on 2021! There are new albums from Greta Van Fleet and Foo Fighters available for pre-order now, so things are looking up ahead.

Craig – The Rock Curator

December 31, 2020


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