Hello everyone, I promised at the end of 2018 that I’d be more attentive to this blog this year and uhh I was not, at all. My bad. I did a few reviews over on The Filtered Lens, which you can read, as well as some year-end and decade-end stuff. I forgot to post it here. I’m old and busy okay? okay. Anyways I actually blew past my personal record for releases listened to; I’m not sure exactly what it was before but it hovered around ~165, his year I did 250 dead (at the time of writing – might squeeze a few more in). I loved a lot of them! Music is good a lot of the time! So I decided to write about 50 albums I loved. And that turned into 75 so here’s 75 albums this year I loved. The top 15 or so are pretty set but otherwise I spent very little time working on the list, I loved all of these and many of them are incomparable so please treat much of this list more as a group of recommendations. Also from 35 onwards I wrote a bit about why I loved them. Here’s some good stuff:
#75. Have A Nice Life – “Sea of Worry”
#74. HEALTH – “VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR”
#73. Bad Books – “III”
#72. Deerhunter – “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?”
#71. Charly Bliss – “Young Enough”
#70. Ariana Grande – “thank u, next”
#69. (nice) Toro Y Moi – “Outer Peace”
#68. Lilith – “Safer Off”
#67. Neil Young – “Colorado”
#66. Uniform & the Body – “Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back”
#65. Bleached – “Don’t Think You’ve Had Enough?”
#64. Rammstein – “Rammstein”
#63. Field Mouse – “Meaning”
#62. Teitanblood – “The Baneful Choir”
#61. The Hold Steady – “Thrashing Thru the Passion”
#60. Dump Him – “D*kes to Watch Out For”
#59. Cursive – “Get Fixed”
#58. Microwave – “Death is a Warm Blanket”
#57. Iggy Pop – “Free”
#56. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – “Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire”
#55. Knocked Loose – “A Different Shade of Blue”
#54. Coldplay – “Champion of the World”
#53. Blood Incantation – “Hidden History of the Human Race”
#52. Malibu Ken – “Malibu Ken”
#51. glass beach – “the first glass beach album”
#50. Kitty – “Rose Gold”
#49. Thee Oh Sees – “Face Stabber”
#48. Xiu Xiu – “Girl With a Basket of Fruit”
#47. FKA Twigs – “Magdalene”
#46. Sebadoh – “Act Surprised”
#45. Lightning Bolt – “Sonic Citadel”
#44. Brittany Howard – “Jaime”
#43. Sharon Van Etten – “Remind Me Tomorrow”
#42. Bruce Springsteen – “Western Stars”
#41. That Dog – “Old LP”
#40. Karen O & Danger Mouse – “Lux Prima”
#39. clipping. – “There Existed an Addiction to Blood”
#38. Cold Wrecks – “This Could Be Okay”
#37. Stef Chura – “Midnight”
#36. Big Thief – “U.F.O.F.”
#35. William Basinski – “On Time Out Of Time” – The most peaceful album I listened to this year was Basinski’s, one that sampled huge galactic explosions for quietly impactful sound effects. This is a calming work, one that literally takes in the sound of the universe and sanitizes it for ambient peace. I have used this incredible piece of music to sleep to. At face value, it’s calming music. With context, it is the sound of an apocalypse.
#34. Thom Yorke – “ANIMA” – Fresh off of a soundtrack for the “Suspiria” reboot, Yorke released what is his best solo album by a long shot. It encompassed the best of Radiohead’s atmospheric elements while still sounding focused on Yorke’s more ambitiously patient capabilities.
#33. Better Oblivion Community Center – “Better Oblivion Community Center” – The duo of Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst (gulp) released a wonderfully solid group of indie-folk songs under the name/guise of a living center. It’s a neat idea, especially one for a subgenre that doesn’t exactly see a lot of concept albums. It’s a pretty gorgeous album to boot.
#32. Jenny Lewis – “On The Line” – The days of the indie forefront have long surpassed Lewis, so rather than try to recapture the virtues of the Rilo Kiley days, she’s grown into a forlorn bar country singer, and it suits her well. Her voice has grown, as has her emotional range. These are songs that are often taking place in the moment, but it’s a moment we all recognize and have lived in.
#31. Craig Finn – “I Need A New War” – Quite frankly this is everything you’d expect in a Craig Finn solo album. It’s somber and nostalgic without being overbearing; simply a collection of stories told matter-of-factly through Finn’s spoken vocals. Many take place in Massachusetts, which adds points for me, but it’s a quaint collection for anyone.
#30. The Cranberries – “In the End” – Yes this is the final Cranberries album to feature Dolores O’Riordan. Although her death was an accident, the album has many songs centering on finality or conclusions. It was a proper finale, and it only enhances the quality of the songs.
#29. Lizzo – “Cuz I Love You” – Yeah Lizzo rules, I think that we have discussed this. But in earnesty, she’s an incredibly talented performer and singer, and it’s simply great that she gets to let it all shine through. Her third album is a delightfully complete mix of rap, funk and R&B that manages to sound completely original in a tired field.
#28. Kerli – “Shadow Works” – Kerli is unfortunately *not* known as the woman that Lady Gaga ripped her costumes off of, which pains me to this day. But she has transformed into a wonderful, dark pop singer and this new album feels like a total complement to the path Gaga took.
#27. Blanck Mass – “Animated Violence Mild” – I would easily call this music only ready for ecstasy use; his electronic music has always been ready for people willing to take a club night into a dark direction. But this release of his is a specifically hyper-alert work, longer songs and harsher vocals that all sounds ripped from a blockbuster movie.
#26. Laura Stevenson – “The Big Freeze” – After a somewhat raucous album in “Cocksure,” the world’s nicest person takes a backseat in “Freeze,” a very lo-fi indie approach. These are mostly songs about family and returning home, aided by her beautiful vocals. Very emotional, musically sparse and deeply relatable, these are some tearjerker gems. More on her later!
#25. Solange – “When I Get Home” – Solange’s new work follows in the footstep of “A Seat at the Table,” but more specific. Solange feels more like she’s singing for herself, reflecting on her own experiences less for relatability and more for personal and cultural gratification. Still, the stories seem universal.
#24. Stephen Malkmus – “Groove Denied” – Malkmus worked on this album for long periods of time throughout his career, and was often denied a release. The result is less of a complete album than it is a collection of songs he wanted to release years ago but, magically, they come together in a narrative unit. Check that wild first track “Belziger Faceplant.”
#23. (Sandy) Alex G – “House of Sugar” – One of indie’s most intriguing up-and-comers is Alex G, and his 2019 release is a collection of barely-realized songs that range from standard indie to dreamy avant-garde on a dime. It sounds messy at first but on further listens it’s a well-rounded collection of songs that always keeps you guessing.
#22. Foals – “Part 1 Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost” – A few years back Foals decided to kick the energy and distortion up, but here they tone back down. While I usually prefer the former, this result is a group of drawn-out and very well constructed indie songs, ones that sit on an idea until it is completely realized, maybe the most patient album of the year. Oh, but the songs are bangers, too.
#21. RAKTA – “Falha Comum” – Truly hypnotizing piece of experimental music out of Brazil that mixes post-punk energy with South American avant-garde. Switches from dreamy to chaotic at a moment’s notice, and is a completely satisfying listen along the way.
#20. Kim Gordon – “No Record Home” – At only 66 years old, Gordon has put out her first solo album. She was always one of the most avant garde wings of Sonic Youth, and it shows here. Many of these songs are surprisingly sparse, focused less on noise than they are on precision and abnormality. Still, she absolutely rages on the previously-released “Murdered Out.”
#19. Full of Hell – “Weeping Choir” – One of the year’s best metal albums was predictably from Full of Hell, just a brutal onslaught of thrash madness. As always they border on grindcore without actually embracing the subgenre’s silliness, instead choosing to end songs early just because their energy has finished them quickly. Don’t let the lengthy runtime of 24 minutes fool you – one song is seven minutes long.
#18. Charli XCX – “Charli” – Our Best Pop Songwriter returns with just a stellar album of tunes. These are complex pop songs that sure don’t sound like it, taking conventional structures and warping them with unique instrumentation and settings. Charli is great at pulpy earworms, and this album is full of them. Also, perfect set of guest features.
#17. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Ghosteen” – This is a surprisingly engaging and rewarding listen, given the subject matter. It revolves the untimely death of one of Cave’s sons, and the process of grief and acceptance that followed. Heavy stuff, but the album’s atmospheric nature welcomes all. It might be Cave’s biggest outlier and grandest experiment, and it’s the prettiest music made all year.
#16. Lana Del Rey – “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” – I love Lana, and this is her most comprehensive album to date. It works in all of the psych and soft rock influences she’s toyed with in the past, as well as expanding her lyrical scope from personal relationships to nostalgia around an old California and old Americana. Also a Sublime cover. Classic Lana.
#15. Sturgill Simpson – “Sound & Fury” – Simpson was already being ostracized by the country community, so he decided to lean into it. He and his band took a ton of drugs and wrote an antifascist album and anime, styled less in country and more in ZZ Top. The whole thing is a ton of fun, even during the slower songs. And the anime is on Netflix, for those interested.
#14. Purple Mountains – “Purple Mountains” – The last offering from indie legend David Berman was a collection of dark, tongue-in-cheek indie songs about what life is like when it leaves you behind. These songs can be taken literally and darkly, but Berman meant for these to be affirmations, of better times. Unfortunately, Berman took his own life shortly after the release, and a lot of the humor is negated. Think of it in a Nirvana “I Hate Myself And Want To Die” way.
#13. PUP – “Morbid Stuff” – PUP has all the makings of a standard pop-punk
(PUP-punk) band but, due to the chaotic nature of the spoken-word vocals, I’m actually a fan. This album hits all the right pop-punk notes, from telling someone you’ll only see them at their funeral to running into your ex at Whole Foods. It’s a lively mix, made better by the comically hyper-specific lyrics.
#12. Billie Eilish – “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” – We don’t go anywhere (?) Regardless, I love Eilish’s completely new blend of pop. It’s hushed vocals over heavy synths that feel like they only pump out rhythms when they want to. It’s unlike anything else being played on pop radio and for that I love it.
#11. Jamila Woods – “LEGACY! LEGACY!” – Every song on this album is devoted to a black artist who was drowned out or appropriated during their own lifetimes, and Jamila spends the album wondering if the same will happen to her & today’s artists and activists. There’s no happy answer, and unfortunately that foreboding hangs over the whole album. It’s a lot of fun R&B, but it’s made for us (whites) to confront our own issues both past and future.
#10. The Coathangers – “The Devil You Know” – This deeply underrated garage-punk band delivered another classic, with fun hooks being complemented by lyrics raging against the NRA, and musings on growing up and letting go. This band doesn’t like to keep you very comfortable, but don’t worry – it’s fun all the same.
#9. Pharmakon – “Devour” – I wasn’t super into Pharmakon’s last album, “Contact,” so I was nervous – but this is the noise artist’s best album to date. Recorded in two takes, she uses the whole studio and time to her advantage. These songs are parts of suites and as such are even more drawn out than before. This is the most anxiety-inducing album of 2019, with shrieking synths and screamed vocals running chills down the spine. It’s not for everyone!
#8. Lingua Ignota – “CALIGULA” – It’s rare that Pharmakon doesn’t take the title of “most disturbing” but Lingua Ignota takes this easily. Another solo female act in noise music, Ignota’s behemoth incorporates elements of strings and operatic vocals, just to whisk them away in favor of guttural noise. It jumps from baroque to extreme noise, and is completely unsettling along the way. She bared everything on this album, more so than any artist in 2019. It’s not for everyone!
#7. Oozing Wound – “High Anxiety” – This is almost my favorite thrash metal album of the year, just a rip-roaring journey through the prospects of space and the idiocy of the humans surrounding us here on Earth. There’s a real tongue-in-cheek element to the lyrics, and an unsurpassed energy to the music. Just everything you want from thrash!
#6. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Infest the Rat’s Nest” – It feels really insincere to give the title of Best Metal Album of the year to a band that isn’t metal, but hell if this album isn’t a ride. Only three of the band’s seven members are present, but they deliver an old-school thrash whiplash, reminiscent less of Metallica and Slayer and more of Exodus and Overkill. That they’re telling a story of people who try to fly to Jupiter but end up in Hell is a whole added bit. Also this was the prolific band’s second album of the year; I didn’t like the first one, sorry.
#5. Orville Peck – “Pony” – Orville Peck isn’t country……is a invalid criticism. He embodies the 50’s and 60’s style of outlaw country. Outside of his masked anonymity, little about Peck is updated for 2019, which in turn brings a refreshing sound to country music. His bass vocals and barebones musical accompaniment sound completely unfamiliar in the 2019 landscape, as does his presence as a queer country singer. Peck embodies the rebellious spirit of country old, rather than the complacent pop-country of today.
#4. Jeff Rosenstock & Laura Stevenson – “Still Young” – I usually avoid putting EP’s or cover projects on a list like this but this a bit different than those; two of my favorite people collaborated on an comfort-zone-leaving set of four Neil Young covers. Side A is two Young classics, Side B is two more obscure ones. Their 8-minute take on “Ambulance Blues” is better than the original, and one of the best songs I heard all year. Also listen for a Craig Finn cameo!
#3. Amyl and The Sniffers – “Amyl and The Sniffers” – A debut from a drunk-punk band from Australia, this self-titled is a half-hour of raucous songs about love, not having any love, and not having any money. Also a great song about a monsoon thrown in. It could be a well-rounded emotional bit but instead it’s just a bunch of punk gut-punches. Honestly? Sometimes you need a ton of fun like this.
#2. Angel Olsen – “All Mirrors” – I already loved Olsen for how well she complemented her vocals against music, but she spins it in a whole new direction here. She isn’t always the centerpiece, sometimes giving that to synths or a string section. But still she steals the show, with spine-tingling vocals. Every song on this album sounds full, a drastic departure from the sparse nature of her previous albums.
#1. Control Top – “Covert Contracts” – Rip-roaring punk infused with industrial and post-hardcore results in a furious mission statement from within the walls of an oppressive patriarchal system. Incredible debut from a band I am confident is the future of punk. I’ve heard all of these songs dozens of times now and I still find my blood boiling at every one. The passion and fury behind the lyrics can be cut with a steak knife. I honestly think 2019 needed more topical, urgent music like this, and I deeply appreciate what we got of it.
(Remember at the top how I said I was on album #250? Well it’s now 1/1 and my official count was 254. Two of the last four I listened to caused me to readjust these rankings lol)