2019 top ten
Updated: Jan 7, 2020
10. Sleater-Kinney—The Center Won’t Hold—Mom+Pop
In case anyone hasn’t read it, here’s the poem the title of the album references (about the apocalyptic feeling of post-WWI Europe)
A definite departure, how to reckon?
To answer, I’ll quote verbatim reddit user u/G-R_ who, in my opinion, had the hottest take on this record from my r/LetsTalkMusic thread:
“Carrie is using her newfound fame from Portlandia to appeal to a much larger audience, and that shows. Instead of the twin guitar attack from their previous albums, we’re hit with a much friendlier sound coated in synths, where guitar and drums take a backseat, and St. Vincent’s production is very apparent with the choice to mix and present those instruments in that manner. It’s incredibly inconsistent, a track like ‘Hurry On Home’ feels as if it combines classic elements of the band with new bits, whereas ‘Reach Out’ feels like a failed experiment with that same sound. Even lyrically it feels flat, rather than outspoken feminism, lyrics are focused on heartbreak, love, etc, which is fine, but it doesn’t feel right in the context of this album. This is a band where each member’s sound felt unique but would allow each part to come together as a whole.”
There is less of that here. I still bumped this, but it was way more polished and St. Vincent-y than Sleater-Kinney-y and less enjoyable than much of the discography.
Choice Cuts: ‘Can I Go On’, ‘Bad Dance’, ‘The Dog/ The Body’
9. Wax—Acoustic Monday Album—Scrublife Inc.
An artist I’ve liked for a while now rapping and singing over acoustic melodies. It is a collection of the songs originally uploaded to youtube over the course of many a Monday. It has little organization, but still goes hard. The punk-esque raps are fun but this album shines most when it dips into alt-country, like the choice cuts ‘Devil’, ‘Handbasket’, and ‘Vulture’.
8. Billie Eilish—WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?—Darkroom/Interscope
I love that the producer credits on this album are just TWO people. Billie and her brother Finneas utilize everyday sounds in disturbingly fun ways on ‘Bury a Friend’ with a dental drill and staple gun. This album has apparent emotional depth, and the production is polished electro akin to Flume, Flying Lotus, and the Chemical Brothers.
Choice Cuts: ‘xanny’, ‘bury a friend’, ‘ilomilo’
7. Cherry Glazerr—Stuffed & Ready—Secretly Canadian
It is a cognizant piece—often commenting on social trends—like the romanticizing of the word daddy (“Daddi”), and forced extroversion (“Self Explained”). The album’ll satisfy past fans and serve as an invitation to new ones. The sound is approachable, but the subject matter remains heavy. Instrumentation seamlessly fluctuates between chunky heaviness and smooth melodies.
Choice Cuts: Wasted Nun, Isolation, Self Explained
6. Tyler, the Creator—IGOR—Columbia
Maybe other than Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You, you’d be hard-pressed to find a rap album released in 2019 that implemented funk and soul better than IGOR. That is not the reason this ranks as well as it does. It’s the fact that it reminds me so much of Goblin in the sense that its “creation” is rough, and that roughness contributes to what I believe is genuine sincerity. Plus, Kanye’s whole feature on ‘PUPPET’ is more enjoyable than the entirety of Jesus Is King.
Choice Cuts: ‘I THINK’, ‘PUPPET’, ‘WHAT’S GOOD’, ‘GONE, GONE / THANK YOU’
5. Little Simz—GREY Area—AGE 101 / AWAL
An effortlessly sharp, spicy album with interesting and very well delivered bars.
Choice Cuts: ‘Boss’, ‘Wounds’, ‘101 FM’
4. Mavis Staples—We get by—Anti
Soul that pulls. Painfully genuine blues. The album's cover features the photograph "Outside Looking In" by Gordon Parks from his 1956 photo essay The Restraints: Open and Hidden
Choice Cuts: ‘We Get By’, ‘One More Time’
3.Weyes Blood—Titanic Rising—Sub Pop
Natalie Maring’s 4th Weyes Blood release aims right for the gut with its expanding (almost searching), cerebral sound. Maring’s vision is manifested with poignant lyrics and a crisp, honed sound. Listening to Titanic Rising is an atmospheric indulgence. Maring’s roots grew in the noise scene prior to forming Weyes Blood. For this album she utilizes the commonalities between folk, noise, and trance expertly.
Choice Cuts: ‘Everyday’, ‘Movies’, ‘Picture Me Better’
2.King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard—Infest The Rats’ Nest—Flightless
Quintessential dystopia—up there with Blade Runner and WALL-E as far as plausibility goes. After all, its essentially takes off where WALL-E begins, sans the PG rating. Earth is left a scorched wasteland abandoned by the Rich. Those left behind see happy images on TV of the Rich colonizing Mars. Numbers such as ‘Perihelion’, ‘Venusian’, and ‘Hell’ lead me to believe that Rich’s escape ships are incinerated in space, and they inadvertently end up infiltrating Hell en mass.
By their fifteenth record, they are masters of melody. We heard with ‘The Great Chain of Being’ from 2017’s Gumboot Soup that this band could do metal well. With an undeniable sense of immediacy, a stylistic pivot—delving straight into the full-length metal album with Infest the Rat’ Nest. I believe that is because this is the genre of music that best suits this story—this outcome—best.
1. Mattiel—Satis Factory—ATO
Mattiel can be described as a singer/songwriter whose retro vibe evokes ‘60s garage rock and the blues-rock edge of the White Stripes. Satis Factory was easily the liveliest, earthiest, grittiest, and most earnest album to grace my ears in 2019. The second full-length album from Mattiel Brown, Randy Michael, and Jonah Swilley is grounded and genuine. This is rock both you and your parents will dig, I guarantee it. When Mattiel Brown pushes her voice it sounds more of a soul-bearing than the limitation of vocal cords. I offer no choice cuts for this one; I instead encourage you to listen all 35 minutes of Mattiel’s sophomore album.
Honorable Mentions (alphabetical):
Biig Piig—No Place for Patience, Vol. 3
Charley Crockett—The Valley
Freddie Gibs & Madlib—Bandana
Lizzo—Cuz I Love You
The Regrettes—How Do You Love?