Monday, December 16, 2019

The Best Albums of 2019

2019 - wow, that went by fast. And here we are - our 10th Annual Best Albums Edition! I can't believe it's been going on that long. What started out as a fun thing that Sarah, Jesse, Jaymz and I would share with each other quickly went global as friends from Europe and Asia joined in to give their perspective. A huge thank you to those mentioned above along with Rob, John, Tim, Keith, Sean and Mike for taking the time to cull their favorites and share them with us. This was a very special year for me as it saw the release of my band Audra's first album since 2009. I am honored to see its appearance on some lists below.

And now for the details: Each person selected & ranked their 10 favorite albums, and then a track from each has been compiled in a Spotify playlist (it's all the way at the bottom of this post). As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions. Let us know whose list you relate to the most and please share your own Top Ten with us. We hope that you'll find some new things for you to discover over the holidays and into the new year. Okay here we go - The Best Albums of 2019 - Bret & sarahQ

P.S. We do earn a commission if you purchase anything through the links in this post.

Bret Helm
Life on this Planet | Audra

10. Iggy Pop - Free
09. The Wonder Stuff - Better Being Lucky
08. Tamaryn - Dreaming the Dark
07. Strand of Oaks - Eraserland
06. The Twilight Sad - It Won/t Be Like This All the Time
05. The Ocean Blue - Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves
04. Desperate Journalist - In Search of the Miraculous
03. Sólveig Matthildur - Constantly in Love
02. New Model Army - From Here
01. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen

About My #1Ghosteen is exactly the kind of album that I was hoping Nick Cave would make. 2016's Skeleton Tree more than hinted at the minimalism that Ghosteen would completely glow in. The reward is gained by those dedicated to hang out in its meditative glory - where the melodies reveal themselves like delicate flowers opening under the moonlight in a distant, untouched field. Stunning.

Sarah Quarrie Helm
Life on this Planet

10. Westkust - Westkust
09. Secret Shame - Dark Synthetics
08. Audra - Dear Tired Friends
07. Orville Peck - Pony
06. Pumarosa - Devastation
05. Tamaryn - Dreaming the Dark
04. Hatchie - Keepsake
03. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
02. The Twilight Sad - It Won/t Be Like This All the Time
01. Desperate Journalist - In Search of the Miraculous

About My #1: Underrated or best kept secret? That's what I ask myself every time I listen to a Desperate Journalist album. Their name is a hat tip to The Cure's rework of "Grinding Halt" as "Desperate Journalist In Ongoing Meaningful Review Situation” recorded for a John Peel session following a hostile review of Three Imaginary Boys in 1979. That alone points to good company. In Search of the Miraculous is the 4-piece from London's third release and is proof of progression. Elements of shoegaze and post-punk transcend the limits of genre definitions into a hybrid encapsulating 90's Britpop while Jo Bevan channels her own brand of Martin Rossiter from Gene into emotive musical poetry about the fear and romance of hope. It's albums like these that separate musicians as artists from just a band.

Keith Creighton
Seattle, Washington Popdose

10. The Futureheads - Powers
09. A Projection - Section
08. !!! - Wallop
07. Black Swan Lane - Vita Eterna
06. Billie Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
05. The Wonder Stuff - Better Being Lucky
04. Angela Perley - 4:30
03. Louise Burns - Portraits
02. Haley Reinhart - Lo-Fi Soul
01. The Ocean Blue - Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves

About My #1My musical taste is getting so scattered, a “Top 10” albums list no longer captures an at-a- -glance snapshot of my year in music. Loads of my favorite records were short-form EPs (Adam Lambert, Gabriella Cilmi, Nasty Cherry, Other Americans), Singles (Jarvis Cocker’s Jarv Is, Kate Voegele, perhaps the final new track from George Michael), and reissues (Prince dominated the year with four entries and more than 50 new tracks). Considering this is an Audra-centric website, I left the band’s terrific new album, Dear Tired Friends, off the list -- assuming most readers will arrive already digging it. Audra was just the tip of the iceberg for a great year for post punk. The third record from Stockholm’s A Projection shook off their well-played Joy Division fetish to go full-blown Sisters of Mercy with stellar results. Fader, a dark electronic Blancmange side project from Neil Arthur, delivered a great second album. Black Swan Lane is an Atlanta band that at one-time included Mark Burgess and the late John Lever of The Chameleons; this time out their album features the Chams’ Dave Fielding on guitar. Also just missing my Top 10, were welcome returns from Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Ladytron, and the 8th album from New Pornographers. Louise Burns, former bassist for excellent power pop band, Lillix, delivered her 4th solo album, and like the others, is essential listening for fans of Echo & The Bunnymen, The Smiths and The Church. Beyond Angela Perley (a little bit Dolly & Tanya, a little bit Pat Benatar), my Top 25 this year is packed with country discs, including Maren Morris, The Highwomen, and Brooke White. And this week we’ll see a new album from Harry Styles -- perhaps this generation’s David Bowie. But alas, my top album pic at the mid-year mark, again reigns supreme here. The Ocean Blue delivered another high water mark dream pop masterpiece, this one pulling double duty as a life preserver for these turbulent times.

Rob Clark
Rockford, Illinois

10. Mercury Rev - Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited
09. Negativland - True False
08. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride
07. Andrew Bird - My Finest Work Yet
06. Portico Quartet - Memory Streams
05. Operators - Radiant Dawn
04. Tool - Fear Inoculum
03. The Waterboys - Where the Action Is
01. Audra - Dear Tired Friends

About My #1Yes, this IS the first album in 10 years by a band that includes the guy who runs this blog. However, it truly became my album of the year by every standard that came to mind. Not only is it great to hear new music from Audra, but this stuff is fresh and alive and bubbling with the kind of energy that often fades after a band’s debut. Lyrically and instrumentally, this thing tripped all the right post-punk / dark wave triggers with me. Not only is it my favorite album of 2019, but it’s also my favorite in the band’s catalog. Highly recommended!

Sean Benham
Chicago, Illinois

10. Sasami - Sasami
09. Com Truise - Persuasion System
08. Tycho - Weather
07. Duster - Duster
06. Ride - This is Not a Safe Place
05. Teen Daze - Bioluminescence
04. Bibio - Ribbons
03. Sunbeam Sound Machine - Goodness Gracious
02. DIIV - Deceiver
01. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen

About My #1This has been one of the most prolific years of music I’ve heard since the early 1990s in terms of sheer number of great releases, and bands regrouping and writing new material. I could have easily replaced all of these albums with another ten and would still call it a wonderful year. This was also a year of a lot of very well written electronic and ambient music and that definitely put some weight on my decisions.

For my favorite this year, Nick Cave’s latest album hit me right in the heart. It’s an intense, nearly ambient piece of work. He lets it all out, fueled emotions from the recent loss of his son and first album since this tragic event. He wrestles with life and death, and love. He speaks to Jesus and witnesses horses on fire. He set me on a journey through space and time and I was blown away; choked up even at times. By the end of the album it was as though I had read a novel of a wandering man in search of his god. The music is reminiscent of Scott Walker and David Sylvian, but unmistakably Nick. Never underestimate this man, he always has something to tell you, and this time it was quite beautiful.

John Magness
Uttoxeter, England

10. Edwyn Collins - Badbea
09. Audra - Dear Tired Friends
08. Richard Hawley - Further
07. Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul - Summer of Sorcery
06. The Goat Roper Rodeo Band - Tall Grass
05. Van Morrison - Three Chords and the Truth
04. Beirut - Gallipoli
03. Desperate Journalist - In Search of the Miraculous
02. Lloyd Cole - Guesswork
01. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars

About My #1Plus ca change, plus c'st la meme chose...…'s the same number one album from 6 months ago! I believe Western Stars will be regarded as one of Springsteen's classic albums in the future. There is a possibility that he is running a bit short of cash because he has certainly kept this album in the limelight, following it up with a film and the soundtrack to said film. The interesting thing is that the first time I heard it I noted a reference to Glen Campbell and on the soundtrack to the film he does a cover of Rhinestone Cowboy which is outstanding (I subsequently read that he was influenced by Campbell but I picked it out before I read this). On a serious note, apparently he doesn't intend to tour this album instead concentrating on a new album featuring the E Street Band pencilled in for next year and then a tour - so that is good news all round. Just a few comments on the wider list. I haven't listened to as much new stuff in the second half of the year, or rather not listened to music released this year. Instead I investigated a lot of older music. The beauty of the "Best of" lists from everyone else is that it presents an opportunity to listen to something different. The album that became a massive favourite is In Search of the Miraculous by Desperate Journalist after I first heard them on the playlist of the Best of 2019 So Far in July. Finally I've decided to start a journal in the new year and record everything new I hear. That should make it a lot easier to compile this list next time.

Jaymz Todd
Phoenix, Arizona

10. Hemlock Ernst - Back at the House
09. Operators - Radiant Dawn
08. Hayden Thorpe - Diviner
07. Anderson .Paak - Ventura
06. Helado Negro - This is How You Smile
05. Bill Baird - Daily Ever Dawning
04. Horse Jumper of Love - "So Divine"
03. Iggy Pop - Free
02. La Fine Equipe - 5th Season
01. Ellis - The Fuzz

Honorable Mentions
Colourmusic - Swimsuit
Y God Y - Y God Y
Audra - Dear Tired Friends
Charli XCX - Charli

About My #1: This stayed the same from my half year list - and has stayed with me since it’s very first listen in March - it’s just that good! A soft sing whisper that at times can draw comparisons to that of Alison Shaw from the Cranes. Sonically, the album is drenched in pure fuzz and dreamy distortion. The songs, although a little short, serve a brilliant purpose, never getting old, and encouraging multiple listens in one sitting.

Tim Brown
London, England

10. Solange - When I Get Home
09. Loyle Carner - Not Waving, But Drowning
08. Dido - Still On My Mind
07. Billie Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
06. Tallest Man on Earth - I Love You. It's a Fever Dream
05. Ezra Collective - You Can't Steal My Joy
04. The Specials - Encore
03. Milky Chance - Mind the Moon
02. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars
01. Michael Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka

About My #1My choice as number one was really tricky as I absolutely love equally my two top choices and anyone who saw my top ten for the first half of the year might remember Western Stars was my number one. It could easily be number one for the whole year and if I did this list again in a couple of months it might well be again! However Kiwanuka has not been off my turntable in the three weeks since it was released and that fact alone makes it my number one. It’s quite fitting that these two are fighting it out at the top, one masterful genius 5 decades into his career and one youngster at the start of his. Both masterful lyricists, an instantly recognisable voice and the ability to change styles at the drop of a hat. MK has an English mum who gave him a love for classic Hendrix style rock, while his Nigerian Dad had a penchant for Solomon Burke, Sam Cooke and classic Soul. Their son shows the influence of both with his blend of soulful, moody guitar-based tunes. One of those artists able to catch the essence of his dazzling live performances in the studio, I suspect this album will be a favourite of mine for years to come.

Mike Keddy
Western Massachusetts

10. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Fishing for Fishies
09. Sault - 5
08. Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel
06. The National - I Am Easy to Find
05. Mdou Moctar - Ilana (The Creator)
04. Chris Forsyth - All Time Present
03. The Comet is Coming - Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
02. Vanishing Twin - The Age of Immunology
01. Thom Yorke - ANIMA

About My #1A Radiohead/Thom Yorke release is always going to have a chance at being my favorite album of the year and this year was no exception. ANIMA was easily my most listened to record of 2019 and I only had about half of the year to listen to it, as it came out right before we put together our Best Of 2019 So Far lists. This is the third solo album of Thom Yorke’s and is certainly in contention for being my favorite of his. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Jesse Deitermann | DJ Dreampop Jesse
Phoenix, Arizona

10. Jay Som - Anak Ko
09. Piroshka - Brickbat
08. The Proper Ornaments - 6 Lenins
07. Liam Gallagher - Why Me? Why Not.
06. Hibou - Halve
05. Belle And Sebastian - Days of the Bagnold Summer
04. DIIV - Deceiver
03. Hatchie - Keepsake
02. Ride - This is Not a Safe Place
01. The Ocean Blue - Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves

About My #1: I really love this album.

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1 comment:

  1. Awesome lists! Happy 10th anniversary for this project! I'm proud to have been a part of it since 2014.