2019 Albums of the Year; 50–41.

steve cuocci
8 min readJan 3, 2020


50. Pile — Green and Gray
Warm Sadness

There is such a broad range of influences on this record, all of them somewhere in the Pantheon of things that I’ve liked or loved before. There are artsy flourishes mashed with the barking roar of bands like Cursive and Bear vs Shark. There are pummeling repetitions of chords that bang and bang and bang on your door, akin to bands like Quicksand. There are the slow and melodic daliances of bands like Karate and Colossal. This is one of those records that I don’t know exactly how it came to me, but one I’m thankful that it did. I’ve not heard any of their previous stuff, nor have I heard anyone really mention this record at any point throughout the rest of the year. The songs here aren’t catchy, but instead feel more like listening to a band building something bigger than verses and choruses and stringing them together, but instead composing painting from the frame and working their way in to the rolling and romantic core.

Check Out: Firewood

49. Slingshot Dakota — Heavy Banding
The Strongest Hooks

Some of these songs are so well written, it’s disgusting. Powerful with just a set of keys and a drum set, the vocals are really buckle down, dig deep and shove you deeper and deeper into their message. There’s such a raw power here, a heft that’s not only written into the songs but also produced so directly it’s impossible to cast aside. Songs like Day After Christmas exist as a brutalist, shameless, angled structure of parts that are utterly boastful in their strength. This record reminds me so often of songs from The Anniversary that I almost liked, but felt they pulled up to soon. This band never pulls up too soon, instead winning the staring contest each and every time. Dude, Casino Night? What a song.

Check Out: Louder

48. Oso Oso — Basking In the Glow
Emotional Intimacy Done Right

Something really cool about this record. Very mellow in a lot of ways, a lot of little interesting ways that they use a stripped-down style of production to convey urgency and vulnerability. For one reason or another, it throws me back to when Ace Enders stood on top of the Drive-Thru Records Tower, not trying to do too much by way of the label’s Pop-Punk Standard, but instead writing well-done songs that had a lot more in common with the Gin Blossoms than it did with New Found Glory. It’s fairly split between The Early November and I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business, who’s first record is still one of my favorites of all time. If nothing else, their big hits on this record have a timeless quality. If I hear the song “dig” once, I’m gonna go back and hear it another three or four times. Can’t believe this record dropped in 2019. It kind of reminds me of a bunch of records I wasn’t ready for back in 2003.

Check Out: Dig

47. Whitney — Forever Turned Around
A Nice Ride In Neutral

This one is a cruise with the windows down on the first days of spring. A breezy, positive ride with falsetto vocals and low and classy instruments. The songs all ultimately blend together for me, becoming one afternoon nap in the best way possible. A perfect background record to doze to. This one feels like old books and friends who know how to play guitar. I really liked their last album a lot as well, and while I don’t know any particular songs from the band, I can tell you that they give off a very particular feeling. Such a consistent band and a really beautiful record.

Check Out: Giving Up

46. SeeYouSpaceCowboy — Songs For the Firing Squad
Skinny Jeans Mosh Squad

This record, in the best way, reminds me of shows at the height of The Scene. With the wild fringe and the skinny jeans. Lots of horror chord manipulation and double bass and traditional breakdowns. Lots of spoken and crescendo-into-whine vocalizations. The songs are phenomenal and hit hard. Another case of being a brilliant throwback, an album filled with songs that I’m sure I’ve heard before when Absolutepunk.net was feeding us new stuff to listen to every couple of days and there were a lot of album covers with handwritten band names, power lines and bright pink and yellow dark forest photographs. I feel like these dudes really love the Blood Brothers and would be wearing a The Locust t-shirt in a myspace profile picture.

Check Out: 911 Call: “Help! I’ve Overdosed On Philosophy!”

45. Crumb — Jinx
Sweating Out the Dark Sounds

This was an album that was distinctly perfect for the one day in which I discovered it. I had just got out of a stressful work meeting and was out somewhere around midday. I was feeling depleted and needed a pick up. When I arrived home, there was a six pack of beer waiting for me. I went out to my back porch, cracked open my first beer and sat back with a book and with this album. It was hot and I was warm and in my summer moment. That’s what this record is for me. It eased me into a place of calm and carried me down a river of solace. A lot of beautiful stretches to close your eyes and let those fractals take over your third eye.

Check Out: Part III

44. Bat For Lashes — Lost Girls
Love Letters In Synth

This whole record is coated in a synthetic plastic beauty, photographed in high contrast black and white. These are like Tegan and Sara pop songs but slowed down and brought to a borderline-goth dance state. Easy, easy songs to dream to, to let your mind wander to. Very pink and lavender wintery ice sculptures struck with a tuning fork and left to create song shaped sound waves. The song Vampires sounds like a song I would have listened to sandwiched between endless listens of The Cure’s Disintegration and Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland.

Check Out: Desert Man

43. Pijn & Conjurer — Curse These Metal Hands
Big Big Metal

This album feels so good. It’s got the sweeping openness of a movie score, big and flowing like stalks of grain in those landscape shots in movies about the Great American Dream or about the way an unsuspecting genius can exist anywhere in our gracious and broad world. Do you feel me on this one? It’s fine. I’m just trying to say, like, this is music that should accompany a pondering and grandiose story. There are soaring highs and creeping lows, most of which I typically don’t expect to find in an album from two bands who are known for music that is capital h “Heavy”. Three of the four songs extend past the eight and a half minute mark, and each of them seem to hold an Act in the massive tome of the story being told. If you can earn your way through Side A’s two big, shining and weightless passages, Side B’s two offerings are heftier, more ironclad and intimidating. An incredible double sided coin here.

Check Out: Endeavour

42. Chon — Chon
Spinning Plates In Your Favorite Dream

Their album from a couple of years is an eternal pleasurable experience. So many cool tracks. And this one picks up where it left off. Like watching fireworks at a social gathering, conversations meeting up and braiding into one another, departing and being pulled back into a dancing embrace. The delay and pedal work creates soft beds for the sparkling guitars to play on the reflective surface while the drums pepper flecks of conflict only to be resolved in direct eye contact with the universe. This one could just as easily be a sleep album as it is a summer album, no question, with there being parts that can simulate floating and dreaming alongside uplifting and energizing tunes. Something special about this instrumental collective. Something almost spiritual. I listened to this record while putting out some deliveries in Death Stranding, and it was definitely what the doctor ordered for that cathartic and solitary experience.

Check Out: Peace

41. Sunn O))) — Pyroclasts
Hell’s Voice

So, if droney and ambient music is The Force, Sigur Ros was my first intro to it, Obi Wan Kenobi if you will, and they certainly represented the Light Side, the Jedi Order of noise and drifting. Eventually though, a friend (Andrew Bailey) introduced me to all kinds of what it meant within the darkness and hellscape of some of the more metal-induced, “evil” brands of drone, and there I was shown the true power of the Dark Side, the way that elements of this also had a power and a concentration to it that reigned almighty. Sunn O))) is the first band in that order, and while they don’t always do it best, they certainly always do it right. This record is the second of two they did this year and I really love that this brings what I expect from the band, something to close your eyes and enter into the druidic and monastic majesty of groaning death.

Check Out: Ampliphaedis (E)