2019 Albums of the Year; Honorable Mentions
Soon, I’ll be posting about my albums of the year from 2019. It was a year that saw me get back to a point of almost my limit of listening to new music, not spending enough time listening to music I love, instead chasing down each and every record that had “2019” attached to it. It’s too much. There were times that I maxed out and just had to go back to the old favorites. But to be honest, all of the hunting brought me some phenomenal new discoveries. Was it the ones that took me digging deep into unheard of territory? Maybe. But most of it was from bands I’d known about, label recommendations, and a solid ear to the ground. Always the best way to find out! The digging is fun, but when it’s no longer fun and feels like a chore? That’s where it definitely stops being a hobby and starts being a job. Something I do not want to get close to.
Here are a few records that came out this year that didn’t quite fit into the Top 50, but I still wanted to get into people’s minds and ears.
Bars of Gold — Shelters
Screaming Into Bulletproof Dividers
A perfect return to the greatness that Bear vs. Shark brought to the table many years ago, this record brings the raw and hearty yells and sweating rock music that they were able to capture. However, Bars of Gold has a lot more in its repertoire, like bigger and more ambient soundscapes. There also seems to be a bit more focus on the conventional rock songs. While BvS’s approach of music as art and poetry was brilliant and worked wonderfully, it’s great to hear that even within the rails of a more traditional sound, the energy and vitality of Marc Paffi stands strong.
Check Out: Worthless Chorus
Slipknot — We Are Not Your Kind
Sort of another instance of the days when Korn would say things like “we’re bringing back that OLD heavy sound, what the OLD fans will remember!”, Slipknot had the same kind of vibe leading up to this album. It’s more Slipknot, it’s got that clearly “steel garbage tanker” percussion section, the sludgy guitar production, etc. There are great moments, but I think Corey Taylor has blurred the line between Stone Sour and Slipknot a BIT too much, drawing hooks out of the ether and casting them where they don’t necessarily belong. Some of the moments where you can hear some turntable scratching is such an amazing throwback to the nu-metal “golden” age, but I think it drifts a bit too far from center to keep me consistently interested. But yo, these guys will always have a special place for me, just like old school 90s wrestling acts. I want them to forever wear the masks, to play the heel, to be from parts unknown, and to always have a backstory larger than life.
Check Out: Nero Forte
After the Burial — Evergreen
This one was in the Top 50 for a good part of the year. But the more I listened to it, there just wasn’t enough of it that stood out in a drastic way for me. It had all the elements that I wanted and loved, but there was simply a lack of either distinction that had the unique quality to stick with me individually for a long time OR a familiarity of the bands that I have grown accustomed to. But no lack amid this record. Simply fantastic, PUNISHING metalcore record. This one does everything I would hope that an aggressive album would offer, from the breakdowns that often will produce a HEARTY laugh from me, the interesting use of squeals, the vocals that don’t let up and don’t try to be anything other than a delivery gum for the aggravated assault of the instruments. This is also more of a preference thing, but the guitar solos are few and far between and don’t seem to try to take any attention away from the listen as a whole. This record just keeps. going. Track after track, it delivers. One of those that I can share with my friend, Rahul, who will always be the line I use to determine if the Breakdown Level hits the proper watermark. Luckily, this one made the cut.
Check Out: To Challenge Existence
Silversun Pickups — Widow’s Weeds
So Silversun Pickups is a rough band for me to try to be neutral about. I loved their first three records and since I loved the first three, I was unable to even enjoy the fourth one. The former had such a magical quality about them, a sense of floating, ethereal perfection… and then the fourth one felt like it was human beings trying to make records with artifacts they found that were used making those first three. This album, I mean… it’s got that same kind of feeling as the fourth one, the same kind of human injection of it, however, it seemed like they were able to tap back a bit to what made those first three albums SO. EXCELLENT. It’s cool, I mean, I appreciate that there was an attempt there, but they have clearly come back to earth, and this band possibly may never be what they once were. I have to accept that as a person, as a fan, and as someone who listens to music. So this album has some really cool gateways to what made those first three albums so wonderful for me. And I’ll recommend it, only if this is the first album you listen to trying to get into this band. This inclusion is here mostly because I get to once again recommend Silversun Pickups to you. So hey. Check ’em out, whenever.
Check Out: Freakazoid
Nova Charisma — Exposition I
Hot Topic Progressive
So this is simply a three track EP, so even if this was the best piece of music I’d heard all year, it’s way too short to register as a major release. I really like what this one says for the future of this collective. It’s a little bit of the old Circa Survive style, a little bit of what Coheed and Cambria evolved to be, a little bit of Closure In Moscow. A lot of that post-Mars Volta sound. It reminds me a lot of the band Brazil, actually.
Check Out: Lies Animals Tell
Sigur Ros — Liminal Sleep
The Dream Factory
I’m confused as to what this is. A playlist? An album? The dust that lifts when one dies? Snorting imagination? It’s 2 hours of music. All of it is conducive to dreaming and sleeping. If you’re unfamiliar with Sigur Ros, go back and check out track four of ( ) and see if it’s your thing. If not, skip ALL of this. If you’re down, leave it on for the daylight hours of a calendar day. It’s brilliant if you’re brain is thirsty for it.
Check Out: Sleep 1
Hobo Johnson — The Fall of Hobo Johnson
Awkward Hip Hop Poems
100% NOT the kind of music I would typically find myself listening to. A coworker recommended this guy to me sometime before his album was released, and I heard a song or two and thought his flow was kind of novelty, and something of a joke. But the songs on this album somehow have a bit more charm and personality than I gave him credit for being able to put together. Of course, listening to the album on purpose on the regular is difficult. But I find that his creativity and effort is definitely one to be noted. As someone who has written almost obsessively in little books and journals and blogs, there’s a sort of kinship I feel with this guy in that it feels like his brain is always moving. Like a metronome, sometimes he strikes gold all the way on one end of the spectrum, and on the other, sometimes it’s absolute nonsense. But I respect that he’s putting this out there, and for the most part all of it sounds good. This is a record that reminds me very specifically to not take myself or the music I listen to too seriously (all of the time). Definitely one that cleanses the palette a little bit. This one is for the version of me that says “I never watch comedy movies.” Shut up and chill, man.
Check Out: You & the Cockroach
Deathprod — Occulting Disk
There’s something blatantly hilarious about getting really into experimental music. Honestly, a lot of it stems directly from my interest in Sigur Ros and Sunn O))) and so forth, finding ways to enjoy music when the more traditional sense of music is not there. Trying to explain why eight minutes and thirty seconds of an intermittent digital foghorn is enjoyable is brutal. But it is! Especially with a title like “Disappearance/Reappearance”, it doesn’t necessarily hold up as a song, but it really speaks to me as a piece of fiction, as a piece of a sensory dive into a world that wasn’t there or ISN’T there without those headphones on. From Deathprod’s wikipedia: “On recordings, Sten is usually credited with “Audio Virus”, a catchall term for “homemade electronics, old tape echo machines, ring modulators, filters, theremins, samplers and lots of electronic stuff.” Fucking AUDIO VIRUS! So dope. This one is more of a journey than a series of good songs, and one that I really liked listening to a lot while writing or in the middle of creating something. Lots of stimulation for the visual center of my brain.
Check Out: OCCULTATION I
We Never Learned to Live — The Sleepwalk Transmissions
This record doesn’t reinvent any new roads, but it certainly dusts off some old ones. From the sing/scream patterns that yield emotional release like Thursday, the desperation patterns amidst frenzied aggression like The Sleeping, the contemplation of Pianos Become the Teeth and the grabbing your hair and pulling it towards the microphone of Touche Amore, this band is bringing a TON of influence to the table, all of which I am eager to ingest. There’s a new kind of blood and a new kind of voice on this record, one which pays homage to what made these guys want to make music in the first place, but also one that takes it in a new hybrid direction.
Check Out: Wounds Like Wires
Renounced — Beauty Is a Destructive Angel
Youth Large Black T Shirt Core
This was such a cool album to hear. It had been talked up quite a bit before its release and when I finally heard it, I was genuinely transported to a different time. This sounds like a band that would be on a photocopied flyer, something tied in with bands like From Autumn to Ashes and Regarding I. This reminds me of being up late at night with nothing to lose while living in my parents’ house and finding bands on MySpace. So distinctly inspired by a certain era of hardcore bands. I love all of these songs equally, and they each bring me back to a very particular time when I had way less understanding of the world and wore shirts that were way too tight. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and the breakdowns are precisely what the doctor ordered. I’m extremely glad that bands like these are starting to pop up again because I love knowing that some of the younger crowd is going to have a chance to check these and many more bands like them out. Stoked.
Check Out: Saltation
De Osos — Under These Restless Skies
Big Planetary Soundtrack
Maybe I’m tapped a little bit too deeply into the spiritual aspect of music and not enough into the mechanical elements of it. I just don’t feel like I have the ability to explain what makes a great post-rock record excellent. This one feels dreamy and dreary in the best of ways, beautiful in the way that it is something that I would imagine would put a satellite to rest, or even put a satellite into orbit. Something that would lift you above and into the threshold that gravity ignores and lets you float, free from physics, and tumble and roll into all that your personal will dreams up. It’s floaty and shadowy, dark when it needs to be but mostly a lilting and weightless drift. Never heard of this band before this record, but know enough now that I can throw them onto a sleep playlist, one to latch REM cycles onto its rails and find what worlds it would build.
Check Out: This Kid In Love With You
Boy Scouts — Free Company
The Selfless Revelation
Sad and pretty and vulnerable. There is no better way to describe this record. There are slow elements of the guitars here that remind me of the early days of emo, the roots of it all, like Karate. It’s also tough to not at least reference that second phase of emo, that next wave that came in and made it all very difficult to consider it an underground genre anymore. This record has a very confessional element to it, something that has a lot of Bare It All honesty, with less focus on turn-of-phrase than very deliberate and direct lyricism. This is a beautiful album which coaxed me in with the album’s opener “Get Well Soon” and continued to hit me with impactful song again and again, especially with the song “Expiration Date” which reminded me a bit of a more mellow Modest Mouse.
Check Out: Expiration Date
Cigarettes After Sex — Cry
Angsty Teens At Midlife
I don’t know what it is about Cigarettes After Sex. I heard a lot of criticism about their lyrics in the song Apocalypse for the SHEER CORNINESS of “my lips, your lips… apocalypse” which, yeah, is pretty awful. It’s like a passed note in high school between the goth kids. Are there goth kids anymore? I don’t know. This is exactly the reason why I tune out most lyrics, and let the ones that impact me impact me greatly, and the rest sort of roll off of me. The sound and the sentiment of these songs are longing and to continue to draw that analog, there is such similarity between the purity and naivety of that young love (the blindness of it, the fatalism of it) and this record. It’s low vibe, low effort and subtle. It’s pretty and it’s immediate. I don’t miss it when it’s gone, but when it’s playing, I believe it. I live in it, I swim in it. I drown in it. I stare at the ceiling and tell myself no one understands while hugging my pillow.
Check Out: Don’t Let Me Go
Palehound — Black Friday
Soft and feathery beds, heavenly morning light and deep intimate eye contact are a few of the themes I feel in these tracks. The way Kempner lightly drags and pushes her voice across your ears brings you closer to her than so many other people playing music in this same space. It’s intensely attached to your inner ear, scraping your brain stem like a calming resident voice.
Check Out: Killer