2019 Year-In-Review & Staff Picks
Hello Indy CD & Vinyl friends, family and shoppers! 2019 is over, and we are looking forward to what 2020 will bring us in the music world - and to reminisce on the year that was, we compiled a our lists of Top 10 albums from 2019 we loved. Also included are links to employee-curated playlists of songs from their favorite 2019 albums.
Aisha Devi - S.L.F.
Billie Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Boy Harsher - Careful
Bremer/McCoy - Utopia
Chelsea Wolfe - Birth Of Violence
Floating Points - Crush
Jenny Hval - The Practice Of Love
Slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain
The Comet Is Coming - Trust in The Lifeforce Of the Deep Mystery
Toro Y Moi - Outer Peace
Best live shows I attended in 2019:
Björk at The Shed NYC
Odonis Odonis, Public Memory, Stranger Attractor - ICD&V RSD
Boy Harsher @ The Empty Bottle CHI
Courtney Barnett In-store at Indy CD & Vinyl
Cussy @ White Rabbit
Ritual Howls - Rendered Armor
I would wage a guess that a new Ritual Howls album will almost always end up on my Top 10 list. 'Rendered Armor' has a slightly different feel to it than previous albums, but is no less impactful. To my ears the 'dusty cowboy' element of twangy guitars and storytelling has taken more of a focus on this album, despite continuing to weave the goth rock, industrial, etc. elements into their sound. It sounds clear, fresh, and powerful. Theirs are records that continue to make me excited and lucky to hear three people exploring and expressing their collective vision with each new album.
Larma - S/T
Swedish d-beat maniacs who have connections to two of my favorite contemporary bands from the land of mangel, Infernöh (check out their final record '7 Spar' released by Distort Reality) and the excellent Stress SS. Larma is a perfect battering ram of midtempo-to-breakneck punk akin to the gods Totälitar but with a serious emphasis on hooks. The songs are really catchy while still fleshed out to be a wall of powerful noise of riff after tasty riff.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana
At this point I don't see how Freddie Gibbs isn't already rap royalty, and regardless of that he's easily my favorite current MC and has been for the last few years. Every verse is smooth, loud, and smart as hell. While so many people strive for a comparison to an established artist, Gibbs always comes across as genuine and fresh to me while staying connected to landmarks of hip hop history. Maybe it's because his voice and cadence reminds me of 2pac at times, but it never comes across as anything other than his own style. And you can't fade a second collab with the production wizard Madlib. This has been in rotation in the car since it's release in July.
Deathspell Omega - The Furnaces of Palingenesia
I'm not sure any words I could possibly write would accurately sum up this incredibly dense and complex work, both ideologically and musically. After a brief foray into a more 'hooky' style of songwriting the black metal philosophers have delivered their most monumental album to date. It takes a lot from a metal record to move me anymore, let alone make me so engrossed that I become obsessive in all it's details to try to fully understand it. Masterpiece.
Darkthrone - Old Star
I celebrate their entire catalog, they can do no wrong. But after slowly making their way back from a stream of piecemeal production and great (albeit sometimes goofy) metalpunk records after 2006's 'The Cult Is Alive', Darkthrone have once again bridged the gap between the monochrome black metal of the early 90's era and the sleek, rock 'n' roll-laden feel of the Moonfog years while keeping some of the punky influence. 'Old Star' is unrelenting, with perfect and punchy production giving an ample foundation for razor sharp riffs, and sounds inspired. Bang your f'n head!
D7Y - S/T
Icelandic raw punk that should make any Disclose loving punk salivate from the one-two punch of the 52 second opening track 'Martraðaveröld' into the ear-destroying 'Stríð Eftir Stríð'. Running a total of 14 minutes in length, this record is of some of the best Discharge-influenced punk you'll hear this side of Disclose's perfect 'Nightmare or Reality' EP.
Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race
Four towering tracks of astral death metal adding up to 36 minutes, perfectly executed with technical prowess, serious riffage, and a keen sense of melody and catchiness. Then there's Middle Eastern-based modes, ripping solos, and non-traditional instrumentation (Moogs, timpani, gongs, hand drums, etc.) to push it over the edge. While it's just an opinion (everyone has one) I don't know that there was a better death metal release this year, and would wage a guess this may be a high-water mark for some years to come.
Runemagick - Into Desolate Realms
Runemagick are on a roll the last few years, and they smashed into 2019 with a split 12" with Chthonic Deity, a mini-LP, and this monolithic slab of death doom. Massive production, massive riffs, massive drums, and massive songs. Through the thick fog of speed-picked guitars and crawling tempo drums comes and eerie atmosphere and some serious slow headbanging moments. The masters have done it again.
Drab Majesty - Modern Mirror
As much as I liked this record upon initial listen, the absence of an overt darker vibe in the music threw me at first, but didn't take long for me to warm up. Drab went full-blown 80's pop with huge hooks and layers, reminding me of a more electronic-based (instrumentally) version of Tears For Fears – yeah, it's that good.
Immortal War - Promo 2019
This little punk/metal ripper from Boston's Immortal War got played over and over again this year and perfectly mixes speed metal and d-beat, with tinges of Bathory and Celtic Frost influence. To be more specific, THIS is the sh*t I DO like. 3 original tracks and a killer cover of G.B.H.'s classic song "Time Bomb." This EP is supposedly a teaser for an album that's already recorded, which needs to be out immediately IMO. Hurry up, dudes, let's goooooo! (Not available at the shop, currently only available on cassette and for download through Bandcamp.)
Honorable mentions to these excellent platters that also warmed my turntable this year or just came out:
Cianide - Unhumanized
Boy Harsher - Careful
Lord Mantis - Universal Death Church
Binker Golding - Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers
Denzel Curry - Zuu
Durand Jones & the Indications - American Love Call
Night Sins - Portrait In Silver
Fat White Family - Serfs Up!
British rockers, Fat White Family, are back at it with their third album, Serfs Up! Opens with a filthy disco number & keeps you on your toes for the remainder of their genre hopping whirlwind of an album. No matter what mood you’re in, there’s a track for you.
IDLES - A BEAUTIFUL THING: LIVE AT LE BATACLAN
It's all in the title, baby! I've never had the opportunity to see them live (yet!), but this album definitely helps with the fomo. One of the most vital punk bands of the age- this show is a wonderful example of how they are helping change feelings of aggression to feelings of compassion and love for one another.
B Boys - DuDu
THIS ALBUM IS NOT DUDU. B Boys rule! Clangy riffs, shouting vocals, and all the 'tude you could ask for, this album delivers the edge & rawness from early post-punk bands that is so hard to find today. Makes you dance like you might need a trip to the hospital.
Amyl and the Sniffers - Amyl and the Sniffers
Aussie rockers are bringing the 1970s back in style with their 1st full length album! Fast, raw, pure rock n' roll fun from front to back. Get gacked on Amyl & the Sniffers with me!
Ceremony - In the Spirit World Now
Ceremony goes New Wave! Total throwback album, constantly reminding you of the classic late 70s/early 80s bands you already love.
Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel
What a debut! Chatten projects Ben Stein-like vocals in a beat poetry-like manner atop some classic punky licks and beats that will remind you of some of your old favorites. Check this one out- especially if you dig the The Fall/Mark E. Smith
Frankie & The Witch Fingers - ZAM
Surprise, surprise! Los Angeles psych-rockers Frankie and the Witch Fingers have put out another flawless album. 60s era psych for today- tight, powerful, and aggressive. Plus they are some of the best human's I've ever met. Be sure to catch them next time they come to town.
Ariel Pink - Odditties Sodomies (Vol. 2)
Some tasty rarities spanning almost twenty years- we have been gifted with the second volume of unheard music recorded during the Haunted Graffiti days, plus some more recent tunes . New-psych jumble of 60s and early 80s all playing on the same radio station with poor reception- I can't ever get enough Ariel Pink.
Drab Majesty - Modern Mirror
Dark, moody, and synth-full- Drab Majesty has been ruling my record player lately. A perfect album from front to butt. 10/10 makes you want to run your errands dressed like an 80's mannequin.
She Past Away - Disko Anksiyete
Turkey's doin' it right! Volkan Caner's deep, haunting vocals make my brain scared and my heart happy. A perfect blend of post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock- She Past Away delivers another gorgeous album.
HEALTH - IV: Slaves Of Fear
Interpol - A Fine Mess EP
Boy Harsher - Careful
All Your Sisters - Trust Ruins
Black Mountain - Destroyer
Swervedriver - Future Ruins
Tempers - Private Life
Stranger Attractor - RSD 7”
Chelsea Wolfe - Birth Of Violence
Odonis Odonis - Reaction EP
Pedro The Lion - Phoenix
Replicant - Taste Of Midnight
Admittedly I didn't listen to as many new releases in 2019 as I have in previous years. Much of that reason is because for me it was an incredible new album by HEALTH, and then there was everything else. Far and away the album of the year in my opinion, and I can see listening it on high rotation for many years to come.
2019 was an extremely strong year of new releases, including the first release on the Indy CD & Vinyl record label, Stranger Attractor (recorded by shop GM Carl Byers), and a long awaited follow up album by Boy Harsher. If I had listened to more new releases more often I would find it near impossible to compile a Top Ten there simply was just so much good music this year, and I am grateful.
Drab Majesty - Modern Mirror
Simply put: A love letter to the 80s.
FKA Twigs - Magdalene
This album is greater than the sum of its parts. Every time I listen to it I appreciate it more.
Holly Herndon - Proto
This album was written largely by AI. I find the merging of music and technology fascinating. Music is meant to evoke emotion, but to be created by something incapable of emotion is extremely interesting to me. It’s a very weird record, but maybe what this AI made is how machines see us.
Andy Stott - It Should Be Us
Andy Stott showcasing his diversity on a 47 min "EP" that spans 2 discs. Plays at 45 for high fidelity. This will never sound as good when streamed as it does on disc.
Billie Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?
This album is awesome. The production is fantastic. The vocals are perfect.
Pharmakon - Devour
It’s been an awesome year for noise! Brutal power electronics; each track designed to evoke a specific emotion. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I listened to this album for the first time thinking heavily about the loss of loved ones and it reminded me of those feelings we all hope to never feel but somehow created nostalgia for the pain that comes with all that.
Puce Mary - The Drought
A challenging anxiety-ridden album of noise. Akin to a horror soundtrack with stretches of instrumental tracks interrupted by lyrics that seem like narration. Released digitally at the end of 2018 but out on CD/Vinyl in 2019.
Joni Void - Mise En Abyme
Fantastic choppy production work with repeating motifs. Beautiful guest vocals manipulated across the first half of the album, the second half taking a different approach. This album is littered with samples dug up from the artists recording devices throughout his lifetime -- from childhood home movies to cell phones used today.
Kim Gordon - No Home Record
First solo LP from some girl in a band. Sounding different than her other projects, but with small reminders that she's well versed in noise, post-punk, and no wave. Always experimenting, this album trends closer to dark wave.
Ptwiggs - Darkening Of Light
Dark, experimental, industrial, electronic.
Presented in no particular order. This year was really hard to narrow down to a top 10. A top 20 would have been much easier. We had some awesome reissues, saw a lot of artists or groups release something for the first time in over a decade, had a really great album written with help from AI, and heard some cool collaborations. I tried to keep my list representative of what I’ve been listening to the most lately. Some of my favorite albums that didn’t make the cut can be found on other employee’s 2019 lists, like Ceremony, Sharon Van Etten, Floating Points, Chelsea Wolfe, The Coathangers and a bunch more.
Beirut - Gallipoli
Zach Condon returns to the sound that made Beirut famous over a decade ago. The arrangements, vocals, and rawness of this record remind me of those earlier recording he made in his parent's bedroom. "Gallipoli," is also a summation of the Santa Fe native's career, capturing the sounds and melancholic melodies of his previous work.
Mdou Moctar - Ilana (The Creator)
Fans of Tinariwen and other North African styles of music will be amazed at the talent of this incredible musician. The style of music has local roots to the region but it almost has 60's surf/psych vibe that makes something truly incredible.
Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
It has been five years since we were graced with another Sharon Van Etten album and it was completely worth the wait. After taking time off for various reasons, Van Etten returned with of some of her best music to date. Watching the evolution of this musician has been amazing and I can't wait to see what comes next.
Sin Fang - Sad Party
Sindri Már Sigfússon is from the 2000's Icelandic folk/indie band Seabear and has released several solo albums under the name Sin fang including this years "Sad Party." Mixing every genre of music I love and orchestrated by one of my favorite musicians since I was in High School, I cannot recommend this album enough to anyone.
Malibu Ken - S/T
Aesop Rock and Tobacco... need I saw more?
Aldous Harding - Designer
New Zealand singer/songwriter Aldous Harding took the indie world by storm with this incredibly beautiful album. With one of the most unique voices in music today, captures a beauty and sadness of the world around us. Apparently she wasn't even planning on being a musician but a veterinarian... The more you know.
The National - I Am Easy To Find
I've been a long time fan of The National but no matter how good you are it is hard to become great unless you grow which is exactly what happens. The inclusion of female vocals makes it sound like a new band in the best way possible.
Stereolab - Dots and Loops
Best reissue of the year by far. This was such a game changing record for me when I was a kid that introduced me to a whole world of music I had never heard before. I've been waiting for the reissue on vinyl ever since so I was glad to see it hit the shelves this year.
The Coathangers - The Devil You Know
The newest album from the three piece punk/garage band from Atlanta, The Coathangers have made one of their best records since "Suck My Shirt." Filled with female angst and politically charged songs like "F**k the N.R.A." this a must have album. It is a little more polished than their earlier work but it fits perfectly with this record.
LCD Soundsystem - Electric Lady Sessions
Recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York, this is the kind of album that makes you remember why you love a band so much. Filled with LCD classics and incredible covers by the likes of "The Human League," this "Live" album feels so fresh it makes you feel like you are back in New York City during the mid to late 2000's dancing yourself clean.