Friday, December 20, 2019
And here are my top 5 favorite albums of 2019:
Angel Olsen - All Mirrors
Simultaneously intimate and epic, All Mirrors is a confident and dazzling display of Olsen's craft.
Hayden Thorpe - Diviner
Thorpe, the former lead singer for art-pop rebels Wild Beasts, released his debut solo album Diviner which focused mainly on piano and his luxurious voice. His breathtakingly candid lyrics brought everything together in masterful fashion.
Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!
She finally did it after years of putting out excellent records, her masterpiece. Working primarily with producer Jack Antonoff (in surprisingly subtle mode), Del Rey goes searching for America. It's a frequently horrifying journey, but one that ends in hope.
Charli XCX - Charli
One day the world will catch up with Charli XCX's future pop. Until then, I am just going to bask in her brilliance.
Thom Yorke - ANIMA
I will admit it took me several listens to "get" this record. It's icy cold in spots, unrelentingly challenging, and frequently detached. But once you give in to the flow of the record, you hear the warmth in Yorke's aching voice and his concerns about both the world and the intimate reaches of our inner selves. It's a record that asks big questions, comes up short with answers, but gives into the flow of life, still searching, and still reaching.
Thursday, December 19, 2019
And we now get to the first half of my top ten albums of 2019:
FKA twigs - MAGDALENE
FKA twigs came into her own this year, with the challenging and dense masterpiece MAGDALENE.
DIIV - Deceiver
Zachary Cole Smith, the leader of DIIV, wrote that this album was a response to what he felt was the dishonesty of the last album which was supposed to be about overcoming addiction but didn't tell the true story, that he was still an addict. Deceiver is a brilliant shoegaze tour de force, made even better by the honest, raw lyrics.
Broods - Don't Feed The Pop Monster
New Zealand duo Broods didn't heed their own warnings and put together one of the best pop records of the year.
Billie Elish - When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Goth-pop phenomenon Billie Elish stormed out of the gates with this instant classic debut.
KAZU - Adult Baby
The former lead singer of Blonde Redhead's debut solo record was a strange, experimental album full of odd touches, but was still compelling by the emotions Kazu brought to the forefront.
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
We now reach the half-way point in my list of Favorite Albums of 2019:
Tove Lo - Sunshine Kitty
According to Spotify, Tove Lo is my artist of the decade and it is quite difficult to argue with that assertion. She has an innate pop music gift for catchy, super-melodic tracks. Sunshine Kitty is no exception.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
Cave's first proper album written after the accidental death of his teenage son is a devastatingly honest rumination on life and death. While it may not provide any answers, it takes you on a rewarding journey.
black midi - Schlagenheim
The young upstarts in black midi pretty much take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to their post-punk sound. Just when you think you know where a song is going, it abruptly shifts and morphs into something unexpected and challenging. When I begin to doubt that rock music is getting stale, it is bands like black midi that restore my hope.
Caroline Polachek - Pang
Polachek's debut solo album is her bid to jump from alternative to pure pop music, and the results are dazzling.
Burial - Tunes 2011-2019
It appears we are never going to get a proper follow-up album to Untrue. Honestly though, how does one follow up perfection? Since that landmark record, Burial started putting out EPs roughly once a year or so, and Tunes 2011-2019 fittingly compiles these tracks into one 2.5 hour-long play. This compilation shows off Burial's diversity and how far he has come. It only bodes well for his future.
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Continuing my list of Favorite Albums:
Blanck Mass - Animated Violence Mild
Fuck Buttons' member Benjamin John Power's fourth album under his Blanck Mass moniker was a thorough reimagining of 80s and 90s industrial music that was stunning in its ferocity and power.
The Chemical Brothers - No Geography
The Chems got back to basics on No Geography and brought back the fun in their music. They also put together one of the greatest live shows I have ever seen.
Drab Majesty - Modern Mirror
Drab Majesty, a.k.a. Deb Demure, mined from goth-pop artists like The Cure, Peter Murphy, and Clan of Xymox but staked their own claim. Full of massive melodies and atmospheric production, Modern Mirror is a classic of the genre.
Twilight Sad - It Won/t Be Like This All The Time
Twilight Sad have always been good but they seemed to be holding back from their true potential. Apparently losing a founding member, as well as, touring relentlessly with The Cure put a spark in them. It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is a stunning work that is their Disintegration.
Floating Points - Crush
Floating Point's Crush is the perfect mix of dance floor bangers, experimental ruminations, and ambient explorations.
Monday, December 16, 2019
I'm finishing out the year with my favorite albums of 2019:
HÆLOS - Any Random Kindness
On their second album, UK band HÆLOS expands on their trip-hop inspired sound by going widescreen and technicolor.
Telefon Tel Aviv - Dreams Are Not Enough
This year, Josh Eustis released the first Telefon Tel Aviv album since the death of founding member Charlie Cooper. It is a haunting meditation on death and mourning.
Octo Octa - Resonant Body
Blissed out rave tracks keep this set of tracks moving at light speed.
Rhi - The Pale Queen
If James Blake and Lana Del Rey had a love child, it would definitely be Rhi. Her smoky vocals effortlessly float over hazy electronics.
Mannequin Pussy - Patience
Philly's Mannequin Pussy has put down one of the best rock records of the year. They perfectly mesh punk fury with emo vulnerability.
Friday, December 13, 2019
And here we come to the end of the decade and these are my top 10 songs of the year. Stay tuned in January when I put together my decade lists.
10. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - "Waiting for You"
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' 18th album Ghosteen is a haunting song cycle meditating on loss and grieving. The album is the first one released since the accidental death of Cave's son Arthur. It asks the big questions about life but is never heavy-handed or maudlin. For me, the record is most touching during the quiet, contemplative moments. Cave's voice is so emotionally bare and resonant on "Waiting for You." Stark piano chords and subtle electronics provide the perfect canvas.
9. KAZU - "Undo"
Kazu Makino, the former lead singer for Blonde Redhead, released her debut solo album this year, entitled Adult Baby. It's an enigmatic record, full of strange sounds, and lots of intriguing uses of her voice. "Undo" is both gorgeous and offsetting; using odd backing noises (clicks, whistles, and drones) to keep you off-center. Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier adds cavernous drums to the mix, anchoring the song to the earth.
8. Rhye - "Needed"
Rhye returns with this haunting, and vaguely sinister new track called "Needed." Lyrics like "Why you look so fragile? Do I seem so bad?," hint at a darker under current, as the narrator implores his lover that all he wants is to be needed. The song was co-written with Dan Wilson of Semisonic.
7. Tove Lo - "Glad He's Gone"
Excellent kiss-off track from the always awesome Tove Lo.
6. FKA twigs - "Sad Day"
"sad day" is a stunning, haunting collaboration with Nicolas Jaar, Skrillex, and benny blanco. Her vocal performance and the production tips its hat squarely to Kate Bush's most enchanting work.
5. Broods - "Too Proud"
From their brilliant record Don't Feed the Pop Monster, Broods release this moving track about struggling with depression. It's something I have struggled with all my life and it hit home very deeply.
4. Hayden Thorpe - "Human Knot"
Hayden Thorpe, the former lead singer for art-pop band Wild Beasts, released his first solo album, the gorgeous piano-led Diviner. One of my favorite tracks is the starkly beautiful "Human Knot," which focuses on Thorpe's haunting voice. It's a touching song that deals with the interconnection between people and that, even if there is a split or absence, it doesn't mean there is not still love or caring.
3. Angel Olsen - "All Mirrors"
It's difficult to imagine a more sweeping, dramatic track this year. Angel Olsen erupted this year like a volcano, showing an all-consuming command of her craft. The sweeping strings and swooning synths of this track just propel her titanic vocals forward, leaving us in its wake.
2. Charli XCX ft. Christine and the Queens - "Gone"
This was pretty much my theme song this year. It was a year of massive change for me, and really figuring out what it means to be friends with people, and learning also when to know to drop certain toxic people. And in my head and heart, I recite these lyrics: "Don't search me in here, I'm already gone, baby."
1. Thom Yorke - "Dawn Chorus"
Lord, what do I say about this song. "Dawn Chorus" is an achingly beautiful song from Thom Yorke's solo album ANIMA. It's a song about the loss of his former partner. It's sad, it's incomplete, it's inscrutable; just like life. There is sorrow here and loss of hope, seeing everything lost to ash. But in the absence of that hope, there is also a light, something pulling him forward, making him choose to move into life. Dawn chorus refers to the cacophony of sounds birds make in the dawn; it provides a restart, a resolution, a new day.
Thursday, December 12, 2019
Almost to the end of my list:
20. Hatchie - "Stay With Me"
If Robyn, Cocteau Twins, and The Sundays got together and wrote a "crying alone in the club" song, they would probably sound like this excellent track from Aussie singer-songwriter Hatchie.
19. Art School Girlfriend - "Diving"
Dreamy single from Art School Girlfriend that touches on desire and anxiety. I love the way the synths quietly build to a dynamic conclusion.
18. Róisín Murphy - "Incapable"
Hypnotic deep house track from the incomparable Róisín Murphy.
17. HÆLOS - "Empty Skies"
British band HÆLOS builds upon their initial trip-hop sound, making things more dense and organic. "Empty Skies" is a standout track with its drum patterns recalling Massive Attack's masterful song "Unfinished Sympathy." The band brings in their excellent use of harmonies all, of course, anchored by Lotti Benardout’s Valkyrie-like voice.
16. Rhi - "Swagger"
I read a description of London-based singer-songwriter Rhi that seemed fairly apt; that she is the lovechild of James Blake and Lana Del Rey. With dreamy, hazy tracks like "Swagger," you can easily hear it.
15. Lana Del Ray - "The Greatest"
"The Greatest" lives up to its title; being probably Lana Del Rey's best song. It's a haunting meditation on love and loss, and the sad state of the world.
14. The Twilight Sad - "VTr"
On their breathtakingly good new album It Won/t Be Like This All The Time, The Twilight Sad expertly marry their shoegaze beginnings with the thunderous rush of their goth fore bearers The Cure. Honestly, I could put all the songs here as there is not a weak song on the album. Right now though "VTr" keeps popping up in my head. Its propulsive drums, roaring guitars, and synth flourishes are intoxicating.
13. Zayn - "Flight of the Stars"
This year, the former One Direction member released his second solo album, the 27 track opus Icarus Falls. It's a pretty brilliant pop record, showing more maturity and willingness to try new genres and sounds. "Flight of the Stars" is a haunting ballad that focuses on his lush voice and minimal production.
12. Apparat - "OUTLIER (Solomun Remix)"
Solomun takes the pastoral electronica of the original version of Apparat's "OUTLIER" and creates a chilled out, deep house version. The spoken word portion at the end is haunting.
11. Billie Elish - "Bad Guy"
Teenage phenomenon Billie Ellish broke through with this single that for all its energy is strangely restrained. The tension it builds through the use of sonic dynamics is breathtaking.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
We're at the halfway point in the countdown of my favorite songs of 2019, let's get to them:
30. Blanck Mass - "Love is a Parasite"
Animated Violence Mild, Fuck Buttons' member Benjamin John Power's fourth album under his Blanck Mass moniker, is a monolithic and intense repurposing of 80s and 90s industrial music. "Love is a Parasite" takes the full-on fury of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry and amps it up even further.
29. The Innocence Mission - "The Snow on Pi Day"
The Innocence Mission has been around for over 30 years and they never disappoint. This latest song is probably one of their most beautiful. Prepare to be transfixed.
28. Sandra Kolstad - "Catch-22"
Stunning single from Norwegian artist Sandra Kolstad's new album Burning Love. Her commanding voice stands out among a phalanx of rising synths.
27. Caroline Polachek - "Door"
Former Chairlift singer Caroline Polacheck's first solo single was this absolutely gorgeous pop track.
26. One True Pairing - "Only God Can Judge Me"
Tom Fleming, formerly of Wild Beasts, released his first solo album under the moniker One True Pairing. His stunning baritone is the highlight of this synth-heavy track.
25. Blaqk Audio - "Dark Arcades"
Blaqk Audio, the synthpop side project of Davey Havok and Jade Puget of AFI, released their fourth album Only Things We Love this year. "Dark Arcades" is a darkly epic track with a killer chorus that recalls the best of 80s goth-pop.
24. Ride - "End Game"
Shoegaze titans Ride returned with the album This Is Not A Safe Space. I was captivated by the moody track "End Game" that blends their ferocious guitar attack with a more contemplative, Church-esque atmosphere.
23. Shey Baba - "Requiem"
Moving ballad from singer, song-writer Shey Baba, that is about mourning the past, but moving on from it.
"Time only haunts you once
Pause, and then it will restart
It's a pain I've been holding for years
And now that my moment's come
All disappear inside
It's the truth I've been holding for years
And this is my requiem to the old world
Fading, you're fading
You don't have to be who you are anymore"
22. The Faint - "Child Asleep"
"Child Asleep" is a slamming dance track from The Faint's solid record Egowerk.
21. Camelphat & Riva Starr ft. Ursula Rucker - "Crystal Clear"
This is probably one of my favorite dance tracks this year. There is a muscularity to it that drags you out to the dance floor.
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Continuing my countdown:
40. SASAMI - "Not the Time"
SASAMI, the former keyboardist for Cherry Glazerr, has released a lovely collection of shoegaze pop. One of my favorite songs is this beautiful ode to a relationship that didn't work out but the feelings remain and they want to save the friendship. I love these lyrics, that sums up a lot of personal things for myself:
"One of these nights I'm
Gonna hear your song again, friend
One of these nights I'm
Gonna be your friend again
It's not the time or place for us
But you said that you would save some space for us."
39. KH (aka Four Tet) - "Only Human"
Four Tet, under the alias KH, takes a sample from Nelly Furtado's track "Afraid" and turns out one of the best dance floor bangers of the year.
38. Drab Majesty - "Oxytocin"
Pulling their sound from acts like The Cure and Clan of Xymox, goth-inspired LA duo Drab Majesty transcend their influences on their new album Modern Mirror. "Oxytocin" is all swoony synths and chiming guitars, and is quite sublime.
37. HVOB - "Butter"
Austrian electronic duo HVOB veers headlong into Berghain-like techno on this dramatic track.
36. Solange - "Stay Flo"
Solange throws down some sleek and sexy vibes on this gorgeous track.
35. Friendly Fires - "Lack of Love"
Friendly Fires amp up some dancefloor grooves on this loving cover of the House classic "Lack of Love" which was originally done by Charles B and Adonis.
34. black midi - "953"
UK youngsters black midi has a wild assortment of influences, none of which they are afraid to throw together in the mix. "953" from their debut record Schlagenheim is an everything but the kitchen sink concoction that throws in prog, punk, math rock, Fall-like vocals, and undeniable energy.
33. DIIV - "Acheron"
Shoegaze band DIIV returned with its excellent record Deceiver. It was hard to pick just one track that stands out, so I went with the epic closing track "Acheron," which slowly builds to a ferocious climax.
32. NIMMO - "No More"
London duo NIMMO's new song "No More" is a disco-tinged dance track that is about trying to find the courage to get over a relationship, and exalting in the rush that comes from taking that leap. This is such a great dance track.
31. Burial - "Claustro"
Burial returned after a two-year absence with this killer single. It's dancier than his usual material but still retains his singular sound.
Monday, December 9, 2019
Once again, we come to the end of another year and, in this case, another decade. It was a really great year for singles, so much so, I had another 50 tracks in the waiting room. While I would love to put them all on here, I only have slots for 50, so here we go:
50. Foals - "In Degrees"
Foals takes to the dance floor with this killer club track.
49. Lizzo - "Juice"
It's been so much fun watching Lizzo's star shine bright. It's hard to put this on without smiling.
48. Josin - "In The Blank Space"
The hauntingly beautiful title track to Josin's new record. Her lovely falsetto recalls Thom Yorke's aching croon.
47. Girlpool - "What Chaos Is Imaginary"
The gorgeous title track from the duo's latest album. Mournful organs, swirling strings, and pounding drums provide the base for their lovely intertwined vocals. It's a stunning track.
46. Hot Chip - "Hungry Child"
Another euphoric dance track from Hot Chip that gets better and better with each listen.
45. Blue Hawaii - "Still I Miss U"
I was drawn to Montreal synthpop duo Blue Hawaii's (Braids’ Raphaelle ‘Ra’ Standell and Alexander ‘Agor’ Kerby) single "Still I Miss U" with its tender synths and aching chorus. Anyone that has gone through a breakup and misses their ex will understand the sentiment of this beautiful track.
44. Julia Jacklin - "Don't Know How to Keep Loving You"
"Don't Know How to Keep Loving You" is a stark ballad about a relationship at an impasse, beautifully sung by Aussie Julia Jacklin.
43. !!! - "Couldn't Have Known"
You couldn't ask for a more booty-shaking rave-up this year.
42. Flume - "MUD"
Flume's "MUD" shows off more of his textural side with industrial-strength drums and more melted, twisted synths.
41. CUT_ - "Not Addicted to You"
Bold and forceful synthpop from Dutch electronic duo CUT_.
Friday, December 6, 2019
Thursday, December 5, 2019
Genderqueer artist King Princess just released her debut album and the title track is a drowsy, loping track built on top of samples and a looped piano line.
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Netherlands trio Cubicolor is set to release their second album Hardly A Day, Hardly A Night in February. Our first taste from the record is "Points Beyond," a forlorn deep house track that reminds one of the more evocative singles from Rüfüs Du Sol.
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Monday, December 2, 2019
Friday, November 22, 2019
Once a three-piece, SASSY 009 is now down to Oslo-based musician/producer Sunniva Lindgård. Off her latest EP KILL SASSY 009, "Okay" starts out as a haunting, ambient track, only to explode with complex drum programming and thunderous bass.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Seventeen-year-old pop phenomenon Billie Elish racked up a slew of Grammy nominations this week. New song "everything i wanted" is a meditation on fame and mental illness. Although the beginning of the song seems despondent, the song ends on a positive note, with Billie leaning on her brother (who produced the track) for support. It's a beautiful song.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Indietronica musician Elliot Moss releases the first single from his upcoming record A Change In Diet. "July 4" pulsates with a driving beat and bassline, sinister keyboards, and Moss's heavily treated vocals.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Two heavyweights in the Australian electronic scene have teamed up for a collaborative EP. The title track is a dancefloor-ready electro banger.
Friday, November 15, 2019
From her upcoming record Miss_Anthropocene, Grimes teases us with the darkly seductive slow-burning track "So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth," which marries lush synths and delicate guitars with her signature, breathy vocals. It's captivating.
Thursday, November 14, 2019
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Cloud rap pioneer Clams Casino returns with his second album Moon Trip Radio. "Cupidwing" marries twinkling synths with shuffling beats and bursts of vocal samples.
Monday, November 11, 2019
Friday, November 8, 2019
In honor of me passing FKA twigs on the street yesterday, I am posting one of the best tracks off her phenomenal new record MAGDALENE. "sad day" is a stunning, haunting collaboration with Nicolas Jaar, Skrillex, and benny blanco. Her vocal performance and the production tips its hat squarely to Kate Bush's most enchanting work.