Friday, 13 December 2019

Top 50 Albums of 2019

Here we are again. The final year of this decade draws to a close.
Another year of more loss and less gain. It seems that way more and more as we get older. One step forward, two steps back.

A year which sees Tory dominance continues as a new decade will likely see the United Kingdom leave the European Union.

2019 has been a year where the light of hope slowly flickers and fades as we all face an uncertain future. It's not hyperbole, it's just the way it is.

Soapbox aside, the year in music has been strong. Very strong, in fact. So many omissions could have been included in the below list. Pelican, Barker, Angel Olsen, Efrim Menuck and Kevin Doria, Lightning Dust, Torche, Greys, Bob Mould. The list goes on.

It's been a strange year for me, personally. Aside from politics which for the first time have actually frightened me, I've managed to write my third book, Welcome to Charmsville (purchase details here, treat yourself!), visit my family on the other side of the world, see the Reds conquer Europe and meet some new people along the way.
These aspects have been a nice distraction from an 18 months that have been turbulent to say the least.
What does the future hold? Who knows, just keep a hold of your loved ones and tell them how dear they are to your heart.

Enjoy the list and be safe.


Craig Finn – I Need a New War
Partisan Records
While 2017’s We All Want The Same Things contained some of the finest work Craig Finn has ever committed to tape, I Need A New War takes a little longer to sink into the pores.
Like his last two albums, I Need A New War focuses on people’s struggles with modern day life in a world that seemingly moves faster than ourselves.
Once again, we find ourselves engaging with Finn‘s characters, ordinary working class people he has majestically carved a career from writing about.
Like all great song–writers, Finn projects his characters into a clear spotlight and listening to his music on a regular basis, there’s always a new lyric or different interpretation on offer that previously eluded.
Favourite Tracks: Barriers, A Bathtub in the Kitchen, Carmen Isn't Coming In Today. 

Craig Finn Live Review

DIȀT – Positive Disintegration
Blackest Ever Black
Berlin–based antipodean outfit, DIȀT return with their sophomore record, Positive Disintegration, which goes beyond the parameters of most post–punk albums released this year.
The thinly barded lyricism goes down the political rabbit hole, and is backed by jagged bass lines and bowel–twitching tonal swerves that make you feel like you've just been pummelled through the confines of a washing machine.
Whilst post–punk is fast becoming a dirty word just like 'indie' and 'psychedelia' DIȀT are a bunch that play by their own rules and my word, they do it fucking well. 

Favourite Tracks: Foreign Policy, Disintegrate, Missed the Bus.

Modern Nature – How to Live
Bella Union
From the ashes of Ultimate Painting, Jack Cooper took no time in assembling a new project and while releasing his solo LP, Sandgrown back in 2017, Modern Nature seems to be his new focal point.
Joined by Will Young of BEAK> on synths/keys, Jeff Tobias of Sunwatchers on saxophone, and Aaron Nevue of Woods, Modern Nature's debut album, How To Live, arrives.
While tough to penetrate, you have to be in a certain time and place to properly digest this set of tracks.
With the back end of the album feeling totally contrasting to its beginning, Modern Nature are certainly one of a kind, producing an off–kilter cinematic ambience that quite frankly, I’ve still not entirely worked out. A blissed out journey to endure in the clouds. 
Favourite Tracks: Nightmares, Oracle, Nature.
Full Album Review

Cigarettes After Sex – Cry
Partisan Records
Greg Gonzalez and Co. return with Cigarettes After Sex's second album, Cry.
Essentially, Gonzalez is a pop star fronting an indie rock band and it wasn't until seeing Cigarettes After Sex live that I came to this conclusion. From their name to their themes, to their sound, CAS will always be a divisive concern.
Claims that they only have one song are thrown their way time and time again and whilst they may pose as a one trick pone, here's the thing – it's a pretty effective trick.
CAS are the perfect vibe band and Cry continues this notion. While I'm unsure just how much more mileage Gonzelz can get over lust and heartbreak, it's a fine ride for now and that should be enough for all of us.
Favourite Tracks: Heavenly, Cry, Falling In Love.

Glassing – Spotted Horse
Brutal Panda Records
Glassing  are Dustin Coffman – vocals/bass, Cory Brim – guitar, and Jason Camacho – drums.
Their 2017 album Life and Death was, for the most part, Glassing’s meat and two veg homage to screamo and hardcore. Now, Glassing's stunning new long-player represents a band shedding skins and forming into a brand new beast.
The radiating flourishes of cinematic textures project the Austin, Texas trio in a new light, with ten tracks that undeniably capture the imagination. It's sprawling, majestic, aggressive and just plain intense.
Not a world away from what Deafheaven have achieved over their beguiling journey of four albums, however Glassing lean closer to the fringes of post-hardcore with Spotted Horse.  
Favourite tracks: A Good Death, Follow Through, The Wound is Where the Light Enters.

Full Album Review on Getintothis

These New Puritans – Inside The Rose
Infectious Music

These New Puritans have also been a genre-hopping proposition. Any band that can take a bird of prey into a studio for the 'effect' has to be slightly off their head and Jack Barnett's project has teetered on that very spectrum over the years (in a good way, of course).
With Inside the Rose, It's These New Puritans giving listeners a more streamlined approach. It's no bad thing, either.
Many talk about the band trying to enter a commercial realm with Inside the Rose but that's nonsense. The essence of TNP is still very much here. It's just more conventional and the project is all the better for it.
Favourite tracks: Infinity Vibraphones, Inside the Rose, Where the Trees are on Fire.

Lingua Ignota: CALIGULA
Profound Lore
“If you rise up to heaven/I’ll turn the sun to blind you/If you sleep deep in hell/I have chains to bind you.”
Perhaps the passage from Do You Doubt Me Traitor encapsulates the themes that comprise CALIGULA. The second full–length release from Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota).
Hayter has released the most unsettling piece of music this year in CALIGULA. A cruel marriage of piercing operatic noise tip–toeing on the fault lines of progressive metal.
Thematically, Hayter tackles of the roaring flames of violent power struggles, misogyny, domestic abuse, love and vengeance to produce one of the most cathartic listening experiences not only this year but from this decade, too.
Favourite Tracks: Do You Doubt Me Traitor, Butcher of the World, If the Poison Won't Take You My Dogs Will.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Deliluh – Beneath the Floors
Tin Angel Records
Toronto's Deliluh arrive with their second full–length release in Beneath the Floors.
Brimming with motorik avant–garde rhythms, angular grooves which pulsate the senses and a creeping paranoia brought upon by rattling strings, anxious saxophones and whirring riffs, Beneath the Floors is one of the big surprise packets of 2019.
The remnants of Beneath the Floors rests on the surface of your skin, slowly seeping into the pores.

It's ten songs full of elusive dimensions and hidden depths which are designed for quiet spaces and a good set of head phones. Post-hardcore fans rejoice. You've just found your poison.
Favourite tracks: Hangman's Keep, Master Keys, Beneath the Floors.
Deliluh Interview

Pan-American – A Son
Whilst Pan-American has largely been an ambient instrumental project, A Son sees Nelson – the driving force beyond '90s post-rock touchstones, Labradford – enter the realm of singer-songwriter terrain.
The result is A Son, where Nelson effortlessly guides melodies to the deepest corners of the universe, weaving traditional acoustic–laden songs between beautiful dreamscape interludes.

A Son is an stimulating journey as much as it is a surprise. Whilst expecting another collection of shadowy ambient night-scapes, Nelson has flipped the switch and given his devoted listeners something  that we all know he has been more than capable of writing.
Favourite tracks: Memphis Helena, Dunk Father, Shenandoah.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Amyl & The Sniffers – Amyl & The Sniffers
ATO/Rough Trade/Flightless
A bundle of energy, Melbourne based Amyl & The Sniffers give us 32 minutes of short, sharp fun rocking jams with their debut full length.
If AC/DC and the Cosmic Psychos spent a night on the piss and ended up in the studio then it would probably sound something like this.
Amyl & The Sniffers create inoffensive balls–to–wall rock music to lose your shit to. It's undoubtedly urgent, slightly manic, assuredly fun and well, it just fucking shreds! The way pop-punk should sound in this day and age.
Favourite tracks: Star Fire 500, Gacked on Anger, Some Muts (Can't Be Muzzled).

A Winged Victory For The Sullen – The Undivided Five
Ninja Tune
2019 marked the return of Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie – better known to us as A Winged Victory For The Sullen – releasing their first studio album since 2014’s Atomos in The Undivided Five.
Not shifting too far from their neoclassical ambient sonic template, however the nichè AWVFS have carved out in the past has found them swimming in secluded lakes.
Here, you will find a plethora of rich strings and gentle ambient-scapes that make you feel like you’re floating in space. Some of the most captivating compositions the duo has produced thus far lie within The Undivided Five.
Favourite Tracks: Our Lord Debussy, A Minor Fifth Is Made of Phantoms, Adios, Florida.

Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe
Ninja Tune
Like the marriage rock and dance music, Electronic and orchestral music always has the potential to be a complete disaster.

There’s a narrow corridor for success and where the latter genres are concerned, with their latest album, To Believe, London’s Cinematic Orchestra have stitched together something achingly beautiful.
To Believe breathes a new vitality into a dreary everyday existence, elevating these themes through a snapshot of blissed out beats and rich elegant orchestral offerings.

It’s the sound of rainclouds parting. It’s the sound of optimism. It’s the sound of love.
Favourite tracks: A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life, Wait for New/Leave the World, A Promise.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Bill Callahan – Shepherd in a Sheepskin
Drag City
Newly married with a child in tow, Bill Callahan returns after a lengthy absence with Shepherd in a Sheepskin.
Written in his own farm studio, Shepherd' is filled with simplicity. Just Bill and his guitar and while it's an album that takes a while to click, the effort is very much worth it.
It's a content Callahan here, who's ironic quips drip throughout these twenty tracks. Some may be put off by the album's length, but such as the simplicity in these songs, there's a seamless linage that feels as if Callahan doesn't outstay his welcome.
Callahan is the sort of guy who doesn't stay for a second cup of tea. On that subject, grab one and listen to this first thing in the morning because that's the time of day where this album strikes a chord the most.
Favourite tracks: 747, Lonesome Valley, Tugboats and Tumbleweeds.

Big Brave – A Gaze Among Them
Southern Lord

Montreal outift, Big Brave (Robin Wattie – vocals, guitar, bass, Mathieu Ball – guitar, and Loel Campbell – drums), return with their fourth album, A Gaze Among Them.

Big Brave‘s sound focuses predominantly on space, volume, tone and emotion and with the five compositions which comprise A Gaze Among Them, they accomplishment each facet admirably.

A Gaze Among Them is fuelled with down–tuned guitars that throb and swell with a dynamic intensity, drenching listeners with explosive heaviness and hypnotic, bruising waves of feedback.
It’s a sonic storm of nuclear proportions conceived from carefully sculptured repetition and tear jerking tones. It’s a pure cathartic experience.
Favourite tracks: Muted Shifting of Space, Holding Pattern, Body Individual. 
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Ian Noe – Between the Country
National Treasury Recordings
Beattyville, Kentucky native, Ian Noe, has released arguably the finest Americana album this year with his debut, Between the Country.
Noe has been brought up on a diet of Dylan and various other touchstones of yesteryear, but it's anything from pastiche here. Here he chisels out catchy barn–stompers based on subjects not limited to death, drug addiction, love, and poverty.
On Between the Country, Noe finds his own path through the characters he creates, hoisting him above most of his modern day contemporaries as not only a unique storyteller, but one of the great emerging talents in the folk/country/Americana genres.
Favourite Tracks: Irene (Ravin' Bomb), Letter to Madeline, Meth Head.

Chelsea Wolf – Birth of Violence
Sargent House
Birth of Violence sees Chelsea Wolfe stripping back her sound to the bare bones – a sharp contrast to 2017's album, Hiss Spin, which was Wolfe's most aggressive long-player yet.
Wolfe finds her artistic sweet spot on Birth of Violence. It's a tender album with simmering whirlpools of gloom. In front of rattling strings and slow-motion synths, Wolfe's voice gently oozes from the speakers during these 12 songs.
It's a hauntingly raw experience, unleashing an energy previously not seen from the Sacramento born songstress. It may just be Chelsea Wolfe's finest moment, perhaps even transcending the 2015 John Congleton produced, Abyss.
Favourite tracks: The Mother Road, American Darkness, Birth of Violence, Dirt Universe.

Pond – Tasmania
Spinning Top Records/Carolina Australia
Pond continue their journey in growing their sonic template with Tasmania, this time enlisting Tame Impala's Kevin Parker to sprinkle his pop fairy dust throughout these set of songs.
It's ambitious as much as it is straightforward, with Pond's peculiar psychedelic jams tempered by a straightforward pop assault. Nick Allbrook and his merry band carry this new sound admirably as Tasmania drips with melodic earworms that edge closer to the dance floor.
It may put some of their fans off slightly, but make no mistake, this is a promising shift for the band

who continue to be one of Australia's most consistent purveyors for new ideas.
Favourite tracks: Daisy, The Boys Are Killing Me, Burnt Out Star.

Damien Jurado – In the Shape of a Storm
Mama Bird Recording Co
In the Shape of a Storm follows last year's The Horizon Just Laughed. Here, we see Damien Jurado completely strip back his sound with just vocals and acoustic. I for one welcome this approach and the songs are certainly stronger for it.
There are many references to Jurado's former collaborator and close friend, the late Richard Swift, with the emotion pouring out during periods in this album. It really is Jurado's finest work since Maraqopa.
With its simplicity and Jurado's steady immovable template, In the Shape of a Storm may not change the world, however he is so far ahead of many of his contemporaries that it shouldn't matter.
Favourite tracks: Lincoln, South, Silver Ball.

Whistling Arrow – Whistling Arrow
God Unknown Records
Whistling Arrow is the debut collaboration between composer and performer, Laura Cannell, composer/improviser, Charles Hayward (This Heat/Camberwell No), multi–instrumentalist, Andre Bosman, prepared guitar minimalists, Benjamin D. Duvall and Benjamin Fair of Liverpool's Ex-Easter Island Head and Liverpool-based composer/performer, Jonathan Hering – (piano, toy piano, prepared guitar).
The end result is the awe-inspiring Whistling Arrow.
On Whistling Arrow, band members morph and mould spacious string arrangements, slender piano and gentle whirrs of synth around Charles Hayward's intangible shape shifting percussion. Hayward's performance alters this project from an intellectual listening exercise into something sonically accessible with a genuine opportunity to reach new ears.
You won't lend an ear to a better improv' album all year than Whistling Arrow so rest your fingers from crate digging and phone scrolling and just enjoy the journey right here.
Favourite Tracks: Forking Paths, Whistling Arrow, In Flooded Country.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Cass McCombs – Tip Of The Sphere
Inspired by subjects conjured up in dreams, this time on his latest album, Tip of the Sphere, the forever Grateful Dead aficionados that is Cass McCombs gets there with a brand of cosmic countrified rock.
Not far removed from what many will call his finest work in 2016's Mangy Love, once again the celestial drifter not born for these times is the architect of a soundtrack tailor-made for acid-tripping hippies to dance around the campfire to. McCombs himself doesn't dispense with the beard-oil – just those who hold an ear to his ditties.
Tip of the Sphere is an uneven journey but that's what we've always been accustomed to with McCombs, who has always played by his own rules. That's his alluring feature and once again he is in fine form.
Favourite Tracks: Estrella, Real Life, Sleeping Volcanoes, Tying Up Loose Ends.

Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
Bruce Springsteen's nineteenth album, Western Stars, comprises of dusty road yarns about run of the mill characters the Boss has made a living out of bringing to life.
Springsteen‘s poetic storytelling throughout these thirteen songs are backed by sweeping orchestral strings and cinematic textures.
It’s an album about reflection. An inward struggle that people fight against in everyday life. Looking beyond the default settings of destruction and self-sabotage.
While tracks such as Tucson Train, the album’s title track, Somewhere North of Nashville and Moonlight Motel are some of the finest tracks Springsteen has written, it’s the tender ballad-like Drive Fast (The Stuntman) that has Springsteen spinning his most telling missive.
“Drive fast, fall hard, I’ll keep you in my heart/Don’t worry about tomorrow/don’t mind the scars/Just drive fast/fall hard.”
It’s a Springsteen love song if ever I’ve heard one. It’s Springsteen telling us that we’re all broken somehow, and it’s whether our broken pieces fit with another person’s broken pieces.
Favourite tracks: Tucson Train, Chasin' Wild Horses, Somewhere North of Nashville.
Western Stars Film Review

Little Simz – Grey Area
Age 101
After spending the decade releasing mix tapes before releasing two albums which included the much talked about, Stillness In Wonderland, Little Simz closes out the 2010s by changing the game altogether with her landmark third album, Grey Area.
Simz showcases an unbridled mental dexterity. Jagged freestyle rhythms that burst with soul (Selfish), echo the origins of ’80s hip–hop and ’90s conscious rap that are dragged through a virtual portal to the current day (101 FM, Therapy, Sherbet Sunset). The instrumentation is warm and not overblown from behind the studio glass. It’s unquestionably organic.
We can pinpoint the production and the forward–thinking nature of Grey Area, but stripping it all back, what Simz has made here an honest record, exploring themes not limited to, feminism (Offence, Boss), and gun crime (Wounds, Venom, Pressure), mental health (Therapy). An album that is street level, exploding with the scorching flames of civic vitality.
Favourite Tracks: Boss, Wounds, Venom, Flowers.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Tropical Fuck Storm – Brain Drops
Joyful Noise
Australian proto-rock odyssey, Tropical Fuck Storm, return with their second album in as many years with Brain Drops, further shifting the boundaries that threaten to tip over the edge of the earth.
Gareth Liddiard leads the assault of this brand of degenerate-rock with yet more polemic ramblings that are cloaked with an even thicker blanket of dislocated instrumentation and what-the-fuck moments.
Although not as immediate as its predecessor, Laughing Death in Meatspace, the results are just as absorbing, with repeated listens revealing more each time.
Liddiard and partner in crime, Fiona Kitschin, didn't garner the plaudits they deserved with the hellfire of The Drones, but with Tropical Fuck Storm, their attention and current global successes are more than deserved.
Favourite tracks: Paradise, The Planet of Straw Men, Maria 63.
Tropical Fuck Storm Live Review

Brutus – Nest
Sargent House
Belgium's Brutus return with their second album, Nest, and it's a ferocious collection of rollicking steamroller-rockers that spend forty-two minutes throwing haymakers at you.
Singer/drummer, Stefanie Mannaerts steals the show with vocals that snarl with spark with raw force. Her drumming is thunderous, projecting a cauldron of sound for riffs and bass lines to ride across.
Nest is gnarly but not in a playful way. It's anthemic, but not in a boozey riddled throw-your-hands-up-in-the-air manner. There's a dark thread which forms the album and Brutus deliver each song with a fierce panache.
Favourite tracks: Django, Cemetery, Sugar Dragon. 

Baroness – Gold & Grey
Abraxam Hymns
Savannah rockers, Baroness, spearheaded by the venerable John Dyer Baizley, return with their fifth long-player, Gold & Grey.
While perhaps their most impenetrable release to date, the commitment from the listener is very much worth it, for Gold & Grey is filled with everything from pulsating journey-rock to tender atmospheric balladry that rubs shoulders with Americana.
Producer, David Fridmann, once against carries out duties from behind the soundboards, sprinkling the necessary dose of fairy dust over these 17 tracks.

Each number bleeds into the next in what is Baroness' alternative metal opera and to put it bluntly, music is always better when they are around producing music.
Favourite tracks: Tourniquet, Emmet - Radiating Light, Borderlines.

Wand – Laughing Matter
Thrill Jockey
Los Angeles' Wand continue to churn out both quality and quantity, this time with their latest opus, Laughing Matter.
15 tracks ticking over the hour mark, Laughing Matter is somewhat a pledge of patience but the tracks Wand deliver here are worth sitting through.
Some of their finest work weaves in and out of psych interludes with the one-two gut punch of Rio Grande and Airplane arguably being one of the year's finest sequences committed to wax. It's drawn-out psychedelic pop at its finest and Wand prove to be adequate purveyors of it.
Favourite tracks: Walkie Talkie, Wonder, Rio Grande, Airplane.

Cave In – Final Transmission
Hydra Head
Following the tragic death of Cave In bassist, Caleb Scofield, in March last year, many thought that Cave In would call it a day. 
Drafting in Converge bassist, Nate Newton, and reworking demos recorded between 2011 and 2018, many of which Scofield was heavily involved with, Cave In accomplish the end result that is Final Transmission. A behemoth of a record and a fitting tribute to the band’s fallen brother.
While they sit somewhere between metal, hardcore and rock, Cave In are certainly a part of a community that welcomes music that operates close to the edges. While Final Transmission is designed for sweaty fleapits we know as live venues, its scope is so wide that it’s equally as welcoming for late-night walks and highway driving.
Favourite tracks: An Illusion, Shake My Blood, Lanterna.
Full Album Review on Getintothis 

Mannequin Pussy – Patience
On their third record, Patience, Mannequin Pussy find a balance between gnarly maelstroms of fist-pumping noise and dynamic tenderness.
It's dark as much as it is optimistic, with vocalist, Marisa Debice, spitting rancour one minute, providing beautiful atmospheric melodies the next.
Patience finds a sweet-spot between an avid music listener's formative years and the now. It's not a teenager record by any stretch, but there's a deep nostalgic thread that runs through the Mannequin Pussy's sonic bedding that makes us realise why we love music in the first place.
Perhaps one of the finest pick-me-up anthemic releases of 2019 and a perfect driving record, right here.
Favourite tracks: Patience, Drunk II, High Horse, F.U.C.A.W.

Lankum – The Livelong Day
Rough Trade
There's nothing like an album just appearing from the woodwork. That's what Lankum's The Livelong Day does.
This brooding representation of folk music envelopes and drifts through your conscious like a winter fog. The Dublin four piece have produced an incongruous set of songs here, bursting with despondent yet gorgeous melodies, swelling drones and rattling instrumentation in what is one of the most esoteric releases of 2019.
Where overblown egos, new money and Bono's son seem to be the big talking points out of Ireland this year, it's Lankum who should reservedly be the ones to take all the plaudits. The Livelong Day provides a locality that their rival snotty-nosed contemporaries could only dream of. Livelong, Lankum.
Favourite tracks: The Young People, Katie Cruel, The Dark Eyed Gypsy.

Thom Yorke – ANIMA
XL Recordings
After Thom Yorke released the acclaim Suspiria OST last year, the Radiohead frontman unleashes the dystopian gloom-riddled ANIMA.
Along with long-time producer, Nigel Godrich, Yorke provides a collective of aggressive textured bleeps, canyon-like echoes and drones that duck and swerve a wave of paranoia. It's Yorke going even further down the electronica rabbit hole.
Even the staunchest Radiohead aficionado will tell you that Yorke's solo output has been hit and miss, at best. But with ANIMA, it's not only Yorke's darkest effort yet. It's also his best and by quite some distance.
Favourite tracks: Traffic, Dawn Chorus, The Axe.

Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive
Extreme Eating Records
With Eton Alive, Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn return with what many believe is their most focused effort yet.
When people say it's their most focused it seems like a code for less shouty, the receding of Williamson's usual potty mouth. Still, like always, Sleaford Mods are still well ahead of the curve from most and Eton Alive is a fine addition to their already explosive cannon of work.
There's more of a social conscious narrative which fills Eton Alive. Perhaps Williamson's most important message here is within Discourse where he sings (yes sings), "we never touch the real feeling just the empty discourse".
It's one of the many indicative moments that demonstrates a new dimension to 'Mods and, again, Williamson shows his contemporaries just how to stay pertinent, with cutting forward-thinking diatribes that many of these landfill post-punk acts could only dream of writing.
Favourite tracks: Top It Up, Flipside, Firewall, Discourse.
Full Album Review on Getintothis 

Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
Sacred Bones
The Norwegian avant–garde maverick is back with her reset album in The Practice of Love. It's Hval exploring the nature of pop music and what she has produced is something very special indeed.
It's a clash of pop and avant–garde in every sense. While thematically, Hval excavates beyond landscapes of conventional definitions of love, it's the sonic bedding that these themes lay upon during The Practice of Love that truly defines this album.
It almost feels as if Hval thought "if Robyn can do it, then I'm having some of that!". And having it she does, for you won't find a better set of pop songs in 2019 than what Hval has produced here. A glorious surprise.
Favourite tracks: High Alice, Six Red Cannas, Ordinary.

Vivian Girls – Memory
Vivian Girls return with a bang on their first album in 11 years, the brilliant Memory.
12 songs in just over 34 minutes, Memory is jam-packed with fuzz-laden jams that pulsate the senses and actually make you just want to dance.
The production of Memory is perhaps its greatest feat, with sonic shards and bristling undercurrents forming a sound that truly places listeners into a momentary capsule.
Frankie Cosmos and her band have never sounded so fresh and while each member has been focusing on other projects for much of the decade, Vivian Girls seem reinvigorated here with Memory. It's great to have them back.
Favourite tracks: Most of All, Lonely Girl, Memory, All Your Promises.

Be Forest – Knocturne
Hailing from Pesaro, Italy, Be Forest (Nicola Lampredi – guitar; Costanza Delle Rose – vocals/bass; Erica Terenzi – drums/electronics) return with their third album and finest yet in Knocturne.
This is a shoegaze odyssey like no other and spits with swelling drones and swerving grooves, producing quite the cathartic experience.
Overall, Knocturne contains a paranoid echo that feels like a Bauhaus-like abyss, skirting with the fringes of industrial metal. It's an evocative listen that produces many fascinating moments.
It's music for late night forest jaunts (if you dare). Be Forest, indeed. Easily the find of 2019.            
Favourite tracks: Atto I, Sigfrido, Bengala.

Enablers – Zones
Lancashire and Somerset
Following up from their jaw–dropping masterpiece – 2015’s The Rightful Pivot – San Francisco quartet, Enablers, return with Zones.
Poet/vocalist Pete Simonelli is an unhinged hell-cat on heat – a product who breathes a unique vitality into the most sordid and marginalised aspects of everyday life. His poeticism is persuasive and pure and these abilities are once again showcased on Zones.
Zones is what you would class as a typical Enablers album. Make of that what you will but as long as Enablers keep on releasing new music, then the world isn’t all bad. That’s how important this band is and should be to others. So unique is their standing in the landscape of artistic endeavour, the tangled mess of beauty that is Zones is yet another string to this band’s bow.
Favourite tracks: Even Its Lies, Squint, In McCullin's Photograph.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Ghosteen Ltd
After the raw open wound that was Skeleton Tree, many – including myself – didn't know where Nick Cave would venture or whether he would continue to venture at all. The end result is Ghosteen. An unsettling collection of muddled ballads evoking sorrow, love, and hope.
Warren Ellis' gut-wrenching sonic requiems create a milieu of overwhelming dread. His atmospheric and fantasy-like textures unfurl for Cave to perform almost spoken-word dirge-riddled balladry. At Ghosteen's conclusion, Cave rises from the ashes of loss and bereavement to summon a skinny light of optimism.
It's an album that stirs up so many contrasting emotions, making it hard not only to write about but to appropriately convey. It's not Cave's finest work as many will suggest, but once again, it's a defining statement from one of the greatest songwriters of our time.
Favourite tracks: Spinning Song, Galleon Ship, Ghosteen.

HVOB – Rocco
With Rocco, HVOB provides us with a rainbow coalition of hypotonic electronica and classical music. It’s an album that possesses a mixture of blissful strung out dirges for pitch-black bedrooms and bass driven warehouse bangers. Although contrasting, the two styles seamlessly cross-pollinate.
Tender lyrics matched with fist pumping beats connect, making HVOB the architects for sunset dance music engineered for lush green fields, chemical refreshment consumption and euphoric escapism.
After the mesmerising Trialog from 2015, it was difficult to see how HVOB would exceed its excellence. It’s four years, but with Rocco they’ve done just that. Don’t let the album’s length put you off. The troughs are non-existent, making this journey all the more remarkable.
Favourite tracks: 2nd World, Eraser, Butter, Zinc.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Wear Your Wounds – Rust on the Gates of Heaven
Deathwish Inc.
Leader of hardcore godfathers, Converge, Jacob Bannon returns to his mellower side with his Wear Your Wounds project, releasing the second album which follows 2017’s WYW in Rust on the Gates of Heaven.
Rust on the Gates of Heaven is an elegiac affair, packed with rich strings, aching poeticism and brooding eyes-to-the-sky riff-a-rola.
It drips with melody that will melt your heart, each instrument finding itself in the relevant pockets of space to work and utilise to maximum effect. Nothing feels forced or overdone here and for that Bannon must take great credit for producing the album the way he has.
Rust on the Gates of Heaven is without doubt the most heartfelt metal release of 2019.  

Favourite tracks: Love in Peril, Shrinking Violet, Merciless.
Full Album Review on Getintothis


Fennesz – Agora
Notwithstanding the excellent 2014 release BecsChristian Fennesz has since collaborated with King Midas Sound (2015’s Edition 1) and Jim O’Rourke (2016’s It’s Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry) – both with the desired effect.
However, where the Austrian composer flourishes, is when he works within his own confines and with his latest release, Agora, Fennesz has reached new heights.
Agora is album that doffs the cap to glam luminaries of the ’70s and ’80s. On the surface it may not appear this way, however this is undoubtedly the quintessential Fennesz pop album, exploding with  melody that transcends the customary multi-layers of drone and obligatory field recordings.
Christian Fennesz has always been consistent in releasing good music but where Agora is concerned, he has upped the stakes by producing one of his finest releases yet.
Favourite tracks: In My Room, Agora, We Trigger the Sun.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
With the benefit of hindsight, Adrianne Lenker‘s 2018 debut solo album, Abysskiss, seemed like a gateway for Big Thief's much talked about third album, U.F.O.F.
While Big Thief’s previous two records, Masterpiece and Capacity, contained some downright gut–wrenching moments and are fine records in their own respective rights, on U.F.O.F. Lenker has bottled–up this tender magic and delivered Big Thief’s finest work yet.
U.F.O.F. is an album that unravels slowly, rewarding its listener for long periods of time spent in its company. Often these are the best records and U.F.O.F. certainly fits the bill.
It’s a big record that launches them into a new stratosphere which risks alienating some listeners. Having witnessed their set at Primavera earlier this year, they occupy a space somewhere between the big stages of modern day pop stardom and coy indie intimacy.
Favourite tracks: U.F.O.F., Cattails, Orange, Jenni.
Full Album Review on Getintothis 

King Midas Sound – Solitude
Cosmo Rhythmatic
With Solitude, vocalist, Roger Robinson, has effectively shelved his heaven riding melodies for poetic baritone dread. No other vocalist chameleonises his voice and resonates at either end of the spectrum like Robinson does. King Midas Sound‘s 2009 debut album, Waiting For You, was such a head fuck that I was convinced that Robinson was indeed two separate vocalists, such as the canyon-wide scope that his voice possesses.
Robinson reiterates his true originality on Solitude with a new fire, fuelled by different circumstances, squeezing every inch of life from a brooding undercurrent of emotional despair. Yes, this is a meat-raw marrow-deep break-up album and one of the most honest and darkest that has emerged from the studio walls in recent times.
Robinson‘s dystopian diatribes are counterbalanced perfectly by Kevin Martin's stripped–back arrangements of glacial nuances, lonely backstreet hums and oceanic drones.
Crushing in its transparency and something that King Midas Sound will never produce again. Like all heartbreak albums. Because it is a heartbreak album. A brutally raw admission of loss with Robinson cascading his emotions across the canvass.
Favourite tracks: The Lonely, Bluebird, Her Body, X.


Drahla – Useless Coordinates
Captured Tracks
Leeds outfit, Drahla, released one of the finest under-the-radar long players in 2019 in Useless Coordinates.
Luciel Brown spits and snarls with acerbic menace throughout these nine tracks that could be defined as somewhere between later-era Sonic Youth and a swirling racket of no-wave lunacy.
It’s post-punk to drive down the coastline to but make no mistake, it’s elusively barbed with a gnarly edge that takes no prisoners. Having seen this band live earlier in the year and the way they defragment their live sound is something else, too, almost transforming into a different band.
It's great to see that moments like this still happen.
Favourite Tracks: Stimulus for Living, Primitive Rhythm, Unwoud, Invisible Sex.
Drahla Live Review

A.A Bondy – Enderless
Fat Possum
Alabama native, Auguste Arthur Bondy (better known to us as A.A. Bondy), returns to music after an eight–year absence since his last long-player, the underrated Believe. A lot has transpired in eight years, particularly for someone like Bondy, seemingly a soul not best suited to modern times.
The nature of our fast-paced existence is used as fuel for Bondy to burn on Enderness, with capitalism, nationalism and internet fame firmly subjects in his ire. 
In fact, one would be hard–pressed to find an album in 2019 that encapsulates existential dread as much as Enderness does and that’s not even mentioning the California house fires which burned down Bondy’s home the day after this album was completed.
Tracks effortlessly bleed into one another to the point where A.A. Bondy has built this new world comprising of atmospheric textures and an off-kilter emotional intensity. Enderness is a country soul record which nods to hip hop and doo wop. Here, it feels like we are getting Bondy’s true persona.
It’s as bleak as it is beautiful and marks a strong return for one of today’s finest and most elusive troubadours.
Favourite tracks: Killers 3, I'll Never Know, Fentanyl Freddy, #Lost Hills.
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Sunn O))) – Life Metal
Southern Lord
Sunn O))) have always been an elusive proposition to me. Whilst I could appreciate what eternal amplifier worshippers Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley were doing, it still felt as if idealism outweighed the end product. After all, they say it’s the idealism that kills you.
From the canvass to the turntable platter and Life Metal begins with Between Sleipnir’s Breaths. We are greeted with a whining horse that sounds like it’s fearfully marauding from an impending apocalypse. From there, we are met with the Sunn O))) treatment. An array of humid drones that swell, explode and singe the hairs from head to toe.
With Life Metal, I’ve never come across an album that has such a contrasting listening effect through the medium of choice. Through stereo and headphones, Life Metal reveals that it is an unprecedented split personality.
It’s an album that will have you crying tears of joy into your pint glass, ultimately forming the holy water of a new religion dubbed Life Metal.
Because this is life and, yes, this is metal and in 2019, there won’t be a more immersive listening experience than this.
Favourite tracks: Between Sleipnir's Breaths, Troubled Air, Aurora.
Full Album Review on Getintothis


Pile – Green and Gray
Exploding In Sound
Boston's Pile return with their seventh album and it's more of what you'd come to expect only the bar in quality has been raised significantly with Green and Gray.
Pile have always dealt in complicated sonic flourishes that swerve and pummel when you least expect them to. Singer, Rick Maguire's voice seems to push against the unruly instrumentation at just about every juncture. When you expect a melody there isn't one. Conversely, it could be argued that Maguire's band mates push and pull against him just as much.
There's a disconcerting uneven intensity that's always been at the forefront of Pile's music and here it reaches fever pitch with obscure riffs, thunderous drumming and a gentle rippling of strings.
It's guitar music that shifts the needle and while we don't have Polvo anymore, Pile are probably the next best thing. If you haven't yet joined the train, then Green and Gray is a good place to climb aboard.
Favourite tracks: Firewood, Hair, My Employer, Hiding Places.

Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
Polydor/Interscope Records
The queen of misery returns with, you guessed it, more poignant tales of dysfunctional romances and the burden of hope.
The production of Norman Fucking Rockwell is the album's greatest conquest. Capturing the magic of subtle strings and rich less-is-more pianos, this coalition of sound snakes through Del Rey's morose diatribes about the complication of relationships, of heartbreak, of triumph, and not much in between.
Some may find it hard to sit through from front to back but for miserablists such as yours truly, Norman Fucking Rockwell very much hits the spot and I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that. It's Del Rey's greatest moment yet and while she's always been on the fringes of releasing that album, with Norman Fucking Rockwell she's done just that.
Favourite tracks: Venice Bitch, Cinnamon Girl, Happiness is a Butterfly, Hope Is A Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have - But I Have It.

Cult Of Luna – A Dawn to Fear
Metal Blade Records
Cult Of Luna have always been a band that I've disregarded off the menu for one reason or another.
However, with A Dawn to Fear, they have dished up one of their finest albums yet with a set of songs that send your senses into a wild frenzy.
With a plethora of ideas, speaking honestly here, Cult Of Luna carve out something astonishing with A Dawn to Fear.
Even at just under 80 minutes, it's atmospheric synapses and overall sonic breadth doesn't outstay its welcome. There's space. There's heavy grooves, paralysing venom, and wild atmospherics that make this not only the greatest surprise of 2019. It's one of the highlights, too.
Favourite tracks: The Silent Man, Lights on the Hill, Inland Rain, The Fall.

Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Sub Pop
Weyes Blood makes music that is akin to a vivid dream-state. After her stunning 2016 release, Front Row Seat to Earth, Natalie Mering, continues on an upward trajectory with Titanic Rising, further cultivating across a terrain of that questions the modern day human condition.
Its tender orchestral quality lays perfect sonic beds for Mering's soft elegant vocals to soar. The more time you spent in its presence, the more it makes sense. It's skewed pop music that illuminates subjects to stir the collective conscious.
Titanic Rising is skewed pop music that provides a faint light for ever-narrowing corridors. Lost love. The burden of hope. The sheer hilarity of it all. You could be having some sort of existential crisis but listening to Mering part with heart-breaking diatribes such as in Movies and, oddly enough, you can’t help but think that things might just be okay.
Along with Mering‘s cataclysmic abilities to pen the perfect love song, in a world that’s moving too fast for us all, Mering questions these times as best as anyone, providing a naked optimism that both the past and present can somehow coexist in the future. It’s not an overt message per se, it a softly radiates and gently probes. And no one is delivering the memorandum better than Weyes Blood.
Favourite tracks: A Lot's Gonna Change, Andromeda, Movies, Wild Time
Full Album Review on Getintothis

Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
Drag City
Not that this is a cop out, but it's pretty difficult to find the words for this album after David Berman's passing.
Perhaps it's best to share this lyric instead – perhaps the finest written this year:
“The dead know what they’re doing when they leave this world behind
When the here and the hereafter momentarily align
See the need to speed into the lead suddenly declined
The dead know what they’re doing when they leave this world behind
 And as much as we might like to seize the reel and hit rewind
Or quicken our pursuit of what we’re guaranteed to find
When the dying’s finally done and the suffering subsides
All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind.”
Read my afterword on the great David Berman over at Getintothis.
Favourite tracks: Darkness and Cold, Snow Is Falling in Manhattan, Nights that Won't Happen, Maybe I'm the Only One for Me.

Richard Dawson – 2020
Weird World/Domino
Too disingenuous to pigeonhole as a Brexit album and in no way preachy enough to be defined as a protest album, with Richard Dawson‘s spellbinding diatribes, naked harmonies and listener–friendly arrangements that spread a unique aesthetic across the creative landscape, 2020 is a burgeoning state-of-the-nation address.
Not since Sleaford Mods’ English Tapas, has an album probed a nation’s conscious in this manner, providing raw disturbing accounts that bleed with street level truths.
Through his characters, Dawson breathes vitality into the sleepwalking working class. Small voices, once unheard, vividly brought to life by Dawson, who transforms the mundane into something cataclysmic.
There is a tender humility that Dawson portrays through his protagonists. Never has he been so empathetic. Perhaps it’s the era his subjects live in, but 2020 feels like Dawson at his humanising best. It's his finest record yet and is a worthy winner of 2019's album of the year.
Favourite tracks: Two Halves, Jogging, Heart Emoji, Fulfilment Centre, Dead Dog in an Alleyway.
Full Album Review on Getintothis
Richard Dawson Live Review


Top 50 Albums of 2019 Recap:

50. Craig Finn – I Need a New War
49. DIȀT – Positive Disintegration

48. Modern Nature – How to Live
47. Cigarettes After Sex – Cry
46. Glassing – Spotted Horse
45. These New Puritans – Inside The Rose

44. Lingua Ignota – Caligula
43. Deliluh – Beneath the Floors
42. Pan-American – A Son
41. Amyl and the Sniffers – Amyl and the Sniffers
40. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – The Undivided Five

39. Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe
38. Bill Callahan – Shepherd in a Sheepskin
37. Big Brave – A Gaze Among Them
36. Ian Noe – Between the Country
35. Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence
34. Pond – Tasmania
33. Damien Jurado – In the Shape of a Storm
32. Whistling Arrow – Whistling Arrow
31. Cass McCombs – Tip Of The Sphere
30. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
29. Little Simz – Grey Area
28. Tropical Fuck Storm – Brain Drops
27. Brutus – Nest
26. Baroness – Gold and Grey
25. Wand – Laughing Matter
24. Cave In – Final Transmission
23. Mannequin Pussy – Patience
22. Lankum – The Livelong Day
21. Thom Yorke – Amina
20. Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive
19. Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
18. Vivian Girls – Memory
17. Be Forest – Knocturne
16. Enablers – Zones
15. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
14. HVOB – Rocco
13. Wear Your Wounds – Rust on the Gates of Heaven
12. Fennesz – Agora
11. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
10. King Midas Sound – Solitude
9. Drahla – Useless Coordinates
8. A.A. Bondy – Enderless
7. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
6. Pile – Green and Gray
5. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
4. Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear
3. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
2. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
1. Richard Dawson – 2020