Best of 2019
2019 was a bit of a let-down, frankly. Highly anticipated records from the likes of Piroshka, BLUKE, DJ Shadow and 808 State I found solid but underwhelming, while others from Beck, Esperanza Spalding and the Who were entirely forgettable. After last year's embarrassment of riches the field seems especially thin.
The story is not all bad, though. My year was mostly dominated by small records and idiosyncratic artists: Jonathan Something's sophmore outing proved he was no fluke, flying the freak-folk flag high for all to see. Aerial View's debut for Epitaph found the youngsters deftly threading the needle between surf and power pop, their hearts full of angst and yearning. And the aptly named dumb released the stupidest, jangliest nerd punk record I've heard in years and I absolutely love it.
But looming over these tiny things like a collossus is my record of the year, Devin Townsend's Empath. Heavy Devy's first since dispanding DTP is his most personal, introspective and nakedly ambitious work to date. For all its kitchen sink bombast, its overflowing musical ideas, Empath is the intimate story of a man attempting to reconnect with himself and the world, and it is a massive achievement.
10 808 State - Transmission Suite
09 Spielbergs - This is Not the End
08 Sleater-Kinney - the Center Won't Hold
07 Moonchild - Little Ghost
06 The Future Sound of London - YAGE 2019
05 the Dollyrots - Daydream Explosion
04 Ariel View - Until My Lungs Are Clear
03 dumb - Club Nites
02 Jonathan Something - Art So Small You Can Hardly See It
01 Devin Townsend - Empath
Evilchili's Album of the Year! (Long)
Sweet Zombie Jesus what a year for new music. I bought more 2018 releases in 2018 than I have bought new music in a long while. Partly this is due to blatant cheating: John Zorn and Brian Eno both released massive box sets, and They Might Be Giants dropped three albums (!), two in December. But also surprising releases came from places I didn't expect: a new
Spiritualized record! A new David Byrne record! Dead Can Dance! Dirty Goddamned Computer! Oh, and a lost Coltrane record, because down is up and up is down.
2018 is remarkable for another reason, too: artists at the top of their game *decades* in. Sloan, TMBG, Yo La Tengo, David Byrne and Paul Simon all turned out records as good as anything they've ever done. At this point I don't expect
Sloan to ever record a bad *song*, nevermind a bad record.
But my pick for Evilchili's Album of the Year goes not to any reliable stalwart companion, but to a New Zealand four-piece whose rise to the top of my list was from first listen utterly inevitable. The Beths' debut, Future Me Hates Me, clocks in at just 39 minutes but packs a tremendous sun-drenched power-pop wallop. It ticks all my boxes: boy-girl harmonies, loud guitars, sad, clever lyrics on major chords (and handclaps provided by Yrs Chili). It is,
simply speaking, my favourite record this year and possibly of several years.
Here's my complete Top 10:
01 the Beths - Future Me Hates Me
02 Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
03 Aphex Twin - Collapse EP
04 Metric - Art of Doubt
05 They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun
06 Sloan - 12
07 CHRVCHES - Love is Dead
08 Subsonic Eye - Dive Into
09 St. Vincent - MassEducation
10 Busdriver - Electricity is On Our Side
David Byrne - American Utopia
Paul Simon - In the Blue Light
They Might Be Giants - the Escape Team
They Might Be Giants - My Murdered Remains
Dead Can Dance - Dionysus
Yo La Tengo - There's a Riot Going On
John Coltrane - Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
Brian Eno - 77 Million Paintings (Music for Installations)
the Herbalizer - Bring Out the Sound
Ben Caplan - Old Stock
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
Elvis Costello - Look Now
Gnostic Trio - Netzach (John Zorn: Book Bari'ah Vol. 7)
Secret Chiefs 3 - Malkhut (John Zorn: Book Bari'ah, Vol. 10)
the Orb - No Sounds are Out of Bounds
Reripping my collection to FLAC had led to some fond rediscoveries as I listen to new rips of old records.
Seal's self-titled debut was produced by Trevor Horn (he of the Art of Noise etc) and has that kitchen-sink club crossover production so typical of the period, owing as much to Peter Gabriel as its neosoul foundations. Listening to it again all these years later I find it bemusing and touching in equal measure. And I still knowno all the words to Future Love Paradise.
🚨🚨 NEW MUSIC FROM NEW ORDER 🚨🚨
You're not truly free until you can let yourself sing along to Joanna Newsom.
This is a hell of a piece of writing.
The Beatles' Breakup and Why Their Music Matters 50 Years Later - Rolling Stone
Goddamn that DJ made my day
Goddamn that DJ made my day
Goddamn that DJ made my day
it's not the band I hate it's the fans
three cans of water perverts me
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole.
Not like you.
There's a reason that 4AD has always been my go to label. They always champion new, unique performers. Can't say I love everything that comes from the label but it will always get consideration (a listen). And with all the "cult" bands don't forget they did give M/A/R/R/S too
With that in mind
I've been listening to #thebeths sophomore effort for a while now, and I'm fascinated. It's not the explosion of Future Me Hates Me which initially put me off a bit. On FMHM Stokes' vulnerability and self-doubt were masked by roaring tempos and blistering guitars. On Jump Rope Gazers the Beths are more exposed. There's less sonic cover for the emotional truths; vocals are pushed forward in the mix, embracing Brian Wilson-style multipart harmonies over acoustic guitars and more relaxed tempos.
U2 sure make it hard to like U2 these days but boy oh boy is early U2 good. War is such a great record. Way more postpunk than you have any reason to expect and it always surprises me.
@evilchili ahh the good old Nettwerk label. still can't believe from that mostly industrial label came Sara McLachlan
do you all know Pentangle? I assume you all know Pentangle. But in case you don't, Pentangle:
Didn't notice this release until very late on #NewMusicFriday
Jehnny Beth - To Love is to Live has garnered my attention with a lot of ... what's this?!!! waaah!! reactions as I make my way through the release for a 2nd time
Atticus Ross is responsible for the production and you can feel it come to the fore on many of the tunes including the 1-2 punch of Innocence & Flower.
On the attached Heroine you can feel the heavy production compliment her vocals and not dominate as it easily could.
She has spoken of Bowie's passing being a great motivator for finally doing a solo LP (I wouldn't call it a debut because of her recording accomplishments already). It does bear repeated listenings and will be on many best of 2020 lists.
@akajtg need your superior memory. first track on side b of a record was a gravelly-voiced guy going on about meat. "Meat meat meat and meat. I'd eat Capn Crunch with Beef Berries if they made the damn stuff. " what was the record?
in case you're social distancing in my neighborhood and you here a couple of seven year olds yelling Oi!, I offer this by way of explanation.