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
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.
oh and also The Loneliest Girl by Princess Chelsea. Weird record. Like.
Crate digging took me some unexpected places on Bandcamp tonight, but I feel good about where I ended up:
Transmission Suite by 808 State
Where Wye & Severn by 808 State
Bedroom Sessions by Subsonic Eye
The Fury of the Aquabats! (Expan... by The Aquabats!
See In The Dark by Deborah Jordan
SOULFUNK by SERIOUS NUMBER
dawn by mxmtoon
Record Kicks Chartbusters by Record Kicks
The Royal Blew Eccentrics by SkyBlew & Scottie Royal
SkyBlew x DJ Reimei - The Univer... by SkyBlew
SkyBlew x SublimeCloud - Destine... by SkyBlew
Painting 'Til She Dials by SkyBlew
Net Split or, the Fathomless Hea... by MC Frontalot
Rhyme Your Business by Wordburglar
Just noticed it was 30 years ago on June 1 that 808 State released my gateway album 90.
From the first tones of Magical Dream I knew this was going to be special. And it just gets better from there. Ancodia shows how the LP will not just be a formulaic sound but pushing the tech limits of the time. Then the relentless Cobra Bora leads right into the tune that absolutely clinched it for me, Pacific 202 with that sax and those wildlife noises. My love for electronica was absolutely cemented.
The Independent described it as "It was the aural equivalent of throwing a party inside a giant flotation tank. That was 808 State."
Listening to it now...
This Is How Much More Money Artists Earn From Bandcamp Compared to Streaming Services | Pitchfork
this weekend in our house:
- Cocteau Twins
- MC Frontalot
- Saint Etienne
- Future Sound of London
My favourite record store in #Seattle closed last month for good, but the internet archive is buying the entire lot. ♥️♥️♥️
Library of Congress plans open source hip-hop sampling tool. Awesome.