Sarah’s Top 20 Albums of 2019
Posted: by The Editor
Happy 2020! This list is super belated, but I don’t think it’s ever too late for good music to be recognized. 2019 was personally a year of growth. I graduated college, travelled a little, and photographed a ton of shows. Throughout all of those landmarks, I was able to soundtrack them with some incredible music that was released in 2019. 2019 offered a diverse range of genre-blending music. Bands pushed the envelope further to include different instruments, break the rules of their “genre” and more. These are just 20 of those records that I believe made a lasting impression on me.
20 – Somewhere City – Origami Angel
Origami Angel deliver a cohesive rock sound on Somewhere City. The albums’ lyrics are relatable. Discussing isolation, rejection and the attempts to stand up for yourself. Lyrics such as these off of the track Doctor Whomst showcase the catchiness and relatability the band continues to project, “I think I’m starting to like myself/I think I’m right where I need to be. To be the best version of myself/to be the version I want you to see.” Instrumentally, the band does an excellent job of filling the space with their own unique sound with just guitar and drums. Not one track feels too empty or feels like they’re overcompensating for lack of sounds with the songwriting. The album flows nearly seamlessly and really pulls through in defining with Origami Angel’s sound is. Catchy, dynamic and above all very smart in it’s execution, Somewhere City is an impressive debut LP.
Recommended Track: Doctor Whomst
19 – Fake Blood – Heart Attack Man
On Fake Blood, Heart Attack Man continue to add their satirical and critical twist to their pop-punk sound. The band critiques hollywood and the sense of fake imagery involved in the overproduced media. What Heart Attack Man do an excellent job of combining an angsty delivery with provoking lyrics. This combined with the heavy guitars and punk attitude that the band possesses, elevates the album to the next level. Making for an incredible, dense punk record.
Recommended Track: Crisis Actor
18 – What Past Is Prologue? – Free Throw
Free Throw has hit again with another great record. The emo-math rock group develops an amazing sound that draws influences from contemporaries such as Fall Out Boy and All Time Low. The vocal delivery is intense and dripping with passion. It compliments the catchy riffs that are centered in pop. Creating an extremely attractive and approachable sound that rounds out what the emo genre has become in 2019. A collective of emotionally dense lyrics that are accompanied by hearty guitar riffs and distinct drums. On What Past Is Prologue? The band truly refine their chops. The production is pristine, allowing the songwriting and instruments to really hold their own. A fantastically electric album that blends all the goodness of emo, math and pop-punk into one.
Recommended Track: Anaconda Vice
17 – Defeater – Defeater
Screamo still is alive and well in 2019. Defeater’s self-titled LP is filled with emotional agony. As the guitars wail and cut through the screaming vocals, the tracks deepen with sound. The tone of the entire album is not so aggressive, but more cathartic. It feels as if these lyrics had to be written, that the way these tracks are played are being poured out from the soul of the band. This self-titled LP is an amazing display of catharsis through sound.
Recommended Track: Atheists in Foxholes
Take chaos and put it into an 11 track album and you have Dog Whistle. The album oozes with creativity in blending genres ranging anywhere between punk, hardcore, and noise. Ranging in depth anywhere from the roughly cut and abrasive guitars to the heavy hitting drums, the record evokes a contemporary industrial soundscape. Dog Whistle stands out in the sea of hardcore and punk to create a unique sound that echoes the aggression spreading across the U.S. in 2019.
Recommended Track: Camp Orchestra
15 – Failed Entertainment – Fury
Fury continue to be an outstanding band in the new wave of hardcore. Their aggressive vocal delivery on top of raging guitars and sharp rhythm section create an insane sound that is signature to the band. On Failed Entertainment they drive this sound home on every single track. The songwriting has matured since their last record Paramount in 2016 to include better breakdowns and overall song structure. “Inevitable Need to Reach Out” is a great example of that. Allowing each instrument to breathe but also allowing the aggression to linger in the space in between is what I think Fury does so well on the record in its entirety. It’s a skill to know how to space out the sounds in a song so it has great flow, and that’s what Fury do so well on Failed Entertainment.
Recommended Track: Inevitable Need to Reach Out
14 – Morbid Stuff – PUP
PUP rip. It is a fact. They prove this fact on Morbid Stuff. A record that explores mental health, relationships, and the space in between. They continue to capture their angsty punk sound through gang vocals, guitar hooks that make you head bang, and of course a supporting rhythm to ground it all. The guitar tone at times is twinkly, almost like if Tinker Bell decided to go punk. The way the band’s dynamic is so tight on this record showcases how they all contributed so well to the album as a whole. Creating a sound that makes banger track after banger track. Tracks such as “Free at Last” and “Closure” display this very well. The songwriting and production on both tracks are superb. Allowing for spaces for each instrument to breathe and then bringing them back together to create a beautiful breakdown of sounds. Overall Morbid Stuff isn’t very morbid, but instead a collective effort to poke fun and call out those around us all in the style of pop-punk and powerful tracks.
Recommended Track: Kids
13 – Automat – Metz
Metz are a criminally underrated, and their compilation record, Automat proves that. A collection of singles, b-sides and other rarities, Automat displays a wide range of Metz’s talent. Blending influences of grunge into their opening track “Soft Whiteout”, the band utilizes scratchy vocals and guitar tone to create an intense track that evokes a chaotic mess of sound. Metz’s tone tends to develop a giant wall of sound without muddying things out. They do this excellently on “Dirty Shirt” which includes amazing hooks and riffs to get your head banging. Automats is a great display of tracks that do deserve to be heard.
Recommended Track: Dirty Shirt
12 – Green and Grey – Pile
Pile is a band that continues to crank out amazing music, and Green and Grey is no exception. This album honestly didn’t make the cut until after I saw them play live and was swept away by Rick Maguire’s songwriting. Green and Grey tackles so much in one record. The opening track “Firewood” is a masterful breakup song. Discussing how they’re better off without each other but also lonely. Rick’s vocal delivery is hauntingly beautiful and vulnerable. Sliding up and down in volume to emphasize lyrics such as “They’ll all leave without you/they always will.” The guitar work on this album is stellar. With just enough twang and innovation to drive the record into that next level. The production on Green and Grey is also superb. Overall a fantastic LP from a fantastic band.
Recommended Track: Firewood
11 – 1000 Gecs – 100 Gecs
1000 Gecs is an album crafted for the digital age. Combining hyperactive beats with auto-tuned vocals, 100 Gecs made a record that perfectly captures the anxieties and intensity of living in an age where organic sounds tend to become absent. Blending tons of genres from experimental pop to SKA and rock, 100 Gecs are all over the place but yet make a cohesive record. Tracks such as their hit, “Money Machine” which is a banger in itself utilize absurd lyrics on top of catchy beats to create a track that is fueled with energy. Other tracks such as “800d Cloud” combine emotionally dense lyrics about relationships on top of thick beats. 1000 Gecs defined the sound of the 100 Gecs project, but also carved out the sounds of the digital age in 2019. I don’t think 100 Gecs could exist in any other time or place.
Recommended Track: Stupid Horse
10 – Amyl and The Sniffers – Amyl and The Sniffers
Amyl and The Sniffers are bringing back the true meaning of punk. Raunchy and violent lyrics on top of fast riffs paint across their self-titled LP. Tracks such as “GFY” bring back the essence of punk in the best way possible. A whole song dedicated to calling out the normies and the disappointment in the lack of zest of life. Another track such as “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” has amazing guitar riffs and howling vocals that feel like a call to arms. The chorus screams “Some mutts can’t be muzzled/I guess I got you puzzled” builds a sense of community for those who are rejected or feel different. Amyl and The Sniffers continue to build a community for punk to live and breathe in. This album is a perfect display of that, collecting all of the foundational elements of punk into one hell of a record.
Recommended Track: GFY
9 – Spotted Horse – Glassing
Spotted Horse is a haunting record. Glassing literally cuts deep with this record. Doing a lot with very little instruments at all (just guitar and drums). The tone of both compliment each other where the areas that are silent (of which there’s very little) feel full with structured sound. The opening track “When You Stare” offers an explosion of sound and develops into a breakdown where both instruments dance around each other like a ballet. Other tracks such as “Sleeper” offer some elements of doom metal, sludge and shoegaze. The entire album blends all of these influences to create a fantastic dynamic record.
Recommended Track: When You Stare
8 – A Different Shade of Blue – Knocked Loose
On their sophomore LP, Knocked Loose packed a hefty amount of energy into A Different Shade of Blue. Drilling through every track with the spirit of hardcore, Knocked Loose have definitely made an outstanding record. Fusing together elements of metal tones on the guitar and of course vibrant lyrics. A Different Shade of Blue feels like Knocked Loose have learned a lot since their previous release, Laugh Tracks. They have really taken the time to develop their sound, which shows through on tracks such as “Mistakes Like Fractures.” The vocals and guitar drip with energy. While the bass and drums ground the track and don’t make everything sound too muddy. Knocked Loose continue to impress with another record that absolutely creates their own signature sound.
Recommended Track: Bellville
7 – LP3 – American Football
American Football have elevated since their iconic 2nd album. On LP3, the emo band created a record that is pure elegance. Each track is a breath of fresh air. Opening track “Silhouettes” has some of the most effortless songwriting. Combining a range of instruments that you would think could get muddy but instead hold their own weight and have their own spotlight in the track. Other tracks such as “Heir Apparent” are extremely ambitious. The lyrics are soft and the vocal delivery is velvety. The track ebbs and flows excellently, creating pockets where the instruments are just their own raw form, and others where they’re transformed into fantastic arrangements. American Football have certainly outdone themselves on LP3, an album that showcases their range of talent as musicians and as a band.
Recommended Track: Silhouettes
Counterparts continue to spearhead the new wave of hardcore in this last decade. On Nothing Left to Love they verge into the world of metalcore. Combining the raw energy that they displayed on their last releases, Counterparts truly rounded out their sound on Nothing Left to Love. The guitar-tone directly mimics that of the metal genre, wailing and whizzing through each track like a sharp knife. The vocals hit like heavy rocks, each lyric holding their own weight. The way Counterparts allows each instrument to have its place in the song allows for each track to breath. Making the whole album feel at times cathartic. Counterparts truly made a sound-defining record on Nothing Left To Love. A record that I hope holds the standard for them moving forward.
Recommended Track: Wings Like Nightmares
5 – Dogrel – FONTAINES D.C.
On their debut LP, the Dublin-based band FONTAINES D.C. bring back the spirit of post-punk and post-rock developed in the 80’s in Europe. With guitar driven tracks throughout the entire LP, the band’s guitar tone mimics that of bands such as Joy Division and New Order. Their punk-attitude that the band sports shows through on each track. A criticism of the world around them and a deep love for their country. The vocals delivered by Grian Chatten are more like shouts rather than singing. Dogrel feels as if it is a call to action. A homage to punk in a world where the definition of punk is ever-changing.
Recommended Track: Too Real
Wicca Phase Springs Eternal may be a project that you wouldn’t expect from Tiger’s Jaw frontman, Adam McIlwee. Mcllwee blends the genres of emo and rap to create a vulnerable and unique sound. On Suffer On Mcllwee delivers a new and refreshing take on rap. The acoustic guitars against the beats doesn’t drown the raw quality of the music itself. Instead it enhances it, creating a unique balance between the produced beats and the raw acoustics. The lyrics are dense, describing at times how in a relationship, you can still feel alone. Wicca Phase Springs Eternal definitely carved out their own sound on Suffer On and continue to break through the genre deemed “emo-rap.”
Recommended Track: Rest
3 – Schlagenheim – Black Midi
The debut album of experimental post-rock outfit Black Midi is a chaotic smoothie of math rock and noise. Combining rhythmic patterns that somehow seamlessly blend together, the band creates an insane wall of sound without muddying all of the instruments together. Tracks such as the opener “953” showcase the band’s range in songwriting. Entering waves of sound from the intense opening of the track and into the breakdowns of bass and drums that follow. The vocals are dramatic and act more like an instrument rather than a vessel for words. Black Midi covers an impressive amount of sounds packed into a 9-track LP.
Recommended Track: bmbmbm
2 – Cosmic Thrill Seekers – Prince Daddy and The Hyena
These Albany, NY-based rockers are not messing around on their sophomore LP. The long awaited follow up to their debut LP I Thought You Didn’t Even Like Leaving is as close to perfection as any group of musicians can get. Each track transitions seamlessly into each other, making it hard to not listen to the whole album in one sitting. Tracks such as “Lauren (Track 2)” have endlessly catchy riffs and lyrics. Another track “Breather” showcase influences of funk in the bassline with an insanely catchy guitar riff that’ll make you jump around singing along. “Cosmic Thrill Seekers Forever” truly shows how talented the band is at songwriting. The song begins with a twinkly riff and falsetto vocals delivered by frontman, Kory Gregory. As the song progresses, it dives into an insane guitar solo that shreds to pieces. Undoubtedly the group has leveled up in their songwriting. Writing basslines, guitar solos, lyrics and riffs that all are unique to the Prince Daddy sound. Cosmic Thrill Seekers is an iconic album to say the least. An impressive array of lyrical vulnerability on top of a structure of power pop bangers.
Recommended Track: Breather
1 – House of Sugar – (Sandy) Alex G
Alex G has certainly sculpted an area of indie-rock for himself. The singer-songwriter has been consistently releasing amazing records for nearly a decade. On their latest release, House of Sugar, Alex G, now (Sandy) Alex G has put out a fantastic array of tracks. Displaying their talents in songwriting yet again. House of Sugar is an absolute delight on the ears. The opening track “Walk Away” is simplistic and beautifully executed. Opening the record up with a lo-fi arrangement and minimalist lyrics “Walk Away/walk away” taking up a majority of the lyrical space on the track. Tracks such as the following “Hope”, “Southern Sky”, and “Gretel” are tasteful guitar-driven tracks. The lyrics support the track extremely well on “Gretel”, discussing how “good people got something to lose” in the fight for happiness. Other tracks such as the instrumental “Project 2” offer more of Alex G’s songwriting abilities. A layering of beats, distorted almost small shrieking-like vocals, and of course amazing songwriting throughout. The entire album flows track into track with ease. At times, it is near impossible to not skip a track. House of Sugar truly stands on its own in (Sandy) Alex G’s discography. An incredible display of songwriting and talent all packed onto one album.
Recommended Track: Bad Man
Writing by Sarah Knoll
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