60 Best Records of 2019 So Far (page 2)


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Free Throw — What’s Past Is Prologue

In an initial listen, What’s Past Is Prologue sounds absolutely like walking back into the same familiar and  comforting home that Free Throw has built over the years. But the furniture is rearranged, there’s a garden growing out front, beer cans in the recycling bin, and most importantly the door is open so you can come sit down on the couch to talk for awhile. It’s an album that invites reflection, permits frustrations, but ultimately wants to get better. For me personally, it’s an album that I understand in the context of being a person who is in therapy to hopefully help tackle issues of mental health in a very real way and it feels like a damn fight a lot of days. A fight that needs anthems such as “The Corner’s Dilemma,” which admits “I just want to be a normal person / Or anything but me,” in a way that’s more conducive to relief than grief. The record talks about both hurting and healing with a passion that is expertly conveyed by instrumentals rooted in the same emotions as the lyrics themselves. Together they tell a story you can feel—one that ends with some closure “I’m finally breathing again.” – Hannah

Fresh — Withdraw

The London pop-influenced act has done anything but Withdraw at the arrival of their latest record. Their upbeat tempo in songs like “New Girl” act as a flavor mask, subtly feeding in the weight of social pressures in layers of catchy beats. Each song packs in healing ballads and odes to aesthetic, from the power-pop spatial kicker “Going to Brighton” to the wailing “Revenge.” Unapologetically energetic and profound, Withdraw is capable of beating back the most gloomy moods with unstoppable sunshine and zest. – Amanda

Half Thought — Half Thought

For my money (I have almost none), there is no better slacker/skate punk band than Philly’s Clique. With their slow delivery and tight precise lyrics, they are able to convey a ton in just a few bars. But like any good group of skate punks, Clique has been hard to pin down. I have no idea if they are even making more music. But two members of Clique wanted to try their own hand at writing slow winding tracks about everyday anxieties and throwing your slushie at a cop car. Their new project, Half Thought, had huge shoes to fill, but it hopped on in and did a Christ Air over the highway. You do not have to be a skater or a slacker to appreciate this record, but I’m sure it helps. On the final track, a testament to the frustrations of capitalism on the fringes, the singer screams out “Chillen in the gig economy, burn the cash pretend we’re living free / Not enough it’s not enough again / Not enough it’s not enough again.“ One of the better descriptions of millenial life in 2019. – Henderson

Heart Attack Man — Fake Blood

Fake Blood is what it says it is: simulated violence. This is mad music. Much like on their last album The Manson Family,  Heart Attack Man are unafraid to encounter their darker feelings and focus them into a beam of hatred on their enemies. On a track inspired by the violent classic film Falling Down, Derrick screams, I have become, so cold, so numb, load up my gun, I’m out for blood / Nightmares come to life, your past is back to haunt you, I can’t feel anything at all, I’m out for blood.“ In the world of 2019, when idiot rapists are president and the sky is on fire, we could all use a little angry art. From these themes, you would assume we are talking about black metal, or at least screamo, but Heart Attack Man instead produce a rough indie-rock sound with accessible hooks in a way that reminds me of Drug Church’s last record. Blast this baby through your headphones and knife your pillow. – Henderson

Insignificant other — i’m so glad i feel this way about you

Insignificant Other is, first and foremost, a band name so clever that I wish I had thought of it. I’m So Glad I Feel This Way About You sounds like it could be the apex of a band that was reached after several projects. It’s impressive and perplexing that this is their debut LP. This is an experimental record with quite a bit of variance.“Freya” is in the same vein as radio pop, but the band simmers down and brings drums to the forefront for “Bitter Sweetness.” Lead vocalist Sim Morales bellows at certain points, then speaks faintly at others. The lyrics are frank, centering on how much it hurts to endure the chaos of life. The title track seems like it would be about a fulfilling relationship, but it actually depicts a one-sided adoration where the other person clearly doesn’t consider you a priority. – Bineet

Jetty Bones –

Music is brave, music is transparency. Evidence of this is spread across “-”, an incredible six songs of rhythmic emotion. I can point to distinct features of each song and how they fit together so wonderfully, but I’m only allowed a paragraph. So I’ll leave you with this–if you like energy, synthesizers, incredible pacing, and bravery, check this thing out. Repeated hooks and chords are sprinkled throughout the EP, giving that cohesion and opening the thought of how many different ways a song can be interpreted. If you’re used to the previous pop conquerings of Jetty Bones, an expansive take on her style of music awaits. – Kayla

Knocked Loose – Mistakes Like Fractures EP

The Kentucky-based hardcore band are back making more bangers. The three-song EP titled Mistakes Like Fractures highlight the band’s ability to continue to blend aggressive guitar tones, bass, and heavy hitting drums to create insane tracks. The title track does a superior job at hooking the listener in with the chorus. And the re-recorded version of their 2014 knocker, “All My Friends,” also does a great job with lyricism and maintaining a balance between breakdowns. I can’t wait to see what they do with their next LP. – Sarah

Laura Stevenson — The Big Freeze

The first time I saw Laura Stevenson was five-and-a-half years ago. She opened for Jersey legends The Bouncing Souls, and Brian Fallon, and she was easily the best performer of the night. It’s almost impossible to talk about Laura’s music without frustratingly screaming at the sky about how unfair it is that she isn’t already huge. I’m sure Laura at this point can relate, but what can you do. Art has nothing to do with fairness. The fact is that Laura Stevenson has one of the most beautiful voices in all of music, and when she writes a song that highlights her abilities there is nothing that can touch it. On her latest record, a twinkling gem of an indie-rock album, she finds the mark on more than a few tracks, and perhaps wrote her strongest track of all “Living Room, NY”. If you’re a fan of BoyGenius or any of the members, or Big Thief, or anything else good ever, you owe it to yourself to listen. – Henderson 

Leggy — let me know your moon

Let me Know Your Moon is not staunchly political, but it’s feminist through and through. Leggy makes being a woman seem adventurous and enthralling—from being alarmed when a man is enamored with you (“It scares me when you say you would do anything for me”) to insisting with a shrug that others shouldn’t expect you to act angelically (“I thought you knew I’m bad news”). The cushy vocals ascend periodically against a backdrop of rattling, crashing riffs. This rough energy manifests itself differently on each track; “Eden” feels haunting, while “My Room” accelerates. – Bineet

Lizzo — Cuz I Love You

There’s so much to be said about Lizzo’s debut, and yet, I can only shake my head and think about how much I call her my big sister. Pop has taken on a wise persona, and It looks incredible. Lizzo truly did it for the culture and made it accessible for everyone. Never before have I vibed so hard to R&B and hip-hop in a pop arrangement. Cuz I Love You is relatable in that sense that will have you feeling like a bad bitch in spite of wearing a broken heart. Because you’re worth feeling bossy in your city and dancing to the tempo in your own terms. Lizzo has the ability to take you from church in Atlanta to the after party in LA and the lazy weekend in New Orleans. You’ll never forget that she’s not just a classically trained musician, she’s also a twenty something with a whole lotta feelings.  – Kayla

The Maine – You Are Ok

Sometimes, it’s albums that stand out thematically that keep the dust from settling on a record. Sometimes, it’s the albums that give you comfort and reassurance that keep you from giving the record an expired shelf-life. The Maine’s newest release, You Are Ok, does both of those things. Leaning, heavily, on the trials and tribulations of mental health, there’s something entirely new and refreshing about this era of The Maine’s artistic journey that is captivating in a way that stands in juxtaposition to their previous work. Where their past projects faced dark, inner conflicts of love, lust, and loss, You Are Ok highlights an even brighter side of The Maine that focuses on a road to recovery—underlying words of “Hope” sprinkled throughout every lyric and key change that envelopes the record. You Are Ok pushes the group’s talents beyond their comfort zone to create a record that encapsulates everything sunny and brooding that drew attention from their most critically acclaimed works: American Candy and Lovely Little Lonely. The Maine pull together this message of finding inner peace with an unreachable bed of pop-rock, emo, and rustic undertones that the band has always crafted so well. Three months since its release, it’s a go-to record anytime your mental health is on the brink, with The Maine assuring you that, “you are ok.” – Hope

Mannequin Pussy — Patience 

Hardcore, power-pop, grunge, dancey shoegaze, and brutally stark balladry. Mannequin Pussy fit all of that into one record without feeling like they’re forcing a party of strangers to awkwardly mingle. For as precarious as this band sounds during their wildest moments, controlled chaos isn’t their M.O. These songs are spawned from turmoil, but Mannequin Pussy never sound like they’re reigning in on sloppy expressionism. This band is too intentional, too perfectionist, and too good at each of the sounds they conquer for Patience to play like a hodge-podge. Mannequin Pussy are the post-genre era incarnate, and they rip hard as hell. – Eli 

Megan Thee Stallion — Fever

2014. That was the last year I felt so attached to a rap album. That year, Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint was released. This year, Fever is the beginning of a movement all its own. Hot Girl Summer is at the helm. Meaning? Fever is about ownership of confidence and stability. Megan’s effortless delivery of bars makes it so easy to play for nearly every occasion, tested and proven. If you’re not in the mood to dance, shuffle Fever. If you need reminding of who you are, shuffle. My attachment to Fever comes from how fun it is to love yourself and the journey of remembering that. If you are reluctant to give hip-hop a try because you never really found a release that was really for you, start with “Realer.” You’ll get rapid fire moods, diverse content, and maybe a new obsession—with both Megan Thee Stallion and yourself.  – Kayla

Mess — Learning How To Talk 

Everything this band does is executed with a great deal of precision. While I noticed this on the record, it came to life when I recently caught them on tour; perfectly balanced highs and lows that fill the space with their moving, dynamic sound blending a variety of genres like post-rock and shoegaze.  The tracks are carried by singer Allison Gliesman’s soft yet commanding voice which, like the instrumentals, grows in power at very specific moments. – Lindsy

Mike Krol — Power Chords 

The L.A. rocker leaves nothing up for interpretation on his third LP. Power Chords is just what it sounds like: 30 minutes of simplistic yet reliably brawny garage-rock. Buzzing guitar tones, squealing leads, happily clipping vocals, and caffeinated tamborine shakes climb all over Krol and Co’s timeless power-pop. It’s bubblegum punk done right; spit out, stepped on, and scooped back up to filter out the preps. Grab a can of something fizzy, shake it, and hand it to your buddy. You already know what’s gonna happen, but this sort of mischief never loses its thrill. – Eli

The National – I Am Easy To Find

The National are one of the few bands who still continuously put out music that’s not a rehashed version of their first big hit. They are constantly reinventing themselves and, as displayed by their 11 members on stage when I saw them last week, always pushing for new ground and ingenuity. I Am Easy To Find showcases the softer side of a couple (nearly every song on the record features lyrics written by either Matt or his wife Carin) exploring themes of adulthood and parenthood. Accompanying those lyrical quests are masterfully composed rainy day ballads from the Dessner brothers, who have also written alongside Bon Iver in their latest project Big Red Machine. The truth is, The National are a machine that can’t stop spitting out thoughtful, conscious tunes that consistently hold up to their back catalog without resting on their laurels. If you’re looking for a pensive, relaxing record that still contains hidden explosive verses around a few corners, I Am Easy To Find is waiting. – Chris

Niiice. — Never Better

There’s simply no denying that the Minneapolis trio niiice. has put out one of the most widely loved and revered (“party”) emo EPs of 2019. With Never Better, niiice. put out fifteen minutes of insanely dynamic tracks that blast through consistently changing tempos to make a record that has a better flow than the Mississippi river. Second track “Love Handlez” back to back with “Blunt Force Marijuana” hold some of the hardest hitting verses (and most impactful deliveries) of not only the group’s discography, but of all 2019 releases. The catharsis that comes with vocalist Roddie’s tone on “Love Handlez” verse, “I’m so stuck/I don’t give a fuck what happens to me/I just want you to be fine,” is heart-pounding, just like the bridge in “Blunt Forced Marijuana” that matter-of-factly states “You never thought to fuckin’ ask / that’s why you’ll probably never know how I feel.” Moments of smart lyricism like these are intermittent with just as refreshing genre-bending instrumentals. Even “Haterade” starts charmingly rhythmic and slowly swings into a build-up that introduces a twinkling guitar pluck only to fade into a psychedelic fuzzy riff that ends the track. Since their conception, niiice. hasn’t been conventional—they’ve been creating a new sound that demonstrates the incredible range of its members, and proving that self-proclaimed “weed bands” AREN’T that lame. – Olivia

Nuvolascura — Nuvolascura 

After a name change in 2018, Nuvolascura debuted with a pummeling full-length in January of this year. The band’s foundation begins with my all time favorite drummer writing the most intense parts to complement the angular guitar work that travels somewhere between mathy, soul-crushing, visceral, and technical. The lyrical themes are quite dark, as comes with a band name that translates to Dark Cloud, and the music follows suit accordingly. What Nuvolascura have created is a gloomy, ferocious attack obliterating the boundaries between post-hardcore and screamo; and it only took 18 minutes. – Chris

On Drugs – Uckhole Futah

Uckhole Futah, the newest album from Portland group On Drugs, had me hooked from the garage punk, yet orchestral and cartoonish intro track “Bees.” Blending everything from college rock, electronic pop, and mind-bending theatricality, I’ve never heard a better example of a purely experimental punk record. But somehow, UF remains more cohesive and immediately recognizable to the west coast group than most decade-old bands. With this album, On Drugs has defined themselves as undefinable. The one track on the record that breaks the theme of unpredictability is “Scaredy Cat,” which is sandwiched right in the middle and offers a much-needed moment of  stripped-back consistency that proves the group could easily be putting out absolutely phenomenal “conventionally good” music—but they don’t want to play it safe. Following that breather comes one of the all-stars of the album in my eyes, “Like Everything,” which is perhaps the funkiest three minutes of music to come out of the past six months. Maybe it’s the twang of the guitar, the intermittent voice clips (“do you want us to come in right away or—“), or the particular way the line “you succubus, you suck at this” is lulled through that makes the track so special—but it rivals “A Real Good Friend Always Licks the Bag” (which manages to go from harmonized indie-rock to anthemic pop-rock to hardcore in under a minute) for my top track from the whole project. With all of that said: it’s truly an album you have to hear for yourself to understand what a feat On Drugs have conquered – Olivia

Origami Angel — Gen 3

Origami Angel are shaping up to be one of the most quickly ascending voices in emo’s underground, and Gen 3 is by far their best release yet. This band is deliriously catchy without coming across as saccharine, and impressively technical without the overzealous bluster that some bands of the same caliber can get caught up in. “Ruby” is a brilliant earworm, “Sapphire” is house show pit fodder, “Emerald” is more reserved in its hookiness, and “XD Gale of Darkness” is funky as hell. When this band finally decides to drop a full-length, they’re already gonna be emo royalty. – Eli


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