60 Best Records of 2019 So Far (page 3)


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Pile – Green and Gray

Things are so bad in the world right now that it’s difficult for any artist, even political punk rock, to convey the despair, anger, and desperation of our time without venturing into cartoonishness. Just look at these pathetic SNL skits and the somewhat stunning lack of (good) political albums in the age of Trump. It’s not easy. It takes a very talented lyricist and artist, a poet even, to soak in this sludge and produce a diamond. Lucky for us, there are still a few poets out there. Rick Maguire from Pile is one of those. In a similar way to Patrick Kindlon from Drug Church, but with more of an indie rock tinge,  he is able to synthesize the mess we are all feeling. Leading with the opening line “No longer burdened by youth”, Rick rips into the darkness conveying the emotions of generational despair in the face of evil and societal handcuffs. “So work comes first / I’m sorry if I shut off / Never been able to do both / So I keep my nose down.” Interspersed between these bites of wisdom are the guitar solos and contagious riffs typical of Pile records. By the time they start ripping into the Trump administration directly on “The Soft Hands of Stephen Miller” its become a full on shouting match. “We’re all railing against oblivion, Steve / You don’t have to be so vile, and insufferable about it”. – Henderson

POW! – Shift 

POW! are a Castle Face Records band, the label of Oh Sees mastermind John Dwyer. So anyone familiar with the freewheeling psych/kraut/garage stylings of Dwyer and his California crew has a vague idea of what Shift sounds like before even pressing play. Nevertheless, POW!’s inclusion of whirling and beep-booping synths to the garage revivalist formula is their niche, and it’s a space they occupy with inspiring gusto on this record. From pulsating midnight joyrides (“Disobey”) to menacing psych cruisers (“Peter”) that pull from the steaminess of 80s post-punk, Shift captures the split-second between gears when speed, torque, or an unanticipated reversal are all on the table. – Eli

Prince Daddy & The Hyena – Cosmic Thrillseekers Forever

Mental health is already hard to navigate on one’s own, let alone talk about. So what happens when you have an experience that shifts the way your brain works, leading you be stuck in a constant cycle of questioning thoughts? If you’re Kory Gregory, you write a concept album with a detailed narrative that’s both personal yet relatable. Cosmic Thrill Seekers is next level. Split into three acts (The Heart/The Passenger, The Brain/Driver, The Roar/Random Passerby), each listen feels like falling further into the world the band has created and a deeper understanding of Gregory’s experiences as well as your own. – Lindsy

Pronoun – i’ll show you stronger

Emo-pop artist Alyssa Vellturo (otherwise known as her stage name pronoun) knows how to write a damn good pop record for only just releasing her debut album ill show you stronger. Featuring dazzling hits that glitter and groove with poppy melodies, sticky vocals, and guitar-laced electricity, it teeters on obnoxious how stunning the entire body of work is without being produced in a professional studio. Priding herself on being a one-woman-band, it’s staggering how much the record sounds like a veteran pop-production churning out tunes that evoke emotion while never turning away from the brighter musicality it was built from. The record never stagnates, each track hitting a new, soaring melody as it creates the perfectly executed dreamy landscape. Everything about ill show you stronger is pumped full of some of the most infectious beats, alluring vocals, gleaming production and expressive lyrics tied together, nicely, in a big 80’s-esque bow. There’s just something about Vellturo’s work that makes it hard to put down, and with her debut record, the raw talent and vigor she possesses to create something so independent and flawless makes her a strong contender as one of the best emo-pop artists with one of the best debuts in the scene. – Hope

PUP – Morbid Stuff

This will probably end up being my AOTY. No joke I didn’t think it was possible for PUP to (again) put out a record that was better than their last. PUP combines all the elements that made their sound and presence unique in the first place, and condenses it all into an even better experience.  Filled with contempt and anger, it is balanced with moments of insight and self-reflection. On their 3rd full length, the Canadian punk rockers pack another punch, not holding back even a little bit. – Steven

Remo Drive – Natural, Everday Degradation

Sounds evolve just as people do and Remo Drive’s new record is a great example of that. The band shifts their mood from frustrated and fast moving, as present on Greatest Hits, to introspective and questioning. After my first listen, I found myself constantly going back to it and hitting repeat, trying to pick all of its themes. While the lyrics are straightforward for the most part, they still leave room for the perceived meaning to shift. While yes, its a clear departure from their first record, it stands strongly on its own as a polished step forward in the band’s career. – Lindsy

Rosie Tucker – Never Not Never Not Never Not

It’s Sunday evening and I’ve nothing to listen to. Luckily, Never Not Never Not Never Not’s got me covered. It’s this record, most notably single “Lauren,” that made me believe in the depth of, for lack of a better descriptor, chill emo. Bell tones, repetition, and ringing sprinkled in the midst of falsettos are warm echoes of a psychedelic record. On the other hand, the lyrics remind you of that friend you lost, that hollow hum of a washing machine, that emptiness of happiness locked in fear. Finding this album in the spring and watching it flourish in the summer has been thrilling and enthralling, and if you’re missing dream-like sequences among the guitars, check out Rosie Tucker. – Kayla


I like to go for long walks when I need to think about something. Living in New York I also have to go for long walks whenever I want to do anything. So the point is, I take a lot of walks. There is a certain type of music that is perfect for a long walk inside your head, and SASAMI is it. Vocalist and songwriter, Sasami Ashworth, is also a member of Cherry Glazzer who themselves have an album on page 1 of this list, but SASAMI’s debut doesn’t sound at all like that record. It’s an indie rock record with some electronic elements, but SASAMI is more a plodding meditative smokily textured record. Ashworth’s voice cuts through the haze, often repeating phrases and leading to deep contemplation. This all might sound really boring to you, and maybe it would be if the songs weren’t so good. On these slower tracks, the lyrics are really left out in the open and they shine. –  Henderson

Sir Babygirl – Crush on Me

My first experience with Sir Babygirl was at a sleepy winter show in Connecticut while she was on tour opening for Petal. We were both wearing sweatpants. I was immediately enthralled by her unapologetically pop style, which at the same time felt sleek and polished yet fiercely DIY. I quickly realized that my low-key show going experience wasn’t typical and learned to love the over-the-top stage presence showcased on her social media. Songs like “Heels” and “Cheerleader” inspire arms up, eyes closed, dancing sing-alongs, while “Pink Lite” and the more recently released cover of Kesha’s “Praying” showcase impressive vocal control. The album finishes with the titular “Crush on Me”, a spoken-word track emphasizing self-love rivaled only by Lizzo’s “Soulmate”. – Scott

Slingshot Dakota –  Heavy Banding

Two people have transformed an entire scene culture with their unapologetic love and indescribable sound. Just see for yourself in my album review, where I affirmed Slingy D as my album of the year. Slingshot Dakota’s third album entry feels as triumphant as a first with the maturity of a band who’s earned their place in independent music. Tackling themes of self care, healing, and uplifting marginalized voices, Heavy Banding is the record that encompasses maximum energy, impact, and ingenuity. – Amanda

Small Talks – A Conversation Between Us

Small Talks put out one of the most energetic shows I’ve ever seen earlier this year, to a room of perhaps 25 people, playing their latest album A Conversation Between Us all the way through. As great as the show was, it felt wrong – Small Talks should be headlining stadium tours. “Oceans” is a perfect summertime pop rock song, the saccharine “Nicotine & Tangerines” should play over the credits of the next big coming-of-age teen movie, and closer “Thinking of the Sun” deserves a place on the radio slotted between the latest Dua Lipa and Charli XCX songs. If you don’t believe me, give A Conversation Between Us a listen for yourself. I guarantee you’ll find yourself singing along within the first thirty seconds. – Zac

Stef Chura – Midnight

Stef Chura’s Midnight pushes the boundaries that she set for herself on her debut Messes. The vocals and songwriting are bolder and matured whereas the sound has expanded its range to a heavier, harder-hitting indie rock sound that plays on different moods. Basically, it’s a hell-of-a-time album with a ton of great songs. With Midnight, Stef vaults herself nearly to the top of my (if not many) indie rock artists ‘power rankings’. – Steven

SWMRS – Berkeley’s on Fire

When I first reviewed SWMR’s Berkeley’s on Fire in February, I stated, with this sophomore record, the group cast aside the punk badge of honor “allowing them to fully give the middle finger to punk masqueraders that came before them.” As the record has aged, it has only ripened that statement. With their debut record, Drive North, skirting on the surface of the rowdy-rough energy the group had boiling inside, Berkeley’s on Fire proves the volcanic eruption of SWMRS presence even if the entire record falls back on Cole Becker’s charming, mellow tone. The band seem to speak the same language with this release, seamlessly marrying the Becker Brother Vocals while sanding the percussions and guitars until they gleam. Berkeley’s on Fire isn’t perfect by any means, but it isn’t meant to be. It’s meant to be taken as a powerhouse of jagged lines and bleeding colors where SWMRS is deconstructing the superficiality of the modern punk-rock scene instead of bowing down to it. The group, dropping a socially conscious, inclusive, and undeniably electrifying record that doesn’t slow down each time you give it a spin, but, instead, revs it to new heights is something that makes you want to follow the band on tour just to hear the tracks live- and c’mon. 2019 didn’t deserve the record’s beautiful chaos that is “Lose, Lose, Lose.” – Hope

Tacocat –  This Mess is a Place

No one does pop like Seattle’s Tacocat. From the release of their single, “Grains of Salt” matched by their colorful music video, their statement of inclusivity and feminism has only been amplified with vibrancy. From nostalgic pop odes to fearless ballads, Tacocat is an indie pop darling continuously on the rise – This  Mess is a Place is just the latest installment. – Amanda

Terrible People – Like Clean Air

Terrible People released Smoking Man in 2017, a scrappy and likeable set of pop-punk tunes, but nothing prepared me for the leap that the band made on Like Clean Air. Their newest record is a defining moment, finding them carving out a unique space somewhere between pop-punk and emo. There’s plenty of hooks and catchy choruses, but there’s also a raw pathos that runs through the album. The end of “Ashley” repeats the refrain “Something settles over me” that increases in intensity until it feels almost like a desperate plea. The final track, “Goat,” twinkles along with a single guitar, adding in singers one by one until the song abruptly shifts gears into an emo pop banger with just a twinge of alt-country. They! Have! The! Range! – Keegan


Tierra Whack – singles

Tierra Whack didn’t release a full length in 2019, she didn’t even release an EP. Instead she released 5 singles and told NPR about her plans for another full length, “I’m not gonna drive myself crazy. I’m having fun creating what I’m creating.” The kind of thinking you would expect from a visionary artist like Tierra Whack, who in 2018 released a 16 minute 16 track full length. Her music is art both in form and delivery, and because of that mind melting potential. I’m down to slide her under the barricade and on to this best so far list. But it’s not just the form that makes her track so special, these are hits. “Only Child” has one of the most addicting hooks of the year, and the other 4 tracks develop different forms of her sound from the satricialy wobbly trap sound of “Clones” to the autotuned R&B sounds of “Gloria” to the Philly street rap bars of “Unemployed”. Tierra Whack can do it all. I want more of it.  – Henderson

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

With longtime band member Rostam Batmanglij no longer a part of the equation, Father of the Bride is essentially an Ezra Koenig solo album, a sprawling and restless collection of songs that finds the band throwing everything against the wall to see what will stick. In an era defined by the blurring of genre lines, it makes sense that one of the decades most influential indie-rock acts would create something made of such disparate influences, from The Grateful Dead to iLoveMakonnen and everything in-between. A closer look into the album reveals a treasure trove of easter eggs lying right beneath the surface, with Koenig remaining as sharp-witted as ever, churning out self-referential lyrics that turn their past albums into lore, even repurposing lines from previous songs, making the ouroboro on the cover art for “Harmony Hall” seem like another small clue in deciphering the mystery that is Father of the Bride. – Michael

Virginity – With Time

Virginity essentially came out of nowhere with their debut LP, With Time. This collection of ten spunky, genuine, and animated tracks are the result of Casey Crawford’s fundamental instinct to create. Blending intimately personal lyrics in the vein of The Wonder Years or The Weakerthans with the energy of bands like Motion City Soundtrack, Spanish Love Songs, and Prince Daddy & The Hyena, With Time has quickly become a comfort album for me that I can easily listen to multiple times in a day while screaming along at the top of my lungs. – Scott

Young Nudy/Pi’erre Bourne – Sli’merre

Much like he did on last years Die Lit, producer Pi’erre Bourne has found the perfect voice for his wobbly and distorted 808s, teaming up with longtime collaborator Young Nudy on the excellent Sli’merre. Young Nudy lacks the energy of an artist like Playboi Carti, opting instead for a more understated approach to rapping, and more often than not his delivery fades into Pi’erre Bourne’s backdrop of pastel synths. It’s this low-key energy that makes Sli’merre so effective, tracks like “Sunflower Seeds” and “Gas Station” seem to drift along until they turn into an idyllic daydream of how beautiful trap music can be – Michael

Wicca Phase Springs Eternal – Suffer On

With a lengthy band name that seems like a title track off of a Panic! At The Disco album, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal continue to bring forth unexpected and brilliant genre bending tracks. Suffer On is a hodge podge of instrumentals ranging from acoustic guitar to MIDIs and beyond. What Adam does so well on Suffer On are the lyrics in connection to the instrumentals. They are vulnerable, relatable and above all sensitive. The track “Rest” stands out the most with this, having opening lyrics “Do you need time to rest?/Does it take time to heal?/Will it help you feel better?/Knowing that I’ll stay clear” feel real. Suffer On really wowed me and surprised me with how experimental yet down to earth it is. – Sarah



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