Top 75 Records & The Alt Awards (pg 3)


PAGE 1 (#75 – #51) – PAGE 2 (#50 – #26) – PAGE 3 (#25 – #1 + Playlist & Awards)

25. Taylor Swift – Lover

Lover is a record that seemed to breathe life back into Taylor Swift’s discography. Being a bleary haze of synth-pop pastels bathed in high spirits, this album does what Swift has tried to translate in prior work: a sense of aloofness in how she deals with public perception. Playing off 1989’s blueprint, Lover takes the best of its synths and slick production and wraps it around the lyrical foundation reached in Speak Now and Red, creating a body of work that wields Swift’s greatest talents. It demonstrates the overwhelming realization that Taylor Swift is finally in love; not only in a relationship, but with herself, and it is in that unconditional love that propels Lover to new heights, presenting the record as the beating heart of Taylor Swift’s rebirth. – Hope Ankney

24. Slaughter Beach, Dog – Safe And Also No Fear

On Safe And Also No Fear, Jake Ewald has proven that Slaughter Beach, Dog isn’t just a side project. While Slaughter Beach, Dog has been around since before Modern Baseball’s hiatus, it didn’t really take off in a huge way until the 2017 release of Birdie, when fans outside of the once niche “emo” community started to pay notice. It almost feels cheap for me to even include the Modern Baseball bit, but I know some people reading may find this information interesting, so here I am including it as if I didn’t download the Dawg EP as soon as I saw Ewald post it on Tumblr in 2014. What makes Slaughter Beach, Dog so unique is Ewald’s distinct vocals, tunings, and perspectives. He writes chilling stories that stick with you throughout the day. Haunting melodies don’t allow for passive listening, instead they force you into the song. This is seen especially on “Black Oak” and “Good Ones”. The Philly indie staple still has much in store for the future, and Safe And Also No Fear gave fans a taste of what’s to come. – Emily Kitchin

23. SWMRS – Berkeley’s on Fire

SWMRS took a sharp turn toward the political on Berkeley’s on Fire. It was unprecedented, considering the most aggressive they became on their previous record was when they asserted that northern California is superior to its southern counterpart. It’s more pressing subject matter, but it’s not any less fun. There’s a rollicking energy and piquing tartness that runs throughout the album in the midst of relegating Trump to a “facist insect” and critiquing the media’s deceptive portrayal of Berkeley, CA’s protests over right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopolous’ visit—which went down a stone’s throw away from Oakland, where the band hails from. The best display of this is on album standout “Hellboy,” a thunderous, grainy track in which they strike back against the NRA’s complacency in the nation’s gun violence pandemic. There’re lighter moments, too, like “IKEA Date,” an aerated song about a romantic fallout, and the pumping “Lonely Ghosts,” which is about being shackled by social anxiety. All in all, it’s a demonstration of the band’s versatility and outspokenness. – Bineet Kaur

22. Glass Beach – The First Glass Beach Album

It happened overnight. I awoke and logged into Twitter to find dozens, if not hundreds, of people tweeting three words in all lowercase: “glass beach band.” There’s a cultish enthusiasm about Glass Beach that mirrors the band’s own giddy sense of wonder, treating the whole world like an inside joke shared by everyone in their Discord chat. Unlike that other Extremely Online musical outfit crushing things with a mallet this year, Glass Beach doesn’t approach Peak Internet cultural saturation with blank-eyed nihilism or jaded irony poisoning. They’re bewilderingly excited about braving life in a world that, on a long enough timeline, seems insane to the point of meaninglessness.

They identify as post-emo. They have chiptune roots they’d rather not speak of. Chris DeVille sagely invoked Of Montreal and PC Music. The album has a freewheeling rambunctiousness that feels like what the Fiery Furnaces could have been if they had really, really loved Saves the Day. When Ian Cohen said, “the shapeshifting seven minutes of ‘Glass Beach’ imagines a seapunk reshoot of Through Being Cool,” what he neglected to point out is that Glass Beach makes these two nerdy reference points sounds cool as hell. As the boys from Hollywood Handbook put it: nerds is cool now. Those who can take in the jarring disconnect of the internet experiencepeaks of stimulation competing until everything becomes a hiss of staticy white noiseand refract prisms of light from it, will be our new kings. It’s the Animaniacs in the Philharmonic; it’s band geeks on ayahuasca creating a new civilization somewhere deep in Minecraft; it’s life on Mars. It’s the future; get hip or give up. – Keegan Bradford

21. Pedro the Lion – Phoenix

The narrative arc of Pedro the Lion—a band that stayed together through a loss of faith but fell apart under the self-described asshole tendencies of Bazan and his demand for complete creative control—became so canonized that it eclipsed interest in the new music that Bazan continued to release, which was no less powerful, if occasionally a little dour. Phoenix, the product of returning to the Pedro name and Bazan’s childhood memories, makes such a strong argument for the continued vitality of Bazan’s songwriting that we devoted followers can rest our pitchforks. 

“Quietest Friend” finds Bazan hovering above a vision of himself as a schoolchild giving in to the pressure to look cool, mocking a shy friend for social clout. It’s a familiar self-reflective theme for Bazan, but Pedro the Lion is no longer a vehicle to excoriate the darkness in himself. On Phoenix, he chooses to reckon with it, to level with himself and find compassion for the version of himself that was so hurt and scared that following the crowd was all he was capable of. Bazan has always railed against the dearth of compassion in the world. On this record, he focuses on what he can do about it, making a case that the world will continue to lack compassion until we find a compassion for ourselves. The relief found in self-acceptance and the belief that real change is possible pours out of every corner of this record. – Keegan Bradford

20. The Maine – You Are OK

The Maine has a track record for successfully reinventing themselves during each of their album cycles. Unlike the group’s prior records that focused on the foundations of love and loss, You Are OK is fixated on finding that inner-peace within oneself, documenting the entire mental health journey that’s taken when one feels like they’re slipping back into that stormy headspace. Featuring a new sonic landscape explored by the band by adding a string section alongside funky guitar solos and grittier tempos, it finally translates the group’s mammoth presence into their music. You Are OK is The Maine’s most diverse record to date, and its ability to discuss mental health in a way that heals is just another reason why this project stood strong all throughout 2019. – Hope Ankney

19. Strange Ranger – Remembering the Rockets

Strange Ranger are one of the hardest working and most underrated bands in indie rock and Remembering the Rockets is another leap forward for the ever-changing Philadelphia group. “Leona” and “Planes in Front of the Sun” are infectious earworms indebted to radio friendly 90’s rock groups like Third Eye Blind, while “Message To You” and “Living Free” are synth-driven slowburners. Lyrically, frontman Isaac Eiger sings about the banalities of everyday life and how these trivial things can still feel important even when this spinning orb we’re flying through space on is slowly dying and, generally speaking, everything is fucked. If this sounds heavy it’s because it is, but Eiger’s delivery is calm and steady enough to make our seemingly meaningless existences sounds actually quite appealing. – Michael Brooks

18. Heart Attack Man – Fake Blood

Cut-throat and visceral, Fake Blood is the sophomore album that spares no soul, saved or not. The power and energy behind it feels like an unstoppable force met an immovable object and completely obliterated it. Pushing boundaries and buttons at every turn, from the straightforward and brutal “Cut My Losses” to the calculated and anthemic “Rats in a Bucket,” each track anchors itself in a refined sort of grunge; a sound that makes you want to both rule and burn down the world. It’s an aggressive sort of catharsis, functioning kind of like a guidebook on how to learn your own worth and take absolutely no shit.  – Olivia Keasling

17. Downhaul – Before You Fall Asleep

As a longtime fan of Downhaul, their debut album is everything I know it could be and more. Before You Fall Asleep is an intimate look at vocalist Gordon Phillips’s life at a time when we has going through a rough patch. The opening lines of “Wires/Enough” hit me hard from the first time I heard them and have stuck with me all year: “I’m eating fast food frantically, outside of therapy / Six minutes late, really six years late now.” Much of the album is about learning how to pull yourself out of a funk and realizing that it is sometimes necessary to ask others for help when you are struggling. The album’s closing track, “Ring Out”, brings a somber positivity in a way that only Downhaul can. Life may be tough, but we all experience those challenges and in that way we can find connection. – Scott Fugger

16. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

When Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst dropped their debut self-titled LP, fans were excited but not surprised. While the two have had an extensive working/touring relationship over the past few years, Better Oblivion Community Center was almost a given and the record is a glowing display of the duo’s strengths. Known as songwriters first and foremost, most of the record displays what they do best: creating flourishing narratives that stand alone without grandiose production. That’s not to say the album is completely void of catchy synth beats or folky riffs, there’re plenty of those, too. Nonetheless, BOCC is sprinkled with treats for new and die-hard fans alike. Tracks like, “Exception to the Rule” feel like a throwback to early Digital Ash era Bright Eyes, while “My City” feels like a Stranger in the Alps B-side. Better Oblivion Community City may simply be another home for the duo to rest their hats before they get restless and create another inevitable indie supergroup, but it’s one that will leave an everlasting impact. – Emily Kitchin

15. Diva Sweetly – In The Living Room

I started off 2018 seeing Pictures of Vernon who were joined by who I guessed was their new vocalist/keyboardist playing new songs. It wasn’t until I saw them again at FEST that I realized it wasn’t a reinvention of the band but something new entirely. After playing a few POV songs at their fest set their new member, Karly Hartzman, shared that Diva Sweetly was actually the band that everyone was seeing. I think this introduction properly captures what the band is: fun, unpredictable and willing to play around with people’s expectations. From the 90’s sounding commercial bit in “Education” to the heavy, fast-paced “Dark Horse Lane” that comes through just as the album seems to slow down, the record shows their array of influences and abilities to explore their fun sound. Lyrically, the album carries undertones of uncertainty which gets close to resolution with the final track, “Green Walls”, as Hartzman sings, “And I’ll go home, and I’ll get clean / And I’ll declare I’m queen of everything /And I’ll go home, and I’ll get clean / I’m not alone I’m something in between”- Lindsy Carrasquillo

14. Pile – Green and Gray

Green and Gray criss-crosses indie and punk by way of robust instrumental pieces and jangling hooks. Much of it is drawn-out and fastidiously crafted, especially so on “Hiding Places,” which tumbles past the seven-minute mark with spark and sting. But nothing is more memorable than the acidic and relentless vitriol of  “The Soft Hands of Stephen Miller.” Pinned up by sputtering riffs and leaping screeches, it denigrates Trump’s senior advisor’s cognitive dissonance, taunting him by asking “Stephen, tell me about your great grandmother.” The staunch immigration opponent’s Jewish ancestors migrated from Belarus to the US in search of refuge, and Pile refuses to let him forget it. Hold that song up against the more polished ones on the record, like the foggy, lapsed opener “Firewood” and it might be difficult to believe the two were derived from one singular entity. – Bineet Kaur

13. The National – I Am Easy to Find

I Am Easy to Find is perhaps the least National-sounding National album. Perhaps that’s due to the relative dearth of vocalist Matt Berninger, one of the most recognizable voices in indie rock of the century. Instead, the band pulled a host of guest vocalists on board, including Gail Ann Dorsey and Sharon Van Etten. Musically, though, the band stretches their sound in new directions. Standout “Where Is Her Head” is perhaps the most driving song they’ve released since Boxer, a callback to when they were equal parts indie and rock. The title track takes the electronic textures from Sleep Well Beast and strips them of any urgency, re-contextualizing them into an exhausted dirge. (Such a description would be an insult directed towards any other band, but is the highest of compliments when applied to the National.) “Hairpin Turns” is probably the most traditional National cut, and it would be easy to call the song boring until its hook kicks in and the song picks up. “What are we going through?” Berninger asks over an echoing piano. In classic National fashion, he leaves it open-ended: “Wait and see.” It’s the most familiar-sounding moment on the album and, somehow, still one of the most exciting. – Zac Djamoos

12. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You

From the moment I heard the opening of the title track on Lizzo’s, Cuz I Love You, I was hooked. This album is one that I’ve been able to put at any point throughout the year and be singing along in no time, no matter my mood. “Like a Girl” and “Soul Mate” are powerful, positive anthems; “Cuz I Love You”, “Juice”, and “Heaven Help Me” mix retro energy with modern pop sensibility; and “Truth Hurts”, featured on the album’s deluxe edition, is the sleeper hit from 2017 that was unavoidable this year. Still, no matter how many times I’ve listened, none of the music has ever gotten old. 2019 was Lizzo’s year and it was well deserved. – Scott Fugger

11. 100 gecs – 1000 gecs

The late Mark Fisher coined the phrase ‘hauntological music’ to refer to music built on a pastiche of samples from older eras, a time when, according to Fisher, we could still imagine a future. He would’ve been delighted to hear 1000 gecs, the debut LP by experimental duo 100 gecs. 1000 touchstones present themselves through the album as Laura Les and Dylan Brady mash dubstep, metalcore, crunk, bubblegum pop, ska, and EDM into something that somehow resembles none of the above. It’s an album that wouldn’t have sounded out of time if it had come out at any point in the past twenty years, but an album that only could’ve come out in our current terminally online era.  – Zac Djamoos

10. Mannequin Pussy – Patience

Patience brilliantly conflates melody and ferocity in a wonderful 25 minutes. Mannequin Pussy have been honing such a craft since their 2014 debut Gypsy Pervert, and after the leap forward on Romantic (2016), Patience has punk anger and reflective sorrow laying side by side. The heartache of “Drunk II,” the bitten lips bleeding in “F.U.C.A.W.,” the whispering, shining guitars in “High Horse,” and “Drunk I” flying off the handle only to suddenly grab back hold for brief moments. Patience‘s ability to seamlessly jump between sadness and anger makes it one hell of a punk record. Its passion roars aflame like the globe that graces the cover, with asses to kick and tears to be shed. – Dave Gutierrez 

9. insignificant other –  i’m so glad i feel this way about you!

Is there a world record for number of hooks in a debut record? That’s what insignificant other delivered in i’m so glad i feel this way about you!, along with unparalleled songwriting intimacy. The vulnerability in relationships and self-exploration throughout this record is stunning and it  creates this feeling that you, the listener, are as close a friend to vocalist Sim Morales as anyone. – Amanda Starling

8. Charly Bliss – Young Enough

The greatest pop music to arrive in independent music in 2019 came from none other than Charly Bliss. Devastating and gorgeous, Young Enough feels like an ode to growing pains and self-actualization, matched with perfectly set beats. There’s so much maturity and admission, from outgrowing relationships in title track “Young Enough” to acknowledging personal limits in “Capacity.” Pop music has never been more haunting and reflective than throughout this Charly Bliss record. – Amanda Starling

7. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar

Alexander Giannascoli manages to top his previous album once again on House of Sugar. With his vast array of styles ranging from indie-folk rock, to country, to electronic experimentation, all with a new tinge of dream-pop, Giannascoli has created what could be the definitive alternative/indie record of the year. From the haunting swirl of “Walk Away,” to the waltz of “Southern Sky,” to the electronic twang of “Bad Man,” and the lush lounge of “SugarHouse,” House of Sugar‘s smorgasbord of sound makes a unique product that’s not to be ignored. – Dave Gutierrez 

6. Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows

It’s hard to think of another band who’s made a leap as monumental as the one that Great Grandpa made on Four of Arrows. While the goofy, crunchy indie-pop of their debut Plastic Cough was fun as hell, Four of Arrows is positively transcendental. From the folk-tinged opening duo of “Dark Green Water” and “Digger” to the somber denouement of “Mostly Here,” it’s a bolder, more expansive album than anyone could’ve expected from Great Grandpa. It’s cliche at this point to call a band’s darker sophomore album a ‘maturation,’ but it’s hard to think of an album that fits that description better than Four of Arrows. Gone are the campy songs about getting too high and getting sick off pizza; take one listen to “Mono no Aware,” one of the best songs of 2019, and tell me it isn’t one of the most adult and empathetic songs about growing up and apart from the things you used to love. It’s the sort of song that’s so hyper-specific in its nostalgia that it ends up capturing a universal feeling. – Zac Djamoos

5. PUP – Morbid Stuff

PUP rip. It’s a fact, and they prove it once again on their third album Morbid Stuff. It’s a record that explores mental health, relationships, and the space in between through their signature breed of angsty punk, gang vocals, guitar hooks that make you head bang, and of course a supporting rhythm to ground it all. The guitar tones are twinkly at times, 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. On songs like “Free at Last” and “Closure” the songwriting and production is superb, providing space for each instrument to breathe and then bring it all back together for a beautiful breakdown. Sarah Knoll

4. Origami Angel – Somewhere City

Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve connected to an album as deeply and completely as Somewhere City. Meant to loop seamlessly back to the start of the record, each new listen is like finding yourself in a different part of the story they’ve created. Known for riffs that follow their melodies and hooks with words filled to the brim that effortlessly flow through careful attention to phrasing, the band excels with their debut LP. From the start, you walk into a well built narrative that tackles the need of being a support system for others while also making sure that you create and maintain that environment within your own head space. Sometimes you’re the one up lifting others and sometimes you’re the one that needs the reminder that there’s light beyond the haze you’re working through. From their fun puzzle of an album promotion to the music itself, so much detail has been put into this world they’ve created and the best way to experience it all is to immerse yourself in it and see where somewhere takes you. – Lindsy Carrasquillo 

3. Oso Oso – Basking In The Glow

Basking In The Glow is a landmark. Whether you think of the Oso Oso album as emo, indie-rock or simply the paragon of pop-rock, it’s rare that a record can please so many crowds while maintaining such a strong sense of identity. Sure, there are moments on here that nod heavily to Jimmy Eat World and other melodic indie-rock acts of yore, and the nasally hooks fit snugly into the current tidal wave of poppy emo. But to be totally candid for a second: there are enough bands to fill a stadium right now who are attempting to straddle emo, indie-rock and, even though they won’t say it outright, early 2000’s Warped Tour pop-punk. Some of them are doing it well, some not so much, but none of them have the “it” factor that this band does. Oso Oso are the glow. And we’re just lucky to be able to bask in it. – Eli Enis

2. Prince Daddy & the Hyena – Cosmic Thrill Seekers

After releasing a stellar debut, 2016’s I Thought You Didn’t Like Leaving, Prince Daddy & the Hyena have jumped far and beyond expectations with their follow-up, Cosmic Thrill Seekers. With songs segueing into each other in their respective acts (three!), the 15 tracks of CTS make up a multi-course power-punk journey through the many moods of songwriter Kory Gregory. And like the range of human emotion, the shortest of tracks can travel miles, and the longest can travel earths. Songs like “Klonopin” can get you moving, “The Prototype of the Ultimate Lifeform” can get you grooving, and “I Lost My Life” can get you sobbing. It’s a brilliant record, and one that will shine even brighter in time. – Dave Gutierrez

1. Rosie Tucker – Never Not Never Not Never Not

Rosie Tucker’s debut LP is full of wonderfully detailed stories that teeter between pain and humor both through metaphor and spoken word. Tucker’s poetry flows as well as the instrumentals that swell behind it, punctuating their words with tones that build quickly and then mellow out like on standout track, “Lauren.” From the anxieties that come in a new relationship in “Spinster Cycle” (“But I get afraid one of us is bluffing / The blooms they will fade and the change will amount to nothing“) to trying to navigate the spaces that grow when things change in “Habit” (“I wanna tell you I’m sorry but what’s a couple words? / Drops in the Pacific between us”), each song tells its own story without taking away the cohesiveness of the record, much like reading a short story within a book. With each song, Tucker makes vulnerability seem like something that can be done with such ease, and maybe it can be if you follow their lead. – Lindsy Carrasquillo




PAGE 1 (#75 – #51) – PAGE 2 (#50 – #26) – PAGE 3 (#25 – #1 + Playlist & Awards)

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