My Favorite Music of 2019
These are my favorite music releases from 2019 (listed in alphabetical order by artist name).
If any of these links are broken, please let me know so that I can fix them.
American Football - American Football (LP3)
American Football somehow manages to continue releasing breathtaking music.
Andy Stott - It Should Be Us
A return to form for Andy Stott, channeling some of what I loved about his earlier works, while still sounding fresh.
Caribou - Home
This was the first single off of Caribou’s 2020 album Suddenly. The song came out around the time my first son Henry started to be able to perceive the world. I played this song for him often, and I used it to help teach him how to dance.
Caroline Polachek - Pang
I’d never heard of Caroline Polachek before this album was released. It’s an exciting and unique version of pop.
Carpet City - Little Longer
Full disclosure: Carpet City is the project of a friend of mine, but also full disclosure: Everything they do is excellent. This is their first single as Carpet City, and I desperately hope there is more to come!
(Definitely also check out their other single, I Don’t Wanna Know.)
Chris Staples - Holy Moly
Chris Staples can do no wrong in my eyes, and this album is in support of that. Another fun and deceptively virtuosic release. One of my favorite songwriters ever.
Denzel Curry - ZUU
I am consistently blown away by everything Denzel Curry does. ZUU is so unique. Nothing else like it.
Duster - Duster
After 19 years, the slowcore legend is baaaaaack.
Faye Webster - Atlanta Millionaires Club
Faye Webster was a new find for me this year, and has quickly become one of my favorite artists right now. I’ve been listening to a lot of alt-country. I’m eagerly awaiting her next release.
Floating Points - Crush
This album came out of nowhere. I’d never heard of Floating Points before. The depth and interest in his electronic bleeps is exciting.
Gabriel Gundacker - Wii Jogging
Gabriel Gundacker has been releasing Wii Sports songs since 2017 in his Unofficial Wii Sports Soundtrack. This year, he released Wii Jogging, and like the others, it sounds like it came direct from Nintendo.
Gang Starr - One of the Best Yet
A legend has returned in full form.
Griselda - WWCD
The Griselda crew has been around for a while, but this album was the first I’d heard by them. A killer release with some of the best beats in a long time. While the lyrics are a little more hardcore than I prefer, the must more than makes up for it.
Hatchie - Keepsake
Hatchie’s 2018 EP Sugar & Spice was a surprise delight, so I was eagerly awaiting Keepsake. While not as good as Sugar & Spice, Keepsake is still a wonderful piece of shoegazey dreampop.
The Highwomen - The Highwomen
Despite my best efforts, I’ve really like this album. It’s an homage to pop country of the 90s (think Reba McEntire) — which is not something I generally enjoy — but after overhearing the album multiple times as my wife listened to it, I eventually grew to love it.
Horse Jumper of Love - So Divine
There’s been a resurgence of slowcore recently, with new, young bands stepping in to reinterpret the sound. I discovered Horse Jumper of Love while on a semi-regular internet sojourn in search of new slowcore to listen to. This is my favorite slowcore album that has been released in the past few years.
Indian Summer - Giving Birth To Thunder
This album was a staple in my listening about 10 years ago, but until now, all I ever had were 128 kbps mp3 files from a shitty vinyl rip uploaded to some Russian punk blog. Finally some truly good quality!
Ithaca - The Language of Injury
Some great hardcore I randomly stumbled across.
Jai Paul - Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)
I won’t retell the tale here, but this is an infamous lost release. Now, we finally get a true official release — or as close to one as we’ll ever see.
James Blake - Assume Form
Another beautiful release from the man with the golden voice and the golden synths.
John Raymond - Where We Grew Up
I learned of John Raymond this year, after my wife offhandedly remarked that she went to high school with a really great trumpet player. We looked him up online, and I was blown away by this track — his most recent release at the time. It’s jazz with some beautiful trumpet playing by Raymond. My favorite bit though is the inclusion of what sounds like a pedal steel guitar. Pedal steel guitar makes me weep.
Joseph - Good Luck, Kid
Some great alternative pop music with female vocals. Not their finest release, but still a favorite of mine.
Julia Shapiro - Perfect Version
Julia Shapiro is the singer for the indie rock band Chastity Belt. This is her first solo endeavor, and it’s very different from the band’s music. Simple yet engaging, the songs capture something about the experience of depression and boredom that I keenly identify with.
La Dispute - Panorama
How should I describe La Dispute… Emo for dads maybe? Whatever it is, it’s emo with a depth of sadness that I haven’t heard elsewhere. (Full disclosure, I haven’t listened to a lot of emo, so please let me know of other great ones that I should know about!)
Mac DeMarco - Here Comes the Cowboy
How can you not love Mac DeMarco? The chillest indie rock music there is. Not his best release by a long shot (that honor goes to Salad Days obvi), still a solid release with some great tunes. Lots more delightful synths on this one too.
Noname - Song 31
This (and Song 32 below it) were both surprise releases. Noname’s delivery is like no other. It’s more like talking than rapping. Mellow and soothing and damn she’s smart.
Noname - Song 32
Pedro the Lion - Phoenix
This album right here blew me away. It might be my most-listened to release of 2019. I’d heard of Pedro the Lion before, and even tried listening to them, but didn’t much care for it. I can’t describe what’s different about this one, but it immediately grabbed me.
The album tells the story of David Bazan’s time growing up in Phoenix, AZ. I love the ways he describes childhood.
Phobophilic - Undimensioned Identities
I started to expand my appreciation of metal this year to other sub-genres. This is the first death metal record I’ve ever loved, and the band is from Fargo, ND of all places (near my hometown). Brutal, deep, chunky.
Pijn & Conjurer - Curse These Metal Hands
An ode to early Baroness, this sounds exactly like a lost EP from before the accident (think First / Second, and Red Album). If you’ve ever loved those albums you will love this.
Shigeto - Versions
This might be my favorite jazz release ever (full disclosure, I don’t listen to nearly as much jazz as I should). I’d love to find more jazz like this, but I don’t have the knowledge or vocabulary to know how to find it. If you know of anything that sounds like this, please please let me know!
Soulkeeper - Gorgeous
Soulkeeper is my favorite local metal band. I discovered them a couple years back when they played at a show I attended to see a different band. They stole the show, bigly.
Spirit Trap - Demo
Spirit Trap is a punk band, fronted by musician and comic artist Anya Davidson. Davidson was also in Lilac, and two of my all time favorite noise rock bands, Coughs and Cacaw.
The music is abrasive, angular, and noisy (duh).
The Staves - Nothing’s Gonna Happen (Demo)
How The Staves are not more popular is beyond me. Arresting and emotional songwriting, coupled with gorgeous vocal harmonies. It should be a recipe for global accolades. But alas, they are too indie I guess.
The Staves have a special place in my heart, and I am terribly excited for their next full length release.
The Tallest Man on Earth - I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream.
The Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson, a Swede who sounds straight out of the Appalachia. This album continues his slight departure from his earlier, more folk-rooted music, but the roots are still there underneath. Beautiful. What a voice.
Taylor Swift - Lover
I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since 1989 (the album, not the year, of course). Nothing Swift has made has yet matched 1989’s pop genius, but it’s all been good, and Lover is no exception.
Telefon Tel Aviv - Dreams Are Not Enough
This album sounds nothing like their first release (and my favorite of theirs), Fahrenheit Fair Enough. Fahrenheit Fair Enough is pure and melodic, where Dreams Are Not Enough veers more toward arrhythmic electronic music, akin to Emptyset. Luckily, I like arrhythmic electronic music, akin to Emptyset.
Ty Segall - First Taste
More fun and fuzzy garage rock from the greatest garage rocker in the game.
Vetiver - Up on High
I was turned onto this album by an internet friend of mine. It’s folky indie rock, which is a pretty banal description, but do give it a listen. It’s far far better than it should be. I haven’t liked any of Vetiver’s previous releases, so here’s hoping this is a new leaf being turned over.
Vince Staples - Hell Bound (Ad 01)
A short and sweet single from one of the more singular hip-hop artists right now. Not groundbreaking, but very good!
Whirr - Feels Like You
This is the best shoegaze record I’ve heard in a long while. It has it all.
Apparently this album was only supposed to be released on vinyl (blergh), but it leaked online so they decided to make an official digital release as well (yay)! It’s not streaming anywhere officially, but you can buy the record on Bandcamp, and stream it unofficially on YouTube.
Whitney - Forever Turned Around
This is sunny Summer music if I ever heard it. Light, airy, melodic, crisp, soft.