It’s been a year that brought me many personal challenges. It was also a year that had tons of great music. I’ll spare the lengthy monologue prefacing the reveal of my favorite records of the year, and instead I will just get on with it.
These were some of the albums that either found themselves in heavy rotation, or were personally impactful in some way. Over the last twelve months here is what ended up being what I’m calling my second favorite top ten records of 2019.
20 – Various Artists covering Frightened Rabbit
Tiny Changes: A Celebration of the Midnight Organ Fight
I’m not sure if this record is justified as a 2019 release for new music being that it is a compilation of covers from one of the best albums that Frightened Rabbit released. Here’s the thing though: I don’t care. This band made music that was real and true down to the depth of an infinitely hyperbolic sadness. Scott Hutchison was a legend in his own right and he unfortunately did not allow himself to be ok with that. This compilation cover album has beautiful renditions of some of my favorite Frightened Rabbit songs. Some voices will be familiar while others will not, but these songs will live on forever in the headphones and speakers of fans like myself all over the world. We all miss you Scott, and may you truly Rest In Peace.
Standouts: tracks by Craig Finn, Ben Gibbard, and Julien Baker
19 – The Mountain Goats
In League With Dragons
This is a strange concept album that was meant to nod due respect toward the tabletop role-playing game of Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve never played D&D let alone any role-playing game of that sort, but this record does not need that sort of familiarity to appreciate it.
Standouts: Passaic 1975, Younger, & Cadaver Sniffing Dog
18 – Vampire Weekend
Father of the Bride
The sound of happiness isn’t supposed to translate to great art. Sure, art made with a happy stroke will bring a smile, but for some reason or another art requires a jagged edge to outlive it’s harmonious gesture at getting you to just tap your toes.
Standouts: Sympathy, Harmony Hall, & Married in a Good Rush
17 – The Menzingers
Many of the bands I’ve listened to for years are aging into their 40s, and some into their 50s. The Menzingers came after these mentioned and have put together an album about living a life aging into your 30s. As I near my own defining moment approaching 40 a whole lot quicker than I would have liked, I listen to this warm and comforting record knowing that I am not the only one who experiences these momentary periods of self-reflection due to aging.
Standouts: Ana, America (You’re Freaking Me Out), & Farewell Youth
16 – Girl Band
This is a rock record full of angst and energy, and I cannot stop listening. The songs on The Talkies hypnotize your thoughts and transcend your consciousness to places you’ll eventually forget, because listening to this record is the only way you’ll be able to get there. Apparently this album is a deliberate expression of frontman Dara Kiely’s struggles with anxiety. The opening “track” to this record will immediately take you to the place necessary to understand.
Standouts: Couch Combover, Shoulderblades, & Going Norway
15 – The National
I Am Easy To Find
I never won’t like a record by The National. I could probably listen to Matt Berninger sing the ingredients to all the flavors of Glacéau Vitamin Water. You may think I’m joking, but I’m not. With that said, this record gives Berninger’s vocals an unfamiliar periodic backseat to several guest female vocalists throughout, including that of his wife Carin. This isn’t a typical National record, or one that you’d expect in the direction headed from the last one. All the while, it is another solid collection of songs from one of the best bands out there today.
Standouts: Oblivions, Light Years, & Hairpin Turns
14 – Billie Eilish
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
There’s always a surprise, and this year Billie Eilish was that for me. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be playing a goth-pop record from someone like Eilish as much as I have. If you ever catch me tapping toes to one of these songs my immediate and first response to you will be “…and?”
Standouts: I Love You, Xanny, & You Should See Me In A Crown
13 – Cursive
Tim Kasher is probably the best and most underestimated lyricist in music in the last quarter century. He paints vivid pictures of emotion with his words all while being surrounded by cerebral post punk songs highlighted with the occasional, but beautiful cello interludes and keys. This is yet another album full of tragically painful songs laced with enough hope by the end of each one that you continue listening without realizing the previous song ended allowing for the next one to begin.
Standouts: Marigolds, Barricades, & Black Hole Town
12 – The Get Up Kids
Something To Write Home About finally has a companion album. With that I mean that this new record is nearly as good from start to finish as that one was from exactly twenty years ago. Coming from personal experience, songs always leave a more lasting impression when you are able to witness them in person. When I saw The Get Up Kids late this year with some old friends it did just that. It solidified this record as being what it deserves to be: a phenomenal return to form.
Standouts: Salina, Fairweather Friends, & Satellite
11 – Bad Religion
Age Of Unreason
Obviously, this is the perfect record for the current state of all things American. It’s a collection of fourteen songs meant to do nothing else but bring together a collective Bad Religion chorus in all of us singing along to express our pent up frustration with literally everything happening all around. Forty years into a career that defies organizational establishments of all kinds, this Bad Religion record is among the best of all of them.
Standouts: Lose Your Head, Do The Paranoid Style, & My Sanity