Favorite Albums of 2019: The Top Ten

Previously I shared ten records that I found impactful or personally important in some way over the last twelve months. Those were my secondary favorites compared to these ten.

Here are what ended up being my favorite ten records of 2019.

10 – Bob Mould

Sunshine Rock

Please forgive me, for I know not what I have been missing. Sunshine Rock is my first taste of Mould and I’m hooked. This really is a perfect showing that old guys can still rock, but if I can’t change your mind then no one will.

Standouts: Lost Faith, Sunshine Rock, & Camp Sunshine

9 – The Devil Makes Three

Live at Red Rocks

I happened to be in Portland, Oregon on a night in December of 2018 that The Devil Makes Three were playing at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom. I eventually found myself at the show alone because I was traveling solo and there was nothing else better to do than seeing a band I was only vaguely familiar. Turned out to be one of my favorite live shows that I’ve ever been to. These songs are bunches of fun, and, truthfully, I’m rather embarrassed that it took a spontaneous whim for me to take notice.

Standouts: Bad Idea, Spinning Like a Top, & Hallelu

8 – Of Monsters and Men

FEVER DREAM

The award for best comeback record for a band that never truly went away goes to Of Monsters and Men. Fever Dream is like if you scrapped an idea you had for yourself nearly ten years in the making and was like “ah, hell.. let’s start over”. I barely even noticed this band until this record, and it is pretty stinkin good. It’s proof that the guy/girl duel vocals are still marketably mainstream.

Standouts: Róróró, Alligator, & Vulture Vulture

7 – blink182

Nine

I’m probably gonna catch a lot of heat for this one. Choosing Blink-182 as a top ten is more than slightly cheesy, but I swallowed my own pride with this one and listened to this record with an open mind. After doing so I realized how much depth Matt Skiba has added to the band. If you know me at all then you are aware of my undying Stan for Tom DeLonge, but I’ll say it.. you add Skiba to any band and you‘ll make said band instantly a better one. The future of Blink-182 is finally something more than sex and fart jokes, and I’m more than ok with that.

Standouts: Black Rain, Blame It On My Youth, & Generational Divide

6 – Big Thief

U.F.O.F.

Big Thief was busy this year. UFOF was the first of two records released by them this year as also is the first of two call outs on my favorites list. There’s a whole lotta angst in several of my choices on both of my lists, but none sound so dissimilar to its target audience than this band. Lead singer Adrianne Lenker, and guitarist Buck Meek pair perfectly with James Krivchenia and Max Oleartchik’s drums and bass respectively. Frustration and heartache sung mostly in whispers and soft melodies over melancholic folk love songs, but you won’t notice the resentment unless you look closely because the music is so captivating and beautiful. So many facets of emotion wrapped up neatly in a dozen songs. Now, stay tuned for album 2.

Standouts: Cattails, UFOF, & From

5 – Coldplay

Everyday Life

Coldplay was supposed to be the next U2 or something, and I’m not even sure I know what that means. These guys have stuck around long enough for most people to forget that they were able to still make good music. The title track to Everyday Life is probably my pick for song of the year. “How in the world am I going to see you as my brother and not my enemy”, Martin sings over a very typical, but welcomed Coldplay piano melody, “everyone hurts, everyone cries, and everyone sees the color in each other’s eyes.” Controversial issues are front and center in what will probably be labeled Coldplay’s most daring musical effort. I’d much rather have “daring Coldplay” than a “play-it-safe Coldplay” putting out consecutive radio singles for cash grabs. But for real though, could someone get Chris Martin a new T-shirt?!

Standouts: Everyday Life, Trouble In Town, & Guns

4 – Fontaines D.C.

Dogrel

Post punk rock from geographic regions in or around the U.K. is in its prime right now. Idles are currently peaking and there are several others following close behind. Fontaines D.C. is one of those several and I’m sitting here, chin in palms, taking it all in. I don’t really have much to say about this record other than my request that you don’t skip out on it. These guys need to be recognized for what they’ve managed to put out in LP format on their first go at it.

Standouts: Big, Boys in the Better Land, & Too Real

3 – Petrol Girls

Cut & Stitch

When I want to press play and drift off into elsewhere the Petrol Girls are an easy and immediate no-brainer go-to. Falling somewhere between post hardcore and punk rock this band is throwing well-crafted feminist rock songs all the way from England. The amount of intentional controversy and channeled outrage is blatantly obvious on Cut & Stitch and greets me with an ironic welcomed surprise.

Standouts: Big Mouth, No Love For A Nation & Weather Warning

2 – Big Thief

Two Hands

Here it is. The second of two appearances from a band that I currently cannot get enough from. UFOF had the production value that Two Hands was missing, but the songs on this one literally speak for themselves. They are intimate and emotionally corrosive as Lenker sings alongside her band mates. Just as the album before this did, this one also packs a punch in the lyrics disguised well beneath the composition of the song.

Standouts: Forgotten Eyes, Not, & Shoulders

1 – Better Oblivion Community Center

Better Oblivion Community Center

This record came out all the way back in January and it was in my headphones almost daily. I adore this album. Every song on it is beautifully composed and perfectly placed to create a ride through ten vivid stories in song. Phoebe Bridges and Conor Oberst were meant to sing together, and if there are no more collaborations between these two then at least we are aware that it could.

Standouts: all of them

Favorite Albums of 2019: 20 – 11

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

Hello Exile

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

The Talkies

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

Get Fixed

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

Problems

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