The second half of 2019 featured a flurry of quality new releases from a variety of genres. Now, I will rank them according to which albums are best. Criteria for rankings include goodness of music, artistic coolness, and funnest to listen to, among other arbitrary and subjective measures. Tear me apart in the comments.
19. Forever Turned Around by Whitney
Was slow and sad and disappointing after such a great debut album.
18. Lessons in Love by Sinead Harnett
I was first introduced to Sinead Harnett by Colors Studios and her performance of ‘My Body’ and have been anticipating this album ever since. I probably shouldn’t have expected so much of this release, but it fell a bit flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still some quality R&B and her voice can hit every note in the listenable human frequency, but something is missing. Leo Bear is a standout.
17. SOUND & FURY by Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill went a different way with this one. Accompanied by a visual album released via Netflix, this album was about as classic Rock and Roll as you could imagine Sturgill to be. For me, I miss the country western vibes from Sturgill. It’s not a bad album, but it’s certainly something outside the box and maybe I just wasn’t ready for it. I made it about 3/4 of the way through the visual album before I had to turn it off…
16. That’s The World by Anti Lilly and Phoniks
Some of the best chill hop out there right now is the dynamite combination of Anti Lilly and Phoniks. Harsh truths over a meandering, soulful beat hit you just right on a rainy weekday morning commute. Don’t Sleep Records releases so much of this good shit it can be hard to keep up. But rest assured, the quality remains sky high, album after album, year after year. Check out my playlist Coolin’ for more of the same.
15. City For Sale by Von Pea
Von Pea continues to be one of the most unique voices in hip hop today with the timely release of City For Sale. The Tonya Morgan member has steady been blessing us with new music since 2010. This album focuses on the very real issue of gentrification in urban areas across the country. Von Pea has a way of flirting with banger anthem type beats and flows all while maintaining an originality that demands the respect of everyone in the industry.
14. Metronomy Forever by Metromony
Truly one of the kookiest bands going right now, Metronomy kept it weird on Metronomy Forever, released this September. It’s some freaky punk pop psychedelic rock and roll and it’ll take you for a ride, if you’re up for it. Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Insecurity are the stand outs that you likely have already heard at Forever 21 or Safeway or something.
13. Wild Wild Woman by Your Smith
It’s an EP so it shouldn’t really qualify but I’ll be damned if I miss an opportunity to write about Your Smith. The EP is a five song compilation of singles released in this sophomore year of Your Smith (previously known as Caroline Smith). Drawing inspiration from folks like Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, and Cheryl Crow, Your Smith’s music is modern power ballad, feminist energy for your feisty side. Catch her at Larimer Lounge this coming January 18.
12. Free Nationals by Free Nationals
The former backing band for Anderson .Paak has sprung loose and released one of the most talked about albums of the year. Features aplenty, the album takes on all kinds of creative forms. It came across for me a bit all over the place, but the songs that do hit home, slap home pretty hard. It’s all very soulful and jazzy and style-y and cool.
11. BUBBA by KAYTRANADA
KAYTRANADA hails from Montreal, Canada according to my google search. The off-kilter beat maker has been a popular hipster DJ set kind of selection for the past few years based off his previous album 99%. BUBBA backs that success up with more funkness. Plenty of features including Anderson .Paak and Kali Uchis make this album feel kind of like the Free Nationals in it’s varying tones, but bouncy and edgy and cool as heck nonetheless.
10. “Let’s Rock” by The Black Keys
I think we were all starting to wonder if we would ever get new The Black Keys music ever again. After Patrick and Dan went their separate ways to explore individual (highly successful) projects, it only made sense to wonder if they’d ever come back together. Much to the delight of the world of rock and roll, “Let’s Rock” brings us all back to a 2012 feeling we forgot we still needed. Perhaps not up to the legend status as Brothers or El Camino, but a sound for sore ears none the less.
9. New Age Norms 1 by Cold War Kids
Doesn’t it seem like Cold War Kids should be retired by now? In my head, they’re as old as Third Eye Blind and Sugar Ray and should just go on to be a terrific memory from 2010. Alas, Nathan Willet and crew have other ideas. This new album actually fricken rocks. 4th of July certainly could belong on Robbers and Cowards, while Complainer and Waiting For Your Love are this same same but different sounding Cold War Kids that gets up and down like none other. At only 8 tracks and just under a half hour run time, it’s worth a listen or two or six.
8. Wavelengths by Vacationer
It’s a fully instrumental, beat tape oriented half hour long fantastic record. Perfect for work or a laid back chill sesh, Wavelengths comes as Vacationers second full length release in as many years. Effortlessly catchy and fun, you won’t want this album to end.
7. KIN by Electric Guest
Despite having one of the most punchable faces I have ever seen, Asa Taccone released a really good album. If you’re wondering why that face looks so familiar, please allow me to remind you that Asa is the brother Jorma Taccome, of the Lonely Island comedy troupe. Anyways the music is good old fashioned poppy fun. Dance city over here. Just please don’t dress like this.
6. Jaime by Brittany Howard
Honestly, dang. Did Alabama Shakes just get too played out? Is that why I was skeptical? Surprised? Blown away? Truly, I do not know. But Brittany Howard, leader of Alabama Shakes, Thunderbitch, and Bermuda Triangle, reminded us all why she cannot be ignored as an artist, performer, vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, and outstanding human being. It all hits the same as you remember, right in your dang heart.
5. May The Lord Watch by Little Brother
After a nine year hiatus, Little Brother is back, minus 9th Wonder, with the release of May The Lord Watch. In the absence of legendary production 9th Wonder, production credits this time go to Khrysis, Morrison, Notts, Phonte, Zo!, Focus…, Black Milk, Abjo, King Michael Coy, and Blaaq Gold. Features include Questlove, Jamelle Hill, Joe Scudda, and more. Little Brother hardly misses a beat on this record which comes as pleasant surprise for fans of the North Carolina hip hop sound. Reminiscent of The Misntrel Show but with a modern focus, May The Lord Watch ranks as one of the best releases of the year.
4. Oncle Jazz by Men I Trust
Oncle Jazz is a 24 track, 70 minute expansive mixture of new and previously released songs. The album comes together as a delightful and wandering step by step journey through the progressive genre exploration of the three piece group. The album cover is bassist Jessy’s version of a poodle, drawn in crayon, so take that as you will. They’re chill. They’re Canadian. They’re cool as hell.
3. The Hard Interchange by CHAMPS
The little known brother duo from Isle of Wright is back with their sophomore release, The Hard Interchange. CHAMPS play with an unassuming, soft, throwback to Simon and Garfunkel type of style that just hit different. It’s epic, emotional, and sort of mystical. Stand outs on the record are Solid Action and Katrina (the baseball player, Texas Ranger, and warrior).
2. Night Sketches by Papooz
Officially it was out on European Spotify in March of this year, but I don’t live Europe! So for me, it came out in November and thus qualifies to be ranked in this post. The record is fantastic. Two French weirdos made a bunch of songs about love and life and it’s all delivered in this English-is-my-second-language type of fun way. It’s goofy but heartfelt. Funky yet soulful. Original goodness from one of my new favorite bands, Papooz.
1. Reader as Detective by Generationals
After a frustrating couple of years where Generationals teased an album and sporadically released singles (which would later become State Dogs), Ted and Grant finally released a collection worthy of the sky high expectations they’ve set for themselves after this past decade of greatness. Generationals make the kind of music that gets better and better with every listen. Reader as Detective brings you back to Con Law vibes while thrusting you into 2020 simultaneously. It’s an instant classic. Don’t miss them on their spring 2020 tour, or you’ll be one sorry sucker!