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Bangerz; a song (in this case album) that is soooo good and hits so hard, that it is impossible to skip when it comes on.
They say the profit margins of the music industry are not what they once were, regardless of that fact the creativity is at a high and 2019 has proved exactly that. Out of the many albums that landed my way it was near impossible to whittle things down to ten, but these are the standouts. With some obvious and others not so obvious, lists of yearly ‘best of’s’ will always cause debate, but this is my view and celebration of diversity in this years releases.
It is not simply an exercise in presenting ten albums that sound great, instead, it is every reason to part with cash and support your favourite artists in the same way they support you in bringing joy to your life. So, knuckle down ladies and gentlemen this is a journey into the brilliance of 2019.
1.Kim Gordon – No Home Record (Matador)
The ex- Sonic Youth powerhouse delivered her first solo outing titled in 2019 titled No Home Record. It is a work of divine confidence that is both dynamic, and with an undeniable venomous commentary within the textures that deal with fame, commercialism, and reinvention from a world intent on harassing sectors of society. From the start it blisters with the ambient noise and dramatic intensity of “Sketch Artist”. The song breaks into an industrial attack, as Gordon delivers a spoken vocal. Even as it twists into a melodic pattern, the menacing words fire forward with conviction. This is not pop, this is an act of heroism, directed at the world through sound.
There is an air of a twisted Tom Waits to “Paprika Pony”, as it stutters along with seemingly no direction, the cleverness of the track makes it harrowingly addictive. “Murdered Out” nails ethereal noise rock with painful, vicious lyrics. The passion is soaked within every syllable spun from the lips of Gordon. This is Kim Gordon the artist firing a musical subterfuge of art into the face of the establishment.
2. Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel (Partisan Records)
It’s inevitable that sometimes, art can not only meet, but exceed the hype. We are fed impressions of greatness which become reality, with strokes of utter genius captivating audiences. Certainly, this is what Fontaines D.C. have unleashed with their highly anticipated debut Dogrel. At its core, Dogrel is a rampage of poetic artistry delivered with a raw punk attitude. Real life melancholic hope dragged from the bleakness of a city, at times a full-on tribute to the concrete jungle of Dublin.
From the outset of “Big”, the analytical, streetwise journey is cast, images erupting from behind a wall of guitar drones and an assaulting drum beat. Singer Grian Chatten has a telling Ian Curtis -like aura, annihilating the pretentious act of the rock-star in the tones of a true accent. Lyrics that strike subtly at the establishment while remaining accessible.
3.Ride – This Is Not A Safe Place (Wichita Recordings)
This is a fine album, one which contains songs which will translate perfectly into the bands live repertoire. Opening with the shoe-gaze, industrial assault of “R.I.D.E”, crunching with distortive thunder as the band start off in full flight. The sound switches back to early days vibes and wondrous harmonies on “Future Love”. Enjoyable, and that nostalgic quality is sweetly dripping from every melodic string.
The scope of the album seems to be the contrast between tracks, hard core noise to beautifully drenched works, “Repetition” holds both these characteristics, at times the track gets weighed down with ideas or techniques. It as if it cannot decide what it wants to be, soft or hard, with tempos that disjoint from one another. At times this record surpasses the previous Weather Diaries, which is uncommon with reunion albums, the fact they become stronger is an anomaly. It becomes obvious that this is what Ride are attempting here, to outdo what they have done, and push the musical boundaries further. Ride has nailed it again, hopefully down the line we will be talking about another album of new material as good as this.
4. The Blackheart Orchestra – Mesmeranto (Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red Records)
On Mesmeranto The Blackheart Orchestra verge closer to an art installation than an album. The emotive fruits from the labour of Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington goes cinematic in scale. With a 60-minute piece of music split into 14 songs, a progressively layered 14 scenes honed to an adventurous soundtrack for the lows and highs projected by Chrissy Mostyn. Through the 14 stages she takes the listeners hand and guides them through the realities of life, the concentrated emotions, from heartfelt pleas of hopelessness to the effervescent screams of joy. All these themes are presented within the landscape of fused electronic experimentation, classical nuances and the multilayered haunting harmonies surrounding Mostyn’s heartfelt vocals. This makes for both an exciting and appealing recording which questions our views on existence, quite simply a record thst deserves attention
5. David J – Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy And Allure (Glass Records Modern)
It seems only fitting, forty-years after David J first came into the gothic stratosphere with Bauhaus that he celebrates with such a career defining release. The album is a reflection of art, just as “Bela Lugos Is Dead” was a work themed from a cinematic source. Haskins uses society and love as his muse, taking the relevant themes of today and twisting them into his eccentrically magnificent style. It is also an album which charts the life of this elusive man and the wife which has brought him light in the darkness. Although his career is far from over, the sense that he may perhaps slow down is an overwhelming factor which is intertwined within the song cycle
Of the sixteen tracks on the album, seven feature invited guests, you can only imagine that at the top of David J’s CV it reads “works well with others!” The new album features contributions from Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre), Toby Dammit (Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds), Paul Wallfisch (Swans), Sean Eden (Luna), Rose McGowan, Asia Argento, Emily Jane White, Annabel (lee) and the great Czech violinist Karel Holas. It does not get more engaging than this, but 2019 has proved a high in the career of David J Haskins.
6.Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold (Mom + Pop Music)
When news filtered surrounding drummer Janet Weiss that she was no longer part of Sleater-Kinney hearts were broken globally. Regardless of this factor, what a sign-off she has done on her personal swan song release The Center Won’t’ Hold. Eleven-tracks from the musical soul of third wave feminism, digging their heels in and straddling the airwaves with addictive power-rock. The album blasts into business with the title track, a trance of mechanical noise, with snarling vocals courtesy of Carrie Brownstein. A track which staggers along with the melodic rise of blissful voices and electronic-experimentation, before the guitars crank, bringing us back to the nineties. ”I need something pretty to help me ease my pain/ I need something ugly to put me in my place”. It is a perfect opening to a release that mixes caustic tension with triumph, doom with hope.
From the very first insight and single to the 2019 Sleater-Kinney sound, “Hurry On Home”, audiences were given the perfect direction, opening with a choral effect before that vicious-tongue of Brownstein, at her most sarcastic, explodes into your face with the mantra ”unlovable, unlistenable, unwatchable”.
7.Aldous Harding – Designer (4AD)
The New Zealand born Harding returned with a stripped back sound, forged in an organic minimalism, multi-layered to create the sound on Designer. Those bittersweet, gentle tones of Harding glide seamlessly over the piano and guitar signatures, erupting to transcendent bliss during choruses. Whilst the subject matter of the lyrics may be hard to comprehend, perhaps containing trivia of a personal nature to the songstress. The fact is those obscure phrases and lines create a unique, infectious quality that very few would pull off with such direct wonderment. In the same breath reminds us how life as a subject is confusing, so reflective emotions narrated with intricacies such as these should not be simply overlooked.
Designer opens with the release “Fixture Picture”, a melodic movement, setting themes and tones perfectly for what’s to come. At times Designer has a distinctive feel of the recently deceased troubadour Scott Walker. A point that forms from the use of the acoustic instruments combining to create walls of lush sound. The surrealistic soul continues as acoustic patterns flourish to open, and with each draw of breath every track moves up a notch, this is already a work of lauded brilliance.
8.The Waterboys – Where the Action Is (Cooking Vinyl)
Luckily album number-thirteen for the Waterboys provided a cool breeze to the mundane which can muddle the airwaves. On the latest release, and first in two-years, Where The Action Is audiences are provided with some honest good-time sounds. It is an album that swaggers with the wit and talent of Mike Scott. There is in actuality very little filler (if any) on Where The Action Is, it is a commendable piece of work that requires a repeated listen. The added remixes are not essential by any means as the ten original tracks stand up on their own. They simply give a different view and at times singers to the tracks, but for completists they might find something extra to enjoy. For now though Where The Action Is displays a definite return to form for The Waterboys
9.Evi Vine – _Black//Light//White//Dark (Self-Released)
Black//Light//White//Dark is the latest layer of artistic skin which Evi Vine has cut loose. A sprawling, masterful work capturing sounds from the ether and electrifying them. It’s an album anchored in the past and sculpted in the modern age. Pushing forward while keeping your faith in modern music very much alive. Six tracks doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but lurking beneath is a huge valley of depth and imagery.
This is a testament to a talented visionary, who is pushing musical boundaries. Black//Light//White//Dark by Evi Vine is one of the first great releases of 2019. Perhaps one which signals the emotive direction in which Evi Vine is heading.
10.Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (Ghosteen/Bad Seed Ltd.)
Where usually Nick Cave is within the character of a preacher in the pulpit, hammering out a gospel of twisted views and lyrics which would outshine even Dylan’s finest. However on Ghosteen he is the subtle, caged beast. Who you can hear breathing in the background and stalking the creation of the music, fueled with rage and empathy equally. With the Bad Seeds at hand and more importantly his avant-garde creator Warren Ellis, Cave forges a work of ambience, the use of electronic experimentation weaving in an atmospheric setting. At times the overall sound may perhaps evoke an unsettling feeling, but the spell Ghosteen casts is the hopelessness which is ever present. A more uplifting collection than his exploration into love on The Boatman’s Call (1997), and a lot more rewarding.
Set in two movements, or parts, the first containing eight tracks, the second containing only three, two long passages and one spoken word piece. These parts act as the conceptual bridge or generation gap between children and parents- as if the parts speak or answer for the other. As the children’s thoughts flow into that of the parents, although from the recording perspective the three concluding songs could have actually sparked the first eight. These songs stride eloquently, at times with energy, containing images of religion, the inevitable journey into another world and the acceptance of life for all its faults.