Saturday, April 11, 2020

New Music Report #2: 2019 favorites


I didn't expect to be unleashing this modest list of albums and songs from the previous calendar year under these circumstances (or at this late date) but I'm sure you'll agree that circumstances in general are currently rather unprecedented. This will be a straightforward post and won't have a lot of context, but you can flip back through the archives to find out my deeper thoughts on these releases and tunes. This is the format that year-end posts will follow from now on (and they will tend not to appear before December 31 though typically not quite this late either); there will be another major change but I'll explain that later.

My process for making the list was the same as it's been the entire time I've run the blog; for the songs list, I shuffled a huge playlist of every song I found notable throughout the year (limit three per album) and kept a vague ranking in mind. This year I was much less scientific about it because the premise of this blog now is to give me a break, not to require one. For albums, I keep a draft of a ranked list that's updated all year and then listen to the records in reverse order, on vinyl if possible (which these days it usually only is with the very top tier), and adjust the sequence as needed.

There was a bit of an upset this year, if something so undramatic as my personal preferences can be called an "upset." Big Thief's U.F.O.F. spent much of the year as my top choice but, as much as I love it overall and as smitten as I am with the first half, something didn't feel quite right as I went through one last listen -- and then as I idly ran through my list of A-grade albums, the one I suddenly found sparking the most enthusiasm in my memory was Young Enough by Charly Bliss, and the idea of placing it as the album of the year suddenly felt extremely correct. It's not just an expression of faith in a band but in the future; the record gets stronger every time I hear it.

This wasn't a spectacular year musically but it was a good one; they always are. I do not think anything here will threaten the upper reaches of my decade lists when it's revised to include 2019 material in an upcoming post, but that shouldn't be taken as a negative; even the most inspired shiny new thing can't fully compete with music I've forged a relationship with now for years. Future years will be more idiosyncratic by necessity -- I probably won't be able to declare them good or bad qualitatively because I'll be so much more selective about what I hear -- but the annual lists will continue to happen, just a bit more modestly. At any rate, here goes.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2019
1. Charly Bliss: Young Enough (Barsuk) A
2. Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (4AD)
3. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien (Merge)
4. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri (Out Here)
5. Andrew Bird: My Finest Work Yet (Virgin)
6. Wilco: Ode to Joy (dBpm)
7. Little Simz: Grey Area (Age 101) A-
8. Denzel Curry: ZUU (Loma Vista)
9. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen (s/r)
10. Loyle Carner: Not Waving, But Drowning (Virgin)
11. Brittany Howard: Jaime (ATO)
12. Hot Chip: A Bath Full of Ecstasy (Domino)
13. Tyler, the Creator: IGOR (Columbia)
14. Sarathy Korwar: More Arriving (The Leaf Label)
15. DIIV: Deceiver (Captured Tracks)
16. JPEGMafia: All My Heroes Are Cornballs (EQT)
17. Peter Perrett: Humanworld (Domino)
18. Jenny Hval: The Practice of Love (Sacred Bones)
19. Black Belt Eagle Scout: At the Party with My Brown Friends (Saddle Creek)
20. Leonard Cohen: Thanks for the Dance (Columbia)
21. clipping.: There Existed an Addiction to Blood (Sub Pop)
22. Jay Som: Anak Ko (Polyvinyl)
23. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call (Wilsuns Recording Co.)
24. Jenny Lewis: On the Line (Warner Bros.)
25. Chastity Belt (Hardly Art)
26. Robert Forster: Inferno (Tapete)
27. Karen O & Danger Mouse: Lux Prima (BMG)
28. Injury Reserve (Loma Vista)
HONORABLE MENTIONS (B+/B)
29. Beirut: Gallipoli (4AD)
30. Chromatics: Closer to Grey (Italians Do It Better)
31. Pharmakon: Devour (Sacred Bones)
32. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever (300)
33. Julia Kent: Temporal (The Leaf Label)
34. Swervedriver: Future Ruins (Rough Trade)
35. Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Interscope)
36. Flying Lotus: Flamagra (Warp)
37. Jesca Hoop: Stonechild (Memphis Industries)
38. Amyl and the Sniffers (ATO)
39. Curren$y & Statik Selektah: Gran Turismo (Jet Life)
40. Bill Orcutt: Odds Against Tomorrow (Palilalia)
41. Young Thug: So Much Fun (Atlantic)
42. Jayda G: Significant Changes (Ninja Tune)
43. Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs (Mexican Summer)
44. Tinariwen: Amadjar (Epitaph)
45. Thom Yorke: ANIMA (XL)
46. Ride: This Is Not a Safe Place (Wichita Recordings)
47. Rapsody: Eve (Jamla)
48. Jamila Woods: LEGACY! LEGACY! (Jagjaguwar)
49. Feels: Post Earth (Wichita Recordings)
50. Dylan LeBlanc: Renegade (ATO)
51. The Mountain Goats: In League with Dragons (Merge)
52. Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka (Interscope)
53. Deerhunter: Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? (4AD)
54. Sampa the Great: The Return (Ninja Tune)
55. Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes (Bella Union)
56. The Menzingers: Hello Exile (Epitaph)
57. Kedr Livanskiy: Your Need (2MR)
58. Fantasia: Sketchbook (Rock Soul)
59. 21 Savage: I Am > I Was (Epic)
60. Ezra Collective: You Can't Steal My Joy (Enter the Jungle)
61. Lee 'Scratch' Perry: Rainford (On-U Sound)
62. Nerija: Blume (Domino)
63. Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Interscope)
64. Sneaks: Highway Hypnosis (Merge)
65. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks (RCA)
66. The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (Impulse!)
67. Objekt: Cocoon Crush (PAN)
68. Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar)
69. Danny Brown: uknowhatimsayin? (Warp)
70. Quelle Chris: Guns (Mello Music)
71. Angelique Kidjo: Celia (Verve)
72. Homeboy Sandman: Dusty (Mello Music)
73. Carsie Blanton: Buck Up (s/r)
74. Leif: Loom Dream (Whities)
75. Aldous Harding: Designer (4AD)
76. Cate Le Bon: Reward (Mexican Summer)
77. Moodymann: Sinner (KDJ)
78. Lady Lamb: Even in the Tremor (Ba Da Bing)
79. Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings (International Anthem)
80. AJ Tracey (s/r)
81. Shura: Forevher (Secretly Canadian)
82. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana (RCA)
83. Dawn Richard: New Breed (Our Dawn)
84. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (Secretly Canadian)
85. Priests: The Seduction of Kansas (Sister Polygon)
86. Sacred Paws: Run Around the Sun (Merge)
87. Bob Mould: Sunshine Rock (Merge)
88. Big Thief: Two Hands (4AD)
89. Penguin Cafe: Handfuls of Night (Erased Tapes)
90. The National: I Am Easy to Find (4AD)
91. Ray BLK: Empress (Island)
92. Kelly Moran: Ultraviolet (Warp)
93. Tinashe: A Song for You (s/r)
94. Joan Shelley: Like the River Loves the Sea (No Quarter)
95. Ex Hex: it's real (Merge)
96. Sudan Archives: Athena (Stones Throw)
97. Laurence Pike: Holy Spring (The Leaf Label)
98. Yola: Walk Through Fire (Nonesuch)
99. Czarface / Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface (Silver Age)
100. Chrissie Hynde: Valve Bone Woe (BMG)
101. Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan: New Rain Duets (Three Lobed)
102. Kevin Richard Martin: Sirens (ROOM40)
103. The Cranberries: In the End (BMG)
104. Kim Gordon: No Home Record (Matador)
105. Marika Hackman: Any Human Friend (Sub Pop)
106. Sirom: A Universe That Roasts Blossoms for a Horse (tak:til)
107. Mannequin Pussy: Patience (Epitaph)
108. Nilufer Yanya: Miss Universe (ATO)
109. Stephen Malkmus: Groove Denied (Matador)
110. Elva: Winter Sun (Tapette)
111. RAP: EXPORT (Jolly Discs)
112. Mick Jenkins: Pieces of a Man (Cinematic)
113. Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (Interscope)
114. Anderson .Paak: Ventura (Aftermath)
115. Floating Points: Crush (Ninja Tune)
116. Buke and Gase: Scholars (Brassland)
117. Eli Keszler: Stadium (Shelter Press)
118. Nivhek: After Its Own Death / Walking in a spiral towards the house (Yellow Electric)
119. Bedouine: Bird Songs of a Killjoy (Spacebomb)
120. The Japanese House: Good at Falling (Dirty Hit)
121. Sarah Davachi: Pale Bloom (W.25th)
122. Orville Peck: Pony (Sub Pop)
123. Teeth of the Sea: Wraith (Rocket Recordings)
124. Lubomyr Melnyk: Fallen Trees (Erased Tapes)
125. Nick Waterhouse (Innovative Leisure)
126. The Last Poets: Transcending Toxic Times (Ropeadope)
127. Fennesz: Agora (Touch)
128. Pere Ubu: Long Goodbye (Cherry Red)
129. Iglooghost/Kai Whiston/BABii: XYZ (Supernature)
130. Brockhampton: Ginger (RCA)
131. Solange: When I Get Home (Columbia)
132. Tim Hecker: Anoyo (Kranky)
133. American Football: LP3 (Polyvinyl)
134. Lee Fields & the Expressions: It Rains Love (Big Crown)
135. L7: Scatter the Rats (Blackheart)
136. Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore: Ghost Forests (Three Lobed Recordings)
137. Adia Victoria: Silences (ATL)
138. Vagabon (Nonesuch)
139. Kanye West: Jesus Is King (Def Jam)
140. The Flaming Lips: King's Mouth (Warner Bros.)
141. (Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar (Domino)
142. Avey Tare: Cows on Hourglass Pond (Domino)
143. Tegan and Sara: Hey, I'm Just Like You (Warner Bros.)
144. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)
145. Swindle: No More Normal (Brownswood)
146. William Tyler: Goes West (Merge)
147. Sam Fender: Hypersonic Missiles (Interscope)
148. The New Pornographers: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (Concord)

***

GOOD EXTENDED PLAYS IN 2019
Surfer Blood: Hourly Haunts (Persona Non Grata)
Songhoy Blues: Meet Me in the City (Fat Possum)
Missy Elliott: Iconology (Atlantic)
Rhye: Spirit (Loma Vista)
Samiyam: One on Each Planet (s/r)

***

BEST SONGS OF 2019
If you're the type who prefers audio illustrations to miles and miles of lists (and who can blame you?) here is a hopefully competently-flowing playlist I made of the top 25 here: via Spotify.

1. Big Thief "Cattails" [U.F.O.F.]
2. Ibibio Sound Machine "I Know That You're Thinking About Me" [Doko Mien]
3. Ray BLK "Run Run" [Empress]
4. Big Thief "Not" [Two Hands]
5. Charly Bliss "Young Enough" [Young Enough]
6. Chromatics "On the Wall" [Closer to Grey]
7. Rolling Blackouts C.F. "In the Capital"/"Read My Mind" [non-LP single, difficult to choose which side is better!]
8. Loyle Carner "Loose Ends" [Not Waving, But Drowning]
9. Beirut "We Never Lived Here" [Gallipoli]
10. Brittany Howard "He Loves Me" [Jaime]
11. Sampa the Great ft. thando & Krown "Diamond in the Ruff" [The Return]
12. Sarathy Korwar ft. Zia Ahmed "Mango" [More Arriving]
13. Little Simz "Offence" [Grey Area]
14. Andrew Bird "Sisyphus" [My Finest Work Yet]
15. Hot Chip "Echo" [A Bath Full of Ecstasy]
16. Denzel Curry "Ricky" [ZUU]
17. Tyler, the Creator "Gone, Gone/Thank You" [IGOR]
18. Jay Som "Nighttime Drive" [Anak Ko]
19. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib "Crime Pays" [Bandana]
20. Black Belt Eagle Scout "Half Colored Hair" [At the Party with My Friends]
21. Wilco "White Wooden Cross" [Ode to Joy]
22. DIIV "For the Guilty" [Deceiver]
23. Jenny Hval "Ashes to Ashes" [The Practice of Love]
24. Maxo Kream ft. Megan Thee Stallion "She Live" [Brandon Banks]
25. Flying Lotus ft. Anderson .Paak "More" [Flamagra]
26. Ride "Future Love" [This Is Not a Safe Place]
27. Leonard Cohen "The Night of Santiago" [Thanks for the Dance]
28. Ex Hex "Another Dimension" [it's real]
29. Cate le Bon "Mother's Mother's Magazines" [Reward]
30. The Japanese House "We Talk All the Time" [Good at Falling]
31. Rapsody "Ibtihaj" [Eve]
32. Sheer Mag "Keep on Runnin'" [A Distant Call]
33. Peter Perrett "Walking in Berlin" [Humanworld]
34. Deerhunter "Death in Midsummer" [Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?]
35. Jesca Hoop "Footfall to the Path" [Stonechild]
36. JPEGMafia "BBW" [All My Heroes Are Cornballs]
37. Solange "Stay Flo" [When I Get Home]
38. Megan Thee Stallion ft. DaBaby "Cash Shit" [Fever]
39. Kanye West "God Is" [Jesus Is King]
40. Lana Del Rey "Mariners Apartment Complex" [Norman Fucking Rockwell!]
41. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba "Kanougnon" [Miri]
42. 21 Savage "a&t" [I Am > I Was]
43. Fantasia "Fighting" [Sketchbook]
44. Ezra Collective ft. KOKOROKO "Shakara" [You Can't Steal My Joy]
45. Sacred Paws "Brush Your Hair" [Run Around the Sun]
46. Vagabon "Every Woman" [s/t]
47. Shura "Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands on Me)" [Forevher]
48. Chrissie Hynde "Caroline, No" {Beach Boys cover} [Valve Bone Woe]
49. Jayda G "Orca's Reprise" [Significant Changes]
50. Jamila Woods "Zora" [Legacy! Legacy!]
51. Chastity Belt "Rav-4" [s/t]
52. Lee 'Scratch' Perry "Makumba Rock" [Rainford]
53. Wye Oak "Fortune" [non-LP single]
54. Feels "Awful Need" [Post Earth]
55. Ezra Furman "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend" [Twelve Nudes]
56. Titus Andronicus "The Lion Inside" [An Obelisk]
57. The Mountain Goats "Going Invisible 2" [In League with Dragons]
58. Julia Kent "Floating City" [Temporal]
59. Amyl and the Sniffers "Angel" [s/t]
60. Sneaks "A Lil Close" [Highway Hypnosis]
61. Robert Forster "One Bird in the Sky" [Inferno]
62. Gruff Rhys "Ol Bys / Nodau Clust" [Pang!]
63. Thom Yorke "Dawn Chorus" [ANIMA]
64. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy "Dream Awhile" [I Made a Place]
65. clipping. "Nothing Is Safe" [There Existed an Addiction to Blood]
66. Jenny Lewis "Wasted Youth" [On the Line]
67. Bob Mould "Sunny Love Song" [Sunshine Rock]
68. (Sandy) Alex G "Southern Sky" [House of Sugar]
69. Danny Brown "Combat" [uknowhatimsayin?]
70. Karen O & Danger Mouse "Ministry" [Lux Prima]
71. Sharon Van Etten "Stay" [Remind Me Tomorrow]
72. Pusha T ft. Ms. Lauryn Hill "Coming Home" [non-LP single]
73. Dylan LeBlanc "Lone Rider" [Renegade]
74. Tierra Whack "Only Child" [non-LP single]
75. Priests "The Seduction of Kansas" [The Seduction of Kansas]
76. Rosie Lowe ft. Jay Electronica "The Way" [Yu]
77. Quelle Chris "Obamacare" [Guns]
78. Aldous Harding "The Barrel" [Designer]
79. Anderson .Paak ft. Smokey Robinson "Make It Better" [Ventura]
80. Surfer Blood "Around Your Sun" [Hourly Haunts EP]
81. Injury Reserve ft. Amine "Jailbreak the Tesla" [s/t]
82. Yola "Love All Night (Work All Day)" [Walk Through Fire]
83. Jessica Pratt "Poly Blue" [Quiet Signs]
84. Mavis Staples "Change" [We Get By]
85. Carsie Blanton "Jacket" [Buck Up]
86. Lee Fields & the Expressions "Will I Get Off Easy" [It Rains Love]
87. Angelique Kidjo "Toro Mata" {Celia Cruz cover} [Celia]
88. Swervedriver "Future Ruins" [Future Ruins]
89. Piroshka "Village of the Damned" [Brickbat]
90. Nilufer Yanya "Tears" [Miss Universe]
91. Vince Staples "So What?" [non-LP single]
92. Kelsey Lu "Due West" [Blood]
93. The Comet Is Coming "Birth of Creation" [Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery]
94. Michael Kiwanuka "Living in Denial" [Kiwanuka]
95. The Paranoid Style "A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life" [A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life]
96. Objekt "35" [Cocoon Crush]
97. Tinariwen "Madjam Mahilkamen" [Amadjar]
98. AJ Tracey "Wifey Riddim 3" [AJ Tracey]
99. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "Ghosteen Speaks" [Ghosteen]
100. Tinashe "Perfect Crime" [A Song for You]
101. Vampire Weekend "Bambina" [Father of the Bride]
102. Durand Jones & the Indications "Don't You Know" [American Love Call]
103. Haelos "Boy/Girl" [Any Random Kindness]
104. Nakhane "Clairvoyant" [You Will Not Die]
105. Billie Eilish "Xanny" [When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?]
106. Stealing Sheep "Girl" [Big Wows]
107. Slowthai ft. Mura Masa "Doorman" [Nothing Great About Britain]
108. Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore "Fair Annie" [Ghost Forests}
109. Mick Jenkins "U Turn" [Pieces of a Man]
110. Buke and Gase "Grips" [Scholars]
111. L7 "Stadium West" [Scatter the Rats]
112. King Princess "Hit the Back" [Cheap Queen]
113. Makaya McCraven "Atlantic Black" [Universal Beings]
114. The New Pornographers "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile" [In the Morse Code of Brake Lights]
115. Lady Lamb "Oh My Violence" [Even in the Tremor]
116. Battles ft. Merrill Garbus "Last Supper on Shasta" [Juice B Crypts]
117. Elva "Athens" [Winter Sun]
118. Blood Red Shoes "Eye to Eye" [Get Tragic]
119. Julia Shapiro "Shape" [Perfect Version]
120. Dawn Richard "Spaces" [New Breed]
121. Stephen Malkmus "Grown Nothing" [Groove Denied]
122. Tegan and Sara "Don't Believe the Things They Tell You (They Lie)" [Hey, I'm Just Like You]
123. Tame Impala "Patience" [non-LP single]
124. The Claypool Lennon Delirium "Blood and Rockets" [South of Reality]
125. Ciara "Trust Myself" [Beauty Marks]
126. The National "Where Is Her Head" [I Am Easy to Find]
127. Miya Folick "Stop Talking" [Premonitions]
128. Rita Ora "Anywhere" [Phoenix]
129. Orville Peck "Roses Are Falling" [Pony]
130. M. Ward "Motorcycle Ride" [What a Wonderful Industry]
131. The Tallest Man on Earth "I'm a Stranger Now" [I Love You. It's a Fever Dream.]
132. Julia Jacklin "Comfort" [Crushing]
133. Kate Tempest "Firesmoke" [The Book of Traps and Lessons]
134. Charly Bliss "All I Want for Christmas Is You" {Mariah Carey cover} [non-LP single]

***

Next on the agenda: a masterpiece reviewed at length, followed by an abbreviated List of Lists, and then a further cleaning out of Beatles marginalia in anticipation of the big Beatles discography post and finally moving on to something else! (Although, in this household, do we ever really move on from the Beatles?)