Albums Of The Year 2019

by | Dec 13, 2019 | Feature/Discovery

Michael Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka

Perfection from the British-Ugandan soul man. It would take a lot to topple Home Again and Love & Hate, but his third release has done – and some. Beneath melancholic soul, jazz, gospel choirs, dizzying guitars and samples including from civil rights campaigner Fred Hampton, Kiwanuka tells a powerful tale; a battle with anxiety and self-doubt, prejudice and the troubled times we live in. Hallucinatory and exquisite.  

NG 

Beirut - Gallipoli

I photographed these back in April, I was blown away by their live performance and their musicianship, Gallipoli is their fifth album and is full of beautiful moments and infectious melody patterns throughout.

It contains some of Zach Condon’s most emotive song writing and singing, the album flows between pop and folk and has a sad beauty throughout it all. I highly recommend picking this up. 

MB

 

Lucy Rose – No Words Left

Lucy Rose’s fourth LP No Words Left is undoubtedly her starkest and bravest record to date. With a tremble in her voice and visceral string accompaniment to finger-picked acoustic guitar, opening trackConversation dives straight into what might just be my go-to record to escape the noise of 2019. It’s bare, brutal and strips back the layers that accompanied her previous records. She trades guitars for piano inSolo(w), a shining example of Rose’s transition from hook-laden indie-pop to jazz-tinged, soulful song-writing (saxophone included). The Confines Of This World is magical in its simplicity, vocals over strummed electric guitar. Lyrically, she’s brutally honest and bares her anxieties for all to witness in this collection of simply beautiful songs.

KP

Jenny Lewis - On The Line

The former child actress (with credits including The Golden Girls), and Rilo Kiley leader has never sounded better than on Red Bull & Hennessy, the swaggering lead single of her fourth solo album. It’s an LP packed with classic guitar, piano, bass, drums instrumentation, but Lewis’ impeccable sense of melody, earthy vocals, and an inspired way with words ensure On The Line stands out from your typical singer-songwriter fare.

NL

The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears

There is no doubt in my mind that When I Have Fears is the best release I have heard this year. I have not heard many debut albums as confident, challenging and exceptional as this one. I first encountered The Murder Capital when I covered Truck Festival for RockShot Magazine. 

They started their set with screaming feedback and a performance so feral that I was engrossed and unsettled in equal measure and both myself and Paul, my colleague said these are going to be big!

I remember thinking that if their soon to be released album was as good as their live set then it would be a masterpiece. As it turned out it was far better.

It starts with raw emotion on the mournful, For Everything. The brutality continues until the exquisite Slowdance I and Slowdance II which merge into each other with barely a gap. When I heard these tracks I was mesmerised. I had expected feral music with visceral vocals, but the brutalism had suddenly become beautiful, there are moments of gentleness and vulnerability.

This complex piece of art has me totally hooked and The Murder Capital have quite rightly gained praise since the release of When I Have Fears. It will be interesting to see what they do next.

TC

The Railway Prince Hotel - Tullycraft

Twee pop legends The Railway Prince Hotel by Tullycraft seventh album finds them in fine cheeky form on songs like We Couldn’t Dance To Billy Joel and the quite wonderfully sardonic Has Your Boyfriend Lost His Flavour Over Night. The album will easily win over new fans as well as the bands long term fanbase.

SP

Rammstein - Rammstein

It took ten years to finally surface, but Rammstein came back with a bigger bang than ever. The album has no need for a title, as the explosive force we have come to expect from them waits to obliterate everything in its path, once sparked by the provocative lone match on its cover. This album is a journey from politically-charged stadium anthem Deutschland, to acoustic lament about lost love Diamant, via disturbing ode to insanity and prostitution Puppe. 

NP

 

Cultdreams – Things That Hurt

Things That Hurt is a perfect example of Shoegaze punk. Duo Lucinda Livingstone and Conor Dawson’s second album is full of anthemic tunes, with Not My Generation is the pick of the bunch as the politically charged lyrics showing off the beautiful aggression in Lucinda’s vocals, with Repent, Regress being a nice heavy hitter towards to end of the ten-song album. Best played at max volume to leave the wonderful guitar work ringing around in your ears.

PL

Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Parts 1 & 2

While these are two very separate records touted as parts of a two-piece project, I’ll cheat and include both as one of my favourite releases of 2019. The Oxonian rockers have built up their distinctive sound steadily over their previous four records to culminate in this mammoth undertaking – Part 1 going on to be nominated for the 2019 Mercury Prize, known for recognising innovation in British music. From the burgeoning first single Exits on Part 1 to epic 10+ minute Part 2 closer Neptune, this is a record that just keeps on giving.

On Part 1: White Onions is a song in layers, Syrups is sticky sweet and On The Luna is out of this world. Meanwhile on Part 2, the group’s first number 1 album: Black Bull is a beast of a lead single and 10,000 Ft. soars while The Runner is the sprinting anthem of the whole two-parter in my opinion. All in all,Philippakis et al. have simply outdone themselves, bolstering the mantra that rock, and especially British rock, is not just alive and kicking, but thriving and innovating.

KP

Twilight Sad - It Won/t Be Like This All

Twilight Sad: It Won/t Be Like This All the Time

Think Mogwai (dark, moody swathes of synths and guitars, rumbling bass and drums) with the added onslaught of vocals performed with pop-a-blood-vessel intensity. Since being taken under the wing of The Cure’s Robert Smith (who provided some advice during the recording of this album), the Scottish band have seen their popularity grow. And with it, so has their presence and power – on stage and on record. Anchored by James Graham’s gut-busting vocals, It Won/t Be Like This All the Time is their most ambitious, rounded, and moving album yet. 

NL

Lizzo - Cuz I Love You

2019 has been the year of Lizzo, the breakthrough track which placed her firmly on the nations map, Juice, is text book 90’s pop, with the addition of brass to add some depth. The accompanying video pays tongue-in-cheek homage to the 80’s work-out craze.

When you realise the leotard is reminiscent of the one worn seriously by Madonna in Hung Up (2005) it hits just how brilliant Lizzo is. This album is the definition of a perfect pop record, Truth Hurts and Tempo ft Missy Elliot are stand-outs for me. Both ripe for an obligatory shimmy to break out while you sing along, waiting for an appropriate context to do so is irrelevant.

The themes of self love and acceptance come through strongly, as if magnified by a megaphone they are unmissable in every song. You cannot help but smile or grin like a loon (which is my preference) from start to finish while listening, it is gratifying and empowering and so much fun. If you are ever feeling a bit down, a listen to Like A Girl or Soulmate is literally all you need to put yourself back on top form. 

The professional flautist has gripped her almost overnight-success rocket on its steep trajectory to stardom with both hands (tiny disservice, there is a healthy back catalogue out there), while remaining normal (in a good way). She appears to be someone you would want to hang out with (tequila optional).  

Sh R

Red Rum Club – Matador

Red Rum Club, the sextet from Liverpool, combine rich indie sounds with Spaghetti Western horns and when I heard Matador back in January, I knew it would take a pretty special album to beat it as my favourite release of 2019.

An album that starts with horse hoofs and a delectable slice of horn cannot be too bad, and that is exactly how Angeline opens it. The musical influences in this debut album are diverse but complimentary.

The songs are all well constructed, with hooks in the instrumentation and the lyrics. It is well crafted throughout with the choruses and melodies that work perfectly all with the trumpet adding real bite. Matador is Good, there is no Bad or Ugly, Ennio Morricone meets Echo and the Bunnymen should not work, but by Django it does.

I have been lucky enough to see Red Run Club at a few of this summer’s festivals and they come into their own on stage with their boundless energy. They did 3 festivals in 24 hours this summer and delivered at each one. As debut albums go, this is pretty special.

TC

 

Fontaine's DC - Dogrel

Dogrel was quite rightly nominated for the Mercury Prize and the album seemed a long time coming as Fountaines DC had already released several brilliant singles throughout 2018. I had loved these and so had waited in some anticipation for the album. The wait was worth it though. Some of thesongs are almost spoken others are sung, but all with the swagger of original punk. However thealbum is not made up of eleven almost identical songs, there are even shades of Rock n Roll on tracks like Hurricane Laughter and Liberty Belle.

I had first been drawn to Fountaines DC by hearing the glorious Boys In The Better Land, with it’s mix of humour and home spun wisdom. The catchy guitar hooks and frenzied percussion contrast with Grian Chatten’s vocal delivery. Dublins City Sky is a Dirty Ole Town for another generation. Lyrics have always been important to me. What is the point in good music if it is not saying anything? Fountaines DC are Punk Troubadours, painting imagery within their songs. Three of my top five are debut albums which has got to be a good sign for the shape of music. 

 

TC

Maggie Rogers – Heard It In A Past Life

By now, most have heard how 25-year-old Maggie Rogers got her big break – by reducing Pharrell Williams to tears with a live rendition of subsequent hit song Alaska. But the pudding she’d follow that up with would be the proof of her talent. And Heard It In A Past Life doesn’t disappoint. With its pop-folk-dance fusion, comparisons stretch from Joni Mitchell to Florence + the Machine and Rogers certainly does her best Florence Welch moves performing live! This is Laurel Canyon with beats. 

Album track Back In My Body tells of Rogers’ anxiety while dealing with her meteoric rise and the expectations surrounding it. But it is hooky Retrograde that evokes the Maryland native’s inner Stevie Nicks. With our ears a game of Bridge, Rogers’ debut LP delivers in Spades.  

KP 

 

Jack J Hutchinson - Who Feeds The Wolf?

Who Feeds The Wolf? sees Leicester born, London based Jack J Hutchinson move into rock territory rather than the bluesier previous offering Paint No Fiction. A wise choice I feel as his voice is more at ease with the well composed eleven numbers that link together really well here and also gives him licence to express himself through his guitar, whether it be acoustic or electric. There are many reference points to Jack’s major influences from the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s Oasis but Jack has certainly put his own stamp on things. Who Feeds The Wolf? will hopefully provide the fuel injection to propel Jack’s steady rise even further. 

PH

Anderson .Paak - Ventura

Ventura is a hip hop album with heaped spoons of neo-soul and blues stirred in and throughout. This body of work includes some impressive collaborations, Andre 3000 of OutKast fame provides a pacey meandering rap verse on Come Home and Smokey Robinson puts straight legend status on Make It Better. The main man’s vocals are soothing and melodious throughout. The highlight of the record for me is Jet Blackfeaturing Brandy for the classic 90’s R’n’B feel, completely my era. Anderson .Paak is an artist whose work serves to chill you out and get you swaying in contented warmth at the same time. The only way to listen Ventura is to hit play and let it roll (set up repeat all, you will thank me).

Sh R

 

Elbow - Giants Of All Sizes

An Elbow album coming along is always an event and their 2019 release Giants Of All Sizes was no exception. Elbow deliver art rock of the highest quality, seemingly always managing to explore every corner of the dynamic spectrum in the process. Whilst 2017’s Little Fictions registered high on frontman Guy Garvey’s romantic radar, Giants Of All Sizes takes on an altogether more serious tone; as the band themselves put it: “It’s a dark album for dark times”.

Accordingly; conflict, death, suicide, political tribalism and the Grenfell Tower tragedy amongst other themes are played out here. With all that going on, you’d wonder how it could possibly be an enjoyable listen – and yet somehow it most certainly is. Elbow albums always are.

SR

 

Magnapop - The Circle Is Round

This is the bands first new album in 10 years and is a quite brilliant album of powerpop indie that also includes a couple of never before released demos from 1992 almost all the songs on the album are super catchy I had trouble getting Super Size Me out of my head. A very cool album.

SP

Declan Welsh and The Decadent West - Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold

Promising debut from Glaswegian four-piece which dug its way nicely into my head. Consistent and infectious guitar riffs, head-nodding bass and poetic lyrics offset the dreamy sounds of Be Mine. Cheeky indie-disco track How Does Your Love is the standout with its punk swagger; a fine dedication to whoever can take Welsh far away from ‘cheap drinks in shite pubs, from fights outside nightclubs’, which has been on repeat.

NG

Elles Bailey - Road I Call Home

Elles Bailey’s star continues to rise in the live environment and following the success of her debut Wild Fire album, the release of an equally successful second album was always going to be challenging. The biggest challenge was unexpected when she suffered as a consequence of the Pledge Music nightmare. Bristol lass Elles, however, quickly took the initiative and took control of the whole debacle,  returned to her favoured mecca for quality recording, Nashville, and honoured everyone who had pledged with this magical album. Road I Call Home, once again, places Elles on a pedestal when it comes to songwriting and she is one of the UK’s treasures with a voice that just melts your heart.

PH

Kankou - Kuma

Kuma on Cannery Row Records although only released in December for me this is the debut album of the year recorded with Mark Mulholland. Kankou Kouyate is a real rising star from Mali the album easily fuses Malian and African traditional music to some very tasty and tasteful psychedelic and slightly proggy guitar and beats a very accomplished debut album.

SP

Two Door Cinema Club - False Alarm

Two Door Cinema Club always hit the right spot for me when I cant decide what I fancy (musically). Of course you can always feel like listening to this Northern Irish band too and since its release in June, False Alarm has been on heavy rotation for me as it ticks so many boxes. The vibe of the record is very Hot Chip, heavy on the electronica and liberal with funk of the dance variety, so easy to listen to.

There are some 70s feels in Talk and very Bowie-esque vocals in Already Gone and Satellite. For the mellow, Think initially had me looking for the name of the featured female vocalist, but Alex Trimble does a faithful job imploring in that upper range on this track. Break opens with a bird twittering and a plucky string which leads you to internally visualise a comforting space as you ponder “is it too late?”. They ask. You contemplate. Dirty Air will break you out of the trance you no doubt find yourself in, but the space is available whenever you need it. Just like this album.

Sh R

The Cranberries – In The End

In The End is a eulogy to one of the strongest and most recognisable Irish front women Dolores O’Riordan.

Noel Hogan also confirmed that they will not continue as The Cranberries after the release of their final album. Dolores had recorded her vocals as demos which adds to the fragility of her sound. It is easy to read things into lyrics after the event, but even the opener All Over Now about physical abuse from a partner sends shivers down your spine when she sings “Do you remember the night? In a hotel in London they started to fight”. Ironically throughout the album, it seems as if Delores is fighting her demons, and is starting to win the battle.

The Cranberries have provided a fitting epitaph and In TheEnd is just as good as their earlier albums. It is the end and a respectful, poignant end it is, to one of the few bands who had their own unique sound, and were unflinching in their messages. I have not chosen this as one of my top five not out of sentimentality, but because it is a brilliantly emotional collection of music .

TC

Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!

 

I always feel nervous ahead of a new Lana release. Will it be as listenable as her other works of art? As complex? As brilliant? No need to worry, it is. Breezy and mellifluous on Mariners Apartment Complexand full of trademark cinematic grandeur on California, it packs a punch throughout with outstanding songwriting. Plus, hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it is up there with the best track title of all time.

NG

 

Susanne Sundfør - Live At The Barbican

  Susanne Sundfør herself referred acclaimed performance at London Barbican Centre “our little secret, our little, intimate moment together”. Now she has delivered the definitive edition of her fifth album Music For People In Trouble, performed live in its entirety.

An already deeply personal album is given both a new degree of emotional fragility when Sundfør alternates between sorrowful whispers and momentary sneers in Good Luck Bad Luck, and a new energy and ambience courtesy of extended arrangements from backing band Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity.

NP

Life – A Picture Of Good Health

 

Hull based punk Life have absolutely smashed it with their second album. A Picture Of Good Health doesn’t let you rest for a second as it hammers in banging tune after tune of exciting observational songs. Excites Me sums up how you’ll feel towards the album as it’ll get you moving along to the catchy tracks.

The extremely energetic live punk act will be bound to popping up in album of the year all over the place this year.

PL

 

Dave - Psychodrama

It’s not hard to see why Psychodrama is a Mercury Prize winning album. The debut album by British rapper David Orobosa Omoregie is a hard look at life from his point of view.

Black is an incredibly emotional look into the history and life as a person of colour and how much harder it is to make something of yourself. Quite possibly one of the best songs of the year, but it doesn’t prop the album up on its own. This album has taken British Rap to another level.

PL

Buck & Evans - Write A Better Day

Write A Better Day was my album of 2018. A debut album, financed through the crowd funding website Pledge Music, it was supposed to be released last year. That was before Pledge Music went bust, taking multiple thousands of pounds owed to artists using the platform with it. It made my top spot because (a) it was truly an exceptionally well-crafted collection of ten blues and soul infused rock songs, and (b) although it never received a general release, it was available to buy at gigs.

A more assured debut you couldn’t hope to find, Write A Better Day has it all: out and out rock (Sunrise), introspective ballads (Change, Fix You) and funky blues (Ain’t No Moonlight); but the highlight surely has to be Sinking, a journey taking you from Sally Ann Evans’s beautiful piano and vocal to Chris Buck’s soaring guitar in seven glorious minutes. The full release version even gives you an eleventh track, One Four. What’s not to like? Nothing. There’s nothing not to like.

SR

Nick Cave - Ghosteen

Ostensibly completing the trilogy begun with Push The Sky Away (2013) and Push The Sky Away (2016), Ghosteen finds Nick Cave stripping back the layers even further. Much of the LP is just his ragged, weary voice virtually speaking lyrics (alternately stark and poetic), as multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis adds slight, ethereal accompaniment.

Directly inspired by the death of his son, and highlighting the openness of his recent spoken-word tour and fan exchanges on his website, it’s a difficult listen. But persevere and it’s the most beautiful, moving thing you’ll hear all year (alongside Leonard Cohen’s Thanks For The Dance).

NL

 

Karen O and Danger Mouse – Lux Prima

Collaboration albums are created for many reasons and the results can be mixed. But when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ frontwoman Karen O teams up with veteran musician and producer Brian Burton – AKA Danger Mouse – the results are stunning. Lux Primais an ethereal, other-worldly experience. It’s a chill, rather than storming record and world away from O’s day job with her Yeahs. The title track and album opener is a nine-minute epic, transcendent journey while the record as a whole is modern but gilded with a 1960s’ pastiche which follows it throughout. Sometimes, you need a record like this to give your ears and mind a break from the noise and one that delivers from start to finish is refreshing.

KP

 

Strung Out - Songs of Armor And Devotion

With their latest offering the band return with a fierce intensity, the album is packed with adrenaline, melodic harmonies and intricate playing. With a career spanning nearly thirty years, and nine albums I can imagine it’s hard to keep things fresh. Songs Of Armor & Devotion certainly delivers over it’s thirteen songs, with stand out track, Ulysses, it encompasses the band’s iconic sonic signature with some great guitar work. 

MB

Calexico and Iron & Wine - Years to Burn

I’ve recently had to privilege of photographing and reviewing them live on the Years To Burn tour, where it was announced they have been nominated for next year’s Grammy Awards in not one but two individual categories, Best Americana Album for this album and Best American Roots Performance for the song Father Mountain. After listening many times since its release, it understandable why, it’s an album soaked with Beam’s catchiness and hooks along with Joey Burns and John Convertino Latin American styles.

It’s a record that’s all about time and how we measure it, “We only want a life that’s well worth living,” Beam sings on In Your Own Time, “and sleeping ain’t no kind of life at all.”

MB

Sinead Harnett - Lessons In Love

I have loved this album because it is everything that is right with modern popular R’n’B. The music is subtle, complimenting the vocals which are given room to expand, allowing the listener to get carried away with the ebb and flow of emotion being conveyed. The highlight is a duet, Pulling Away with Gallant, which is filled with grief and sorrow, their voices reflecting the struggle that is occurring lyrically. This album is perfect for downtime, I really enjoy it when its dark as the tracks are generally on the slower side and encouraging of reflection, although No Pressure has a touch more tempo than most (making it obviously one of my favourites). This collection is an introspective look at love, it is not all heartache and pain, however I do especially like how sublime guilt and anguish are made to sound on All That You Are and Living

Sh R

 

Feral Roots - Rival Sons

Feral Roots would not only be my favourite album for 2019 but possibly this century. When we talk about classic albums, the 70s was the true breeding ground and Feral Roots would sit comfortably alongside the classic rock albums released in 1972/3. Look Away perfectly captivates all of the individual qualities that make this band pure class, Jay Buchanan’s passionate vocal pushed to the limit, Scott Holiday’s power guitar and a powerhouse rhythm section. The title track is a different class and just sticks in your head forever, which is a good thing. Rival Sons have always set the bar higher with each of their previous five albums but this surely leaves them with a real dilemma when it comes to album number seven, how the hell can they come up with the successor for Feral Roots.

PH

Ada Lea - What We Say In Private

Montreal-based artist Ada Lea made her debut album What We Say in Private public this year, and revealed a clinic in alternative pop. Without an extravagant and melancholic vocabulary about what tugs her heartstrings, Ada Lea has assembled a more believable stream of emotion from minimal and low fidelity elements, brief clatters of diegetic sound, draped in a silk of white noise. She realistically takes listeners on a realistic and surreal journey through her everyday troubles, as songs become darker and more dissonant at moments of unease. Suddenly Lea sounds more uncertain about her post-breakup mantra of “today is gonna be a good day”.

NP

 

Mahalia - Love and Compromise

I’m hypnotised by a mid-noughties groove; always have been, always will. Make no mistake though, singer-songwriter Mahalia brings her own fresh take on R&B. Her experimental debut is worthy of the hype that surrounded its release and offers an eclectic and expansive range of sounds, including afrobeat on Simmer. A punchy, defiant sample of a 1982 Eartha Kitt interview on opening track Hide Out makes for an impeccable opener to gem of an album.

NG

 

Lloyd Cole: Guesswork

Guesswork is what you get when the man responsible for such songs as Rattlesnakes and Like Lovers Do complements his finesse with ‘80s keyboards. Although there are occasional flashes of Vince Clarke (think Yazoo or early Erasure), there’s nothing retro about this low-key collection. In fact, given the quality of songs like Violins and the current prevalence of analogue synths, the album sounds just as fresh and vital as Beck’s Pharrell Williams-produced Hyperspace.

NL

Childcare - Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term that essentially means finding beauty in imperfection, but Childcare’s debut album isn’t far off perfect. Although the album is a mixture of new songs, and previously released music it’s a great introduction for listeners who are new to one of the freshest live acts around the UK at the moment.

With their live show giving off a cult-like feel with  incredibly intimate moments, this album compliments it perfectly with its relaxing and chilled out vibe

PL

Marika Hackman

The third album by Hampshire born Marika Hackman is an evolution of her acoustic folk sound, resulting in more electronic, rock and dreamy pop tones. This allied to her glassy vocals and uncompromising and whimsical lyrics of sexual self-awareness, both with others (All Night) and on your own (Hand Solo) make for an intoxicating mix.

There’s sadness too; Send My Love reflects on the end of a relationship (with Amber Bain of The Japanese House) but the close on the title track re-elevates the spirit and leaves a sense that Hackman looks only forwards and upwards for what comes next. The eleven tracks officially take forty-one minutes end to end, but as the music whizzes by you can’t help but get caught up in it. It never seems to take anything like that long.

SR

Swans - Leaving Meaning

Michael Gira dissolved the reunion line-up of experimental rock band Swans after a trilogy of punishingly loud, stamina testing double albums, in favour of a new line-up of founder, Michael Gira, and a spectacular revolving array of guests. With so much at his disposal, such as choral vocals from Anna and Maria von Hausswolff, and experimental jazz backing from The Necks, it maybe shouldn’t be so surprising.

 With them Gira has created one of the most diverse records in the Swans library, venturing from the surreally accessible and even festive territory of What Is This, to the more primal and dissonant plea to solar deities Sunfucker.

NP

 

Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind - CollectiV

 

The second instalment from Jim Jones’ latest band. A progression from the last album Super Natural, there are some new thoughtful and dark avenues are explored but the album provides even more the fuel for the band’s incendiary live performances.

This album is dirty, driven and powerful. A mix of all that’s good and loud and rebellious built on a rock n’ roll foundation.

S Pn

 

Peter Laughner - Box Set

A box set by Peter Laughner on, Smog Veil records, a truly incredible five album  set recorded between 1972-7 and almost all previously unreleased material from several of the bands that he was in including Rocket From The Tombs, Friction and Fins. But nothing from his time in both Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys. The box includes the legendary Nocturnal Digressions that was recorded in the hours before he died in 1977 at the far too young age of 27.

The coffee table book, that is included, tells you why he is such a legendary figure on the Cleveland music scene.

SP

Sundara Karma - Ulfilas’ Alphabet

Reading four-piece Sundara Karma set the bar high in 2017 with their debut release Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect and it wasn’t unreasonable to ask whether they’d match it with the follow up.

In Ulfilas’ Alphabet (an homage to German medieval Goth Ulfilas, who developed his own alphabet to translate the Bible from Latin), they’ve answered the question in some style. Rather than purely replicating the glossy indie rock of the debut, the sophomore has evolved into a more eclectic mix of styles though it works brilliantly as a whole and Sundara Karma’s knack for delivering hooks as catchy as hell will ensure the fanbase remain sweaty in the auditoriums.

SR

Holy Moly & The Crackers - Take A Bite

Take A Bite came hard on the heals of one of the busiest years for one of  the UK’s hardest working bands so I am not sure how they fitted in the time to lay down tracks for their third album. You can tell it’s a HM&TC album, but it is distinctly different from both Salem and their debut album, First Avenue.

I had feared that Holy Moly And The Crackers would not be able to improve on Salem, but they have. It seems like they have truly found themselves, and this is a mature album where they have thrown in Rock, Soul, Indie, Psychedelia  and a pinch of Eastern spice. The result is an uplifting album that puts a smile on you face that ordinary day to day life will take weeks to wipe off. As soon as I heard it I knew it would be one of my favourite albums of 2019.

TC

 

Leonard Cohen - Thank's For The Dance

Recorded in the weeks before his death, completed in the three years thereafter, Leonard Cohen’s final album packs an entire lifetime into under 30 minutes. Top-level talent including Daniel Lanois and Beck provide the music (subtle acoustic guitars, mandolins, strings), but the focus is always on Cohen’s voice and words.

He looks back on a youthful encounter, he ruminates on ageing, he addresses his imminent death. There’s never a hint of self-pity, before the finest lyricist of the 20th century signs off with the lines “Listen to the hummingbird, Don’t listen to me”.

NL

 

Bad Religion - Age Of Unreason

It hard to believe Age Of Unreason is the seventeenth studio album from Bad Religion, with its boiling anger, big hooks and soaring rhythms and their if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it attitude.

Again, it’s what you’d expect, fifteen blistering tracks flying the flag for the little people, singing about the current political landscape but in a very digestible way, forty years on they remain relevant and fresh.

MB

Billie Martin - Feeding Seahorses By Hand

At just 20 years old, it’s hard to believe that Feeding Seahorses By Hand is Marten’s sophomore release. Even more so when you hear its delicate and simply beautifully sorrowful composition. For me it is the analogue, hiss-filled and delicately finger-picked Vanilla Baby, with its distinctively double-tracked vocal throwback to the stylings of Elliot Smith that is the album’s standout track. And that analogue sound is understandable given that the majority of the record was laid down on a four track tape recorder. The sparse instrumentation perfectly complements Billie Marten’s delicate, often quivering voice and allows focus on her words. “I’m a slaughtered pig and happy to die” she suggests during Blood Is Blue. “Don’t pick on me with your sympathy” she requests on Blue Sea, Red Sea, the album’s first single the perfect blend of summer chill.

KP

Alcest - Spiritual Instinct

French blackgaze pioneers Alcest have revelled in ethereal mystique, and of course a lot of deep sonic fuzz. With their sixth album Spiritual Instinct, Alcest prove that even as they return to their metal background, that their think hypnotic aura refuses to subside, however many blast beats spontaneous riffs are thrown its way.

NP

 

Brutus – Nest

If you thought Brutus may struggle to meet the standard of their 2017 debut album Burst, you would be very wrong!

The Belgian trio have released another amazing album with fast paced Nest. This relentless album pummels its way through with just a few moments giving you time to breathe whilst Stephanie Mannaerts shows off her versatile vocals during War before the heavy drums and guitar fly back into scene.

Sugar Dragon is one of the best possible ends to an album there could have been with nearly eight minutes showcasing what the whole album has been about as it lets you think it’s about to end before bringing the tempo up to full speed yet again!

PL

Mark Ronson - Late Night Feelings

A full record of collaborations that showcase Ronson’s production skills, and nicely display his ability to lend his talents to multiple musical genres as well as instruments. The album’s title track with Lykke Li and Nothing Breaks Like a Heart with vocals provided by Miley Cyrus are my highlights, even if I wouldn’t choose to listen to their solo material (sorry, ladies). Some of my favourite tracks this year have been collabs so it is no surprise that an album full of them features in my list.

Sh R

Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

The fourth album from the Columbia University grads simultaneously charmed and calmed me upon its July release, despite covering hefty issues like extremism, climate change and US politics. Collaborations with Danielle Haim and Steve Lacy make the 18-track journey a sweet, funky and melodic ride. Sympathy and Rich Man especially leap out. 

NG

Dreadzone - Dubwiser Volume 1.

This album draws on the extended musical and blood Dread family. A  compilation album with tracks from the band themselves, solo numbers from Earl 16 and Bazil, Greg Dread’s project Sub Mantra with son Marlon, Louchie Lou & Michie One, and Professor Skank. The album nods to the past but gives some insight to what the future holds. Diverse but still unmistakably dub and dance and dread!

 

S Pn

White Lies - Five

White Lies may never match the popularity of their debut To Lose My Life… (which is getting the 10-year-anniversary-tour treatment at the moment), but their fifth album finds the trio at the top of their game. Self-recorded (with some input from long-time collaborator Ed Buller and superstar producer Flood), the nine-track collection features not just their longest song (the towering Time To Give), but their catchiest (the dayglo pop of Tokyo).  

NL

 

Rockshot Magazine Albums Of The Year 2019

With contributions from our great team of photographer and writers including: Simon Reed, Kalpesh Patel, Nils van der Linden, Nicola Greenbrook, Tony Creek, Paul Lyme, Mark Bronham, Sharmayne Robinson, Simon Phillips, Simon Partington, Nick Pollard, Phil Honley, Simon Jay Price.

By Rockshot

Music Photography Magazine that looks forward to covering live gigs, discovering new artists and putting on the odd night or two of music.

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