It's the season of making lists and checking them twice... year-end (and decade-end) lists, that is. So far, we've posted our lists of the top 50 albums of 2019, 30 best rap and R&B albums of 2019, Bill's Indie Basement: Best of 2019, 100 best punk and emo albums of the 2010s, and 100 best rap and R&B albums of the 2010s, and we've got more lists to come.
We've also been asking what their favorite albums of the year were, and so far we've posted lists from Kevin Morby, J Bannon (Converge), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Prince Daddy & the Hyena, William Tyler, Jaye Jayle, Mayhem, AJJ, Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats), Microwave, Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley, Adam McGrath (Cave In), Andrew LaCour (Inter Arma, ex-KEN mode), Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Georgia Maq (Camp Cope), plus members of Deafheaven, Heaven's Club, Hesitation Wounds, Gouge Away, Monolord, Caspian, and Daughters.
We've also now got lists in this post from members of Earth, King Woman, Nothing, J Robbins Band, Drowse, Low Dose, HarborLights, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Frail Body, Amenra, Dogleg, Varsity, Spotlights, and more. Scroll down to see those lists...
Adrienne Davies (Earth)
1. Tinariwen / Amadjar
2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds / Ghosteen
3. Mark Lanegan Band / Somebody’s Knocking
Kyle Kimball (Nothing, Night Sins)
DIIV - Deceiver
Tamaryn - Dreaming The Dark
Whirr - Feels Like You
Choir Boy - Nites Like This
Korine - Uncrossed
Swans - leaving meaning.
Mark Lanegan Band - Somebody’s Knocking
Ian Brown - Ripples
Mercury Rev - Bobby Gentry’s The Delta Suite Revisited
Temple Of Angels - Cerise Dream
Mike McGinnis (Low Dose, ex-Fight Amp)
Diat - "Positive Disintegration"
Described as the companion piece to Diat's timeless 2015 album "Positive Energy", and, well, I was sold.
This one takes a darker turn than Diat's debut, and it's a welcome curveball. One of the best post-punk bands going.
Institute - "Readjusting The Locks"
I discovered this a few months after release and was stoked for another weirdo dark punk entry from Institute.
It delivers exactly that, more angular guitar driven almost poppy dark punk tracks.
Ecstatic Vision - "For The Masses"
I'm admittedly a little close to this one as I play in Plaque Marks with Doug, but For The Masses
surprised me as my favorite EV record yet both song wise and production wise.
Tripped out psych rock with early Detroit punk rock vibes and in my opinion their most focused effort to date.
Cherubs - "Immaculada High"
Cherubs can't seem to disappoint me. I was skeptical when they announced a follow-up to Heroin Man,
and 2 Ynfynyty ended up being one of my favorite albums of the decade.
Immaculada High went the same way. These guys are like noise riff wizards,
always finding ways to not repeat themselves but maintain a parallel between all their works.
Lightning Bolt - "Sonic Citadel"
Sort of the same as the Cherubs album, I had no idea what to expect from a new Lightning Bolt album, and it had me on my first listen.
This one gets... poppy at times? Don't know how to describe it, but maybe big giant rock riffs sped up and filtered through a tripped out noise punks brain.
Either way, I love it.
Soul Glo - "The Nigga In Me Is Me"
I can't do this one justice by writing about it. Look at the cover, read the lyrics, and listen to the urgency of the tracks.
This record is important. It also pays homage musically to some of the early 00's screamo bands (not that screamo) that I'm a sucker for.
Greys - "Age Hasn't Spoiled You"
Another pleasant surprise. I'm a fan of all of their records, but something about this one seems to get personal in the aesthetic and song delivery.
Still pulling from their early Drive Like Jehuinfluence a bit, but this one is definitely darker and goes into more unique territory.
Tropical Fuck Storm - "Braindrops"
This was my introduction to this band as their debut got past me last year. I'm sure it's been written about to death, and I haven't read any of it.
My take is this is a unique and semi challenging record loaded with hooks and well thought out songwriting. There's some Dead Rider vibes and hints of Polvo, but maybe that's just my ear.
L.O.T.I.O.N. - "World Wide Web"
Saw them live before Diat at What We Like Fest and they had me instantly. Bought the record soon after and liked them even more.
Fucked up industrial weirdo punk.
Multicult - "Simultaneity Now"
If you know Multicult, you know they're one of the best pure noise rock bands going. None of their albums disappoint. Best instrument tones around. Interesting layered songwriting from the Albini school.
This album delivers more of that and it's great.
Gordon Withers (J Robbins Band, BOAYT, Jawbreaker on Cello)
*that he didn't play on (sorry, J. and BOAYT, and other dear artists and bands)
Peter Kernel - The Size of The Night
This technically came out in 2018, but I've seen it on other year-end lists so it's going on here too. Peter Kernel are the best Canadian-Swiss-Italian indie band you've never heard of, and in my opinion, the best band of the decade. IF YOU GET NO OTHER ALBUM ON THIS LIST, GET THIS ONE.
PK are at the absolute peak of their creative and performing powers. This album is less straight-up rock than prior ones, having obviously incorporated elements of their "Orchestra" band version.
Everything about this album is masterful -- the songwriting, the vocal delivery, the arrangements, the ideas, tones, textures -- the sheer density of excellence is almost physically overwhelming. Get it now.
Weakened Friends - Audiotree Live
Urgent, raw, important, and utterly unique rock music from one of the best live bands right now.
Frozen II Soundtrack
Yes, we have young daughters who occasionally dress up as Frozen princesses. No, they didn't lobby for the inclusion of this album!
As anyone who actually saw the movie will likely tell you, the music is actually incredibly well-done, and less overly saccharine than the first movie. What really tipped the scales though, was the subversive, gender-role swapping 80s-style power ballad, "Lost In The Woods".
Cloudkicker - Unending
I don't exactly understand how Ben Sharp's one-man-band's music can exist in this reality. It sounds like it's been piped in directly from an alternate dimension where everyone is talks in 11:16 and can spontaneously physically materialize riffs directly from their minds. This new album is the most absurdly technical-yet-beautiful one yet.
VENTURA - Ad Matres
Heavy, haunting, melodic, mournful from longtime Swiss trio.
Beck - Hyperlife
I feel like Beck was kind of getting same-y lately, and working with co-producer Pharrell was exactly what he needed to shake that. Hyperlife is gorgeous, infectious, poppy, but also intricately detailed.
Versus - Ex Voto
This world does not deserve Versus to still exist, yet alone make one of the best albums of the year. So good.
DIIV - Deceiver
Holy fuck, this record is bleak and depressing. But also a masterpiece.
Big Thief - UFOF
It is Big Thief's time, and we are lucky to be living in it.
Cherry Glazerr - Stuffed and Ready
Just get this. Why haven't you gotten this already?
Kyle Bates (Drowse)
Elizabeth Colour Wheel - Nocebo
Swapping files of my record Light Mirror for this album before they were released was the start of a very close friendship with ECW. This album pulled me through a difficult depressive time right at the start of this year. Here’s what I wrote about it when it was released:
I haven't been this absorbed by a new album in long time-it is bizarre, beautiful and emotionally raw. Most importantly it creates a separate world that you enter when you engage with it, something that only the best art does.
Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron - Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2
Lost Wisdom is one of the best records by Mount Eerie, one of my favorite projects ever. It devastates. Pt. 2 doesn’t disappoint but gives space for a little more hope. I saw Phil play the whole thing the other month and then he played a Microphones song and I cried like the past three times I’ve seen him.
The melody at 3:21 of “Love Without Possession” cuts straight through me every time.
Caterina Barbieri - Ecstatic Computation
Barbieri has been a big inspiration for the past few years and this record feels like a realization of what she has been working towards—intricate moving compositions that go way beyond just listening to incredible synth patches.
Nivhek - After its own death/Walking in a spiral towards the house
Liz Harris has yet to make any music I don’t love. This was a warm depression blanket to fall asleep in at the start of the year.
Fennesz - Agora
Another perfect depression blanket from another all time favorite.
Juana Molina - Fun
I just got into Juana Molina this year and I have a lot of listening to do—her music has that melting quality I’m endlessly drawn to.
Otay:onii - Lick It When It’s Benign
Lane from ECW makes enigmatic, magical sounds and builds entire worlds with them just as she does in her band. Collaborating with her on Sudo Beast was one of the highlights of my year.
Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin?
I’ve been a fan for almost 10 years and Danny Brown can do no wrong.
Burial - Tunes 2011 To 2019
This isn’t really new but it’s been a giant Burial year for me—I’ve waking up to him almost daily for the past few months—and this collection has what might be my favorite release: Truant/Rough Sleeper.
Wreck and Reference - Absolute Still Life
The 70s TV melody at the end of A Mirror.
Jordan Rodríguez (HarborLights)
Knocked Loose – A Different Shade of Blue
I was hyped for this record from the moment the band said they were recording again with Will Putney. This record does NOT disappoint. It’s violent. I’ve seen the band two times before this record came out and the album truly captures the tenacity and energy that their live shows have. The band’s evolution in songwriting is evident here as well. It’s a big step up overall from Laugh Tracks. No sophomore slump here.
Russian Circles – Blood Year
I’m always excited when it’s time for Russian Circles to release another album. First off, they’re an amazingly tight band to see live and, much like the Knocked Loose record, Blood Year captures Russian Circles’ live sound perfectly (considering they didn’t even record to a click track). You can feel the push and pull in multiple places and, as a drummer that plays that way, I’m a sucker for it. Blood Year also feels a little darker than the last few albums which I really enjoyed. All in all, it’s a straight up Russian Circles album, but it is a damn good one.
Fuming Mouth – The Grand Descent
I found out about Fuming Mouth through Caleb at Deathwish. He worked on a video for them and when it was posted by him, I immediately checked it out. I love heavy music, and this was something fresh to hear. No messing around here. Fuming Mouth is sick and so is this album.
Matthew Wright (HarborLights)
Darkthrone – Old Star
This band rules. This album rules.
Thurston Moore Group – Spirit Council
I think that this man, more often than anyone else, inspires me to want to write music after hearing him play. I have so much love for the art of Thurston Moore and I am forever in his debt. This thing is manic and dementedly beautiful. And just plain beautiful.
Christine Smith (HarborLights)
Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?
Anyone who knows me, even a little bit, knows this had to make my list. It’s been in my daily rotation since its release. Her vocals are incredible, the writing is honest, and her use of electronic sounds and incorporation of devices like microtonality is refreshing. It’s unique in that it’s nothing like your average pop record, and it doesn’t genuinely seem fitting to genrefy it anyway. I’ll take more any day.
Better Oblivion Community Center – S/T
A dream come true for the amalgamation of adult and child me. Bridgers’ releases have all been wonderful, and I’ve been a fan of Oberst since the 90s. It’s almost as if the two were meant to come together to collaborate; a pleasing fate. It’s fun, yet melancholic, and the harmonies allow it to feel whole rather than just another collaboration. This album is a perfect example of two artists coming together to produce a genuinely new sound that really engages on many levels.
Clairo – Immunity
A surprising debut; I was so late to the Clairo train that I almost missed it. With some throwback (think 80s, 90s) elements that also feel refreshingly new and different from the usual quiet-whisper-sweet that you often find, it’s no surprise I’ve been caught up. The album feels purposeful, vulnerable, and honest. The songs are almost soothing, even at their most heartbreaking. Its minimalism isn’t hollow but rather fulfilling every listen through. I’ve frequently had this album in rotation multiple times during the day and still can’t get enough.
Andrew Diaz (HarborLights)
The National – I Am Easy to Find
It took me a minute to get into this as deep as I’ve ended up. The myriad of new voices on the record started off as a hurdle and ended up becoming what makes this album so special. As always, the songs rip and pull at you until you’re ready for them to put you back together again.
PUP – Morbid Stuff
It’s shocking how polished this sounds while never seeming to take itself too seriously. It’s fun, it’s sad, and it’s absolutely perfect to throw on during a long drive.
Kristina Esfandiari (Miserable, King Woman, NGHTCRWLR, etc)
in no particular order:
Solange - When I Get Home
Tamaryn - Dreaming the Dark
KSL - Totem
Deirdre - Opal
FKA Twigs - MAGDALENE
Darcy Baylis - A House Breaking
Dana Dentata - Daddy Loves You
Elkk - Ginnun
Emmett Kai - Petite Jaguar
A$AP Rocky - Babushka Boi (single)
Lane Shi (Elizabeth Colour Wheel)
1. Primal Prayer - Beverly Glenn-Copeland
2. Schlagenheim - Black Midi
3. Country Girl Uncut - Boy Harsher
4. Frkwys Vol.12 We Know Each Other Somehow
5. Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Hole - Mood Mother
6. Jóhannsson: 12 Conversations With Thilo Heinzmann
7. It Should Be Us - Andy Stott
8. Selected Works - Matt Elliott
9. 杨桃院儿 - Douwei
10. William Basinski - On Time Out Of Time
Lowell Shaffer (Frail Body)
Telefon Tel Aviv - Dreams Are Not Enough
State Faults - Clairvoyant
Full of Hell - Weeping Choir
Madeon - Good Faith
No Rome - Crying in the Prettiest Places
Drab Majesty - Modern Mirror
Hundreds of AU - Mission Priorities on Launch
Kublai Khan TX - Absolute
Knocked Loose - A Different Shade of Blue
Portrayal of Guilt - Suffering is a Gift
Nicholas Clemenson (Frail Body)
Mutilatred - Ingested Filth
Metz - Automat
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Infest The Rats’ Nest
Cattle Decapitation - Death Atlas
Kublia Khan TX - Absolute
Left Behind - No One Goes To Heaven
Abigail Williams - Walk Beyond the Dark
Portrayal of Guilt - Suffering is a Gift
meth. - Mother of Red Light
Sangiusugabogg - Pornographic Seizures
Nic Kuczynski (Frail Body)
Cursive - Get Fixed
Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race
Lightning Bolt - Sonic Citadel
Cynic - Traced in Air Remixed
Pyramid Scheme - Everything but Rap and Country
Serpent of Gnosis - As I Drink From the Infinite Well of Inebriation
Abigail Williams - Walk Beyond the Dark
meth. - Mother of Red Light
State Faults - Clairvoyant
The National - I Am Easy to Find
Lennart Bossu (Amenra)
1 Swans - leaving meaning.
2 Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance
3 Liturgy - H.A.Q.Q.
4 Diiv - Deceiver
5 Blood Incantation - Hidden History Of The Human Race
6 Elizabeth Colour Wheel - Nocebo
7 Mizmor - Cairn
8 Blut Aus Nord - Hallucinogen
9 Bliss Signal - Bliss Signal
10 Lingua Ignota - Caligula
Chase Macinski (Dogleg)
My favorite thing of 2019 was probably witnessing Mang0 win Big House 9 in person. I got 129th which is the same as last year, but better than doing worse. Felt good seeing Falco win a super major.
Close follow ups were the release of some new anime Dr. Stone and Demon Slayer. The animation in Demon Slayer is some of the best shit I’ve ever seen, but the story and characters are pretty “eh”. Also the new season of MHA is expected to be the best one yet which has me hyped.
Michigan music has been absolutely killing it in 2019 with releases from Pancho Villa’s Skull, Mover Shaker, and Greet Death all putting out stellar albums that no one should be sleeping on.
Stephanie Smith (Varsity)
Cate le Bon - Reward
Divino Niño - Foam
These albums totally stand on their own, but coupled with their live performance they made huge impressions on me this year. Cate’s Welsh accent and Divino’s blurry mix of Spanish and English add another layer of captivation to both of these albums.
Dylan Weschler (Varsity)
Big Thief - U.F.O.F.
YBN Cordae - The Lost Boy
Groovy song with good lyrics.
Patrick Stanton (Varsity)
1. Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe
2. Great Grandpa - Four of Arrows
Deliberate arrangements, captivating voices, cathartic payoffs.
Jake Stolz (Varsity)
Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
Cate le Bon - Reward
Beautiful, eccentric pop masterpieces from two singular voices.
Paul Stolz (Varsity)
The Hecks - My Star
Sasami - Sasami
Strong guitar and synth leads that constantly get stuck in my head.
Chris Enriquez (Spotlights)
1) Tool - "Fear Inoculum"
2) Cave In - "End Transmission"
3) Torche - "Admission"
4) Brutus - "Nest"
5) Liam Gallagher - "Why Me? Why Not"
6) DJ Shadow - "Our Pathetic Age"
7) Battles - "Juice B Crypts"
8) Flying Lotus - "Flamagra"
9) Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - "Bandana"
10) Agnostic Front - "Get Loud"
Jake Sulzer (Counter Intuitive Records)
1. White Reaper - 1F
i'm not sure what it is about white reaper that make them so damn cool. maybe it's the lead singer using a different guitar in every video i've seen of them. maybe it's the insanely quality music videos. maybe it's that they somehow landed alexandra daddario as a star in one of their old videos?!?!?! in what universe is this even possible?!?!?!? there's something about this band & their knack for insanely catchy choruses on this record that is irresistible. give me the guitarmonies, give me the solos, give me the 60s mustang convertible, give me the pure confidence of the keyboard player at 2:12 in the video. i need it all.
2. Oso Oso - Charlie
'basking in the glow' was the perfect album for oso to finally jump up to that next tier of production on. this album is littered with hits and lyrical gems, it's hard to pick a favorite track but it's not hard to pick the best track if that makes sense? 'a morning song' is the clear pop punk banger, 'one sick plan' is further proof that the world is in desperate need of an acoustic oso record, and the lyrics on 'impossible game' cement the sentiment that no single oso record is jade "getting lucky" or "striking gold," he simply is just this fucking good at writing songs.
but, charlie, now charlie is the one. charlie isn't the one you'll be singing along to at pop punk karaoke. it's not the one you put on to introduce your friend to the bands sound. its how you close a record. devastating, candid, honest. a track that spends 3 minutes setting you up for that one final big payoff of the record, and that one final goodbye. "I know it has to end. We'll just play pretend. Yeah, I think that's fine. 'Cause you and I had a very nice time."
(side note - every time i read the album name 'basking in the glow' my brain sings it to the tune of the linkin park lyric crawling in my skin. i hope this now plagues someone else as well)
3. Strange Ranger - Planes in Front of the Sun
If you count their beginnings as 3 piece punk rock band sioux falls, strange ranger's 'remembering the rockets' is their 3rd LP. and if the last thing you heard was sioux falls one and only record 'rot forever' then, well, you are in for a surprise. although you may still be able to catch them in a basement or diy space every now and then, they have shed their in-your-face melodic garage rock sound and dropped the 8 minute jams for a more introspective and atmospheric energy. i'm sure some will miss it, and yeah, we'll still ask them to play 'dom' live sometimes. but when you can write songs as beautifully as they can, you realize it's a transition that had to be made.
even though the 8 minute rock jams are gone, the style isn't truly gone, it was just reworked into a new sounding type of jam. and the melodies are only getting better and better. it's special when the same band that wrote the album you want to scream & sweat along to in a warehouse can go on to write a record that fits the feeling of trying to push away the existential dread on a cold, snowy sunday afternoon while playing settlers of catan on the ground in your living room with your best friends.
the crowning jewel from this record is 'planes in front of the sun' and there is no discussion to be had about it. sure, there are some great lyrics elsewhere on this record. 'living free' hits us with "in the future there is love, i tell myself when i wake up' and we all instinctively curl into the fetal position and think to ourselves, "fuck, isaac, take it easy on me dude." but, start to finish, planes brings constant chills for me, the lyrics are haunting. "planes move through the sky. i walk to work in fading light. daddies with their kids. i still want that. i still feel sick." he still wants kids!! sometimes i feel like i want kids someday too!! fuck, he got me again!! i hope you get those kids isaac, you're a good guy.
4. Illuminati Hotties - ppl plzr
2019 was a relatively quiet year for illuminati hotties in terms of new music, coming off their epic debut in 2018. they dropped a full band single, a haunting acoustic cover of whitney houston, & a solid audiotree performance. it was all great. there was no real rush for the band to put out more material as they were busy touring with the likes of lucy dacus, american football, pup & more throughout the year.
towards the end of october songwriter sarah tudzin said on twitter "couldn’t wait for an album cycle bc i’m feeling a lot Right Now so i made somethin Fast" to go alongside the bandcamp link for 'ppl plzr' which she wrote, produced, & engineered. sometimes it sounds like a bedroom pop banger, sometimes the guitars kick in for a second and you're like "holy shit that's thick." every time i hear the chorus i'm still wondering how they did it, it hits so hard but is still soft at the same time?? the verses on this song are insanely catchy, the type you hear once and you think "oh, yup, this is one of THOSE tracks." we all know THOSE tracks, the type of song that you get 30 seconds into and you start scheduling out how many more times you can listen to the song today without ruining it. at this point, i'm not sure if i'm more excited about the quality of the band or the quality of sarah's production, but, if their next album is anything like this track i am straight up HERE FOR IT.