The first month of 2020 is at the end and it’s time to choose what I consider the best music released in 2019. Many people did it in December but I preferred to take some time to consider all the options. So here it is, my choice of the best music of 2019! This article is specifically dedicated to songs and not albums, and I’ve put some requirements to make things more objective and less on my personal taste. I’ve already covered some of them in the reviews but also something out of my written production. Let’s see the requirements first:
- Singles: I’ve taken singles because they’re the artist’s choice to pick up from an album as entré to the full record, a sort of business card;
- Not only singles but singles with a video: as told in the article about stop motion, there’s more work to do to deliver a good single, adding something that the listener can both see and hear, an immersive experience;
- Only one song per artist;
- The blog’s purpose: the reason why Music Pills exists is to cover music out from the usual radio station and out from the charts. So you won’t see Mac DeMarco or Tyler, The Creator here, even if I personally like both of them, especially the second one that’s among my all-time favorites in hip hop;
- Someone out of the list deserves the same respect that I paid to the chosen ones, you will find them in the honorable mentions;
Without further ado, let’s dig into this beautiful matter. The order has no particular meaning.
1: Sungazer – Electro
Adam Neely and Shawn Crowder are a sort of “wisdom dispenser” on the Tube and their second album under the project name Sungazer provided two hot singles, Drunk and Electro. The second one is for sure the track that I’ve listened to the most in 2019, it’s a perfect fusion between jazz and electronica but with a pop-fashion kind of catchiness, with the straight beat and synthetic, soul-driven lyrics, clouds of passing chords and some of the best recent solos, both the bass and the sax one. The square ducks provided by Ben Levin for the official video and the flashing and fun animation scenes give it a sense of motion projected to the future.
2: Devin Townsend – Genesis
Can one of the most respected musicians in the progressive metal community still raise the bar after decades in making music? Devin Townsend made it again and with a lesson in style. Accompanied by an orchestra of very talented people, he created a concept album that burned the ground behind him, displaying a various palette of songs and suites, and above all one of the most epic refrains that’s the one in Genesis, a long song where he sits down looking back at everything he made before to watch towards a radiant future. The class of being both a pillar and an innovator.
3: Gnoomes – Glasgow Coma State
Russia has given a lot more to the world than hard-bass. One of the most recognizable realities of psychedelic music comes from Perm and they’re called Gnoomes. The latest album Mu reveals other facets of the ones shown on the precedent Tschak! and the song Glasgow Coma State is a perfect example. It’s an homage to all the psych/post-rock history and uses an easily recognizable song structure, that makes it different respect to the long rides that you expect from the genre. Thumbs up for Russian psychedelia!
4: Backxwash – Don’t Come To The Woods
Terms like transcore and queer rap aren’t new to me, but the last year I’ve had a great occasion to find good art in these styles. Backxwash is a trans rapper from Zambia and her eccentric and hardcore way to rap is unique. Her record Deviancy is the best demonstration of her art and the opening track Don’t Come To The Woods clearly warns you about the witchery that imbues the song. Black and white color grading, mysterious rituals and possession, pay attention to the signs or she will catch your soul. The clear evidence that a two-notes main groove can sound huge in the hands of a talented artist and Backxwash is talented for sure.
Jacob Collier – Moon River
The only exceptional song in this list is this rendition by Jacob Collier of the classic Moon River tune, originally composed by Henry Mancini, lyrical side by Johnny Mercer, and made famous by the film Breakfast At Tiffany’s, featuring Audrey Hepburn. There are so many covers of the piece scattered through the ages, even in modern times and with today’s sounds (for example the Frank Ocean one is a beautiful pearl in its minimal, soul attitude). But this one is over the top in magnificence. Created by using only vocal layers of Jacob singing all the melodies and insane harmonies, it deserves a high place even only for the intro, where 150 contributions from all the world sing together a massive omni-chord that covers all the spectrum of humanly possible pitches. This piece of music has just won a Grammy for the best arrangement!
Ben Levin Group – What a Special Day
By the way of the classics: there’s a record that made me think “How would Beatles sound imagining they’re still making music in 2019?” The answer came from the Ben Levin Group with the album Jelly Mound and especially the song What a Special Day. Not to say that they’re copycats, the right opposite instead! It presents colorful video and sound, classic harmony and irresistible melodic hooks reinforced by a very melodic bass that provides a tasty low counter-melody below the long vocal notes. The song structure is predictable but the key change of the special, paired by the noisy frenzy of the guitar solo and the all-over-the-place sickness that’s the trademark of Ben, makes it a must to all those who think that rock is dying nowadays.
Car Bomb – Dissect Yourself
By the way, sick visuals are at the core of the hardcore piece that made a lot of people talk some months ago. Called the band that can count well, Car Bomb is a recurrent name in the extreme metal community due to the atomic-clock sense of tempo, elastic in acceleration and deceleration, that this band showed in the previous albums. In 2019 they made Mordial and it’s been a huge step forward both for their career and in the experimentation of tone. Some may say that they rip off some Meshuggah and other stuff in the style, but they don’t hide their passion and the idea of metal that they bring high. They’re 50% influenced and 50% innovative, and there won’t be a band with similar sound without quoting them. Warning to the laser pistols.
Lou Kelly – Junk City
The opening track in the homonymous album, Junk City makes the criminal side of the big American cities of the thirties live again. Sex, drugs, jazz’n’roll, and mafia, are the topics covered but it’s all fictional and made for fun. Provocative lyrics screamed by a whiskey-filled throat dense of bad jokes, blasphemy, and the animation work by Nekrotherium makes everything psychedelic, reminding some adult cartoon movies like Fritz The Cat by Ralph Bakshi. It’s the absolutely non-serious record on this list but the arrangements are serious, thou! A one-man band that sounds like a swing orchestra in a dirty night club.
Bent Knee – Bone Rage
This is a sort of jolly song, I would have put another one between the honorable mention to not put again works with the contribution of Ben Levin again, but the perfect fusion between catchiness and experimentation won. Bent Knee is one of the most underrated rock realities out there. This is the first track of the latest album You Know What They Mean, and a pretty different one from the others. It’s kinda metal for the riff-driven structure and the solo, kinda reminding some old Radiohead with the chromatic progression, and punk for the squeaky vocals that accompany the whole thing. The video is naturally one of those contraindicated for epileptic people, but give it a try and bring some collyrium with you.
Moses Sumney – Virile
A highly anticipated first single from the next step of Moses, Grae, coming out towards next summer, Virile is a way to testify the life choice of people and their sexuality against the old traditionalism. Dancing at tempo with the song inside an abattoir to reinforce the concept of human nature in its most fleshy way, Mr. Sumney escapes and runs from the cold cage to ba chased by a storm of ladybugs, symbol of the weight of responsibility to be by himself. Maybe I’m over-thinking but, besides the meaning, the music is so evocative and powerful, very fine arrangements and soulful singing, from the lowest whispers to the highest peaks. The oriental special towards the end adds a spicy orchestral layer. Well done, I’ll wait for the entire thing, I expect a lot after this one.
So here it is, my choice of the best songs of 2019. Before releasing what I want the most, the article about the best albums of 2019, a little list of the honorable tunes that could be between my favorites as well. What did you like the most in the last year? I can’t wait to hear what 2020 has to give in terms of sick music.
Written for you by Music Pills
Tanya Barany – Lights Disappear
Beastwars – Wolves and Prey
Prune Deer – By Air
Tenesha The Wordsmith – Madea
Sessa – Grandeza