This moment had to come now or later. Here’s the Music Pills’ choice for the best albums of 2019. You’ve seen the names of Sungazer, Devin Townsend, Gnoomes, Backxwash, Jacob Collier, Ben Levin, Car Bomb, Lou Kelly, Bent Knee, and Moses Sumney in the previous list that covered the top 10 songs of the same year. In that list, strict rules have been created to pick up the songs. There are rules here too but not that severe, a little bit more of freedom in the choice because I’m more an album kind of guy than shuffle play or spare songs. Some of the names recur in both lists but also some different ones, and here you see how much picking up songs is different from picking up records. The main “rule” is not repeating too much the same styles of music. Anyway, I know well that categorizing the artists’ works too much can distract from the essence and peculiarity of each one, so I will put very generic “tags” to guide the reading for those who are interested in a specific style. Following the list, there are the honorable mentions that are absolutely not less valuable than the list itself or, to be fair, your own taste in music; they even contain some between the famous ones. Without further ado, here are the greatest ones in 2019!
Pop / rock:
Tanya Barany – Lights Disappear
Ben Levin Group – Jelly Mound
Yazz Ahmed – Polyhymnia
Junius Paul – Ism
Backxwash – Deviancy
Devin Townsend – Empath
Car Bomb – Mordial
Nihiloxica – Biiri
Djinn – Djinn
Gnod R&D – Vol. 4
In the pop/rock category you find the Swiss singer Tanya Barany and the Ben Levin Group (half of Bent Knee). Tanya stunned me at the beginning of 2019 with her Lights Disappear, a winter soundscape that paves the way for a glacial pop finding relief in the obscurity of an alpine forest at night. A voice that both whispers and screams upon a solid song structure and fine arrangements. The refrains of every song still reverberate in my mind today. Otherwise, The Ben Levin Group shows what Beatles could be if still making music at the end of the 2010 decade. Simple clean guitars, walking bass, psychedelic arrangements and aesthetics, so colorful in sound and patterns, songs that go from the delicacy of Sharon to the weird frustration of I Want To Party. Describing a love relationship like sickness and meaning it in the most beautiful way possible makes songs like Hot for Sick and What a Special Day a must-hear.
Jazz also had valuable proposals and showed that the genre it’s not chained to the standards but still lives on the primal influence of improvisation and research of new sounds. Dealing with the latter ones, Yazz Ahmed, horn player from Bahrain, made her masterpiece with Polyhymnia, six long suites that blend jazz, oriental scales, prog, and female power through making every tune the symbol of the braveness of a distinct woman. On the other hand, the tight-wearing bassist whose name is Junius Paul decided to come back to the basics of jazz, the raw improvisation, and make a monumental album titled Ism that together with his name creates juniuspaulism, a concept revolving around the freedom of expression that jazz should represent. From melodic looping to free form savageness, you will be fascinated by the “(tight)ness” of this lengthy record.
The hip hop world has been shaken by Tyler the Creator through the masterpiece Igor, but what hit me for real is the record Deviancy by the rapper Backxwash, from the first dog barks of Don’t Come to The Woods to the intimacy of You Like My Body the Way It Is. She brings you into her world and makes you feel what a trans person feels today, speaking of social judgment and acceptance, prejudice and identity. The fusion of industrial and rap is irresistible.
Coming to metal, there’s a high level of technicality involved but it’s not for its own sake. After having split the band, Devin took the time to reflect on his past and look at his future and the results are stunning. Empath is the “most” monumental record of the year, orchestrated and arranged in a majestic way and epic from the very beginning until the end, songs that defy common song structure and a variety in styles and tone that’s ridiculous. On the extreme side, we find Mordial by Car Bomb, the fourth album of the “band that can count well”. Now, the math involved in the odd tempo of the songs isn’t the main element by itself because it’s not just odd time figures but the general performance is easily defined as “fluid”, acceleration and deceleration, stop and then go, defying the harmonic content of the metal stuff and tributing the classics of extreme metal at the same time and above all, the slides and the bends. After Fredrik Thordendal and Tosin Abasi, Greg Kubacki is moving the research of the contemporary metal sound towards the future.
And here we come to the most curious category: experimental! I’m happy to have discovered people like Gnod and Djinn thanks to Rocket Recordings because they gave me the weirdest sensations with the research of a sound that’s unconventional, fun, unpredictable and interesting at the same time. Gnod is what I imagine punk to go for the next decades: there’s no more space for power chords and silly melodies, it’s time to break the rules not only of the society but also of the sound itself. The constant research of new noise to deliver led the collective project from Salford to create a Research & Development department and call it Gnod R&D. Vol. 4 of the section brings only two tracks but what a journey they are, from the depths of the dark ocean to the hateful light of the deserts. Djinn is a split project between members of Goat and Hills, the homonymous debut LP and the band name itself are inspired by Arabic culture and above all the traditional figure of the genie, demons which nature is halfway between gods and human. A moniker to the listener, the genie inside the music is malevolent and spiteful, making fun of jazz, improvisation, and noise. Track titles also make fun of themselves, just like the ending one Djuice. But the real surprise of the category came out from Africa, where two English producers and four African percussionists created the Nihiloxica ensemble, a killer fusion of dope rhythms, sick electronica and tons of dissonance made the most original techno that I can remember. The short album Biiri gave the band popularity never seen before and they began spreading killer performances around the globe.
Do you like these 2019 records? If so, let me know and otherwise tell me which ones you loved the most! I want to end all 2019 things by enlisting some other records that deserve the same place as all the previous ones.
Drum&Lace – Semi Songs / Sungazer – Vol. 2 / Nick Krueger, Ben Levin – Birds / Tenesha the Wordsmith – Peacoks & Other Savage Beasts / Lou Kelly – Junk City / King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Infest the Rats’ Nest, Fishing for Fishies / Gnoomes – Mu / Sex Pizzul – Mounir / Bent Knee – You Know What They Mean / Prune Deer – Insufficient Postage / Beastwars – IV / Sampa the Great – The Return / Thom Yorke – Anima / Tyler, the Creator – Igor / Iggy Pop – Freedom / Nick Cave – Ghosteen / Mac deMarco – Here Comes the Cowboy
Listened to and written for you by Music Pills
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