Tension on the North Korean border. Conflicts with Iran. Brexit hovering like the sword of Damocles over Europe. Who knows if we'll even see the end of 2019? Just in case, you better check out SPB's guide to the best music of this year so far. You just might discover something new and unexpected... before you miss out for good.
Andy's top 5 albums of 2019 so far
LP3 (Polyvinyl / Big Scary Monsters)
Sure, it was cool to have new music from American Football in the form of their 2016 LP. But that (in hindsight, probably overpraised) effort pales in comparison to the frequently gorgeous and sometimes downright haunting compositions on LP3. With the band seeming to be back in peak, emotionally resonant form, dare I say there's a future for this group, a prospect that seemed incredibly unlikely just a few years ago?
Boobs of DOOM
(17): Skeleton Jazz Wizard (Independent)
This super-prolific Scottish electro/doom/whatever group has released an album every month in 2019. The June release, unsurprisingly, features a bit of everything, from industrial electronic to comparative chilled out ambient music and lounge grooves, much of it presented with brain-liquefying levels of distortion and noise. Weird stuff this, but agreeably so.
La Dispute builds upon 2014's outstanding Rooms of the House with another work that demonstrates their ability to weave positively compelling, evocative stories all the while displaying a masterful integration of music and words. I gotta give credit to any band that produces an album this devastating in terms of imagery and themes and somehow makes it not only tolerable but maybe even enjoyable, with the overwhelming somber mood offset by well-placed moments of beauty and cautious hope.
Itekoma Hits (Damnably)
From jerky and furious punk rock assaults to catchy singalongs and bits of irresistible bubblegum pop, this compilation album by and large succeeds at the seemingly impossible task of capturing Otoboke Beaver's raw energy. Don't let the foreign language lyrics scare you away: this album, and the band in general, is simply fun to listen to.
? (Yus) (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
I once read musician (and Charles Manson follower/convicted murderer) Bobby Beausoleil's soundtrack to Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising described as being "black with lizard eyes." I think that description would also apply to the output of ????. Shadowy vocals and overall murkiness give ? (Yus) the feeling that it's a field recording of a dark ritual, yet the warm harmonics featured in the instrumental parts give it fleeting moments of strange tranquility. For my money, this band is one of psychedelic music's best kept secrets.
Cheryl's top 5 albums of 2019 so far
Divided By Darkness (20 Buck Spin)
Spirit Adrift's rise has been wonderful to behold and Divided by Darkness shows that emotion need not be a mood killer - instead the band take those feelings and punch up the melody in order to create life affirming metal.
Space is ripe for exploration and Starless Domain use outer limits to inform a debut that is an ode to the cosmos.
Shem Ha Mephorash (Shadow Records)
Sweden's Mephorash finally unleash their potential for greatness with a black metal record that is rich in tone with a lyrical prowess that belies the relative youth of the band. It's a fascinating exploration of the esoteric.
Hvísl Stjarnanna (Ván Records)
The Icelandic black metal scene is one that has its star firmly in the ascent and Sinmara are one of the leading lights of the scene. Hvísl Stjarnanna is a powerful and oftentimes beautiful work that speaks of being outside the normal stuctures than humanity has built.
Goth is alive and well in 2019 and Idle Hands have one of the catchiest records of the year with debut Mana. It's vital and a joy to listen despite the dark subject matter.
Dennis's top 5 albums of 2019 so far
Age Of Unreason (Epitaph)
Like Teenage Bottlerocket, Bad Religion is a band that can do no wrong for me. Yeah, not every album is that great, but there’s always a lot to enjoy. This album is no different. I have not had the opportunity to spin it a lot of times, but right now I think Age Of Unreason is one of the better albums after my personal favorite The Process Of Belief.
Born To Be Mild (PDV Records/Last Exit Music/Ill In The Head Records/Bartolini Records)
This Hüsker Dü-influenced band released another great album again. I keep coming back to this album and it is proving itself as a great soundtrack for the summer, no matter how young that summer still is. ESC Life have mastered the art of sounding relaxed and energetic at the same time which is just what I need at the moment.
Orphanage Named Earth
Saudade (Sanctus Propaganda/Phobia Records)
Last year's debut album had some teething troubles, but showed plenty potential. Those teething troubles are gone on second album Saudade. This record oozes a longing to a different time, a different mentality. This has touched me more than I thought at the time of writing the review. It has become my go to medicine when I am afraid of losing faith in mankind.
Stay Rad! (Fat Wreck Chords)
This band can do no wrong for me. I love every single album they have released so far and Stay Rad! is no exception. Eight songs into their career Teenage Bottlerocket sounds as youthful as they did on their 2003 debut album. You may consider that a bit silly, if you want, but I hope they will stay this way for a bit longer, ‘cause it gives us awesome songs over and over again!
We Never Learned To Live
The Sleepwalk Transmissions (Holy Roar Records)
Some bands grow by getting better at what they have done all along. We Never Learned To Live is one of those bands. The Sleepwalk Transmissions is not too different from their previous releases, in fact, it is very recognizable. The band has refined its sound on this album and I love it, as I loved the previous releases (this seems to be the theme of this list for me…). This is a fine post-hardcore album.
Kristen's top 5 albums of 2019 so far
Stuffed & Ready (Secretly Canadian)
Cherry Glazerr’s latest album still remains my #1 release so far in 2019—the vocals haunt me in the best way, the guitars are dreamy enough to take me away, and the combo together is everything I want in an album and more. I’m obsessed, and you should be too.
Deals, Deals, Deals! (Red Scare Industries)
Ramona has been around for a few years now, but aside from local notoriety, haven’t gained much momentum. That is until now—Ramona has managed to produce a fresh take on punk with their new record and I can’t stop listening to it. It’s catchy, the production quality is top-notch without trying too hard, and the music is just damn good.
I Am Easy to Find (4AD)
Over the years I’ve found a real appreciation for The National’s music, with their new album being no exception. The moody lyrics and deep vocals mixed with the beautiful almost-melancholy music don’t necessarily make this record stand out amongst past ones, but it’s also not a sound I ever get tired of.
Let Me Know When You Give Up (Fat Wreck Chords)
I’ve always thought Joey Cape’s solo music has been underrated—Lagwagon’s music remains untouchable, but I never knew the depth of Cape’s vocals until his solo work. If you’ve never listened to Joey Cape’s softer side, now is your chance.
Stay Rad (Fat Wreck Chords)
Teenage Bottlerocket always highlights everything I love about punk—their music is fun, fast, and loud. Despite all the ups and downs with the band, I’m loving that they are sticking to their roots and still producing the same fun-loving tracks.
Loren's top 5 albums of 2019 so far
In Condemnation (Dirt Cult Records)
This is some kitchen sink punk that takes strong influence from a wide swath of classics but makes it their own, somewhat in a peace punk vibe. Serious attitude and serious anger. Oh yeah.
Regular (A-F Records)
The first I heard Dead Bars, I loved it but I couldn’t imagine them doing long-players. Boy was I wrong. This stuff just keeps getting better. Cynical and insightful songs about aging rockers.
The Devil You Know (Suicide Squeeze Records)
On this album the band coalesced a little bit, pulling their different songwriting styles together. It’s a little more accessible in a way, a little blunt and political at times, and as great as everything else they’ve put out.
Everything Has Gotta Change (Snappy Little Numbers/La Escalera)
A new discovery with some familiar faces holding the instruments. This is peppy with a lot of vocal tradeoffs that make it bounce. The positive vibes on the surface, though, mask some serious scars.
World’s End (Let’s Pretend Records)
A band I discovered simply by doing Scene Point Blank. Evening Standards play heartfelt DIY punk with Midwestern sensibilities, and ear for melody, and lots of harmonizing that pulls it all together.
Spyros's top 5 albums of 2019 so far
Gold & Grey
The progressive sludge scene of the '00s produced a stunning array of acts, but few experimented with their core sound as heavily as Baroness. Their latest (double) record Gold & Grey is the apex of a transformative process, seeing the band from Georgia enhancing its lyricism, diving deeper into its psychedelic essence, revisiting their punk-ish heritage, but without ever forgetting their point of origin.
Sunn O))) set a high bar for themselves in 2009 with the release of the seminal Monoliths & Dimensions, and even though they only slightly missed it with Kannon, they return better than ever with Life Metal. The record marks a new era for the band, as this work displays a return to their minimalistic beginnings emphasized under a different light through Steve Albini's organic engineering.
Waste of Space Orchestra
Syntheosis marks the unification of two of Finland's finest extreme metal acts, psychedelic masters Oranssi Pazuzu and ritualistic occultists Dark Buddha Rising. Even though the notion of two bands composing and performing together is anything but novel, few seem to have worked so hard or managed to find such a fine artistic balance as with Waste of Space Orchestra. The result is an ambitious work, creating an overarching entity that showcases the best that today's extreme metal has to offer.
There are few acts that have changed so much over as My Disco has. Math rock, industrial and post-punk are just some of the diverse areas they have visited, but for their new work the band dives full on in the minimalistic domain. Environment is the deconstruction of My Disco's vision, a record that acts as a negative space, a shadow to the band's original vision. It is a terrifying process that very few would see through and even fewer would pull off. Thankfully, My Disco is among those.
King Midas Sound
Stephanie's top 5 albums of 2019 so far
The new singles from Glitterer's upcoming album, Looking Through The Shades, feel like a shoegazey lullaby. Ned Russin's velvety melancholic vocals accompany pretty, reverb-coated synths. Mid-tempo distorted guitar progressions recall the later mid-tempo melodic punk and shoegaze we heard from Title Fight.
This latest release from France's Frustration combines darkwave-y intergalactic synths with aggressive bass lines. They recall classic three-chord punk rock with antagonistic vocals, which seem extra bratty on this release. Vocalist Fabrice Gilbert summons Mark E. Smith and Jello Biafra as he barks over creepy high-pitched synths and speedy guitars.
Vanna Inget keeps their tempo up on punkier songs here, but slow down and add more poppy piano. Their broadened sound is led by a very impressive range of powerpop vocals and bittersweet backing vocals, of which I can't understand a damn word, but it all sounds beautiful! While the crunchy guitar still infuses the sound with punk, a range of influences is heard here – from post punk to soul to soft indie rock: the piano-led ballads combine with acoustic guitar, shimmering synths, acid rock guitar solos, and groovy drum breaks.
The Dead Cult
Despite my immature previous write-off of electronic music, this new project features one of my favorite thrashing guitarists, who previously played in Modern Life is War. So I had to check it out. They are a hybrid of punk, hardcore, metal, drum and bass, and hardcore techno, which has its roots in the band’s hometown of Rotterdam. It's doomy, punky, political, and hard-hitting. This entire EP perfectly blends dark punk and metal influences with creepy electronics and amen breaks. Hardcore vocals in fist-pump fashion launch over saturated synths that twist through feedback and murky metal riffs.
Nots' bass-heavy post-punk winds through feedback and creepy sci-fi radio waves. Vocalist and guitarist Natalie Hoffman commands the keyboard throughout the album while sticking to her signature sing-scream wail. She provides both effects and haunting lead melodies that complement catchy, bold bass lines.