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Favourite Albums of 2019

5.  Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains:  The music world lost a lot of great musicians in 2019 including David Berman of Purple Mountains.  This was my first introduction to the man’s music and was touched by many of the lyrics contained here.  Knowing what happened to Berman soon after release makes some of the songs hard to listen to but this is part of his legacy that he passed on to us. Purple Mountains touches on many of the emotions we all feel from time to time and let’s us know we are not alone. This album will live on for a very long time.

4.  Robert Forster – Inferno:  Another long running musician that I was really hearing for the first time in 2019.  Ex of the much-loved Go-Betweens, Forster doesn’t sound dissimilar to Leonard Cohen and at times on tracks like “The Morning” and “Life Has Turned A Page” he offers much wisdom.  Like Cohen, Forster’s music is mature and on the cover he looks dapper as hell.  We can still aspire to be this cool.

3.  Vampire Weekend – Father Of The Bride:  This came out in May and was ready made for the summer. More complex musically than past releases and adding in a few cameos, most notably from Danielle Haim, this continues to increase the range of Vampire Weekend releases.  Many gems to be found here including “Sunflower”, “How Long”, and especially our song of the year – “Harmony Hall”.  Like most albums at 18 tracks long, there are a few that can be skipped but those are relatively few on an album that can be played on repeat for several hours.

2.  Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!:  This album is getting lots of love even from people who don’t normally show it to Del Rey. Admittedly, the last few albums can be a bit hit and miss at times but this one never lags and distills the best of her sound onto 12 songs. “Venice Bitch” was a favourite from last year and “Mariners Apartment Complex” sounds like a movie in four minutes. “California” and “The Greatest” are timeless tracks that could have been released at any time in the last 40 years.  This is Lana Del Rey’s best album.

1.  Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel:  It’s not very often a straight up rock record gets us this excited but Dublin’s Fontaines D.C. delivered blow after blow on their debut.  It’s amazing that this literary band released poem collections before forming a band, as they seem ready made for the big stages in the UK. “Hurricane Laughter”, “Chequeless Reckless”, and “Boys In The Better Land” are a roar heard across the world as people keep falling for the band’s charms.  This is the best rock album we’ve heard in years.

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Favourite Distant (Re)Discoveries 2019

5. Ken Burns – Country Music (Documentary): Several years ago, I loved the Prohibition documentary that Ken Burns produced for PBS so was excited when the country music one was announced some time ago.  It did not disappoint. Covering the inception of country music through 1996, Burns hits the major highlights of the genre and successfully ties it into the larger music scene and American society in general. All eras are fascinating. A review of the two-disc soundtrack will be posted soon.

4. The 1975 – TooTimeTooTimeTooTime (Song):  The 1975 album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships had several bangers but this lighthearted romp was the one that really caught our ear and who’s video was played almost nightly for a few months. Sounding like an updated version of a Sugar Ray track, it’s hard not to sing along to the chorus of this infectious single from 2018.

3. Otha – I’m On Top (Song):  Otha’s “One Of The Girls” was our 2018 track of the year and in early 2019, we heard this one that was released towards the end of last year. If we had heard it last year, Otha may have had our top two favourite tracks of 2018. Never changing her bored, deadpan vocals to sing the lyric, “right now, it is time to have fun” adds a layer of detached cool to this terrific dance pop song.  Otha’s 2019 single, “Tired and Sick” narrowly missed our top 10 this year.

2. The Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (Album):  We finally put our money down for a compilation from The Rolling Stones and picked this tried and true classic. We discovered some new favourites such as “Mother’s Little Helper” and were reacquainted with the greatness of tracks such as “Paint It, Black”.  The run of tracks from “Get Off My Cloud” to “Street Fighting Man” is breathtaking.  This isn’t just some of the best rock n roll ever made, this IS the best rock n roll ever made.

1. The Kinks – Are The Village Green Preservation Society (50th Anniversary) (Album) – We picked up the two disc anniversary version of The Kinks classic even though we already had a version from a few years ago that covers mostly the same tracks.  For some reason, the first time around I liked it but didn’t really love the album. Upon, hearing it again I was completely knocked out by it and listened steadily for several weeks.

The title track, “Village Green”, “Starstruck”, and “People Take Pictures of Each Other” are all standouts on an album that covers rock, psychedelia, whimsey, nostalgia, and British music hall. Looking back, I followed a micro version of what happened to the album upon release.  Mostly unloved when new, The Village Green grew in stature over the years and is now considered a classic and an album to truly cherish.

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10 Favourite Songs of 2019

10. Lala Lala & WHY? – Siren 042:  A few Lala Lala tracks caught our ear in 2018 but not like this one with WHY?.  The atmosphere on “Siren 042” is a bit sad as Lala Lala apologizes and explains herself in the lyrics but at the same time loses her personality as she makes changes.  This got played a lot in the early mornings.

9. Loma – Half Silences:  The sound is haunting when members from Shearwater and Cross Records get together to record.  The only thing that would make this track better is extending the first instrumental passage for a few more minutes before the vocals appear. This is also our favourite video of 2019.

8. Bleached – Shitty Ballet:  After the release of their debut in 2013, we lost track of Bleached until this first track from their latest album was released in April. The band has a knack of getting songs lodged in the head and this one was no different as we sang, “don’t want to pretend it’s OK when it’s not” throughout the year.

7. Lizzo (Feat. Missy Elliott) – Tempo:  Easily one of the coolest tracks of the year. The steady groove never gets too hyped but always keeps the head nodding along. Lizzo has received all kinds of attention in 2019 and when you can get the queen Missy Elliott on your track, you know you’re doing something right.

6. Sharon Van Etten – Seventeen:  When Van Etten released her newest album, this is the track that everyone latched onto.  It sounds like a female Bruce Springsteen looking back on her younger self while screaming that “I know what you’re going to be”.  In this case, that’s a great place to be.

5.  Billie Eilish & Justin Bieber – bad guy:  Always liked this track but our ears really perked up on the Interrupters version which made us go back and listen to the original even more.  Eilish’s vocals are hushed like she’s hiding in a closet while the simple beat gives Bieber room to really roll with a great vocal performance.

4. Fontaines D.C. – Boys In The Better Land:  Hearing the slower “Roy’s Tune” did not prepare us for this energetic anthem that blared out of our car speakers all summer. Name checking James Joyce, this one also had us Googling what “only smokes Carrolls” means.  This one makes us believe that the (rock) kids are alright.

3. Haim – Summer Girl:  An early morning drive to work and hearing this on CBC Radio 2 had us hooked immediately. Missed this one for the summer but it made our autumn a lot brighter with the mesmerizing saxophone hook.  Almost makes us want to book a trip to LA and have this on repeat.

2. Lil Nas X (Feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) – Old Town Road:  One late evening on stereogum.com we read about the country chart controversy with “Old Town Road” then watched about 20 TikTok videos afterwards. Being purists, we liked the original better but the Billy Ray Cyrus version is fine too.  The “can’t nobody tell me nothing” is the lyric of the year and the fact that the track gets in and out as fast as possible gives the listener whiplash as they hit the repeat button 5x.

1. Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall:  This was instantly one of our favourite songs of 2019 from the first time we heard it. Listening to the feature on Song Exploder recently, we got the original meaning of the song slightly wrong the first time around but found the actual meaning of beautiful plantation houses being used for weddings fascinating. The sound recalls early VW tracks but is musically far more complex and nuanced.  It may not be the lyric of the year, see above, but “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die” is certainly right up there.

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Favourite Albums of 2018

51k7S8+kLDL._AA327_QL65_5. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour: Arguably the biggest country crossover into the indie rock world of 2018. Musgraves’ fourth major album release was as slick as they come but hard not to appreciate the quality of the songs. “Lonely Weekend”, “Space Cowboy” and album standout “High Horse” are the touchstones. But those are accompanied by opener “Slow Burn” and “Velvet Elvis”. While many of these songs could easily be featured in almost every commercial on TV, it doesn’t take away from the fact that virtually every one is a winner.

Mitski4. Mitski – Be The Cowboy : The first vocal on Mitski’s fifth album claims “you’re my number 1” which is fitting as this is topping album polls across the world. Clocking in at just over 33 minutes with most songs around the two-minute mark, it is easy to leave this one on repeat for a few hours. First single “Nobody” provides the longing that is at the heart of this album. The hard rocking “Remember My Name” is followed by the defiant “Me and My Husband”. There is a reason people keep talking about this album, the quick snapshots of music cut across numerous styles but most of all, it does them expertly.

trcy3. Tracyanne & Danny – Tracyanne & Danny : Quietly one of the most welcome returns to music was from Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell. Her voice is like a warm fire on a cold winter night. Here she appears with Danny Coughlan and together they create one of the best runs of music in 2018 from first track “Home & Dry” to infectious single “Alabama”. Second half highlight belongs to Coughlan with his 50s style “Anybody Else”. Overshadowed by bigger releases, this Merge Records release is an easy album to fall in love with.

41M5dXB2SNL._AA327_QL65_2. Courtney Barnett –  Tell Me How You Really Feel: In the disposable world of streaming and downloads, it’s rare that an album is a grower but Tell Me How You Really Feel did just that. Hard to get into at first, it feels disjointed and a bit of a downer album about touring but repeated listens prove that is not true. “City Looks Pretty” and “Nameless, Faceless” are dynamite indie rock songs. “Need A Little Time” features a pretty melody in the chorus and it’s all closed down with the melancholic uplift of “Sunday Roast”. Barnett tore the Winnipeg Folk Fest down on the Friday night this past summer. Too hard rocking for a lot of the crowd but was a glorious racket for the rest of us.

61KEfYl6iVL._AA327_QL65_1. Beach House – 7: When reviewing the latest Beach House on the Celebration Rock Podcast, critic Steve Hyden talked about how 7 does exactly what he wants from a BH album. This is pretty much bang on. “Pay No Mind”, “Lemon Glow and “Dive” standout and the rest of the album does a very good job of being atmospheric and ethereal. “Lose Yourself” is beautiful as is “Woo” but with an 80s synth feel. 7 glides along on its rails and is happy to take the listener to the next station for its duration.

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10 Favourite Songs of 2018

10. G Flip – About You:  One of the earliest songs that caught our ear in 2018, this Australian released “About You” in February. The DIY esthetic was not just in the music but in the music video as well. The beat doesn’t drop until the chorus while a synth makes thunder like noises in the background. Sounding not too dissimilar from Grimes, “About You” announced a brilliant new talent.

9. Cherry Glazerr – Daddi:  Recording under the Cherry Glazerr moniker, Los Angelino Clementine Creevy delivers a wallop of defiance in just over three minutes. Asking “Daddi” what she should be doing, where she should be going and who to be f*cking but never wanting to actually hear the answer.  The verses are breathless before she shouts the chorus. This fiery track was a late entry into our top ten.

8. U.S. Girls – Rosebud:  Meghan Remy put out her second album on 4AD in March of 2018 and found quite a bit of critical acclaim. This single is memorable right from the first-string sounds before it falls into an up tempo lounge track. In typical U.S. Girls fashion, the great sound bed covers up that Remy is digging deep into lyrics about the government while using Citizen Kane as a jumping off point. One of the groovier tracks of the year.

7. Vital Idles – Solid States:  This minimal track from Glasgow’s Vital Idles hardly set the world on fire in 2018 but it certainly grabbed our attention. The simple guitar melody and deadpan vocals recall post punk records from the early 80s. “It won’t do, it won’t do” but somehow this track does and does.

6. SL – Genes (Feat. Chip):  “I’m flexing in my 20s, I was flexing in my teens” is my most quoted lyric from 2018. With his “Gentleman” track from 2017 having over 23 million views on YouTube, SL was picked by factmag.com to be one of the UK rappers to keep an eye on. While the rest of the lyrics on “Gene” are harder to follow for these 40+ year old ears, the chorus is pure fire.

5. Robyn – Missing U:  Released in September, “Missing U” was the lead single from the Honey album and it was a banger. In an interview with Time magazine, Robyn has said this is the track she spent the most time on over than any other, and it shows. Everything fits together perfectly. The cascading synths are propelled forward through the beat of the chorus in this perfect pop song.

4. Playboi Carti – Shoota (Feat. Lil Uzi Vert):  I’m not sure what it is about this single from Playboi’s fifth album but the piano at the start sounds like a call to arms for having a great time for two minutes. The music really kicks in just over a minute for the Playboi verse while the beat takes forever to finally drop. The “pecan drop” and “bestie” are ridiculous but add to the infectious fun of this track.

3. Courtney Barnett – Sunday Roast:  The melancholy track sounds like Courtney talking to herself. The fourth single from Barnett’s excellent sophomore album, suddenly takes an uplifting turn in the second half of the chorus when she sings “I know you’re doing your best, I think you’re doing just fine” and features a pep talk in the outro. It’s the sound of hanging out with friends, enjoying the quiet times and not just the nights out on the tiles.

2. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Talking Straight:  The Melbourne group’s debut LP featured several terrific guitar rock songs, none were better than this. The guitar melodies all meld together while vocalist Joe White nails the kick-ass chorus. This is the kind of thing you want blasting out of the car on road trips to the beach.

1. Otha – One Of The Girls:  If you base your track of the year just based on listens, this is the one for me. Otha quietly sings over a bed of electronic beats and synths. It’s a downcast track, sounding both defiant and sad at the same time. I came across it on Pitchfork then never heard or saw it anywhere else. It mysteriously appeared and disappeared that one day but got played endlessly in basement parties at home, by myself.