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Posted on Jan 20th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under music, albums

I've been nerding out on music for as long as I can remember. I was raised on classic rock and grew into alternative music in my teenage years. In my twenties, I dropped the elitist indie blinders I had developed in high school and grew a sincere love for pop music. When I was in my early thirties, I worked at a company with a couple of other music nerds who where older than me and for years we bonded over music and shared our discoveries with each other. During that time, for the first time, I began keeping current with the best and worst albums released in a given year (and sharing my picks with those old coworkers is a tradition that we maintain to this day). Now, I have the #concertcast, which is the music segment of the RFG Playcast, which you hopefully know as the podcast I do with the singlebanana. What you are about to read is my first public albums of the year list.

I've been deliberating for months to come up with my picks. Many of these albums were in my consciousness simply because they were released by artists I was already a fan of but many others were discovered due to outside influences. I pored over countless lists on YouTube and other sites, from major and independent publications. I listened to anything that piqued my interest or anything that seemed to appear on everyone's lists. I heard many albums that I thought were great, but that didn't necessarily leave me coming back for more. Those are the honorable mentions. If an album made my main list, you can be assured I listened all the way through dozens of times. It has been a long time since I was so obsessed with music on a daily basis and I'm especially grateful to my friends Andre, Cory, and of course Rich for helping me deliberate and formulate my list. This is dedicated to y'all!

Honorable Mentions:

Blink-182 - Nine - If you didn't like California, you're not going to like this. The Matt Skiba chapter of Blink has been impressive to me, but I was never a huge fan of Tom Delonge anyway. I agree with critics who say the latest Blink albums are overproduced, but I still think this is a high quality era of their discography.

T-Rextacy - Prehysteria - I usually don't love funny lyrics or 'novelty' songs, but there's something about T-Rextacy that makes me take them very seriously. The surfy guitars, silly lyrics, and most importantly, the vocal delivery of Lyris Faron with her Julie Andrews-esque delivery all come together in a wonderfully endearing package.

SOUL GLO - THE N**** IN ME IS ME - SOUL GLO are provocative and confrontational in the best ways. Not only are they screaming in your face, but they're throwing hardcore conventions through a meat-grinder. They don't even have time to give their songs titles. Listening to this album is disorienting. It doesn't wear out its welcome though. If you like punk or metal in any way, give this a try.

Hannah Diamond - Reflections - What I love about Hannah Diamond's music is the sense of innocence in not only the lyrics but also the music itself. On her debut album, Diamond sings sincere love songs that you would be okay sharing in polite company. Her lullaby delivery will wrap you in a pleasant warmth.

Black Dresses - Love and Affection for Stupid Little B****** - This album is bleak and nihilistic in a way that would normally send me running in the opposite direction. Somehow, the dissonant noise, darker than death lyrics, and almost drunken vocal delivery come together in an irresistible way for me. This album is as catchy as it is abrasive.

Albums of the Year:

Nilufer Yanya - Miss Universe - Nilufer Yanya is freaking rad. She is a skilled guitarist and songwriter with a cool, smoky voice and unique vocal articulation. The album's new wave inspired garage bangers are interspersed with creepy fake advertisements from a fictional healthcare corporation. The album kicks off with one of these fake adverts and then jumps into the Strokes-inspired "In Your Head." The rest of the album ebbs and flows with jazz and lounge vibes and towards the tail end it takes a more pop direction. I really enjoy the journey this album takes me on.

clipping. - There Existed an Addiction to Blood - Underground rap group clipping released this frightening album right around Halloween 2019 and without a doubt it creates the perfect backdrop for spooky season. As a hip-hop album, the production here is minimalist. It seems like more of the rapping is done over ambient noise than an actual beat. This means when a beat does kick in, it's almost a relief, breaking the unnerving tension of the industrial sounds of the music. That relief, in its familiarity, is only momentary for all it does is ratchet up the intensity of whatever gruesome tale is being told on the track. I believe my podcast partner would really enjoy this album. 

Caroline Polachek - Pang - Here is an artist that came into my consciousness while doing my initial research for a best albums list. I was not familiar with her previous band, Chairlift. I have to admit, I found out about this album because it was everyone else's lists. On her solo debut, Polachek weaves together a masterful pop album highlighted by an incredible vocal performance on each song. The production is pretty clean on this album, with only well used hints of glitch and pitch correction. This 'less is more' approach allows Polachek's vocals to stay front and center, and creates a nostalgic but contemporary feel to the album. 

Charli XCX - Charli - As much as I love Charli XCX, my first impressions of this album were not great. I wasn't into the slower songs and the overall length of the album was overwhelming. Over time, however, Charli grew on me and when I saw her live in November I was sold on the greatness of this album. Sometimes I don't have an entire hour to devote to listening to this album, but I have found that I can jump in anywhere and I've ended up at the point where I love every song on it. This is a pop album on the surface, but each song has its own character, from the melodramatic balladry of "White Mercedes" to the throwback party-pop of "1999." 

Mannequin P**** - Patience - This is the best album from my favorite currently active band. What I love about MP is they sound like a 1990s era grunge band punching way above their weight in the songwriting department. On this short album there is a great mixture of face smashing punk rock, as in "Cream" and "F.U.C.A.W." with radio friendly rock like the single "Drunk II" and the Tom Petty-esque "Who You Are." This is the only 2019 album to make my albums of the decade list. It is the best album I've heard in years and my top album of 2019.

Have you heard any of these albums? What are some of your favorite albums of 2019?   

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After checking out a few tracks, I can see the appeal of Caroline Polachek. There's a bit of a hypnotic vibe to the songs I heard so far that I liked. Mannequin P*ssy has a good sound, so they might be worth more than a cursory glance. I will definitely need to scope out SOUL GLO at some point, because I'm intrigued. I don't recall hearing you mention them on the podcast before, but I could be mistaken, so if you haven't heard of them, or checked them out, look into Chaos Chaos. They're a synthpop duo of 2 sisters, and given the kinds of stuff I hear you talk about, it seems like something you would dig.
@MetalFRO: Thanks for taking the time to check out some of these suggestions.

I looked up Chaos Chaos. I had never heard them in their current incarnation, but I used to love them when they were Smoosh! Very cool and indeed it's right in my wheelhouse. Thanks for the recommendation!

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