Friday, December 27, 2019

My Favorite Music of 2019

Here’s my favorite new releases of 2019. If you are suitably intrigued by any of my choices or the sounds they lead you to, do the world a favor and purchase music and merch in a manner that would most benefit the artist.

The RosedalesStereoghost 
Long-awaited new release from one of the finest horrorpunk bands ever to record. Horrorpunk may be a bit of a misnomer, though, as The Rosedales' unique blend of music includes shades of rock, rockabilly, goth, metal, and doo wop for an utterly unique and ofttimes haunting sound. If any of the tracks here excite you, buy their entire output as they haven’t released a single disappointing track.  

Sin ThetaSin Theta 
Incredibly versatile debut EP from a band with limitless potential; I wrote about them last year when I included their demo—one song—on my best of list last year. One of the only bands I can think of (Opeth being another) who is skilled enough to super-charge your adrenaline or lull you into a state of harmonic relaxation, sometimes within the same song. One of those rare bands where all of the components excel both individually and collectively, a must-listen for those with even a passing interest in metal.

Kristeen YoungThe SubSet 
Years ago I bought her whole catalog after seeing her perform once, and I’ve bought every release the day it came out since. This one may be her best, and it shows off both the full dynamic range of her beautiful voice as well as the bottomless depth of her lyrical ability. I’ve spun it a dozen times and still get chills with each subsequent listen. “Everyday Subtraction” might be my favorite song in a year that I found overflowing with great cuts.

Ray AlderWhat the Water Wants 
Debut solo album from current Fates Warning vocalist; immensely affecting and powerful. As Fates Warning, especially the Alder years, was the soundtrack of my college years (sharp eyes can spot me and my voluminous, beautiful blond hair at the front left of the stage HERE) , Ray’s voice affects me mentally and spiritually.

Arch/MatheosWinter Ethereal  
I was turned on to Fates Warning (thanks, Dan) after John Arch had already left the band, but the first three albums he recorded with them are among my favorites, not only in the Fates oeuvre but in my entire collection. I love that he periodically rejoins forces with Fates’ mainman Jim Mattheos, and I love that Winter Ethereal is one of their strongest collaborations yet. Great year for Fates fans.

The SpecialsEncore 
Very strong album, as socially revalent as any of their earlier material and just as groove-worthy. Deluxe edition includes some fantastic live tracks of earlier material.

IronbunnyTettsui No Alternative 
Apparently there is a great deal going on currently on the heavy metal scene than Babymetal, and I will be investigating that scene deeply in 2020. This was one of the first bands I became interested in, featuring precise, riff-heavy shredding provided by an armor clad “cyborg” and gorgeous harmony vocals from a trio of young women. The EP also features a number of world-class guest shredders

RideThis Is Not A Safe Place 
No one was happier than I was when Ride reunited to produce 
2017’s Weather Diaries, and I think This is Not a Safe Place is even better than that stellar release.

V/A--Ready or Not Soundtrack 
I saw more films in the theater in 2019 than any year since the mid-nineties when I was an assistant manager in a theater. The title cut alone makes this a worthy listen, especially if you read or write horror stories.

Volbeat-Rewind, Replay, Rebound
A very solid and generous offering from one of my favorite metal bands, Volbeat once again aren’t afraid to throw in some surprises, like the surf usic inflected “Sorry Bag of Bones”, my favorite cut alongside “Leviathan”

BaronessGold and Gray 
Intricate and accomplished new addition to the Baroness color palette.

HawkwindAll Aboard the Skylark
Somehow, I have 46 Hawkwind albums in my iTunes, plus another six records I haven’t yet converted to mp3, plus at least a couple dozen spin-off and Hawkwind related solo projects (unless you count Motorhead as well, then the number is well over a hundred). So obviously, I like Hawkwind. This is my favorite of theirs released in this decade, the perfect vehicle when I need to escape to outer space, as I so often do.

Death AngelHumanicide 
I’ve always thought “the big four of thrash” designation for Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth ought to be amended to “the big five” with Death Angel being the fifth. I get it—they don’t sell as much—but the quality of their catalog comes close to the best releases of the previous four and eclipses their worst releases. Humanicide is one of their best releases, and managed to get nominated for a Grammy.

Cheap Trick--Are You Ready? Live 12/31/1979 
My love of Cheap Trick is well-documented and so I was thrilled to get this killer live set, a November RSD release.

Lana Del ReyNorman F’ing Rockwell
More songs of Californian disaffection, Lana seems to get her own self-projected vibe even more right on her newer release. Someday I hope to repeat my drive along the PCH playing this at twilight to an off-brand hotel I have never been to and may never leave.

The Dickies—I Dig Go-Go Girls/The Dreaded Pigasaurus
Blink-and-you-missed it (but available on iTunes) RSD single release from O.G. California punks. Pigasaurus especially could be dropped in as a bonus cut on Dawn of the Dickies and it would fit right in.

Magic Circle—Departed Souls 
Brand new old school metal from a Boston based band; I just bought it this week but was excited enough to buy their previous two albums. Riffy and deep, with songs that are accessible enough to seem familiar but often branch out it unpredictable but sonically pleasing ways. I bet they listened to Fates Warning growing up, too.

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