FINAL SCORE: Best Albums of the Year 2019. Countdown: 10 to 1.


10.  Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – End of Suffering

Frank Carter’s punk-rock-renegade outfit hopefully isn’t new to any readers. The ex-Gallows front-man has been producing phenomenally well-crafted music for years, and the Rattlesnakes’ third studio album is no different. Full of punk-rock aggression, though tamed slightly, mellowed out by success and the birth of his daughter. It’s a hectic, raucous, emotional rollercoaster of an album. Rather than screaming at the universe though, full of pain and rage, it’s more contemplative; the questions explored can all be summed up in the slow, almost desperately crooned Love Games: “if love is a losing game/ then why do we play it again and again and again”. From the explosive — relative to the album, not the artist — first single Crowbar and the riff heavy, Tom Morello featured Tyrant Lizard King to the more punk-central Kitty Sucker and the final, emotional ballad/ title track, End Of Suffering, it’s a scarily good album. Certain songs’ forgettability though — at least, compared to the other songs and albums on this list — prevent this stunner of an album from achieving top spot. (JOS)
Check Out: Supervillain, Angel Wings, Kitty Sucker, Crowbar

 

 

9.  Cassia – Replica

A slow-burner on release, Replica is a rewarding, optimistic outing. Cassia are hard to pigeon-hole. Calypso-pop? Afro-indie? It’s to the band’s credit that this is a conversation in itself; that in 2019 it is still possible for a band to come along who have the courage of their convictions to create a sound that is fresh, distinct and above all, engaging. The title track from the album offers up an easy-going singalong chorus; a love letter to a frozen Manchester, toasting its hands on a campfire. Out of Her Mind takes the intensity up another, darker, notch; as singer Rob Ellis delivers the coup de grace, “wrapped around her honesty, lies and infidelities.” In DreamA he asks us, “How can you waste such a beautiful moment.” It’s as good an album closer as you will hear, this year or any other. (ID)

Check out: Loosen Up, Small Spaces, 100 Times Over, Replica.

 

 

8.  The Black Keys – Let’s Rock

Let’s Rock is probably the closest to a The Black Keys album that will appease both fans of ‘the old Black Keys’ and ‘the new Black Keys’. The Black Keys started life as blues guitar wizardry backed by primitive drumming. In the early years drummer Patrick’s biggest asset was his studio production building a crunchy guitar sound and soulful vocal production for guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach. After a few albums Patrick learned how to drum properly and then after the pair worked with studio genius Dangermouse more and more instrumentation was added in the studio. The band now tour with a full band to match their studio work, but at times their later worker has felt a bit pompous. Let’s Rock is exactly that, it’s The Black Keys back to the way we always loved but with a full band- can all The Black Keys fans just settle that this is a damn good compromise and album. (JW)

Check out: Shine a Little Light, Go

 

 

 

7.  John Floreani – sin

John Floreani’s debut album, sin, is amazing, sure. But that’s not what enables it to truly shine; that’s who it’s by. John Floreani, better known as the frontman of Australian punk-rock band Trophy Eyes, is more known for his screamed vocals and energetic aggression on stage. I still remember seeing Trophy Eyes in Kingston and standing on a chair to hide from the mosh pit, so the sheer emotional, cathartic outpouring of sin is remarkable. Each of the eight songs is incredibly well crafted and produced; from the ballad-esque beauty of Oh Brother or the breath-taking, pain-stakingly raw Before The Devil Knows I’m Dead to the blues-dominated Repent, each becomes its own separate entity, painful in its own way. It’s not the most complex musically; it’s not the most cohesive album, thematically. It certainly hasn’t got the best vocals out of the albums on this list. Honestly I think that’s part of why I love it so much. He’s not relying on celestially phenomenal lyrics, or writing scarily catchy songs, sin doesn’t need any of that. it’s just how introspectively candid the lyrics are, how meaningful and impactful they are, that gives sin such a deservedly high ranking. (JOS)
Check Out: Oh Brother, Before The Devil Knows I’m Dead, I Don’t Want To Be Here Either, Echoes.

 

 

 

6.  The Twilight Sad – IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME

Set against internal departures, decamping to Mogwai’s Rock Action label and the death of close friend Scott Hutchinson, It Won/t Be Like This all the Time was the sound of a band continuing to take strides forward into the teeth of a storm. The album took the shards of light out of predecessor Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave and squeezed the life out of them. The cavernous vocals of James Graham resound throughout with a mixture of anxiety and defiance within the lyrics, while Andy Macfarlane’s guitar often sounds like anything in the world except, well, a guitar. The songs are intense, brooding affairs, whether employing the organic (I/m Not Here [Missing Face]) or electronic (Videograms), both to superb effect. It Won/t Be Like This all the Time announced The Twilight Sad as without peer when it comes to the title of the UK’s most compelling band of 2019. (ID)

Check out: Videograms, I/m Not Here [Missing Face], VTr, Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting

 

 

5.  Johnny Lloyd – Next Episode Starts in 15 Seconds

Congratulations Johnny. Folk broadly speaking, in a boring and bland genre that only the greats manage to master. With Next Episode Starts In 15 Seconds you proved to be the next in a long line of greats. Like the greats it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes NESI15S so memorable but one can be certain that part of its endearing quality is its production. The sonic warmth metaphorically leaves the listener feeling the home that Johnny, his partner Billie Piper and their new-born inhabit. Johnny has become an accomplished film soundtrack composer in recent years and that skill bleeds all over this record. Johnny has mastered the subtlety of only adding what is needed when working on instrumentation and with NESI15S he achieves this again with ease. NESI15S sits just as well with a late night whiskey on the rocks as a summer top-down convertible drive in the country. A true record for all seasons. (JW)

Check out: Pacific Hymn, Modern Pornography.

 

 

4.  The Maine – You Are OK

The Maine’s seventh studio album, and first independent release, is like a drug. It’s just so much fun, despite its heavy lyrical make-up. The whole album, front to back, is as good fun as you could ever ask for and it’s also phenomenally upbeat; musically, anyway. It’s a great album to shove on regardless of your mood and disposition, because it’ll always leave you with a smile. Each and every song is wonderfully enjoyable which, for an album that revolves around struggles with mental health (“I was on the verge of breaking down when you came around” being a particularly poignant section of the chorus of Slip The Noose) is particularly impressive. It’s not even like they try to hide it; the album’s title is itself a reaffirming message directed at each and every listener to tell them that they are OK. From the hauntingly mournful Flowers on the Grave or the reassuring Broken Parts, to the intimately acoustic Forevermore or the ear-worm of… well, every other song on the album. It’s just a musical masterclass. (JOS)
Check Out: Heaven We’re Already Here, My Best Habit, Slip The Noose, Numb Without You.

 

3.  Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1 and 2

Introduced by the band early in the year as “two halves of the same locket” ENSWBL 1 and 2 were, when they arrived, one of the most ambitious double album releases in British guitar music for years. A zeitgeist project that hopscotched between styles both within and across its two parts, ENSWBL 1 and 2 saw Foals embrace their stadium status. Regardless of bassist Walter Gervers departure, there was no let up from the four remaining original band members, producing a double album set of unrelenting quality. On Part 1, Café D’Athens called upon Radiohead influences, while In Degrees got the samba-disco party started. Part 2, gave us the latest heavy-Foals instalment in Black Bull, with The Runner ratcheting up the paranoia just as the band had promised. Ambition is one thing, delivering another. Was it ever in doubt? (ID)

Check out: On the Luna, Sunday, The Runner, Black Bull.

 

 

2.  Yak – Pursuit of Momentary Happiness

Artists looking to create their sophomore release, that vital document that asserts they are no flash in the pan, would rarely be advised to follow the template which Yak visionary-in-chief Oli Burslem has executed in the near three years which elapsed between their debut Alas Salvation and this creation. Scrapped sessions, borderline bankruptcy, itinerant to the point of kipping in the back of his car, Burslem could never be accused of not inserting his heart, soul and just about anything else he could muster into this collection.  It is testament to his talent that he created such a beautiful piece of chaos out of all the adversity. White Male Carnivore is essentially a one-chord riff-led onslaught which could be Spacemen 3 on speed, Burslem rants against the worst aspects of what he admits is a description of himself. A double-time foot-to-the-floor gear shift takes the tune to its conclusion so purposefully that you can almost feel an erection poking into your abdomen. Yak left no stone unturned with this album. It’s a wholly honest endeavour, detailed and strangely coherent despite what at times feels like a bewildering and trippy listen. Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is a masterpiece of conception and execution. (ID)

Check out: White Male Carnivore, Bellyache, Words Fail Me, Layin’ It On The Line.

 

 

1.  The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears

When I Have Fears is the type of album that doesn’t deserve a review, it deserves a track by track run down. No song is a low point, no song is a high point; the album is a piece of work to listen to in its entirety, a stab at the playlist generation. Opening the album with elongated bows on For Everything for nearly a minute before the charging repetitive bassline and layered guitar line, the track tells us we are off to a war of emotions. Although this is not an album with highlights, it does have tracks that push the boundaries of what we knew of The Murder Capital. It also pushes our own expectations. Slowdance I and Slowdance II, are a post-rock symphony piece leading into the profound On Twisted Ground, a block of the album that will leave the most cynical listener dumbstruck. The latter is a clear obituary to the suicide of a friend, a presence that dominates the whole album. We as listeners feel a privilege to share such an intimate moment with them. Flood has again worked his trademark production magic, setting the album apart for its peers – and not just those from Dublin. In every bar of every song on When I Have Fears the band experience catharsis; a catharsis which as listeners we feel with goose-bumps of tenderness and empathy. Album of the year by some distance. (JW)

Check out: Feeling Fades, Green and Blue, On Twisted Ground.

Contributors: James Wadsworth @jamespart31, Iain Dalgleish @idalgleishmusic and James O’Sullivan @jsully2510.