Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top 20 Albums of 2019

The last year of the decade saw some amazing and diverse music. As I was compiling this list, I was pointedly struck by how many genres were represented. Pop, soul, hard rock, techno, club, classic rock, hip hop, and, of course, Brit rock. A perfect mix of the spectrum.

Without further adieu, here are my picks for the best records of 2019.

20. Lahs by Allah-Las

Los Angeles is still a great place for psychedelic garage bands. The Allah-La's are one such band. Who wants to have a house party and hire them to play?

19. The Balance by Catfish and The Bottlemen

With this release, last Spring, Van and the lads became the Band of the Decade.Another corker from start to finish just like their previous two releases.

18. Cry by Cigarettes After Sex

Texas does everything big and this band is fucking large at being awesome. Their music makes me feel soft and I need a lot more of that in my life.

17. Why Me? Why Not. by Liam Gallagher

The kid from Manchester continues to show us that he is truly an artist capable of doing his own thing. The tracks on this record shine and sparkle from start to finish.

16. Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka makes cinematic soul music that makes me feel like I'm in the 1960s. Yet it's 2019. He is absolutely the heir to Marvin Gaye. So, so good...

15. Blue-Eyed Soul by Simply Red

Simply Red has gone from strength to strength for the better part of three decades. Their latest effort is exactly the title, Blue-Eyed Soul. A true gem from these Mancunians.

14. Kind by Stereophonics

The band that keeps me going every single fucking day adds another stellar entry into their discography. The lads from Cwmaman, Wales have returned to sounds and a style heard on their very first record. Kelly's perfect rock and roll whiskey and cigarettes voice is way out front on this one and it's mega.

13. This Is Not A Safe Place by Ride

Ride went away for a little while but now they are back in full force with albums and EP's coming at a very steady clip. This latest effort is very diverse in terms of style. They have their usual dream pop/psychedelic stuff but, as you can hear from the track below, 80's synth-pop is also on the docket.

12. The Soft Calvary by The Soft Calvary

Rachel Goswell's project with husband Steve Clarke is a perfect confection for lovers everywhere. Of all the records on my list this year, this one is the best to shag to. Taste those kisses!

11. Para Mi by Cuco

I feel like large portions of this record could be the soundtrack to a dramatic comedy that was on television in the 1970s. It pleases me greatly that young dudes like Cuco are really plugged into Gen X nostalgia.

10. Feral Roots by Rival Sons

Hard rock is back! Thank God!! I wish I had hair so I could shake it all around to this record. My hope is that between Rival Sons and Greta Van Fleet, we see a continued resurgence of hard rock.

9. Outer Piece by Toro Y Moi

Somewhere between hipster DJ and stoner buddy in the basement that worships Jimi Hendrix lies Toro Y Moi. His live act, which I caught this year at First Avenue in the Main Room was extraordinary. This record was a beautiful kiss...

8. Look Alive by Guster

Back in 2009, my friend Julia introduced me to Guster and I have been thankful ever since. Their release this year is nine tracks of dragon level stellar. It's one of those records that takes you on a magical journey from start to finish.

7. Who by The Who

My first reaction to hearing the new album by The Who was...holy crap. Pete and Roger just made yet another classic record that goes right along with all their other amazing albums. Let this be a lesson for bands who can't seem to capture their original glory. You can do it!

Note: I'm going to have a full review of this album up soon as it came out just a few weeks ago

6. Inflorescent by Friendly Fires

Waiting for a new Friendly Fires album is an exercise in patience. Extreme patience. But their third full length, released this year, was well worth the wait. I'm back to wanting to spend every night dancing at 2am at some cool club and wondering if love will find me...

5. Renegade by Dylan LeBlanc

Dylan LeBlanc is an American treasure. His songs reek of star-spangled manifest destiny. His latest effort was written for every lonely person at every bar in America who has ever slowly brought a bottle of beer up to their mouths for a contemplative and sad pull. And yet somehow it's also for all happy lovers too.

4. Fool by Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson has been a hero of mine for five decades. From the moment I first heard, "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" on my crappy, old AM radio to Fool, the album he released last January. His music always hits me so personally with each new release instantly becoming a soundtrack for that time period in my life. I think it's the stories that he tells in his songs...so poignant and heartfelt...

3. American Love Call by Durand Jones and the Indications

Classic soul music is alive and well thanks to Durand Jones and the Indications. Their sophomore effort completely blew me away in terms of its pitch-perfect capture of 70's era soul music. They sound vintage but are completely original and recorded in 2019. 12 tracks of sheer beauty!

2. Orion by X Ambassadors

This New York outfit launched itself into the stratosphere with this record. The lyrics are urban poetry at its finest. The recording is flawless. The pop hooks on this album are guaranteed to snare even the most tone-deaf. It's simply impossible to get sick of this record. I've played it so many times that I lost count.

1. Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

My hometown girl has the honor this year's album of the year. Lizzo took 2019 by storm with Cuz I Love You. Showcasing just about every musical style known to people, this record is a tour de force of titania. Every single track is bril. The world is a much better place with Lizzo in it.

A truly great group of artists. Please support them by seeing them on tour and buying their music!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Best Track of 2019: Confidence by X Ambassadors

Ithaca, New York's X Ambassadors have the honor of our Track of the Year for 2019.

"Confidence" is a shovel to the head stunner of a track with all essential elements of a perfect pop song. Catchy hooks, a perfect blend of male and female vocals, danceable beat, a tough message on love and relationships, and thoughtful lyrics all mix together in the most wonderful of ways.

I have played this track over and over again, liking it more each time I play it and never feeling any sort of wear. It's taken root deep in my heart and soul. I wish the same for every new listener.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Track #2 of 2019: Tempo by Lizzo

My hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota has produced a veritable pantheon of great music over the decades and now Lizzo can take her place among them. Cuz I Love You is an astounding achievement and "Tempo" is truly the standout track.

Track #3 of 2019: Renegade by Dylan LeBlanc

The great state of Louisiana should be very proud of yet another amazing contribution to the world, Dylan LeBlanc. The title track off his latest effort, Renegade, is pure Americana laced with gold. Every late-night lover drive is encapsulated in this track and yet is it really about romance?

My pick for #3 this year.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Track #4 of 2019: Black Star Dancing by Noel Gallagher

Noel Gallagher has been churning out a new EP every couple of months and they have all been amazing. “Black Star Dancing” was a particular favorite of mine this year and it’s my pick for number four. It was also my song of the summer. What a groove!!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Track #5 of 2019: Silhouettes by Friendly Fires

St. Albans, Hertfordshire should be proud of their sons, Friendly Fires. They've been putting out fantastic music for more than a decade. Their catchy, pop dance club numbers are truly extraordinary. This year saw the release of their third full length record called Inflorescent. Here is the top track.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Track #6 of 2019: Body Chemistry by The Drums

The Drums returned this year with their fifth full length called Brutalism. This NYC outfit continues to spin fun pop songs about love, loss and heartache. "Body Chemistry" was the standout track for me. No doubt all of us need "some good luck, a good fuck" and a "nice glass of wine."


Monday, December 23, 2019

Track #7 of 2019: Morning in America by Durand Jones and the Indications

The last decade will be remembered as the one where soul music experienced a renaissance. Curtis Harding, Michael Kiwanuka, and the late Sharon Jones have paved the way for a return to that music that gives all of us life blood to get through the days and nights.

Durand Jones and the Indications have planted themselves firmly in this pantheon. Their second album, American Love Call, was released at the beginning of the year and it is truly a fantastic piece of work. The track "Morning in America" sums up our country perfectly right now.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Track #8 of 2019: Longshot by Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish and the Bottlemen cemented their status as Band of the Decade with the release this year of their third full length entitled The Balance. One of the top tracks from the record comes in at #8 for me and brings back fond memories of the summer of 2019.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Track #9 of 2019: Strange Land by Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson stormed back at the very beginning of 2019 with a true return to form. Fool is an extraordinary record that will be in my top albums of this year. A stand out track for me is my ninth best of the year. "Strange Land" reminds me of all the reasons why I heart Joe Jackson and have for nearly four decades. It also creates some new reasons to love him.

Feeling nostalgia for something new...

Track #10 of 2019: I Think Of Home by Snow Patrol

The latest track from Dundee, Ireland's own Snow Patrol is absolutely perfect for the holidays. Millions of people from around the world will be travelling home for the holidays and feeling waves of nostalgia. Gary may be singing about Ireland but it could be any place that anyone calls home.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Track #11 of 2019: Hello Mister Sun by Guster

Holy crap did Guster make a great record this year. Look Alive is completely mega from start to finish. The stand out track for me was this trip down psychedelic memory lane.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Track #12 of 2019: Chula by Simply Red

Simply Red returned this year with a corker of a record called Blue Eyed Soul and that's exactly what it was. All of the tracks were great but the standout was really "Chula" with its slinky grooviness.

I recommend playing this record back to back with their first release, Picture Book, from 1985. Great music from bookend to bookend!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Track #13 of 2019: Future Love by Ride

Turkey Day 2019 is in the books but I'm still thankful that Oxford's Ride is still making music. This band has been around for three decades and shows zero sign of letting up. This Is Not A Safe Place is their third release in an as many years and showcases their dream pop and shimmer magic.

"Future Love" is my thirteenth best track of 2019.

The Albums That Defined This Decade

Looking back on the years 2010-2019, it's honestly a struggle to find a clear and defining musical style. We all look at the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's as having very specific characteristics that are universally accepted. So what have the teens, 21st century been all about? There was also a similar struggle with the years 2001-2009 although I think that decade was the "dudes with guitars" decade.

Perhaps it's time to stop trying to define decades and just enjoy the myriad of music that is out there. With so many bands putting out songs and albums, diversity seems to be the order of the day. So, with that in mind, here are some selections from the last decade that I feel are essentials to any music collection and honestly capture this moment in time, musically speaking. Let's go year by year.


Paul Weller-Wake Up The Nation
Tom Petty-Mojo
Stone Temple Pilots-Stone Temple Pilots
Tired Pony-The Places We Ran From


Friendly Fires-Pala
The Kooks-Junk of the Heart
Miles Kane-The Colour of the Trap
The Original 7ven-Condensate

Donald Fagan-Sunken Condos
Paul Weller-Sonik Kicks
San Cisco-San Cisco

David Bowie-The Next Day
Peace-In Love

Catfish and the Bottlemen-The Balcony
Ryan Adams-Ryan Adams
Temples-Sun Structures

Twenty One Pilots-Blurryface

Bruno Mars-24K Magic
DMA's-Hill's End
Frank Ocean-Blonde
Run The Jewels-Run The Jewels 3
Viola Beach-Viola Beach

Childhood-Universal High

The Interrupters-Fight The Good Fight
The Vryll Society-Course Of The Satellite

2019 (a sneak peek at my top choices of this year)
Duran Jones and the Indications-American Love Call
Joe Jackson-Fool
Lizzo-Cuz I Love You
X Ambassadors-Orion

I thought about writing a little something after each one but I would rather have the experience be a new one for each listener. And straight up lists are always a good time.

Go buy these records!!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Track #14 of 2019: I Got You by The O'Jays

The O'Jays may have peaced out for good with their final release this year (appropriately titled The Last Word) but the memories of this amazing soul band will live on forever. The track, "I Got You," stands up right next to all the rest of their fantastic songs in their musical pantheon.


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Track #15 of 2019: Shockwave by Liam Gallagher

The kid from Manchester has turned out another great record with this track kicking it all off. The future is bright indeed for Liam Gallagher and the post-Oasis days. He doesn't need a fucking band. Just himself, his parker and his swagger...

The menace!

Track #16 of 2019: Do Your Worst by Rival Sons

It's nice to see old school rock and roll come back with the likes of Rival Sons. Feral Roots was one of my top spins of 2019 and here is one of the best tracks.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Track #17 of 2019: Dive by The Soft Calvary

I heart Rachel Goswell! This was pretty much a major theme for me this year. I've always loved Slow Dive but The Soft Cavalry really hits me in the right spot. Perhaps it's because it's a labor of love with husband Steve Clarke.

I'm remembering those hot summer days and cool summer nights just a few short months ago...

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Track #18 of 2019: Feelings by Cuco

The lounge-y, chill out stylings of Hawthorne, California's Cuco were a great way to end the summer this year. His debut, Para Mi, is in contention for Album of the Year. "Feelings" is a great example of the wonder of this record.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Track #19 of 2019: Fly Like An Eagle by Stereophonics

The Welsh institution and musical juggernaut known as Stereoponics released a wonderful new track this year called "Fly Like An Eagle." Made for the downtrodden everywhere, this tune is guaranteed to lift you up and make you believe that you can achieve anything!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Track #20 of 2019: Fox on the Rooftop by Steve Mason

Hey, we are in the top 20 and Steve Mason is the perfect artist to ring that shit in!! The former Beta Band front man released a gem of a record this year (About The Light) with this magnificent track.

I still wish I was hanging out with those Edinburgh ladies on the cover...

Monday, December 9, 2019

Track #21 of 2019: Sisyphus by Andrew Bird

Images of a spaghetti western abound in this wonderful track from Andrew Bird. I’ve always loved whistling in songs as well.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Track #22 of 2019: Everybody Loves You by Soak

My anthem for the year was this track. It made me feel like walking across a field, all Judd Nelson in Breakfast Club like, with my fist raised in the air. SOAK, or Bridie Monds-Watson, is a true delight and this track is guaranteed to make you feel all triumphant and stuff.

Track #23 of 2019: Ordinary Pleasure by Toro Y Moi

Toro Y Moi is one of a few artists today who truly represents the future of music. Outer Peace came out early in the year and it's been with me hard all twelve months. I caught him live in the Main Room at First Avenue last month and his show is amazing. Check him out if you get a chance!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Track #24 of 2019: Silhouettes by American Football

2019 was a lot better with American Football in it. I was quite pleased to discover this Urbana, Illinois band and their three full-length releases-all titled American Football. "Silhouettes" is my favorite track on the record and, believe it or not, it's one of two songs called "Silhouettes" on my top tracks of 2019!!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Track #25 of 2019: Runnin' by Ohtis

Ohtis is truly an American band and their track, "Runnin," is a perfect illustration of how being an American spans time and many, many landscapes. Go for a drive with a romantic loved one and play this song!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Track #26 of 2019: Diamond Skull by AA Bondy

Birmingham, Alabama's own AA Bondy put out a massively wonderful sociopolitical statement with the track, "Diamond Skull." It's a perfect track for our times and it's my 26th best track of 2019.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Track #27 of 2019: Supernatural Sadness by Lily and Madeline

Lily and Madeline made a fantastic record this year called Canterbury Girls. The stand out track is my pick for #27 of 2019. "Supernatural Sadness" has all the perfect ingredients for a catchy pop tune. And dig that Xylophone!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Track #28 of 2019: Deerhunter: Futurism

It makes me very happy that Atlanta's Deerhunter has been making music that has shaped our new millennium from its nascence. Their latest effort, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, was one of the first releases in 2019 and I've enjoyed it all year.

My favorite track is "Futurism," and it's #28 on my list for 2019.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Track #29 of 2019: Holding Pattern by Allah-Las

LA's own Allah-Las released a truly great record this year called Lahs. It made me feel like I wanted them to play psychedelic music in my garage. Then I imagined how amazing the whole party at my house would be. It was a great dream of something that will likely never happen but still, it was fun to think about.

Here's one of the best tracks on the album and it's #29 for me this year.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Track #30 of 2019: Contact by Big Thief

Let the countdown begin! Starting today and going all the way until the end of December, I will highlight my top tracks of 2019.

This year, I have selected only 30 songs to keep it a tad more concise. First up is "Contact" by Big Thief. This Brooklyn quartet has been a staple in my musical diet for most of 2019. They have released two albums this year (U.F.O.F. and Two Hands) which is completely wonderful. This track is from U.F.O.F.