#60: Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstasy
Hot Chip have put out their fair share of mediocre songs, but they’ve somehow avoided putting out a bad album. A Bath Full Of Ecstasy follows in that tradition; it presents a series of solid dance floor grooves that have the usual dark concerns laced under it – abandonment, the absurdity of existence, uncertainty of faith. Like the Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode before them, Hot Chip have always known that there is more to the club than escapist bliss.
#59: Jai Paul – Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)
I had to explain “Jai Paul” to my brother a few weeks ago and it’s honestly kind of hard. Jai Paul was always about a moment, or a series of moments. He was a MySpace kid with buzz back in the last couple of years of the Bush administration. Between 2011-2012 he’d parlayed that buzz into serious clout. “BTSTU”, that original demo, had been re-released and was used in samples by Drake and Beyonce; his second demo, “Jasmine”, got heavy praise from both the New York Times and Pitchfork. Then his album was leaked in April of 2013 and the experience traumatized him; he fell completely silent afterward. He was, in essence, a massive underground buzz artist with two singles when he disappeared; despite this, when he broke silence in 2019 it was also an event. As the title of the album implies, this is an official release of the leaked album; it still sounds ahead of its time, although maybe a little less so than “Jasmine” did in 2012.
#58: Denzel Curry – ZUU
After proving his rap bona fides by delving into the darkness of the subconscious and the self, Denzel Curry throws some love back to the community that raised him, Carol City, Miami, Florida. More bombastic than before – which is a weird statement to make for a guy whose music was metal in a way that the Limp Bizkits and Linkin Parks of the world could never quite reach.
#57: Amyl and the Sniffers – Amyl and the Sniffers
A switchblade in the neck from garage punks is a hell of a way to go, as it turns out.
#56: Jamila Woods – Legacy! Legacy!
Modern Chicago R&B from a singer with a capital-V Voice, paying tribute to a gallery of black artists and innovators – and not the only person to have done that this year, either. “Muddy”, the tribute to the legendary Muddy Waters, is the clear standout, but let’s not sleep on the tribute to SF master Octavia Butler, either.
#55: Otoboke Beaver – Itekoma Hits
Maybe you forgot about Japanese garage punk. Maybe you kinda remember Shonen Knife but it’s vague and in the past, like all Nineties artifacts. Well wake up pal, your house is surrounded and if you blast this loud enough you might just survive.
#54: Flying Lotus – Flamagra
A retreat, of sorts, from the full on jazz freakouts of You’re Dead! and back to the somewhat more familiar waters of albums like Cosmogramma. That is to say, it’s still shot through with veins of jazz, but there’s a lot more hip hop and DJ culture embedded in it this time around.
#53: The Black Keys – Let’s Rock
Let’s be serious – the Black Keys haven’t produced a truly stellar album since 2008’s Attack And Release, but Let’s Rock is a great new direction for their sound. If Brothers and El Camino were overtly obvious nods to classic rock, Let’s Rock is what the followup should have been (instead of that weirdly subdued Turn Blue record). It still worships at the altar of your local classic rock station, but there’s a fun new Beatles streak running through it that instantly kicks the proceedings up a notch.
#52: Drugdealer – Raw Honey
The trick of a band like Drugdealer is to be derivative but not of any one band in particular; instead, it’s a little bit of the Dead, a little bit of the Beatles both pre and post-breakup, a little bit of Billy Joel – the softer side of the 1970s, in other words. Some people might call it timeless, but we’re all adults here, right?
#51: Strand Of Oaks – Eraserland
Boss-throwback “Beer Commercial Rock” with a whole ton of earnest yearning and a sense of melody that befits a setting sun over an agreeable festival.
#50: Flume – Hi This Is Flume
Cutting-edge production with some impressive features. This mixtape is the vanishing line between extremely online electronic sounds and the vanguard of experimental hip hop.
#49: Kishi Bashi – Omoiyari
There was a time when indie pop wasn’t largely annoying. Kishi Bashi remember that time very, very well.
#48: Cage The Elephant – Social Cues
Could someone please take Cage The Elephant aside and tell them that mainstream radio bands are supposed to suck?
#47: Solange – When I Get Home
The follow up to 2016’s stellar A Seat At The Table is secretly a little jazzier, but at the same time rattles the bottom end a little more at the same time. It’s also got touches of chopped n screwed, as is befitting an album that roots itself deeply and narratively in the Houston hip hop scene. The producers on this album are also a crazy cross-section of the past decade: Blood Orange, Metro Boomin, Panda Bear, that vampire Pharrell, Earl, Tyler.
#46: Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
The first of Big Thief’s two 2019 albums is the more staid of the two, the more indie-contemporary. It expands on the sounds that the band made their bones on in the last few years and perfects it – their Boxer, in a sense. As usual, Adrienne Lenker’s dark, searingly real lyrics steal the show, riding the even-tempoed guitar grooves to devastating effect.
#45: Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
An art pop tour de force, Titanic Rising is an album that conjures up as much church music and chamber pop as it does the softer, Bread-and-Joni Mitchell part of the Seventies. The final track, “Nearer To Thee”, makes reference to “Nearer My God To Thee”, the final song played on the Titanic as it sank and the final song that CNN will play at the end of the world.
#44: The Chemical Brothers – No Geography
The first great mainstream wave of electronic music to surface crested in the late Nineties, when the Chemical Brothers, the Prodigy, Massive Attack, Squarepusher, Armand Van Helden, the Sneaker Pimps, et al. made permanent presence in club playlists. The scene has only grown since then – EDM festivals are a common enough sight – but the fates of the original progenitors have been mixed at best. The Chemical Brothers, though, have continued to produce music that, while not pushing the envelope, definitely manages to tread water in style. No Geography kicks it up a notch, producing the most exciting CB record in two decades.
#43: Josin – In The Blank Space
Experimental German pop that incorporates large amounts of electronic production into it’s world and ends up taking on moments of turn-of-the-century Radiohead on more than a few occasions.
#42: Matmos – Plastic Anniversary
Matmos is an experimental group that always has a concept going on with their records. I hesitate to call it a gimmick because the group commits to it; 2016’s Ultimate Care II, for example, built itself around samples of the titular washing machine. Plastic Anniversary uses plastic substances as its sample base: the first track alone features a silicone breast implant, plastic flutes, and a pan flute made out of PVC piping. Every single instrument on the album is plastic, get it?
#41: James Blake – Assume Form
James Blake has been welding slinky, modern R&B vocals to the minimalist dread of British dubstep for almost the entirety of this decade and he keeps picking up collaborators as he goes. Assume Form manages to snare Metro Boomin, Travis Scott, and Andre 3000 into it’s web, which is impressive for a guy who first came onto the scene via a Feist cover.