Sunday, December 1, 2019

2019 The Albums: Top 10


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It is that time of the year again, our favorite time actually, as we look back on the year in music and select the 10 best albums of the year.


 Here are our 10 best albums of the year:


10) The Twilight Sad - It Won't Be Like This All the Time
9) Blu - A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night
8) Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin?
7) The Chemical Brothers - No Geography
6) Africa Express - Egoli
5) Lizzo - Cuz I Love You
4) FKA Twigs - Magdalene 
3) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
2) Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
1) Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel

Now, in Long Form:





10) The Twilight Sad - It Won't Be Like This All the Time

Robert Smith's favorite band from Scotland returned this year with their best record. Sonically, The Twilight Sad have never sounded bigger. After years of touring with The Cure maybe they learned how to take what they have done well for so long and up the ante and do it larger. Each of these songs belongs to be heard in a festival field or stadium with tens of thousands of people chanting the lyrics back. A powerful achievement. 


9) Blu - A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night

Blu is L.A. all day and the rapper should be up there with Kendrick and Top Dawg crew who are part of the new school of West Coast rappers but his name never reaches the summit. Blu has been doing this for so long and so better than many of his contemporaries that maybe he has lost the feel of competing and embracing what he is and loves which is why A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night is one of his finest efforts. The record takes you to the corner then to the stoop then the block party as you meet a cast of characters that sounds like the audio version of a Fellini film. 




8) Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin?

Danny Brown has been one of the finest rappers to emerge this decade and his schizophrenic style is finally getting the recognition it deserves as he works with heavy weights like Q-Tip, Run the Jewels to newcomer JPEGMAFIA. The Detroit emcee is finding a clever way to appeal to various ears and generations and did it such profound fashion it is hard to not love the crap out of him and this album. His greatest album to date and it feels like he is just getting started. 

7) The Chemical Brothers - No Geography

The Chemical Brothers are one of those acts that doesn't actually need to make new music but they do and since 2004's Push the Button, it has felt like hit or miss, sadly, with more misses. Yet, the legacy DJs still gained attention with their groundbreaking and dazzling live shows then they unleashed No Geography to the world. The 9th album from the British electronica icons shows they can still test the walls and limits of sound and take us on an audio safari around the globe and universe while never having to leave the comforts of home. 


6) Africa Express - Egoli

Damon Albarn's traveling circus of musicians across the African continent found its way to South Africa for their latest installment. Albarn along with Blue May, Gruff Rhys, Georgia, Ghetts, Mr Jukes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Nick Zinner, Remi Kabaka, Otim Alpha join forces to create one of the most beautiful albums of the year. Taking traditional South African sounds and mixing it with R&B, jazz, hi-hop it is a cornucopia of music for your soul. 

5) Lizzo - Cuz I Love You

No one artist had a bigger impact in music this year than Lizzo. From her talents to stance on body positivity, Lizzo crafted what could be considered the definitive album of 2019. Her mix of pop, R&B, and jazz showcased that she isn't going anywhere quietly and has an arsenal of talents that will be hard to write her off as a pop phenom that will go away any time soon and the music world should not let her go away at all -- ever. They need her. We need her. Cuz I Love You is the ultimate breakup to makeup album about finding yourself and growing with each day. A lesson we can all use at any age. Lizzo is so damn fun and so damn talented that this is a record we will be talking about for ages. 

4) FKA Twigs - Magdalene 

There can only be one Bjork and everyone knows that. Yet, what is the Icelandic princess had a spiritual apprentice? It would hands down be FKA Twigs. Following the success and acclaim of her near perfect debut, LP1, Twigs went away for a while. She battled serious health issues only to climb back with a lush record about female empowerment, sexuality, and love over some of the best production of the year, it truly became an album to admire. Even teaming up with Bjork's recent production muse, Arca, Twigs is showcasing the new generation that she is ready to carry the torch and make it shine just as bright.

3) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Ghosteen

It would have been impossible to think that after 2016's Skelton Tree, Nick Cave would have found a way to not only top himself but take such dark subject matter and make light of it. Skeleton Tree was the first album the singer and his band released following his son's tragic death and heard the icon question his own mortality and fragility. This year he gave us the double album Ghosteen which takes those questions and looks at them deeper. One half of the record is delivered from the perspective of a child and the second half is from the child's parent. It is a memorizing opus that is haunting as it is beautiful.

2) Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

Sharon Van Etten has been kicking the indie rock scene for nearly 20 years and after being a critical favorite for years, the singer / songwriter has now seen the biggest credit to her career thanks to the flawless Remind Me Tomorrow. The record is a coming of age record that shows we can come of age at any time and must deal with the ghosts of our past, present, and future in order to grow and learn. Remind Me Tomorrow feels like the songs from the soundtrack of our life that has been playing in the background of our own little movie. Like characters in a film, we don't know the songs that are played on screen but they move to the emotions of what is happening in each scene, this is a real life version of that and it is brought to us by one of our greatest talents. 


1) Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel

 The album of the year from the best new artist of 2019. Dublin's Fontaines D.C. are the best band to come from Ireland in ages. They are also the best punk band to arrive in decades. Dogrel lives in the same ethos as Nevermind the Bullocks, The Clash and Ramones debuts, as well as the DIY asthetic of Is This It? and Wolf Songs for Lambs. As singer Grian Chatten screams in his thick accent "I am gonna be big!" it is evident that this band has a swagger and aspirations that are not modest. They want the world and the want it all now and nothing is going to stand in their way. Dogrel is a testament to that and not since Oasis has there been an band with such guts to do it and do it well. One of the greatest debuts of all time, you just hope the band doesn't implode because of it.

2019 The Albums: League of Their Own


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This award started long before the site was even a thought, in one publication, radio show or another. Since 2000, I have handed out a "League of Their Own" Award to an album that is made by an artist who is the most forward thinking, open minded, revolutionary musician out there today. Their accomplishments in the past 12 months have either resurrected a sound, broke down walls and created new frontiers or have totally reinvented a genre all together. The choices for "League of Their Own" have become more than just the best album of the year but the most important record to be released at that time. 



In the past winners have included: 

2000 - Radiohead - Kid A 
2001 - The Strokes - Is This It? 
2002 - NERD - In Search of... 
2003 - The White Stripes - Elephant 
2004 - The Killers - Hot Fuss 
2005 - The Mars Volta - Francis the Mute 
2006 - TV On The Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain 
2007 - Kanye West Graduation 
2008 - Santogold / Santigold
2009 - Mastodon - Crack the Skye 
2010 - Gorillaz - Plastic Beach 
2011 - Bjork - Biophilia 
2012 - Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes 
2013 -  Arcade Fire - Reflektor
2014 - Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2  
2015 - Kamasi Washington - The Epic 
2016 - David Bowie - Blackstar 
2017 - Kendrick Lamar - DAMN
2018 - Richard Russell - Everything is Recorded

...and now to add to the growing list is a band that is constantly putting forth various efforts that blow away both fans and critics. They break all the rules of what conventional rock and roll should be and what heavy metal should be and what psychedelic should be and as we enter an age where we move away from labels and genres, they are the perfect takers of this award. Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2019 League of Their Own winner is...

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Infest the Rats Nest

Since forming 9 years ago, this Australian seven-piece has released 15 albums including two this year and each record is like a star in the sky -- far different than the one next to it. Most bands do not even make 15 albums during their entire career. Earlier in 2019, the band gave us the psychedelic prog album, Fishing for Fishes, then months later they followed it up with the abrasive and diabolical Infest the Rats Nest. This album hands down might be the heavy metal album of the year for us and many others and it comes from a band who do not wish to identify with any one type of sound. While it might always be quantity of music for King Gizzard it also means quality and if they keep going at the pace they are, the sky is the limit.

2019 The Albums: Honorable Mentions


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We closed up shop here at Officially A Yuppie a year ago and have kept to that but since it is still in our nature to still do our year end lists. Normally the roll out is one a week starting on Thanksgiving weekend but we are going to post all 3 major lists now and in keeping with tradition on putting them up this holiday weekend.

This is the first of three lists we will bring out over the next three weeks, next week we will present our coveted League of Their Own and then finally, the Top 10 albums of the year. Here we go -- our Honorable Mentions, albums that were very good, but not good enough to crack the Top 10 but still worth of note. 

As we always do, we breakdown the list in short form and then with explanations.

2019 Honorable Mentions in Short Form (In No Particular Order):
- The 1865 - Don't Tread on We!
- Control Top - Covert Contracts
- Bars of Gold - Shelters
- Black Midi - Schlagenheim 
- Sheba Kaapstad - Thina
- The Menzingers - Hello Exile
Now, in long form (In No Particular Order) 
 The 1865 - Don't Tread on We!
 One of the most furious punk bands to emerge in years does it in such grand fashion that you will not forget about them easily. The New York City based four piece's debut features Renaissance Man Sasha Jenkins and bombastic vocalist Honeychild. The album is written from the perspective of a person of color living in 1865 post the Emancipation and wrestles with America's dark past far better than any history book ever will. 
 Control Top - Covert Contracts
The DIY punk scene was alive and booming this year thanks to many of the bands on this list but none did it better than Control Top. The bands abrasive but melodic sounds has you thinking if Debbie Harry fronted The Germs what would have that sounded like? Covert Contracts is a record about liberation, sexual identity, sexual revolution, and dealing with every day bullshit and how to fight through it all. 
 Black Midi - Schlagenheim
Leave it up to 4 teenagers from England to bend the rules and sounds of rock and roll in directions you never expected. Schlagenheim is a tour de force going into areas you didn't think guitar, bass, and drums could go. Many will label and have labeled them as "math rock" but it is far beyond that. It is like Radiohead but instead of plugging their instruments into machines, what if it sounded like what they were going for but without help. Dynamic rhythms, curious crossfire guitars and thunderous basslines, it is something the British are great at and a new generation is proving it. 
 The Menzingers - Hello Exile
 While boasting 2 of the year's best rock songs in "America, You Are Freaking Me Out," and "Anna," the Philly band return for one of their best records. Hello Exile is everything people have loved about the band with its finger print in pop-punk, emo, punk, garage, and alternative, Hello Exile is a mainstream record for a band who have always felt as if they should be way bigger than they are. 
 Sheba Kaapstad - Thina
 This South African band just does it all and if you are a music lover, this is a record to not miss. Thina is the first full length from the Cape Town based band and features sounds ranging from traditional folk to jazz to hip-hop to R&B to pop. It is a record that if you put on, not only will it be hard to turn off but you will find yourself traveling in your thoughts to paradise. 
 Bars of Gold - Shelters
What if James Brown and Chino Moreno had a singer which could blend R&B, funk, and hardcore at once? Enter Marc Paffi who not only can do it all but has a band to back him up. Shelters is the latest release from the Bear Vs. Shark frontman's other band and it is their finest to date. You can shake your hips and head bang simultaneously as the music takes over like the cast of Beetlejuice when they hear Harry Belafonte call Mr. Tally Man.