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Best Of 2019: Albums Through May 31st


The Black Magnolia Project – Tomas Doncker And the True Groove All-Star – Doncker is all concentration, all thought, trusting in his band to have his back as the moody and deeply nocturnal modern chill r&b meets indie folk unfolds in interlocking parts. The words are from Yusef’s upcoming “Night Animals,” his  exploration of where our spirit goes while we sleep, an inversion of time and consciousness.

thank u, next – Ariana Grande – Maybe it isn’t the flat out masterpiece people think it is, but this “Sex In The City” 2019 songs of pop and love and romance and betrayal (and death) survives a dip around the halfway mark that  doesn’t affect the sheer brilliance of the first three and the last three songs. After Taylor Swift’s unintentional abdication last year as the best in pop,  Ariana has taken the position on this pop and mood, heavy duty EDM superstar distracted masterstroke

WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? – Billie Eilish – A good album, and an important album, the seventeen year old superstar is a mix of Lana Del Rey and Lorde, with rap production and  her own weirdness mixed in, and a taste for boys well in keeping with her age group. “Bad Guy” is one of the best songs of the year, maybe the best. But it doesn’t hang as a consistent musical vision, and with five songs previously released, it lacks a sense of self as a longplayer. AND IT IS STILL GREAT

Assume Form – James Blake – A beautiful yet somehow slight modern singer songwriter piece of electronica set for his girlfriend Jameela Jamil (you might know as Tahani in “The Good Place”), and I am very happy for them. And their cast of first tier rapper friends. At first it didn’t work for me (I kinda panned it last week) but “I’ll Come To You” is the gateway drug of Assume Form, a deliriously yet restrained song of absolute emotional immersion (and the best indie love song since the Dirty Projectors “Impregnable Question” -though Blake be careful, we all know how that ended) and the rest of the album electronic love songs about the joy of love and sound, join in

Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres – Peter Doherty – It is pretty much impossible to overestimate Peter Doherty, the former Libertine and Babyshambles who keeps getting derailed by drug addiction. Yeah, he’s a mess, but as a missing link between Ray Davies and Noel Gallagher, with an ear for lyric and melody, the gift of song construction, an Englishness unbridled, and a wild bad boy streak, he has recorded one great song after another ALWAYS. His latest is genius. You don’t believe me, try “All At Sea,” try “Narcissistic Teen Makes First XI,” try “Someone Else To Be” -hell, try any song at all. There is no rocker close to Pete in the UK and maybe none in the US either

RAMMSTEIN – Rammstein – Originally from East Berlin, they had the sound of boots on necks down to an art, and that industrial metal sound is a smackdown of fascism like a forcefield. “Deutschland” is unreal -a masterclass in what it means to dismiss the USSR and find yourself with a different superpower

American Football (LP3) – American Football – If emo must grow up, let it grow up like this, beautiful, sad, soundscape sorrow songs by the better than ever Mike Kinsella. You can start anywhere on this one and discover melodic, sweet, sorry gold. This is everything people think they hear with shoegaze

Cuz I Love You – Lizzo – How do we love her? Pitchfork claimed “some of the album’s 11 songs are burdened with overwrought production, awkward turns of phrase, and ham-handed rapping”. Yes, the “most trusted voice in music” get it completely wrong again. Add her flute to her groove, soul to rap and sing your lungs out and maybe you will reach this level of greatness

Only Slightly Emotional EP– Caroline Kole – You might remember Caroline as a teenage country star who had learnt at the feet of Taylor Swift (here), five years later she follows Taylor to the world of pop, though the world of pop circa 1989 not Reputation, EDM beats, pro-tools, and Max Martinish production, but with a sterling heart that makes the songs indelible and indebted to her romantic sensibilities. “Bad Guy” is better than “Me!” and “Me & U” channels the same “me” hook as Taylor by what is clearly osmosis, plus Kole has never sung better

There Will Be No Intermission – Amanda Palmer – It is too long, too dusky, too quiet, the melodies are not sturdy enough to carry the sixteen real songs here, and ten minutes for a track without a melody line is pushing it. Sometimes, Amanda sounds so much like Leonard Cohen it is bizarre, other times she sounds like Tori Amos or Regina Spektor without the whimsy. But it is a titanic like the ship construction of self-awareness and political awareness born together and “The Death Song” is one of her greatest moments. Easily Amanda’s best work since 2008, they simply don’t make them like this anymore

Still Summer In The Projects – 03 Greedo – This guy belongs with Uzi as the top of the trap influenced, mumbled sounding class of 2018. Currently in prison for 20 years, let’s hope he can replicate Gucci Mane and literally call it in, because Still Summer In The Projects is the rap album of the year so far, better than Juice WRLD, start with the end, “Visions,” go to the start “10 Purple Summers” and then go straight through the middle

Celia – Angelique Kidjo – The world music star, fresh from covering the Talking Heads Remain In Light, performs an even better job on Celia Cruz catalog which feels tailor made for African world music. Just excellent, please try it

On The Line – Jenny Lewis – Between 2002 and 2004, Rilo Kiley released The Execution of All Things and More Adventurous and neither Jenny (nor Blake, nor anyone else in the band) have come close to reaching these heights since. On The Line comes close

Death Race For Love – Juice WRLD – The epitome of emo-rap: deeply depressingly, haunting songs of romance turned to ash with plenty of melody and plenty of autotune, leading to a spellbinding whole

While We Wait EP – Kehlani – A nine song holding action when we wait for her SweetSexySavage, she should have added a song and called it an album as the standard of pop moods is otherworldly. From the opening track, featuring Musiq Soulchild, this is grown up pop maneuvers to a chill beauty with 6lack, this is one of the best releases of the year

Patty Griffin – Patty Griffin – Beautifully crafted songs about pain, illness, and heartbreak, the usual. It is hard to imagine a more exquisitely crafted folk album

Don’t Tread On We! – The 1865 – Punk rock fast, hard, post-antebellum, black guitar uprising, the 1865 features multimedia artists and rock performers in pursuit of a pre-Jim Crow world and a post-Barack Obama backlash. Contextually, it is a rock opera and the good news is that the songs fit in every which way even as in a saturated marketplace they stand out as the rock and roll other

There Is No Other (with Francesco Turrisi) – Rhiannon Giddens – Recorded in Dublin in five days, Rhiannon and Turrisi mix African and Arabic sounds to roots Americana songs, for tremendous effect

Fever – Megan Thee Stallion – “These are simply instructions on how you should use my clit,” is the line of the year, Cupcakke would sign off. “Hood Rat Shit” is a song of the year, “Running Up Freestyle” a great freestyle, “Realer” the single, and song for song the Houston rappers debut album is on a whole other level of excellence. Why? The rhyming added to the flow, the tracks not so much, which is why it is a little overestimated

RoMaNcE – ShitKid – Via Sweden, very impressive post-punk noise and melody mix, ShitKid is real interesting, she used to blackout on stage due to anxiety and you gotta think how gutsy to keep on going (she’d get drunk, just like Mac Miller, before going on stage). “Detention” just zipped into the lower regions of my fave songs of the year

Oh My God – Kevin Morby _ I haven’t heard the Bob Dylan comparison in awhile, Kevin is a singer songwriter indie Americana guy with a ton of ambition, and if I was younger I’d be a little more impressed at his word jonesing and sweet arrangements, now we can no longer be Ryan Adams friends, “OMG Rock n Roll” will

Title Huevo – Touchy Feely – Electronic quasi experimental pop songs which act like a primer to James Dellatacoma’s influences after being sprayed by bullets

Harverd Dropout – Lil Pump – 16 songs in forty minutes with everyone from Weezy to Ye to Lil Uzi Vert coming along for the ride on this nursery rhyme self-loving brag stuff about money, clothes, money, etc. It really has no right being so much fun

Eton Alive – Sleaford Mods – their best album since their first is a terrifying vision of a Great Britain whittled down to nothing as Jason Williamson adds cockney rhyming slang and Andrew Fearn keeps everything as down as possible

Reward – Cate le Bon – Cate’s best since 2012, finds her adding a more mainstream pop song construction to her Goth disquieted vocals, on any number of beautifully arranged but relentlessly morosely mood songs

Not Changing – Jim Basnight – A King of power pop is more like a last man standing of classic rock. Basnight had a coupla great bands in the 90s and just kept on going ever since then. Not Changing is way too hard charging to sound like Big Star except for the title track with its background “woos” and getting no closer than the jingle with backbone “Best Lover In The World”. The former Moberly makes it seem simple here, the skills have soon imbued in the long performing together backing band, it jars and smooths all the way down

Rapture EP – Koffee – 19 year old girl invents global reggae, using modern beat techniques to make rhythm based modern reggae vibes. The title track kills

Sli’merre – Young Nudy, Pi’erre Bourne – Another goodie from the Atlanta son, his cousin 21 Savage and Lil Uzi Vert featured are excellent, and Bourne is a great beat artists and in song after song here the beats are ridiculous

PSYCHODRAMA – Dave – At twenty years of age, the UK’s Dave performs rap not grime: excellent, self-aware, ethnic intelligent versions of life with excellent rhynes, excellent flow and haunting sounds

Alive – Tommy James – Witty Tommy has released his first studio album since 2008 and his first great one since the 70s. Some oldies, some new ones, most work fine, and the “Doo Wop Shuffles” are very good indeed

A Skeleton – Ben Shemie – Lo fi Sunn))) with as much sound refraction and disquieted beauty as you thought it might have

Highway Hypnosis – Sneaks – In a world where we have heard everything at least twice, this is experimental lo fi hip hop where a rap, a hook, and a song title might be the same line, “Holy Cow A Girl Like Her”,” with a bass lick holding it all day long

Prehysteria – T-Rextasy – Indie rockers with that all female vibe, it seems to allow bands to be fore more fluid sexual, or at least confused as per “Girl, Friend” (punchline? “IDK”). Everything here is tuneful, bright, clever and fun and this sophomore effort by the New York indie women is a great way to start the new year

Kisses – Anitta – The Brazilian superstar is the South American version of US popstars like Katy Perry, though with a stronger rhythm. Kisses is an explosive, catchy, sexy set of potential hugeness that is probably at # 1 south of the border already. With featured stars like Snoop and Swae Lee, as well as Latin American singer Becky G, and others, she could walk it into US consciousness , the English language “Poquito” could do it alone. If not, the ten albums that illustrate it a la Lemonade, should help

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator – After Goblin, Tyler lost me for years and years, till he came out of the closet on the fine Flower Boy, and continues his (best friend) Frank Ocean meets Flying Lotus art-rap conditioning for college sophomores embracing a safe space

For the Many – UB40 – The great UK reggae band is way on top of their game on their first album in six years. The lover’s rock stuff is ace, the dub stuff a little less so, but the Rasta is just fine. Is there anybody better at reggae pop in 2019, and keep in mind that Ali Campbell is no longer with the band (his brothers are!)

THE LOVE TRAIN – Meghan Trainor – After five years of mainstream pop diva crap, Meghan remembers her gifts in good natured novelty not novelty pop songs, a terrific return to form

Grey Area – Little Simz -the UK has exceeded the US in the quality of rapping, there isn’t as much rap for sure but people like Little Simz and Giggs have better flow and better enunciation: not beats, not backing tracks or producers or mixes, but better rappers

Crush on Me – Sir Babygirl – Kelsie Hogue dubs herself a pop diva/producer and on her debut album she inhabits the queer world that Troye Sivan and King Princess live in, this is a strong collection with the great “Haunted House” leading the way and consistent, flirty songs like “Heel” and “Cheerleader”

Caught Up In The Country – Rodney Atkins – You know someone is a serious country guy when he covers “Cover Me Up”… Rodney does a fine take and you can use it as a gateway drug into this excellent collection of country songs

Songs for Mona EP– Sam Huber – Six mid tempo covers from the Finnish soul man, all excellent, especially “If It Makes You Happy”

When I Get Home – Solange – From the wilds of Houston, a gorgeous exercise in modern chill r&b that segues and stalks relentlessly for 19 tracks. It makes more sense if you catch the excellent video on Apple Music, without it the albums works through without any, actual, great songs or glueeyness

Deserted – Mekons – Cowpunk, but not just cowpunk, “Weimar Vending Machine/priest?” is Kurt Weill punk, “Andromeda” a folk punk instrumental jig, of course “Lawrence Of California” is cowpunk, indeed. “After The Rain” is a great song plus fiddle

Lost Planet 2.0 – Smokepurpp – Miami not Broward County, Smokepurpp is second tier soundcloud rap, now first since they killed off the first tier. 11 songs in 23 minutes, three of them new for the deluxe-y take, and all great

Problems – The Get Up Kids – In 2002, I saw The Get Up Kids at Roseland Ballroom and was an immediate believer. Here they return and while obviously adults, they still seem in the process of emotional development. “Lou Barlow” is a rare beauty



Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vols 1 & 2 – Ray Charles – Finally available digitally

The Best Of Everything – The Definitive Career Spanning Hits Collection 1976-2016 – Tom Petty, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – This is the one that answers the world’s questions about Tom Petty – 38 songs as brilliantly compiled as humanly possible and two unreleased tracks including the demo od the absolutely fantastic title song “The Best Of Everything” . I don’t see the inner logic of the song placing, it feels a little random, but this covers all eras from Mudcrutch to WB

The Healing Game (Deluxe Edition) – Van Morrison – Present day Van isn’t the equal of the prolific man whose run of albums from 1989’s AValon Sunset through this one from this one in 2007 stands with all but the best moments in his career. My friend
Mark Reichenbach considers The Healing Game Morrison’s best album. The deluxe version, which includes a complete live album, outtakes, demos, as ell as songs with Carl Perkins and John Lee Hooker might well b

Ultimate Nat King Cole – Nat King Cole – Back in the 1990s I bought a triple Nat King Cole triple CD, it is better than this album -glaring omission on Ultimate:  “Answer Me, My Dear,”  and anyway 21 songs is nowhere near enough. However, it was what we have for NKG’s centennial

Keep On Keeping On: Curtis Mayfield Studio Albums 1970-1974 (Remastered) – Curtis Mayfield – Why not? But why? And they should have included Curtis/Live, Curtis In Chicago, and the Gladys Knight And The Pips album Claudine, and removed “studio” from the title

The Slim Shady LP (Expanded Edition) – Eminem – An additional ten songs, some of which are not worth your time (an instrumental “Guilty Conscience”) and some of which are (“Hazardous Material,” “Bad Guys Always Die”)

Spirit of the Stairs – B-Sides & Rarities – Nothing – Rare for you, unknown by me, this is some of the best shoegaze around

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