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Best Of 2019: Albums Through November 30th, 2019


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.

JESUS IS KING – Kanye West – The first rush of hard earned faith by the greatest artist of the 2010s.

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 visioThe Only Ones EP – The Milk Carton Kids – A truly wonderful seven song EP, the duos harmonies are better than The Avetts, and the songs are tender and moving. Folk yes, but folk with a subtle hint of country, and with five songs previously released, it lacks a sense of self as a longplayer. AND IT IS STILL GREAT

Norman Fucking Rockwell! – Lana Del Rey – Lana put neither “Looking For America,” nor “Season Of The Witch” on the album, if she had it would have been 18 perfect classic rock socal summer sadness sweetness and updated tussles with the opposite sex, plus two covers. Co-producer Jack Antonoff’s best work since the Lorde stuff as well.

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

~how i’m feeling~ – Lauv – The thing to keep in mind when it comes to EPs, is that sometimes seven songs is exactly what you want. A creature of his times, he keeps his standards skyhigh, the Troye Sivan hit no more than the solo “Sad Forever”

MAGDALENE – FKA twigs – From the hymlike intro on, FKA Twigs details emotional supplicant as Christian metaphor even as you considers it self-discovery it feels needy, one strange and experimental, distort and brilliant song after another. Despite a list of collaborators that includes Jack Antonoff and Skrillex, it remains resolutely in its own impenetrable world of sorrow glimpsed like darkness visible

WILLOW – Willow – While always admirable and brave on stage, on record her folk-r&b experimental vibes has more then the whiff of pretension. No longer. Willows EP is constantly entertaining and both “Female Energy, Part Two” and especially “Overthinking IT” (which is among the best songs of the year) are her strongest to date, and everything else is nearly their equals

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

Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’ – Frightened Rabbit – As hard as you try, there are always bands that you simply miss. I missed Frightened Rabbit, I listened to a couple of the albums but for some reason they never clicked. Then Scott Hutchinson killed himself and I listened to the songs coming off this featured artists revision of his 2008 album, Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight‘, and it is superb. At first I thought it was a greatest hits, the singles being dropped, by Julien Baker, Daughter, Ben Gibbard, were so excellent and moving, they had to be, right? Well, they were in fact all from 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight, and so are the rest on this amazingly moving compilation. I sincerely regret never seeing Frightened Rabbit live on stage

Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains Silver Jew’s David Berman’s first new music in a decade (he retired from music per Wikipedia: “in hopes of finding a meaningful way of undoing the damage that his estranged father Richard (a lobbyist for the alcohol and firearm industries) had brought upon society) has some of the sidelong glance of another band he was in, Pavement. Much better than Stephen Malkmus, on the strength of a superb collection of indie rockers that hark back to the 00s he was the Pavement missed in action (written before his suicide)

OASIS – J Balvin, Bad Bunny – 8 songs, 6 first rate bangers, and better than both of their last albums

Maria Taylor – Maria Taylor – Maria Taylor has been on fire all decade, and despite an updated production sound that wasn’t necessarily necessary , her eponymous third album of the decade deals with marital realities while inducting her toddler pre-teen son (on piano!) in the family business. There is nothing close to a bad song here

The Nothing – Korn – Lead singer Jonathan Davis’s wife, former model Devan Davis, died of an overdose in August 2018. Jonathan and his band Korn have responded with their thirteenth, and best, album: the eleven shades of mourning, powerful and subdued until the emotions overwhelm Davis, and he rails at everything, especially God. An epic tragedy (from a man whose blood runs deep with grief, loss, abuse) with the smallness of the very subjective, and the fourth masterpiece about spousal death in the past five years

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

Now We Are Timeless – Imperial Teen – Seven years between albums, Imperial Teen remain a punk pop Superchunk – C+

balloons don’t float here – Isaac Dunbar – State of the art pop music, electronic dreamscape with an undertow as dark as its Pennywise album title – B

El Capo – Jim Jones – Camron is all over the album, suggesting this is the Diplomats the way Supreme Clientele was Wu Tang -meaning, yes and no. Street gangsta isms by a man no longer on the street – B

Experiment – Kane Brown – From Charley Pride to Darius Rucker, black country has only occasionally worked out of the fringes and while Lil Nas X is borderline country, Blanco Brown gets do-si-do and the bi racial Kane Brown has been the real deal for a couple of years now. This is an iffy album, though his wedding song “Good As You” is a true beauty – C+

Solutions – K.Flay – A prolific and fine singer songwriter with a feel for electronic beats and synth hooks – B

Hasta El Cielo – Khruangbin -bass heavy, r&b instrumentals… much like their onstage story, it is smart without being interesting – C+

Pity Boy – Mal Blum – Superb pop punk but not really, lo fi melody laden songs that explode and subside at will, and during a week with a lot of great songs (if not great albums), these are all great. Try the early “Not My Job” – B+

Automat – Metz – Top Canadians post-punk B Sides and obscurities – B+

Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Excellent, low down, gritty street 90s style East Coast rap, “FCK Boy” is as good as you assume it is – B+

∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes.. – New Order – New Order add banks of synths on a live meeting of styles – B-

The Long Goodbye – Pere Ubu – David Thomas was diagnosed with a terminal illness and spent a month putting together his 18th album, but he survived, so he added other members of the 1970s post-punk experimental rock band, and created a take on mortality. So not a final solution, really – B+

Beauty Of Youth – Pretty Vicious – Hard, speedy anthem rockers that never move from the template and don’t need to – B

Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains Silver Jew’s David Berman’s first new music in a decade (he retired from music per Wikipedia: “in hopes of finding a meaningful way of undoing the damage that his estranged father Richard (a lobbyist for the alcohol and firearm industries) had brought upon society) has some of the sidelong glance of another band he was in, Pavement. Much better than Stephen Malkmus, on the strength of a superb collection of indie rockers that hark back to the 00s he was the Pavement missed in action – B+

Admission – Torche – Torche are scorching, torching take no prisoners on this hard as fuck, drums based, all out collection of headbanging joy, try “From Here” – B

Weather – Tycho – Earnest and sometimes quite, quite lovely techno – B-

The Lion King (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Various Artists – I would care more if I cared about the original more. Mediocre versions of mediocre songs. Except for Seth, who is no Nathan Lane… not even close . Makes you wonder why they didn’t offer it to Nathan… wait, Jon Favreau? Let me guess… – C+

Rust on the Gates of Heaven – Wear Your Wounds – Jacob Bannon of Converge leads the superstars of hardcore with WYW’d wall of sound metal – B

Love Will Find A Way – Philip Bailey – The Earth, Wind And Fire lead singer brings his falsetto to covers and originals co-producer by Robert Glasper on his first release since 2002, if you can get past the experimental stuff like “Stairway To The Stars” you can revel in jazzy takes on Curtis Mayfield (among others) songs by the only man with the vocal range to do him justice

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

I Used To Know Her – H.E.R. – Puts all her post-H.E.R. debut releases in one place, 22 year old Gabriella Wilson hasn’t broken all the way through, though why not? Immaculate on stage, great with Daniel Cesar, and over and over again everything pays off on a neo-R&B triumph that puts her up there with best (aka SZA and FKA Twigs)

Turn Off The Lights – Dog Blood, Skrillex, Boys Noize – The dope DJ duo add techno to bass, and on “Break Law” to Bollywood, on their first new release in years

SEXORCISM – Brooke Candy – Anybody who namechecks Wendy O can’t be all bad, and for sure these rap-pop-EDM sex bangers are thrillers all even as they subvert ever the brace of rapper strippers on the scene. A modern pop classic of absolute perversion of the uptight norm

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 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

Lover – Taylor Swift – I once had an ex who when she got engaged called her old boyfriends, the serious ones, and told us (two actually) that we would never hear from her again. Taylor does the same thing with Lover

Ghetto Lenny’s Love Songs – SAINt JHN – Surprisingly strong neo-r&b plus rap with hooks galore and brimming with intelligence, coming off a featured track with Beyonce, the Guyanese guy maintains a steady hand

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

Hot Pink – Doja Cat – Very impressive, sort of a less out there Brooke Candy, her every extinct is towards pop charts, the beats are slippery and low key, the raps youthful and skips along bars like “what a time to be alive, we are living in the future” before proving it. A truly unique pop move that should stick to the Billboard 200 like glue… Smino makes a terrific featured guest early g 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

Hollywood’s Bleeding – Post Malone – If only Austin didn’t have face tattoos, he would have completed his switch to mainstream popster from mumble rap harbinger. On Hollywood’s Bleeding he walks the same side of the street as Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey, performing poppy variations of his r&b and rap specific to his scene. And like Taylor, some of it works and some of it doesn’t and it is a pleasure figuring out which song is which

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

Madame X (Deluxe) – Madonna – . The Madonna meets Modern Latin pop world music extravaganza, Madame X, had five good singles in a row, the album doesn’t maintain that level and neither dips by much. I loved her previous album, Rebel Heart, very much, so this isn’t a return to a not lost form, but it is a thrilling, smart, weird and strong set of Latin hybrid

GINGER – BROCKHAMPTON – One of the great hip hop crews, the multi everything but gender boy band are a little more difficult than usual, there doesn’t appear to be that one song, that “Bleach”. But if what you want is experimental rap with an r&b bent and a queer agenda, nobody comes close -they kill on stage as well

Originals – Prince – As Popdose’s Ken Shane noted “Well we already know that several of the songs are great and it’s Prince so it’s bound to be at least lovable”. Good point, but since the estate has fucked up everything else they’ve touched since Prince’s death, I was nervous anyway. The stuff you thought would be great (“Nothing Compares To You”) is only good, but the stuff that who the fuck knows (“Manic Monday,” “The Glamorous Life” )and the question marks (“Holly Mark”) are brilliant. A masterpiece compilation

Losst And Founnd – Harry Nilsson – I expected the worst, my feelings about posthumous releases is pretty well documented, even elsewhere in this column, but this one works.The title track is a loss leader, and really bothered me, but it is the worst track here. The rest of the album, is very strong, with vocals recorded hours before his death in 1994, and “Woman Oh Woman: and “U.C.L.A.” second tier Schmillson

How It Feels to Be Lost – Sleeping With Sirens – Post emo hardcore, and nothing grown-ups should have to worry about too much, in theory. In practice, emocore never kicks as hard as Sleeping With Sirens do. Kellin Quinn is a first rate hard rock singer and the band have all the headaches of hard rock 2019 and yet song after song signifies. A significant surprise

Debt Begins at 30 – The Gotobeds – The Gotobeds trajectory is not unlike the Strokes, the wiseguy, good humor of “NY’s Alright” morphed into the spitting anger of “LA’s Alright” -less punk more metal. The featured riddled album has the post-punk declarative bang of Mark E. Smith, wedded to a sound that veers from punk to metal to post-metal sludginess, on an album that finds the band dealing with the beginnings of the beginnings of middle age

Cancel the Sun – The Rails – If Americana came from England (and had great pedigree) it would be this strong rebound from the married duo’s sophomore album which adds classic rock to folk and country rock on these songs of emotional distress (and concern for the planet)

Transportation – Your Old Droog – If you are gonna open your album with a sample from the Elgins’ “Darling Baby” you better make sure you pay it off. Your Old Droog does on this brilliant opening track, “Stillwell Baby”. The next track quotes David Lee Roth: “I don’t get all the girls I want, I get all the girls that want me” amd pays it off on “Monthly”. And, really, it just keeps on from there. The New York rapper’s second album this year, an ode to the MTA, is a brilliant piece of work

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

An Old Memory – Dylan Scott – Dylan came out of the bro country movement of the early 10s, and on this EP he uses very little bro to perform splendid versions of Keith Whitley songs. Exquisitely performed, minor masterpieces of country perfection. Dylan finally finds songs deserving of his voice

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

Ghetto Lenny’s Love Songs – SAINt JHN – Surprisingly strong neo-r&b plus rap with hooks galore and brimming with intelligence, coming off a featured track with Beyonce, the Guyanese guy maintains a steady hand

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

Blue World – John Coltrane – The great 1964 band in great form on these unreleased till now pieces

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

The Book Of Traps And Lessons – Kate Tempest – The great English rap-spoken word woman’s first two albums were flawless, this isn’t, I prefer her much more when political than personal, but it is close

Ignorance is Bliss – Skepta – The grime rapper has been around for years, and even by his high standards the rapping is top class and the story skills first rate

i,i – Bon Iver – “Hey, Ma” is a good song, and if the album isn’t an innovative leap forward, it is a steadily intelligent, indie electronic big boys album that Justin should have no problem touring behind

We Love You Tecca – Lil Tecca – Lana Del Rey in a New York Times interview: “I also really love hip-hop, so seeing such an influx of little mumble rappers coming out and being so sexy and authentic — one of the little dudes wants to wear a dress onstage and everyone’s clapping their hands like, “Bravo!”” She means somebody like sixteen year old Soundcloud (and everybody else, “Ranson” got to #5) star Lil Tecca

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

Hourly Haunts EP – Surfer Blood – They can still indie pop like nobody’s business, lead off song “Around The Sun” is simply gorgeous, and the EP never waivers

Lambs to Slaughter – Khalil Kain – Debut EP from Kain, features five great tracks, “Moor” being the best of the lot although these Black American take on the USA 2019 are very precise executions on the the concept of a racist President in a racist world

Brandon Banks – Maxo Kream – Texas rapper Maxo’s dad was a gangsta, in out of prison, while using his ill gotten gains to feed his family. Maxo got in and out of the same game, gangsta rap saved him from Thug Life. Maxo is joined by major Texas players like Megan Thee Stallion on story songs like Biggie, and ace rhyming and rapping

Tap Dancin’ Daddy – Taylor Hollingsworth – A Saddle Creek sessionist who ventures solo from time to time, with an incredible sound that mixes Alt Americana with the blues. Plus his voice is unique, a sort of whine ala Dylan but younger and without the rasp, “Beginning Of The Ending” is ace

So Much Fun – Young Thug – Very aptly named indeed, weirdo samples (birds chirping behind him and Lil Uzi Vert -you gotta think, on “What’s The Move”) and that is a great example of the smooth slow, catchy strange album – A-

Losst And Founnd – Harry Nilsson – I expected the worst, my feelings about posthumous releases is pretty well documented, even elsewhere in this column, but this one works.The title track is a loss leader, and really bothered me, but it is the worst track here. The rest of the album, is very strong, with vocals recorded hours before his death in 1994, and “Woman Oh Woman: and “U.C.L.A.” second tier Schmillson

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”

Straighten Up – Johnathan Pushkar – If you didn’t know Straighten Up was on Marty’s Jem Record, you would before “The Girl Next Door” is over. If The Weeklings (another Jem Records band) update british Invasion Beatles, Pushker updates the rest of the British Invasion pop guy: there is a directness that isn’t similar even to the third generation Marshall Crenshaw, his songs live in their own world of melodic excellence and jingly power pop enthusiasm: say what might have happened if everybody hung up their guitars in the middle of 1965, You can try anything here and if you love power pop, you’ll love it. But start with the killer “Hackensack”

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

It’s All Real Good – Phil Gammage – Phil doesn’t get the attention he deserves, a true blues journeyman with a voice that is all Americana edge, and a guitar sound fantastic light or soft, the man is incapable of a false note or a forced emotion. All of his solo work is excellent, It’s All Real Good is a little quieter than the usual, the harp with a folkiness to it,and it doesn’t do anything but enhance this well felt album, “Dancing On Top Of The World” indeed

All My Heroes Are Cornballs – JPEGMAFIA – His second album of the year balances lame lyrics with superb rapping and arranging and his most commercial work to date

One Of The Best Yet – Gang Starr – If your taste runs to 90s rap, Gang Starr mix raps from the long gone Guru, and DJ Premier. We’ve been flipping out over the singles, and the album maintains the groove. Especially moving to hear Guru’s son salute him

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

Outskirts EP – Montgomery Gentry – Troy Gentry died in a helicopter in 2017 and this is the first release since then, and the final songs with Troy singing next to his friend Eddie Montgomery and about as pure a country sound as you could hope to hear

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

Beautiful Wreck Of The World (Remastered) – Willie Nile – Five years after If I Was A River, he might never hit that height again, but he is never less than good on a typical collection of strong songs

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

Live In NY ’77 – Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, James Cotton – An entire album’s worth of unreleased live material from the tour that followed Muddy’s 1977 comeback album Hard Again. Featuring Johnny Winters (he produced all three of Muddy’s late 70s albums, and the great harp player Josie Cotton, it is a very strong live kicker, as good as the 1979 Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live, blues fans won’t need me to tell em Live In NY ’77 is a first rate live album

Queen & Slim: The Soundtrack – Various Artists – As a rule of thumb, I loath inspired by black exploitation soundtracks, whether Beyonce or Common, or Kendrick for that matter, so here is an exceptional exception: “Yo Love” -the Vince Staples, 6lack, and Mareeba come together, is Vince’s best in years, and there is also a Syd solo, a Megan The Stallion as banging as you expected, and Lauryn Hill who seems to be getting her act together with her second great song in succession and more

Bad Ideas – Tessa Violet – Her backstory is the best all year: Tessa’s friend left his guitar in the back of her car, when he didn’t return her texts to send it to him, she decided to learn to play. Here is the result, a vital collection of indie pop songs. How wonderful that she could do it that way, no band, just sitting in her room and figuring out chords? Try “Crush”

PANG – Caroline Polachek – A superb collection of melancholy and ache, with three stand out tracks, the title track “Pang,” “Caroline Shut Up” -which is almost country in its storytelling, and “Hit Me Where It Hurts”. She doesn’t reach those highlights but the former half of Chairlift stakes her claim to a deeper Charli XCX

No Holiday – The Muffs – The late Kim Shattuck’s final album, it is just as good as ever -pop punk melody and fast punk performance, with one of the great voices in rock

A Good Time – DaVido – Addictive Dance Hall beats and patois raps via Nigeria, light footed and catchy

uknowhatimsayin¿ – Danny Brown – Whatever you can expect from Danny, you can expect some hardcore stuff. Here, with Q Tip executive producing, his usual art and artistry doesn’t include a coupla killer tracks. “Dirty Laundry” is the closest he gets to a hit and “Negro Spiritual (with JPEGMAFIA) is as great as he has ever been… but not a hit

Exit Form – Scarypoolparty – Alejandro Aranda, Season 17 of American Idol runner-up, debut album is one of the best AI’s I’ve ever heard, a gorgeous , soulful vocal, a handpicked guitar, strange arrangements of self-written songs, the man is major and his debut album is absolutely uniqueension – Glenn Branca – The late great Branca invented electric guitar symphonies. A post-minimalist with one foot in some variant of new wave, he had received more than 25 commissions before his death last year. Though when I interviewed him in the 80s at his apartment , with then girlfriend, Barbara Ess of the Y Pants, we were eating cheese courtesy of Uncle Sam food stamps! His first posthumous release is a towering and terrifying cacophony of rock band instruments to build wall of sounds. It isn’t too late to listen

Ghosteen – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Welcome to Nick’s living hell, his post loss of his  teen son album that picks up where Skeleton Tree left off and rids itself of anything approaching commercial sounds, rather is an electronic sonic horrorshow waiting patiently for obliteration of being into nothingness



1999 (Super Deluxe Edition) – Prince – Nearly six hours of Prince at his peak.

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

Live 1969 – Elvis Presley – I loved From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis where we first heard some of the songs performed live at the International during his first Vegas residency, eight years after his last live performance (and something like 15 years after he bombed there). Memphis/Vegas included one side of new recordings of soul songs (where we got “Suspicious Minds”) and the live stuff. The box set finds Presley performing eleven complete concerts. The jokes are a little corny (though one where he claims he didn’t have big hit singles -they were all the same size, was funny), but it wasn’t yet cornball, the changing of lyric deprecating though unnecessary, and it remains one of his greatest live stints

United Artists Rarities – George Jones – If United Artist, or anyone else, wanted to do the world a favor, they would get together with other labels and slap Jones’ recordings in some form of order. Till then, the United Artist years (1962-1966) were great and United Artists Rarities adds some alternate takes and some songs not yet heard

Abbey Road (Super Deluxe Edition) – The Beatles – As Dylan nearly once put it, the past is always close at hand. as proven by a new/old Beatles release. There is only one way to grade the Beatles and that is on a curve. On a curve, the Super deluxe is a B+, against the rest of the world it is an A+ because IT’S THE BEATLES. Giles Martins seems to be cleaning up the sound (which makes sense) on the 2019 mixes, and, much as you could hope for, he causes no harm. The best stuff? a McCartney song “Goodbye,” that he would eventually hand off to Mary Hopkins, “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” with George and Ringo on it (they aren’t on the finished single), and a killer “Old Brown Shoe”. Plus, listen to the best sixteen minutes of your life (“The Long One”)

MTV Unplugged In New York (25th Anniversary – Live) – Nirvana – There have been only two voices of a generation, Dylan was one, Cobain the other. If it isn’t Biggie, it is either Nevermind, In Utero, or this one that is the greatest album of the 1990s. The album includes five songs from the rehearsal (Cobain comes across as a whiny bitch), and to the myriad of friends who don’t rate Nirvana: up yours

The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings Box Set – Bob Dylan – Maybe you aren’t in the market for seven takes on “Isis,” or five of “Hurricane,” one live take after another of “O Sister” . But some of those “Hurricanes” are overpoweringly rageful, and anyway, I am certain you wanna hear “Simple Twist Of fate” at a Mahjong parlor in 1975. The thing is, Rolling Thunder vibe notwithstanding, Desire was not Blood On The Tracks, and 14 albums worth is heavy going. I don’t care

The Band (Deluxe Edition/Remixed 2019) – The Band – The entire album remixed, the Woodstock concert, and 13 outtakes and alternate versions

Travelin’ Thru, 1967 – 1969: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 15 – Bob Dylan – Two years in Nashville, featuring John Wesley Harding outtakes, Nashville Skyline outtakes, Cash and Dylan rehearsals, and three songs with Earl Scruggs

? (Deluxe) – XXXTENTACION – XXXTentacion didn’t live long enough to become a post-humus cottage industry, so this kitchen sink version of his biggest hit will probably have to do. As well as the album, you get instrumental tracks, voice memo demos, not to mention “A Ghetto Christmas Carol”. XXX wasn’t the loss that Big L was, but he is up there

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 Definitive Jackie Wilson – Jackie Wilson – Mr. Excitement just received his star on the walk of fame, and with over two dozen hits to his name, he sure deserved it. The Definitive has a total of 50 songs and the consistency is a testament to a major player (also to Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson!)

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 be

Dead Man’s Pop – The Replacements – My good friend, Creem Editor Bill Holdship is a huge friend and fan of The Replacements, but me? Not so much. So the box set edition of Don’t Tell A Soul, Dead Man’s Pop, arrives to a nonbeliever with a shrug for no good reason though. The original version was sweetened as The Replacements neared new pop heaven, Matt Wallace’s mix strips it bare and finds a not untypical Replacements album along with the Bearsville Studio mix, demos, and five tracks with Tom Waits. There is also a full 1989 concert, better than either of the two I’ve seen , including a terrific “Alex Chilton”

Live at the Electric Theatre Co Chicago, 1968 – Tim Buckley – A superb live album travels around folk, soul, pop, covering country classic “Big River” and Hollywood musical “Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo,” as well as yet to be released songs like “Song For You”. With just congas and bass accompanying him, it would be a star making performance if he wasn’t already a star

Travelin’ Thru, 1967 – 1969: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 15 – Bob Dylan – Two years in Nashville, featuring John Wesley Harding outtakes, Nashville Skyline outtakes, Cash and Dylan rehearsals, and three songs with Earl Scruggs

MINIDISCS (HACKED) – Radiohead – Radiohead responded to someone hacking and threatening to release their studio outtakes from 1995 – 1998 (aka OK Computer) by releasing it themselves (here). It couldn’t sound more like you thought it would, except, with the 18 hours, there are plenty of works in progress and completed songs, just not the takes you know and I’m hoping Alyson Camus works her way through it… there is just so much, 18 hours worth and everything I’ve heard, is that the first live version of “I Promise” ever?, has been worth listening to

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

Best of Billy Bragg at the BBC 1983 – 2019 – Billy Bragg – I was 61 when I wrote this review, I’m 62 now but I won’t be for long

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

Country Music – A Film by Ken Burns (The Soundtrack) [Deluxe] – Various Artists – 105 song, five hour plus, ride through the heart of country. More like a beginners primer with a coupla outliers for big time fans

Peel Session 2 – Aphex Twin, Warp Records – I preferred Aphex Twin’s near the start of his career so if you prefer the great electronic progenitor near the start of his career as well you will probably admire Peel Session 2 – recorded in 1995, as much as I do… I’d love to get my hands on that Warp Box Set

Tremble Under Boom Lights – Jonathan Fire Eater – The birthers of nyc’s last rock and and roll moment’s best recording, a five song EP now extended to ten songs and about as clear a case for Stewart Lupton as a major singer as possible. Lupton died two years ago at 43, here is a reminder of why rock may forget, but never forgets entirely

Through Being Cool: TBC20 – Saves The Day – since we can no longer be Brand New fans, why not step back twenty years for a mammoth emo album by a different huge emo band, that includes an additional 17 tracks of dems (but real demos, they don’t quite feel formed arrangement wise) to live sessions, on top of the original twelve song album

Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts – Jimi Hendrix – with the Band Of Gypsies, New Years Eve and New Years Day, by the time you reach the closing four songs of the second set on January 1st, 1970, your mind will be mind after chewing two gummy bears and having a joint

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