Songs released this year that captured my fancy (plus a few exceptions).
01. Love is Everywhere (Beware). Wilco. Tweedy claims this song's inspiration is the woman's march. That's cool. It also proved to be the perfect accompaniment to my dad's diagnosis and demise this summer. Nels Cline's jangly guitar is beautiful & bittersweet.
02. Cattails. Big Thief. This song debuted early and stuck.
03. Ghosteen Speaks. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Like the odd novel Lincoln in the Bardo, this song will alienate. Everett, for instance, isn't keen on the ghostly chorus. I think it and Lincoln are pretty epic attempts to wrestle with and respect the death of a kid.
04. Rolling. Michael Kiwanuka. Where's the snarling/shouting? We're four songs in and it's still pretty dang quiet. The grim, urgent lyrics in this one are delivered almost casually – like Hendrix. Smooth.
05. Sat By a Tree. Dan Deacon. Of all of electronica's practitioners, I think Deacon provides the most sincerity within all them beats.
06. OMG. Sampa the Great. Much of the year's best hip hop was international and feminine.
07. Hungry Baby. Kim Gordon. This sounds more like a Stooges song than anything she did with her cheatin' ex-husband.
08. Shoplifter. Negative Scanner. When I make these lists, I'm not entirely sure what record is going to ultimately win in the ensuing months/years. Last year, I featured a different song from Negative Scanner's Nose Picker. At the time, I had no idea it'd become my favorite record. That voice. Rebecca Valeriano-Flores gets to bellow like that while I sound like Kermit's nephew, Robin. It's not fair.
I wish I were a more astute chronicler of sound because this song deserves keen examination. I suspect my attraction comes mainly from the meter and uplift she gives the syllables in the word "shoplifters" as the guitar swells from postpunk chunk to church bells. It's the sound of regret morphing into determination and exactly what I needed to hear this year.
09. Urgent, Important, Please Read (feat. Rockwell Knuckles, Tef Poe, Daemon). DJ Shadow. 90s hip hop from that era's most scrupulous record store digger. As much as I adore punk first and foremost, there really isn't a better genre to deliver public service announcements.
10. In Defense of Humans. Fugazi. This song deserves its own post. It is the fairest of all assessments of the United States and ought to be recited as this country's pledge or sung as its anthem. It is not of this year, but it was my most played song of 2019. No better warning to our oligarchy: you don't rise when others fall.
11. Type A. Control Top. It was a fruitful, global year for women-fronted punk. I selected Control Top from the plethora 'cause they have a great name and the sound is a tribute to the Slits. Listen to those 80s machine gun guitars. Lovely.
12. (I Blame) Society. Titus Andronicus. This band irked me. Intellectually savvy and curious about American history, they kept slipping into the void of indie rock. Then they hired Bob Mould and he coaxed a little Husker Du out of 'em.
13. Thirty Dozen Roses. Bob Mould. Speaking of... great new record from one of the best voices in rock.
14. (I'm) Flipped Out Over You. The Victims. In a slog of a year, the Total Punk label keeps encouraging (and, in this case, resurrecting) spitters.
15. Shake Some Action. Flamin' Groovies. Obviously not of this decade, the Flamin' Groovies played the most memorable show of 2019 at Sweetwater, just down the street from my home. Good fun. Great band.
16. Something in the Air. Luna. This might not be the finest cover of the Thunderclap Newman classic (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers do it justice), but it seems like Dean was destined to give it a Galaxy 500 gloss.
17. Harmony Hall. Vampire Weekend. Many years ago, an acquaintance asked me, "Don't you have any musical guilty pleasures?" I answered, "Tom Petty?" He was rightfully incredulous. "Tom Petty is not a guilty pleasure!" True. I should've said Vampire Weekend. Light rock. Indie. Whatever. When Vampire Weekend is not trying to be anything but (adult) contemporaries of Paul Simon/Cat Stevens, they make songs like this one. Agreeable.
Addendum. KRS-One's latest is currently available on Bandcamp and at his shows. It just might be the best thing my Gen-X ears heard in 2019. Again, nothing delivers incredulousness + knowledge like 90s boom-bap.