Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Picks for the Top Fifteen Albums of 2019.

This might be my shortest list yet, and I'd like to blame it on having a two-year-old, but I'm not sure it was entirely that. Am I losing touch? Do rappers release music too fast for anyone to keep up with? Do I clown streaming services yet subscribe to one? Whatever. I still found time for 15 albums this year that I enjoyed to certain and different extents.

15. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

Took me a while to warm up to this one, and I think I just wasn't in the mood for calculated mellow bullshit this year. I've since grown slightly fonder, but if nothing else, this album was just too long. I always liked that they got in, did their thing, and got out. Still, some solid songs on here.


14. DJ Shadow - Our Pathetic Age

Another one that some might find a little too long, but I actually dig the instrumental first half of this record. Probably gets a little more exciting once the sweet slew of guest rappers show up for part 2, but it ain't like Shadow isn't great at just making beats you can listen to all by their lonesome. Lots of shitting on current society, too, which I endorse.

"Rocket Fuel (feat. De La Soul)"

13. Ghostface Killah - Ghostface Killahs

Not Ghost's strongest effort - and definitely not his strongest album title - but there are still some hard-hitting songs on here. Nice amount of Cappadonna but I could always use a little more. Raekwon nowhere to be seen? Shawn Wigs still hanging around? I do love the cover art.

"Me Denny & Darryl"

12. Beck - Hyperspace

Beck's last album, Colors, was some disappointing pop nonsense to me, so I didn't hold hope too high when I saw this one coming down the future-road in that cherry Supra. It ended up being better than his previous record but still not something I became overly invested in. He dropped the best songs pre-release, and some of the other shit just fizzles. Him clearly trying for radio play makes it not work.

"Uneventful Days"

11. Conway the Machine - Look What I Became

Conway also put out Everybody is F.O.O.D. 3, which should probably get equal weight here, but I can barely keep up with the amount of music these Griselda dudes release. Each release feels like the next chapter of the bigger thing, and this is no exception. Hard ass raps and wrestling references. My shit.

"Tito's Back (feat. Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn)"

10. Cross Control - Outrage Culture 7"

6 songs in 13 minutes, hardcore 7" style. Not my typical fare, but I really like these songs and the fact that these dudes are all around my age and still making music that is aggressive and calling out shitheads. We need that.

"Imaginary Conflict"

09. Mudhoney - Morning in America

7-song EP that gathers up some b-sides and other songs that didn't end up on Digital Garbage, their very good LP from 2018. I really like Mudhoney's recent output. They're pissed, the songs are straight to the point - it's what I'm looking for from this band. It's what we're all looking for from this band.

"One Bad Actor"

08. Griselda - WWCD

Conway the Machine and the whole crew: Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher, and Daringer, the dude who makes all their sample-free beats from scratch. No hooks. Just guys rapping about cracking your skull open amidst wrestling samples and beats that are simple, dense, and thanks to the use of just one producer, consistent. These guys put out so much music. Benny the Butcher is an insane rapper.

"Cruiser Weight Coke"

07. Pixies - Beneath the Eyrie

Most of the previous post-reunion Pixies music made me uncomfortable and often sad, and it was such a relief to be able to say I'd give this one a solid 7/10. The lyrics are ambitious again, everything about the songs sounds more Pixie-ish without full-on copycatting themselves, and the overall vibe is just much more fluid and competent. A real pleasant surprise.

"On Graveyard Hill"

06. Czarface & Ghostface Killah - Czarface Meets Ghostface

Czarface makes some really great rap music. Esoteric and Inspectah Deck sound strangely similar and they're usually working with upbeat songs, moving quick. Ghostface knows exactly how to get down on tracks like that, and there end up being some really great songs on this thing. And come on: they've got one called "Czarrcade '87." I can't front on that.

"Powers and Stuff"

05. Stephen Malkmus - Groove Denied

Definitely one of Steve's more masturbatory projects, but that's what solo home-recorded projects are by definition, aren't they? Saw somebody compare this to McCartney II, and that makes a lot of sense to me. It's got the same feel: experimental, unpolished, and often doesn't work quite right. That's OK.

04. Dope KNife - Things Got Worse

Been really into this guy's music for the past few years and this one picks up where his last one left off but it's a little more antisocial, a little more paranoid, and just as stoned. Love the beats here and KNife's gravelly voice is pitch perfect for the dark feel of it all.

"So Upset"

03. Royal Trux - White Stuff

Of course the whole release was a mess, with the band breaking up again before this came out and fighting on the internet, and of course the tour got canceled. But man: this is still a really great record, no matter how it came to be. You can definitely feel the Black Bananas influence on the production, but I'd argue that just makes it sound more modern. Still sounds like Trux. Still sounds sleazy and satisfying.

"White Stuff"

02. Alex Cameron - Miami Memory

This one didn't quite take complete control of my life like Forced Witness did, but I still listened to this record a lot over the past year. Alex is in love, and it informed the trajectory of this batch o' songs, sometimes I think to its slight detriment. But overall this is a great album from an increasingly singular performer. Seen him live three times now and he's never disappointed.


01. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana

Gat damn. Album of the year for me for sure. The beats on this thing are just nuts and Freddie Gibbs doesn't waste a word, delivering some of the most on-the-ball lyricism I've heard in a while. The music videos that have accompanied the whole release have been especially dope, and this thing is just a front-to-backer. Can't wait for their next one. Though I'm not sick of this one yet.

"Half Manne Half Cocaine"