Year-end lists (or “best-of”s as most people term them) are extremely hard for me to compile. I listen to (and buy) a lot of music from day-to-day & despite my best efforts truly cannot keep up with the sheer magnitude of quality recordings coming out each year – and 2019 was a pretty fucking great year for music. So here’s my best shot at compiling a list of my “10 Most-Listened-To” albums from 2019 (plus five honorable mentions). They’re in alphabetical order to avoid any sort of ranking, because honestly ranking something as “best” or assigning a numerical rating seems antiquated & frankly diminishes great art, IMHO. (Trouble In Mind Records releases are excluded, for conflict of interest, but it’s safe to say that anything we’d be investing thousands of dollars releasing is – in our opinion – worth your time). Hope you enjoy & possibly discover something new. Support independent artists & record labels!
Here’s a link to the great Trouble in Mind releases of 2019: Bandcamp or Spotify.
75 Dollar Bill “I WAS REAL” (Thin Wrist)
-Ran across these guys a few years back when Other Music (RIP) released their debut album. Completely captivating minimal junkshop Saharan blues
+any band that has someone playing a wooden box has my attention.
Aldous Harding “Designer” (4AD)
-Have to admit, I was not really a fan of Aldous Harding before this album (and listening back to previous albums, I still prefer this one) but this one hooked me RIGHT away. It’s super catchy and weird in all the right ways. Not to mention that everyone in the fam loves this one, especially our daughter, Ronnie. When we saw her perform recently (which I recommend everyone do) I kept wishing she could’ve be there to see it.
Chronophage “Prolog For Tomorrow” (Cleta Patra)
Austin, TX band of Florida transplants making ragged, duct-taped together junk punk. Reminds me of Meat Puppets & Swell Maps (with some early-Oughts lo-fi in there for good measure: Eat Skull, TNV, etc), but not really either one. I find myself singing the “na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na’s” from “Double Suicide” often around the house. Beguiling.
Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble “Where Future Unfolds” LP (International Anthem)
-It was super tough to pick an International Anthem record from this year, as they had 3 albums in my “Best Of” list, but I think I’ve probably listened to Damon’s the most. Totally righteous & arresting right from the first needle drop – he really nails the early Seventies AACM vibe & rockets it into the 21st century. We saw them perform this live at the Chicago Cultural Center & it was hands-down one of the best live performances I saw this year.
Equipment Pointed Ankh “Live” (Sophomore Lounge)
-A COMPLETE & total surprise for me this year. Louisville collective led by Jim Marlowe (Tropical Trash/State Champion) that plays free-form, dome-blasting psychedelic drone. I could’ve seen this coming out on Twisted Village BITD.
Gong Gong Gong “Phantom Rhythm” (Wharf Cat)
-BIIIIIG fan of Offset:Spectacles & when I heard Tom from that band had a new project a few years back I’ve been obsessively collecting their setf-released cassettes. Looks like the folks at Wharf Cat were too, because they released their first proper album this year & it’s a stunner. Hypnotic guitar/bass duo (no drums!) that falls somewhere between Bo Diddley & Saharan Blues. An appropriate amuse bouche to the aforementioned 75 Dollar Bill album up top.
J McFarlanes Reality Guest TA DA (Hobbies Galore)
-Jules’ new band (re)formatted from Hot Topic, her first project after Twerps folded & it’s SOOOO GOOD. Not quite twee, & not quite Young Marble Giants-esque minimal pop, but somewhere in there. Total mood-setter.
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society “Mandatory Reality” (Eremite)
-Noted double-bassist/oud player & local musician Josh Abrams’ 4th album with this far-reaching ensemble. What can I say about this one that hasn’t been said already? Heavy-duty (in the musical and physical sense – seriously this album is heavy!) experimental jazz informed by Chicago’s rich musical history in both the jazz worlds & experimental realm. It rules – just get it!
Mick Trouble “…here’s the Mick Trouble LP” (Emotional Response)
-aka Jed from My Teenage Stride/Jeanines’s one-man UK DIY pop band – Mod rock / TVP meets Nineties jangle pop, all made by one guy in his apartment. SUPER addictive & catchy pop tunes in the classic sense. All it took was one listen for these tunes to stick in my head & now I just randomly sing them in my daily life.
Modern Nature “How To Live” (Bella Union)
-Jack from Ultimate Painting’s new project w/ Will from Moongangs/BEAK>, Aaron from Woods & Jeff from Sunwatchers. Jack’s been absorbing everything from Soulful/Free Jazz to Mark Hollis & Talk Talk for a few years now & this is the logical progression from where he was to where he’s going next. Proud of my friends.
The Stroppies “WHOOSH!” (Tough Love)
-Been super into the Strops’ since Alex from Hobbies Galore released their first cassette in 2017. This is Gus from Twerps/Stevens & his partner Claudia (formerly of excellent UK band Primetime)+ Adam from Possible Humans (& originally Steph from Dick Diver). Real dream-team material right there. Sits comfy in the neuvo-OZ appreciation of classic Flying Nun indie. These songs stick to your ribs.
Ill Considered “8” (self released)
The Jeanines s/t (Slumberland)
Mdou Moctar “Ilana, The Creator” (Sahel Sounds)
Stefan Christensen & Friends “Unknown Fortune” (C/Site Recordings)
Thigh Master “Now For Example” (Goner)