Our 20 favourite albums of the year, in reverse order.
20. Sunlotus – This Old House (HEMA)
Indonesian shoegazers Sunlotus dropped their debut album on bandcamp in May and, while it doesn’t perhaps offer anything groundbreaking, it’s really well self-produced and certainly satisfies if you love My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive etc and may also appeal to fans of Boris and Explosions In The Sky.
19. Omni – Networker (Sub Pop)
Omni’s tangled post punk really hit the mark on Networker. From the get go the Television style guitar, flat 70s drums and bass delight. The wry lyrics and vocal delivery allow their excellent musicianship to take centre stage. Sincerely Yours, Courtesy Call and Skeleton Key are the highlights.
18. Hot Shorts – I Understand And I Wish To Continue (Icecapades)
The second album from Manchester’s Hot Shorts is a masterclass in witty indie pop. Full of musical in jokes and tongue in cheek songs about not wanting to go to space, being the loser who brings their guitar to a party and regrettable tattoos.
17. Garden Centre – A Moon For Digging (Specialist Subject Records)
Max Levy’s first full band album as Garden Centre is stunning. It finds room for folksy ballads, a beautiful shapeshifting a cappella piece, fizzing indie pop and triumphant power pop whilst always sounding cohesive.
16. Barry – Barry (Permanent Slump)
We enjoyed the hell out of this album. The lyrics are, at times, side splittingly funny. All four members sing in a similar vein to Terry. The songs are simple, bold, catchy and instantly likeable. ‘Posh Club’ is brilliant and ’Shy Or Cunt’ may just be our sing along song of the year. Like the theme tune to a ridiculous game show.
15. Boogarins – Sombrou Duvida (LAB 344)
Brazilian four piece Boogarins woozy psych pop was refined brilliantly on Sombrou Au Duvida. The vocals phase and delay sporadically, guitars get warped and bent out of shape and it’s all held together by a brilliant rhythm section. Think Os Mutantes meets Animal Collective and you’re in about the right place.
14. Black Midi – Schlagenheim (Rough Trade)
The most talked about band of 2019? Probably. Black Midi produced a tangled behemoth that sated the palette of many a math rock fan and beyond, but also unearthed the unique marmite voice of Geordie Greep. The most exciting and interesting group the Brit music school will ever produce.
13. Frankie Cosmos – Close It Quietly (Sub Pop)
On ‘Close It Quietly’ Frankie Cosmos pulled out a huge collection of songs (21 in all) and every one of these short pop vignettes is brilliant. Frankie Cosmos continues to cut the fat from songs, keeping only what is necessary, keeping the messages in the metaphor short and to the point. This album simply glistens in pop sheen.
12. Comfort – Not Passing (Anxious Music)
Nothing else sounded like this in 2019. Glasgow duo Comfort are brutal both in their minimal yet aggressive approach but also in the honesty of their subject matter. Half sung half shouted vocals are married with overdriven drums and eery triggered samples and synth sounds. There was no record more powerful than this aural assault which blew us away in April.
11. Bamboo – Daughters Of The Sky (Upset The Rhythm)
Bamboo, a collaboration between Rachel Horwood of Trash Kit and Nick Carlisle of Peepholes, unleashed a monster of a synth pop album. Horwood’s powerful vocals are set to a backdrop of pitch shifted banjo, synth hooks and flourishes and thumping 80s drums. The record featured their biggest poppiest singles yet in ‘Weeping Idols’, ‘Daughters Of The Sky’ and ‘A World Is Born’.
10. Serafina Steer – The Mind Is A Trap (Vitamin Concept)
The Mind Is A Trap was a revelation. Serafina Steer took a left turn and produced a largely electronic album of subtle beauty. The harp remains in places but there is so much space and a sense of serenity to this album. ‘Provides Common Ground’ and the title track are highlights.
9. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains (Drag City)
The final album by David Berman was special. Having dropped the Silver Jews moniker, but still sounding very similar, Berman gave us a beautiful farewell record to cherish. This was undoubtedly the most lyrically personal record he produced.
8. Kaputt – Carnage Hall (Upset The Rhythm)
What an exciting band. Kaputt announced themselves with a bang on ‘Carnage Hall’. A fidgety, funky and cartoonish technicolor stomp, theirs is a very bold sound. For fans of B52s, Talking Heads and Stump. Top tracks are “Rats”, “Accordion” and “Highlight!” but it’s all great.
7. Sacred Paws – Run Around The Sun (Merge Records)
Rachel Aggs treated us to two records this year and boy is this a fun one from Aggs and her partner in crime Eilidh Rodgers! This was the feel good album of the summer. Upbeat afrobeat inspired guitar hooks and fizzing, snare heavy drums combine with beautiful vocal harmonies and overlapping vocal lines.
6. Pozi -PZ1 (PRAH Recordings)
‘PZ1’ is an album heavy in subject matter and utterly unique in sound. Mixing drums, bass, violin and sometimes effected vocals, Pozi channelled Television Personalities, Trans Am and David Bowie sometimes in the space of one song. ‘PZ1’ is front loaded with incredible singles in Grenfell tribute ’KCTMO’, ‘Watching You Suffer’ and ’Engaged’ but delivers throughout.
5. Trash Kit – Horizon (Upset The Rhythm)
This is a staggering record. Trash Kit stretched out songs and expanded their sound with ‘Horizon’. Rachel Aggs’s guitar work is as bouncy and jubilant as ever, Rachel Horwood’s drumming is insanely creative and explosive while Gill Partington’s bass gives the band a sense of space they didn’t have before. This is their ‘Odyshape’. It’s amazing.
4. Rozi Plain – What A Boost (Memphis Industries)
What A Boost is gorgeous from start to finish. It overcomes you with its warmth, stunning textures and hooks you in with earworms like ‘Conditions’ and ‘The Gap’. The production on this album is beautiful. The individual parts, while minimal, are built up in layers that are all encompassing.
3. Parsnip – When The Tree Bears Fruit (Anti Fade Records)
You cannot listen to this album without smiling. Melbourne’s Parsnip pulled out a paisley pop delight with ‘When The Tree Bears Fruit’. ’Taking Me For A Ride’ in particular charmed us straight away with its whacky guitar and keyboard sounds and sweet childlike vocals. This is carried throughout this delightful record.
2. Robert Sotelo – Infinite Sprawling (Upset The Rhythm)
On Infinite Sprawling Robert Sotelo found the perfect collaborators to bring these swaying retro pop nuggets to life. ‘Something Besides’, ‘The Set Up’ and the title track are particular highlights but this is classic playful pop writing from start to finish.
1. Richard Dawson – 2020 (Weird World)
Did anyone sum up the state of the UK better lyrically than Richard Dawson? 2020 mixes heart wrenchingly stark human stories with Dawson’s most ambitious instrumentation yet. Taking synth cues from his exploits with Hen Ogledd as well as some filthy distorted guitar work, particularly on ‘Civil Servant’ and ‘Jogging’. Our album of the year.