After a wondrous Year, which albums make the top 10?
1) Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles
North Sheild’s Sam Fender released his debut album in September to be met by a staggeringly positive response. With a Springsteen-esque vibe, the album is one for the books, and our top spot, with its cultural impact not yet having been curbed.
Charming vocals alongside soaring riffs and saxophone solos, the album tackles a multitude of social issues. However Fender definitely doesn’t just preach to the choir. Most notably, ‘Dead Boys’, tackles the issue of toxic masculinity and male suicide. The track actively saving a life in the form of a radio show listener calling in after hearing it play, while ‘Hypersonic Missilies’ tackles world affairs and ‘Two People’ discusses domestic violence.
Following Fender’s BRIT’S Critics’ Choice Award win, he’s shown he’s a force not to be reckoned with. Despite the 25 year old putting a good six years graft into the album, Fender has no doubt took 2019 as his year while sticking to his homegrown, humble style. This is only captured as the live track, ‘Use’ closes the album, ending with a ‘Thankyou’ to the crowd in Camden, but it’s safe to say we’re the ones who should be thanking him. Full Sam Fender – ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ Review
Words by Robyn Hartley.
2) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Infest the Rats’ Nest
It’s been a busy Year for King Gizz, as they have released two full blow albums. Between the two records it’s a close call, but Infest the Rats’ Nest clinched it for me. The thrash metal album is full of energy, ideas and genuinely wonderful sounds. The band base the songs around the end of life on earth, which is always an interesting concept. ‘Planet B‘ and ‘Mars for Rich‘ are two of the stand out tracks on the album, surrounded by multiple others it forces the record into this list and hopefully into your ears.
Words by Alex Wise
3) Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
2019 has been the year of breaking commonplace bullshit, and few fought harder than Lana Del Rey. The world champ of understated chaos was back in a big way August. Lana graced us with an hour long spectacle of lights, visuals and lessons each as unapologetic as the last. She stayed true to her soft, haunting husk with ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’
The landscape of the music industry was changing and this was Del Rey at her deepest.
Norman Fucking Rockwell! was less of her trademark trip-hop and more a collision of phrases in a smoky back room with a smooth piano. Hailed ‘the great American song writer’, Lana’s work listened like a sexy encyclopedia of history and culture. Full of nods to Bruce Springsteen, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, peace, love and Fitzgerald – it was an act of sheer audio rebellion. We fell in love with beginning-of-the-decade Del Rey as a Tumblr darling, and just before 2019 played out she’s become the saviour of millennial frustration. She waved the new-Americana flag for women with hope and heartbroken Bartenders alike. More importantly, NFR was a Roy Litchenstein flavoured glimmer of freedom and alteration.
‘The Greatest’? She wasn’t far off.
Words by Lauren Dodd.
4) Stormzy – ‘Heavy is the Head’
Stormzy’s head will never be as heavy as his reputation. In 2019 he obliterated every obstacle put in front of him to become one of the most influential artists of the decade. HITH is a modern pinnacle of Brit Pop culture, a message of what we could all be striving to be; honest, humble and despite the adversity we’ve all felt this year, staying true to yourself.
Merky’s crowned himself as the messiah of grime and modern messages. He unashamedly ripped into politics, his own mistakes, and laid bare the life of a young hero still trying to make sure he’s doing the right thing. It’s a tricky old juxtaposition to maintain, but the boy hasn’t half done well.
Stormzy spits consistently that he’s the G.O.A.T. That’s a bold statement for someone who’s only been mainstream for about 4 years, but can you honestly say you can imagine the musical landscape without Big Michael?
Words by Lauren Dodd
5) Fat White Family – Serfs Up!
Even before it came out, Serfs up! was already one of the most debated records of the alternative scene of 2019. Between those prepared to love it and those determined to hate it, we were all prepared for this new effort by the Fat White Family to be controversial. But I suspect not many expected it to be so thickly layered, so deceptively melodic, so oddly sophisticated – in a word, so mature. The album is bold, as expected; it’s not scared of the indulgence that comes with longer tracks, it uses distortion and dissonance in a very deliberate way, and delving into the lyrics will reveal more than one instance of the cuttingly satirical voice this band is famous (or infamous) for.
There is a research in the sound here, though, that goes well beyond the tendency for self-indulgence that this record’s predecessors were in places guilty of. On a second or third listen one might discover unexpected influences and callbacks, ranging from prog rock to trance music. Lias Kaci Saoudi’s vocals are dark and sharp and always teetering on the edge of the slightly sarcastic, and Alex White’s unpredictable saxophone somehow manages to always sound surprising. In terms of sound texture, this is both a stronger album than the ones who preceded it, and one of the strongest – and most clever – of 2019 as a whole.
Together with some solid singles, there are a number of gems to be found here, from the oddly mellow Vagina Dentata to the somewhat perturbing Kim’s Sunsets (easily my favourite in the whole record); pretty much every track works well in isolation, though the whole thing has a charming obsessiveness that makes it best enjoyed as a whole. Serfs up! is a clever thing, and knows it all too well. Like the band who produced it, it is brazen and somewhat arrogant, but we forgive it for this, because it can absolutely afford to be.
Words by Chiara Strazzulla
6) Fontaines DC – Dogrel
From the very first lyrics of its opener, Big (“Dublin in the rain is mine/ a pregnant city with a Catholic mind“) to its closing on the lulling notes of Dublin City Sky, a musical oddity in the form of a somewhat punk take on the classic form of an Irish ballad, Dogrel remains unmistakably tied to its roots and those of Fontaines DC themselves: it is a working class Irish album just as much as they are a working class Irish band.
Far from shying away from this description, the record proudly claims it for itself, and by virtue of this it becomes almost narrative in nature, painting through its tracks (all of them quick, high-energy, powered by a thrumming rhythm section and by Grian Chatten’s snarling, almost spoken-word vocals) a series of vignettes of Dublin’s hidden life. At the same time Dogrel has an universal quality that together with its coherence of style and contents make it a remarkably strong debut from a band that within the span of a year went from barely registering as a blip on the alternative scene’s radar to selling out an international tour.
It is also openly political, succeeding extremely well at doing what punk music, in all its incarnations, has after all always done: giving a (roaring, rebellious) voice to the anger of those seeing the world heading in a direction that leaves them behind. Listen to The Lotts for an excellent example of this mood, though the record captures it throughout, and gains an almost primal vibe from it.
Some old acquaintances are also present among the tracks, and though Fontaines DC’s early fans may be somewhat taken aback at these new versions of Liberty Belle or Hurricane Laughter, none of their intensity goes lost. Nor does the band’s distinctive voice, already very personal even before this debut, and which is heard loud and clear throughout. Many of these tracks are clearly meant for live performance, but most of their impact has translated well to the studio version. Dogrel is certainly one of the standout debuts of 2019, and one of the year’s musical gems overall.
Words by Chiara Strazzulla
7) Avalanche Party – 24 Carat Diamond Trephine
The self declared ‘feral garage rock’ band released their debut into the world this year. The goal of the 11 tracks was to display a snippet of the bands range and potential. From sinister ballad El Dorado, to the high energy Milk & Sunlight Is a Heavy Dream, to (my personal favorite) the haunting and heavy Haha. We are given a work jam packed with feelings, stories and most importantly, variety. Avalanche Party are the most underground band here on our list, and by earning their spot among well known names, proves they’re a rare diamond find. It’s like a cowboy took interest in poetry and formed a punk band. Go listen and you’ll understand.
Words by Lottie Catrin.
8) The Murder Capital – ‘When I Have Fears’
This year saw the rise of post punk Irish band The Murder Capital, whose album ‘When I Have Fears’ was released back in August. The album takes teenage angst onto a new level – it’s violent, it’s aggressive and it’s ruthless as an overwhelming sense of darkness can be heard.
The quintet, hailing from Dublin, address issues such as greed, anxiety and existence in the raw, personal album without killing the mood. Interestingly, the record is not all about noise for the punk band, featuring stunning songs designed to cry along to. Being the longest track on the album at over 6 minutes, ‘On Twisted Ground’ features only a gentle guitar and lyrically genius, meaning the song won’t get boring. ‘How the Streets Adore Me Now’ is also a unique take on slowing a track down with a piano at the central focus. That said, The Murder Capital’s fast, violent songs are uplifting and refreshing, despite the dark subject matters, with sharp drum beats and hostile guitars. ‘Don’t Cling to Life’ has a carefree feel to it, and ‘More is Less’ enjoys angry shouting down the microphone.
The Murder Capital give birth to a thrilling album that sets them up for a great 2020.
Words by Lucy Bower.
9) Billie Eilish – WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
Following the success of her debut album, ‘don’t smile at me’, Billie Eilish O’Connell released the album,‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?’ which unsurprisingly became a huge success being a number one album and secured her the second largest week of 2019 for any album due to the enormous sales.
This fourteen track album takes you on a real experience due to the range of elements that Billie and her brother Finneas have placed in the songs like the soft vocals compared the techno beats, some added distortion or full blown melodies. This album is unlike any other due to the brilliant storytelling through music that these siblings produce. For example, ‘Bury A Friend’ is from the perspective of a monster under the bed. The lyrics explain how the monster is trying to get to Billie and overall adds a very eery vibe to the song.
The album opens with Billie speaking which quickly leads to the number one single, ‘Bad Guy’. This song really created a following for Eilish, winning her many awards due to its phenomenal success. Billie uses her platform for good causes. The music video to‘All The Good Girls Go To Hell’ illustrated the importance of climate change. In the hope of encouraging people to contribute to the increasing issue. It is really a shock at how Billie can achieve all of this at only 18 years of age, with all the songs being recorded in the O’Connell household.
Overall, this album just makes you think and reflect. This especially happens in the slower songs like ‘when the party is over’ and ‘listen before I go’, about your family and loved ones or how the world can be a scary place.
Words by Molly Wood.
10) Black Midi – Schlagenheim
Black Midi weren’t necessarily on my radar before the album release. After hearing a couple of songs it left me impressed, but not really feeling anything for the album. However a month passed before I listened to the album. As a package, the album is a delight encumbering a clear raw-indie sound delivered on every front. The fast paced, manic manner of the record is one of the few things to love about the record. Opening track ‘953’, with the unique vocals from Geordie Greep and the destruction of the lead guitar and drums. Hopefully, they hold onto and continue to nurture this sound in albums to come.
Words by Alex Wise
Listen to the playlist now on Spotify!