Jake's Favorite Albums of 2019
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
2019 was kind of an odd year for me and music, not necessarily in a bad way. I found it was a year that had a ton of good music, but nothing that necessarily blew me away on first listen like in years past. The flip side of that is I also listened to a lot more new bands that I had never heard before this year than usual, which was fun and reminded me of having more time on my hands and going to shows at random, finding new bands all the time.
I also started a music podcast this year with my friend Blake. Columbia House Party has been a blessing and a curse for this year-end list. I’m more immersed in music that I have been in a long time, but I also have to spend 140 hours listening to Alkaline Trio for “work,” which gave me less time to dig deep into a lot of this list.
For that reason, I almost put this list in alphabetical order this year, as I’ve been grappling with the order. I decided not to, in the end, but I would say that this year’s list is the first list I’ve made where the order is subject to change, and probably will, in a few months’ time.
Anyway, if you’re still reading this, first of all, why, second of all, thanks. Here’s my list for the final year of the decade. It was a pretty good one.
You can find a Spotify playlist of my favourite songs of the year here.
Favourite Albums of 2019
Purple Mountains — Purple Mountains
I think it could be easy to see this pick as a sentimental one, or a recognition of loss, after the untimely death of David Berman. I admittedly was never a die-hard fan as many people were, I recognized the Silver Jews name as a funny one that I’d see in HMV in high school, and I listened to some of his work in my Pavement-obsessed days in my freshman year of university. I was struck by the outpouring of grief, and recognition, of Berman’s body of work and his story. John Lingan’s incredible profile of Berman, which ran just a month before his death and has only grown more heartbreaking in the time since, pulled me back into his story and his career. Purple Mountains, Berman’s first record in over a decade, is a staggering piece of work. Berman’s beautiful songs are only agumented by his lyrics, like one of my favourites from “She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger.”
I want to be tantamount to cordial Tantamount to good I want to be a warm and friendly person But I don’t know how to do it
Funny, heartbreaking, and bracingly honest, Purple Mountains is as fitting a final document of a troubled, but brilliant, artist as anything could hope to be.
2. Greet Death — New Hell
A confession — one of my favourite albums of the 2010s, which will probably not end up actually making my end of decade list for various reasons, is The Pain of Being Pure At Heart’s Belong. I just really like shoegaze-y, 90s-sounding pop records. Which is weird because I’m not a huge fan of shoegaze as a genre, or 90s pop for that matter. But you put some loud, fuzzy guitars over Smashing Pumpkins-esque pop sensibilities and I’m there, baby.
Enter Greet Death, a band that I admittedly had not heard of before this year. Over nine tracks and 48 minutes, Greet Death’s dual-vocalist attack of Sam Boyhtari and Logan Gaval bring great contrasts, especially on tracks like “You’re Gonna Hate What You’ve Done” where they are actively trading vocal lines back and forth.
The real gem of the record is one of my favourite songs of the year, the nine-minute closing title track. I don’t really know what it is about this song that grabs me as it does, but the first time I heard it, it jumped out as a track I just wanted to listen to on repeat. Always a good sign. An album of heartbreaking and beautiful sensibilities, it finds a way to make a lyric like “Here comes a new hell, you are my bad dream” sound oddly hopeful. Even though that’s probably not at all what the band intended.
3. Jenny Lewis — On The Line
What more is there really to say about Jenny Lewis. She’s Jenny Lewis! Her entire music career has been nothing but things that have worked, whether it be Rilo Kiley, her work with the Watson Twins, The Postal Service, and now her solo career.
On The Line, my favourite collection of Jenny Lewis songs since the end of Rilo Kiley, finds her falling easily and gracefully into the sound of 2019 indie-country. Her voice has always been, for lack of a better term, perfect, and here her songwriting is hitting some real high peaks as well. “Red Bull & Hennessey” should be on your 2019 rotation. And your 2020. And 2021. You get the point.
4. Origami Angel — Somewhere City
For me, when it comes to music, 2019 can best be summed up as the year the youths took over. The sheer number of young emo and pop-punk-adjace bands that popped up this year was overwhelming. It seemed like every week a new one showed up on my Twitter and they all sounded fresh and exciting. They also sound like they’ll show me memes that I don’t understand and then make fun of me for not getting it.
The cream of the crop of these young bands, in my objectively correct opinion, is Origami Angel. A band I came across because of the indespensible Twitter accounts of The Alternative and No Earbuds. One day, I found that my timeline was full of repeated tweets that just said “Gami Gang.” I did not know what the hell this meant. In trying to figure it out, I came across this video and my immediate reaction was “oh, Gami Gang must be the best band in the world.”
Gami Gang being youths Twitter speak for Origami Angel, I proceeded to check our their debut LP Somewhere City. It rules. Oh my god, it rules. This album makes me want to jump in a moshpit, this album makes me want to run through a wall, this album makes me want to be 20-years-old. Call it emo Japandroids, if you like.
Blake and I have talked a lot on CHP about how all these amazing, young emo and pop-punk bands can blend influences from across the musical spectrum because they’ve grown up with all music that exists and their fingertips. Somewhere City blends emo, pop-punk, EDM blast beats, math-rock finger tapping, and more.
If my favourite genre of music has been left to the kids, and the kids are making records like this, the future of the genre is in good hands.
5. Telethon — Hard Pop
On last year’s list, I talked about how I had fallen in love with emo-adjace power-pop bands. They were all over my list last year, including Telethon’s EP Modern Abrasive (I thought this was an LP but apparently not so WHAT DO I KNOW). I had heard that Telethon had another LP coming this year and it immediately became one of my most anticipated records of the year. It did not disappoint.
A wonderful mix of sounds that recall Ted Leo, Motion City Soundtrack, and other bands I love, Telethon made something that’s also uniquely their own. Not exactly the sprawling, 90-minute rock opera of their last full-length, Hard Pop is 36 minutes of exactly what it sounds like, hard AF pop.
6. The Twilight Sad — It Won/t Be Like This All The Time
The Twilight Sad, have had quite a year. Bolstered by a tour opening for The Cure, our most Scottish of bands put this record out in January and it ended up in my top-10. It stuck around for a reason.
It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is still very much a Twilight Sad record, heavy drums, soaring and incredible vocals from James Graham. 2019 brought more synth sounds than in the past, and with a definite Cure influence, but it still feels at home with the rest of their discography.
I don’t understand any of the song titles on this record but I don’t really care. A song called Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting doesn’t have to have a title I understand when it sounds like it does. Also, if you have the chance to see The Twilight Sad live, try not to cry when they break out their cover of Frightened Rabbit’s “Keep Yourself Warm,” a lovely tribute to their late friend
7. Alex Lahey — The Best of Luck Club
Alex Lahey came onto my radar late in 2017 with her debut record I Love You Like A Brother, a wonderful power-pop-punk record bolstered by loud guitars and great hooks. My favourite things!
Lahey came back this year not with the record I expected her to make but with one I’m glad she did. The songs are a little bigger, a little louder, and a little fuller. It also contains the only song on this list that references Gordon Bombay. Also sax solos. Every song should have sax solos.
I also cannot talk about Alex Lahey in 2019 without mentioning this cover of Welcome To The Black Parade. Did you know that Alex Lahey covered Welcome To The Black Parade. Alex Lahey covered Welcome To The Black Parade. It’s extremely good. Take a few minutes for yourself and give it a watch.
8. Brutus — Nest
I am not sure how I came across this record. All I know is that one day I was watching the music video for “War,” and I immediately knew it would end up as one of my favourite songs of 2019. I was right.
Brutus is the extremely loud, Belgian trio of Stefanie Mannaerts, Peter Mulders, and Stijn Vanhoegaerden who play music that’s somewhere in the ballpark of post-rock and post-hardcore, kind of. Mannaerts’ vocals are probably my favourite of any band on this list and, oh yeah, she’s also the drummer! I just want to see this band live so I can go deaf happily.
9. Martha — Love Keeps Kicking
Martha are the catchiest band in the world. I physically cannot hear a Martha song without getting it stuck in my head for the next three weeks. This is not a complaint.
Martha are from the incredibly named town of Pity Me. I don’t have anything to add to this, I just love that fact.
Love Keeps Kicking is Martha’s third record and it keeps their streak of power-pop-driven, wonderfully beautiful, hooky tunes in tact. It also features one of the best songs about wrestling since The Mountain Goats’ Beat The Champ. Very few bands can make me smile quite like Martha can, I recommend you let them do the same for you.
10. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties — Routine Maintenance
So, for all my proclivaties towards emo and it’s offshoot genres, I’ve never really been a huge fan of The Wonder Years. They have songs I really like, but they’ve just never grabbed me fully like other bands have. However, I have always thought that Dan Campbell was an incredible vocalist. Lucky for me, Campbell’s side project, Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties, is basically just Campbell’s vocals in an Americana project.
If you’re a fan of artists like Tim Barry, you might like this as well. I find the lyrics hit me a little harder in this band than they do for The Wonder Years, not that I want to keep comparing them, but it’s hard not to.
11. Devon Kay & The Solutions — Yes, I Can’t
12. Cheem — Downhill
13. Prince Daddy & The Hyena — Cosmic Thrill Seekers
14. Wilco — Ode To Joy
15. Laura Stevenson — The Big Freeze
16. Brittany Howard — Jaime
17. Better Oblivion Community Center — Better Oblivion Community Center
18. James Blake — Assume Form
19. Sturgill Simpson — Sound & Fury
20. Great Grandpa — Four of Arrows
21. Perspective, A Lovely Hand To Hold — Lousy
22. The Hold Steady — Thrashing Thru The Passion
23. PUP — Morbid Stuff
24. The Appleseed Cast — The Fleeting Light of Impermanence
25. Titus Andronicus — An Obelisk
26. Charly Bliss — Young Enough
27. Battles — Juice B Crypts
28. Lambchop — This (Is What I Wanted To Tell You)
29. Oso Oso — Basking In The Glow
30. Mannequin Pussy — Patience