In this shared life / The raw within

IMG_20191226_122121.jpg

The last year has been so bizarre. The first half consisted of me furiously researching new releases/new-to-me bands to first make it through life until we saw YOB live for the first time (!!!) in March, and then until our annual mountain adventure in July, and then until I saw The Appleseed Cast live for the first time (also !!!) in August. I even put together a Top Albums of the First Half of the Year list, in May, like the keener I was. But then Operation Doggo Haus suddenly and finally got up and running (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and life has been a whirlwind (of doggo- + haus-ness) since, one that hasn’t allowed for much time devoted to just listening to music. So My Top Albums of 2019 list, found below, is quite different from last year’s – basically double the length due to all that time spent finding music during the first half of the year, but with ranking not very firm due to not really being able to obsess too long about what goes where. Which isn’t to say that no effort was put in, as around 30 were added after the May list and then about 20 cut (including 12 from the May list), to keep the list to a somewhat reasonable length. Of course, none of this really matters, and all I hope to do by posting this is to help someone else find an album or artist they love.

If someone’s subjective ranking matters to you at all, #1-10 are ranked pretty firmly, #11-25 less firmly, and #26-35 pretty loosely. Because of this, I’m starting rather than ending with #1, just putting brief genre descriptions for everything after #25, and I’ve put all EPs at the end of the list (in no particular order, after the first). I’ve included Bandcamp links for instant listening if they exist there, and Discogs links if not.

Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 10.22.04 AM

Top 2019 LPs

1. The Appleseed Cast – The Fleeting Light of Impermanence (US, indie rock/experimental/[post-]emo. I’ve been following this band for my entire adult life, and knew as soon as I heard a new album was coming out this year that it would be my #1 album. I was not disappointed, AND I got to see them play live, finally, surrounded by only about 50 people in a tiny corner of a bigger venue that should’ve been completely packed. They were pretty much the last on my bucket list of bands to see live, and the show was absolutely incredible.)

2. Cave In – Final Transmission (also one of the top songs of the year, “Shake My Blood”) (US post-hardcore. Cave In was a band I inherited when I met my man, and one that has always been on his bucket list of bands to see live. As Cave In’s bass player, Caleb Scofield, tragically died last year, we were surprised to hear that a new album would be coming out this year, and pre-ordered it immediately. Featuring the final recordings with Caleb, this is not always the easiest album to listen to, but it’s so so good.)

3. Lingua Ignota ‎– Caligula (also one of the top songs of the year, “Do You Doubt Me Traitor”) (US experimental. Speaking of not-easy-listening records, this is one of the most visceral albums I’ve ever heard. I don’t think there’s any point trying to classify it further than ‘experimental’ [it’s being tagged as ‘metal’ in a lot of places, though that doesn’t even begin to explain it], other than to say that it’s literally breathtaking, and, almost also literally, a heartbreaking masterpiece. Photos/videos of Kristin Hayter performing on this tour are so intense, I’m not sure I’d be able to keep it together if I saw a show in person.)

4. E-L-R ‎– Mænad (Switzerland, metal haze. I’m not sure what it is about this album, but I’ve played it so many times since finding it, and am very happy to have ordered it on vinyl. If you like a whole lot o’ chill in your metal, check this out.)

5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds ‎– Ghosteen (Nick Cave-land, Nick Cave. There wasn’t much notice of a new Nick Cave album coming up so soon, and so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that news and then to hear yet another great album from this genius. It’s weird to me that so many people find the album depressing, as it immediately came across to me as something bright and beautiful, particularly after the tragic Skeleton Tree. A copy of this on vinyl is literally the only thing I asked for this Xmas [and Santa did deliver!].)

6. A Swarm of the Sun – The Woods (Sweden, post-rock. This was the first LP to be put on my list in 2019 [in January], the first to be bought on vinyl, and probably the most listened to on the list after #1 and 2. Absolutely beautiful.)

7. The Red Widows – Fuzzifixion (UK, doom metal. This went on my list as soon as I heard it in June, though sadly the shipping price of the vinyl makes this the first in the top 10 to be a digital-only purchase for me. Hoping to get a reasonably priced copy soon, as I need to listen to this much, much louder.)

8. Eremit – Carrier of Weight (also one of the top songs of the year, “Cocoon of Soul”) (Germany, doom/sludge metal. By the time I had heard this album, all vinyl copies had sold out. Really hoping to get a copy soon, in part to listen to it louder, in part to see the gorgeous artwork by Mariusz Lewandowski closer, and in part to see/hear how 3 songs could possibly be split into a double LP. Eremit has a new album coming out in 2020, and I’m super pumped about it.)

9. Ghold – INPUT>CHAOS (UK, sludge metal. Parts of this album to me sound like Einstürzende Neubauten mixed with Sigur Rós, and I can’t get enough. Seems like this one has passed everyone by this year, so hopefully someone finds and digs them via this list.)

10. Sunn O))) – Life Metal (US, doom/drone metal. As I said in the First Half list, I’d never gotten Sunn before, agreeing with my man’s previous synopsis that their extreme take on drone pretty much sounds like someone left the fridge door open. I gave this one a try though after seeing that kOs-fave Alexandra Groover [who’s designed their stage robes for years] is included in the liner notes, and I’ve been listening to it since. I particularly love the 25.5 minute song that sounds like it’s going to end for the first 22.5 minutes.)

Jaimie Branch Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise (US, jazz. This was a last minute addition to the list, found via Bandcamp’s best of list. I’ve always been partial to the trumpet, and was happy to see a woman-fronted, trumpet-centred jazz ensemble, I’m sure this will get a ton of spins in the new year.)

Spaceslug – Reign of the Orion (Poland, stoner/doom metal. I’d discovered this band earlier in the year and rather liked all 3 of their previous albums, but I think this is my favorite so far. Think Alice in Chains, if they went doom.)

Bewitcher – Under the Witching Cross (US, black/speed metal. This is just a redonk fun album, and the second in the list with fantastic art by Mariusz Lewandowski.)

Jambinai ‎– 온다 (ONDA) (South Korea, post rock. This is sooooo good. Just check it out.)

Árstíðir LífsinsSaga Á Tveim Tungum I: Vápn Ok Viðr (Iceland/Germany, pagan/folk/black metal. As I said in the First Half list, this album hits all my buttons, sung in Old Norse with glorious chanting throughout. Just got the vinyl in after waiting the whole year, and it’s one of the most gorgeous vinyl releases I’ve seen for a while.)

Lunar Shadow ‎– The Smokeless Fires (also one of the top songs of the year, “Roses”) (German metal. I’m not sure what it is about this album, but I absolutely dig it. Just straight-up great traditional metal.)

Big|Brave – A Gaze Among Them (Canada, post-metal/experimental. I’m not really sure how to classify this band, though this album has made a lot of best metal lists. As I said in the First Half list, I hear a lot of influences in this band’s sound, including Sunn, Nick Cave, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and A Silver Mt. Zion, with the absolutely gripping vocals sounding like some sort of metal/hardcore love child of Nick Cave and Björk.)

Man of Multnomah – The scorpion sways in the moonlight (US, folk. As I said in the First Half list, I quickly learned at the beginning of the year to buy every Man of M release without even listening to it, but this one with its beautiful eerie western theme was a pleasant surprise. Very Dead Man soundtrack-ish but, well, better. Also has a similar vibe to the Jozef Van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch album that had made my First Half list, but, again, better.)

Astrophobos – Malice of Antiquity (Sweden, black metal. Soooo fun.)

Smoulder – Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring (Canada, epic doom metal. As I said in the First Half list, one sub-genre of doom metal I truly do not get is epic doom. 99% of the time, the vocals suck [or at least the vocal style just hits my ear holes wrong], and the lyrics are too cheesy or are about some book that I’ve never read. But this band, fronted by the lovely Sarah of Banger TV [i.e., the people who gave us Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Global Metal] is catchy af.)

Have A Nice Life – Sea of Worry (US, experimental rock/shoegaze. This band has such a great sound, one of those where you just want to put on any album from them rather than a particular one, just for their vibe.)

White Ward ‎– Love Exchange Failure (Ukraine, atmospheric/[post-]black metal. I found this one via an excellent Instagram account, Lady Mass. I immediately loved the dark vibes and well-used saxophone.)

Marthe‎ – Sisters of Darkness (Italy, hardcore/punk/metal. One-woman band, found via Sarah at Banger TV. Great lo-fi/demo tape vibe.)

NONE – Damp Chill of Life (?, atmospheric/depressive black metal. Nothing is known of this anonymous 1-person band, but it’s hella atmospheric, hella depressive, hella good.)

Батюшка – Панихида (Poland, atmospheric black metal. If you’re in the metal scene, you know all the controversy around this band/name. This album perhaps could’ve used a bit of extra polishing, but it is the real Batushka, and it is good.)

Horse Lung – ἔσχατον (Canada, instrumental psychedelic doom metal), Praÿ ‎– Praÿ (France, instrumental doom/stoner/psych); Lindy-Fay Hella ‎– Seafarer (Norway, folk/ambient/experimental); KOKOKO! ‎– Fongola (Democratic Republic of Congo, experimental electronic); Drawn into Descent – The Endless Endeavour (Belgium, atmospheric black/post-black metal); Mang Ont ‎– Maa Sarv (Estonia, doom/stoner); Obsequiae – The Palms of Sorrowed Kings (US, black/folk metal); Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka (UK, soul); Véhémence ‎- Par Le Sang Versé (France, black metal); Lungbutter – Honey (Canada, post-punk/noise)

Top 2019 EPs

Mount Saturn – Kiss the Ring (US, doom/stoner. This was the first 2019 release I heard, and it’s stayed at the top of my list the entire year. Hoping for more from this band.)

Man of Multnomah ‎– Circle of Wolves ‘Round Our Fire (US, folk)

Sibyl – The Magic Isn’t Real (US, doom/psychedelic/stoner)

Top late(r) 2018 releases found in 2019

Emma Ruth Rundle ‎– On Dark Horses (US, rock. ERR and my favorite find of the year, and this was probably my most played album of year. Would’ve been my #2 if it came out this year, #3 if I had heard it in 2018.)

Dirge ‎– Ah Puch (India, doom/sludge metal)

Elderwind ‎– Чем Холоднее Ночь (Russia, atmospheric black metal)

Title quote: “Our Raw Heart”, from Our Raw Heart