The new year is approaching, and with it comes new music. But how can we celebrate all of this year’s awesome releases while making room for next year’s?
By discussing the best overall singles, EPs, and albums of 2019!
In order to be eligible for any of the below categories, the piece must have been previously featured or reviewed on this blog during 2019, and have qualified for one of the quarterly “best of” prizes. One artist may not win multiple categories, even if they qualify, but will be bumped up to win the higher-ranked category.
Without further ado, here are my best of 2019!
Best Music Video of 2019: “Tunnelvision” by Marley Wildthing
The music video for “Tunnelvision” is one that I would want for my own music! It is the perfect aesthetic match for the audio, too: “The song and video for “Tunnelvision” serve to “describe depression,” but also to show others who may be struggling that “There is always [a] light at the end of the tunnel!
The music video was produced by a team of Czech and Slovak professionals, [and] the visual mind and organizing force [behind the] video was David Dougles, who developed the script, directed, designed the sets,” and edited the final video.”
See the original review of “Tunnelvision” here!
Catchiest Song of 2019: “Kill Yourself” by The Cold Year
I just couldn’t stop listening to this one, even after finishing the original review! “Scratchy, swinging delivery makes the track incredibly catchy within just the first round of listens. Funky percussion and perfectly-executed phrasing are combined with just the right amount of guitar and bass in the mix to make “Kill Yourself” unforgettable even without the lyrics coming into play, although they add just as much to the track: “Take me from the people / Take me, break me / I ain’t worthy of your time / Waiting, laying / Thinking ’bout wonderful ways to die.” When the tongue-in-cheek lyrics are combined with the impossibly funny video, the track is somehow improved even further! “Kill Yourself” is not a track you want to miss.”
See the original review of Prey for Me here!
Best Bassline of 2019: Temporary Cemetery by Raid the Quarry
Raid the Quarry’s entire album is full of bass parts to be proud of. Their bassist proves that the talent is in the details, and definitely knows what he’s doing around a bass. The basslines of tracks like “Liars and Thieves” and “The Return” enhance the tracks tenfold, making Temporary Cemetery an album that wouldn’t be the same without the low end.
“‘Liars and Thieves” keeps the momentum of “Swing for the Fence” while incorporating the clear, clean guitar tones Raid the Quarry specializes in. The bouncy, fresh guitar lines married perfectly with impressively steady basslines in a way that reminded me of Gaelic rock’s pressing force, particularly at the four minute mark until the final few bars. In terms of basslines alone, this song is technically striking. Although the part may sound simple at first listen, each note in the swinging rhythm is perfectly defined, unfaltering. Even with the addition of a few classy fills, I never lost sight of the bassist’s intentions for the piece. Hats off to you for this one, Mr. Farnsworth!”
See the original review of Temporary Cemetery here!
Most Creative Artist of 2019: Bishop LaVey
When I first saw Bishop LaVey perform at Jim’s Basement in Burlington, Vermont, I had no clue what “Doom Folk” meant, but I was rightfully intrigued. Bishop’s creativity in his songwriting, persona development, and performances is unparalleled.
“The guitar picking at the beginning of “Romulus” brings a flighty feel to the song before it quickly deepens and slows through plodding, resonating notes as the vocals enter. The heaviness of the instrumentals brings extra emphasis and focus to the lyrics and the dynamic storyline within them: “Well, I was born up on the mountain / And they’ll drown me in the lake / Well, I breathe in Armageddon / And they’ll die for my mistakes / If my body is a temple / Well, then it’s seen some better days / So you can throw me from this hilltop / I see no sacrifice in vain / Now I am coming home / You’ve seen how I / I stand alone….” The character that Bishop takes on is one that we get to know well through the lyrics’ twists and turns, and it is a sonic pleasure to do so—In fact, “Romulus” is one of my favorite songs of the album.”
See the original review of Bishop LaVey’s latest album here!
Most Impactful Artist of 2019: A Sunday Fire
In terms of social media presence, A Sunday Fire is hard to beat! Besides the usual promotion of their shows, merchandise, and music, A Sunday Fire uses their Twitter account to spread a sense of community and acceptance in the DIY scene as well as in marginalized groups. Just like in their music, A Sunday Fire strives to make a difference via reaching out to their listeners and fellow musicians on social media to encourage them and make the community stronger. Don’t believe me? Check out their Twitter or listen to their music to let them brighten your day!
“‘A Mexican Love Story” is a wildly appropriate song for today’s political climate at the United State’s borders. With aggressive instrumentals and undeniable energy, the track really makes a statement even without the lyrics. With the addition of words, “A Mexican Love Story” doesn’t pull punches from the first line: “Lock all the kids in a cage / Maybe throw away the key / Maybe you can build a wall / Build up insecurities / We walk the streets and we don’t feel safe / Land of the free, the USA.” In a time where many people don’t have the common decency to care about human rights issues, songs like “A Mexican Love Story” are essential to help turn the tide.”
See the original review of A Sunday Fire’s album, An Open Letter, here!
Best Single of 2019: “No Place for People Like Us” by Opposite Box
“No Place for People Like Us” was one of my earliest reviews, but the track has really stuck with me despite all of the other music I have listened to in the interim.
“I loved the mix of styles showcased throughout the song; nothing felt out of place despite the wide range it covers. In the first four minutes, I felt the seventies come to life in a burst of jazz, but when this faded into a more stylistic progressive portion, I was equally as intrigued. I loved the heavier, swaying tones of the bass guitar that faded into the wide, sweeping synthetic tones towards the halfway point of the track as well.
When “No Place for People Like Us” picks back up after its intergalactic interlude, the tones blend seamlessly once more and the energy somehow increases, like a boost button was pushed. I didn’t want the song to ever end.
I would truly love to witness this being played live.”
See the original review of “No Place for People Like Us” here!
Best EP of 2019: Haven’t Found It by Elizabeth P.W.
Elizabeth P.W. blew me away with her sweet vocals and clear emotion in every track of her debut EP, Haven’t Found It. Elizabeth’s commitment to helping others makes her music even more powerful.
“In 2018, Elizabeth decided to turn her debut single, “Anyway” into a “fundraising and awareness campaign to fight rare mutations of Cystic Fibrosis” with Emily’s Entourage, a non-profit. “‘Anyway’ is performed by two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes (Grease, Cinderella, Bandstand), Gideon Glick (Spring Awakening, Significant Other), Christy Altomare (Mamma Mia, Anastasia), Javier Muñoz (In The Heights, Hamilton) and Sarah Levy (Netflix’s Schitt’s Creek).”
Between all of her other endeavors, Elizabeth still actively freelances as a trombonist, ukulele player, and music educator.
Clearly, Elizabeth is no stranger to the music industry, and it shows with her debut EP, Haven’t Found It….
“Emily Waits” showcases Elizabeth’s array of musical abilities, especially her knack for storytelling as she takes us on an adventure through Emily’s life: “Emily wants to feel free / To travel out west to where she’s meant to be / If she just had time….” The lyrics roll off of Elizabeth’s tongue with silky smooth intonation, gliding above the masterful instrumental parts in a way that leaves them pleasantly separate enough to be enjoyed as a package, or even individually. Although “Emily Waits” has a certain sadness to it, Elizabeth manages to give all of her songs a hopefulness, even as they describe situations that should be without hope.”
See the original review of Elizabeth P.W.’s EP here!
Best Album of 2019: Gibberish by Flagman
Flagman was definitely one of my favorite artists of 2019 thanks to their debut album, Gibberish. Everything about the record was impressive, particularly its Les Claypool-level basslines, which were some of the best I have heard in my time as a musician or music writer.
“As a whole, Gibberish is an extremely professional, well-recorded first album. If I had not known it was a debut, I wouldn’t have been able to guess. I am thoroughly impressed with this record, and if you don’t listen to it, you’re definitely missing out!
The first track of the album, “Headache Talking,” is like the powerful thrust of a rocketship lifting off to space. It leaves no room for gentle introductions; we’re all-in right away. The driving drum lines work to effectively drive the guitar and basslines forward underneath strapping vocals.”
See the original review of Gibberish here!
Artist to Watch Out For in 2020: RAGS AND RICHES
I was thoroughly impressed by both records I reviewed for RAGS AND RICHES, but also by their other releases, particularly their 2019 debut, “Speed of Sound,” which racked up some unsurprisingly impressive stats on Spotify and YouTube.
This band is doing everything right. Between their unapologetically powerful sound, uniform aesthetic, and skilled marketing and branding, RAGS AND RICHES should be held up an an example for modern-day bands everywhere. Many artists don’t take promotion or aesthetics seriously, but RAGS AND RICHES brings both to the next level. Their business-savvy nature and musical talent make RAGS AND RICHES a band to keep an eye on in 2020 and beyond, because they definitely have the momentum to go far in the industry.
Best Artist of 2019: Tie Goes to the Runner
From my very first listen, I knew Tie Goes to the Runner would be one of those bands that just stole my heart. Their music has that special something that demands to be felt with every listen, and that is why they are my Best Artist of 2019!
“Overall, I am beyond impressed by Tie Goes to the Runner’s self-titled collection. In fact (and I don’t say this lightly), they have become one of my new favorite bands just from listening to their music for this review. Their sound reminds me of a lot of other groups that I love—From Indian Lakes, Boston Manor, Glass Lungs—but at the same time, they remain utterly unique. I listen to a lot of music, so it takes a lot for a band to really stand out in a way that makes me add them to my daily listening. If you try out just a few artists from reading my reviews, you won’t regret it if Tie Goes to the Runner is among them….
“Thru” comes with the inspiration of preparations for a trip on the Appalachian Trail. “While the band was writing and recording TGTTR: A Self Titled Collection of Songs…CJ and Keith were preparing to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Thru-hiking [involves hiking] an established end-to-end long-distance trail with continuous footsteps, completing it within one calendar year. The 2,200 mile trail starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Katahdin in Maine. The band released the album and played their [pre-hiatus] show on February 23,2019, and CJ and Keith began the thru hike in Georgia about three days after that.” To celebrate the end of their hike, “the final video for…’Thru’ will be released on August 1st, right before they come back home.”
Besides its incredible origins, “Thru” is an incredible ending to Tie Goes to the Runner’s self-titled collection. The instrumentals are fun and crunchy, but still utilize the spaces between notes to create a sense of movement within every measure. The vocals are pushed more into the forefront in this track, but there are still an abundance of little details within each instrumental part that the song would still be interesting without lyrics. With the lyrics, a whole other level of depth is added to the song. Phrased beautifully, the words describe elements of CJ and Keith’s coming journey: “I don’t love all that I see / A world filled with hate / With dogs who have acquired a taste for only other dogs to eat /I think I’ll make like a leaf / And go live in the trees / At walking speeds I’ll be running from society / Look at me now.” While the lyrics discuss the serious problems of today’s world, they have a sense of humor about them that makes the track palatable at any level of analysis.”
See my full review of Tie Goes to the Runner’s self-titled record here!
Interested in seeing more of this year’s talent? Check out some of my seasonal Best Of lists below!