Year in Review: New Music

Dec 17, 2019

This time of year always brings out ALL of the lists on the internet: best albums from this decade, favorite recipes, best podcasts, least favorite people on Facebook...you know, all the lists. 

I'm going to give you two lists: top 10 albums and top 10 songs from the year. This. Is. Difficult. And to be clear, these are some of my personal favorites; the albums and songs that got a lot of play in my household. 

Top 10 Albums

10) Dressy Bessy - Fast Faster Disaster
Filled with indie rock and punk hooks, this is one that kept growing and growing on me. 'Fearless' was the first one that drew me in, and was followed by, like, every other song on the album. 

9) Brittany Howard - Jaime
Clearly an album that generated a lot of buzz before it's release, my first few minutes of listening to Jaime made it clear Brittany Howard is a total badass. Her creative funkiness is front and center right out of the gate.

8) Mattiel - Satis Factory
Atlanta songwriter, Mattiel Brown, daytimes as an art director, and produced all of the creative for Satis Factory, from the songs to the album cover. An adventurous band, there is no way you could be bored listening to the new album from start to finish. 'Food for Thought' is a highlight among many.

7) Bedouine - Bird Songs of a Killjoy
The most beautiful album to put on your record player, sit back, snuggle up on your couch with some tea, and enjoy. Azniv Korkejian's (AKA Bedouine) vocals are the most soothing, making everything feel safe and warm.

6) Paul Cauthen - Room 41

Typically housed in classic country, in Room 41, Cauthen blends honky tonk, gospel, R&B and all sorts of grooves into this LP. Pretty sure my husband wore out this album in his car; a family favorite in my house for 2019.

5) JS Ondara - Tales of America
A new voice in 2019, JS Ondara came from Kenya to Minnesota due to his love of Bob Dylan. Obsessed with music, he told us his immigration story with beautiful songs, without sugar-coating those sometimes very difficult stories. Five short years after coming here, he has a debut album that blew us away throughout the country. It was just an American Dream, indeed.

4) Adia Victoria - Silences

This is an artist that can do no wrong in my eyes. With blues in the background of her songs, Victoria is always pushing her boundaries sound-wise. Silences brings in some post-punk vibes with 'Dead Eyes', retro 'Devil is a Lie'; all around great songs.

3) Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
Right out of the gate this year, this was an album I knew would be on my 'Best of' list. Listening to it over and over, my favorite songs changed upon every listen. The slow burning of 'Jupiter 4' made me crave more, listening to it on repeat; 'Seventeen' became my go-to car jam, again, listening to on repeat; 'You Shadow' is now on nearly all of my playlists for, well, everything; shall I go on? Go listen.

2) Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
This addition to my list came fairly late in the game. I kept finding more songs I liked on the album, so listened in its entirety one weekend. And then I just couldn't get enough! With most songs clocking in over 4 & 5 minutes, they have long builds that are so worth the wait. It's like Natalie Mering did a deep dive into The Carpenters (please don't let that stop you from listening...) and wrote the best versions of those songs for 2019.

1) Lizzo - Cuz I Love You
This is the album I didn't know I needed in 2019, and I needed it badly. From start to finish, this is one you just can't quit. Lizzo's (Queen of the World, forever and ever) beats, lyrics, and guests all mean so damn much to me, I can't even start to explain. 'Juice' is my 2 year old daughter's favorite song from the year, and my 7 year old son loves 'Truth Hurts'. I love them all.

Top 10 Songs

For my top songs from 2019, I challenged myself to not list any that appeared on my top 10 albums from the year. Why? To make it more difficult, of course. But more importantly, there was some seriously good music that came out this year and I wanted to highlight as much of it as possible - also, I didn't want to have two lists with the same artists (because that definitely would have happened). 

10) Calvin Arsenia - Headlights 
This was my first introduction to harpist Calvin Arsenia, and this song just drips. It's so enticing and warm, I have wanted to listen to it 'over and over again' this past year.

9) Emily King - Look at Me
The 80s vibes were IN this year. A few of my favorites that incorporated that divisive era of music in 2019 were Ibibio Sound Machine, Your Smith, and the great, Emily King. Between Look at Me Now and Remind Me, Ms. King won me over early on in the year. 

8) Sudan Archives - Iceland Moss
The classically trained violinists album, Athena, came late in the game in 2019. Iceland Moss has got a groove that draws me right in.

7) Velvet Negroni - Kurt Kobain
One of Minneapolis' big releases this year came from Jeremy Nutzman AKA Velvet Negroni. Funky R&B that doesn't sound like anything else.

6) Andrew Bird - Sisyphus
Have you ever had an album or song define a trip experience? Andrew Bird's 'Sisyphus' is that for my family trip to South Carolina last spring. One of those songs you just can't get out of your head, we ended up walking through the streets of Charleston with this song on repeat.

5) Wilco - Citizens
A mellow little ripper, this song is consistently a standout for me when I am listening to Ode To Joy. 

4) Devendra Banhart - Kantori Ongaku
The new album from Devendra Banhart is full of sweet, catchy tunes, and this is one I just can't get enough of; 'shikata ga nai' is one of the Japanese phrases repeated throughout the song, meaning 'It cannot be helped' or 'nothing can be done about it'. Even spoken in a language you do not understand, it's a good reminder for keeping things in perspective.

3) Big Thief - Not
This has been a big year for the Big Thief - they released two albums, U.F.O.F. and their latest, Two Hands. Adrienne Lenker's typical quiet vocals get rough and gritty here along with some wicked guitar work. Can't get enough of this song.

2) Cate Le Bon - Mothers Mothers Magazines
Now for the avant-garde, this strange, sometimes chaotic number leaves you wanting more, and the instrumentation at the end is so curious and lovely, ending with what sounds like a buzzing mosquito. One of my favorite stories from the year was when I played this song during New Music, a listener called in to say he'd been swatting around his truck for the past 15 seconds looking for the bug before he realized it was the song.

1) Yola - Faraway Look
Sometimes, there's a song. This one is normally a song I would place in my 'fun songs to sing to in the car' - big orchestral movements, reaching vocals and not one I would normally call a favorite. And I'm still not sure it was a personal favorite, but it was a song that as soon as I heard it, made note that it was an f'ing great song. My words might have even been 'a perfect song'.

And now I want to know, what are yours? I'm hosting Mixtape next week and want to highlight our listeners favorites! Share this post, tag us and give us your top 5, 10 or whatever! Or send an email to comments@kaxe.org. Tune in on Monday (12/23) at 2 & 10pm or next Saturday (12/28) at 3pm to hear yours and other listener favorites!