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totally top five 2019: listening

I listened to so, so much good music this year and I have been SO EXCITED to talk about it that some of these blurbs have been in draft for literal MONTHS. Also, I urge you to remember that I have spectacular, diverse taste in music and you should listen to me!!


King Woman, Created in the Image of Suffering – This is 38 minutes of heavy, haunting, artful doom metal and it rules. Kristina Esfandiari is so unbelievably talented and you can hear pain and growth and struggle and escape and reconciliation and it’s beautiful and heavy and cool as hell. This was the first thing I listened to and loved in 2019 that made me feel like I was experiencing something I never had before, like it was the ground floor of something brand new to me that will only get better from here. “Utopia,” “Deny,” and “Shame” are my favorites, but I cannot stress enough how good it is as a complete album and how it’s incredibly satisfying to listen to that way. My only complaint is that I didn’t hear it sooner.


Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? – This was probably my most surprising album of 2019 because I am old and crotchety and sometimes do that thing where I refuse to try something because there’s Too Much Hype and I Am An Asshole, so I am grateful to whatever Spotify user put “Bad Guy” on a playlist dedicated to tempo changes because otherwise I might never have heard the album at all. It’s another one that works as a whole, but I usually end up just queuing my favorites because I am fussy that way — “bad guy,” “you should see me in a crown,” “all the good girls go to hell,” “when the party’s over,” “my strange addiction,” “bury a friend,” and “listen before i go” — and also because they still form a kind of neat, cohesive sound without the songs between. I’m both wildly jealous that a teenager is so talented and also wildly excited to see what she does as she makes more music.


Christine & the Queens, Chris – Crystal does this thing at the beginning of the year where she looks at a whole bunch of year-end lists of music and then listens to a little bit of each album and sends me the ones she thinks I’ll like. (This is the most tender, romantic thing anyone has ever done for me. And the JOY and GLOATING PRIDE she radiates when she gets a selection right? Good lord, how it feeds my egomania.) This was one of the first she sent me at the start of 2019 and I was immediately so into it. It’s so dance-y and throwback-y without feeling like a derivative retread of the music it’s echoing. It’s great in English and French. (It might actually be even better in French. Don’t tell anyone I said that.) And it feels sparkling, enliveningly queer, which just completely fucking rules. The obvious standout here is “Girlfriend” which feels like… Gay New Wave Debbie Gibson? And “Feel So Good” — OH MAN, SO GOOD — but I also love “Doesn’t Matter” and “The Walker” and “Make Some Sense”. This got me through the rough early months of 2019 and it really continued to shine even after the snow melted.


The Damned Things, High Crimes – This album is so god damn good and, like their last, has a kind of old school hard rock-metal feel with that kind of… slinky thing that fell out of favor and I missed immensely. (Seriously, listen to “Storm Charmer” or “Keep Crawling” – they make me feel like an extremely horny teenager again. It’s great.) “Something Good” is super catchy and fun and repeat-worthy. “Young Hearts” has a great middle-of-the-song breakdown AND great sort of falsetto call-and-response echo in the chorus. The guitar work is spectacular top to bottom and nobody else is slacking either. “Let Me Be (Your Girl)” is fucking great – “I don’t need to mean the world / I just wanna be your girl / I don’t need to have your heart / I just wanna leave a scar” – and also has a boss guitar solo. This is an album I listen to from beginning to end most of the time and I am never disappointed by a single song, but they also work as singles, popped out individually, and make a great addition to a playlist, which you know is one of my most beloved pasttimes and thus a very serious compliment.


Frank Iero & the Future Violents, Barriers – This was hands down my most listened to album of 2019 and Frank was my most listened to artist of the year in general (He changes his band name every time he makes an album! Because he’s an artist!) and I just really loved it in a way that is hard to articulate because explaining why you just really, really love something is hard.

That said, the run of “Moto Pop” into “Medicine Square Garden” into “No Love” is one of the most fucking,,, masterful pieces of music I’ve experienced in a long time. It honestly causes me PHYSICAL PAIN that it is so good and that I will never create anything remotely comparable!! It is best listened to EXTREMELY LOUD while you are INTENSELY FOCUSED and the fact that it’s all on side 3 together so I can sit too close to my turntable and go far away inside of it all at once… Magic. (“Police Police” is a solid finisher there too, so don’t let me undersell it.) And GOD, the jangly guitar at the beginning of “No Love” has made me roll around on the floor more than once out of sheer joy.

I cannot stress enough that the album as a whole is so fucking solid that I almost always listen to it in its entirety. I’ll be like, “Oh, I want to hear “Fever Dream” (the phrase “ventricle taste test”… it haunts me) and I’ll go to the album on Spotify and I’ll listen to that track and then I’ll be like, “Well… while… I’m… here…” and then start it from the beginning. And then I usually go back and listen to “Fever Dream” again and then the “Moto Pop”-“Medicine Square Garden”-“No Love” trimuvirate and then, honestly, I frequently go back and start the album again. (This sounds like a lot, but I listen to music all day at work and most of my evenings. I have time to obsess. It’s great.) “24K Lush” is a great gut punch of a finisher too.

When we saw them in July in Denver, I did not expect to cry at all. I didn’t even bother to take a guess at a song that might make me cry, that’s how unlikely it seemed! But then I just started HEAVILY WEEPING as soon as “24k Lush” started and then continued all the way through “Great Party,” so hideously that guitarist and extremely nice dude Evan Nestor handed me a bottle of water. I am… an all-time champion of behaving ExTREmelY NORmallY in public and also sometimes slow to absorb just how deeply something has gotten embedded in me. This album got its claws in and hasn’t let go yet.


Honorable Mentions

microwave, much love   cavetown, lemon boy   let’s eat grandma, i'm all ears
littlest man band, better book ends   jon walker, impending bloom   ghost, seven inches of satanic panic


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17 | 2018