Happy New Year, everybody. Before diving into 2019, I’d like to look back at my 10 favorite spins from last year. Here are some titles you might have overlooked, with excerpts from their original reviews.
- 10. Joyce Manor — “Million Dollars to Kill Me”
Joyce Manor keeps the tunes BIG and the momentum constantly pushing forward. All the while, the lyrics bring the “everyday” into an interesting light; familiar situations always are relatable but never mundane.
9. The Go! Team — “Semicircle”
The record combines elements of garage rock and hip-hop, further enhancing both genres with a myriad of wobbly early ’70s samples, cheerleading squads, marching bands and super-syrupy pop hooks. This entire album is Insanely Catchy, finding its power within sing-song melodies across the top and thick-layered beats below.
8. Speedy Ortiz — “Twerp Verse”
Fronted by guitarist/lyricist Sadie Dupuis, a woman blessed with a voice crossing Bettie Seveert’s Carol Van Dijk with early Liz Phair, Speedy Ortiz is a rare band whose music is complex and catchy at the same time. The players adore bizarre tempo changes, alternate guitar tunings and hazy atmospherics.”
7. Hop Along — “Bark Your Head Off, Dog”
Musically, the group recalls amazing, female-fronted indie legends such as Madder Rose and Throwing Muses while embracing the more progressive-leaning elements of contemporaries such as Warpaint. Lyrically, Frances Quinlan tells wondrous stories both concrete and abstract.
6. Courtney Barnett — “Tell Me How You Really Feel”
It’s a record that doesn’t try to match “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” and is all the better for it. The new album is slightly smaller in scope. Barnett allows us to get closer and peek inside her psyche. She embraces her mood swings and grows as a songwriter.
5. Neko Case — “Hell On”
Case’s always stunning vocals remain the focus. Those golden tones tackle everything from the usual bits of alt-country to progressive rock with all of its quirky chord progressions and tempo changes. Regarding scope, this is easily her biggest album to date.
4. Shannon and the Clams — “Onion”
Now under the guidance of producer and Black Key Dan Auerbach, Shannon and the Clams have stepped up its game, writing better songs while toning down the whole novelty aspect of its work.
3. Albert Hammond Jr. — “Francis Trouble”
Here he finally completely steps out of the Strokes’ shadow. Every track is exquisitely constructed with his reserved yet powerful guitar prowess, soaring melodies (some of them reminiscent of the son’s brilliant father) and Hammond’s emotional abilities as a front man.
2. Sunflower Bean — “Twentytwo in Blue”
Fronted by the determined yet charismatic Julia Cumming, the band plows through 11 focused, guitar-based indie gems big on memorable choruses and (at times) glam rock swagger. The songs grab you almost immediately, and repeat listens bring out charming, subtle nuances you may have previously missed.
1. Mitski — “Be the Cowboy”
Japanese-American indie rocker Mitski isn’t afraid to turn pop structures and rock arrangements inside out and upside down. Not only are her songs good, but Mitski’s voice also is distinct — lovely in spots, unforgiving in others. Whatever the song needs, she brings.