I’ve loved all sorts of music in 2019. I’ve not been able to write about as much of it as I would’ve liked – life is quite different in my world to how it was a few years ago and writing about music has never paid a single bill of mine – but music has given me joy at times this year, comfort at others and often accompanied me in times of stress and pressure. I’ve made quite a long playlist with songs from albums of mine that were particular favourites, but a list longer than 10 albums takes too long to read, so in that vein, here’s my top 10 of the year
Her Name is Calla ‘Animal Choir’
Sadly, this is the final album from the majestic Her Name is Calla. I have no doubt that they’re the best band that most people who claim to like music that falls into lazy categories like Post-Rock, Indie, Alternative and so on have never heard of. They’re truly a great band and this is their best album, a marvellous coda on a fine and, so far, grossly underappreciated career.
Shalosh ‘Onwards and Upwards’
I love me a good piano trio. Shalosh are an exceptional piano trio, particularly if you like your jazz trio’s to have rock leanings too. Which I very much do. So there you go.
Rymden ‘Reflections and Odysseys’
Another jazz trio, this time on the excellent Jazzland Recordings from Scandinavia, this one came as a pleasant surprise to me as I knew nothing about it when I pressed play. Enegetic, playful and muscular. This is high-quality stuff.
Son of Cloud ‘Son of Cloud’
Some albums are quick listens, the kind that you know are good, even excellent, but that don’t stay with you for weeks, months, perhaps even years afterwards. The self-titled album from Son of Cloud isn’t like that. It’s the best singer-songwriter album I heard this year by a million miles. A thing of true beauty and power, with some great songs and a thread of narrative to the album that will stay with you long after you’ve finished listening. More people should know about this album. Many, many more.
Flight Brigade ‘Chased By Wolves’
Indie rock bands who forefront guitars seem to be an endangered species in 2019. I love Flight Brigade because everything about them, their sound and their songs are impeccable and timeless. Their songs stay with you and their show is one of the best you’ll see from a band of any stature in the contemporary scene. Don’t miss them in 2020.
Pedro the Lion ‘Phoenix’
Listen to this, listen to “Quietest Friend” and then come back and tell me that the genius of David Bazan hasn’t grown with the resurrection of his awesome band Pedro the Lion. One of the greatest songwriters of this or any other era, full stop. And when he rocks, it’s extremely satisfying. Oh for a visit to the UK in 2020.
Portico Quartet ‘Memory Streams’
Probably the best live band in the UK right now, this newest record from Portico Quartet is among the most cohesive and potent of their career, even rivalling ‘Isla’ for power and emotion. Some of my favourite moments of this year have been watching them play, too.
Telefon Tel Aviv ‘Dreams Are Not Enough’
I have such a strong connection with the music of TTA. It has been with me through some of the best moments of my life, as well as some of the hardest. To find Josh coming back with the first new album under this name for a very long time this year was a joy tinged with sorrow as to what was lost and a hope that the great music of that past could be matched. I didn’t dream he could surpass the beauty of previuou records, but he pulled it off. A great album.
Hammock ‘Silencia’ and ‘Undercurrents’
Hammock are absolutely at the top of the game as regards ambient music and they only cemented that position and reputation in 2019. Not only did they complete a recent trilogy of albums with the beauty of “Silencia” but they released a monthly series of longer-form pieces named “Undercurrents” throughout the year too. Do seek that one out.
Sugarfoot ‘In the Clearing’
A glorious slice of country rock from Norway to close out the top 10. It will make you smile, no doubts at all.
And to finish things off, here’s the longer playlist:
Have a fantastic Christmas and a great start to 2020.