Well, well, well…2019 certainly was… a year. Wasn’t it? Full of…things…that happened. Truth be told, 2019 was kind of crap for me. I turned 40 and felt every year of it. I didn’t really keep track of new releases at all because I just didn’t care that much. It didn’t seem like there were many new albums that really grabbed me. So instead of new albums I did some deep dives into different bands’ discographies that I hadn’t been that familiar with. I did end up with quite a few favorites this year despite my mood, so let’s get started!
FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2019
Leslie Phillips, “The Turning” – I never listened to anything of her’s before so I bought this on a lark. It’s her final album in the Christian scene before going off to the secular realm and writing music for the Gilmore Girls. She’d teamed up with T-Bone Burnett for this one. It pretty much dominated the first part of the year. While it does sound a bit dated I found it had some great hooks and a lot of integrity.
The 77’s, “Pray Naked” – While I’ve always been a big fan of The Choir, Daniel Amos, and Adam Again, I’d never taken much of a shine to the 77’s. I have no idea why. My first exposure was Drowning With Land in Sight and that was alright. After listening to almost every album they made I ended up loving them. Pray Naked, the re-issue of their 1992 album is my pick because this is the one I returned to again and again. Though I guess I did that with most of their stuff.
Starflyer 59, “Leave Here a Stranger” – Of all SF59’s output, I only ever really liked their debut. I never gave their later, softer material a chance. After the 77’s I started checking out all the band’s material and…man… what the heck was wrong with me. Leave Here a Stranger is my top pick but their latest, Young in My Head is awesome too.
The Walk, “Indianland” – At some point in the year I got a huge hankering for alt-rock with jangly guitars. Someone on Facebook recommended this album and it scratched that itch quite nicely. It’s pretty obscure as well. Fun Fact: It was released on Talkingtown Records. Whose only other release that I know of is Armageddon’s The Money Mask
Polaris, “Music From the Adventures of Pete and Pete” – So yeah… jangly alt-rock. Sure, “Hey Sandy” is great, but the rest of this album is awesome too. Also – all the nostalgia feels.
Alvvays, “Antisocialites” – We’re still on the jangly alt-rock kick here though this one is a little bit more shoe-gazery. Wonderful dreamy female vocals. Great hooks.
Petra, “More Power To Ya” and “Not of this World” – A friend gave me a “best of” CD with a bunch of older Petra material on it. Since I started with On Fire! I’d never heard any of the band’s Greg X. Volz output. Turns out it’s friggin’ phenomenal. Pretty much everything from Never Say Die to Beat the System is pretty great. Though I picked the above two albums because I really think they’re the cream of the crop.
Resurrection Band, “Hostage” – After Petra I immersed myself in the Resurrection Band. Again, I’d only heard an album or two. Imagine my surprise when I loved every single album. Seriously, I did not hear even one clunker. I listened to a Rez Band album almost every morning for a month. So I guess I picked Hostage because it’s the one that fans tend to hate because it’s all New Wave. Didn’t bother me at all. I loved it. Lament, Civil Rites, and Colors were other favorites. But…ya’ll… they were all good.
Aunt Bettys, “Aunt Bettys” – I’d always heard about how great this record was but had never been able to listen to it. I’m kind of a casual fan of Michael Knott’s output as it is. However, this record lived up to the expectations. I think it might be the hardest thing he’s done ever. It’s also super catchy.
Angelica, “Without Words – I’m not usually into instrumental albums, but this is an exception. The guitar work is absolutely incredible. Stellar. But the one thing I really liked about this album was that there are hooks. Even though there’s no vocals it felt like each song had a “chorus” or something to hang your brain on.
Crimson Thorn, “Unearthed” – So at the tail end of the year I had a sudden desire to listen to death metal. That desire is ongoing as of this moment. I remember I bought this when it came out originally in 1995 and didn’t love it that much. I bought 2019’s reissue and found myself loving it. The down-tuned brutal guitars, the cookie monster vocals, the blast beats. Man… couldn’t get enough. Which leads me to…
Revulsed, “Infernal Atrocity” – Dude. This is…. BROOTAL. I’d say this is probably the heaviest thing I’ve ever listened to and loved. The band features the virtuoso drumming of Jayson Sherlock of Mortification fame. Everything about this album is massively heavy and pummels you from start to finish. I started many morning in December with a dose of Revulsed to get my day going.
DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2019
Dream Theater, “Distance Over Time” – Yeah. I’m done with ya’ll. How can a band that’s so insanely talented make such forgettable music? Seriously. I’d forgotten I’d bought this. Just like the last one. I was never one to board the “Mike Portnoy was the talent” wagon but…man…I think I’m on that wagon now.
Devin Townsend, “Empath” – Yeah….no. I was a huge fan of Devy for awhile. But Empath is just… *sigh*. Just play the song, man. Play a song. I feel like he was so into cramming his ideas into this album that he forgot to write actual songs. I couldn’t even make it through the album because it just made me tired. All of the transitions and what not that don’t really make that much sense. Little in the way of hooks. I’m just too old for this crap.
Queensryche, "The Verdict" - This album is not here because it's bad. It's not. It's a pretty good album. Probably the best of the Todd LaTorre era. It's here because it's good... not great. I was hoping that this iteration of the band would finally put out their Rage for Order or Operation: Mindcrime. No such luck. They do keep getting better with each album so I have hope that they'll get their opus magnum yet.
Well…that’s it for me! I hope everyone has a great 2020!