Bradley's Almanac

[Nac Faves] My Favorite Music of… last year? Yes, of 2019.

Posted on June 30, 2020 at 9:41 am | No Comments

Hey, it’s my laughably late faves list. Even in unexceptional times, no one needs another one of these, especially one this tardy. But my coping mechanisms include distracting myself with tedious, relatively meaningless projects… like this one. I shared last year’s list in… July? Absolutely shameful. I told myself then that I’d never be that late again… so, mission accomplished, I guess? By one day. Small victories. I’m not above using a global pandemic as an excuse, or a basement flood (that happened), and I swear, I was so close to having this thing done three months ago. I mean, I’d still have been last, but not quite this last. Never again (he says, until the next time).

As usual, here’s a simple (and overlong) alphabetical list of some LPs, EPs, reissues, and web-only releases that hooked me last calendar year. I don’t rank things I love, as relative positioning of art is folly, and my moods change on a whim. Hell, just whittling down this list to a reasonable length was tough enough. Obviously.

I’ve included label links for as-direct-as-possible physical purchasing if you’re so inspired (be inspired!), along with an embedded song for (almost) everything listed. I also pulled together (i.e. obsessed over the order of) a playlist, so those of you who subscribe to a certain hell-spawned streaming service can listen while you’re scrolling. Or maybe later after you hastily move along.

I’ve been sharing these things for close to two decades now, and here’s the proof: 2018, 2017, 2016 & 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, & 2001.

If you’ve got spare reading time, don’t click on those old posts, instead hit up these more timely run-downs of last year’s high points from respected friends: Bryan’s AGP, Jay’s Blizznog, Allston Pudding’s Staff Picks & Local Faves, and Ben’s Noise Floor.

Alright, on to the business. I’ve included a bit of text for some, including links if the artists have released new music in the meantime. And, y’know, given how long it’s been… odds are good. If any of this stuff grabs you, the next Bandcamp Day (on which all of their fees are waived in support of artists, and on which many bands donate their own cut to worthy causes) is this Friday, July 3rd, so maybe pick something up then if you’re able.


‘Nac Faves of 2019 – Spotify playlist


My Favorite LPs of 2019


Apex Manor

“Heartbreak City”

[ on Merge Records ]

Grateful that Ross Flournoy’s long break away from music finally ended with this stellar set of songs, and that I got to see him play some of them at Merge30 in North Carolina last summer (especially since he didn’t tour the record through Boston). In September, he also released “Blueprints”, a five-song collection of outtakes & demos from the LP.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Merge ]


Sasha Bell

“Love Is Alright”

[ fan-funded & self-released ]

Sasha Bell’s (of the Essex Green/Ladybug Transistor) long-in-the-works solo album finally arrived and was very much worth the wait.

[ Stream the LP & buy direct at Bandcamp ]


Big Thief

“Two Hands”

[ on 4AD ]

Even if this album contained only the song “Not”, it would be an all-timer. But it has so much more. And wasn’t even the only good record they released last year. This year so far they’ve shared an EP of demos and a non-album track via Bandcamp.

[ Stream two songs at Bandcamp / Buy direct from 4AD ]


Chris Brokaw

“The End of the Night”

[ on VDSQ/tak:til/Glitterbeat ]

Chris’ varied sonic guises (solo-singer-songwriter/full-band-rock-action/instrumental-experimental-ambience) are all well-worth a deep dive, and last year’s release of “The End of the Night” was no exception. A few West Coast cities were even graced with performances by his stacked “End of The Night Band”, and I was damn lucky to be in Portland, OR for one of ’em. He’s since released a live recording from one of those shows, as well as a guitar-n-synth EP titled “Fecund In The Flood”, composed during the early days of The Great Pause. He’s also teased his next rock-band record, “Puritan“, which is in the can and will eventually be in our ears.

[ Stream the LP on Bandcamp / Buy direct from VDSQ ]


Business of Dreams

“Ripe For Anarchy”

[ on Slumberland ]

Another great release from the Land of Slumber. BoD has since released the digital “Well I See” EP via Bandcamp.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Slumberland ]


Chastity Belt

“Chastity Belt”

[ on Hardly Art ]

Since this release, their self-titled fourth album, Seattle’s Chastity Belt have put out a digital split single with Melbourne’s Loose Tooth. Grab that here.

[ Stream three songs at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Hardly Art ]


Christians & Lions

“Young Familiar”

[ released through Bandcamp ]

Ben Potrykus revived this long-dormant project after a decade or so, which allowed him to stretch his songwriting skills outside of the (brilliant) Bent Shapes box. Whatever form his output takes, I’m there.

[ Stream the album & buy direct at Bandcamp ]


Corridor

“Junior”

[ on Sub Pop ]

I have no defense for not jumping on the Corridor train until this record, but I am now fully on board. Hoping I get to catch them live… someday.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Sub Pop ]


DIIV

“Deceiver”

[ on Captured Tracks ]

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Captured Tracks ]


The Figgs

“Shady Grove”

[ on Stomper Records ]

A great Figgs (triple!) LP that measures up well against the rest of their ridiculously extensive discography (33 years = so many records). Hit their Bandcamp for some more recent additions. We’re fortunate that Mike Gent & Pete Donelly have been doing the occasional lockdown livestream, so hit up their FB pages for those, too.

[ Watch another video on YouTube / Buy direct from the band ]


Future Teens

“Breakup Season”

[ on Triple Crown ]

Future Teens have been doing some cool weekly charity giveaways over on FB, where a donation to a selected charitable cause gets you an entry, so head over there to get in on that action.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Take This To Heart ]


Guided By Voices

“Zeppelin Over China”

[ on Rockathon ]

They put out (at least) two other records last year as well, but this one hit me harder. I mean, they’re all good in their way, or at least they’ve all got some great songs. And, (gloomtown) shocker, they’ve put out more this year, while starting up the incredible “Hot Freaks” subscription service. Weekly doses of GBV straight to yer inbox. Completely worth the cost.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Rockathon ]


Halfsour

“Sticky”

[ on Fire Talk Records ]

Took me far too long to catch this Boston-based trio live, but finally seeing them at O’Brien’s last year sealed the deal. Was looking forward to more of that until, well, you know. Post-Pause, I’ll be there again.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Fire Talk ]


Hallelujah the Hills

“I’m You”

[ on Discrete Pageantry ]

In the wake of releasing one of their best records (I know, I say that about every HtH LP, but it’s true every time), the band has offered up an audio collage of demos and a live duo recording. Go snag ’em.

[ Stream & buy from Bandcamp ]


Hovvdy

“Heavy Lifter”

[ on Double Double Whammy ]

Another canceled-casualty of The Great Pause: Not getting to see Hovvdy play songs from this wonderful LP at the (obviously still closed) ONCE Somerville a few weeks back. I was out of town for last October’s Great Scott show (speaking of sadness), so that was to be my own personal make-up date. Sigh. Go grab a set of Heavy Lifter demos that the band shared back in March.

[ Stream at from Bandcamp / Buy from Double Double Whammy ]


Imperial Wax

“Gastwerk Saboteurs”

[ on Saustex Records ]

I’m a bit surprised that this record didn’t wind up on more year-end lists – it’s a corker. These guys made up the final incarnation of the Fall, and I’m very glad they kept going after the loss of MES. Great stuff, and there’s been another 2-song single released since.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Saustex ]


Jeanines

“Jeanines”

[ on Slumberland ]

More Slumberlandy-greatness, with the first full-length from this wonderful NYC-duo. So many short, sharp pop songs, and it’s shorter than some EPs (16 songs in 25 minutes!). Love it. They’ve since shared an acoustic EP on Bandcamp along with a new 4-song 7-inch on the wonderful WIAIWYA label (btw, you should hurry up and grab that – only 10 copies of the vinyl left over there!).

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Slumberland ]


Will Johnson

“Wire Mountain”

[ on Keeled Scales ]

The mighty Will Johnson, mining the depths as he does so well. Seeing him play some of these songs in our living room was a personal highlight of last year, and brought this record even closer to my heart. Will has done a few live-from-home streams during lockdown, raising funds for causes close to him. Here’s the latest one. He’s also been continuing his series of paintings of notable ballplayers, and selling the originals, so keep an eye over on Facebook for more of ’em.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Keeled Scales ]


Ladytron

“Ladytron”

[ fan-funded & self-released ]

My favorite Ladytron record, 20 years into their existence. Shame that this release was a victim of the Pledgemusic implosion, but I’m obviously grateful they eventually persevered and got this out into the world. Back in March, the band pulled together an cool little “self-isolation mixtape” over on sp*tify.

[ Stream & buy the LP at Bandcamp ]


Lost Film

“Zero Summer”

[ via Bandcamp ]

I don’t think Jimmy Hewitt has released anything I haven’t loved.

[ Stream & buy it at Bandcamp ]


Madder Rose

“To Be Beautiful”

[ on Trome Records ]

Just a little 20-year break between albums, no big deal, right? Great post-reunion LPs are no longer a huge surprise, but they sure are welcome ones. Such a joy hearing Billy Coté & Mary Lorson record together again. MR have been in the air lately, as the answer to a mini-online-mystery, as well as a sweet cover selection by Tanya Donelly & friends. Tanya also shared the news that Madder Rose was going to play a little Belly-centric fest in Providence before the world went to hell, and I’m hopeful that’ll still come to pass someday. Add that to the long list of other things I’m hopeful for.

[ Stream & buy the LP at Bandcamp ]


Mammoth Penguins

“There’s No Fight We Can’t Both Win”

[ on Fika Recordings ]

When SXSW started falling apart this year, Mammoth Penguins were the first band I thought of… such a bummer that all their planning was for naught. Fingers crossed that they’ll get a chance to make up that trip next year, and that they’ll include even more tour dates (cough*boston*cough). With Emma Kupa’s recently-announced debut solo LP arriving in September, maybe she’ll even get to play some sets of her own while they’re over. There’s that optimism again. Back in March, the band released a non-album fundraising track via Bandcamp, so go grab that if you haven’t yet.

[ Stream & buy direct from Fika Recordings ]


Bob Mould

“Sunshine Rock”

[ on Merge Records ]

It’s only been 16 months since this excellent record, and Mr. Mould has already announced his next one, unveiling it with an absolute barnburner of a track. Go listen to “American Crisis” if you haven’t yet. Or just crank it again if you have. Then pre-order the upcoming “Blue Hearts” LP.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Merge ]


Moving Panoramas

“In Two”

[ on Modern Outsider ]

As if I wasn’t already going to adore this album, Leslie Sisson goes ahead and invites Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws to add perfect harmonies to what became my favorite track. Hoping another chance to see her play in person is in my eventual future, as it’s been far too long. Leslie has done a couple live sessions during lockdown, so keep an eye on the MP facebook page and her instagram in case something else pops up, and check out the band’s contribution to a recent charity comp on Bandcamp.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Modern Outsider ]


Palehound

“Black Friday”

[ on Polyvinyl ]

The third Palehound LP, and it really feels like Ellen Kempner’s band has hit a perfect stride. No matter how many times I’ve heard it, and no matter the context, this record never fails to move me. They’ve put out a couple of singles since, including “Your Boyfriend’s Gun” (with an ace Yo La Tengo cover thrown in) and the more-recent “See A Light”, so hit those links to grab ’em. Ellen’s also done a couple stunning solo-at-home sets in recent days, so keep an eye on Instagram in case there’s another.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Polyvinyl ]


Pedro the Lion

“Phoenix”

[ on Polyvinyl ]

David Bazan reignites his band name and promptly puts out a freakin’ thematic masterpiece of a record. The first in a series of LPs that he plans to write about the places he’s lived, “Phoenix” is a stunner that has set an incredibly high bar for the rest. Dave’s been very generous with his time during lockdown, playing no less than two solo sets a week over on Twitch. Stop into one of those on a Tuesday or Wednesday if your soul needs some nurturing, which it likely does.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Polyvinyl ]


Pernice Brothers

“Spread The Feeling”

[ on Ashmont Records ]

Loooong in the making, and the wait paid off handsomely. A high point in a career of high points, brothers Joe, Bob, & their collaborators (Neko Case among them this time) pulled together a poignant pop record that keeps revealing depths, many months after the first spin. And… surprise! Joe’s already got another full-length of his own out, this one a stripped-down, recorded-in-lockdown affair titled “Richard”. Go get it, and keep one eye on his Instagram page in case he decides to do another livestreamed set… the couple he recently did to mark the record’s release were truly special, and went unsaved.

[ Stream & buy at Bandcamp ]


Peyton Pinkerton

“Ex Tomorrow”

[ on Darla Records ]

Another relatively unheralded but no-less-excellent solo record from Peyton Pinkerton (New Radiant Storm King/Silver Jews/Pernice Bros), with his guitar playing and at-home production skills only getting more inventive & dynamic with each LP. I’m so appreciative of his continued musical output, and of Darla’s long-standing support of his releases. Keep ’em coming.

[ Stream a track at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Darla ]


Purple Mountains

“Purple Mountains”

[ on Drag City ]

Not sure I can say anything about this record that will give it justice, or that will sound anything other than trite. 2019 was a lot of things, but it’ll mostly just be the year we lost David Berman.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Drag City ]


Ride

“This Is Not A Safe Place”

[ on Wichita Recordings ]

Ride’s graceful return has been a gift from the get-go, and if their first post-reunion record was shaking off the rust, this one’s got them back up to cruising speed. Back in May, the band released a strings-and-synths version of this LP titled “Clouds In The Mirror”, with gorgeous new arrangements by Pêtr Aleksänder.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Wichita ]


J Robbins

“Un-Becoming”

[ on Dischord ]

One of my last, and greatest, memories from the now-officially and tragically gone Allston venue Great Scott was seeing J. Robbins and his band of ringers play songs from this record in December, with openers Versus & Drew O’Doherty. Sigh.

J. has since done a couple FB solo-from-home livestreams, and has shared some songs over on Bandcamp, including the biting “Dear Leader” a few weeks back.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Dischord ]


seBADoh

“Act Surprised”

[ on Dangerbird Records ]

Yup, another solid Sebadoh record. Lou B. has been doing fairly frequent livestreams on his Instagram, and naturally throwing in some of his Sebadoh songs (and even a Jason number or two – petty cool to hear Lou’s voice on those). Sebadoh had a bunch of Spring live dates set before, y’know, so it remains to be seen if those will get rebooked before the next Dinosaur Jr. album-tour-cycle begins. We shall see.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Dangerbird ]


Secret Shame

“Dark Synthetics”

[ self-released through Bandcamp ]

I owe the entirety of my relatively new appreciation of this band to a fest that never happened (you know why). Boston’s own Dark Spring Festival was scheduled to take place back in April, and when they started sharing the lineup late last year, Secret Shame stood out when this record grabbed me immediately. Check out a new two-song single the band released in early June, and add an eventual Boston-area show (or, better yet, an entire rebooking of the DSF) to my long list of post-pandemic hopes.

[ Stream & buy at Bandcamp ]


Starflyer 59

“Young In My Head”

[ on Tooth & Nail ]

Jason Martin keeps plugging along, quietly putting out some of the most rock-solid records of his very long run. He’s already got another excellent EP out (“Miami”), and his band Lo Tom (with TW Walsh, Trey Many, & David Bazan) has their second record finished and ready to go. Cannot wait.

[ Buy digitally from Tooth & Nail ]


Swervedriver

“Future Ruins”

[ on Dangerbird Records ]

Yet another band who went away for a long while and came back without skipping a beat. Their second great post-reunion record proves the first was no fluke, and that there was lots of gas left in their Mustang’s tank.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Dangerbird ]


Tallies

“Tallies”

[ on Kanine Records ]

A stunner of a debut full-length from this Toronto outfit. The band’s Sarah & Dylan have done a couple of lockdown livestreams, and you can watch one of ’em here.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Kanine Records ]


Telekinesis

“Effluxion”

[ on Merge Records ]

Seeing Michael Learner play a bunch of these songs with his band at MRG30 last summer was not just a treat, but maybe the first time I’ve seen him perform his own stuff with a drummer that was not himself. I dug it, but I do so love his drumming. Speaking of which, he plays on Ben Gibbard’s recently released single, “Proxima”.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Merge ]


Tennis System

“Lovesick”

[ on Label ]

On May 1st, Tennis System followed up this great record with the pre-order of the super-limited, vinyl-only “Fuck Everything Else” EP, which arrives in July. It promptly sold out. And I missed it. Rats. I love limited-release, physical-only shit like this, except when I get shut out. Fingers crossed I’ll still get to hear their cover of “Space Age Love Song” somehow.

[ Stream the LP at Graveface’s Bandcamp ]


Unwed Sailor

“Heavy Age”

[ self-released ]

Somehow, and shamefully, Unwed Sailor fandom eluded me until last year, and I’ve been trying to make up for it since. They’ve been around for ages, so I have zero excuses for missing out until this fantastic LP. And they’ve just put out another excellent record that’s already on my eventual list of 2020 faves. Grab “Look Alive” here.

[ Stream & buy the LP at Bandcamp ]


Versus

“Ex Voto”

[ on Ernest Jenning Record Co. ]

One of my all-time favorite bands releases a long-awaited record that not only doesn’t disappoint, but damn well excels. My anticipation for this thing lasted years, we drove down to the Brooklyn release show, drove again to western MA for another live dose, and did my part to finally get them a Boston show. I was, as they say, all in. I feel like their recorded and performing presence helped musically define my 2019, and that’s a truly wonderful thing. Thank you, Versus.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from EJRC ]


Westkust

“Westkust”

[ on Run For Cover Records ]

More top-notch-melodic-noise-rock from Sweden, brought to me by a label whose headquarters I can almost see from my house. Westkust’s second record is a dreamy doozy, and if they ever end up playing the U.S., I’m so there.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from RFC ]


Young Guv

“GUV I” & “GUV II”

[ on Run For Cover Records ]

Another ace RFC-released project, the solo moniker of Toronto native (and Fucked Up guitarist) Ben Cook, and yeah, I’m cheating a little by combining two albums into one fave. They’re both chocked full of indie-pop-perfection, with almost too much irresistibly catchy, jangly goodness. Check out a recently-released live LP over on Bandcamp.

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from RFC ]


A Few Favorite Singles,
Short-Players, & Web-Only
Releases from 2019


Funeral Advantage

“Nectarine” EP

[ on Sleep Well Records ]

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct Sleep Well ]


Makthaverskan

“Demands” 7-inch

[ on Run For Cover Records ]

[ Stream the single at Bandcamp / Buy direct from RFC ]


Andy Partridge & Robyn Hitchcock

“Planet England” EP

[ on Ape House ]

[ Stream the EP via YouTube / Buy direct from Ape House ]


+/- {Plus/Minus}

“Summer 2019 Extended Play”

[ on Ernest Jenning Record Co. ]

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from EJRC ]


Versus

“Ex Nihilo” EP

[ on Ernest Jenning Record Co. ]

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from EJRC ]


Some Favorite Re-Issues
& Assorted Randomness
Released In 2019


Gregory and the Hawk

“Texas Collectious” song series

[ via Patreon ]

[ Support GatH through Patreon ]


Bill Janovitz

“Covers of the Weeks”
10th Anniversary Collections
(Volume I-IV)

[ self-released ]

[ Download over at Bill’s website ]


Mourn

“Mixtape” compilation LP

[ on Subterfuge (Spain only) ]

[ Stream side A at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Subterfuge ]


Replacements

“Dead Man’s Pop” box set

[ on Rhino ]

[ Buy direct from Rhino ]


Rodan

“The Hat Factory ’93” LP

[ on Quarterstick Records ]

[ Stream & buy at Bandcamp ]


Silkworm

“In The West” LP remaster/reissue

[ on Comedy Minus One ]

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy direct from CMO ]


Springfields

“Singles 1986-1991” reissue

[ on Slumberland Records ]

[ Stream the LP at Bandcamp / Buy straight from Slumberland ]


Stereolab

Catalog Reissue/Remaster Series

[ on Duophonic ]

[ Stream the LPs at Bandcamp / Buy direct from Duophonic ]


Withered Hand

“Ten Years” EP

[ on Fika/wiaiwya ]

[ Stream at Bandcamp / Buy from Fika Recordings or wiaiwya ]


And that, as they say, is all he wrote. Support your favorite artists, now more than ever. And try not to let the bastards get you down.

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