As both the year and the decade comes to a close, I look back on 2019 as a continued year of growth. On a musical standpoint, I was looking to get out of my pop punk and post-hardcore comfort zone and dive into more diverse genres. I was constantly on the search for anything that was garnering the attention of critics, attempting to break down any invisible barrier that may have existed between my pre-conceived preferences and anything praise-worthy being released, regardless of my familiarity with the genre or the artist as a whole. What I’ve gathered over the past year is an eclectic mix of talented artists that captured my attention in one way or another that I’m happy to share with any eager listener that’s looking to broaden their tastes across genres.
American Football – LP3
The Japanese House – Good At Falling
State Faults – Clairvoyant
Freddie Gibbs – Bandana
Have Mercy – The Love Life
Tiny Moving Parts – breathe
Slayyyter – Slayyyter
Turnover – Altogether
Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
The Menzingers – Hello Exile
10. Narco Debut – Strange & Ever-Changing Depths
9. Youth Fountain – Letters to Our Former Selves
8. Counterparts – Nothing Left to Love
7. Emarosa – Peach Club
6. Injury Reserve – Injury Reserve
5. Strange Magic – Unfortunately
Making a strong name for themselves with an admirable apathetic punk attitude, Strange Magic creates something special with Unfortunately. The album features narration by the iconic and instantly recognizable voice of Gilbert Gottfried who was hired by the band via CAMEO, making for a very interesting listening experience being juxtaposed with the brash and aggressive instrumentals. Unfortunately is incredibly efficient, with all ten tracks combining to less than 15 minutes. However, a lot is packed into those 15 minutes, with tracks ranging drastically in style, demonstrating the group’s eclectic collection of influences.
4. Khalid – Free Spirit
The young and emerging R&B/pop artist Khalid comes through with a safe and respectable sophomore release in Free Spirit. There’s no denying the fact that Khalid is a talented singer, possessing tremendous poise and adaptability that spreads across multiple genres. Free Spirit is a bit of an investment as a whole, with the second half being less memorable than the first half. However, there are many moments of brilliance in the first half in tracks such as “Bad Luck,” “Talk” and “Right Back,” making them all repeat-worthy.
3. In Her Own Words – Steady Glow
In Her Own Words certainly aren’t reinventing the wheel in the pop punk scene with Steady Glow. The album possesses qualities that can be expected of any modern pop-punk album: hooky and emotion-felt choruses and up-tempo melodies. In Her Own Words have taken the formula and executed it like professionals, producing an album that packs a punch from start to finish and helps distinguish the group from others in the scene.
2. PUP – Morbid Stuff
Putting the Canadian punk group PUP’s dark humor front and center, Morbid Stuff delivers on all fronts, giving listeners exactly what can be expected with such a title. There’s a level of self-awareness in the lyrics that can’t help but be admired, combined with Stefan Babcock’s vivid and crafty storytelling. Morbid Stuff is tremendous both lyrically and instrumentally, poking fun at clichés of the genre while pulling from personal experiences to paint a very raw, realistic and dark picture.
1. Laura Stevenson – The Big Freeze
Being able to capture an atmosphere and aesthetics felt on The Big Freeze is a rare feat indeed. Laura Stevenson has a beautiful and authentic voice that can only be matched by the heart that goes into her music. Every track on The Big Freeze stands out in its own manner, while also possessing a natural sense of cohesion that makes skipping tracks feel unthinkable. The vulnerability and personal nature felt in Stevenson’s lyrics can be felt to one’s core, making The Big Freeze an incredibly admirable and beautiful collection of painful experiences over the years.