Time for the big cliche: I can’t believe we are in December 2019! So much has happened this year, from my mom’s passing, to my younger son and his wife both turning 30 and my granddaughter celebrating her first birthday, to the birth of my first grandson, to living the third impeachment hearings in my lifetime, to the loss of a long-time coach/friend/mentor, to the craziest list of Rock Hall nominees, to a weird year of music, to the remastered releases of Prince’s 1999 and R.E.M.’s Monster. In the words of Ben Fong-Torres in Almost Famous, “Crazy!”
Overall, I’m still not sure what to make of the new music release this year. If I were to cheat a little bit, I’d say the best album of “new” music was the stuff from The Vault found on discs three and four on that aforementioned 1999 super deluxe box set. Very little seemed as fresh, forward-looking and just plain moving as those two discs that have not left my turntable/CD player since the mail carrier delivered it ten days or so ago. But, that declaration would probably be unfair to all the artists who released new material this year. Then, again, why should I really care? Hell, Kanye released some “gospel” crap that only emphasized to me that he might have lost touch of his muse over the past five years. It happens to everyone. However, he is NOT the genius he thinks he is. Sorry, he’s no Prince, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, or Run-DMC. But, that’s another blog.
While I’m raging against the machine (though I AM happy they are reuniting, since we NEED them now!), is it just me or is the industry over-hyping some artists right now? Don’t get me wrong, I think Taylor Swift has had a nice career, but I really don’t get her. Also, Ariana Grande? I like her better when she was Mariah Carey, the real one. I kinda like Billie Eilish, but I still believe she needs a couple albums to develop her sound better; hopefully, she will get that opportunity. Maybe the problem is that, as my older son has told me on a couple of occasions, that today’s music isn’t for me anymore. I guess I just didn’t die before I got old.
So, I thought I would keep with my tradition of releasing my year-end Top 50 albums for 2019. I started doing this in my private journals back in 1975 when I was twelve, and I am not really ready to call it quits. However, I will concede that this is getting more and more difficult to fill my list. Up through the Nineties, I could fill a Top 50 easily. Now, I simply trust my boys more for the bottom part. What’s an aging Gen X-er, or am I a Boomer (God! I hope not!), to do? Enough of this! Let’s see the damn list!
50. Weezer – Weezer (The Teal Album). Mainly for nostalgia.
49. Anderson. Paak – Ventura. He might be a more boring version of Maxwell.
48. Kanye West – Jesus Is King. See my previous comments.
47. Bon Iver – i, i. I keep trying, but I fall asleep during everyone of his albums.
46. Tinashe – Songs for You. I think she is still searching for her sound.
45. Yola – Walk Through Fire. I like this album, even though the songwriting has yet to catch up to her ambitions. Keep an eye on Yola.
44. Tanya Tucker – While I’m Livin’. The original Miranda has made a strong comeback, though she keeps doing her best LL Cool J by saying it’s not a comeback.
43. that dog. – Old LP. The power poppers from the Nineties made a nice little comeback album that few have heard but should.
42. Miranda Lambert – Wildcard. Our friends’ oldest daughter roomed with a young lady who competed on the first season of Nashville Star when Miranda Lambert was a contestant. My older son, once again, said Miranda was the only contestant who would have a career out of that bunch. I really need to start listening to him sometime.
41. Kim Gordon – No Home Record. Again, this was a nostalgia pick because I’ve always loved her songs on Sonic Youth’s albums.
40. White Reaper – You Deserve Love. When in doubt, I put on a power pop band.
39. Chance the Rapper – The Big Day. Sure, Chance is a little on the pop side of hip hop, but I like him. Plus, he not bad when he’s on SNL. Back to you!
38. Thom Yorke – ANIMA. Do I really like this or do I just WANT to like it?
37. FKA twigs – Magdalene. This artist is somewhere in the sweet zone between Kate Bush, Bjork and Nineties Madonna. She continues to pique my interest.
36. Wilco – Ode to Joy. I will always love what these guys do, even if they might be starting to rest on their laurels a bit.
35. Santana – Africa Speaks. This is a good album, but it’s not Supernatural, let alone Abraxas. Not even Zebop!
34. Taylor Swift – Lover. Is Taylor beginning to slip a bit in her songwriting? Time will tell.
33. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow. Van Etten is a nice little singer-songwriter, but she needs a little lesson in Carole King and Joni Mitchell in order to raise her game.
32. Tyler, The Creator – Igor. This is the best hip hop album of 2019, but he is no Kendrick Lamar.
31. Big Thief – U.F.O.F. This is the first of two albums the band released this year. Neither are great, but there is much to like about the future for this band.
30. Big Thief – Two Hands. These two albums fall somewhere between GNR’s Use Your Illusion I and II, Weezer’s Black and Teal Albums and those stupid Springsteen’s albums from the Nineties.
29. Priests – The Seduction of Kansas. Just when you thought no one was doing pop punk anymore, this album found its way into my stream.
28. Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next. This one is her best, but it’s not the best album of the year. Sorry to the folks at Rolling Stone.
27. Ex Hex – It’s Real. Sometimes, you just gotta have some great alternative music…
26. Tool – Fear Inoculum. It’s always great to have a true comeback by a great band.
25. The Black Keys – Let’s Rock. The Keys’ last four albums have been outstanding and exciting. This one is just a little lackluster. Still, it’s solid.
24. Carly Rae Jepson – Dedicated. THIS is the female pop singer to listen to!
23. Solange – When I Get Home. Beyonce’s little sis is becoming a damn good artist.
22. Beck – Hyperspace. I really wanted to like this album more than I do, but it’s still better than many released this year.
21. Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee. Will someone please explain to me why this guy doesn’t sell more records? Saadiq is the true heir to Prince right now.
20. Fitz & the Tantrums – All the Feels. I keep waiting for this band to break big. They are the Hall & Oates of the 21st century.
19. Maggie Rogers – Heard It in a Past Life. Mark my words, this girl’s gonna be a star! Of course, I’ve been wrong before…
18. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? I’m just glad that young people are listening to something fresh.
17. Charli XCX – Charli. Here’s another great artist who should be huge.
16. The Highwomen – The Highwomen. A nice country album that sounds more like a West Coast album from the Seventies.
15. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride. I love this band, but this is their weakest album to date. Still, it’s stronger than most this year.
14. Coldplay – Everyday Life. I have to give these guys some love. They are following U2’s career’s trajectory perfectly.
13. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka. This guy is the real deal! He keeps getting closer to delivering a blockbuster. He is something a Bill Withers for the new millennium.
12. King Princess – Cheap Queen. I really love this album! She has something of a Teena Marie vibe to her.
11. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors. Olsen is beginning to blossom in her songwriting.
10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen. To me, the best comparison of Nick Cave would be Leonard Cohen, only if Cohen had come up during the punk era like Cave. Cave has a dark beauty to his music that has been unmatched since the middle of the Eighties. I highly recommend this one.
9. Sturgill Simpson – Sound and Fury. If you are an old geezer like me, you remember when artists took chances with their music. For the uninitiated, Simpson is a terrific outlaw country/southern rock artist. But, on this album he does a southern-fried version of LCD Soundsystem that is both challenging AND totally awesome!
8. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars. I absolutely love the laidback nature of this album. This was a great album to listen to outside, as the evening changed to night during the summer.
7. Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold. The second best power trio of the Nineties has been on a creative roll since reforming a couple years ago. This is a terrific album.
6. Charly Bliss – Young Enough. If you need a Cheap Trick fix, Charly Bliss will fill the need. I loved their last album, but this one’s even better!
5. Brittany Howard – Jaime. Remember when Alabama Shakes burst onto the scene at the beginning of the twenty-teens? Wow! How could have ever forgotten what a great singer Howard is?
4. Jenny Lewis – On the Line. If you ever miss Tom Petty’s music, just listen to Lewis and that will fill the void. And, this my friends, is her best album hands down. A very underrated artist who would sound perfectly on classic rock radio.
3. Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock. Bob Mould’s music has been a part of my life since 1984, be it with Hüsker Dü, Sugar or solo. But, what he has been doing since the turn of this decade is a revelation! And, so is this album!
2. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell! After her disastrous debut on SNL several years back, I had written her off. I thought she was simply an artist that was pushed through the star-making machine and would be exposed as a fraud. But to her credit, she kept coming back. And, now, in 2019, Del Rey has created her masterpiece. See what a little humble pie can do for you if you keep grinding it out?!?!
1. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You. I was blown away when I saw her perform “Juice” on The Tonight Show. But, then I just thought it might be the case of a great single being lost on an album of okay material. But, boy howdy, was I ever wrong! Finally, an album was released that took me back to the days of disco, Prince and Earth, Wind & Fire! Yowsah! This is the best album of the year, and, quite possibly, the whole decade. I sure hope this woman is NOT a flash in the pan!