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DJ Mick writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2019: Mick Reed

CHIRP Radio Best of 2019

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2019. Our next list is from volunteer and DJ Mick Reed.

CHIRP AOY

In the three years that I’ve been with CHIRP this is the first year that I can say that I genuinely felt like the majority of the albums I listened to were excellent. Not just good, not just fair, but excellent. As a result, this was the hardest list I’ve had to compile yet. It pains me when I think of all the worthy albums I’m leaving off either because I haven’t full absorbed them yet, or because I just haven’t gotten around to checking them out. The first couple of weeks of 2020 are going to be spent doing some major catch up listening and I really relish the opportunity to do a deep dive into everything 2019 had to offer.

That’s not to say that 2019 didn’t have its duds though. While there were hundreds of phenomenal albums released this year for our listening pleasure, roughly half of the albums I was actually anticipating checking out ended up being either mediocre (Sudan Archives, Angel Olsen), not up to the artist’s potential (Pivot Gang, Chance the Rapper, Sleater-Kinney), “Whelp, we did an album” low-effort affairs (Tacocat), bed sh*tting embarrassments (In Flames, Fallujah), or boring to the point of feeling like a personal insult (Sun O)))). But, this is not about what I didn’t like, this is a celebration of what made 2019 a landmark year in music. So before I get all needlessly hung up on negativity, allow me to introduce my top 10 (plus 40ish) albums of the year.

I hope this list inspires you to check out some of the albums I’ve written about, or at least introduces you to an artist you didn’t realize you needed in your life (or just listen to whatever you like, it doesn’t bother me either way). Enjoy!

 

#1   Pollinator by Cloud Rat (Artoffact)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Cloud Rat PollinatorPollinator is an easy pick for number one. I’ve been a fan of Cloud Rat from the beginning and Pollinator is the culmination of so many amazing aspects of their sound- the ashen sputter and whine of their guitar work, dust cloud forming drums, and Madison Marshall’s paralyzing shrieks, elements that blend together it terrible and exciting ways. A conflagration that burns of its own volition with no need for slack. Pollinator focuses so many of these fearsome elements of their sound in service of some stunning catharsis and discussions about mental health, and surviving and suffering in a system that objectifies you in every instance of your social being. It’s the album I needed this year and I can’t recommend it enough.

 

 

#2   Hiding Places & Terror Management by Billy Woods (Backwoodz Studioz)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon
 

Billy Woods Places & Terror ManagementThis one’s a bit of a cheat, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t going to force myself to choose between these two superb albums. Billy Woods is the best MC you’ve never heard of, and this year he released four albums, two of which are comprised entirely of new material, Hiding Places & Terror Management. Through his deeply ironic presentations of deeply terrible circumstances, Woods was able to excavate and articulate the buried stories of poverty, insecurity, and brutal domination that define life for too many communities in contemporary society. There really isn’t another artist who was able to addresses the needling terror of living paycheck to paycheck with as much wit and nuance as Billy Woods did this year and I wholly endorse Hiding Places & Terror Management as required listening for 2019, 2020, 2021, etc., etc., etc….

 

 

#3   Death Becomes My Voice by Ringworm (Relapse)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Ringworm Death Becomes My VoiceRingworm is easily one of the most forceful sounding bands in rock history, and Death Becomes My Voice is a perfect capstone within their current discography. Representing their harsh, acerbic punk at its least satisfied and most combustible, listening to it is like being branded with a hot iron. The pain of the experience is instantaneous and short lived, but the feelings it invokes, and the marks it leaves, will last a lifetime. Such is life, so is Ringworm.

 

 

#4   Caligula by Lingua Ignota (Profound Lore)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Lingua Ignota CaligulaCaligula is a masterpiece. Depicting a cruel and abusive relationship between the Lingua Ignota aka Kristine Hayter and an ex-lover, the project is an attempt to convert her trauma into power, in much the same way that ancient spells might require a blood sacrifice in order to extend the caster’s will out into the world. It’s a very hard album to listen to, not only because of the asperous and sour qualities of her sound, but because the album often features conversation with her abuser, reliving the negation of these interactions, over, and over, and over again. It’s a powerful and powerfully cathartic experience that is slightly scaring to witness. It’s amazing to think that she is partially engaging in the exercise of making music to help others heal from pain they’ve experienced, amazing because the act of making Caligula and performing it can resemble torture, in and of itself. I’ve never a heard an album like this before, and part of me hopes that I never will again.

 

 

#5   Birth of Violence by Chelsea Wolfe (Sargent House)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Wolf Birth of ViolenceI was absolutely enthralled with Chelsea Wolf’s 2017 album Hiss Spun, and Birth of Violence is a worthy follow up. Subtler than its predecessor, but no less evocative, Birth of Violence takes a long hard look at the dusty fields of the American west and sees a dark mirror reflection of its own personage, somehow both hollow and spilling over with dark wet shadows. It’s a perfect album for a rainy day indoors or a somber train ride. In either instance, don’t listen alone, or you may find yourself swallowed by the darkness it contains.

 

 

#6   The Great Descent by Fuming Mouth (Triple-B)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Fuming Mouth The Great DescentThis was an enormous year for hardcore punk and death metal. A culmination of years of resurgent interest in brutal, relentless rock music amongst Zoomers has produced a fresh crop of bands that are as savage as their influencers with a carefree sense of aggression that only youthful vigor can muster. Amongst this new vanguard of old school death and death infused punk revivalists, the standout in 2019 by far was Fuming Mouth. The Massachusetts group’s combination of early Earache era death and crust-coated chemical-tarnished punk ala Anti-Cimex and Amebix is simply without peers, and their debut album is the perfect starting point for what promises to be a long and devastatingly heavy career. Keep an eye on these boys. I know I will.

 

 

#7   Death Atlas by Cattle Decapitation (Metal Blade)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Cattle Decapitation Death AtlasThe planet is dying and Cattle Decapitation knows who is to blame. The famously misanthropic, animal rights death-grinders, known for their ambitious albums, unleashed the most technically impressive release of their careers this year when they set loose Death Atlas upon the world. While the band has long been lauded for Josh Elmore’s mighty, virtuosic guitar work and Travis Ryan’s dynamic vocal range and “troll singing,” Death Atlas sees the band really stepping up their game, experimenting with overtly theatrical elements and integrating segments of mello-death into their already volatile blend of grindcore, crustcore, and deathcore. It’s an album that is very much concerned with the long term effects of mass-extinction occurring within the current Necrocene (alternative name for the Anthropocene) and takes an extraordinarily dim view of humankind’s role in such events. If you’re looking for an album to listen to while you bone up on ecology, this is it!

 

 

#8   Malibu Ken by Aesop Rock & Tabacco (Rhymesayers)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Aesop Rock & Tabacco Malibu KenMalibu Ken is not a party album by a long shot. More of a meditation on how a life spent in pursuit of quick dopamine fixes can cause your soul to slowly unravel. Aesop Rock is easily one of our nation’s great living treasures and Tabacco’s affected, drizzling, slightly acidic, krauty funk beats fit around Rock’s flow like a well-worn, custom made slipper. There were a lot of solid hip-hop released this year, but no one besides Billy Woods dropped as witty, fluid, or deeply metaphoric rhymes as Rock does here. Rock and Tabacco are simply a cut above the rest and I’m having trouble finding a pedestal tall enough to put Malibu Ken on so that all the haters can see it like the bat signal in the sky. This one is going to be in rotation for me well into 2020.

 

 

#9   Crush on Me by Sir Babygirl (Father/Daughter)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Sir Babygirl Crush on MeLush, carefully carefree punk-pop designed to crush the gender binary like a gummy bear beneath translucent, LED lit, platform heels. Sir Babygirl’s Crush on Me was an early treat to encounter back in February, and I’ve been savoring it just about every week since its release. It’s one of those albums that hides its serious, and often revolutionary, sentiments within the folds of fun and friendship, delivering a not-so-subtle message of radical queer liberation in a roll of fruit-by-the-foot you share with your crush at a slumber party. And if you have no one to share your snacks with, Crush on Me is there for you all the same. I really feel like this album is the start of something, and I’m excited to see what Sir Babygirl dreams up next.

 

 

#10   A Different Shade of Blue by Knocked Loose (Pure Noise)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Knocked Loose A Different Shade of BlueEven though A Different Shade of Blue came out just three years after 2016’s Laugh Tracks, the wait felt interminable. Knocked Loose is one of the heaviest and most socially conscious hardcore bands to come out of the Midwest’s DIY punk scene in years, and worthy of inheriting the region’s mantel of ruthless metallic hardcore in the vein of Integrity and Disembodied. When you’re waiting on an album like A Different Shade of Blue you feel the anticipation welling in the pit of your stomach like a couple of badgers having a marital dispute in their den. Thankfully, this was the rare instance where my expectations for an album were not only met, but exceeded. It’s like Those Who Fear Tomorrow meets Jane Doe levels of visceral satisfaction. The only reason it’s not higher on the list is that I feel like I’m still absorbing everything it has to offer, but I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for something loud and uncompromising to pump into their earholes.

 

Honorable Mentions A-Z

- 100 gecs - 1000 gecs (Dog Show) Scene rap is actually a thing you can recommend to your friends now without fear of ostracization. This truly was a magical year. God bless 2019.
- Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark (Blood Music) Epic, ranging black metal, pushing headlong into the hyperborean headwind of… Phoenix, AZ?
- All Out War – Crawl Among The Filth (Unbeaten) Heedless, bloodthirsty, old school melodic hardcore. RIYL: Chokehold, Ringworm, Marauder.
- Blacker Face - Distinctive Juju (Sooper) Chicago-based politically engaged jazz-punk that needs to be heard to be believed.
- Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race (Dark Descent) Old school death metal that depicts the founding of the human race by an advanced species of interstellar travelers. If Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a 3, Hidden History of the Human Race is a solid 9.5.
- Boy Harsher – Carful (Nude Club) Brooding, dingy, sweat thirsty, dance demons.
Gatecreeper – Deserted (Relapse) is the best Swe-death album since Clandestine. Change my mind.
- Chai – Punk (Otemoyan) The neo kawaii invasion is here, and I for one welcome our new body positive overlords.
- Chevalier – Destiny Calls (Gates of Hell) Stupefyingly savage occult speed metal revival, landing somewhere between Sacrilege and Brocas Helm.
- Stef Chura – Midnight (Saddle Creek) The tender punk revolution continues, now with even more ‘90s flavor, and optional black liquorice jimmies.
- City Girl - Chroma Velocity (self-released) Vaporwave so beautiful it haunts me to this day.
- Combo Chimbita – Ahomale (Epitaph) Columbian folk fusion to commune with the Earth to.
- Angel Bat Dawid - The Oracle (International Anthem) Gorgeous, spiritually imbued jazz-funk from a rising star of the Chicago jazz fusion scene.
- Despised Icon – Purgatory (Nuclear Blast) Slam infused deathcore calibrated to turn any circle pit into a flesh-nado.
- Devil Master - Satan Spits on Children of Light (Relapse) Dark occult hardcore to play D&D to while your parents consult their local pastor about your “behavior issues.”
- Djunah – Ex Voto (Third Eye Industries) The best gifts, are the gifts we give ourselves.
- Exhumed – Horror (Relapse) Arterial spray, gore, severed limbs, guts, gratuitous grotesqueries and guitars. *Italian Chef Kiss*
- Fire-Toolz - Field Whispers (Orange Milk) I’m such an easy lay for this kind of thing. Metal and vaporwave. I’m getting hot flashes just thinking about it.
- Fucking Violence – Ingratidão (1054) Fresh beatdown hardcore from the lead singer of Worst. These guys are from the streets of Sao Paulo and the f*cking sound like it!
- Fury – Failed Entertainment (Run for Cover) Criminally overlooked NYC inspired hardcore. RIYL: Vision of Disorder, Leeway, Killing Time.
- Full of Hell – Weeping Choir (Relapse) I’ve always liked Full of Hell, but I have to confess, I didn’t totally understand their appeal until I heard Weeping Choir. I’m a changed man now. Absolute masterpiece!
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana (Keep Cool/RCA) I catch myself singing “crime pays, crime pays, choppin' up the change wit' cocaine in my microwave” involuntarily around the office at least once a week. No one has stopped me yet. Maybe they’re scared. This is a f*cking great album btw.
- Aldous Harding – Designer (4AD) There is no one like Aldous Harding and no album released in 2019 was as singularly beautiful as Designer.
- The Hu – The Gereg (Eleven Seven) Lovely, epic heavy folk-metal from continental Asia. Makes me want to ride a valiant steed across the hills of Mongolia…and I am deathly afraid of horses so that’s saying something.
- Immortal Bird – Thrive On Neglect (20 Buck Spin) Local, progressive, death spliced post-hardcore. I’m here for it!
- Inter Arma – Sulphur English (Relapse) Potent death sludge pioneers continue to impress and frighten on this fearsome return to form.
- Hidefumi Kenmochi – Footwork (Kujaku Club) New solo album from founding producer of Wednesday Campanella. Easily the weirdest hip-hop I heard all year. Equally parts strange and endearing.
- Jinjer – Macro (Naplam) Progressive hardcore and post-metal, taking the world by storm, leading humanity towards the light, and snuffing out hate and ignorance one mosh pit at a time.
- JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs (EQT) Darkly humors hip-hop from a scruffy-faced, globetrotting, satirist. It’s hard to put my figure on him at times, but I like what I’m hearing so far.
- Lord Mantis – Universal Death Church (Profound Lore) The kings of blackend sludge have returned with a surprisingly accessible (by their standards) album that wears its influences proudly on its smoke stained sleeves.
- Mannequin Pu**y – Patience (Epitaph) Surprisingly compelling noisey punk out of Philly, inspired as much by contemporaries ala Collen Green, as ‘90s mainstays like Hole. Eating this up!
- Opeth - In Cauda Venenum (Nuclear Blast) These guys haven’t been a death metal band for a long time, but I don’t mind what they’re doing now at all. In fact I like it quite a lot. This is a genuine metal album that you can listen to with the “I don’t like metal,” or “It’s not really my thing” crowd (and it might even warm them up to harder stuff down the road).
- Orville Peck - Pony (Sub Pop) A moody folk album that seamlessly melds country-western with R’nB and gives it a brash queer twist. All of it, just all of it, please.
- Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation (Profound Lore) Like Incantation, but much uglier and much meaner. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT LOOK UP THE COVER ART!
- Possessed - Revelations of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast) The original death metal band released an album this year and it freaking slays! They’ve haven’t released new material in thirty two years, and sweet baby dark lord was it worth the wait!
- Show Me the Body – Dog Whistle (Loma Vista) Hardcore punk at war with gentrification. No work will set you free. Welcome to the orchestra.
- Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness (20 Buck Spin) Best doom record. #1 in doom. Just the best.
- Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin) Monstrous old school death metal. They will show you things your fragile human brain was never meant to see, and your mind may never recover.
- Devin Townsend – Empath (Inside Out) This is the craziest progressive rock album I’ve ever heard. And it’s good. It’s so good. I would recommend this to anyone. Blanket recommendation.
- Vatican – Sole Impulse (1126) Brutal metalcore out of Georgia. Sounds like a kick in the chest.
- Venom Prison – Samsara (Prosthetic) Intricate, jaw droppingly technical British deathcore that examines themes of sexual oppression, intergenerational trauma, and perpetual cycles of violence. If I were numbering my honorable mentions, this would take the #11 slot.
- Various Artists - Pacific Breeze: Japanese City (Light in the Attic) A lovely collection of Japanese pop made before the traumatic 1989 financial crash. There is nothing about this music that feels dated.
- Vltimas – Something Wicked Marches In (Season of Mist) Ruthless death metal from ex-Morbid Angel singer David Vincent, Ex-Mayhem guitarist Rune "Blasphemer" Eriksen, and Cryptopsy drummer Flo Monier. It performs stronger than its pedigree would imply, and its pedigree is pretty freaking impressive.

And that’s it! What did I miss? Hit me up on social, or visit my blog I Thought I Heard a Sound (https://thasound.blogspot.com/) and let me know!

 

 

 

 

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2019

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