2019 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


Here are five albums from 2019 that I really loved. Check out my lists of favorite albums from 20142016, 2017 and 2018 as well.

The New Normal by STL GLD

The Boston hip hop act STL GLD is well-regarded as one of the best groups in the area by local media. Boston isn’t a notable location on the hip hop map compared with other cities, but The New Normal should draw attention to our city. Moe Pope, Christopher Talken, and Jonathan Ulman perform songs that speak to the present moment of the Trump era, and all the political and personal turmoil that entails, but also offering a positive alternative vision. And STL GLD is not shy about getting their message out, including holding a listening party for the album’s premier in the unlikely setting of the Museum of Fine Arts. I admit that I don’t know enough about hip hop to write a thorough review, but I know what I like, and The New Normal, lyrically and musically, is worth listening to.

It’s Real by Ex Hex

This is the second album (following 2014’s Rips) from the Washington, DC based trio of Mary Timony on guitar, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris.  It’s got a mix of 80s punk and hardrock with touches of power pop and 60s girl groups thrown in.  There’s nothing quite original here, but it is a well-crafted collection of raging guitar solos and sweet harmonies.

The Best of Luck Club by Alex Lahey

Do you like 1980s power pop, but want to hear it from a young, contemporary artist? Australia’s Alex Lahey fits the bill on this album that just totally rocks.  She even rips out a sax solo on “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself.” A year ago this week, I reviewed an album by Lahey’s fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, which I completely loved, and I feel just as strongly for The Best of Luck Club.  Lahey is maybe a bit less edgy musically than Barnett, but her lyrics are empowering and uplifting.  And even on the ballads the pair of ballads that close out the album – “Black RMs” and “I Want to Live With You” – Lahey express the contended domesticity of a loving relationship while still being a rock & roller.

Cut & Stitch by Petrol Girls

I have a soft spot for punk rock that features women’s voices shouting over shredding guitars.  The Petrol Girls website bears the tagline “Raging Feminist Post Hardcore from the UK and Austria” which about sums it up.  And while the shouted lyrics may not always be easy to understand, I appreciate that they’re saying important things, the emotion behind them is clear.

Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

Lizzo is one of those artists that excels in making music that fits into multiple genres – pop, hip hop, soul, funk, & R&B – so much so that her music is kind of it’s own Lizzo genre.  I was going to compare the music on Cuz I Love You to the work of Prince, and that was before I learned that Lizzo is from Minneapolis (in fact she appeared on the Prince and 3rdeyegirl album Plectrumelectrum).  The other obvious comparison is Janelle Monáe, and again there’s a direct connection as the pair performed together at Coachella last week and Lizzo interviewed Monáe for them. magazine.  What sets Lizzo apart is her joyful exuberance.  A large, black woman gets discriminated at from every angle, but Lizzo has embraced self-love, and much of the theme of this album is sharing the message of empowerment.  And she sounds she’s having so much fun while doing it.

Album Review: It’s Real by Ex Hex


Album: It’s Real
Artist: Ex Hex
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Tough Enough
  • Cosmic Cave
  • No Reflection
  • Talk to Me

Thoughts:

This is the second album (following 2014’s Rips) from the Washington, DC based trio of Mary Timony on guitar, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris.  It’s got a mix of 80s punk and hardrock with touches of power pop and 60s girl groups thrown in.  There’s nothing quite original here, but it is a well-crafted collection of raging guitar solos and sweet harmonies.

Rating: ****

Monthly Mixtape – February 2019


Billie Eilish :: Bury a Friend

A creepy song written from the perspective of the monster under the bed by a 17-year-old singer/songwriter from Los Angeles.

Gato Preto ::  Mendinga Carnival feat. Lusafro Allstars

The duo of the producer Lee Bass and rapper/singer Gata Misteriosa are joined by lusophone (Portuguese speaking) artists from Africa in this celebration of the creole culture of Cape Verde.

Chaka Khan :: Like Sugar

The Queen of Funk is back with a spectacular new album, Hello Happiness, with this terrific lead single.

Hatchie :: Without a Blush

Australian singer/songwriter Hatchie, a.k.a. Harriette Pilbeam, returns with the lead single from her new album of dream pop, Keepsake, due in June.

Ex Hex :: Cosmic Cave

Mary Timony’s Ex Hex returns five years after their classic album Rips, with the lead single off of It’s Real, which is due in March.

The Prizefighters :: Just Let the Music Play

The warmth of this sleepy ska tune belies the fact that The Prizefighters are from chilly Minnesota.

Shana Cleveland :: The Face of the Sun

Los Angeles-based Shana Cleveland is singer/songwriter with ethereal vocals and dreamy instrumentals.

Sol :: The Kids

Seattle hip hop artist Sol raps about police violence and their victims, the kids.


Previous Mixtapes:

2014 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


I found it difficult to select just 10 songs I love from 2014.  So, I didn’t and instead I’ve compiled a list of 20 fantastic tracks of the past year.  And I could add more.  The songs are listed below, alphabetically by title.

For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 20132012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

I’ve featured many of this songs in my Song of the Week posts this year.  If you see a link from a song title it will take you back to the Song of the Week post for that song.

Archie, Marry Me” – Alvvays

Beneath the Brine” – The Family Crest

“Chaghaybou” – Tinariwen


“Coffee” – Sylvan Esso


Discourse My New Romance” – Shinedoe


“Disco // very” – Warpaint


“Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)” – Ages and Ages


Don’t Wait” – Mapei


“Don’t Wanna Lose” – Ex Hex


Elon Matana” – Clap! Clap!


FUNKNROLL” – Prince


“Go Away” – Weezer


“Good Mistake” – Mr. Little Jeans


“Grotto Beat” – Don Flemons


The Liar” – Fennesz


Low” – Young Fathers


“92nd Street” – Kris Delmhorst


“Ohun Aiye” – Seun Kuti & Egypt 80


“Quartz” – TV on the Radio


“True Trans Soul Rebel” – Against Me!

2014 Year in Review: Favorite albums


I’ve never attempted to make a list of favorite albums, primarily due to economic reasons I’ve never been able to listen to enough albums to make a fair judgment.  But now we live in the age of the cloud and I subscribe to Rdio and have the opportunity to listen to a lot more albums than ever before.  So, I’m going to give this a go, but I’m still not going to make a top ten, just eight favorites.

If you’re interested in more of the best albums of 2014, check out the lists compiled by my friends Erik and Jon.

The albums are arranged alphabetically by artist. I’ve included a sample song from each album, but check out SoundCloud, YouTube, or the artists’ websites for more.  I’ve also included an Rdio playlist of all eight albums below.

Aphex TwinSyro 

The first album by Richard James released under the Aphex Twin moniker is a sonic wave of electronic noise and melody.

Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba

A project of Italian alian producer C. Crisci, Clap! Clap! creates dance music by combining electronic sounds with samples of traditional African music.  While not the first  effort to make this combination of sounds, Tayi Bebba is remarkably unique.

Ex HexRips

Following up on the great supergroup project of Wild Flag, Mary Timony is back with another band that plays just straight-up great rock & roll.  I haven’t fallen in love with an album this quickly in a long time.

FM BelfastBrighter Days

An electronic-pop band from Iceland plays on all of my weakness.  This music reminds me of the 1980s, but done right.

Moon HoochThis is Cave Music

Moon Hooch is an all-sax band.  Cave music is apparently saxophones playing swinging dancetunes that feel like acoustic EDM.

St. Vincent

Annie Clark’s eponymous album is on all the best-of lists of this year, so I don’t need to say more than if you haven’t listened to it, check it out now.

 3rdEyeGirlPLECTRUMELECTRUM

Prince released two albums this fall, and this is the better of the two, a collaboration with a new all-woman band of guitar player Donna Grantis, drummer Hannah Ford and  bassist Ida Kristine Nielsen.  Prince responds well when challenged by working with other great artists, and this album has more of a rock vibe than I’ve heard from Prince in some time.

Ana Tijoux – Vengo

French-Chilean hip-hop MC blends Latin beats, R&B, and consciousness-raising lyrics.

 

http://www.rdio.com/people/Othemts/playlists/12376150/Favorite_Albums_of_2014/

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the Week: “Hot & Cold” by Ex Hex


Ex Hex, the latest band formed by Mary Timony (of Helium and Wild Flag fame, among others) has a terrific new album called Rips. “Hot & Cold” is the first video from the album, but check out the rest of the songs as well.

And while we’re on the topic of Mary Timony, here’s a bonus video of “Honeycomb” by Helium from back in 1995 which was filmed in Jamaica Plain.