PUP’s Morbid Stuff is one of the best punk albums this decade, and truly solidifies PUP’s place in the genre. Perfectly produced, amazingly written and deeply affecting, PUP don’t hold back any punches with this record. Building on the band’s last album, The Dream Is Over, PUP have opted for a more lo-fi sound here- its crunchy and heartfelt, and that layer of fuzz really adds a new warmth to the band’s sound. Catchy pop punk with a real bite, easily deserving of it’s place in my top 10 albums of the year. Excellent. 9. DJ Mariko Goto- Gainsbourg ni Aisarete
Goto Mariko has returned after what seemed to be a dramatic end to her solo career with a fucking bang. I’ll give it to you straight- this is her most intense work since being in Midori- it’s aggressive, insane, vulgar and personal. This is the record that we’ve been waiting for from her, a beautifully chaotic noise pop experience that reminds you of the power this legendary songstress has behind her. It’s hard not to feel emotionally overwhelmed, both from the sheer emotions on display, but also from a sense of relief that Goto Mariko has finally made an album that showcases her true potential. A late, but absolutely essential addition to any serious Japanese Music fan’s collection. 8. Kazu- Adult Baby
The debut album by Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino is one of the most overlooked gems of 2019- a gorgeous, lush, minimalist pop record that demands to be heard. A lot of the lushness is owed to friend Ryuichi Sakamoto’s amazing synth work here, an essential voice in this powerful mix of overdubbed vocals, trap, subtle beats and vignette like tracks. The album is best digested as a whole, in good headphones, without distraction. It’s as rewarding as the time you put in, and one of the best art pop albums you’re bound to come across from 2019. 7. Ezra Furman- Twelve Nudes
This was one of the most highly played albums of the year for me- a completely unabashed angry punk rock album from Ezra Furman. The lyrics are so grim with despair, socio economic problems, bleak truths and utter anger for the current state of America. Ezra has never made an album quite as hard hitting as this, certainly never as brutally short and snappy. It’s a reminder of the romanticism of music as a form of rebellion; all the more amazing because it’s backed with some of the most exhilarating hooks you’re gonna find anywhere in 2019. Painfully brilliant. 6. Chiaki Mayumura- Mejya Mejya Monjya
Chiaki Mayumura continues to aim high with her latest album Mejya Majya Monjya. This one, her debut major label release is a blend of rerecorded indie tracks and brand new songs (at a whopping total of 20 if you include the 2 bonus tracks). However, Chiaki has such fantastic charisma and song writing pizzazz its an irresistible record despite its length. Every song is full of life, sweetness and the kind of childlike playfulness that only the best Jpop can provide. A songwriter that is constantly evolving and expanding, this is a real showcase of her current range and one of the absolute best records on offer this year.
15. Liturgy- H.A.Q.Q.
Liturgy have been one of the best modern black metal outfits on my radar for quite some time now- always taking themselves super serious (to the point of being almost comical to naysayers)- and trying their damn hardest to make something spectacular each time. H.A.Q.Q. is no exception, it truly lives up to it’s subgenre name ‘transcendental black metal’, because these pieces are absolutely cosmic in scale. From start to end, there isn’t a track that isn’t impressive, both techincally and emotionally engaging. The best black metal album this year, perhaps this decade.
14. YAPOOS- Yapoos no Fushinna Koudou Reiwa Gannen
Yapoos no Fushinna Koudou Reiwa Gannen, the 40th anniversary release for Jun Togawa, sees her legendary new wave outfit Yapoos reunite for some absolutely breathtaking live performances, and their first new studio songs since 2003. It’s an absolutely essential listen, the band gives their all, Togawa sounding the best she has in years (she sounds breathtaking on Red Tank). Spine chilling, the stuff legends are made of.
13. Pernice Brothers- Spread the Feeling
2019 was a year for old favourites returning for me- and this, a long awaited return by Pernice Brothers was a real treat. Simple, catchy rock tracks with Joe Pernice’s trademark vocals are the centrepiece here- no gimmicks or flashy production. Soulful lyricism, excellent folk pop ballads and a real comfiness that is just delightful to hear. One of the best country/indie/pop rock outfits of the last decade are back at full strength, don’t miss it.
12. The Dance for Philosophy- Excelsior
This one absolutely took me by surprise on just how good it turned out to be. I had been getting more and more impressed by The Dance For Philosophy’s singles recently, and when it was time for their full album release, I hopped on it. What a release it turned out to be. I still find myself listening to it consistently, there’s not a dull track to be had. The theme and execution of the group is impeccable, the song writing excellent. Vocals are some of the best I’ve heard from any idol group, and overall, it’s one of J-pop’s biggest treats this year.
11. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Ghosteen
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the mighty Ghosteen, one of the years most adored records by critics and fans alike. Music takes a big step back on this record, it’s far more of an ambient experience, where the lyrics are the guide. Nick Cave sounds the most vulnerable he has ever sounded- even more so than on the previous album Skeleton Tree, which deals with similar themes (particularly around the death of his son). Ghosteen takes things to a new level though, where acceptance has been reached, and true grief has finally settled in. It’s beautiful, mournful and most of all, still carries a glint of hope throughout. Unmissable for any Nick Cave fan.
20. Sunn O)))- Life Metal
While it was hard making a decision out of this and Sunn O)))’s second album from 2019, Pyroclasts, I have ended up going with Life Metal, solely on how much time I spent with it. Sunn O))) have managed to create one of the most interesting experiences that a listener can have with drone; that is, create a drone album that isn’t oppressive, but, surprisingly, uplifting. Yes, there is hope to be heard under these walls of feedback, and it’s wonderous to behold.
19. Lim Kim- GENERASIAN
I debated over putting this one on the list because it’s an EP, but I feel it’s such an important listen for me this year that I had to include it. Lim Kim’s potent, political EP couldn’t come at a better time for the Korean music scene. Where pop is utterly homogenised, Lim Kim has made something truly unique- wrapping traditional Asian music with modern trap and grime- all whilst pushing an anti-orientalist agenda throughout. It’s angry, it’s in-your-face. It’s absolutely essential. The best EP of 2019 from an artist that you’d never see it coming from. It’s great to be surprised like this.
18. 3776- Saijiki
3776 gave us one of the most interesting concept albums of the year this year- a musical calendar. I’m going to quote Malkie from JPS because they can explain it better than I could ever:
“Each second of music on the album represents two hours exactly and the entire album represents one leap year. Each track is a month. Tracks 1,3,5,7,8,10,12 run for 6.12 (31 days), track 2 is 5.48 (29 days in this case), tracks 4,6,9,11 are 6 minutes precisely (30 days).”
Those months are all based in Japan, and have sounds that are traditional to those months, such as carnival sounds, festival music, summery and wintery songs etc. It’s a real wonder to behold such bold musical experimentation- and it set Rate Your Music on fire when it was first released. A must hear, if for the concept alone.
17. Yeule- Serotonin II
In the vast sea of Bandcamp dream pop albums that were released in 2019, none stood out as much as Yeule’s Serotonin II. There is just so much to love here, from it’s impeccable production value to it’s self awareness in the social media age. It’s sadness comes from the disconnect of real world relationships, lamenting on a time where the screen is more human to us than the people around us. It’s a fantastic listen, strong beats that melt into warm ambience carry you through the album’s runtime. It is a great release for Yeule and one that will surely gain her a plethora of new fans.
16. Jenny Lewis- On The Line
Jenny Lewis really hit a home run with her latest effort. The alt-country singer-songwriter’s poppiest album yet feels all the more darker because of its accessibility. The stories she tells here are so vivid they conjure in your mind when you’re listening. The hooks and melodies are amazing, truly catchy and make you want to come back over and over. It’s a real gem that came quite early on in the year, and is worthy of any listener’s time. Get on it.
Sharon Van Etten’s latest album was one of the earliest to catch my ear this year. Mainly consisting of punchy, sensible alt-pop tracks that really entrance the listener from start to end, Remind Me Tomorrow is a far more accessible record from Van Etten than usual. It’s likely a good starting point for a newcomer, and for longterm fans, to see her expand her sound into something with more sheen without losing any of her edge is quite a treat.
23. Thom Yorke- Anima
22. FKA Twigs- MAGDALENE
21. Otoboke Beaver- Itekoma Hits
30. Suiyoubi no Campanella- YAKUSHIMA TREASURE
29. Opeth- In Cauda Venenum
28. Tyler, the Creator- IGOR
27. Sleater-Kinney- The Centre Won’t Hold
26. Church of the Cosmic Skill- Everyone’s Going to Die
It’s been a long time since Cocco graced my ears; and damn this album really made me realise how much I missed her. The singles leading up to it are probably some of the more misleading cuts they could have chosen from the record, adult contemporary pop songs that while pleasant, don’t nearly represent the bulk of the album. For this is very much a ROCK album- and she carries with her all that signature darkness from her prime years and scatters throughout. The album is damp with atmosphere, grungy guitar work, military marches, mighty crescendos and gunfire. It kept me on edge for it’s entire runtime and is easily the most powerful (and surprising) rock album from Japan in 2019. 9/10.
Emi Okamoto- Gappy
Emi Okamoto’s debut album is strong. Some of the most beautiful, funky pop/RnB I’ve come across in a while. Very delicate tonal phrasing, playfully sexy delivery and really gorgeous production from the likes of EVISBEATS and PARKGOLF make it a delectable mix. Most striking is how well the album works as a whole, there is quite a lot of focus on flow and the song ordering seems impeccable. Definitely a name worth keeping an eye on, if this is your bag, you’re in for a real treat from an impressive newcomer. 8/10
Boris- LφVE & EVφL
Boris are back with a double album, that finds them in a comfortable place without taking too many risks- or appealing to anyone but hardcore fans. It’s not going to be a release that is a go-to for newcomers, but those inclined will still find a lot to enjoy in its droning passages. Wata has one of her most impressive solos ever in EVOL that is worth entry alone. 7/10
Lim Kim- Generasian
Lim Kim’s return is a one of immense proportions. Not only a comeback, she’s returned with one of the most intense, angry, personal and politically charged albums in recent memory. And it’s Kpop. Hard trap beats clash with traditional Asian instrumentation in the most exciting way since Sa Dingding, Lim Kim really taking a gigantic detour from her most smooth and pop friendly earlier work (which she is no longer interested in at all according to interviews). There is no subtlety to be found here, every track blazes through and sets your ears on fire. It’s a cacophonic experience that is definitely not to be missed, and creates a truly immersive and theatrical world in its short 21 minute runtime. Essential 10/10. Yes that score is right!
BABYMETAL- METAL GALAXY
BABYMETAL have gone through a lot of turbulent changes in recent years, member changes and death really have spattered tinges of black on their red veneer. They also have lost quite a bit of the fun that made them appealing to begin with, unfortunately. This album is a chore to get through, and sadly the best material on offer is probably the singles that have been out for a long time. There really isn’t that much that can be said for the album, quite a forgettable experience to say the least. 3/10