Best Albums of 2019

Acrylics - Sinking In (Iron Lung)
After rounds of small doses in the form of demo tapes and 7″ releases, Santa Rosa’s (and probably California’s… and maybe even the United States’) sharpest hardcore punks released their first official full length in 2019. And while many young, raging bands can’t quite manage to extend the fury of their short-form ragers to proper album length, I’m happy to report that Acrylics not only fill two full sides of an LP with killer, grade-A punk, they do it in a way that leaves you wanting more. So even though this is the first Acrylics release with songs that surpass the 4 minute mark, none of the tracks on Sinking In drag or feel like filler, including a pair of atmospheric interlude tracks. Instead, Acrylics’ warped vision of what hardcore could be, not what it was, burns bright and cements their place as one of the most vital punk bands of 2019.

 

Andy Human & The Reptoids - Psychic Sidekick (Total Punk)
The slow trickle of killer 45s from Andy Human & The Reptoids after their 2015 debut album spurred even higher expectation and really built anticipation for this, their sophomore album. Coming out at the beginning of 2019 it easily eclipsed most of the “best of 2018″ hyped bands that already started sounding stale a few weeks into the new year, and kept smoking synapses through the heat of summer and on through the end of the year. Destined to be a classic, this might just be the brightest jewel in the impossibly dense resume of Andy Human, whose time and efforts in an obscene quantity of excellent bands such as Jackson Politick, The Beatniks, The World, The Cuts, The Time Flys, and probably a few dozen others yet to be exposed, has resulted in a fully realized work of art that sounds great at first listen and gets even better over time. It’s instantly catchy, yet hardly conventional as songs and lyrics careen sideways and get slathered in layers of mystically weird texture and dimension. Not only one of the best from 2019, but surely one of the best of the decade.

 

Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race (Dark Descent)
As one of a handful of metal releases that stood high (cough) above the metal multitudes, Denver’s Blood Incantation have paid their dues in the form of a stream of steadily solid, interesting twists of the death metal formula. From their early demos and especially with their first Dark Descent releases Interdimensional Extinction and Starspawn, this Denver quartet has adapted an astrological bent to the technical death metal spectrum. As incongruous as icy cold, alien themes are to the very human blood and guts and gore that 99.9% of death metal bands gurgle out, Blood Incantation somehow makes it work by layering in psychedelic flourishes, commanding song structures, and studio wizardry to the very recognizable staples of the genre. As Voivod’s sci-fi aesthetic and off-kilter keys made them a unique specimen in the thrash metal world, Blood Incantation are charting a new course that adds layers and complexity to death metal without getting too proggy, or worse, mired in cliché.

 

Dan Melchior Band - Negative Freedom (In The Red)
Over the last two decades, the name Dan Melchior has merited a seal of quality whenever attached to a musical artifact. From early Billy Childish-influenced garage stompers through the bad vibes of the Broke Revue or Dan Melchior und Das Menace’s essential catalog, all the way through more experimental solo records like Assemblage Blues, he’s covered a lot of ground within the generally limited garage rock set. Every release is immediately identifiable as a Melchior product, while also tweaking any known formulas or confidently pushing the envelope into inventive new terrain. Negative Freedom in particular showcases one of his strongest amalgams of expert songcraft and inventive sonic textures, with guitar sounds being mutated and processed into strange new shapes and augmented with masterfully dispensed analog synth buzz and fuzz. Sample the echoplexed beat of “One Dollar” and its wild guitar spasms or the downer drone of “They Insulted Me in Mojo” seasoned with decades of sarcasm and spite and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more worthy slab of wax to throw your expendable or non-expendable income at.

 

Dead Normal - There Is Nothing Left but the Enjoyment of Senseless Destruction (Harbinger Sound)
Along with Rainbow Grave’s No You, this welcome blast of negativity from Barcelona’s most snarling noiseniks is an appropriate response to madness bubbling over in 2019. And while it could be argued that Dead Normal draw heavily from the soundwell of 1980s Whitehouse, it can also be said that they bring a thrilling, albeit slightly more accessible take, on power electronics and screaming lunatic vocals. In fact, it seems mighty fucking appropriate to level this degree of scorn towards society versus the personal S&M of 1980s fetish taboo of prime Whitehouse, as Dead Normal’s split male/female shouts eviscerate humanity’s weaker tendencies and bring reckoning to the state of the species in 2019. And where subtle rhythms could be found in Whitehouse’s squall, Dead Normal bring a stronger, martial pulse to the aktion, bludgeoning the chance of this being an exercise in mimicry or mediocrity.

 

Full of Hell - Weeping Choir (Relapse)
Ever pushing the boundaries of hardcore, punk, metal, noise/experimental whatever “music,” Full of Hell once again exceed their previous output by rescrambling whatever faint templates any genre may contain and obliterating the listener with a level of extremity that only a time like 2019 could bring. At first listen it’s too much to take in and truly requires a few spins before it even makes a lick of sense, and when a picture does finally come into focus, it quickly shifts into volatile territory again. I feel my age listening to Weeping Choir, as there are many moments where it ventures down annoying avenues, like the machine gun-esque blasts that lead from the sound collage of “Rainbow Coil” into and out of “Aria of Jeweled Tears” but you have to appreciate the offense of the severity and the overall reach of what Full of Hell does. The range of aural assault from the sound collage of “Rainbow Coil” to the epic churn of  “Armory of Obsidian Glass” as it nears 7 minute mark to the Halo-style pound of “Angels Gather Here” or the sax-enhanced freakout in the middle of “Ygramul the Many,” it all adds up to help define Weeping Choir as a truly unique listen.

 

Hash Redactor - Drecksound (Goner)
The promise of Hash Redactor’s excellent 2017 demo comes to full fruition on their debut LP, rising to the top of Goner Record’s remarkably strong 2019 release pile. Mixing the tense churn and burn guitar punk of Memphis’ Ex-Cult and the nerve of Nots, featuring member of both bands, Drecksound brings a ringing American twist to the gnarled sort of Australian growl that birthed the likes of bands like feedtime and Grong Grong. But in addition to the thick, knuckle-dragging driving bass lines and guttural vocals of the Aussie version of the sonic virus, Hash Redactor injects brilliant twin guitar interplay that sounds like a woozy Delta version of Marquee Moon played with steady, young hands. Along with The Intelligence and Possible Humans’ offerings in 2019, Drecksound was in heavy rotation and continues to spin often at the NFZ compound.

 

The Intelligence - Un-Psychedelic in Peavey City (Vapid Moonlighting Inc)
Over the span of 15 years worth of essential LPs, EPs, and singles, not to mention the stellar solo record Moonlight Over Bakersfield, Lars Finberg’s prolific output and contributions to other bands in the garage punk gamut have put him in league with likeminded overachievers like John Dwyer, Jay Reatard, and Ty Segall. All are driven to crank out music at a pace that’s hard to keep up with and even though Sir Finberg’s name hasn’t grabbed the rapt critical attention his peers receive, his output in my opinion is of an even higher quality as it continues to earn longer stints on my turntable than nearly any other. Layered with an increasingly diverse palette of sound and exceptional wit (the album title alone is one of the best of the year) his group The Intelligence continues to offer up some of the most satisfyingly scrappy garage sonic poetry committed to vinyl. Like album cover’s fake marked down 50¢ price tag, the latest offering from The Intelligence is the hidden, unknown gem in the thriftstore bin that’s absurdly more valuable than the public at large knows.

 

Oceans of the Moon - Oceans of the Moon (Castleface)
To fill that fizzling void that once throbbed with the vibrations of Six Finger Satellite, stemming from the nucleus of Helios Creed and its primitive Chrome origins, Castleface thrusts forth a malformed cyberorganism called Oceans of the Moon, which somehow cycles out the initial heat of its predecessors for a chilly, calculated future shock. Sharp, contained guitar clips cut sparse marks in time as the motorik beat throbs on, with tracks like “I’m On a Roll” sounding something like a Wire LP played at 16rpm. Executed by Providence mutant rock all-stars with a rap sheet that includes La Machine, The Chinese Stars, and Landed and more, Oceans of the Moon delivers the freakified soundtrack for your cyber armageddon post party.

 

Possible Humans - Everybody Split (Trouble In Mind)
A description of Possible Humans’ sound probably wouldn’t get me excited enough to give it much playtime among the giant piles and raging streams of music that offer much more compelling reasons to earn some time between your earholes, but fuckin’ A, this album has completely saturated and colored 2019. Maybe it’s because they’re Aussies and Australia has been churning out a ridiculous amount of quality groups lately, but I still can’t explain why a fairly conventional guitar-based indie rock band can sound as essential as this debut LP. While comparisons to Guided By Voices and Wire are somewhat accurate, the ebb and flow of their songs lean more towards GBV, but with a twinge of dejected collegiate rock like For Against or the psychedelic twist of Radar Eyes. Whatever the reason, it’s earned a lot of spins on the NFZ turntable in 2019 and will likely earn many more.

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

Typically I like to keep these to a tight list of 10. It feels like lazy editing, but what the heck, it’s been a rough year and these excellent releases also helped keep toes tapping and pulses pounding…

Black BeachTapeworm (DSPS)
Boy HarsherCareful (Nude Club)
ExhumedHorror (Relapse)
Foster CareEl Abuso (Total Punk)
The Natural Man Band – Living in a Chemical World With… (Lumpy)
Nots3 (Goner)
ObsessióObsessió (La Vide Es Un Mus)
POW!Shift (Castleface)
RaktaFalha Comum (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Tomb MoldPlanetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin)

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