Another year with more unlistenable, corporate crap. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of good music out there. Here are the albums that were on heavy rotation in my home this year.
Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains, Drag City, 2019
David Berman’s Purple Mountains is my favorite album of the year. Shortly after its release, Berman, who long struggled with what he called “treatment-resistant” depression, committed suicide. Although his label Drag City assures it wasn’t intended as a farewell, it’s hard not to believe Berman knew Purple Mountains was his final act. It’s a gorgeous record — dark, lyrical, melodic and biting in its critique of our monolithic, profit-driven culture. With Berman’s death, we lost one of the most gifted, insightful poets of his generation.
Jenny Lewis, On the Line, Warner Bros, 2019
I can’t get enough of Jenny Lewis’s fabulous album On the Line. It has everything you’d want in a record. It’s intense when it needs to be, catchy, upbeat and a bit sad. Jenny Lewis has matured in all the best ways.
JPEGMAFIA, All My Heroes, EQT Recordings, 2019
Lest you think I only listen to rock, I also have a bit of a fetish for good hip hop. While a few artists were worth exploring this year, by far the most interesting was All My Heroes Are Cornballs by Baltimore-based experimental rapper JPEGMAFIA. A bit manic but also meditative, it was my long-run music of choice.
Ex Hex, It’s Real, Merge Records, 2019
Ex Hex at Zebulon in Los Angeles was almost my favorite show I saw this year (that award goes to Dean Wareham playing Galaxie 500’s On Fire) and their second album It’s Real was by far the most fun.
Sheer Mag, A Distant Call, Sheer Mag LLC, 2019
Raw, political and emotional, Sheer Mag’s A Distant Call is a record that I can’t recommend enough. Lead singer’s Tina Halladay’s earth-shattering vocals accompanied by bonafide lo-fi shredder Kyle Seely, is rock at its finest. If Sheer Mag is playing within 200-mile radius of your town, make the trek. You won’t be let down.
HAND HABITS, placeholder, Milk Records, 2019
Allah-Las, LAHS, Mexican Summer, 2019
GospelbeacH, Let it Burn, Alive Records, 2019
Steve Earle & The Dukes, Guy, New West Records, 2019