Sound Grammar: the 20 Best Records of 2019

After 50 years, my musical obsessions are pretty much solidified, some may say calcified, now. Still I try to keep an open mind. But it’s probably evidence of my increasing rigidity of spirit that I found Kim Gordon’s No Home Record an edgier and fresher recording than Lana Del Ray’s nearly universally admired Norman Fucking Rockwell. Both, in their ways, function as feminist explorations of life, such as it is, in Los Angeles during Trump-time. Del Ray’s record can be played daily for weeks at a time before it finally wears out its welcome. Gordon’s maybe twice. But that’s enough. It’s abrasive and grating and about as pissed off as most of us are–or should be at this point. You want to make sure you’ve had your tetanus shot before dropping the needle. But there’s nothing funky about either of those recordings and funk is where the heart is, mine at least. And, all things considered, it was a pretty stellar year for funk and the blues: Brittany Howard, the late Bud Welch, Raphael Saadiq, Liz Brasher, Eric Reed, some unpolished gems (Originals) from Prince’s catacombs, and a welcome blast from my favorite (relatively) new band, The Comet is Coming. I don’t know if you’ll discover anything particularly innovative here. Musically, we seem to have entered the same aesthetic doldrums that’s griping the rest of the culture. But there’s no defeatist navel-gazing or sickly songs of grievance either and some of it, like The Paranoid Style’s latest album, just kicks ass.

1) Jaime
Brittany Howard
(ATO Records)

2) The Angels in Heaven Done Signed My Name
Leo Bud Welch
(Easy Eye Sound)

3) Painted Image
Liz Brasher
(Fat Possum)

4) Two Hands
Big Thief

5) Trust in the Life-force of the Deep Mystery
The Comet is Coming

6) Jinx
(Crumb Records)

7) Dancer in Nowhere
Miho Hazama

8) Love Hurts
Julian Lage
(Mack Avenue)

9) Jimmy Lee
Raphael Saadiq

10) Ancestral Recall
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

11) All My Relations

12) All Mirrors
Angel Olsen

13) Love and Liberation
Jazzmeia Horn
(Concord Jazz)

14) Trio Tapestry
Joe Lovano with Marilyn Crispell and Carmen Castaldi

15) What It Is
Hayes Carll

17) The Balance
Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand)

18) A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
The Paranoid Style
(Bar None)

19) No Home Record
Kim Gordon

20) Everybody Gets the Blues
Eric Reed
(Smoke Sessions)

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Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent books are Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution and The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (with Joshua Frank) He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

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