- Microwave: “Death is a Warm Blanket” (Pure Noise Records)
After their much loved (pun intended) album that was released in 2016, fans were dying for more music by Microwave, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. This record is strong against that masses of music that was released in 2019 because of the ornate sound that Microwave achieves throughout every work. When listening to the album, it is apparent that all the music meshes well together; however, each selection drives on its own point of view that is overly raw and edgy. That approach to music makes the record feel nostalgic while oddly overtly innovative. The mixture of those two ends of the spectrum forms the magnificent work that is “Death is a Warm Blanket”. It’s hard to sit down and pinpoint the specific successes of this record, for this album grows in success every time you listen to it because the more you listen to it, the more the small fantastic nuances surface, and that’s the true sign of a phenomenal record.
Top Tracks: “Float to the Top”, “Love’s Will Tear Us Apart”, and “DIAWB”
- Set it Off: “Midnight” (Fearless Records)
With their previous release “Upside Down”, fans were interested to see what Set It Off was going to bring to the table, musically speaking, and let me tell you- everyone was amped with the result. With “Midnight”, Set It Off got the ball rolling quick for 2019 because their album packs a huge punch from the very beginning. As one listens to the record, it is evident that the band brought back influences that heavily drove their release “Cinematics” with the perfect dashes of their previous release “Duality”. The marrying of these two albums to create this one did wonders for the band because it felt as if the band had finally slotted the mature sound that they’ve been searching for. In general, this album spans a wide spectrum of musical textures, styles, and topics, in terms of lyrical content. This record made the cut, for from top to bottom, there isn’t a bad track in the make, and the album is so catchy, it just makes you feel good when listen to it.
Top Tracks: “Lonely Dance”, “No Disrespect”, and “Midnight Thoughts”
- The Maine: “You Are OK” (8123)
After a phenomenal release in 2017, fans were dying for a new era from The Maine, and the one they received earlier this year is life changing- not to be dramatic or anything. When listening to “You Are OK”, there is just something about it that puts you into another universe. The overall vibe of this record takes all the nuances that The Maine is known for and turns them up by about 125.267%. This elevated sound gives the band the opportunity to dive into the different genres and instrumental techniques they are adding to create the atmosphere between each work. As one makes their way through the album, I would say that they are broken down emotionally, for each song truly hits the core in some way, shape, or form; however, as one makes it to the end of the record, they feel this new sense of light because they know everything’s going to be okay. It’s hard to describe this album fully, but I believe that’s what makes it so special. This record makes the cut because this record is the perfect mixture of the alternative, pop, and rock genres, while driving home messages that’ll appeal to the masses.
Top Tracks: “I Feel It All Over”, “Numb Without You”, and “Slip the Noose”
- Knocked Loose: “A Different Shade of Blue” (Pure Noise Records)
It has been a minute since quality metal music has hit the scene, and then, Knocked Loose decided they were going to release new music and shake up the entire seen. Two words: thank you. I could probably talk for days about how phenomenal this record is from top to bottom, but to put it simply: this album makes you want to throw a chair, and that’s how it should be. The instrumentals of this record are so raw with just enough shine to make them dig and slot within each individual work. Knocked Loose does a fantastic job of providing over the top instrumentals that balance out the overly aggressive lyrical lines. This makes for a grand amount of contrast within a work that could easily follow the same make and template if the band wasn’t crafty. Even though it is evident that each selection drives on a similar purpose, not one song sounds the same, but they are enforcing that harsh aggression that screams Knocked Loose. This record gives hope to the metal/alternative scene, and we all owe Knocked Loose a huge “thank you” for restoring the hope of good music with this release.
Top Tracks: “Mistakes Like Fractures”, “Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory”, and “A Serpent’s Tooth”
- Alice Merton: “Mint +4” (Paper Plane Records)
Alice Merton is one of the up-in-coming artists in the indie, alternative scene, and she needs all the recognition she is already getting and then some, actually, she needs so so much more recognition: I can barely put it into words, but I am sure going to try. At the beginning of 2019, Merton released “Mint” as her debut LP, and as we reached the final stretch of the year, she released “Mint +4” as a deluxe edition of her work. I can’t emphasize enough how every single track on this record is completely different from the next while still connecting to the overall aura of the record as well as being so unique to the Alice Merton brand. (that’s a lot of “as well’s”, but all necessary, I promise). This album is striking, for Merton is taking influences from other popular genres: pop, R&B, rock, and even a dash of soul while producing music that is pretty set in the indie, alternative world. This makes for a unique sound scape at every turn that people aren’t used to, which just emphasizes the musical genius that she is. This is one of those albums that you can just put on, and after you make it through the whole thing you’ll feel emotional, but you’ll feel light, and you’ll probably want to dance a bit. This record makes the list, for I’ve never heard music like hers before: both approach and execution, and I think Alice Merton is going to take the world by storm because of this album.
Top Tracks: “I Don’t Hold a Grudge”, “No Roots”, and “Learn to Live”
- Cage the Elephant: “Social Cues” (Entertainment LLC)
It had been a minute since Cage the Elephant had released a full-length record, so when the talk of that notion hit the ground, the masses were more than ready for what tunes were to come. After allowing this album to sit in time (since it was released early in the year), it can be determined that it gets better with time. Every time I go back to this album, I find another small thing that makes the record pop. In this album, Cage the Elephant is utilizing just enough electronics and new innovative music to feel current, but they also attach so much of their characteristic vibe with it, which marries the two tactics together to create a record that I believe will remain relevant as years pass. The one thing that I adore about this record (the most) is how different every single selection is. Now, I often talk about each selection having its own unique vision or voice, which is true; however, in this instance, the band creates works that are all so different that they could easily all be singles or all be present on different records. This works in context of this album because of each underlying groove and identity that connects them back to that characteristic sound and vision of Cage the Elephant, which creates this sensational experience that is “Social Cues”
Top Tracks: “Black Madonna”, “House of Glass”, and “Dance Dance”
- PUP: “Morbid Stuff” (Rise Records)
This is another one of those albums that was released earlier this year, and each time I listen to it, I fall more in love with it. This record was a big deal from the thought, for this was PUP’s “comeback” album, so people were expecting big things, so if you didn’t guess: no one was disappointed. As one listens to the album, it immediately puts them in the imagery of driving for hours with their windows down on a sunny, 78-degree day. This record just sooths the soul. This is a result to the overly catchy lyrics mixed with the differentiated instrumental parts that vary in emphasis, so each selection drives with its own lilt. At the core, this record drives with the “generic pop punk” principles, which is why it is solid from the jump. However, as one dives into the record, it becomes evident that the PUP spin on things is fairly traditional, but since this is the band’s return, everything in the make just feels fresh and new, when in reality it’s just refined and reunited. It’s hard for me to put into words how good this record is because it’s just good music- I can’t think of any other way to put it.
Top Tracks: “Scorpion Hill”, “Morbid Stuff”, and “Free at Last”
- Turnover: “Altogether” (Run for Cover Records)
A band that never disappoints with any of their releases is Turnover, and this record was no different. Before “Altogether”, Turnover provided the listeners with albums that pulled influences from one another, but each album morphed to create a new and refined version of the band’s sound, a new era, if you will. This record retained that shift, but it also did so while referencing back to techniques that are found in both “Peripheral Vision” and “Super Natural”. This gave the band a lot of tools to mess around with as they worked with adding and subtracting different instruments, creating different musical moods through the atmospheric tones of the different genres that each song lives in, and with the inclusion of their small musical nuances that just sprinkle on top of the lyrical lines to make them pop. This record does an excellent job of marrying genres in a way that makes them feel like they are all inner related, which will enhance the likeability of this album across the masses. Overall, this record is far up on the list, for it is technically innovative and interesting, while also creating a musical journey for the listeners that is dynamic and personal.
Top Tracks: “Send Me Right Back”, “Still in Motion”, and “Parties”
- Half Alive: “Now, Not Yet” (RCA Records)
After only releasing a few tastes of their music, listeners were intrigued for a full-length release by the band. When “Now, Not Yet” hit the world, people were stunted by the artistry that is this album, so let’s dive in a little deeper to see what makes it so fantastic. From the first beat of the record, people are hearing a refined sound that sounds like nothing that is current in the music realm. This record drives on a solid mix of the alternative rock musical genre while being heavily influenced by the funk and new wave musical genres. This gives the band a wide spectrum of contrast and musical nuances to work with. Basically, everything one could think of and then some, are found on this album. Throughout the record, it is noted that the band is utilizing newer techniques, like the inclusion of electronics, to help meld and mold different musical auras. What I mean by this is, the songs are catchy, have the traditional groove that people will attach themselves to, but on top of that, the album is also rather atmospheric. This is created through the blending of the music that falls beneath and around the fast-moving backbeat and lyrics. This approach to music is very new, and it creates an experience that will draw in listeners because of how new and intriguing it is. This record stands out for the maturity of sound, the variety of musical genres, and the overly memorable nature of the composite unit that it is. Like other albums in this cut, it is truly hard to sit down and write exactly what makes this record successful, but one thing I do know is that this album is truly one of a kind, and Half Alive created quite the masterpiece.
Top Tracks: “still feel.”, “ok ok?”, and “arrow”
- Origami Angel: “Somewhere City” (Chatterbot Records)
This album, before I dive into my tiny synopsis of it, is simply remarkable, and I am reminded everyday why this record is taking the number one spot of the year. Towards the latter half of the year, Origami Angel released their debut LP, and let me tell you- they are using techniques in the pop punk scene that are just wild, but that’s what makes it so fantastic. The band drives on the over-the-top instrumentals that balance out the quasi-lyrics to make this event of an album that pop punk kids do and will adore. The one technique of this record that blows my mind each and every time I listen to it is the fact that each selection leads to the next, and the final track even swings the listeners back up to the first work of the record. This technique is often used for one or two selections, but for every single work in the make to connect? Wild and brilliant. Another aspect about this album that is completely breathtaking is just how each song resonates in its own light while still sounding more than characteristic to the band, which may seem a bit dramatic, but the “characteristic style” of Origami Angel is having the instrumentalists just dig their hearts into their parts with all of these rapid lines with the lyrics just gliding overtop, and somehow everything came together to create an album that people will want to listen to over and over again. This record snagged the top spot for this year, for it is so intelligent and well put together, musically speaking. The album will put this band on the map- I foresee it being the “Feel Something” to Movements kind of relationship, and this record gave listeners a twisted way to listen to their favorite type of music, and that is what makes this entire event so remarkable.
Top Tracks: “24-Hour Drive Thru”, “666 Flags”, and “Doctor Whomist”
Honorable Mentions: Capstan: “Restless Heart, Keep Running” / Emarosa: “Peach Club” / Hobo Johnson: “The Fall of Hobo Johnson” / Hoodie Allen: “Whatever USA” / Issues: “Beautiful Oblivion” / Mat Kerekes: “Ruby” / Tiny Moving Parts: “breathe” /