After a long year, take a trip through Morbidly Beautiful’s best music of 2019. From punk to jazz and everything in between.
Is this the probably the only ‘Best Albums of 2019’ list to come out in February? Yes. Am I still going to send it out? Hell yes.
2019 was a great year for music. There’s been a sea of amazing debuts, wonderful records, and artists to keep an eye out for. So, better late than never, here’s my Best Albums of 2019 list.
Four rules before we get started.
- I will not be talking about Lingua Ignota’s Caligula or clipping.’s There Existed An Addiction To Blood. I still love them, but I’ve already spoken about both records twice (in their individual reviews and my best of the decade list) and I’m not going to go over how wonderful both albums are when I’ve already done so.
- All of these albums have five butterflies in my heart.
- Each album will have a special title.
- This is my list. Your musical opinions might not agree with mine. That’s totally okay, everybody’s different. Doesn’t mean you can’t give these records a shot.
BEST HELLO (DEBUT)
Dark Synthetics — Secret Shame
Between absolutely bopping instrumentals and some stark and wonderfully done lyrics, North Carolina natives Secret Shame burst onto the scene with force on this record. Released late in the game in 2019, the record made a mark as a part of the new school of post-punk. Working through themes of grief, mental illness, and abuse with glorious synth and thrashing guitar, the album is an absolute barnburner and — with an upcoming tour and a vinyl pressing of this record set for 2020 — this will hopefully be far from the last we hear of Secret Shame.
BEST ENVIRONMENTAL METAL
Infest The Rats’ Nest — King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
A welcome change from the equally environmentally conscious but less impressive Fishin’ For Fishies, King Gizz’s second outing for 2019 was their first real journey into thrash and speed metal. Half a collection of songs with topics ranging from the rise of superbugs to the wealthy escaping the Earth’s gradual destruction by going to Mars (Elon Musk-style), half a concept record about two separate and separately doomed explorations to Mars from Venus, the record’s a complete and utter trip that spits in the eye of the rich and calls for us to remember that “there is no Planet B”. I know the nature of the Gizz — they’ll likely switch styles on us again for the next record — but I do hope they come back to thrash again sometime.
BEST REVOLUTION RECORD
From Untruth — Amirtha Kidambi and Elder Ones
The latest in a succession of what I’ll refer to as “dumpster fire” years in politics and news, 2019 was a lot of things to a lot of people. Many of those things were extremely unpleasant. That’s why, facing down the destruction of our environment and our political future, From Untruth is such an important record. It’s a call for attention and action in four parts that deals with the issues of colonialism, capitalism, violence, and oppression through vivid imagery and frenetic jazz. It’s a stark and important record, one that shouldn’t be tossed aside. Plus, you have to have respect for a record where the first song includes the phrase “Eat the rich or die starving.”
1000 Gecs — 100 Gecs
With a sort of musical sensibility that reminds me fondly of Wendy O Williams and the Plasmatics, the debut album by noise pop duo 100 Gecs makes me feel the same strange mix of innovation-based delight and sheer WTF that I got from Maggots when I first listened to it. Between the distorted vocals of friends and bandmates Dylan Brady and Laura Les and their intense and unique production style – including stuff that reminds me of early 2000s dance pop and a whole ska song about a dumb horse – this album won’t be for everybody. Still, you can’t say it’s not innovative! Also, shout out to them for putting all of the stems, vocals, and acapellas for the album’s tracks online for people to download and remix at their will. Internet’s a beautiful place sometimes.
Cheap Queen — King Princess
Sometimes you’re not looking to get scared or to thrash unreal, I understand that. Sometimes you just want to groove out to some good beats. We had plenty of great albums for that this year (runner-up for this position is LCD Soundsystem’s Electric Lady Sessions, with a special nod to their cover of Chic’s “I Want Your Love”) but this album’s the one that hit most for me. A must listen for parties, this record deals with loneliness, heartbreak, and love without losing the same jamminess that made King Princess such an icon in the first place. A great record for when you just want to vibe.
BEST TELEVISION TRIBUTE
Stranger Songs — Ingrid Michaelson
In what I’d like to think is the strangest (pun intended) evolution from writing a musical based on The Notebook, this full-length record is a tribute to the smash hit that is Stranger Things. Without losing any of Michaelson’s folky roots, the album blends those slower and sweeter spots with synth and bass notes plucked straight from the grim and glittering 80s the show comes from. This album isn’t as hardcore as other pieces on this list, but there’s something to be said about a record you can just bliss out to while doing other things. Also, props for writing “Best Friend” which I’m pretty sure is a song about Barb being in love with Nancy (which she totally was, don’t @ me).
BEST COMPLETION OF A TRILOGY
Casey — Dalton Deschain & The Travelling Show
With a new album on the horizon for 2020, it’s a great time to listen through to the entire “Character Trilogy” by this avant-garde punk band – which ended last year with the release of Casey. There’s more of the story to come, much more, and if you want to see where Dalton and his crew’s cavalcade of interesting characters — including a sapphic bearded lady, a tragic heroine tattooed with Tristan Tzara , and an even more tragic dogman — end up this time around, pick up the “Character Trilogy” and give it a listen. It’s three EPs, three songs each, and it’s absolutely worth it. Besides, what other album this year has this much punk power in such a small package?
BEST THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — Billie Eilish
At this point, I’m quite literally one of the last people to happily lavish praise upon Billie Eilish and her first full length album. This girl’s been burning a new path for herself in the pop scene with dreamy and nightmarish bedroom produced pop. She’s got a very unique viewpoint on the industry, and a very spooky and sad sort of outlook when it comes to her music — one that I don’t blame her for having. With the world teenagers have to deal with, it’s no wonder that their music tends to dance towards the depressing. Still, I know that her music and the work of her contemporaries does a lot to help the “young folks” feel better. The kids might not be alright yet, but they will be.
BEST GOODBYE (FINAL ALBUM)
In the End — The Cranberries
About a month ago, it was the two year anniversary of the death of one of alternative rock’s greats. Dolores O’Riordan was one of the greatest vocalists to come out of the genre – lilting in one moment and low the next, never losing the Limerick accent or the cry that accented so many of the Cranberries’ greatest tracks. With this album, the story of the Cranberries ends. They’ll live on though, with well-done instrumentation, lyrics that seem ominous and sad in the wake of what happened (the album’s lyrics were finished before Dolores’s passing), and O’Riordan’s lovingly maintained and restored vocals. One last album to send them off into what comes next. Rest in peace, Dolores. We miss you.