Well, here is the best of the best of 2019.
My commentary for these will be fairly brief, as I have written about these albums before. Links to those earlier reviews as well as the records on Spotify are included for your reading/listening pleasure. I also have created a playlist that has all ten of these albums on it, with a link below. Enjoy!
#5 Rival Sons – Feral Roots
Although they hail from Long Beach, these rockers have some soul that conjures the south. It comes as no surprise to learn that as Jay Buchanan and Scott Holiday where writing the skeletons that would become this great album, they were living in a primitive shack in southern Tennessee.
Sure, they have been making music for over a decade now (Feral Roots is their 6th album already), but they really hit their stride here on their Atlantic Records label debut. This is rock and roll that you can groove to, and the closing track “Shooting Stars” is as powerful and moving as modern rock gets without jumping the proverbial cliché shark.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2OsED4DmBABqdP9NwGUpAu?si=Gyqz6ntUR7mqfX9ykKqyyg
#4 The Lumineers – III
Alright, the last thing that America’s Sweetheart from Denver needs is more pub, or another cheerleader. I understand, I get it. Only problem is, they continue to put out fantastic music, even with lineup changes. I don’t listen to radio but have no doubts that a few of these songs have already been overplayed to the point of annoyance (stop listening to the radio) but trust me- there is so much goodness here.
Sure, the three “bonus tracks” are weaker than the ten true album compositions, but even “Democracy” has some merit. While they may never live up to their out-of-nowhere debut, if they continue to put out records like Cleopatra and III, they are going to be considered among the greatest of all time.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/0cGGGHvqwMD2J7bNz8TG3s?si=Gy5JsJFETwKoOxzZAqa2yQ
#3 Mikal Cronin – Seeker
After naming his first four records Reverse Shark Attack, Mikal Cronin, MCII, and MCIII, I guess MIkal decided it was time to get serious. Although I enjoyed some of his earlier work, none of it came close to hitting me as hard as this thing did. It hits you from all angles – the romp of “I’ve Got Reason” and “Caravan” are terrific but so are the melancholy and thoughtful “Sold”, “Show Me”, and “Feel It All”. This collection is a gem, and the best news of all is that the man and his band will be making an appearance at Treefort IX in March!
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/62XWADJuNmJKEmb4pyzF40?si=J2OaW45yRAGg7Z3bifDhpQ
#2 Justin Townes Earle – The Saint of Lost Causes
After his Kids in the Street made my 2017 top ten list, Justin went ahead and wrote himself an even stronger album for this past year. The Saint of Lost Causes is carried by solid songs throughout, with plenty of dark tales of hopeless folks, racism and socioeconomic inequality, and, as always, Michigan.
There are also reasons to dance- “Flint City Shake It” is almost as fun as “Ain’t Got No Money” is. The title track and “Appalachian Nightmare” (the haunting first person tale of an inept, accidental cop killer) are among the finest songs of 2019 but his or his father’s careers. Dude is on a serious winning streak right now, and if you haven’t been paying attention I suggest you wake up and take notice.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2u56gjSmnJzoZOcUO84Lrw?si=buRKlv30T8GsZ_yMiHrEeg
#1 Andrew Bird – My Finest Work Yet
If I could sing like Mr. Bird, I doubt I would ever stop. If I could whistle as beautifully as him, I know I wouldn’t. Oh, sure, he also plays a mean violin and strums a mighty fine guitar. Andrew is truly a renaissance man who everyone should know has been making occasionally great music for over two decades now. On this incredibly aptly titled effort, he not only realized all of his obvious potential but created something that is almost classical in its gorgeous sonic glory. There are no true weak songs here, but even the weakfish moments are a welcome reminder that the man is actually still a human life form.
Safe to say- I love this record dearly and knew from the first time I heard it that it was going to take something special to top it. Nothing did. Go back and read my initial review of this record – it clearly hit me hard immediately.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2xQ1WHVV0MdVSRkpND5P51?si=eEzFbU4URwO3P6iWiUbSfw
Top Ten Albums of 2019 Spotify playlist link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7ufxLZcmYLqGOCjA7gDhiZ?si=fmADiiVJQMqHPM9xfmtpbA