1 – Overslept – With or Without
I don’t exaggerate a bit when I say that With or Without is one of the strongest rock albums of the past few years and it’s easily my favorite (and most-played) release of 2019. This is a large accolade given that I think I listened to at least 1,000 different artists the past year. The album is expansive but cohesive all the same, playing of lyrical and musical motifs to keep things unified. It’s driving, thunderous, and infectiously-catchy. Overslept craft masterful rhythms and ear worm guitar lines and the result is an album that truly grooves. It’s a balance between technical progressive rock and catchy and indie pop.
2 – EXNATIONS – Pink Haze
It seems like there has been a surplus of bands trying to rip off the iconic 80s synth rock sound lately, but many of them are pretty decent. EXNATIONS is a newer band but they’re front-loaded their career and have already released two EPs. The latest is an inviting blend of synth pop and alt-rock that pair upbeat, danceable tracks with more somber subject matter – but that won’t stop you from having a blast when you listen to them.
3 – Yes We Mystic – Ten Seated Figures
Yes We Mystic has always been a divisive band for me. They have a very intellectual and philosophical approach to writing that definitely qualifies as “experimental”, and this goes beyond the buzzword use of the term. The group tend to pair guerrilla marketing techniques to give their music an extra layer of impact as it moves from a sound file to become part of would-be performance art. On Ten Seated Figures, you’ll find a collection of ten think-piece electro-acoustic Radiohead-meets-chamber pop type tracks that serve as the group’s best work to date. It may not click on the first listen but there’s a lot to appreciate here.
4 – Caracara – Better
The title track off Better was more than enough to cement this release as one of my favorite EPs this year. It’s a huge track that continues to build, paired with incredible lyrics about urban collapse and the modern social climate. Caracara balance minimalist moments with huge crescendos to provide a sound ripe with dynamic mastery.
5 – My Epic – Violence
Violence admittedly took a bit to digest, and while it’s not my favorite My Epic release, it’s a welcome return to form for the crew. The topics are raw and real, and the songs slap. Enough said.
6 – Former Wrestler – Champion of the World
Pop punk meets prog rock. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s furious.
7 – Lakes – Constance
I’m a big fan of auxiliary percussion and things like glockenspiel and marimba used in rock music. Constance is a good example, mixing glockenspiel into an otherwise indie/mathrock release. It’s an extra touch that plays out well.
8 – Fallow Land – Slow Down, Rockstar
This album was a nice surprise and blends mathrock, indie, beach rock, and more for a balanced sound that captures a variety of influences.
9 – La Bouquet – Sad People Dancing
This aptly-titled release mixes danceable, synthy tracks with angsty lyrics like “Every day is my birthday, and you’re throwing me a pity party”. While this may seem a bit cliché at times, the finer details more than make up for this. There’s an obvious technicality in the craftsmanship of the songs as well, with tracks like “Loser Baby” combining acoustic guitar harmonics with a hazy synth-laden chorus.
10 – Andrés – Once Upon a Time in Bakersfield [Explicit]
Andrés has been releasing music at an indomitable rate it would seem, and this is his finest work yet. Fans of Dance Gavin Dance will connect with his music, but there’s more than meets the eye here. Post-hardcore, hip-hop, Latin, pop punk, and mathrock all find their places on this release.