In terms of rock and pop hit albums, 2019 has been a very eventful year dominated by artists such as Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Vampire Weekend, Ariana Grande and Lana Del Ray, who have all been recently nominated for Grammy Awards. But there were also plenty of independent music artists who made some terrific and critically acclaimed albums this year that shouldn’t be overlooked. They may not have the broadest name recognition in the eyes of a larger mainstream audience, or placed hits on the Billboard Top 10 and platinum records sold, but their latest recordings reaffirm the true meaning of music that goes beyond business aspirations and trends. In no particular order is a very partial list of some of the most notable albums of 2019 by emerging and veteran independent music artists (apologies in advance for other equally worthy records not mentioned here).
Sharon van etten
Call me back tomorrow
While Call me back tomorrow wasn’t technically a comeback for singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten (she never really left the public eye through her appearances on The OA and Twin peaks), it marked a return to music for her after taking time between studio albums to focus on motherhood and school. The result was a dynamic record that represented a further expansion of his sonic palette of his early folk works, as indicated by the intense rockers “Comeback Kid” and “Seventeen”, and the beautiful ballads “Jupiter 4” and “Stay “. In an interview with NYLON earlier this year, Van Etten commented Call me back tomorrow and the new sonic flourishes incorporated on the record such as the synths: âIt’s still me. Even though I was a little nervous about stepping up production and leaning more into synths and keyboards, there are musicians playing on the record, and these are my lyrics, my voice. It’s still my handwriting. I want to keep the fans excited and know that I’m going to try something different every time, so that I can grow as an artist as well.
Speaking of Sharon Van Etten, emerging New York artist Kate Davis featured on the recent premiere album: she co-wrote the anthem track “Seventeen.” Davis’s name may be recognizable to those who remember his viral and jazzy cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”, performed on a double bass from five years ago. But Davis’ new and first record, Trophy, was a far cry from the American Songbook with which she was initially associated; instead of, Trophy was a very serious and thoughtful rock album tackling personal themes like loss (“Daisy”) and relationships (“Open Heart”). âThis is sort of the first time that I’ve been able to release a record that looks really true,â she recently told Forbes on his own first record, “just a very good representation of where I am at.”
Juliana Hatfield sings the police
(American Laundromat Records)
Juliana Hatfield’s career dates back to the mid-1980s when she was a member of the alternative trio Blake Babies. After the band split, the Boston-based artist embarked on a long and prolific solo career that included recording an Olivia Newton-John cover album. This year Hatfeld paid tribute to another of his favorite artists, British New Wave band The Police, for Juliana Hatfield sings the police. It was a unique cover album in that it contained a number of the police’s biggest hits like “Every Breath You Take” and “Roxanne”, it also contained some really deep cuts including the rare face. B “Landlord”, “Murder By Numbers” and “It’s Alright for You” which really showed how much of a fan she is. And some of the songs underwent unique rearrangements in a sort of fuzzy and boisterous manner that put the music in a whole new light. “I think a lot about [the Police stuff is] more outward-looking when talking about society, culture and stuff, âHatfield said in an interview with Forbes. âIt’s part of what I love about the police. I feel an affinity for what they are talking about.
(Kill rock stars)
Supergroups generally tend to be a risky proposition, but in the case of Filthy Friends – which consists of Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney, Peter Buck of REM, Linda Pitmon of Baseball Project, Scott McCaughey of Minus 5 and Kurt Bloch of Fastbacks – there is strength in numbers. Filthy Friends second album Emerald Valley was a timely record in Trump-era America, tackling topics such as the environment and big business (“The Elliott”, “Pipeline”), politics (“November Man”) and the border situation ( the heartbreaking “Angels”); the music grazed between highly charged and thoughtful. Tucker said NYLON earlier this year: I mostly wanted to focus on the lyrics. I started to think about the kind of images that really came to me, especially with Peter’s guitar playing. There are so many changes in our landscape, our climate and our weather, it’s really disturbing for me. As a totally northwest person, that naturally came up in this album, and we started writing.
Tales of America
This is perhaps one of the most unlikely stories in American music: a Kenyan drawn to the sounds of Nirvana, Radiohead and Bob Dylan heads to Minneapolis to make his mark as a singer-songwriter. The outcome of Ondara’s experiences as an immigrant to a new country has been documented in his candid file Tales of America. On this debut record he channeled the spirit of his hero Dylan, but also forged his own style and perspective, as we have heard on a number of notable songs like “American Dream”, “Saying Goodbye “,” Days of Insanity “and” God Bless America “. “And like Filthy Friend’s Emerald Valley, Ondara’s case has a message relevant to today’s political and social climate. “I hope that by singing folk songs and talking about things that affect me and other immigrants and Americans in general, I can somehow help move us together towards a better place, âhe said. City pages from earlier in 2019.
The Syndicate of Dreams
The legendary Paisley Underground group, the Dream Syndicate, does not seem in danger of being labeled an act of nostalgia, as was the case with their last record. These daysâTheir second since the group reunited in the early 2010s after a 30-year hiatus. It was a great example of what a bunch of veterans with a history and a cult should do: honor the past but also live in the present. In the case of These days, the songs recalled the best elements of the band – loud rock, dominated by guitar and black lyrics – while remaining contemporary. There is not a puzzle in the list of songs with various sounds: from catchy rockers “Put Some Miles On”, “Recovery Mode” and “The Way In”, to more gloomy numbers like “Still Here Now” and âTreading Water Underneath the Starsâ. “Said Wynn upon the album’s release:” Especially these days when everyone needs a chance to maybe get away a bit or stop the noise, I find myself late in the night wanting to find a record that will carry me away, that I can close my eyes and go to another world. I wanted to make a record like this this time around, one that would meet this need that I have and probably that of other people as well. “
Blood of Weyes
Rise of the Titanic
Apart from perhaps a classic or New Age recording, Rise of the Titanic by Weyes Blood (singer-songwriter Natalie Mering’s stage nickname) was the most exquisite and produced rock album in recent memory. Dreamy and lush, this textured music from Weyes Blood’s fourth studio album makes one wonder if Enya recorded in the 1920s or 1970sâRise of the Titanic sounded like a cross between psychedelia, Tin Pan Alley, classical and folk accompanied by the charming and delicate voice of Mering; some of the more notable cuts included “Everyday”, “Films”, “Andromeda” and “Picture Me Better”. Interestingly, according to the press notes for the record, Mering cited an unlikely inspiration from rocker Bob Seger: âThe clarity of Bob Seger is unmistakable. I’m a huge fan of writing conversational songs. I’m just trying to do it in a way that also uses abstract imagery. “
Led by veteran alternative rock singer-guitar goddess Mary Timony, the Ex Hex trio have released the highly anticipated sequel to 2014’s excellent debut. Torn up. It didn’t disappoint one iotaâIt’s true continued to build on the band’s penchant for shameless retro punk (“Cosmic Cave”), glam and arena rock (“Tough Enough”), New Wave (“Radiate”) and pop metal (“Rainbow Shiner”). The album combined the worlds of Runaways, Sweet, Blondie and Def Leppard while also sounding very present. Bursting with attitude and self-confidence, Ex Hex’s musical contribution to 2019 luckily did not suffer the dreaded fate of sophomore year.