In 2019, the ADDICTED Music Dept. reviewed 91 shows and festivals, launched a podcast and the irregularly-scheduled New Music Friday series, added contributors from Ottawa and Montreal, all to bring what we feel is great music and events to the readers of ADDICTED Magazine.
On behalf of all the editors here at ADDICTED, I send a huge thank you to all the fine people who contributed to the Music Dept. in 2019. Here’s the roll:
These people are rock stars in their own right, thanklessly dragging expensive camera gear into sweaty venues on their own time and dime and staying up way past their bedtimes editing photos and writing reviews. I have handed out as many assignments as I can count on a single hand. I leave it up to our contributors to have their fingers on the musical pulse and use their own personal and varied tastes to cover all that we can. Without them, the Music Dept. would be empty apart from me. I would be busy and lonely and you’d only be reading reviews of prog-rock bands and Father John Misty.
And finally, I thank all the readers. We rarely ever hear anything, good or bad, from you. We see how many times you click on our links, so by that, we assume we’re onto something with the artists we choose to cover.
Either way, it’s for you that we do all this. It’s for you that we share our own love of music and hope that it meshes with yours.
Sorry, there will be no Top 100 of the Decade list here, despite the opportunity. Check in with us in 2030. I promise we’ll have it then. It’s really hard to compile a list like this because art isn’t a competition. Awards diminish art and artists. So, instead of naming albums, ‘the best’, I’ll call them my personal favourites. And after the first pick, which was my clear favourite, the rest aren’t numbered, but just listed in some random order that I can no longer recall. A dump of other albums I love is at the end along with Spotify links to the main faves.
Weyes Blood Titanic Rising
While Natalie Mering’s first full-length release, 2016’s Front Row Seat to Earth could crudely be minimized to an aural mirror of artists such as Fairport Convention, Vashti Bunyan and the Velvet Underground, or even down a soft rock path adjacent to Karen Carpenter, Titanic Rising has no ready comparison and is easily Mering’s finest yet. With her vocals as the cornerstone of the band and songs, It’s powerful, beautiful and stands alone musically and emotionally. Jonathan Rado’s lush production on the album offers plenty of gloss, however, it all would be unsubstantive without Mering’s rich songwriting and voice. While Titanic Rising touches the borders of her previous album, cinematic multi-act pieces such as Movies and Andromeda have moved Weyes Blood into new terrain, not just as an artist but within the art itself.
Bedouine, Bird Songs of a Killjoy
Moving within similar circles to my number one, on Bird Songs of a Killjoy, through simplicity Azniv Korkejian forces the listener to focus on her buttery voice and placid guitar. It took a couple of listens to really start noticing the minimalist grace of the supporting music of the album. Helmed by multi-instrumentalist Gus Seyffert, LA studio veterans like Beck sidemen drummer Joey Waronker and guitarist Smokey Hormel and Lucius’ Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe to back up Korkejian on album opener Under the Night add just enough to raise Bedouine’s songs but never power above them. Bird Songs of a Killjoy is an ‘on-vinyl’ purchase to ensure it gets the uninterrupted listen it deserves.
Michael Kiwanuka Kiwanuka
Music writing has its benefits. Occasionally, you get an email with a jukebox link to hear an album that’s months from public release. The one that had me reloading the page to listen to again and again was Michael Kiwanuka’s self-titled album. Without exaggeration, I was so looking forward to everyone else hearing this album upon its release, knowing it was an instant classic. Yet another album and artist who could be miscategorized as merely a throwback borrower of the best of another age, this Inflo/Danger Mouse-produced effort goes well beyond just a psychedelic soul project. As usual, Kiwanuka utilizes his successful formula of backing entire songs up with a wall of female voices on tracks such as I’ve Been Dazed and You Ain’t The Problem. Kiwanuka offers honesty and edge and isn’t afraid to swirl itself into some delightfully dizzying fuzz guitar. Yet on songs like Light and Hard To Say Goodbye, Kiwanuka easily drops into his role as a lover and not just a fighter.
Trey Anastasio Ghosts of the Forest
I spent many years as a fairly devoted Phish fan, which takes a fair bit of gumption and some thick skin. While happy to drive over a couple of days to the middle of nowhere in Maine for a weekend festival, I wasn’t quite so devout to fall as deep for the band members’ side projects. Singer and guitarist Trey Anastasio’s individual output has always been the most prolific among the seminal jam band. And while listening to his guitar playing was easy enough, his lyrics while surely heartfelt, rarely rose above greeting card quality. As a reaction to the death of his childhood friend layered on top of his well-known legal issues and drug addiction and the death of his sister, Anastasio wrote and recorded arguably his strongest solo release in Ghosts of the Forest. Bringing best friend and Phishmate, drummer Jon Fishman onboard for the first time in his traditional solo project, the album, while slightly cloying at times, includes some of Anastasio’s strongest compositions to date from any of his various bands. Structured songs such as Drift While You’re Sleeping and Beneath a Sea of Stars, together break a half-hour yet still contain an earnest quality that somehow never approaches overplaying. While likely to appeal most only to fans of the man, Ghosts demonstrates that even after 36 years at the vanguard of grand musical noodlers, Anastasio isn’t leaning on the songs or even the styles of music that he knows will move units and shake bones. He’s still out there as a fearless seeker and storyteller.
ionnalee REMEMBER THE FUTURE
REMEMBER THE FUTURE signifies a step forward for ionnalee as a culmination of her independence while honouring strengths taken from previous iam releases. While the pre-released tracks have demonstrated this, deeper cuts like the almost seven-minute, Matters, a duet by Lee and Zola Jesus over a supportive pulsing bass that seems to lyrically warn of the coming world we’re facing due to climate crises as the song fades out to ethereal soaring voices. The song segues into an instrumental soundscape, Islander that gives over to a minimalist four on the floor Kraftwerkian beat before again dissolving into angelic flourishes. The title track confirms the theme of the album. Urging us to consider how our actions today determine the landscape of what is to come. Whether these songs are interpreted as such or woven into a less negative, contrasting motif, Jonna Lee renders each song with a depth of melody and harmony that hints to positivity. Silence My Drum, brings the album back to featuring Lee’s voice and stands as one of my favourite tracks. In an unusual turn, the penultimate track on REMEMBER THE FUTURE is a cover. Jonna Lee takes her turn at David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti’s gorgeous Mysteries of Love from the former’s 1986 film, Blue Velvet. Ending the album is I Keep, a gentler comedown that reminds us to not get in our own way. It’s a fitting close that ties a bright bow atop REMEMBER THE FUTURE.
Thom Yorke ANIMA
Often, a band leader’s solo and band’s group output is hard to differentiate. Head Radioheader Yorke is one of the few for whom this isn’t an issue. Thom Yorke’s own projects have easily stood alone, whether it’s one of his many collaborations or his electronic leaning albums. The same can be said for the band that easily finds reinvention, album to album. This year’s ANIMA can be described as Yorke’s most accessible. Never to leave a creative stone unturned, not only did Yorke tour the album alongside steady companion Nigel Goderich and Dutch audiovisual composer, Tarik Barri, but a short film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson accompanied the album’s release. The dizzying, throbbing opener, Traffic isn’t likely to be included on a pre-teen’s playlist, but your parents may have a listen to Twist and find many enjoyable aspects. Songs on the album are slow constructions that build through swells and warbles woven with Yorke’s voice, often used as well as an instrument.
Andrew Bird My Finest Work Yet
With all the expressive seriousness and emotion that Bird projects both live and on record, he’s not too precious to not pisstake an album title like this one. However, while he may be right in its characterization, fans will likely believe that it’s just a benchmark for the next. He takes the gag even further via the album artwork where Bird puts himself into a revamped version of the 1793 painting The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David, ‘painted’ into the role of the French Revolution-era murdered writer and revolutionary. Cheek aside and like many artists this year, MFWY tries to figure these disturbing modern times through art. Bird uses his usual batch of tools on the album; clever and poetic lyrics as found on Sisyphus where the fallen king chooses to let his rock roll back down the hill and Archipelago where Bird combines his moody voice alongside his violin. Backed on the album by his airtight touring band, including vocals by the supremely talented Madison Cunningham, Bird’s Work is much more than just a clever guise on a melodic political album.
Marina Love + Fear
Marina Diamandis has always existed closer to the fringes of indie music despite the sheer pop musicality of her songs. Her quirky pop numbers with serious themes and lyrically-rich pop-rock songs sung in a deep-reaching voice set her apart from the pop divas. She’s always been political, edgy and honest, writing her experiences as a woman artist into song. Announcing that Love + Fear would be a double album tracked with the bold moves Marina makes. An eclectic mix of lush pop songs showcasing Diamandis’ voice with a softer timbre, the album titles are what psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross theorized were the only true emotions humans feel. MARINA (now in all-caps) explained in her words that “There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love and all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt.” While the sixteen-track spanning release contains songs that could be relegated to filler and the Fear side of the album seems to fold back and rehash some strengths found on the Love side, had it been shorn to an even ten, perhaps it would be finding its way onto more year-end lists. While the Love portion offers highlights such as Handmade Heaven, Superstar and End of the Earth, one has to wade through forgettable tracks like Life is Strange and You to find a gem like Karma.
Middle Kids New Songs for Old Problems
This Sydney trio’s EP was the release in 2019 that had more people asking me who the band was when I put it on. Whether it’s vocalist Hannah Joy’s voice,
bassist Tim Fitz’s production or drummer Harry Day, jazz-influenced style, New Songs‘ tight catchy 21 minutes was a proven standout of the year. Opening with Joy’s delightful wavering voice on Beliefs and Prayers declares “We accept all beliefs and prayers, but if you don’t agree you can sit over there.” Closing with the sweet Big Softy that reminds us it’s okay to be slow down “It is sometimes hard to go on I used to kill it, but now those days are gone.”
Tim Baker Forever Overhead
Tim Baker’s distinctive voice was most recognized in his former day job singing in Hey Rosetta! With the band on temporary or permanent hiatus, Baker took most of 2017 to make Forever Overhead, which was released last spring. Over eleven songs, the album is rooted by Baker’s steady voice. Opening with Dance, a lifting essay on the good old days in the past, a common theme throughout the album. Reminiscence is strong within each song, with verses feel directly pulled from conversations between the Newfoundland singer and a friend. He wears his heart in the open, track to track, part confession or journal entry. At times the songs are painfully emotional, personally evidenced on Two Mirrors, angrily urging us to join in singing “Saying, fuck you to the dark, saying, fuck you to the deep, saying, fuck off cancer, saying, fuck 2017” knowing we all have our reasons. Baker closes Forever Overhead with the uplifting horn-driven Don’t Let Me Go Yet; the lament of the song fitting as a final, acknowledging the end is near and unavoidable, but serving as a reminder to remember all the good of the previous chapters that lead up to the next volume. Or just a reminder that we can always read once more from the beginning, or start playing again from the first song. Forever Overhead is joyful and melancholy and a signal that Tim Baker is onto his next chapter from a point of pure strength.
MISSED BUT LOVED (in reverse alphabetical order)
Yes We Mystic, Ten Seated Figures
Toro Y Moi, Outer Peace
Sturgill Simpson, Sound & Fury
Strand of Oaks, Eraserland
Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow
Rheostatics, Here Come The Wolves
Possum, Space Grade Assembly
Pernice Brothers Spread The Feeling
Jay Som, Anak Ko
The Japanese House Good at Falling
Desperate Journalist In Search of the Miraculous
The Building, PETRA
Black Pumas, ST
black midi Schlagenheim
Angel Olsen All Mirrors