BEST OF 2019
So here we are again, good music lovers…another year has come and gone and we are left
with the task of separating the wheat from the chaff! As far as chorusVERSEchorus’ musical
tastes go, it was a very thin year overall, but there were a few gems in the rough to tide us over
until a hopefully more fulfilling 2020! So without further ado…lets get it on!
Top 10 Albums
1. Pile - Green and Grey: The Boston vets may have relocated to Nashville, but it hasn’t
softened any of the edginess on Green and Gray. It was never going to be easy to follow-up
2017’s stellar A Hairshirt of Purpose, but with the thirteen songs on offer here, Pile have most
definitely done it. Easily my favourite of 2019!
2. Sebadoh - Act Surprised: Thirty years in and Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein are still
making relevant records. Yeah, Barlow’s still the sensitive one and Loewenstein’s still the
pissed off rocker, but on Act Surprised there seems to be a meeting of the minds. Aside from
Bakesale, maybe their most consistent LP.
3. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains:The only thing that overshadowed David Berman’s
return to music was his suicide shortly after the release of this incredible album. Filled with his
biting, insightful, and mostly just sad lyrical turns, the record documents, among other things,
the dissolution of Berman’s marriage and the grieving of his mother. Nothing off-sets the
terrible tragedy of suicide but at least we have another remarkable record to remember David
4. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Colorado: Coming seven years after Crazy Horse’s last release
(Psychedelic Pill), Colorado marks a triumphant return for the Horse. With Pancho Sampedre
now in retirement, Young brought longtime collaborator Nils Lofgren into the fold with intriguing
results. Young closes out yet another decade with an album that sounds as vital as something
he could have released decades before!
5. Pixies - Beneath The Eyrie:Ok, this is still not your older brother’s Pixies, but there is still
something to be said for the fact that Black Francis and co are out there making new music.
Yeah there’s some MOR misfires like “Catfish Kate” and “In the Arms of Mrs Mark of Cain”, but
there are nuggets to be found in tracks like the unhinged “St Nazaire”, the rollicking “On
Graveyard Hill” and the Tom Waits-ish “This is My Fate.”
6. The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger: The first release from Nashville's favourite super-group The Rac's since 2008's Consolers of the Lonely, this much anticipated follow-up finds the band in fine fighting form. Seemingly without missing a beat in the decade that has elapsed, the band has picked up nicely where they left, once again exploring rock, country/bluegrass, and increasingly more progressive musical terrain that the group had previously not ventured into. Of note is the fact that Brendan Benson's songwriting sits front and center on this album, with Jack White increasingly playing more of a side-man role, akin to his first full-band outing The Go circa 1999.
7. Ian Blurton - Signals Through the Flames: The first proper full-length from Can Rock legend Ian Blurton, Signals finds Sir Ian channeling a vast array of classic rock, stoner rock, and progressive influences to create a perfect nine-song masterpiece. Arguably the release that should have followed the demise of his beloved power-trio C'mon in 2011, it took a few detours with his original band Change of Heart and his hard rocking outfit Public Animal to find the time to make this gem of an album.
8. Danko Jones - A Rock Supreme: On Danko's ninth full length album (compilations and live albums excluded), Canada's longstanding champion of all things Rock delivers arguably his most consistent effort to date. While there is indeed an argument to be made that it can be challenging to evolve musically beyond the framework of 70's rock modeled directly after Thin Lizzy and KISS, Danko has somehow managed to distill the essence of his previous eight albums into a cohesive love letter to the genre of Rock itself. Indeed, a much needed release at the end of a decade characterized by EDM and "trap" music, whatever that is!
9. Broken Social Scene - Let's Try the After Vol. 1 & 2:While technically not a full-length effort, this companion set of EPs nonetheless represents the logical follow-up to 2017's Hug of Thunder. A worthy addition to the BSS discography, this collection highlights the songwriting prowess of longstanding members such as Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, and Andrew Whiteman, while at the same time showcasing the vast range of relative newcomers to the band such as Ariel Engle. Great to see that BSS are showing no signs of going anywhere as we end the decade and roll into a new one.
10. Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell: On Lana's fifth full-length, she has finally found her winning formula: piano-driven ballads, acoustic folk songs for the 21st century, and nine-plus minute electric guitar meandering jams to get high to. Plus, working with producer Jack Antonoff seems to have sealed the deal (just ask Taylor Swift and Lord). Throw in a fantastic cover of Sublime's 1996 swan song "Doin' Time" that manages to sample the Beastie Boys in the process and you have the first Lana Del Rey album that's actually worth listening to!
Top 10 Songs
1. Pile - “Bruxist Grin”: Rick Maguire’s ode to anxiety induced jaw pain was my favourite track
of the year. Rolling drums and some anthemic vocals were just the right the right combination
to push it to the top of my list. In reality, I could have picked five different songs from this
2. Pile - “Lord of Calendars”: Yup, Pile again! This one trades screamed lyrics with more
hushed ones in equal measure. Tempo changes, loud/quiet dynamics, and some quiet
monstrous vocal work from Rick Maguire. How about this for a lyrical passage: “My desperate
attempts to cheat death and time / Rely on more recent myths / And modern fiction / And
sending inverted curses and casting subversive spells.” Epic in every way!
3. Sebadoh - “Raging River”: I’ve always skewed to the Loewenstein written Sebadoh material
and so it remains on Act Surprised. My favourite of these is the bristling “Raging River” with it’s
shuffling drum beat and Loewenstein’s nimble guitar and cranky vocal.
4. Neil Young and Crazy Horse - “Help Me Lose My Mind”: This one is in the mold of classic
Crazy Horse meltdowns. Typically on a rocker like this, Young would stretch it out to where it
could run as long as 8 or 9 minutes, but here he keeps it to a concise 4 1/2. He’s always had
one of my favourite guitar tones and that’s on full display here…Molina, Talbot and Lofgren just
give him a simple enough start/stop tempo and let hime rant about getting “a new television, a
new display system.”
5. Purple Mountains - “Darkness and Cold”: Almost every song on Purple Mountains’ debut
references the disillusion of David Berman’s marriage and “Darkness and Cold” is no different.
Vignettes like “Light of my life is going out tonight with someone she just met / Light of my life
is going out tonight without a flicker of regret” make this one of the more memorable tracks of
6. Ian Blurton - "Space is Forever": Technically a stand-alone single not included on Signals Through the Flames, this song nonetheless captures everything that makes Blurton a great songwriter: a strong hook, powerful distorted guitar work, and some great riffs and solos thrown in for good measure.
7. The Raconteurs - "Yours is Mine": The closest thing to a prog-rock song that the Rac's have ever committed to tape, this is both the most technically executed song of Help Us Stranger as well as the best example of what Jack White does best: solo like a motherfucker!
8. Broken Social Scene - "Can't Find My Heart":The most accessible, radio-friendly song that BSS have released in years, "Can't Find My Heart" is a classic example of Kevin Drew at the height of his powers: wearing his heart on his sleeve and crafting a perfect indie rock song about it in the process.
9. Danko Jones - "I'm in a Band": The opening song on A Rock Supreme, "I'm in a Band" grabs the listener by the ears and does not let go for the four-minute rock epic that follows. Classic Danko, and arguably the single song on this album that distills his entire musical career and life's work into a perfect song.
10. Pixies - "Graveyard Hill": While this Pixies record may have been lighter on "bangers" than their last two post-reunion efforts, "Graveyard Hill" is nonetheless an undeniable ear-worm that buries itself deep inside the listeners brain. This song has literally been stuck in my head since June. Let's see if its still in there at the end of 2020!