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In case you haven’t noticed: the charts are finally updated and the default year when adding new albums to the database is 2019. Sayonara, 2016!

26 entries make the cut for Q2 2019 (as always, thanks to BlushfulHippocrene, DrGonzo1937, insomniac15, manosg, Rowan5215, and verdant for pitching in!), so while I was perilously close to throwing in a power metal entry, I’ll tell you instead to check out Slavic Spirits by EABS if you want to whet your improvisational jazz whistle (the best songs run a bit long for a mixtape).

Let us know what we missed (or who you miss, because we probably miss them, too) and see you in Q3!



88-Keys f/ Mac Miller & Sia – “That’s Life”
That’s Life
Listen if you like: reminding yourself why life is worth living

Mac Miller’s unreleased discography may be more imposing even than his fantastic run of mixtapes and albums from 2013 until his death. Especially now there’s no new music to come, the presence of Mac’s vault attains near-mythical status among his fanbase; the tape with Madlib, Pharrell collabs, unfinished companion album to Swimming tantalisingly just out of reach. We’ll take minute-long scraps as cause for celebration. Thankfully, “That’s Life” is no scrap, rather a shining example of how to do a posthumous single with respect and taste.

88-Keys had the unenviable task to polish and clean up the raw demo known as “Benji the Dog”, which with its heartfelt performance from Mac and gorgeous beat seemed to achieve classic status among the fanbase the same day it leaked. It’s a Herculean task that Keys meets head-on, adding funky horns with a hint of The Divine Feminine while an elusive Sia feature acts as a eulogy direct from the fanbase – one last appeal to keep living to the man whose scratchy, lovable rasp is rightly the star of the track. –Rowan5215


american poetry club – “in your own way, at your own pace, pulling through!”
a little light of our own
Listen if you like: Empire! Empire!, the one with the wurlitzer

It mightn’t reflect well that a sub two minute emo song can bring me this close to tears but, well, here we are: encouragement is a bitch, and american poetry club are good.  –BlushfulHippocrene


Bad Books – “Army”
Listen if you like: confronting the horrors of humanity’s need for conflict and violence within the confines of a catchy indie folk tune

It’s weird that I never thought of Andy Hull as a storyteller’s songwriter. His way with words has been extraordinary since he was about 16, and in fact he’s often had trouble lyrically matching Manchestra Orchestra’s debut album, one of the best-worded in the genre. It appeared he’d exorcised that side of himself to the perennially underrated Right Away, Great Captain!. Then comes A Black Mile to the Surface, a product of Hull becoming a father, birthing a multi-generational love-and-death story set in the mining town of Lead, South Dakota which is frequently devastating in its bluntness and intimacy.

III shows the thirst for story alive and well, never more so than the nine-minute military parable “Army”, a Rise Against-esque tale of a soldier coming home and failing to adjust to citizen life at fatal cost. Unlike that band’s somewhat heavy-handed moralising, Hull refuses to take any sides or stand in judgement. Swapping verses with Kevin Devine, who voices the soldier himself with a heartbreaking softness, Hull stands at a lyrical remove to sketch a more complete picture and only takes a strong stance in the song’s final line, a breathtaking stand against suicide itself: “There’s nothing wrong with being alive”. –Rowan5215


Beastwars – “Omens”
Listen if you like: YOB, Neurosis, High on Fire

Beastwars called it quits in 2016 at their peak, but put all differences aside once vocalist Matt Hyde suffered some life threatening health issues (Non-Hodgkin lymphoma). Creating new music was one way to cope with the illness, and as soon as he was in remission, the band were back in the studio. The scorching “Omens” shows how strong their sonic bond is, while Hyde rips his vocal cords in screaming as powerful as ever. This is one of the hardest-hitting tracks in their catalog so far, featuring their trademark heavy, sludgy grooves. –Raul Stanciu


Blazon Stone – “Dance of the Dead”
Hymns of Triumph and Death
Listen if you like: Running Wild

If you love Running Wild, you’re probably okay with repetition as long as the songs are fine. Blazon Stone is not only a Running Wild clone, but also the apotheosis of the foreseeable: you know what to expect, you feel that you have heard every riff at some point in the past and still, the album is fun as hell due to the sheer number of hooks and anthemic moments. Blazon Stone’s mastermind, Ced, is a fan like all of us, albeit a bit more talented. –manosg


blink-182 – “Generational Divide”
Listen if you like: Rancid, complaining about pop-punk bands letting their pop side shine through

blink-182, to be clear, haven’t been anything near punk since they first started working with the magnificent Jerry Finn, who cleaned them up for radio while retaining both their snotty humour and burgeoning experimental edge. Every turn since has earned ire and vitriol from a fanbase who just want, like, real punk man – from TOYPAJ‘s increasingly radio-ready polish, Untitled‘s brazenness with genre and form, to California‘s, uh, increasingly radio-ready polish. This is already more introduction than needed – suffice to say the eternal masters of pissing their fanbase off are at it again, giving the old-school punkers exactly what they’ve been fucking asking for and ending it after 49 seconds. It could be an easy phone-in, but blink’s unusual level of craftsmanship remains, ensuring a blistering performance from the best drummer in the game and some Matt Skiba yells more unhinged than he’s sounded since Good Mourning. Are we better now? –Rowan5215


Com Truise – “Ultrafiche of You”
Persuasion System
Listen if you like: The Midnight, Timecop1983

Yeah, the album was a great deal disappointing, but “Ultrafiche of You” was not only an excellent choice of single to promote this very safe return, it presented all of the bullet points on why he’s so engaging to listen to when he gets it right. Its spacious soundscape runs at a leisurely tempo over rattling high-hats and a vibrantly warm set of synthesiser passages that form a really enjoyable bubble you can sink yourself into as it runs through the usual channels. –Simon


Diviner – “The Earth, The Moon, The Sun”
Realms of Time
Listen if you like: Dio, Iced Earth, Nevermore

Four years between two albums is a lot of time nowadays, especially for new bands trying to capitalize on the success of their first album. Nevertheless, I’m happy that Diviner took their sweet time, because otherwise they wouldn’t have managed to write a song like “The Earth, The Moon, The Sun”. Combining thick riffs that bring Nevermore to mind with powerful vocals reminiscent of Ronnie James Dio, this is the album’s highlight and one of this year’s best heavy metal songs. –manosg


Duel – “Red Moon Forming”
Valley of Shadows
Listen if you like: ZZ Top, Greenleaf, The Black Keys

“Red Moon Forming” is a sweet Southern rock ditty infused with occult themes. While this market has been overly saturated lately, the Austin, Texas-based Duel have brought some fun tunes that most copies lack lately. This lively jams features some lovely vocals over the good ol’ fuzzy blues rock formulas. Nothing pretentious, just good times here. –Raul Stanciu


Flying Lotus – “The Climb” (f/ Thundercat)
Listen if you like: pensive, meditative, perpetually shapeshifting funk/soul/jazz

At first, I had a difficult time listening to this double album from front-to-back (and then front-to-back again, with the disclosure that I likely miss out on the experience of vinyl here) because Flamagra is gargantuan, swelling to 27 tracks at a cumbersome 70 minutes. While there are a few new collaborators in the mix, I gravitated towards “The Climb” most; it’s evident that the Brainfeeder compatriots trust each other to augment their creativity with each collaboration (although some comments in the review thread seem to suggest that they shouldn’t work together as often). A lot of the interludes are quite splendid, especially “Heroes in a Half Shell”, “Andromeda”, and tongue-in-cheek “FF4”, and the eerie David Lynch-led “Fire is Coming” is a surefire highlight, but “The Climb” and its soaring verses (“And when you’ve been feeling out of place and don’t believe the hype / Just close your eyes and take a breath and you’ll be alright”) burns brightest. –Jom


Fontaines D.C. – “Too Real”
Listen if you like: The Fall, a less sardonic IDLES, Girl Band

On occasion, it can be tricky discerning the arty side of Dogrel‘s post-punk stylings from its dry wit, but what’s clear from the Dublin-based quintet’s debut is their penchant for literature and railing against their regional geography (although there’s still some love to be found). Frontman Grian Chatten’s spoken-word, stiff-upper-lip musings have an appreciable amount of melody to them, even when dripping in copious amounts of sarcasm. “Too Real”‘s instrumentation is a true standout, with assertive guitars and robust bass that run in conjunction with Chatten’s humorous takes on disillusionment, as heard in other choice cuts in “Big”, “Television Screens”, and “Hurricane Laughter”. Normally, records like this peter out towards the end, but “Boys in the Better Land” (“Get yourself a good car and get out of here!”) and the delightful, and surprisingly not satirical “Dublin City Sky” could bring the night’s pub crawl to a close. –Jom


Full of Hell – “Burning Myrrh”
Weeping Choir
Listen if you like: having a grenade thrown into your brain

As it stands, Weeping Choir is this year’s most accomplished metal album. The cacophonous barrage of unrelenting sounds that befoul the listener are perpetual, and “Burning Myrrh” reveals the whole picture as it dumps its demonic explosion with absolute irreverence. Throwing punishing grind riffs, furious blast beats and a peppering of hardcore over its disgusting sound to add a little flavour, it’s an opening track that perfectly displays what is to come – so strap yourself in. –Simon


Gygax – “Mage Lust”
High Fantasy
Listen if you like: Thin Lizzy

Those of you that have checked Gygax’s first two LPs already know what to expect: hard rock with great dual guitars a la Thin Lizzy, which is something that has apparently become quite popular as of late. However, what separates the Californians from other Lizzy-esque bands, besides their fantasy lyrics, is their solid songwriting, which includes numerous catchy riffs and a knack for great melodies. “Mage Lust” encapsulates all the above in less than two and a half minutes. –manosg


Her Name is Calla – “Bloodline”
Animal Choir
Listen if you like: Russian Circles, Ef, *shels

All my post-something Leeds/Leicester bands are dissolving (I’m still broken up about maybeshewill, although Jamie Ward lends his expertise in producing this record). While it’d be low-hanging fruit to include “Swan” in the playlist, if only to make a stupid pun about Animal Choir being Her Name is Calla’s “Swan”-song, I’ve been wholly enamored with “Bloodline”‘s slowcore leanings. In their AMA this month, frontman Tom Morris and bassist Tiernan Welch disclosed that “Bloodline” almost got the ax, which is simply stunning given that it might be the best song they’ve ever recorded. Like a pot of chili on a frigid day, the song’s first half bubbles in quintessential low-and-slow fashion, with Morris’ forlorn “I don’t want to be a part of this” infusing additional flavor that give way to the song’s resplendent crescendo, with drummer Adam Weikert shining brightest in “Bloodline”‘s capstone. A bittersweet ending, but other highlights include “Bleach”, the groovy “A Modern Vesper”, the revisited “A Moment of Clarity”, and, yes, “Swan”. –Jom


Jai Paul – “Str8 Outta Mumbai”
Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)
Listen if you like: butter chicken, extra cream

I heard “Str8 Outta Mumbai” on the morning of Eid-al-Fitr. Later that night, I tried translating its sample (alas, to no avail, for I never did learn my mother tongue). Google Translate fed me multiple stories: one of the Lord, another a concubine. YouTube comments spoke of love and lust and longing. It mightn’t matter, though, for a song as simple as “Str8 Outta Mumbai”, whose title renders the foreign novel, and yet beautiful still. When Vani Jairam’s vocals float through, liquid smooth, they do so with an ease characteristic of Paul’s work. Rather than dominating the song — or, even, manipulating its course — the sample is woven into its fabric. That these vocals provide a greater sense of clarity than do Paul’s own uncertain chants is testament to their strength, and proof of their significance to the song’s conclusion — to the song as a whole, regardless of their explicit meaning. I’m in Kuala Lumpur right now, listening to the drone of ACs intermingle with discordant adhans and a confluence of languages, Hindi amongst them. You’d think it uglier than it is, far more alienating. It’s kinda comforting. We all know nothing. –BlushfulHippocrene


Jambinai – “Sawtooth”
Listen if you like: Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Wang Wen

The Korean post rock/noise quintet have released their 3rd studio album this year and “Sawtooth” was the first taste we received from ONDA. One of their best songs to date, it combines traditional Korean musical instruments with powerful, distorted guitars as well as pounding drums. The haegeum’s “mechanical” leads act as a moody accompaniment over washes of noisy chords, creating a very compelling pastoral scene gone dark. –Raul Stanciu


Julien Baker – “Red Door”
Red Door / Conversation Piece
Listen if you like: loving Turn Out the Lights, hating Turn Out the Lights

Writing about “Red Door” is more fraught with baggage than usual: the song is something of a white whale within Julien Baker’s spare and small discography, three times recorded by a songwriter who could probably do a whole album in first takes. But “Red Door”‘s journey to completion is evident in the song itself, from bare acoustic demo to full-band single, inflected with some gorgeous “Vessels”-style electric guitar and drums. Atop a more subtle and tasteful instrumental base than Turn Out the Lights had, Julien’s greatest asset (her voice) is stronger than ever, as she imbues the words – classic Baker, describing body parts like some grotesque horror movie artifice she’s trapped inside, though “Red Door” foregoes her usual obsession with ribs for bloody knuckles and knees – with the weight of history and memory the way only she can. –Rowan5215

Julien Baker – “Conversation Piece”
Red Door / Conversation Piece
Listen if you like: Rowan’s descriptions

Despite being the album’s best track – and, perhaps, Julien’s best song – “Claws in Your Back” is, I think, Turn Out the Lights’ biggest flaw. I strain that point, mind, knowing people’s love for the album. What Turn Out the Lights gets wrong, though – indeed, what Sprained Ankle gets so right – is nevertheless remedied on Julien’s two latest Record Store Day singles, “Red Door” (shout-out Rowan), and “Conversation Piece”.

The problem with “Claws in Your Back”, at least within the context of TOtL, is that it exposes much of the album’s artifice. Its second-person depiction of depression becomes less about Julien and more about the listener, and while that is helpful, I think it misses the point. “Conversation Piece” is, on the other hand, a song that minimises its filters – that wallows first and rationalises later; that gives credence to emotions neither wholesome nor just; that mines them, judges them, and accepts them: irrational, though no less true. –BlushfulHippocrene


Mastodon – “Stairway to Heaven”
Stairway to Nick John
Listen if you like: Mastodon ripping out Led Zeppelin solos

I’m not one for covers; I’ve never found a great deal of enjoyment from them outside of maybe Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”. However, this touching send-off to Mastodon’s late manger, Nick John, is a rendition that finds perfect harmony with making their own mark on this legendary track and staying completely faithful to the source material: it heightens all of the intricacies found within the original piece, making things shine and pop out more. Brann somehow manages to do the impossible and makes an exceptional job of his singing without being overshadowed by Plant’s more technically-abled approach — relying more on his mourning and channelling that into passion — and the solo enters the fray the only way Mastodon know how: cranked to 11. As far as covers go, they don’t come much better than this, but more than that, “Stairway to Nick John” does an impeccable job of paying its respects to a fallen comrade. –Simon


Organ Tapes – “Condition”
Hunger in Me Living
Listen if you like: midnights, midriffs, MIDI tracks

Somewhere there’s a group of faceless twenty-somethings exploring the backstreets of a dead town. Fog engulfs the windscreen, the shapes outside are reduced to just that: shapes — smudging into one another and disappearing as the car pulls around corners soaked in the pathetic glow of limp streetlights. Someone’s heart has been broken; someone’s head has been caved in. The speakers breathe a song back into the world – a muffled lo-fi pop number cut somewhere between a celebration and a threnody. The song feels like forever — a moment crystallising itself inside the subtext of something grander. Our faceless suburbanites don’t know it yet, but the song has etched itself into the fabric of this little forever: a dog ear on the cover page of a new chapter. –verdant


Pile – “Hair”
Green and Gray
Listen if you like: the sound the dust makes as it settles

There’s something to be said here for our jaded protagonist’s acceptance of nature’s inexorable walk – a walk towards something approximating oblivion, towards the first breath after being suffocated by the thick smog of other lives. “Hair” is a gentle and meandering song from a band who have mastered coarse and chaotic; its slowcore foundations swell and rattle at the joints. Strings shake baritone guitar arpeggios into action and Maguire brushes up against desperation before falling back into the calm with the grace of a lyricist who’s grown accustomed to shouldering burden in his music. Green and Gray is an earthy, manic post-hardcore album, but “Hair” — positioned purposefully around the record’s halfway point — is proof of Pile’s self-awareness: they’re complicit in the perpetuation of this rat race, but they’re more than capable of detaching themselves. “Hair” is the band opening up a space for the verdure to grow again through the cracks in the concrete. –verdant


Rammstein – “Ausländer”
Listen if you like: Rammstein riffing over trashy electronic music

If there were two tracks from Rammstein’s long-awaited album that left a lasting impression on me, they would be “Puppe” and “Ausländer”. Frankly, it’s been a little problematic trying to discern which one steals the show, but in all honesty, this whole album deserves everyone’s attention regardless of which track I begrudgingly choose. In the end though, while “Puppe” is the most creatively distinguished of the two, “Ausländer” is just so damn fun to listen to that it manages to steal the moment on this occasion. It’s a track that takes the bombastic energy of “Pussy” and makes a grander spectacle out of it – meshing campy Europop electronics with crushing guitars. It’s Eurotrash-meets-Rammstein in what is quite possibly the most lighthearted and gratifying song of their entire career. –Simon


The Wildhearts – “The Renaissance Men”
Renaissance Men
Listen if you like: riffs, Therapy?, Terrorvision

Ginger isn’t kidding when he quips, “You can’t keep a good band down – like cheap tequila” in the title track’s chorus, although the vitriol he spews in “Diagnosis” is equally well-met given the context. Meanwhile, “Let ‘Em Go” features longtime Wildhearts fan Frank Turner in the gang vocal — a huge honor for him, I’m sure — which also makes for one of many choice cuts throughout the record. –Jom


Tim Hecker – “That World”
Listen if you like: Fennesz, Oval, William Basinski, Ben Frost

Tim Hecker struck gold by combining traditional Japanese music featuring a gagaku ensemble and his glitchy, sound-altering excursions. While Konoyo was a busier and louder affair with an often uncanny atmosphere, its counterpart Anoyo brought a more settled, discreet journey. “That World” marks the entrance into Anoyo (it’s the direct translation of the word) and seems like a soundtrack to a walk into a dark space. The bass synth is the only poignant instrument here, while the rest play gradually intensifying, chilly notes behind it. There’s a very interesting eerie, yet somehow soothing feeling to this excellent song (and the whole LP actually) that’s best to experience it in order to understand it. –Raul Stanciu


Yawning Man – “Virtual Funeral”
Macedonian Lines
Listen if you like: Causa Sui, Colour Haze, Fatso Jetson

Yawning Man’s music is defined by live improvisations, and their latest LP Macedonian Lines was crafted mostly on the road. “Virtual Funeral” is a fine example how smooth their sound is and how the trio that influenced the likes of Kyuss deserve more exposure. The windy guitar leads beautifully meld with chunky bass chords and laidback drumming. You can almost feel the desert breeze when you listen to this band. –Raul Stanciu


Yours Truly – “Circles”
Listen if you like: Paramore, Stand Atlantic, Mayday Parade

Very much in the vein of After Laughter‘s summery, shimmery vibes, the 5-track Afterglow is largely buoyed by the strength of last year’s single “High Hopes”, but the “Circles”-“I Can’t Feel”-“High Hopes” run to start the EP is as good a representation of Australian pop-punk as you might find this summer — so long as you can look past the lack of variance throughout the EP. –Jom

[Q1] /// [Q2] /// [Q3]

Interesting to note that we followed the same protocol with the Julien Baker EP as we did with the La Dispute LP in Q1.

Damn fine work, as always.

great stuff by everyone and of course benevolent Jom and Willie!

lovely write-ups on jai paul and organ tapes, thank u

Surprised how many entries here I haven't checked.

Great job everyone! Will listen to the entire playlist

Sad I lost track of time and forgot to contribute to this.
Excellent work all around, I can certainly vouch for Bad Books and Rammstein being worthwhile.

That's the correct Bad Books tune

Mixtape needs Glen Hansard, Thank You Scientist, and Big Thief - my top 3 albums of the year so far, and they were all released in Q2 :/

Needless to say, but excellent work everybody, I thought I had time to write something but what SowingSeason said.

> Mixtape needs Glen Hansard, Thank You Scientist, and Big Thief

I know for sure at least one of those got cut (user choice), but do keep in mind we had a small subset of the entire writing pool because of other projects / IRL responsibilities taking precedence. I think you'd have legit beef if at least one of those doesn't show up in the year-end feature (assuming we're still online by then).

Dylan I definitely would have added Don't Settle by Glen Hansard so you can blame me for that particular omission

Sowing, you having a hard on for Rammstein makes me uncomfortable

There is a disappointing lack of cowbell in this playlist tbh.

Blazon Stone m/

charts may be updated

but copyright is still fair gameeeeee

i always like these. haven't been listening to a lot of new music lately so this will be a decent way to catch up a bit

Thanks a million for doing these! I think I gave a listen to half the albums on the Q1 playlist and I haven't heard a single thing on this one yet. It's probably my favorite thing the site puts together, even more than the year-end lists

@Jom I had a common sense fail, didn't bother to look at how many users contributed, and mistakenly assumed the full staff fleet took part - don't mind me

this is rad, mad props for everyone involved!

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