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25 – 11 | 10 – 1

25. Homeshake – Helium

25hh
Genre: Indie Pop/Psychedelic | [Bandcamp]

When I think ‘under the radar,’ the words “underrated” and “underappreciated” are obviously synonymous. Still though, this album is a pretty hard sell with that abysmal 2.6 average, but I find it hard to discern the clear drop in quality between Helium and, say, Fresh Air or Midnight Snack that is apparently worth a full Sputnik point. I digress, ratings can hardly shake my appreciation for this smooth, wistful journey into the trendy psychedelic-pop waters, abandoning most guitars and live instrumentation for chime-like synth leads and coalescing colorful harmonies. Sure, it sounds a bit bare and even incredibly easy to replicate, yet the simplistic melodies and Homeshake’s knack for toeing the line between whiny and airy vocal lines help solidify the very original “milkshake for your home” sound. There’s also a coldness found within tracks like “Other Than” and instrumental rap-fusion highlight “All Night Long”, yet the eerie atmosphere tends to entice me rather than shock. The best surprise, however, comes in the form of a “(secret track)”, finally bringing back the warm, fluttering guitar for a simple yet evocative riff destined to reverberate within those chill nights on the couch with Mary Jane. Although it’s nothing extremely spectacular, it’s truly an album that is getting a lot of quiet hate, making it my 2019’s most undervalued record, for better or for worse. –Conmaniac

24. Carved Cross – Sapped of Strength, Left to Wither and Fade Away

24cc
Genre: Black Metal | [Label Bandcamp]

Carved Cross have spent the better portion of the last decade indulging in very slow and minimalistic black metal. They excel in this field and have rightfully gained a fairly large underground audience in no small part due to their steadfast approach to that sound. However, their newest release Sapped of Strength, Left to Wither and Fade Away has inched a bit away from that approach – added some keys, some punk beats, and even some blasts – and I must say, I really enjoy it. Still very raw and simplistic, but the way the elements converge on each other to create these incredibly euphoric swells of atmosphere is really amazing. It’s something that should appeal to newer listeners as well as longtime fans. –TheSpirit

23. Polynation – Igneous

23pi
Genre: Electronic/Ambient | [Bandcamp]

Following in the vein of two solid EPs, Polynation amp up the goods with a fully-fledged album with a cinematic vibrancy that fleshes their sound into something even more whole. Indeed, there’s something refreshingly organic about Polynation’s sound, which seems decidedly against the synthetic bleeps and bloops and chrome objectivity of much of modern electronic music. The stampeding animals on the cover describe a sound constantly alive and in motion, and there’s something comforting about the warmth found in its varied beats and loops. Sure, the album never quite reaches the heights of its opening trio, but when competing with a track as incredible as “Muriatic”, well/// just listen to the damn thing! –neekafat

22. Laurel Halo – DJ-Kicks

22lh
Genre: Electronic | [Bandcamp]

Laurel Halo has proven herself an expert in every form. From Ambrosia‘s technicolor house patterns to Quarantine‘s ambient pop explorations, it’s no surprise that a DJ-Kicks mix is up her alley. A wide span in genre doesn’t take away from her individual style. There’s a formal, visceral feeling to this mix; dark objects illuminated by a single white lamp. As the perfectly-blended mix continues, it segues from stark thuds and bangs to a more ethereal form of techno, showcasing her ability yet again. –granitenotebook

21. OLAM – I Will Guide Thy Hand

21o
Genre: Metalcore/Screamo | [Bandcamp]

Yes, that’s right, I’m still talking about this album nine months after its release and trying to find listeners who appreciate it like I do, despite the fact that several previous attempts have been mostly fruitless. In response to the review I put out in July, criticisms of the album were leveled and acknowledged, but I will never know if any of them hold merit, because every time I listen to I Will Guide Thy Hand, I can’t help but lose myself in its unbridled intensity. OLAM’s chaotic blend of desperate screamo and forceful metalcore scratched an itch I didn’t know I had, combining two elements that are extremely my jam in such a way that each makes the other that much more impactful, and from the explosive first moments of “Wounds” to the pulverizing coda of the title track, the band steadfastly refuse to lessen that impact. Some listeners may find the album lacking in polish and variety, but if you like your hardcore raw, emotive, and unrelenting, I Will Guide Thy Hand is here to welcome you with open arms. –hesperus

20. Black Cilice – Transfixion of Spirits

20bc
Genre: Black Metal | [Bandcamp]

Shedding the static sewn cloak he’s worn since debuting in 2009, Black Cilice’s newest album Transfixion of Spirits has enough clarity to truly appreciate the album’s blackened fervor, yet is still compellingly raw and able to generate that hypnotic quality essential to more lo-fi black metal. Amidst the tumult – necrotic tremolos and storming punk dirges – Black Cilice will perfectly place moments of melody that reveal the project is just as keen with tunefulness as it is with discord. A lot of the time, black metal of this style can lack depth and nuance; luckily, Transfixion of Spirits is of a higher caliber and easily delivers both. –TheSpirit

19. Madeon – Good Faith

19mgf
Genre: #dance| [Soundcloud]

Like virtually every French producer heavily inspired by Daft Punk, Madeon takes his sweet time releasing or even talking about new music. His debut LP dropped four years ago, and, outside of a one-off single, it’s been radio silence since then. Unlike virtually every French producer heavily inspired by Daft Punk, his sophomore record exceeds expectations. Good Faith is sleek electropop, channeled through the energy of the classics. It’s joyful, deeply romantic, and above all, emotive. –granitenotebook

18. A Pregnant Light – Broken Play

18bp
Genre: “Purple” Metal | [Bandcamp]

After a poor showing with his Aksumite project last year, Damian Masters is back at home base with A Pregnant Light and once again churning out quality “purple” metal tunes. It’s exactly what you’d expect at this point: a poignant fusion of black metal, hardcore, and post-punk,  but that doesn’t diminish the impact of how great some of these tunes are. It’s nice to see Damian back on top, and hopefully he decides to stick around there for a while. –TheSpirit

17. Alarmist – Sequesterer

17as
Genre: Math Rock/Nu-Jazz/Post-Rock? | [Bandcamp]

Sometimes music just doesn’t fit the norms of casual conversation. Hailing from Ireland, Alarmist are a fresh take on what is jazz, math rock, progressive, and cinematic post-rock. With an immense focus on the band’s instrumental prowess, Sequesterer takes a few gorgeous songwriting moments and stretches them into otherworldly fusion. –Nocte

16. D Smoke – Inglewood High

16dsih
Genre: West Coast rap/hip-hop | [Spotify]

Did anyone binge-watch that new neo-rap American Idol show? The one with Cardi B, TI, and Chance as judges? No? Seems like most people on Sputnik haven’t, as (spoiler) Rhythm + Flow‘s winner should have much more than 2 ratings if that weren’t the case. Nevertheless, the Inglewood rapper’s debut album attempts to introduce the famed D Smoke, firstly telling his story of becoming a teacher at, well, Inglewood High before finally reaching his current state of being a professional rap artist. Not impressed yet? Well, if you like anything by Kendrick Lamar, you’ll soon understand the hype behind D Smoke, coupling complex flows with storytelling skills about the crime-ridden streets of his hometown. If the West Coast jazz/piano-driven beats aren’t enough to truly inspire a listen, D Smoke’s final trick up his sleeve is his fluency in Spanish, often employing this effortlessly across this 7-song release. It’s a short and wonderful journey that showcases all of the skills he displayed and picked up from the competition. Although I may have some fan-bias after rooting for him on the show, it’s still safe to say this album’s successes are just as impressive with or without context, making it one of my under the radar rap albums of 2019. –Conmaniac

15. Dots (………) – Points

15dp
Genre: Shoegaze/Glitch/Noise Pop | [Official site]

Dots’ marriage of idol pop and shoegaze already feels like the stuff Under the Radar dreams are made of. Add in the two respective full-tilt tangents into techno and glitch/noise pop that kick off the second half and you’ve got a novelty gem in the making — or so I thought to begin with. Points, however, has far more staying power than your average novelty (or idol) album, as Dots flesh out their chosen range of styles with great craft and utilise a trim running time to emphasise their impact. The bookending shoegaze tracks are a particular triumph and the album comes off very favourably in the scheme of every scene it dips its toes into. –JohnnyoftheWell

14. Proper. – I Spent The Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better

14pis
Genre: Emo | [Bandcamp]

A moment of silence for bassist Natasha Johnson and drummer Eli Watson. While both are talented musicians and all 3 members of Proper. feed off of one another beautifully, this album’s spotlight is entirely owned by singer Erik Garlington. How could it not be? He gives a hilarious, self-incriminatingly honest performance of mounting desperation and disgust that ranks as the most multifaceted and commanding performance in the genre since the heyday of Max Bemis’ late 2000s run, effortlessly folding in sexual and racial identity politics while remaining clever and never being didactic. He just speaks very, very frankly about what it’s like to be a gay person of color in a genre that’s known for white men whining about women. Honestly? In a genre as close-minded as emo can be at times, that would be enough. But his openness, creativity, and refreshing perspective elevate what is an exceptional emo/pop-punk album into something special and important. The gigantic feedback-drenched riff in “Fucking Disgusting”, the perfect duet with Willow Hawks in “Bragging Rights”, or the beat-boxing dream-pop inspired ending of “A$AP Rocky Type Beat”? All wonderful icing on a delicious genre-redefining cake. That it all culminates in a 2019 update of Say Anything’s “Admit It!!!” is hilarious, audacious, and makes perfect sense. They’ve earned their airing of grievances, and given the chance, they’ll earn your attention as well. –Slex

13. Common Holly – When I say to you Black Lightning

13chwis
Genre: Folk/”Sloth rock” | [Bandcamp]

When I say to you Black Lightning is folk music for ghosts, living or otherwise; how else are we meant to take the mantra “It’s not real if I forget it”? Chanted in soft-focus over a backdrop of random found sound, the impact seems clear: it’s a passive protective spell warding off the terrible spirit of some unnamed traumatic event. The album is consistently eerie and sinisterly playful, full of unstable textures and haunted modulations. The hilariously funky and uncomfortably sensual “Joshua Snake” seems to be brought to life midway through like Frankenstein’s monster, a chunky and metallic bass buzzing through the bones of the song like an electric shock. Vivid but abstract lyrics hang in the air like a thought cut short. Even the album cover is starkly suggestive of these lingering things haunting singer-songwriter Brigitte Naggar. It all adds up to an unforgettable and deeply unsettling experience, a folk album that stands apart from and above the pack. –Slex

12. Hakushi Hasegawa – Air Ni Ni

12hhann
Genre: Progressive Jazz Pop |  [Spotify]

Hakushi Hasegawa’s debut full-length is a kaleidoscope of off-kilter jazz and freak pop. At points overwhelming, it’s one of the year’s most forthright installments of instant gratification by means of a traditionally savoury musical vocabulary. It’s not all cheap thrills; the album gradually unwinds into more expansive psych-pop territory before gradually setting itself down to end its exhilarating, if somewhat exhausting, trip in a more understated fashion. It’s one of the year’s funnest creations and a probably hotbed for an exciting career to come. –JohnnyoftheWell

11. Unfurl – The Waking Void

11utwv
Genre: Blackened Sludge Metal | [Bandcamp]

Any praise I give The Waking Void (and I can give boatloads) needs to begin and end with “Lazarus Reflex”. It’s not just that “Lazarus Reflex” is the best song on the album, which it is, but that this specific track’s placement and execution in the context of the album elevates the whole experience. The Waking Void begins as an onslaught of metallic hardcore that takes cues from Cult Leader, Cobalt, and Plebeian Grandstand to set and explore an outwardly aggressive tone. “Black Widow Hourglass” presents a strikingly tranquil contrast in a swirl of twinkly guitars and aethereal vocals. Then in comes “Lazarus Reflex”, which takes the gentle mood of “Black Widow Hourglass” and rapidly builds it to a glorious explosion of blackened post-metal. Somehow, “Lazarus Reflex” bares more teeth than any of the straightforwardly aggressive tracks that came before it, yet captures a level of emotional depth and introspection only hinted at in “Black Widow Hourglass.” And I remain convinced that it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective if the context of the surrounding album was different — if, for example, it wasn’t preceded by “Black Widow Hourglass”, or if it had waited until closer “Blue Rose” to explore this sonic territory, or if the entire album sounded like “Lazarus Reflex”. Everything on The Waking Void is in exactly the right place to make its best, most impactful track blossom. It’s not just a collection of great songs; it’s a masterclass in composing and sequencing an album as a complete experience. –hesperus

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Jom
01.02.20
Small featurette the contributing writers wanted to publish prior to the Global Top 50 Albums of 2019 feature next week!

Nocte
01.02.20
This was pretty satisfying to put together with some sput-bros. Big ol' thanks to all the guys for not letting this pass us by.

Conmaniac
01.02.20
proud contrib right here, be on the lookout for 10-1 (;

calmrose
01.02.20
cool feature

also just a heads up, the linked YT video for Dots is the Carved Cross video/album

Nocte
01.02.20
^sounds deliberate.

Slex
01.02.20
I know this is just a lil thing but I'm super honored and proud, been using this site for almost 15 years now and I've always wanted to be part of stuff like this

Anyways hopefully people find some new stuff they like/Potsy finds some new joke material

SlothcoreSam
01.02.20
Love the write up on Proper. Awesome album, and the song " Bragging Rights" top 5 if the year!

WatchItExplode
01.02.20
Another shout for proper great stuff

BlushfulHippocrene
01.02.20
Very, very good idea, guys. Excited to read these.

Sniff
01.02.20
Why would anyone watch Rhythm and flow tho?

dedex
01.02.20
that's the kind of content

Dewinged
01.02.20
Credit to Nocte who tanked through our procrastinating and made it happen.

nightbringer
01.02.20
Great content.

Winesburgohio
01.02.20
*italian chef kissing fingers* JUST LIKE MOMMA USED TO MAKE great content

PistolPete
01.02.20
Thanks for posting this. I already love what I'm hearing from Unfurl.

Slex
01.02.20
yeah what Dewi said lol, make no mistake that Nocte is the leader of this merry lil band of Contrib children

Bedex
01.02.20
love the idea, best content

wacknizzle
01.02.20
Thanks for featuring Unfurl on here @hesperus!

Slex
01.02.20
Yeah that album sounds awesome, probably the one I'm most excited to check out on the list

JohnnyoftheWell
01.02.20
Yessss contrib squad, nice work gang!
Slex that Proper. album sounds excite

ProjectFreak
01.02.20
heck yeah, Proper. rules. Just missed my personal top 25 but I'm real excited to see what they do next

DungeonBoy
01.02.20
11 is good, thanks for rec'ing. Only one I enjoyed, but nice to find something on this. Wtf is sloth rock? also sounds like the anthem of every ex-girlfriend ever.

Atari
01.02.20
big hell yes to that Proper. blurb

Slex
01.02.20
V happy to see all the Proper. love

Lord(e)Po)))ts
01.02.20
polynation is meh af

ItsTheSquirrel
01.02.20
if Common Holly hadn't been here I would have been mad

Slex
01.02.20
I got u bud

Sniff
01.03.20
Alarmist album go arhd

Nocte
01.03.20
Your first taste?

Sniff
01.03.20
of alarmist? ya

Nocte
01.03.20
I'm proud of you sniff, we probably don't tell you enough so we're going to tell you now.

Sniff
01.03.20
i try you know, but it's a lot of hard work that go unappreciated

Pangea
01.03.20
nice to see polynation

5am
01.03.20
Just checked Unfurl based on this and holy shit, this is what I've needed since Gaza broke up.

Proper. seems likey they'll stick with me as well. Great list!

ProjectFreak
01.09.20
okay here to confirm Polynation slaps

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