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50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1 | EP/Live/Compilation

50. Prince Daddy and The Hyena – Cosmic Thrill Seekers


[Bandcamp] // [Spotify]

In case you couldn’t tell from that gloriously stupid band name, Prince Daddy are a bit of an audacious bunch. Cosmic Thrill Seekers is the most ambitious emo release of the 2010s and can be counted as one of the best, too. Hung loosely on a narrative framework of watching The Wizard of Oz while tripped out on acid, this really just gives the band free rein to try pretty much anything they’d like. The fact that it results in a blissed-out masterpiece instead of a drug-addled mess instantly places Prince Daddy as one of the premier bands to watch in any genre. Combining Weezer-esque power-pop, outbursts of atonal punk outrage, and glistening emo theatrics, Cosmic Thrill Seekers deserves to be just as fondly remembered and endlessly influential as the likes of Whenever, If Ever or Nothing Feels Good Anymore within the always outwardly expanding genre of emo. –Slex

49. The Tallest Man On Earth – I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream.

49
[Official site] // [Spotify]

Following on from the growing pains of the transitional Dark Bird Is HomeI Love You. It’s A Fever Dream. might just be Kristian Matsson’s most accomplished release yet. While it isn’t as raw or effortless as the landmark 2011 album The Wild Hunt, it’s exponentially more layered, musically and otherwise. There’s a juxtaposition of warm and weightless wide open space being invaded by cloistered and claustrophobic thoughts of failure and regret. “All I Can Keep Is Now”, propped up by twinkly arpeggios and full-bodied piano, runs through imagery and allusions before arriving to his most earthbound and relatable epiphany yet: “All I can keep is now.” The hushed closing title track is a masterclass of intimate, yet universal rumination, finally emerging from the fever dream of heartbreak to arrive at a place of wordless wonder. Where Matsson goes next is anybody’s guess; I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream. is a logical endpoint of his atmospheric and tactile folk musical stylings, and it’s an earned closing of the door on an obviously painful period in his personal life. Like all great artists, though, his pain is our gain. –Slex

48. Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence


[Official site] // [Spotify]

Esoteric are at the top of the doom metal totem pole. Gut-wrenching riffs, demonic lows, and twenty-plus minutes of life shattering compositions (okay, that’s probably enough hyperbole). Regardless, A Pyrrhic Existence is the kind of funeral doom album that closes the decade in the best possible way: entering as other acts call curtains on their career. Funeral doom (and all its tropes) may not be for your casual listener, but for the fan who has enjoyment for themes of pain, anguish, loss, and despair, Esoteric tick all the right boxes plus a few others. A Pyrrhic Existence is a massive, lumbering giant that reaffirms the vitality of a genre as its flame dwindles. –Nocte

47. Brutus (BE) – Nest


[Official site] // [Spotify]

Some years ago, in some small practice room in the Belgian city of Leuven, a young Stefanie Mannaerts sat on her drum kit and stared at the wall, letting her spirit travel for some seconds to hover over dreams of big stages, big crowds, and big cities. After a deep breath, she would lift her drum sticks, eye contact with bandmates Mulders and Vanhoegaerden, and proceed to unleash the stalwart sound of Brutus. It’s 2019 and she opened her eyes to see a gigantic crowd in Mexico go absolutely nuts after the first seconds of “Fire”. The dream has clashed with reality and turned into a wonderful routine. The thunder contained in Brutus’ second release has finally struck and spread like lightning on the surface of the Earth. With Nest, the band have defined a new school of hardcore and punk rock where post-rock guitar leads fuse with frenetic drumming and steadfast bass lines, and in the frontline, Stefanie’s voice crowning the resulting miracle. It’s only a way up from here for Brutus, and not even the sky is the limit. –Dewinged

46. Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance


[Official site] // [Spotify]

The story of Aaron West isn’t necessarily anything unique. We’ve been hearing stories of men going through horrible periods of life since biblical times, and compared to Job, Aaron West has had it pretty easy. But struggles are relative, and Dan Campbell possesses the artistic prowess to make West’s tribulations not just his own, but also the adversities that all of us can find hope in. The sequel to We Don’t Have Each OtherRoutine Maintenance follows the few years after the circumstances of the previous album and EP. Without spoiling the story of the album, Routine Maintenance is much more dimensional than its predecessor. Mixed with the overall melancholic spine of the storyline are even stronger instances of triumph, joy, and hope for the future. Yes, this is the story of a man who gets into a stupid barfight and isn’t faultless in the divorce at the center of the storyline. He’s not a unique character, is very flawed, and stories of white men running away from their problems are a dime a dozen. With that being said, the story of an everyman, when done well, is welcome in a world where individualism is more and more becoming the expected ideal. Aaron West is a person going through normal, difficult human struggles and overcoming them (or dealing with them in horribly unhealthy ways, which is maybe even more relatable and important to hear). When combined with the Americana style horns, banjos, and acoustic guitars, which are implemented more holistically than in the debut album, Routine Maintenance makes for a blue collar masterpiece that might not tell the story of anyone special, but manages to make the story of that someone special. –dmathias52

45. Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

41
[Official site] // [Spotify]

Let’s face it: Slipknot have had their fair share of drama over the years. Internal issues, member rotations, death — it’s all there — and while the “What does Corey Taylor think?” meme may have largely run its course, it’s Slipknot’s 2019 piece that has defied the tertiary slump the band have endured for the better part of the decade. To be fair, most critics had written off We Are Not Your Kind well before the album’s first single, only to find their own fists planted firmly in their mouths for their unfounded complaints. Sure, We Are Not Your Kind is not a perfect record, but it’s leaps and bounds above its predecessor. Full of tender moments and pulse-stopping rhythms, Slipknot have finally moved back into the level of quality measurable before Paul Gray’s passing. –Nocte

44. Devin Townsend – Empath


[Official site] // [Spotify]

My mama always said that Devin Townsend albums are like a box o’ chock-lits: you never know what you’re gonna get. Empath raises the stakes by about a million and features Devy at his… er… Devy-est? It’s either his pièce de résistance or his career’s coup de grace, or both, or neither, or everything in between, or none of it — all at the same time. –SitarHero

43. White Ward – Love Exchange Failure


[Bandcamp] // [Spotify]

We are one blink away from total collapse. The screen pulls my eyes off and I barely feel her cold touch. She tries again twisting her tongue around my neck but the night is dying and I just want to go home and bathe myself in vodka. Satan now lives in some sad piano notes, dances to a mournful steaming sax, and pleasures itself with the speed of a blast beat. In Ukraine, black metal doesn’t belong to the devil anymore. It is the tale of a society drowning in its misery, a mirror to the universal failure of a love exchange now extinct, and White Ward are the sages of such tale. Love Exchange Failure is a blackgaze, atmospheric black metal spawn that feeds on dark jazz and lounge passages to deliver its message. It shows how far White Ward have evolved while preserving the noir aesthetic that made them stand out with their 2017 debut Futility Report… but now forgive me, as I have reached my apartment and I must take care of a few rats eating away my John Coltrane vinyl collection. –Dewinged

42. The Dangerous Summer – Mother Nature

19
[Official Site] // [Spotify]

The release of Mother Nature coincided brilliantly with a solo trip I made to Prague. I spent three days wandering through this beautiful city, basking in its June sun while almost exclusively listening to The Dangerous Summer’s latest offering. With its unexpectedly blissful inclusion of synths and increased quality in production and songwriting, the record is a breath of fresh air in more than one way. Songs like “Where Were You When the Sky Opened Up” see a revitalised take on the band’s established formula, while “Better Light” and “Starting Over/Slow Down” throw it straight out of the window for some successful experimentation. However, it’s the title track where the record’s gorgeous lyrics culminate into a climax that makes Mother Nature the irresistible listen it is. This album will undoubtedly keep reminding me of the streets of Prague, and one of the few truly happy periods of my year… and that’s the best quality any album can possess. Love you, dude. –JesperL

41. Fire! Orchestra – Arrival


[Official site] // [Spotify]

Arrival is a startlingly accessible album for how seemingly ‘difficult’ its harmonic palette, sprawling epics, and magnetic inner cohesion initially come across; this one has a borderline independent sphere of gravity. Its appeal is easy to appreciate, but a damn sight harder to define outright. Here’s my best shot: Arrival is repetitious but never cyclical. These tracks feel like boulders rolling down a mountainside in (very) slow motion, reiterating a motion of descent while developing an unnerving sense of momentum. The longer cuts reach thunderous peaks as such, but strangely, it’s the two shorter cover tracks “Blue Crystal Fire” and “At Last I Am Free” that land as focal points, a subdued mellifluous accent to their neighbours’ stony bulk. That’s smart sequencing and arrangement for you. Anyhow, Arrival‘s core focus isn’t its momentousness or its stunning vocal performances – a lot of terrible music is written for momentum and/or competently voiced! – but its graveness. At points dour, at others urgent, there’s a protracted doom-like imperative underpinning these tracks that empowers their writing and enunciation to no end; it’s austere, sure, but also forcefully engaging. This is the real reason it’s commended so much attention throughout the year, long may it continue to do so. –JohnnyoftheWell

40. Opeth – In Cauda Venenum

44
[Official site] // [Spotify]

By now you’re probably well-acquainted with the fact that Swedish masters Opeth no longer death growl or blast-beat their way through tracks, but as far as their typically un-metal dad-rock-progressive albums go, In Cauda Venenum is their most cohesive, punchy, and all-around straightforward since beginning this musical journey with Heritage at the start of the decade. It makes sense that Opeth’s 2019 record would make an appearance amongst the year’s best — considering that this is hands down the best Opeth album in recent years — while making use of some nuances that bring Watershed and Heritage together (a missing link, if you will). In Cauda Venenum is a quality record, touched by the occasional flaws that highlight the band’s musical honesty and amplify Opeth’s inspirational new-vintage sounds. –Nocte

39. 100 Gecs – 1000 Gecs


[Bandcamp] // [Spotify]

I have yet to see anyone write on 1000 gecs without coming out with at least one Big Dumb Statement (myself included). It’s better than your favourite album; it’s worse than your least favourite; it’s both at once. Eurgh. This album is full of contradictory excesses that have successfully milked hyperbole from each and every audience reaction. Any other album in this position would be primarily notable for the quantity of humourless netizens it has exposed as such, but 1000 gecs does much more than talk a lotta big game for someone with such a (ahem…) small truck. The album has an enduring appeal uncommon to novelty experiments in this ballpark; “xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx”, for instance, is a more gratifying banger than the majority of this year’s quote-unquote legitimate pop stock. All things considered, 1000 gecs ends up as a flash-in-the-pan triumph. Album of the year? Sod it, it might as well be. –JohnnyoftheWell

38. Two People – First Body


[Official site] // [Spotify]

One of 2019’s earliest gems, Two People’s noirish debut dropped on us with an ambience as suited to dingy bedrooms as to bleached out cityscapes. Needless to say it was an instant hit, though strangely its reverby landscapes, minimal beats and (yes) that saxophone in the opening track feel like they could have come from any bedroom pop record released in the last 20-or-so years. There’s something very aesthetically familiar here and First Body makes little effort to push the boat out. This is not a criticism; Two People’s somewhat dated musical vocabulary is an effective vehicle for their moods of choice, and the album is a gripping reminder that good atmospheres come without expiry dates. As Dewinged so vividly conveyed in his review, the moments and space captured here are easily evocative enough to hold their own. Alternatively, see the inclusion of “Fading” as top-grade reality TV mood music in Terrace House: Opening New Doors Episode 28 (originally aired August 2018) and you’ll get a prescient indication of this album’s success; you can’t go wrong with this one. Almost a year later, First Body remains a highlight of recent bedroom pop and an encouraging start for this young two-piece. –JohnnyoftheWell

37. Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology


[Bandcamp] // [Spotify]

Though fans often misconstrued Falls of Rauros as part of the Cascadian scene due to their similarly holistic take on black metal, truth is, as that sect has seen time raze it to the ground, Falls of Rauros (who reside in Maine) and their nature-minded sound have only grown more lush. Patterns in Mythology, their latest, stands as a culmination of the sonic idiosyncrasies they’ve been weaving into their music since 2005. It makes for a compelling stew of black metal, post-rock, and folk, a combination of elements not too outlandish in black metal’s current meta, yet when done as gracefully as it is here, feels like something new and triumphant. Their grasp on melody is second to none, and whether it be the tasteful lead licks that introduce “Last Empty Tradition” or the almost floral arrangement of sounds “Weapons of Refusal” boasts, there are very few moments spread throughout Patterns in Mythology that won’t stick to your brain like moss stuck to the side of a tree. Falls of Rauros’ take on the genre isn’t filled with hate or anger, but rather an appreciation for the beautiful coastal region in which they reside — something they’ve managed to encapsulate within the creation of Patterns in Mythology, which in turn resulted in one of the most gorgeous black metal albums released in 2019. –TheSpirit

36. Tyler, the Creator – IGOR

15
[Official Site] // [Spotify]

It’s honestly fitting IGOR came out the day of my college graduation. While Tyler’s legacy-defining past endeavor Flower Boy is more analogous to graduation in terms of his path as a musician, I like to conjecture that his 2019 release is a brief glimpse into a life beyond such a landmark. It’s a disorienting view, filled to the brim with oddities and imperfections, most notably within some vocal production choices, yet it’s a confident adventure into this murky unknown. Tyler doesn’t hold anything back, often employing bold, abrasive production strokes across the neo-soul, hip-hop structured songs, prominently seen within the buzzing synths in the opening theme and the blaring 808s in “NEW MAGIC WAND”. Yet amongst this dizzying whirlwind of influences is a personal beauty so flagrantly original it shines through the noise and chaos. Moments of delicacy and soulful crooning often procure this instant gratification, as seen with pop hits “EARFQUAKE” and “A BOY IS A GUN*”. Tyler doesn’t disappoint those looking for their next car speaker experiment, as “WHAT’S GOOD” is eerily reminiscent of a “Who Dat Boy”-type banger filled with many hard-hitting bars. Even the gooey, cheesy 1-2 punch of the final tracks serve as a satisfying sense of closure to this sporadic, spastic mess of a record. It’s simple and endearing, but it’s Tyler’s vulnerable and, at times, shaky vocals that markedly define the persona of IGOR, one that never fails to surprise and entertain. –Conmaniac

35. Lingua Ignota – Caligula


[Bandcamp] // [Spotify]

It’s challenging to write about Caligula, not because it’s so complex and nuanced, but because it’s so glaringly blunt. Kristin Hayter shrieks “I DON’T EAT, I DON’T SLEEP, I LET IT CONSUME ME” as a piano melody falls apart in a cacophony of noise. She titles her songs “MAY FAILURE BE YOUR NOOSE” and “IF THE POISON WON’T TAKE YOU MY DOGS WILL”. She declares herself the Cunt Killer, the Fucking Deathdealer, the Butcher of the World. Caligula is many things, but subtle is not one of them. The only real task left to me is to remark on just how effective that bluntness is. Hayter paints a vivid self-portrait as Lady Justice, blindfold shredded and thrown to the ground, featuring scales perfectly balanced with classical techniques and biblical phraseology on the one end and industrial noise and harrowing screams on the other; a sword pointed directly at the throat of every abuser who has ever or will ever live. Caligula knows exactly what it wants to say and how to say it, and it’s both haunting and exhilarating to experience a vision so perfectly realized. –hesperus

34. Glen Hansard – This Wild Willing


[Official site] // [Spotify]

To see all the pleasant contentedness of Hansard’s previous album (released little more than a year prior) washed away and replaced by such a vast, aching album as The Wild Willing was somewhat astounding and a little bit frightening. Yet for every restless, violent explosion of sound, there’s an answer to be found later on in the record, proving a great amount of its worth to its otherwise more traditional-sounding back-end. It engages, enrages, calms, then carries us into a blissfully warm finale; most importantly, it’s a gorgeous and thrilling offering from an artist I was convinced was past his prime. I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Glen. –neekafat

33. Lapalux – Amnioverse


[Official site] // [Spotify]

Stuart Howard has been trying to make an album like this for years. While his earliest known projects were deeply hip-hop infused beat tapes, fitting excellently into the wonky scene that was swelling up at the time, he’s been getting progressively more ambient. Unfortunately, this has led to a few distracted projects, attempting to be larger than they are while jumping from idea to idea, some more successful than others. The atmosphere that set his productions apart from the rest has finally come full circle from a decoration on ForestWhen You’re GoneNostalchic, etc. to the core of Amnioverse. This is the first Lapalux project I feel like I can really call a journey, and because of the years of practice developing a signature style, it’s a tunnel I love swimming through. By the time “Limb To Limb” arrives with its gorgeous pads and footwork-esque drums, it feels earned, not a random highlight but the peak of the mountain you climbed with Lapalux. And from there, the downhill ride is fantastic, taking all of the practice he’s gotten developing bass growls and warped synths in with the whispering keys and sorrowful voices. This is a culmination for anyone who has been following his career, and a rewarding album for anyone, first time or fiftieth. –granitenotebook

32. Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark


[Bandcamp] // [Spotify]

If anyone had told me a few years back that Abigail Williams would be releasing one of my favourite albums of the decade, I’m pretty sure I would’ve dismissed both that person and their misguided opinions. Fast forward a few years, throw on some token Mariusz Lewandowski artwork, and nail some introspective and forward-thinking atmospheric black metal, and Walk Beyond the Dark begins to rival even that of the genre’s heavyweights. Ken Sorceron has really come into his own on the moniker’s 2019 release; Walk Beyond the Dark is contemplative, hopeful, but also rapturous, visceral, and melancholic, fulfilling a modern exercise in black metal. –Nocte

31. JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs


[Official site] // [Spotify]

I’ve listened to so many rateyourmusic-core experimental hip-hop projects at this point that I almost convinced myself this was bad. All My Heroes Are Cornballs isn’t another Death Grips, clipping., etc. The classic experimental elements – noisy sampling, abrupt structure, references only internet addicts understand – are not prioritized above great songwriting. These are fun songs with hundreds of pretty effects, adopting elements of R&B and vaporwave to create a genuinely new sound (more than just electro-punk music with rapping). The most important thing, the reason I wasn’t able to stay in denial about loving this any longer no matter how much I wanted to, is the emotional core. All this ear candy whirls around roots of pain: anxiety around a missing father. Anger is showcased for what it really is: a coping mechanism for grief. It’s the perfect cure for irony-poisoning — songs with names like “GRIMY WAIFU” are ballads for people who spent 2019 numbing themselves with Eric Andre clips and TikTok. As much as people misuse the term ‘futuristic’, music that is trying to look like it doesn’t care but clearly does represents teenagers better than yelling ever will. –granitenotebook

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Jom
01.07.20
For those curious, here's the just-missed 51-60 group:

51. Angel Olsen - All Mirrors
52. Alcest - Spiritual Instinct
53. Rorcal - Muladona
54. Yeule - Serotonin II
55. Bayside - Interrobang
56. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
57. 3776 - Saijiki
58. Thornhill - The Dark Pool
59. Schammasch - Hearts of No Light
60. The Number Twelve Looks Like You - Wild Gods

Dylan620
01.07.20
GLEN :,,,,,,,,,,)

Demon of the Fall
01.07.20
Mixed bag, but plenty of good ones here. Brutus, Lapalux, FoR, Fire! Orchestra especially. Respectable 40th placed finish for my boys Opeth (I didn't even vote for them).

SowingSeason
01.07.20
Glad to see Hansard made it this time around

Scheumke
01.07.20
Not high enough for my money but eh, we accept what we're given.

Demon of the Fall
01.07.20
Only 2 artists that I voted for from 60-31 then. 8 chances, 30 places. Do me proud Sputnik!Alternatively this is just a game of seeing how much of a lame sheep I am.

furpa
01.07.20
Yay happy to see Tallest Man!

TheNotrap
01.07.20
Nice to know Schammasch had an honorable spot and that Abigail made it to the top 50. Esoteric, Devin Townsend and Opeth are also good picks.

WatchItExplode
01.07.20
Gonna get real on the next two lists.

Sniff
01.07.20
Hey my rorcal almost made it

McTime50
01.07.20
my aoty at 50 ouch

AmericanFlagAsh
01.07.20
IGOR so low

Prancer
01.07.20
Igor too high

Nocte
01.07.20
Hey neato

dmathias52
01.07.20
This was fun to be a part of! Although I'm worried I wrote too much lol
Interesting how drastically different this is from the staff list. I expected more metal here, but there's a whole lot of new stuff

Lucman
01.07.20
Only one of these (50) was in my top ten. Interested to see how my tastes line up with the next batch.

Slex
01.07.20
Dont worry Dmat, there's a couple blurbs coming up that are muuuuch longer
Proud af with this, all involved did such good work!

PistolPete
01.07.20
Write up for 43 was so good! Love the piece so far. Many of my faves will have not made it judging by this. I am now outdated I guess

Dewinged
01.07.20
Stellar albums, stellar write-ups!

Conmaniac
01.07.20
I too was surprised at the placement of IGOR

Divaman
01.07.20
Damn! Sorry that Bayside missed the Top 50.

WatchItExplode
01.08.20
Fine, I'll listen to Brutus and Tallest Man again. Maybe I'll come around.

WatchItExplode
01.08.20
Just be happy Bayside was even in the conversation this year Diva.

BlushfulHippocrene
01.08.20
Love a lot of these write-ups, esp that IGOR and JPEG.

BlushfulHippocrene
01.08.20
Also, nice work, Mathias. Blending in awfully well. ;]

LotionLord
01.08.20
How did Interrobang not make it.

Nocte
01.08.20
sorry who?

Slex
01.08.20
The Bayside album, I wish it made the cut too (tho full disclosure to everyone, I forgot to vote)

RustCohle
01.08.20
Very nice, much more metal than in the staffs list :)

TheClansman95
01.08.20
some audacious picks

NOTINTHEFACE
01.08.20
Ah, here's all the metal.

Divaman
01.08.20
Oh Slex! You might have been enough to push it into the Top 50.

Divaman
01.08.20
Seriously, though, most years, my top albums don't make the Top 50. Glad I got close this time. Bayside was my #2. Doubt Charly Bliss made the cut either.

greg84
01.08.20
Glad Fire! Orchestra made it

Piripichotes
01.08.20
I forgot to include interrobang on my list FFFFFFFF

5am
01.09.20
Was really hoping to see Bayside and Ceres on here this year. Looking forward to checking some of these out though.

anarchistfish
01.10.20
i think i can die easy knowing slipknot got onto a sput end of year list and i didn't even vote in it

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