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Wally's Best of 2019

List is some of my favorite albums from 2019.
In Cauda Venenum

Coming in with a late surprise this year we have an album that sounds like it’s straight out of the 70’s. The album sits comfortably between works from bands like Yes and Deep Purple, toeing the line between it’s progressive and hard rock leanings. If you think all the great music was made in the past, this is the album for you to hit.
Favorite Song: "Dignity"
22Cartoon Theory
Yokai Orchestra

Definitely one of the lighter/ more “fun” albums on this list, this album could easily be dropped on top of a video game or an anime and work. Bright guitars and synthesizers playfully (and technically) bounce around each song, as dizzying drums punctuate the backdrop. An incredibly exciting, and high energy listen.
Favorite Song: "Gaia"
A Distant (Dark) Source

This album requires patience. Clocking in at 70 minutes over the course of eleven songs, it’s a piece that requires you to work through it slowly, consuming songs in palatable chunks rather than trying to sit down with the whole thing at first. Songs erupt from the gloomy and sparse atmosphere that permeates most of Hypno5e’s material, growing and growing until reaching almost unbearable breakdowns. “Melancholy” is the word to describe their career. The album itself tells the story of Lake Tauca, a place that.once had a significant population is now an arid desert. If you liked last year’s “Alba-Les Hombres Errantes” but felt drawn to the album’s heavier moments, this is the one for you.
Favorite Song: "A Distant Dark Source"
20Lightning Bolt
Sonic Citadel

This album is 100% energy. “Sonic Citadel” is a compilation of loud, raucous, pedal-to-the-metal rock. This wall of sound is incredibly impressive when considering it comes from only two dudes. There isn’t a whole lot more to add here, just crank the volume, take an ibuprofen, and go for a ride.
Favorite Song: "Air Conditioning"
Veil of Imagination

This album is a tricky one to pin down. It tricks the listener into thinking it’s a metal album, complete with death metal growls and shrieks, when in actuality it leans closer to symphonic compositions more than anything else. In a sense, this album is a fantasy novel. It starts out with a passage from the William Wordsworth poem “Ode on Intimations of Immortality” and builds from there, sprinkling in instrumentation gradually until finally reaching a triumphant climax. Songs draw thematic references from previous movements, much like a good book, each time exploring different moods and variations. To sit down with this album once is to not truly give it the credit it deserves.
Favorite Song: "The Unimaginable Zero Summer"

Progressive music, as you have probably gathered if you’ve checked out any of my lists, is an expansive genre. Bands can lean more towards heavy, chugging “djenty” sounding music or sweeping, symphonic scores. The point is to be constantly pushing your sound, to see what new boundaries you can surpass. Although I just started getting into this band over the past year, I can already say that “Pitfalls” is a huge departure for the band sonically, as well as a huge step for the whole genre. The album leans heavily on vocalist Einar Solberg, who has without a doubt one of the most beautiful voices in the genre. Songs soar and bounce on almost disco-esq grooves. The band took a risk with the album, and it paid off. I can’t wait to see which direction they choose to step in next.
Favorite Song: "Distant Bells"
17The Contortionist
Our Bones

I tend to avoid putting EPs on this list, simply because they usually indicate an album is dropping soon, and the band is testing new material or perhaps a new direction in which to take their music. In the case of this EP and the one I will mention later, they had to appear on my list because they were just too good. On their previous album, “Clairvoyant”, I felt like The Contortionist was lacking an energy that some of their other albums had. To say I lost interest in where the band was headed next would be a bit of an overstatement, but I felt like something needed to change or the band’s sound would become stagnant. Cue “Our Bones”, an album that draws from their new, more groove and rhythm oriented sound while inserting more energy and emotion. If this is where The Contortionist are headed next year you can be sure they’ll be putting out one of the best, if not the best albums of their career.
Favorite Song: "Follow"
16Black Midi

This is probably the weirdest album on my list. Black midi first grabbed my attention with their electrifying and strange performance at the Hyundai Mercury Awards where they jolted their way through a song in which the lead singer squawks variations of the phrase “She moves with a purpose” while one of the guitarists threw his guitar around the stage and then did a front flip. If that sounds bizarre, imagine what their album sounds like. It’s genre defying, abrasive, and punk as hell.
Favorite Song: "Years Ago"
15Blanck Mass
Animated Violence Mild

I didn’t think it would be possible for Blanck Mass to come up with an album as great as 2017’s “World Eater”. The aggressive moments were chaotic, and atmospheric moments gave the album space to breathe in. Yet, somehow, this year’s album sounds even more frantic; more urgent than the last. Benjamin Power has crafted an album that sounds exactly as the title suggests. It is violent and packed with raw emotion. It’s an easy one to get lost in it, riding sonic swells as beats grow with intensity every passing minute.
Favorite Song: "Death Drop"
14Quelle Chris

“Guns” plays almost like a dream. Quelle dances on his toes through fuzzy, jazzy beats, his flow sometimes teasing the groove ever so slightly, pulling the song in one direction after the other. He raps with a smile (or a grimace) to the side of his mouth, as if only he sees the punchline to the jokes spread across his album. This album is like creeping through the aftermath of our current political climate. Quelle takes you to the dark places of a shelled-out city like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, showing us the future we deserve if we do not change our ways.
Favorite Song: "Obamacare"
13Default Genders
main pop girl 2019

Let’s take a trip back to the 90’s. Imagine you are as you are now, but (at this point) three decades ago. The Backstreet Boys are creating boy band hit after boy band hit. Bands like Vertical Horizons and Eiffel 65 are ruling the airwaves. That’s where this album belongs. There’s something nostalgic about it, not simply in the lyrics but the music itself. The album plays like the end of some warm-happy-go-lucky rave. The sun is rising in the east. The patrons, though exhausted, are dancing as the light cuts through the darkness and bathes them in that bright, yellow glow. They’re smiling, you’re smiling, and even though things might not be alright, for 40 minutes, it will be.
Favorite Song: "Reverse Chronological Order (Part One)
12Moron Police
Boat on the Sea

If you’ve ever thought that you would want to hear what a pop musical/ prog rock album would sound like, look no further. This album is 70% fun prog rock and 30% cheese. With a name like Moron Police, how could it be anything else? Put on your dancing shoes. This one’s a whole lot of fun.
Favorite Song: "The Phantom Below"
11The Comet Is Coming
Trust in the Lifeforce of Deep Mystery

Some people envision space as a massive black canvas, pocked with distant stars. The Comet is Coming takes a different approach, turning an adventure into the outermost reaches of space into a sexy, funky dance party. Get ready to groove. Get ready to shake your booty. Get ready to dance where no man has danced before.
Favorite Song: "Summon the Fire"
10The Physics House Band
Death Sequence

This EP has been on my mind ever since I discovered it earlier this November. I’ve been a huge fan of these guys work over the years, first discovering their monstrous live groove session over “Teratology” (which, if you enjoy this, you NEED to listen to), and following them ever since. This EP, for its length, is absolutely mammoth, slathered with dirty King Crimson Red era grooves. The addition of a horn player gives the music another dimension, adding already to the wall of sound that these guys produce.
Favorite Song: "Death Sequence i"
9Danny Brown

If you were to ask me who the MC of the decade was, I think it would have to go to Brown. The guy just doesn’t put out bad records. Coming off the heels of “Atrocity Exhibition”, the question on every fan’s mind was “how is Brown going to follow this up”? While other hip-hop artists might have doubled down, delving further into the drug fueled madness that helped create their best critically received album, Brown’s life has taken a positive change, leading him to create an album that he described as “stand-up” comedy. Produced by the legendary Q-Tip, the album listens like a Richard Pryor routine, mixing dirty jokes with hard lessons learned from the world Danny grew up in.
Favorite Song: "Dirty Laundry"

It took me a while to “get” this album. The lead vocalist’s voice is dreamy and gently floats about the black metal-esq guitar riffing. Many of the songs exist in the same auditory palette. I think, in the end, it took one bad day for me to get it. I put in headphones, dropped myself into “A New Color” and just allowed myself to be submerged. And, like good post-metal, I was entranced. Time seemed to move quicker, and before I knew it I was pressing repeat, wishing to experience those swaths of colors again and again.
Favorite Song: "A New Color"
7Her Name Is Calla
Animal Choir

I fully realized how much I loved this album a few weeks back when I had a few friends over and was listening to this in the background. Amid the sound of food cooking and conversations I found myself being drawn again and again into the music, standing stunned and drawn to moments throughout the spread of the album. Clocking in at around 80 minutes, this album is gigantic, the headstone to the band that released it and then promptly called it quits. It plays like the death heaves of some dying beast. There are moments of violence; moments of tranquility. Songs inhale and exhale, creating moments of tension when you aren’t sure there will be a second breath. It’s beautiful and, if you can sit through it, worth it until the end.
Favorite Song: "A Moment of Clarity"
6Secret Band

If you’re looking for an album that grabs you by the back of your head and screams into your face for 40 minutes, this is the one for you. Secret Band drags its audience once again down into their madness, assaulting your senses with ten songs that bite and claw at their confines. Jon Mess melts absurd strings of lyrics together, catchy enough to be earworms and strange enough to make you wonder if the guy is really all there. It’s fun, it’s chaotic, and it’s an album that definitely should not remain a secret.
Favorite Song: "Moon"
5Moon Tooth

This album is a hard one to pin down. Moon Tooth have somehow managed to craft a work that touches on so many subgenres without distinctly putting it’s foot in one. The album is almost like a game of Twister, but the person spinning the dial doesn’t give the person playing time to find their balance before giving them another move. And on top of all this impressive musical gymnastics is vocalist John Carbone, who manages to sound wholly unique, a trait rare in a time when so many bands wear their influences on their sleeves.
Favorite Song: "Crux"
4Billy Woods, Kenny Segal
Hiding Places

“Hidden Places” is a lyrical labyrinth. Over the sleepy, dreary beats of Kenny Segal, Billy Woods barks and slurs together bars that don’t seem to end, rolling and changing with every listen like a kaleidoscope. There are so many references, both literary and cultural, that I probably couldn’t understand half of the lines even if I tried. That’s the true power of this album: every time you listen to a song you catch something else, whether it’s a brief aside by Woods or finally catching something in a song you’ve listened to multiple times.
Favorite Song: "Speak Gently"
3The Offering

One of the most incredible things to hear, musically, is when a band finds lightning and is able to bottle it. Every single member sounds like they’re on board, galloping forward as a collective with energy and passion. “Home” is an album made by a band on the cusp of greatness, hungry for the glory they deserve. There isn’t a single moment of wasted space on this album, and I haven’t even begun to talk about vocalist Alex Richichi. That dude is like Bruce Dickenson, Corey Taylor, and Rob Halford all wrapped up into one. Seriously, the first time I listened to this album I had to stop what I was doing just to listen to him. Without a doubt the top vocalist of the year. If you’re a metal fan and you haven’t listened to this on, do yourself a damn service and give this a spin.
Favorite Song: "Waste Away"
2Thank You Scientist

It’s always a rough position to be in when a band loses a good chunk of its members. Do you call it quits? Do you continue on and release a safe album, to reassure fans that you are still capable of the magic found on your previous releases? In the case of Thank You Scientist, the decision was not only to keep on as a group, but to also release their most complex collection of music to date. Many of the songs on this beast of an album either come close to touching or surpass the ten minute mark, requiring a lot of attention and patience from the listener. The result, however, is an album of catchy, well put together songs that will have you grooving into the new year. Not only are Thank You Scientist going to come out the other side of this split up, they’re going to come out bigger and badder.
Favorite Song: "Everyday Ghosts"
Periphery IV: Hail Stan

If I had to pick a “defining” artist of this decade for me, Periphery would probably have to be it. They completely changed the soundscape of music, drawing me into strange lands with heaving polyrhythms and soaring vocals. To say that these gentlemen are some of the best of our generation (or of all time for that matter) wouldn’t be a stretch. It’s been fun to watch them grow, from the pet project that was P:1 to the collective effort that has been there past couple records. This album is probably one of their most experimentive, ranging from the 15 minute, symphonic, brutal, emotional opening song “Reptile” (yeah, they put their longest and most epic song to date at the beginning of their album) to the industrial electronic “Crush”. I can’t wait to see where these gentlemen take the band next, and where they push the genre in the new decade. Wherever it is, it’s sure to be a blast.
Favorite Song: "Sentient Glow"
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