ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2019


Alphabetical order cos I loathe marks out of ten/competition. Just one list this year. If you see quote marks it means I'm quoting from a review in DJ Magazine, Wire Magazine or the Metro newspaper. 

Oddly, the very first and the very last albums here were the only two that me and my daughters agreed on this year, the first a fave of my eldest, the last a fave of my youngest.


If I can offer one view of what unifies all of these it's that in tough times for all of us, they have offered an aperture through to magic and wonder. I'm not saying they're escapist. They were essential to survival. Music didn't 'save my life' this year. My life, like yours probably, is fucked. But music took me out of it whenever I got the chance. Anything I've missed, let me know in the comments. See y'next year x 


AJ Tracey 
AJ Tracey 
(AJ Tracey)
Irresistible pop-grime from the likably aggravating AJ - this debut full-length cocked a nice snook at Grime's elderly veterans while also providing bangers and bubblers and bravado aplenty. 



Alpha Maid
Spy 
(Curl) 
"Leisha Thomas’ mix of found sounds, electronica, London punk aggression and grungey heaviness finds compelling expression over this EPs five tracks . . .  Walk the streets with this as your soundtrack and armour.  Don’t make eye contact with anyone."



Kendra Amelie 
Intuition
(Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records)
"Wisconsin-based producer, guitarist and band-leader Kendra Amelie recorded this debut set in a shed but my god that shed must be Tardis-like - or at least have a clear roof, cos the stars swim around this music"




Apollo Brown
Sincerely, Detroit
(Mello Music Group) 
"As ever Mello Music Group have given us some of the finest salvos from the US hip hop underground this year, of which this gritty, searingly honest, musically riotous set from AB just might have been the best" 



Angelo De Augustine
Tomb
(Asthmatic Kitty) 
"Everything about this record SHOULD mean I don't like it, it's mainly acoustic (I like electricity), often slow and quiet (I like fast and loud music) and has been compared to stuff (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens) I've never bothered with. Elliot Smith is a better comparison - I'm so glad I gave it a go cos this is just a beautiful, massively evocative record about heartbreak and loss"


The Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra
Songs From The Sun Ra Cosmos 
(Sundazed Music) 
"the intergalactic yearning in Whitfield’s croon - its that yearning and the sheer gusto with which the Soul Savage Arkestra go about the performances here that makes this set not just compelling in its own right but a fantastic gateway into the Ra universe for the neophyte. Highly recommended."



Beast Coast
Escape From New York
(Columbia)
" . . . Joey Bada$$'s Pro Era crew combined with the Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers makes Beast Coast. You might expect retrograde boombapism, but you'll be startled when you hear their new, compelling full-length 'Escape From New York' just how much trap/drill dynamics and timbre have infected their sound. Lunging, party-starting trap you need in your bag right now."



Benny The Butcher
The Plugs I Met
(Black Soprano Family)
"Love BTBs flows and the music is a new sumptuous high for that fucked-up Buffalo NY sound" 



Big Thief
U.F.O.F
(4.A.D)
"Paradox being there’s not another record I want to write about more right now, and there’s not a record I’m more scared of spoiling with these words. I listen to people I trust. People I trust told me about Big Thief but nothing prepared me for ‘UFOF’. Nothing prepared me for how something with all the signifiers of ‘fragility’ (acoustic instrumentation, a close-in direct and intimate vocal delivery) could be so fucking hard, so strong, so tactile in effect, so suggestive in reach. It’s possessed me like a cold flame, a sunray, ever since I first heard it. And it sits, amidst everything else, casting fear on me because when I play it, everything but ‘UFOF’ falls away.  When it’s on it possesses me beyond my ability to even imagine how it was made, how it was ‘written’. ‘UFOF’ doesn’t feel crafted. It feels invoked from the spaces between four hearts. I can’t see a more absorbing, engulfing, gorgeous record being made all year. Less an album than a spell, a galdr, a refuge. Take it deep inside the earth with you"




Black Milk
Dive EP
(Fat Beats)
"Last year’s ‘Fever’ was one of 2018’s highlights. This new EP has been characterised as BM’s dive into r’n’b - i’d say that’s not exactly it, it’s way more slippery than that. Perfectly kooky odd hip hop soul just right for summer"



Blu & Oh No
A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night
(Nature Sounds) 
". . . ever since 2017's stunning '3 Dimensional Prescriptions' with Tri-State I've been minded to get my eyes retuned to anything Oh No does and this sumptuous, delicious suite of West Coast waywardness repaid your intrigue in spades . . . "




Bronx Slang
Bronx Slang
(Fabyl)

"I really should be able to fend off determinedly old-school hip hop like this but the beats are so damn irresistible and the rhyming such fantastic fun I see no reason not to thoroughly enjoy every boombap minute of this total doozie. Like stoner-rock for metalheads, if you don't enjoy this you're being too hard on yourself."



Camoflauge Monk
Last Real Nigguh 2
(Low Tech Records)
"Viscous vicious seething hip hop from one of the dankest in the game. Yeah I know that’s not how you spell camouflage but it’s how HE spells it and I’m not arguing with him. He scares me."


Carns Hill
Hurt Your Parents Feelings
(Hill Productions 2019) 
". . . youngervolk than me can tell you whether this is the state of UK Drill art at the moment, all I know is that I'm addicted to its baleful, monomaniacal, brackish bass-heavy depths Probably offensive to pretty much everyone at some point . . . "




Cats Of Transnistria
Aligning
(Soliti) 
"Am addicted to this band's sound - heavily reverbed almost-classicist dream-pop suffused with Nordic wintriness and beautiful harmonies and melodies. To hear them expand their songwriting both outwards and inwards in the way 'Aligning' showed was an utter delight"



Choosey & Exile
Black Beans
(Fat Beats)
"Choosey's Afro-Latino background explored in lovely lambent hip hop, deeply moving nostalgia about his streets, strong messages of solidarity, gorgeous cameos from a host of likeminds. Reflection and resistance perfectly balanced."




Clear Soul Forces
Still 
(Fat Beats)
"Deliberately dated (and if I love stoner rock why should I care how 'contemporary' my hip hop sounds?) rap music from Detroit. For fans of A Tribe Called Quest and a similarly pleasurable boombap blast to sit alongside that stunning Bronx Slang album from earlier in the year."





The Comet Is Coming
Afterlife
(Impulse!)

"London-based trio The Comet Is Coming unleash perhaps their finest yet, again letting rave electronics, jazz-funk and a dancefloor-directed low end meet and mingle and mash, again suffusing everything with a vaguely positivist but markedly apocalyptic mysticism."




Crimeapple X DJ Skizz
Wet Dirt
(Different Worlds Music Group) 
"Tim Fish hipped me to Crimeapple (check out his gingerslim.wordpress.com blog for daily updates about the best new hip hop) and I've hoovered up everything they've done since."


Jack Danz
T.M.I.B. 
(Blah Records)
"Those who know about Blah pretty much have to hear everything that they put out because the production whether from Trellion or Morriarchi or in this case Danz or any of their sonic genii is always incredible, slo-mo bass-heavy beats that push trap/hip-hop to new fetid depths of strung-out lassitude. If I had a music mag the Blah family would be my first cover-stars"


Dave 
Psychodrama
(Neighbourhood) 
Dave didn't put a foot wrong all year, least of all on this utterly engrossing, hilarious, heartbreaking album




Deafkids
Metaprogramação
(Neurot)
". . . weaponises its sonic impact to the point where you want to play this album at the planet through moon-sized speakers, just to give our impending doom the righteous soundtrack it deserves. A dub record? A noise record? A psyche record? None of the above, a Deafkids record. From here on in, that means something."




Lana Del Ray 
Norman Fucking Rockwell! 
(Universal Music) 
Three amazing singles and then 11 wondrous moments of LA reflection. The most beautiful sadness of the year, the most heavy-lidded happiness. 




Durand Jones & The Indications 
American Love Call 
(Dead Oceans) 
Dated? Possibly. Irresistable? Absolutely. Heartfelt, politically edged soul beautifully played and arranged. A sublime, yearning, heartbroke record. 



El Camino 
Don't Eat The Fruit
(Anti Gun Violence Co.) 
" . . . this debut full length El Camino set is 29 minutes of lurid fever I can't shake. Uneasy listening par excellence."



Empath 
Active Listening: Night On Earth
(Get Better)

"NOISE-pop. Let’s decode that sobriquet. What it normally means is noise that doesn’t work as pop and pop that doesn’t work as noise. Whether hookiness or heaviness - something is invariably sacrificed. Philly-based four-piece Empath have been called noise-pop but in their case the term entails no dilution, no constriction - they make noisy music that swings with immensely catchy hooks. Catherine Elicson is the vocalist, a singer of plangent delicacy and punchy drive. Garret Koloski (formally of the fab Perfect Pussy) plays drums like a freight-train, propulsive, yet responsive, Emily ‘Jem’ Shanahan and Randall Coon’s guitars and synths deluge the band’s addictive chug with fuzzy sampladelic fucked up texture."






Sharon Van Etten 
Remind Me Tomorrow 
(Jagjaguwar) 

Played loud, played repeatedly, sung along to with gusto always. Jammed full of anthems that disguise themselves, the best kind of anthems 




Excuse
Prophets From the Occultic Cosmos
(Shadow Kingdom) 
"Thrash, speed-metal and black metal are conjured here but what saves it from being just another Finnish record with illegible writing on it is the properly ODD production . . .  The 10 minute closer ‘Watchtower Of The Trans-Dimensional Pathway’ is a symphony of florid frowniness possibly best heard on a computer tape player through quadraphonic car-stereo speakers with a can of Tennants Super in your hand. Yes that’s a recommendation."



Ex:Re
Ex:Re
(4.A.D) 
"Ex:Re - Ex:Re - parts remind me of Big Thief and Aldous Harding but this is in its own unique hard-boiled, heartbroken, glacially beautiful territory. Love this poised, clear record."





Eye Flys 
Context 
(Thrill Jockey) 
"A nice little slab of Melvins/Unsane/Thou/Cloudrat-style nastiness, filled with pleasing use of the word ‘motherfucker’ . . .  closer ‘Fuckface’ I swear down starts with the line ‘you Billy Bastard’. If it doesn’t I DON’T WANT TO KNOW. Worry your parents immediately with this little bruiser."






Ezra Collective
You Can’t Steal My Joy
(Enter The Jungle)
"Ezra Collective are five young award-winning Londoners and the title of their debut album might make the curmudgeonly bristle – by the end of the album you’d have to have a heart of anthracite to deny them. . . . .A painstaking, brilliantly conceived record that never seems planned, always seems to steam up out of the streets it describes so evocatively."




Fennesz

Agora
(Fennesz)
"ends up genuinely facing forward, apprehending an uneasy future as the beats and sky-wide soundscapes engulf you. Four compelling escape routes. Get down the road apiece."




Fazer 
Nadi
(Squama) 
Munich might not be the place you expect such a scintillating jazz-funk album to come from but this is fab - great grooves, superb horn-playing, like Silent Way Miles found himself in Fela's band but also spacious and suggestive and subtle. A palpable hit in all senses.




Flowdan
Full Metal Jacket
(Tru Thoughts) 
"Any album that contains what is already track of the year - 'Welcome To London' - is deserving of your attention but what's so great about this set is the odd place Flowdan finds himself in now, strangely at home alongside UK-Drill, with THAT VOICE that's just so much more commanding than so many other voices in grime right now (much as I love him, AJ Tracey is to Flowdan what Kevin The Gerbil is to Chuck D). Perfect stuff to make your rear-view mirror shudder with the bass. Play loud all this cold dark dank dirty summer."



Claude Fontaine
Claude Fontaine 
(Innovative Leisure) 
"Just exquisite. . .  Fontaine aims for a deliberately dated sound but manages to suggest a future in so doing, trusting her songwriting to make this more than mere simulation. On Side A you get the reggae side of Fontaine’s obsessions . . . Flip the record over and you get a sublime suite of tropicalia and Brazilian jazz-pop, very reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto but always given enough space to not just be a homage, to actually allow Fontaine’s uniquely catchy and compelling songwriting take hold"





Debby Friday 
Death Drive 
(Deathbomb Arc) 
" . . . Friday should be heard, now, by anyone who doesn’t fit, anyone angry, anyone who’s dread hasn’t yet totally overwhelmed them. That makes all of us. Essential."




Gawd Status 
Firmamentum
(Tru Thoughts) 
"This album finds itself in a unique place for UK MC music - between psyche, soul and hip hop, with a lyrical focus on anti-narrative and pseudo-historical analysis. This is conscious rap, but my god it’s a twisted consciousness, and as such it recalls most strongly dissident voices like Kwesi Johnson and Black Radical MK II. Crucially,  ‘Firmamentum’ is a no-fucks-given-where-this-fits delight of a record"



Giggs 
BIG BAD 
(No BS Music)
". . . heavy fuzzy bass dominating the mix and the beats coming through like flickering static. Without a doubt Giggs is a commanding MC. His star is sure to continue to rise if he keeps putting out records as sharp and lethal as this . . . ."



Gore
Revanche
(Exile On Mainstream) 
"the sheer consistent heaviness of the trio’s riffs & playing are just dazzling, the psyche and proggy touches in the production only amplifying the body-music HIT of this sound."




Hama 
Houmeissa
(Sahel Sounds) 
"Nigerian composer Hama creates what he calls ‘electronic desert-folk songs’. He takes nomadic herding ballads, ancient caravan songs and ceremonial wedding chants and reconfigures them using 80s and 90s synths to create pieces that sound like they’re lifted from a long-lost Saharan sci-fi epic, or a Tuareg 8-bit video game . . . . . It’s this ego-less refusal of auteur-ship that makes ‘Houmeissa’ work. A confection to be sure, but one that manages to con you it is pulled from a community, a vision, a view from afar."




Aldous Harding 
Designer 
(4.a.d) 

As soon as you're into Harding's world, her sound world, her lyrical world, and the special oddity of her songwriting, you don't want to crawl out. No one has beguiled me as much with such simple complexity this year bar Big Thief (and Nadia Reid at an astonishing gig - see blogposts passim). Those New Zealanders . . . . they KNOW don't they x 



Headie One X RV 
Drillers X Trappers Vol II
(Relentless)
"Love Headie One, love the sheer murked-out morbidity of this. UK Drill at its most anthemic and its dankest."



Hilsa 
Hilsa
(Youngbloods) 
There are roughly three trillion ambient/experimental albums released every hour of every day but this one grabbed me. I have no idea why but I suspect it's because it never sounds like mere pootling. It sounds like a few people sharing the same heartbeat and it positively THRUMS with TACTILITY.



Hurtling
Future From Here 
(Onomatopaiea) 
Because this three-piece feature Jen Macro from MBV's touring band nearly every review I've read of this feels the need to mention its MBVness - I don't hear ANY of that. This is like Come circa 'Gently Down The Stream' or Beekeeper circa 'Ostrich' - great songs played by a great band. Had no prior knowledge or expectations of this, just put it on and played it and it blew me away.


IAMDDB
Swervvvvv 5 
(Union IV Recordings)
". . . one of the most gorgeous, gaseous things you’ll hear in 2019, futuristic yet soulful, loose but tight-as-fuck, catchy but also complex and intricate, right for now but also timeless."


Ibibio Sound Machine 
Doko Mien 
(Merge Records) 
"You’ll have heard a billion things you could guess might be loved by ISM, but no-one is crushing different sound worlds together quite as compellingly as them right now.  Stack next to ‘The Garner Tapes’. THAT good."





Ishmael Ensemble
A  State Of Flow
(Severn Songs)
"Ishmael Ensemble, led by saxophonist and producer Pete Cunningham are based in Bristol and it shows – there’s a grimeyness but also a hedonistic glide . . . .  Feel the flashbacks irradiate your retinas."  


Kano

Hoodies All Summer

(Parlophone) 


". . .  glorious proof that as grime approaches its third decade of development, its first seminal wave of artists have matured but haven’t mellowed or lost their ability to still excite and intrigue. Superb."



Julia Kent 
Temporal 
(Leaf Label)
You will doubtless find harsher, more experimental modern cello-music than this but I don't care, this is a gorgeous collection of pieces Kent composed for dance/theatre productions, rerubbed to be standalone pieces. The mix of ambient electronics, cello and rhythm gives these pieces the feel of Rachel's, or the drumless sections of Bark Psychosis' 'Hex'.



KOKOKO!
Fongola 
(Royal Mountain Records)
"Oh my godfathers, what an astonishing blast this debut set from Kinshasa collective KOKOKO! is. Lo-fi, heavy, hypnotic, psychedelic, somewhere between Konono No.1, Zamrock, Can and Fela Kuti, this is quite unlike anything else you’ll hear all year and absolutely essential for anyone looking beyond Western pop confines in 2019. Hoover it up like gak"



Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba 
Miri
(Outhere Records)
". . . sublime, the guitar playing, the singing, and I have no idea what any of the songs are about I just know the sound of them holds my heart."



Kronos Quartet, Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat

Placeless
(Valley Entertainment) 
"Kronos hook up with two stunning Iranian performers of Persian vocal music. Like Golha-radio transcribed by John Cage & yes of course I'm a total sucker for this stark shimmering horizon-chasing record."


Little Simz 
Grey Area
(Age 101) 
" . . . Simz's beats seem to be getting harder and heavier . . . .  pure addictive sonic crack. This woman deserves a Mercury, a Brit Award and crucially deserves STARDOM. What a more interesting world it'd be if Simz could become the ruler she was born to be." 



Lizzo 
Cuz I Love You 
(Nice Life) 
"Rap music needs more people like Lizzo, not just as a gigantic fuck-you to the regressive sexism of the music biz, but because the music is glorious. In a year that's already given us stunning full-length albums from Little Simz and IAMDDB, there's no excuse for any hip-hop listener to be excluding women's voices from their ongoing listening. Play loud."




L'Orange X Jeremiah Jae
Complicate Your Life With Violence 
(Mello Music Group) 
"So gratifying that L'Orange and JJ are back at it again — 2015's 'The Night Took Us In Like Family' was a noir-rap masterpiece, and L'Orange's work since with Kool Keith & Marlowe has been awesome. . . . more accessible than anything they've given us before, but no less lyrically intriguing and lit up with dusty, gorgeous samples . . . "



Kelsey Lu
Blood
(Columbia) 
Gorgeous arrangements and orchestrations frame thoughtful, thought-provoking, dark songs about pain and loss. In a way a perfect companion piece to 'Norman Fucking Rockwell' but this actually captivated me more. Underdog energy, a voice that pierces your heart,  and inspirational resilience throughout.




Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan
New Rain Duets
(Three Lobed Recordings) 
The fact that Mac was in Superchunk seemed to freak alot of people out. Meant nothing to me (pardon my ignance) but this captivating set of ambient instrumentals was one of the floatiest, startling headphone experiences of the year. Astonishing range and depth of instrumentation, no idea pursued beyond its ability to entrance. Don't listen to it on headphones in the dark is all I'm saying x 

Mega Bog
Dolphine
(Paradise Of Bachelors)
". . .  something of a leftfield pop gem for 2019, a record created with no consciousness of a wider scene but  a bedroom-wide sense of ambition and scope. These songs are tangles, unconcerned with hooks, verses, choruses, but absolutely putting melodic ideas into your head that are addictive precisely because they don’t repeat, just play themselves out and then disappear."



Mereba
The Jungle Is The Only Way Out
(Interscope) 
"A little bit Erykah Badu, a little bit Joni, a little bit Portishead, a little bit Solange, a whole lot irresistible. 




The Messthetics
Anthropocosmic Nest
(Dischord Records)
". . .  it was the FUNK of Fugazi that was always so moreish, the sheer danceability of Lally and Canty’s grooves that undercut the ever-proximate dangers of pomposity and earnestness. It’s a delight to hear this beast of a rhythm section back in the fray - The Messthetics are an instrumental power-trio featuring Lally and Canty with jazz-rock virtuoso Anthony Pirog . . .  veers from the oceanic to the volcanic like no-one this side of Harriet Tubman. What a fantastic blast this is."



Mourning [A] BLKstar
Reckoning
(Don Giovanni) 
" . . . This is truly community music that lets everybody speak, and cuts off sentiments and ideas dead as soon as they’re expressed (check the brutal sign off to ‘Harms’) - it also has absolutely no problem fusing the political, sexual and social together not only within the space of one song, but often within the space of a single verse, a single chorus, a single line . . . . Alongside Clear Soul Forces ‘Still’ and Durand Jones’ ‘American Love Call’ perhaps 2019’s sweetest and most searing transmission from black America yet but I’d say ‘Reckoning’ far eclipses both of those.  You’re damn right you need this."



DJ Muggs & Mach Hommy
Tuez-Les Tous
(Soul Assassins) 

"Muggs' re-emergence in recent years, clearly fired by a burgeoning sense of excitement with the new wave of hardcore underground hip hop, has been a joy to see and his production on this doleful delirious album is gorgeously lurid and dank-as-fuck throughout. . . one of Muggs' psychest records ever."




Nah Eeto
53
(Blah Records) 
"Partly it's the mystery around Nah Eeto, the fact we know so little about her, that makes her recorded output so compelling. There's still something blank and uncommunicative about her music, helped here by a Lee Scott production that's murderously precise, bass heavy and just right. It's her unplaceability, the sense that like the rest of us, she's found herself stranded in a strange land, that makes '53' both so righteous and also so deliciously right not just for these times, but for an audience whose sense of place is similarly fragmented and scattershot right now." 



Helado Negro
This Is How You Smile
(RVNG International) 
"Sun-dappled, warmly textured, flickering between geographies both past and present and seasons both dreamed and invasive, it’s a tincture of summer before its time. Drink deep and feel the sunshine hit your cells. This is music that refuses to penetrate, insists on a barely tactile caress instead . . . . Negro’s precise refusal to have bullied you with his ideas means you’re happy to return to the beginning and let that sunlight in again. Central heating for kids. Lovely."



Nibiru
Salbrox
(Ritual Productions)
Italian occultist sludge-kings Nibiru’s insist they’re not just making music with ‘Salibrox’  they insist it’s a rite, a ‘cataclysmic psychic journey of visionary magick, elemental prophecies and esoteric super normality’ . . . . a heavily Goblin-like black doomy psychedelica that like any rite has its moments of repetition & dullness, but remains convincing enough to make that dullness absorbingly hypnotic in itself. Best thing of its kind since LVTHN’s ‘Spider Goddess’ and praise rarely comes higher."



Chris Orrick
Out To Sea
(Mello Music Group) 
" . . refuses to stay still or stagnate lyrically, touching on trauma and torment but with a poetic freedom that can also launch you into imaginative joy. Orrick has found a way to replace the confidence most rappers assume they have to portray with a sense of personal and political uncertainty that really chimes right now."


Otoboke Beaver
Itekoma Hits
(Damnably) 
"It’s not often that a rock’n’roll record actually has my jaw dropping, let alone finding it impossible to say anything bar gurgle ‘WHAT A FUCKING BAND’ but this new set from Kyoto-based garage-rock quartet Otoboke Beaver had me doing exactly that, partly in revelation at its power and impact, partly in startled shock that extremely fast and loud punk rock could still possess my body & brain so completely. It’s overwhelmingly a record in which roughly twenty seconds in you realise that you have a brand new favourite band. In a house it’s domestic terrorism. In a car it’s a jacking. In your head it wipes your cortex clean. It’s an absolute fucking RIOT."




Quelle Chris
Guns
(Mello Music Group) 
". . .  the massive acclaim 'Everything Is Fine' received has sent him scurrying back to a harder, more avant-garde sound. Don't let this pass you by it's incredible . . . . "



Remulak
Scrambled Eggs
(Bandcamp) 
" . . . .I just can't resist Remulak's beats and loops and this retooled collection of stuff off his heaving hard-drive is a jazzy smoked out delight throughout . . . . "



Royal Trux
White Stuff
(Drag City) 
Far far far better than any of us devotees had any right to expect - the temporary reconvening of Herrema and Hagerty was a reminder to the rest of rock and roll just how far behind RTX they remain. Still dangerous. Still menacing. Still funky as fuck, heavy, textured like nothing else. Hoover it up and slather your gums.



Sabbath Assembly
A Letter Of Red
(Svart Records) 

 "The production from Randall Dunn (SunnO))), Black Mountain, Earth) is peach-perfect . . . . for lighting the candle in front of the mirror, for forcing the face to the water’s surface, for the knife-plunged into the image - this is witchery-do of a high high order, a brilliant and addictive record for summoning spirits both without and within".


Saint Abdullah
Mechanical Flirtations
(True Aether) 
"New York based Iranian-Canadian brothers Mohammed and Mehdi are the duo behind ‘sound-project’ Saint Abdullah and this is their first release on Helsinki’s True Aether imprint . . .  guest Sahba Sizdahkhani (who perfectly straddles the worlds of Iranian traditional music and free jazz that the record plays with) starts playing an indeterminate instrument as if he’s pleading for his life. His playing is breathtaking but it’s Muhammed & Mehdi’s post-productive fuckery with both it and their backdrops that makes the track so compelling. Desert cinema for the ears. Listen in widescreen."



Salami Rose Joe Louis
Zdenka 2080
(Brainfeeder) 
"Bay Area-based musician, composer and producer Lindsay Olsen laces 22 tracks of wonderfully engaging oddity here, seemingly as touched by lo-fi hip-hop and ‘70s jazz-funk as radiophonic wibblery and Boards Of Canada-style intrigue. Love the Solex vibe of this, an album that never fails to engage and delight. Highly recommended."




Sampa The Great
The Return
(Ninja Tune) 
"'a beautifully supple and fluid mix of styles given centre and weight by her stunning verbals,  exploring themes of nostalgia, loss and growth with a fearless honesty and poignancy. . . dive in to the album and we'll reconvene at some point in the new decade when we've both caught up with everything Sampa has to say. Fantastic plastic." 




Doron Segal
The Addition Of Strangeness
(Village Live) 
Fab debut jazz set from Israeli-born, Berlin-based pianist Segal. Beautifully lithe playing from the whole ensemble and some melodies you just can't shake. If you diggit also seek out the wonderful 'Kraut Jazz Futurism' compilation compiled by Mathias Modica on Kryptox records. 



Caroline Shaw/Attacca Quartet
Orange
(NoneSuch) 
This is chamber music without a ceiling and where the floor sometimes shifts out of shape too. I hear late Beethoven, Haydn, Bartok, and the birds and the bees and the breeze and the raindrops and the garden.



Shura
Forevher
(Secretly Canadian) 
Difficult to follow 2016's magical 'Nothing's Real' but this warm soulful second full-length from Shura managed it. Not a play at pop. Pop. 



Skepta
Ignorance Is Bliss
(Boy Better Know)
"His last album, 2016’s  Mercury Award-winning ‘Konichiwa’ was one of Grime’s most intriguing explorations of black British identity and culture and this long-awaited follow-up inevitably carries a lot of expectation with it. Gratifyingly, it delivers on every level . . . Musically, Skepta finds his groove early and maintains it. The beats and production throughout ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ remain focussed, minimal, yet coloured with delicious variety. This is a record that yearns for naivete, that misses Grime’s innocence in a world in which grime has become part of dance and global pop - Skep gives the music that global feel, reflecting his own Nigerian roots, but keeps the lyrical focus local and intimate. ‘Konichiwa’ was a hell of a tough act to follow. Miraculously Skepta has done it. Superb."




Skittles
Poor On Purpose
(Propatop) 
". . . like so much of what’s so thrilling about Mancunian music at the moment Skittles sees no barriers, his sound fluidly melding grime (‘I Am The Danger’), electronic music, hip-hop and even ambient folk (‘Murder In People’) to frame his fractured, often hilarious, narratives from Manchester’s backstreets. If you’re not keeping your ears pointed up the M6, you’re missing out on some of the greatest UK music at the moment. Retune yourself."





Solange
When I Get Home
(Columbia) 
Give me Solange's honest contemporary confusion over more coherent retrograde statements in soul this year. A gaseous, stoned, jazzed-out, almost ambient r'n'b record.



Sudan Archives
Athena
(Stones Throw Records)
"a powerful confident pop record tooled up to compete with the heaviest hitters in femme-pop out there (Paul White’s production is key as it has been for Danny Brown and Charli XCX) but that occupies its own uniquely ambivalent and querulous space. Mixing addictive r’n’b grooves with stealthy, unsettling electronics Sudan Archives has hit upon a blend that perfectly reflects her own duality and  ambiguity as an artist."


Swindle
No More Normal
(Brownswood Recordings) 
"Long been a fan of Swindle's twist on jazz and bass music and interviewing him a couple of years ago he was hinting at making something like this glorious record, all killer no filler and an album in which the cameos (Ghetts, D Double E, Nubya Garcia, Eve Lazarus & others) actually have a POINT and lend character and impetus to each track.Joyful, sharp, heavy, heavenly."



Sarah Tandy
Infection In The Sentence
(Jazz Re:freshed)
"London-based jazz pianist Sarah Tandy’s debut set is an enjoyable collection of tightly-played explorations as much influenced by her jazz heroes as the dubby danceable sounds of the London present – tracks like ‘Under The Skin’ are as funky and evocative as Kamaal Williams, and should be of interest to any DJ who wants to slip the 4/4 leash. Get on it."


Teebs
Anicca
(Brainfeeder) 
"Mtendere Mandowa’s third full-length album for Brainfeeder sees him craft a complex, gorgeously textured suite of mournful pop . . .  all graininess and light, joy creeping out through the shifting beats and shadows. As deep and as long as Teebs has ever gone."



Tengger
Spiritual 2
(Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) 
Alot of Indonesian stuff floating my boat at the moment. This duo make a mix of krautrock, folk and drone and this album sounds like it should be piped through the walls and vents of an ashram for robots.


Rosie Turton
Rosie's 5ive
(Jazz Re:Freshed) 
Love Turton's playing throughout this, funky and danceable but also spiritual and hypnotic and mysterious. Loved this set. 



Weyes Blood
Titanic Rising
(Sub Pop) 
"The sleeve of ‘Titanic Rising’, the fourth full-length from Portland-based multi-instrumentalist Natalie Mering, will stop you in your tracks and transfix you because it’s like someone has snapshotted one of your dreams. The music within actually surpasses that moment of startling surprise – it’s her finest suite of gorgeous bedroom-pop yet and though bedroom-created don’t for a moment think that ‘Titanic’ is limited in scope or reach. It’s an IMMENSE record, emotionally, musically and suggestively . . .  Nyro-esque song structures on tracks like the stunning ‘Something To Believe’ lodging themselves into your heart with the sure knowledge that your relationship with this music will only deepen as summer and autumn unfold.  One of 2019’s most engrossing and engulfing masterpieces."




Josephine Wiggs
We Fall
(The Sound Of Sinners) 
"Wiggs’ solo debut as singer, pianist, guitarist and cellist (with assistance from long-time collaborator Jon Mattock from Spacemen 3) is self-avowedly influenced by Eno, Sakamoto & Harold Budd but I hear something far closer to the chamber-pop of Rachel’s or the liquid drumless wonder that was Hugo Largo . . . play it next to recent albums by Julia Kent, Charlotte Bray or Caroline Shaw and it starts to make a lot more sense. I hope Wiggs makes more of this music and soon."





Wilco
Ode To Joy
(dBpm)


". . .  what makes ‘Ode To Joy’ compel this listener to finally listen again is precisely the way that the songs are served by the hushed template the band seem to be operating within - this record has a broken, barely assembled feel akin to Alex Chilton or Acetone. No sound is extraneous, every lick is needed, a minimalist musicianship that focuses you on Tweedy’s heartbreaking words. Their best in ages."




Willie The Kid X Eto X V-Don
Heather Grey
(Serious Soundz/ The Fly LLC/ New Crack Era)
First I’ve heard from V-Don since last year’s stunning ‘London Fog’ and this is dank and heavy as you’d expect but also trippy and sumptuous as you might not.




Billy Woods
Hiding Places
(Backwoodz Studioz)
"I'm done pleading with people who say rap has 'gone downhill', fuck such myopia BUT my god - hear this if you've ever loved rap music. It's stunning on every level, lyrically, musically - avant-rap par excellence."




Yanga
Libérate Volumen 1 & 2
(Names You Can Trust) 
Independent Afro-Latin music from the Inland Empire, Los Angeles. Love the sheer danceability and grain of this.



Your Old Droog
It Wasn't Even Close
(Gogul Mogul)
"Those who know, know how essential this is, cos it's Droog.  Those who don't know? Get to know. The tracks with Mach Hommy are particular highlights of this total stone cold, disturbing, stunning masterpiece





Zamilska
Uncovered
(Untuned Records)
"Polish producer/composer Zamilska’s music doesn’t allow your mind to file it somewhere safe and neutered, it’s too livid, too physically punchy and mentally disturbing, too resistant to notions of genre to feel comfortable with. Heavy as fuck, sweet as poison, absolutely unique. Essential."



The Zig Zags
They’ll Never Take Us Alive
(Riding Easy)
"Zig Zags do what you think might be an old trick - take the most heavy dazzling high-octane moments of punk, thrash-metal and glam and lash them together within addictively catchy song-structures  - but do it with such a colossal sense of joy and euphoria  it’s way way more thrilling than a purely musical confection might suggest. Fantastic how on-the-edge this sounds - This years uncut raw rock’n’roll adrenaline-hit par excellence" 

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