In terms of hit rock and pop albums, 2019 was a very eventful year dominated by artists such as Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Vampire Weekend, Ariana Grande and Lana Del Ray, all of whom were recently nominated for Grammy Awards. But there were also plenty of independent music artists who made terrific, critically acclaimed albums this year that shouldn’t be overlooked. They may not have wider name recognition in the eyes of a wider mainstream audience, or place hits on the Billboard Top 10 and platinum records sold, but their latest recordings reaffirm the true meaning of music that goes beyond commercial aspirations and trends. In no particular order is a very partial list of some of the most notable albums of 2019 by emerging and veteran independent music artists (Apologies in advance of other equally worthy records not mentioned here).
Sharon Van Etten
Remind me tomorrow
While Remind me tomorrow wasn’t technically a comeback for singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten (she never really left the public eye through her appearances on the OA and twin peakslisten)) this marked a return to music for her after taking time off between studio albums to focus on motherhood and school. The result was a dynamic record that represented a further expansion of his sonic palette from his early folk work, as indicated by the intense rockers “Comeback Kid” and “Seventeen”, and the beautiful ballads “Jupiter 4” and “Stay “. In one maintenance with NYLON earlier this year, Van Etten commented Remind me tomorrow and the new sound flourishes incorporated into the record such as synths: “It’s still me. Even though I was a little nervous about stepping up the production and relying more on synthesizers and keyboards, there are musicians playing on the record, and those are my lyrics, my voice. It’s still my handwriting. I want to keep the fans excited and know that I’m going to try something different every time, so I can grow as an artist too.
Speaking of Sharon Van Etten, up-and-coming New York artist Kate Davis had a hand in the premiere’s recent album: she co-wrote the anthem track “Seventeen.” Davis’ name may be recognizable to those who remember her viral jazzy cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” performed on a double bass from five years ago. But Davis’ new and debut album, Trophy, was a far cry from the sound of the American Songbook she first associated herself with; in place, Trophy was a very serious and thoughtful rock album dealing with personal themes like loss (“Daisy”) and relationships (“Open Heart”). “It’s kind of the first time I’ve been able to put out a record that feels really truthful,” she recently told Forbes about his real first record, “just a really good representation of where I’m at.”
Juliana Hatfield sings the police
(American Laundromat Records)
Juliana Hatfield’s career dates back to the mid-1980s when she was a member of the alternative trio Blake Babies. After that band disbanded, the Boston-based artist went on to a long and prolific solo career that included recording an album of Olivia Newton-John covers. This year, Hatfeld paid tribute to another of his favorite bands, British New Wave band The Police, for Juliana Hatfield sings the police. It was a unique cover album in that it featured a number of the police’s greatest hits like “Every Breath You Take” and “Roxanne”, it also contained some very deep tracks, including the rare B-side “Landlord”, “Murder By Numbers” and “It’s Alright for You” which really showed what a true fan she is. And some of the songs went through unique rearrangements in a sort of blurry, noisy way that put the music in a whole new light. “I think a lot of [the Police stuff is] more outward looking to talk about society, culture and stuff,” Hatfield said in an interview with Forbes. “That’s part of what I love about policing. I feel an affinity for what they are talking about.
(Killing the Rock Stars)
Supergroups generally tend to be a risky proposition, but in the case of Filthy Friends – which consists of Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, REM’s Peter Buck, The Baseball Project’s Linda Pitmon, Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch of Fastbacks – there is strength in numbers. Filthy Friends second album emerald valley was a timely record set in Trump-era America, tackling such topics as the environment and big business (“The Elliott,” “Pipeline”), politics (“November Man”), and the border situation ( the heartbreaking “Angels”); the music oscillated between very busy and reflective. Tucker Recount NYLON earlier this year: I mostly wanted to focus on the lyrics. I started thinking about what kind of images really came to mind, especially with Peter’s guitar playing. There are so many changes in our landscape, our climate and our weather patterns – it’s really unsettling to me. As someone who is totally Northwestern, that naturally came out on this record, and we started writing.
Tales of America
It’s perhaps one of the most unlikely stories in American music: a Kenyan drawn to the sounds of Nirvana, Radiohead and Bob Dylan travels to Minneapolis to make his mark as a singer-songwriter. The outcome of Ondara’s experiences as an immigrant to a new country was documented in his candid file Tales from America. On this debut album, he channeled the spirit of his hero Dylan, but also forged his own unique style and perspective, as heard on a number of notable songs like “American Dream”, “Saying Goodbye “, “Days of Insanity” and “God Bless America”. ” And like at Filthy Friend emerald valley, Ondara’s record has a relevant message for today’s political and social climate. “I hope that by singing folk songs and talking about things that affect me and other immigrants and Americans in general, that I can somehow help move us forward together towards a better place,” he said. Recount City pages earlier in 2019.
The Dream Syndicate
Legendary Paisley Underground band The Dream Syndicate don’t seem in danger of being branded an act of nostalgia, as was the case with their latest album. These days-their second since the band reunited in the early 2010s after a 30-year hiatus. It was a great example of what a group of veterans with a history and a cult following should do: honor the past but also live in the present. In the case of These days, the songs recalled the band’s best elements – loud, guitar-dominated lyrics and black lyrics – and yet still felt contemporary. There aren’t a whole lot of tracks in the varied-sounding song list: from catchy rockers “Put Some Miles On”, “Recovery Mode” and “The Way In”, to darker numbers like “Still Here Now and “Treading Water Underneath the Stars”. ” Said Wynn upon the release of the album: “Especially these days, when everyone needs a chance to maybe get away from it all for a bit or stop the noise, I find myself late in the night wanting to find a record that will take me away, that I can close my eyes and go to another world. I wanted to make a record like that this time, a record that would meet this need that I have and probably to that of other people as well.
Blood of Weyes
Rise of the Titanic
Apart perhaps from a classical or New Age recording, Rise of the Titanic by Weyes Blood (singer-songwriter Natalie Mering’s stage nickname) was the most exquisite and produced rock album in recent memory. Dreamy and lush, this textured music from Weyes Blood’s fourth studio album makes you wonder if Enya recorded in the 1920s or 1970s—Rise of the Titanic sounded like a cross between psychedelia, Tin Pan Alley, classical and folk accompanied by the charming and delicate voice of Mering; some of the most notable cuts included “Everyday”, “Movies”, “Andromeda”, and “Picture Me Better”. Interestingly, according to press notes for the record, Mering cited an improbable inspiration from rocker Bob Seger: “Bob Seger’s clarity is unmistakable. I’m a big fan of conversational songwriting. I just try to do it in a way that also uses abstract images.
Fronted by veteran alt-rock vocalist and guitar goddess Mary Timony, trio Ex Hex have released their highly anticipated follow-up to 2014’s excellent debut album Tears. He didn’t disappoint one iota—It’s true continued to build on the band’s penchant for unapologetic retro punk (“Cosmic Cave”), glam and arena rock (“Tough Enough”), new wave (“Radiate”), and pop metal (“Rainbow Shiner”). The album combined the worlds of The Runaways, Sweet, Blondie and Def Leppard while also sounding very much in the present. Brimming with attitude and confidence, Ex Hex’s musical contribution to 2019 thankfully didn’t suffer from the dreaded sophomore jinx.