Best albums of 2019: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Good morning everyone! And happy Tuesday!

It is that time of year again. The end of the year lists have started flying about and some brave souls have even delved back to try to come up with their favourites of the decade. You won’t count me among those attacking such a daunting task. I had a hard enough time narrowing down my favourite albums of the year to ten this time around. Indeed, for me, it was a weird year in that besides perhaps the number one and two albums, I didn’t have consensus favourites. I had no preconceived notions, really, of what this list would look like before sorting through all the albums to which I have devoted time this year. And yeah, there were lots of them.

Still, I’ve been doing my own end of year lists for so long (many others have been generated before even the two others on these pages) that I’ve almost got this process down to an art. For the two previous years, I did these posts on Fridays but decided to change things up this time and by methodical calculation, determined that to wrap things up with a final post with my favourite album on the final day of the year, Tuesdays would be the day of the week of choice for this series. As always, I am starting things off with an ‘honourable mentions’ post, this post, listing out albums 10 through 6, and will countdown my favourite five albums, one each week, for the next five. Of course, I’ve cheated a bit with my photo at the top of this post. It shows four additional albums from 2019, albums in my vinyl collection that won’t appear in the list but bear mention nonetheless. A sort of honourable, honourable mentions, if that makes sense.

Of course, as we go through these albums, I welcome your comments and thoughts and perhaps even your own top ten favourites in the space provided below.

Here we go.


#10 Chromatics “Closer to grey”

I don’t know where my head was back in 2012 because when I listened to Chromatics’ fourth album, “Kill for love”, I thought it was… just okay. Well, that was so seven years ago and I am quite enthralled with their fifth album, this one. Seven years may seem like a long time between albums and in this day and age, it’s an eternity, but the group has not quite been inactive. There’s been some EPs and singles in the meantime and also an aborted album that might still see the light of day. But here we are now and “Closer to grey” is dark and breathless noir cinema, set provocatively in the middle of a sweaty 80s rave club. And yeah, the Simon & Garfunkel and Jesus and Mary Chain covers are spot on.

Gateway tune: You’re no good


#9 Elva “Winter sun”

I thought it a shame when I heard Allo Darlin’ were calling it quits in 2016. They had released a handful of excellent twee/indie pop records based upon the songwriting and vocals of frontwoman Elizabeth Morris. Then, because I followed that band on Twitter, I heard tell that Morris had formed a new band with her husband, Ola Innset, who happened to be a veteran of the Norwegian music scene. “Winter sun” is this new group’s debut and is also quite lovely. Morris shares equally the songwriting and vocal duties with Innset, adding an interesting dynamic that is taken further by mixing up quieter acoustic songs with louder, full band jams.

Gateway tune: Athens


#8 The Twilight Sad “It won/t be like this all the time”

I’ve been following Scottish post-punk quintet, The Twilight Sad, for their last few albums and can safely say that this fifth album of theirs is my favourite so far. That I’ve truthfully said that for each of their successive albums shows how great a band they are still in the process of becoming. A mind-blowing proposition, indeed. The music is dark, bleak, punishing, and yet, somehow, uplifting at the same time. James Graham’s intense lyrical delivery seems somehow more haunting given his thick accent and throws tons of weight behind Andy MacFarlane’s music.

Gateway tune: I/m not here [missing face]


#7 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Ghosteen”

Okay. So it’s taken me a lifetime to get into Nick Cave’s music. This is not an exaggeration. I tried many times over the years because I’ve always loved his lyrics. He just doesn’t make it easy. His seventeenth album, “Ghosteen”, isn’t any less than trying, beautiful, yes, but very difficult. If I hadn’t already succeeded with the start of the trilogy cycle of which this album is the final chapter, this album would likely not be appearing here. As it is, I don’t see myself necessarily slipping this on everyday, nor are there a lot of tracks that I could single out as, well, singles. However, “Ghosteen” is a very excellent album. Cave very much still has the power to surprise and to move us. The music here is synth heavy, augmented orchestral pieces and his normal narrative lyrics and deep baritone vocals have both been turned on their head. The results are haunting, to say the least.

Gateway tune: Bright horses


#6 The Soft Calvary “The Soft Calvary”

Like the Elva album above, here’s another project by an artist I like, working with her spouse, but in this case it feels like it’s more his labour of love with her support rather than a full-on collaboration. The Soft Calvary is Steve Clark working with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive and Mojave 3 (and a bunch of their recent projects). He takes the lead for the most part, writing most of the material, while Rachel adds her lovely, ethereal voice to the proceedings and sings lead on one track. The production is crisp and the effects give most of the album an otherworldly feel. The songs are well-written and stick with you well after you press stop or lift the needle. I love it.

Gateway tune: Bulletproof


Check back next Tuesday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best tunes of 2011: #9 M83 “Midnight city”

<< #10    |    #8 >>

Two songs ago on this list and over two months ago, I mentioned a weekend in Toronto in 2012 on which I went to concerts two nights in a row. The first night was Spiritualized for the fourth time with Nikki Lane opening at the Phoenix Concert Theatre with a bunch of friends. The second night I ventured out all by myself to The Sound Academy to see M83 with I Break Horses opening. I had an extra ticket but my wife was uninterested and I couldn’t drag any of my friends out after the heavy drinking from the previous evening. So it was a quieter, dryer event for me, being that I had to drive down to a more out of the way venue that I had never been to before. However, it ended up being a great evening as well.

Some might find it interesting that it was actually the opening band on this evening that was the bigger draw for me beforehand. This wasn’t the first time I went to a show to see the opener and it wouldn’t be the last*. On this night, though, as good as I Break Horses were to kick off the evening, M83 renewed my interest in them and made a bigger fan of me. I had gotten into them with their John Hughes-infused 2008 album, “Saturdays = youth”, but was somewhat disappointed with 2011’s followup, “Hurry up, we’re dreaming”. Seeing them live breathed a whole bunch of life into the dreamy double album for me.

M83 started out as the duo of Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau, forming the electronic outfit in Antibes in 2001. However, Fromageau left the project after their second album and Gonzalez has continued on as the driving force since then. He moved to California in 2010, which had a huge impact on the music that would become M83’s sixth studio album, “Hurry album, we’re dreaming”. And of course this is album on which today’s song appears.

“Midnight city” is track two, jumping in to pick up the end of the rope left dangling by the wondrous intro. It is a city that never sleeps and what happens there. It is a jumble of dreams built from synths and fantasies, cinematic and childlike, populated by all manner of beasts and creatures and overworked suits and ties. It roars and screams with electricity before being all wrapped up in a pretty package at the end with a wicked saxophone solo.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

* Writing this last sentence gave rise to the playlist I created last week inspired by all the great opening bands I have seen over the years.

Vinyl love: The Postal Service “Give up”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Postal Service
Album Title: Give up
Year released: 2003
Year reissued: 2013
Details: 10th anniversary deluxe edition, Remastered, 3 x LP, Triple gatefold, 8-page booklet

The skinny: The one and only collaboration between Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello (aka DNTEL) received the 10th anniversary reissue treatment and I was all over it. It was 10 clean and crisp pop gems that seamlessly blended indie pop and electronic, though this release included extra b-sides, remixes, and even a brand new song.

Standout track: “Such great heights”