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 1991: #15 Chapterhouse “Pearl”

<< #16    |    #14 >>

February 20, 1994. I had tickets to see my then favourite band, The Wonder Stuff, a concert for which I had doled out a measly $10. I met my friend Tim and a group of his friends in the lineup for the show and I was a bit shocked to learn that many of them were mainly there to see the opening band: Chapterhouse. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the group, of course, far from it. I had a copy of their debut album, “Whirlpool”, on the other side of a C90 of Blur’s “Leisure”. I had liked it quite a bit and went out to get a copy of their sophomore release, “Blood music” when it came out. However, it was their blazing opening set that night that really got me into them (the Stuffies were pretty awesome too but that’s a story for another time).

Chapterhouse were a five-piece from Reading, England that were led by Andrew Sherrif and Stephen Patman. They were in existence from 1987 to 1994 and in that time released two albums, a bunch of EPs, and were pigeonholed twice, in two very difference music scenes around during that time. The band never identified with either the acid house/baggy or the shoegaze scenes, but you can definitely hear smacks of both in “Pearl”. Thanks to its heavy, muscle-flexing drum samples and heavenly organ sounds it begs for dance floor nirvana but the fuzzed out guitars and Andrew Sherrif’s whispery vocals allow for plenty of floor-staring introspection. It’s explosive and dreamy, foot-stomping and floating, a real beaut of dichotomy. Of course, the fact that Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell added her backing vocals to the mix didn’t hurt the song’s pedigree in the latter genre.

The song was released in two versions on an EP of the same name and as the second track on the band’s legendary debut album. I heard it first on the album, that cassette was rewound many times to this song, especially after that concert. It’s become one of my favourite songs ever over the years. And if you’re looking at that number in the title and wondering how such a favourite song falls so far out of the top ten, that just shows how much I loved the music from 1991. Stay tuned for the rest of this list – it’s going to be great.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Best albums of 2017: #2 Slowdive “Slowdive”

Back in the spring, my wife and I made the trek out to Montreal to see Slowdive play there. We’ve done this sparingly over the years that we have lived in Ottawa, probably too sparingly, but when we do hit up the bigger city for a show, we plan to stay a night or two and make a weekend of it. (We learned the hard way after driving home exhausted in the early hours after a James show in 2008.) I was super excited when I saw that Slowdive had added a show in Montreal to their tour and it actually wasn’t too difficult to convince my wife, even though she had never heard the band, given that we hadn’t had a weekend away in a few months.

I, myself, was relatively new to Slowdive because I didn’t take to them when they were around during shoegaze’s first wave in the early 90s. It took getting into Mojave 3 first (Neil Halstead’s and Rachel Goswell’s second band) for me to really appreciate them. Then, when Slowdive, following successful tours by other shoegaze luminaries, Lush, Swervedriver, and Ride, announced their intention to reunite for some shows, I was super intrigued to see them live. Of course, I had given this new album a few cursory listens beforehand but I didn’t actually buy it until I got a copy on vinyl at the show. I probably don’t need to tell you how great the concert was, even Victoria really enjoyed it, her listening to them with completely fresh ears. What surprised me most, though, was the variety of age groups in the audience. I was expecting it to be mostly 40 year olds, like I saw at the Ride reunion show I caught two years prior. And maybe they were there to see the opening act, Japanese Breakfast, but I’d like to think that the songs on “Slowdive” were getting radio play and appealing to the younger set.

As I good as the other new releases have been by the aforementioned Lush, Swervedriver, and Ride, Slowdive’s new self-titled album is easily the best of the bunch. It shows none of the dust or rust that might have accumulated in the 22 years since their last release. Neither does it feel like they are just revisiting glory days or tarnishing the reverence bestowed upon them by adding subpar material to their catalogue. The eight songs on this album are as good as anything they’ve ever released. And by keeping it to eight songs, it feels like they’ve left no room for filler. Each song is a beautifully ethereal and magnificent composition. They float on a layer just above our heads, the twin vocals of Halstead and Goswell hermetically entwined, alien and angelic.

I’d love to present all eight songs to you for consideration but like the other albums in this top five, I’m going to limit my picks for you to three. Enjoy.


“No longer making time”: This was perhaps the last of the tracks on the album to hook me and yet, hook me it did. The beat and the bass line is slow and unassuming, setting the stage for the first verse where Halstead’s murmuring vocals do a little dance with the reverb drenched but soft lead guitars. All that serenity falls by the wayside at the chorus. The guitars take on some heft and sizzling effects, Goswell joins in with backing vocals, and everything gets loud and just this side of too much… too much… But then, the ecstasy passes.

“Sugar for the pill”:  This track is all about the recurring guitar line that starts the track, climbing creepily and slithering easily back down your spine, and continues to hypnotize, even as the heavy bass joins in. There is so much reverb in this song, you’d think the band had locked you into some new age echo chamber and stood outside taunting, dangling the key gleefully. Not that you’d want to escape if you could. You’d just close your eyes and let yourself melt into the bright coloured mists, ignoring the slowing of your heart beat and deepening of your breaths, and the general feeling of vibration.

“Star roving”:  And lastly, we have the real rocker of the album. The drums jump, waves and walls of guitars thunder and tear, and even Halstead has a bit of edge to his delivery. Of course, that could just be the effects pedal that everything seems to be run through, making everything so damned raw. I could totally see this one filling the dance floor of any alternative club back in the early to mid nineties. Hundreds of sweat soaked kids swaying and tilting to the distortion, alcohol coursing wildly through their bloodstreams. Would this be happening in the clubs today? I’d like to think it is but would be curious to know for sure. It certainly held the lot of us enthralled when I saw them live. Such a lovely beast indeed.


For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.