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.

Live music galleries: Camera Obscura [2013]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

Camera Obscura live at Bluesfest 2013

Artist: Camera Osbcura
When: July 5th, 2013
Where: River stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Context: In my humble opinion, 2013 saw the best lineup that Ottawa Bluesfest has ever seen, especially for indie rock fans like myself. Case in point was this early evening performance by Glasgow’s Camera Obscura on one of the festival’s side stages. This set in support of their fifth record, “Desire lines”, was actually my second time seeing the band, but I haven’t seen them since. I was super glad to catch this show with original keyboard player, Carey Lander, who, unfortunately for all of us, died two years later from Osteosarcoma. The indie pop group went on hiatus afterwards and only just this year returned to performing live. Hopefully, this means new material and perhaps another North American tour soon.
Point of reference song: Break it to you gently

Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura
Carey Lander of Camera Obscura
Carey Lander’s keyboard
Lee Thomson of Camera Obscura
Carey Lander, Tim Cronin, and Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura
Kenny McKeeve and Gavin Dunbar of Camera Obscura
Tracyanne Campbell

100 best covers: #78 Codeine Velvet Club “I am the resurrection”

<< #79    |    #77 >>

Just over a week ago, on May 2, an album that many consider one of the greatest, if not the greatest debut album ever, The Stone Roses’ self-titled album, celebrated its 30th anniversary. The final track on the original UK release of that album was this dance floor freak out, encapsulated in an epic, eight plus minutes called, “I am the resurrection”. It was steady and funky drumming by Reni, a muscular bass line by Mani, John Squire’s beautiful guitar wankery, and a young Ian Brown brashly invoking New Testament messiah imagery to talk about relationships and the breakups thereof. And then, halfway through the song, Squire takes over and leads the rest of the players through a four minute guitar outro. The album and this song was the template for the psych rock and acid house fusion that was the baggy/Madchester scene.

Almost twenty years later, Jon Lawler decided he needed a creative change from his full-time gig as frontman for The Fratellis. Thus, he formed a side-project with vocalist/keyboard player Lou Hickey called Codeine Velvet Club and put out one self-titled album of retro sixties leaning indie pop before breaking up a couple years later. There was a bonus track on that one album and it was a lounge-flavoured cover of The Stone Roses’ “I am the resurrection” that we never knew we needed.

Where The Stone Roses are still very much revered 30 years later around the world, I feel that Codeine Velvet Club (and possibly The Fratellis) are largely forgotten or ignored outside of England only ten years later. And yet, I do love both versions of this song. I mean, you can’t touch the original for its sheer majesty and near perfection but the gall and cheek of the cover make it a worthwhile go as well.

How do you improve upon a perfect song? More horns and Mike Flowers!

(Haha. Sorry.)

Enjoy.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.