Words by Andrew Humphrey
Andrew Humphrey is bassist for the prog punk / hardcore band Abertooth Lincoln and writes as a contributor for Ghettoblaster, New Noise, The Hard Times, and Off Shelf. By day, he works as a digital marketing specialist. He loves spending time with his wife Lucy, traveling, jogging, dishing out high-fives, and orally obliterating pizzas.
Battles is a band that, for reasons both circumstantial and stylistic, constantly reinvents themselves. With Juice B Crypts we find Battles stripped down to a two-piece outfit, pushing creative boundaries within those inherent constraints. The result is an explosion of groovy abrasiveness, intricate patterns, and songs I might dance to if it wasn’t so freaking weird.
Cursive has never let me down as a fan. Get Fixed is a nice blend of quirky The Ugly Organ era instrumentation with lyrics that were at least partially inspired by what founder Tim Kasher describes as the “pathetic, greedy rise of nationalism”. The album was released by surprise in only a year since Vitriola but make no mistake; these aren’t B-sides. Some songwriters are just blessed with a deeper creative well to pull from than others.
Featuring a vocal hybrid of spoken word and jazz singing, combined with cinematic compositions from two notable film score composers, Corpse Flower makes you direct your own movie in your head. Perhaps at times that’s a romantic movie, at others a suspense-driven mystery. Regardless, it’s a lot of fun from start to finish and one of 2019’s least predictable albums.
7. JOSEPH A. PERAGINE – Humans Being Human Beings (self-released)
Joseph A. Peragine rightfully describes his music as “the soundtrack of schizophrenia”. Amidst its chaos, there are moments of genuine beauty both compositionally and through the awareness he draws toward his mental illness. His latest independent release is another inspiring addition to his already extensive catalogue, distinguished most notably by him singing for the first time in a mathcore project.
Joshua Carothers (I FARM, Earworms) proves that nothing is impossible on his newest release – even if that’s demonstrating that mixing math-heavy skate punk riffs with lyrics about alien gods can create songs that are somehow catchy. Enlisting the help of some of his brightest music pals, not the least among them Bill Stevenson (Black Flag, Descendents), Little Birds, is quite the trip.
Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN Climate Action Summit this year became a call-to-arms for global environmental change. John Meredith (Money Fire Records label founder and Suaka drummer) saw an opportunity to stretch her message even further with this Swedish death metal adaptation. It’s equally brutal as it is hilarious. The video was an overnight viral sensation, having now amassed over 5 million views on YouTube since its publication in September.
It’s hard to say what I love the most about this record because it’s so diverse. If I had to pick, I’d say that it’s the band’s ability to execute songs in such a minimalistic fashion without sacrificing the epic nature of their compositions. This may be Lightning Bolt’s best addition to an already highly decorated and seasoned discography.
3) KARAT’S GOLD – Hail Gold (self-released)
I had the pleasure of seeing these guys at Midwest Extreme Fest in Bloomington, IL in November. The caliber and ferocity this experimental hardcore group slams you with immediately made me a fan. So much so that it took me only one listen of their self-released album Hail Gold to add them to my top ten list this year. It’s weird, it’s punchy, and it crushes.
Denzel Curry is a rapper at heart, but he doesn’t confine himself musically. His release of ZUU (Loma Vista Recordings) this year demonstrates a versatility in rap, including nods to some of gangsta rap’s founders on tracks like “RICKY” or more contemporary flavors on tracks like “BIRDZ”. But it’s his fire-performance of this classic Rage Against the Machine anthem that made me fall in love with him. Maybe that’s at least in part because I’m a white guy in his thirties who grew up listening to Rage, but what can ya do.
This album etched its way into my brain this fall. Some might call it a pop record, but with all the genre blending that happens here, categorizing it is a frivolous endeavor. It’s lyrically brilliant, undeniably fresh, and instrumentally a one-of-a-kind experience. As someone who rarely pays attention to mainstream music, I was surprised at how much I loved it. It opened my mind quite a bit, which is why I’m naming it my favorite release of 2019.
Andrew Humphrey is a new staff writer, look for more of his contributions in 2020.