Words by David C. Obenour
David C. Obenour is the founder and editor for Off Shelf. Prior to that, he served as the editor and co-publisher of Ghettoblaster‘s print magazine, and wrote as a contributor for Under the Radar, The Big Takeover, Filter, Devil in the Woods, Metro.pop, and a number of other current and long gone publications.
The number 10 spot was hotly contested. After weighing a number of more established artists’ impressive 2019 releases (like Kal Marks, Sudan Archives, Jamila Woods, Teebs, Teenage Fanclub, and Lambchop), I kept coming back to, “Yeah, but Sammi Lanzetta’s debut album was really, really good.” Guitar-driven pop rock from an artists with a great voice and something to say.
Michael Gira’s voice is a force of nature. Disbanding the most recent set lineup for Swans in favor of a rotating cast of contributors new and old, the potential for new music is showcased on Leaving Meaning. Beautiful and unnerving, sometimes simultaneously, few bands can boast this sort of longevity and relevance.
You could be forgiven for not realizing how incredible The Gotobeds actually are. Good rock music is easy to take for granted. Carriers of the post-punk torch, they wear the influences on their sleeves (and their album sleeve for all of the guests included on Debt Begins at 30) but they’re far more than the sum of their record collections. It’s only after you start singing along on just the second time through that you realize it.
Landing himself at no. 7 on some other site‘s year’s end list, Helado Negro looks set to receive the accolades and attention that he has long rightly deserved. Dreamy and lush production matches a pseudo tropical pop, as Roberto Carlos Lange’s vocals drift along reassuringly.
6. Purple Mountains – self-titled (Drag City)
The excitement that came with David Berman’s return to music this year was cut tragically short by his passing. Purple Mountains is a bleak record, but with an unmatched sense for melody and a wryness that help lift it. A short summary on a year’s end list is a far cry from the attention deserved for the man, his music, and his writing.
As Off Shelf has gotten me more and more excited about diving into new music, perennial top 10 favorites aren’t as safe as they once were. However, Boris is Boris and every album is its own creature. LφVE & EVφL delves into distortion and noise and emerges as a beautiful and rewarding album that delivers new nuances on every listen.
2019 was a brutal year in Dayton, Ohio. Fifteen tornadoes tore through on one night. An Indiana Klan rally of just a handful shutdown downtown for a weekend. A mass shooting tore at the very heart of our arts community. It hasn’t been that much better elsewhere in America either. Which is why an album as messy, joyous and celebratory as Dan Friel’s Fanfare is so needed. Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum.
3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (Bad Seed Ltd)
I won’t even begin to try and summarize in just three to four sentences the lush beauty and heart-breaking sadness that is Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds latest album. The first release to be conceptualized since the tragic passing of his son, Arthur (and long time Bad Seed, Conway Savage) Ghosteen is a double album where the first disc is the children and the second is their parents. It’s a journey that demands and rewards your undivided attention.
2. Emily Yacina – Remember the Silver (self-released)
Completely out of left field, Emily Yacina has been recording and releasing her own albums for nearly a decade but here I am just finding out about her in 2019. Remember the Silver is an indie pop masterpiece that brims with heart and melody. The songs transition from coy bedroom pop to masterfully layered songscapes – nailing the transition to a more polished level of production. What else is happening out there that I don’t know about? Tell me now!
1. Guided By Voices – Warp and Woof (GBV Inc)
Guided By Voices’s track record has been unmatched since reuniting with the classic lineup and then later reuniting again with what I’m just going to call the new classic lineup. Critics often complain about Pollard’s lack of an editor, but when a collection of EPs turns out to be one of your best releases ever – maybe the rest of us just need to be better about catching up. This is Alien Lanes for the modern era.
More of David C. Obenour’s contributions