50. MOR AIR - LIFE BEHIND GLASS (GENOT CENTRE)
Life Behind Glass packs so much into its relatively short run time. With tracks barely reaching 5 minutes, the UK based artist fills every available space with deconstructed house beats, highly emotional trip-hop and left-field deviations that seem like they take a lifetime to configure but a second to sink in. As Mor Air puts it, “Soundtracks for the split-second gaps between thoughts that can turn into chasms if you’d only let them”
49. KENJI KIHARA - DAWN (EILEAN REC.)
Following up on 2018’s lovely Scenes of Scapes, Kihara’s 2019 album for the French Eilean Rec. is bursting with tiny, fragmentary melodies, field recordings and commanding leads that sweep in with unexpected grace. The Japanese sound artist is quite prolific, on Dawn, we find him at some of his most gentle and refined, creating depthless compositions where every tiny fragment has a place and a purpose.
48. SOMESURPRISES - S/T (DRAWING ROOM RECORDS)
Seattle’s somesurprises began as a vehicle for Natasha El-Sergany’s smoky croon and spectral folk songs but has since blossomed into a full-throated, full band to be reckoned with. Drawing from Kraut Rock, Shoegaze and country-fried freak folk while still centering El-Sergany’s captivating vocals and compositions, their latest self-titled is a massive declaration that deserves to be shouted from the rooftops.
47. KAYLA PAINTER - PACK YOUR BIVOUAC / THROUGH THE FOREST (SELF-RELEASED)
Kayla Painter’s 2019 output was through a series of singles that explored multiple facets of the UK based electronic artist’s output. From on-the-grid dance tracks to spectral synth excursions, Kayla Painter has positioned herself as one of the more fascinating and forward thinking artists exploring the limits of beat-oriented music in 2019. A totally crucial find, please check out her discography.
46. WRONG BODY - BENZO EDITS (CUT SURFACE)
Wrong Body is the Austrian ambient artist Dino Spiluttini’s Goth-pop side project / alter ego. Starting the album with a This Mortal Coil sample sets the mood for Dino’s wallow in aestheticized sadness, made even more pronounced by his deep baritone and counter-point bright New Wave synths. It’s a beautiful left turn for Spiluttini’s already heavy emotional output.
45. KNEELING IN PISS - TOUR DE FORCE (FAH Q RECORDS)
Built around Alex Mussawir’s observations of external conflicts imprinting themselves in his daily routines and internal struggles, Tour De Force sounds like a brain-to-tape processing tool – Pet Sounds living under 2019 capitalism. I am sure no one wants to relive “Shitgaze” but coming out of Columbus, OH Kneeling in Piss play some crucial Ohio jams.
44. SPELLLING - MAZY FLY (SACRED BONES)
A brilliant follow up to 2017’s Pantheon of Me, the Bay Area artist pulls no punches on Mazy Fly. A wild combination of intersecting vocal lines that submerge entire tracks into a murky, honeyed haze or launch into rafter-shaking lead vocal lines that soar over thumping 808’s and post-punk bass lines, it is possible to bring whatever you have to Mazy Fly and have Spellling sort it out for you.
43. JORDAN REYES - CLOSE (AMERICAN DREAMS)
On his debut modular synth record under his given name, the member of ONO, Reverent and American Damage / Dreams label owner has created a completely immersive solo synth record. A close approximation of losing oneself completely in a sea of patch cables and infinite possibilities, where process and output are of equal import.
42. KIRILL MAZHAI - HEARTS MUST CHANGE (FLUID AUDIO)
Sometimes all you need is to fall into aching, heart-string tugging drone and let the undertow do its work. One of the finest ambient records this year with some heavy hitters making watershed records. Located in Belarus, Kirill Mazhai has perfected his highly emotional dronework.
41. NICOLE OBERLE - AZALEA (SELF-RELEASED)
One of the most heartbreakingly honest and transparent records I have heard in a long time. Straddling the line between ambient, noise and lo-fi beat oriented work, Nicole released 14 pieces of work since April of this year. Azalea is a standout due to its overwhelming emotional content and haunting melodies that evoke the nocturnal landscape of grief with true clarity.
40. DC ANDREA DICÓ / FRANCESCO CARBONE - DC (SETOLA DI MAIALE)
The duo of Andrea Dicò and Francesco Carbone spans the miles from Cape Town, South Africa to Milan, Italy and spans the chasm between several modes of expression – from studied approaches to guitar and percussion to exploratory discovery in chance contact with “non-musical” items. The two have honed their craft and create beautiful sounds from cacophony.
39. MDOU MOCTAR - ILANA: THE CREATOR (SAHEL SOUNDS)
Listening and especially seeing Mdou Moctar play guitar is to watch someone experience joy in what they were put on earth to do. Moctar’s rise to preeminence was really felt with the release of Ilana and the subsequent exposure to a wide and diverse audience of people who experienced the shared exuberance of watching someone FUCKING SHRED.
38. DJUNAH - EX VOTO (TRIPLE EYE)
Djunah is a primordial gut punch on every level. The Chicago duo recorded Ex Voto with Kurt Ballou at his God City studio, thus allowing every muscular riff, noise-laden bridge and, most prominently, Donna Diane’s throaty growl, belt and croak to be pushed to their heaviest conclusion. Ex Voto is a frighteningly great debut that cuts across so many sub-genres and communities.
37. LIGHTNING BOLT - SONIC CITADEL (THRILL JOCKEY)
Sonic Citadel pushes the now 20 + year old band’s skewed pop sensibilities to the front of the mix without sacrificing moments of sugar-coated fury and aggression that make Lightning Bolt one of the most important American bands of the last 20 years.
36. PEDESTRIAN DEPOSIT - DYERS' HANDS (MONORAIL TRESSPASSING)
Seeing Pedestrian Deposit live is a singular experience. The technical achievement, creativity and performance art of a live show is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. On Dyers’ Hands, however, the harsh noise blasts, microtonal experimentation and tempered neo-classical passages are presented with a large heart and a workman’s approach to crafting visceral and meaning-rich compositions.
35. BRAEYDEN JAE - IN A PLACE LIKE THIS / PAST PLACE (SELF-RELEASED)
In a slew of digital only releases, the Seoul, Korea based artist has created something of a spiritual cousin to 2016’s Fog Mirror. Sanded tonal passages over heavy compositional movement filtered through broken pop songs are all over these two releases. This is some of braeyden’s best work in years and everyone should hear it.