[sic] Magazine

Neil Meehan’s Albums Of 2019

Mixing elements of krautrock and euro-pop, with sprinklings of French vocals, the Montreal four-piece have created an international affair. From the dancefloor-filling “Pow”, with its jangled guitars and electro-beat, to the introspective “Bang”, which layers stab-guitars like a half-speed Strokes taking a breather, before floating away on a cloud of synths, Junior is a record full of ideas married with songcraft.

Dave – Psychodrama
“I’m not psycho but my life is,” closes Dave on opening track “Psycho”, beginning the introspection which runs through Psychodrama. The record opens, and is interspersed, with the voice of this producer-cum-therapist, prompting Dave to launch into his personal narratives. With themes of fame, domestic abuse, and his brother’s prison sentence all cleverly portrayed by the London wordsmith, the brilliance of this record lies in the beats and music perfectly befitting each verse, none more so than the absorbing, piano-led reflection on society’s approach to race, Black: “Black is pain, black is joy, black is evident / It’s workin’ twice as hard as the people you know you’re better than.” On this form, there are no such people.

Elbow Giants of All Sizes
With a more reserved, less anthemic sound than their Seldom Seen Kid arena era, Elbow’s eighth record doesn’t so much hit you as creep up from behind, gradually inching closer before attaching tightly, a protective layer you’d feel naked without. Written against a backdrop of personal tragedies, this record is an undisputed triumph.

False BlissRitual Terrains
It’s a mystery as to who are False Bliss, their website crediting the four Edinburgh musicians by their initials. What we do know, is that the terrain conjured-up by this anonymous quartet is that of a sweeping ghostly graveyard, “Primary Colours” echoing through the fog as the night creeps in.

False AdvertisingBrainfreeze
Continuing the recent, welcome tradition of DIY Manchester acts (LIINES, The Slow Readers Club) proving talent and hard work can pay dividends, this trio organised their own four-date South By Southwest showcase gigs, with no label, management or financial backing. Two years on, and debut album Brainfreeze justifies the self-belief, blasting through a grunge-power-pop playlist so strong that the excellent preceding singles don’t make the cut.

GHUMThe Coldest Fire E.P.
Not quite a long-player, but the four-piece – with members from Brazil, Spain and Malaysia before forming in London – make this list by unleashing four tracks, each brimming with post-punk fire to befit the E.P.’s title.

Karen O and Danger Mouse
With acts like Ghum (above) carrying the youthful torch of punk, where does that leave Karen O, almost two decades on from leading NY’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and their own brand of rebellion rock? The answer is to hook up with a-list producer Dangermouse, add softly-spoken vocals to his chillwave soundscapes, calling up the best bits of Zero 7 or Morcheeba, but ensuring Karen O remains without peers.

Liam FrostThe Latchkey Kid
Only the third long-player by Manchester troubadour Frost (excluding his work with Tokolosh), it feels, and indeed has been, a long time coming – 10 years, to be precise. Quick to make up for lost time, opening track “Going Steady” will be familiar to fans, an acoustic guitar-picked intro before Frost’s unmistakable voice, and a sound similar to classic “Roadsigns” and “Redlights”. The tempo raises at times (the country-tastic “Didn’t it Rain”, and the stompometer-turned-to-11 “Mercy Me”), but it is album highlight “Smoke” that captures the juxtaposition Frost does so well, creating beauty from pain. “It’s the bad dreams I’ve been having every night.” With nightmares never sounding so peaceful or pleasant, let’s hope we don’t have to wait another decade.

The Murder Capital When I Have Fears
Bursting into 2019 with a 6-minute post-punk single “Green and Blue”, Dublin’s The Murder Capital have delivered a debut album mature beyond their years. Along with the brash, spiky blasts of guitar pop (“Don’t Cling to Life”, “More More More”) one may expect from the five-piece, it is the more introspective moments (the piano-led “On Twisted Ground”, or album closer “Love Love Love”) emanating from the album’s theme of lost loved ones, which hint at a care and craftmanship to match their undoubted energy.

Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsGhosteen
With a distinguished career already behind him, Cave approached 17th studio album Ghosteen as part three of a trilogy, although the tragic death of his son is likely to have influenced the record. With much of the record encompassing Cave’s spoken-word over minimal flanges of keys or piano hooks, the stand-out and centre-piece, “Ghosteen Speaks”, is a heartfelt plea to the other side, lyrically and musically encapsulating the grief, hope, confusion and despair of loss: “I am beside you / look for me,” exhales Cave, amidst an album drenched in personal, poignant beauty.

The Twilight SadIt Won’t Be Like This All the Time
Now on their fifth album, the band has continued to grow its fanbase, with two Glasgow Barrowlands shows now booked in for 2020. …All the Time is also the band’s most successful, with the synth-driven post-punk relentless in its energy. “I don’t know who to trust / don’t let me do my worst / running away doesn’t feel so bad” proclaims James Alexander Graham, adding a vocal performance with the power to match. Bonus points for the unabating Scottish accent.

Vanishing TwinThe Age of Immunology
With these psychedelic soundscapers being as difficult to pigeonhole on record as they are live, it may come as little surprise the quintet hail from five different nations, and are based in a sixth (England). With so much thrown into the mix – including the lyrical languages – to achieve such a fresh, compelling sound is some feat. Think Broadcast or Stereolab, with the epic “Backstroke” and its reverb-soaked picked violin sounds a brilliant place to start for this genre-defying album.