Tuesday, December 31, 2019

F & L Best of 2019

It's New Year's Eve, so you know what that means: my annual best-of-the-year write-up! Amazingly, this is the ninth time I've done this with this particular blog. I never imagined F & L lasting eight years...or even five! Yet here we are. 2019 was another banner year for new music - to the point where I could not possibly limit myself to a top 20 albums list. So I've extended it to a top 25, and even then I had to make some very painful cuts. On that note, let's go ahead and dive in to my fave stuff of the year. Streaming links (if available) have been provided so you can listen for yourself!

Top 25 Albums of 2019

25. The Short Fuses - Dawn of the Deaf
Georgia, Justin, and Travis are back after a 16-year hiatus with a full-on epic rockout of an album. A modern-day protest record fueled by an affinity for horror. What could be more perfect?

24. The Cavemen - Night After Night
Branching out from their scuzzy and vicious core sound, The Cavemen pay homage to their '50s/'60s rock and roll influences on this surprisingly catchy garage/punk record.

23. PlasticHeads - Nowhere To Run
Snotty '77 punk smashing head-on into early '80s hardcore, featuring Jon Sharron (Brutal Knights/Career Suicide/Chokehold).

22. The Safes - Winning Combination
When The Safes promised that something different was coming, they weren't kidding! For this album, the Brothers O'Malley assembled a veritable orchestra of cousins, nieces, and nephews and crafted a whimsical gem of baroque pop.

21. Moral Panic- self titled
19 minutes of blistering garage punk by way of late '70s American Midwest. It was no accident that they covered the Pagans!  

20. Los Pepes - Positive Negative
On their fourth album, these Brits finally nail down the "Motörhead gone power pop" sound they've been aiming for all along.

19. Freak Genes - III
Andrew and Charlie go all-in on synth-pop on their delightfully weird third album. This band has made me fall back in love with new wave and post-punk music. 

18. Corner Boys - Waiting For 2020
Sadly, these guys are already broken up. They sure left us on a high note! Poppy, bratty punk that sounds straight out of 1979 with lyrics lamenting our doomed modern world.  

17. Extra Arms - Up From Here
Extra Arms' second album as a full band is surprisingly punk-influenced, but still in that classic '90s loud alt-rock vein. Having laid his soul bare writing a record about a trying year in his life, Ryan Allen has achieved his finest moment as an artist. 

16. Amyl and the Sniffers - self titled
The hype is massive. That doesn't mean it's not a great record. It's awesome to hear young folks stoked on Aussie hard rock and punk records made long before they were born create something new and exciting. "Gacked On Anger" is the next great generational anthem.

15. Indonesian Junk - Spiderbites
Yet another fine album of glam-punk power pop trash awesomeness from this criminally underrated Milwaukee outfit.    

14. Sweet Things - In Borrowed Shoes, On Borrowed Time
The kings of boozy rock and roll finally deliver an LP, and it's epic. Exile On Main St. meets the streets of New York!

13. Geoff Palmer - Pulling Out All The Stops
Solo debut from the Connection singer/guitarist takes a deep dive into his pop-punk roots. A pop-punk album you're sure to love even if you don't like pop-punk. 

12. TV Crime - Metal Town
The eagerly anticipated debut from Nottingham's finest did not disappoint. An album chock full of pub rock/power pop/'77 punk hits! 

11. Trampoline Team - self titled
This album is an absolute steamroller of trashy, snotty punk rock.  

10. More Kicks - self titled
London trio featuring James Sullivan (Suspect Parts) debuts with one of the best pure pop albums you'll ever hear. 

9. The Control Freaks - She's The Bomb
If I describe this record as the perfect combination of Supercharger, The Rip Offs, Infections, and Zodiac Killers, am I just stating the obvious?

8. Beach Patrol - Levity
Domenic and Preston made the long trek from Green Bay to the Philly suburbs to record this terrific little album with Pete Donnelly (who also filled in on bass). This just might be Beach Patrol's best album yet! Check this one out if you want to hear a great songwriter at the top of his game. 

7. Gino and the Goons - Do The Get Around/Off The Rails
I'm kind of cheating here by allowing two records to share one spot. Isn't that mathematically impossible? Nothing is impossible in the world of Gino and the Goons - one of the greatest rock and roll bands going.

6. Nato Coles and The Blue Diamond Band - Flyover
The long awaited second LP from America's most beloved heartland rock and roll bar band is a stunning collection of rockers, ballads, and anthems.

5. Midnite Snaxxx - Music Inside
The Snaxxx take a creative and delightfully adventurous turn on their brilliant third long player. Early LA punk, post-punk/new wave, and '90s DIY influences come together for a new and original sound. 
4. The Whiffs - Another Whiff
Instant power pop classic from the American heartland! 

3. Brad Marino - Extra Credit
Joey Ramone and Chuck Berry walk into a bar and run into the Rolling Stones.

2. Natalie Sweet - Oh, By The Way...
Backed by an all-star cast of players (Travis Ramin, Morten Henriksen, Devin Jorgenson), the former Shanghais lead singer delivers 13 tracks of fab-o punky power pop for fans of the Ramones, Blondie, and everything in between.

1. Pale Lips - After Dark
And finally we arrive at the big one...my album of the year! This selection is not likely to shock anyone. After Dark was sitting in the #1 slot at the start of the year, and for nearly 12 months it has warded off all challengers. You know Pale Lips are my favorite band, right? After Dark is the best thing they've released in their five year existence. This has been the one album of 2019 that I just can't stop listening to. It gives me a lift when I'm feeling blah and heightens my mood when I'm feeling good. These songs are catchy and fun to listen to, but they're also full of substance and smarts and tremendous humor. "I'm A Witch" should have been a smash hit on seven continents. Nearly a year after I first heard it, "That Old Ghost Don't Lie" still gives me chills. This album is recommended to all fans of great music as well as anyone with an interest in witches, ghosts, werewolves, aliens, and boys. Vinyl still available in case you've been snoozing all year!

Honorable Mentions
Baby Shakes - Cause a Scene
Mikey Erg - Waxbuilt Castles
Proto Idiot- Find Out For Themselves 
Johnathan Pushkar - Straighten Up 
The Yoohoos - Up Goes The Rocket

Top Five EPs of 2019

5. The SUCK - In-Cog-Neat-O
Is this an LP or an EP? I see 12 inches of vinyl, I think LP. I see 8 tracks in 14 minutes, I swing to EP. Maybe I'm just rigging the field to the benefit of a local band. Ah, the spoils of having your own blog! Don't call it Ramonescore - it's street rock! Finally you get that record you've been waiting for with songs about Mexican bogeymen, death machines, the ruthlessly competitive sport of flip cup, creepy dudes at vape stores, and the tangled web of love interests complicating the plot of the Twilight franchise. Spencer still believes he was dating Katy Perry...

4. The Smart Shoppers - self titled

From Green Bay, Wisconsin, The Smart Shoppers do a punked-up version of goofball new wave. New record coming in 2020!

3. The Cheap Cassettes -
See Her In Action
When Chaz and Kevin from the Dimestore Haloes first formed The Cheap Cassettes, this was generally considered to be their "power pop" band. But you could already hear some power pop in the last Haloes album, and you can often hear the glam-punk/rock and roll bleeding into the Cheap Cassettes. This is the Cheap Cassettes release that most reminds me of the Dimestore Haloes. 

2. Vista Blue - Hit The Floor!
For Vista Blue's first ever recording in a "real" studio, the band went all-in and recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis. VB often hovers somewhere between pop-punk and power pop, but this release swings all the way to the latter. "Big Stars" is nothing short of magical.

1. Phone Jerks - 10 x 10
At ten songs, this might have qualified as an album. But it's a ten-inch, so let's just call it an EP. A little bit meaner/tougher sounding than last year's LP, but still a must-listen for any fan of late '90s/early 2000s Rip Off Records. The 100th release from Alien Snatch Records! 

Top Five Singles of 2019

5. Devious Ones - "She's Waiting For Me"
Devious Ones have been longtime favorites of mine, and I love how they can continually surprise me! "She's Waiting For Me" is like nothing they've done before: a heartfelt breakup song with a pub rock edge. On the flip, "The Straggle Is Real" is pop with a capital P!  

4. The Prostitutes - "Nineteen"
23 years after their debut single, Kevin McGovern still has the Prostitutes going strong. A perfect example of how punk music can "grow up" and still be full of power and intensity. 

3. The Sorels - "She's In The Gang"
The debut single from both The Sorels and Reta Records. "She's In The Gang" is an instant smash of '60s girl group pop by way of the Ramones and New York Dolls.

2. The Reflectors - "Teenage Hearts"
Ex members of LA power pop band Images debut with an absolute gem of a single. 

1. The Speedways - "Seen Better Days"
A classic power pop 45 from Matt Julian and his mates. A-side is a remixed version of the best track from the band's brilliant debut album Just Another Regular Summer.  B-side is an amazing take on the Kirsty MacColl classic "They Don't Know". New single coming next week!

Best 2018 Album Released on Vinyl in 2019
Jordan Jones - self titled
Originally released on tape last year by Burger Records, the debut solo album from Jordan Jones received a proper vinyl release from Beluga and Spaghetty Town Records in 2019. One of the best power pop records of the last several years! On that note....
Best Song of 2019
Jordan Jones - "Rumors Girls"
This would have been a #1 smash hit if they still played real pop songs on the radio.

Masters Class Album of the Year
Psychotic Youth - 21
I give this award every year to the best album by a band that's 25 years or more into existence. 21 finds one of the greatest garage rock/power pop bands sounding in peak form. After 34 years, Psychotic Youth still sounds like Psychotic Youth! 

Best New Album of Old Music
Candy Snatchers - Moronic Pleasures 

Rescued from the dustbin of history by super-fan Jake Starr, Moronic Pleasures was the Candy Snatchers' rejected follow-up to their classic debut album. Many of these songs eventually turned up on the Human Zoo LP, but Moronic Pleasures blows that record away. If you want to hear one of the greatest '77-style punk rock and roll bands of the '90s at its most filthy and ferocious, check this record out. Thanks to Hound Gawd! Records, this album finally exists on vinyl!  

Top Reissue of 2019
Protex - Strange Obsessions

The legendary Protex recorded a debut album back in 1979/80 that was slated for release on Polydor Records but ultimately shelved. Sing Sing Records finally gave the album a proper release in 2010, but it sold out almost instantly. Thanks to Bachelor Records, Strange Obsessions is back in print. Get it while you can!

Top Label of 2019
Alien Snatch Records
What is this, 2003?! Alien Snatch celebrated its 20th anniversary by regaining its crown as the king of garage/punk record labels. It released my #1 LP and EP of 2019 along with two more albums in my top 25 and the immensely underrated Hay Fever by Real Tears. If you ever feel like entering a wormhole of endless Internet pleasure, I highly recommend perusing the Alien Snatch Bandcamp page!

Top Radio Show of 2019
Wassup Rocker Radio
Alex Kish broadcasts this weekly show out of Toledo, Ohio and plays the best punk, garage, and power pop from all over the world. Check out the WRR Facebook page for all the info on where to listen. Archived shows available here!

Well that's another year of great music in the books! Happy New Year, everyone. See you in the next decade!  


1 comment:

johnnybgoode said...

Great List! Some new ones to check out. Thanks.

More Kicks should be #1!


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