Ranking songs each year is a subjective, arduous task that, in our case, is best summarized as a simple playlist. So, in lieu of some arbitrary review of songs that’ll just get lost in the year-end shuffle, I’ve put together a condensed list of songs released in 2019 that’ll hopefully be on repeat into 2020 and beyond. At the end of this post, be sure to check out the embedded Apple Music playlist to get the party started.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Mars For the Rich”
Two drummers, heavy jams and even better live, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, managed to encapsulate 80s thrash metal accurately on their 2019 album, Infest the Rats’ Nest. Embedded is their live KEXP performance for the song “Mars For the Rich”, as they are a really technical, entrancing experience to witness live.
Oh Sees – “Snickersnee”
A totally bizarre song title from one of the most prolific DIY bands out there, “Snickersnee” is a stand-out track from the humorously titled album, Face Stabber. For the Oh Sees, hitting the Sabbath-esque vocals and riffs is predictably on-target, but this track has a contagious groove, even amidst the seemingly hundreds of EPs and LPs the band puts out each year.
Night Beats – “Stand With Me”
Anyone else think the main guitar riff on this track sounds a bit like Santana? I present this association in an endearing way, as Night Beats have made our lists before, when they were under the production hands of Robert Levon Been from B.R.M.C. for their previous album. This time around, Night Beats have taken a different direction by working with Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) on their 2019 release, Myth of a Man. Auerbach’s fingerprints are all over the album, even on the 60s sounding “Stand With Me”, which will hook you right in.
Allah-Las – “Star”
Hard to believe that it’s already been almost 8 years since the Allah-Las released their self-titled seminal first album, which hit all the right retro notes. The band’s latest album, Lahs, finds more diversity within the lengthy album, but there are familiar glimmers from the band’s prior releases. That said, the track “Star” has such a lovely mellotron / vintage piano melody, not unlike some of Blonde Redhead’s tracks, circa 2000.
Froth – “Department Head”
Tracy Bryant (see below on this list) clued me to this track. We both happened to be checking out Froth and Automatic live at the Lodge Room. Duress is just such a killer album of 2019. It’s eclectic in that Froth bounces from Suicide synth rhythms to shoegaze to Television, all pretty seamlessly. It’s a very New York sounding album for a local L.A. band.
DIIV – “Skin Game”
A tumultuous release for DIIV, after dealing with drug and personnel issues within the band, so it’s an accomplishment in itself that the group was able to successfully release Deceiver this year. This album goes hand-and-hand with Froth’s Duress, both of which faithfully emulate the signature layered guitars of Television and Sonic Youth. “Skin Game”, being the first single, received regular airplay on Sirius Radio’s XMU station, so it’s welcoming to see DIIV reaching new ears and heights.
FIDLAR – “Flake”
It’s been pointed out by other bloggers that Fidlar’s “Flake” has a bit of a Gary Glitter sound. To be fair, this song could probably be a sports anthem, if the lyrics weren’t about shitty friends, relationships and modern dating. Joking aside, “Flake” is a simple, catchy track by the L.A. group. Their latest album, Almost Free, has immaculate production polish, but they can still be punk rock when they want to be. Case and point.
Tracy Bryant – “Nightmare”
Tracy is a friend of The Chelsea Tribe, but that hasn’t biased me one bit in heaping praise for his latest album, Hush. It’s about as DIY as you can get, with an enormous effort going into the songwriting and production. The results? Sonic details and well-crafted compositions that range all over the indie rock n’ roll gamut. Hush is well worth a lengthy listen and you can start with this track, “Nightmare”.
Drab Majesty – “The Other Side”
Gothic 1980s, perfected. Any track could have been selected off of Drab Majesty’s Modern Mirror, but the characteristic that notably stands out about this track is how it viscerally evokes cinematic imagery. The compositions of Drab Majesty are potentially well-tailored as soundtracks or film scores, yet without being too cliché, probably in the genres of sci-fi and / or horror (specifically John Carpenter). Take the deep dive into Drab Majesty’s prior catalog as well, which has been mentioned on our past lists.
Ty Segall – “Whatever”
Ty Segall is no stranger to the plethora of music blogs tooting their praise on year-end lists, which might have been my initial aversion to adding him to some arbitrary playlist, but the time has finally arrived with “Whatever”. The track is a worthy inclusion, with heavy synths, chord progressions, and the dynamic vocals, in which Ty has refined even further over the years.