Favorite popular music listening for 2019

There have been two clear favorites:

Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, with “You should see me in a crown” as the favorite song.

Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer.  At first I thought this was a good pop album, but it kept getting better and better.

My favorite rap album this year was Tyler the Creator, IGOR.

I’ve also discovered the amazing music of Sunn O))), a kind of black death metal, hat tip S, start with Black One.

I see the last few years of popular music as supporting my basic take that there are more good songs in a year than ever before, but fewer breakthrough new concept albums or musical styles than in say 1963-1992 or so.

What do you all recommend?


"all mirrors" - angel olsen. beautiful breakthrough album.

and not this year, but recently, and doesn't get reviewed because it's not culture war stuff - "fever dreams" and "marked for death" by emma ruth rundle


No argument with either AO or ERR, 100% agree, but if one likes ERR I think her work as part of Marriages was even better

"all mirrors" - angel olsen. beautiful breakthrough album.

and not this year, but recently, and doesn't get reviewed because it's not culture war stuff - "fever dreams" and "marked for death" by emma ruth rundle


(sorry for duplication)

Concept Album: Sturgill Simpson "Sound & Fury" listen/watch anime on Netflix, streaming clips on tracks.

Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Conor Oberst, and Josh Ritter. Probably a few of the best lyricists of the last 10 or 20 years

Re: new music styles, I continue to be impressed by the collages put together by Bon Iver, weaving rock, hip hop, electronic, folk, gospel, and other sensibilities into cohesive songs (see iMi for the finest example on his most recent album). As an aside, the mirrored lights at his recent shows were incredible—it’s amazing how rare great stage/light production is, and how much it elevates the impact of a concert.

As for an album, I still can’t get enough of The National’s I Am Easy to Find. The new voices on the album turn the songs into dialogues with real depth and weight.

In no particular order, trying to keep it 2019

Wojciech Rusin - The Funnel: basically indescribable but sort of like baroque meets music concrete meets field recordings....

Angel Bat Dawid - The Oracle: wonderful spiritual jazz

... - (untitled): need headphones for this one. https://www.discogs.com/-No-title/release/13419497

Tunes of Negation - Reach the Endless Sea: also indescribable, organ music meets tribal meets coil, a bit difficult maybe on the first listen but it grows on you. If you're not aware of Shackleton yet I'd start with the drawbar organ EPs instead

Notchnoi Prospekt - Health Resorts of the Caucasus: I guess this is a reissue, but great instrumental improv russian rock verging on jazz.

Ossia - Devil's Dance: cutting edge dark dub music from bristol

Ed Longo & Applied Arts Ensemble ‎– The Other Fantasy: fantastic neapolitan disco/funk in debt to the old italo stuff but still updated and fresh sounding. (this record label in general is high quality)

Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy - The act of falling from the eighth floor: experimental ambientish music with beautiful arabic vocals

Mohammad Reza Mortazavi - Ritme Jaavdanegi: incredible Persian "Tombak" drum music (all his stuff is great and must see live).

Lifted - 2: improvy jazz + synth jam band thing, the last two tracks on the album are especially good.

De Ambassade - Duistre Kamers: catchy dutch post punk / synth pop stuff.

New World Science - Osmos (Movements): jazzy ambient i liked this but some might find it boring

Ben Vince - Assimilation: Cheating a bit since this was 2018 but still incredible, also uncategorizable but centered around sax

i think theres more but thats what comes to mind, great time to be alive for music.

What's the over/under on how many of these show up in Ted Gioia's top 100? 2.5?

Simply because they're one of the two I thought I'd heard of before, I'm trying the Tunes of Negation, and it's not "indescribable," so far, as obviously the template "kind of like Dead Can Dance, only ___" would work. Peppier?

Sunn O))) suggests you may also like the new release by Liturgy; also Nurse With Wound's Soliloquy for Lilith from 30 years ago. And for more metal of the highest order, try Gorguts (Colored Sands and Obscura), Elder's Reflections of a Floating World, and most things by Toby Driver (esp. maudlin of the Well).

Oh and the new New Pornographers is transcendent pop.

Agree with your adds to Sunn and also with NP, but if into Sunn one should probably also listen to Boris, since the two bands seem linked at the hip, though the sound is different.

Both of the Sunn0))) albums this year were terrific. In a similar vein, Earth released _Full Upon Her Burning Lips_, which I thought was just a triumph.

Lingua Ignota's work might not be everyone's cup of tea, but _Caligula_ was a statement I kept coming back to.

And any year with a Baroness release (_Gold and Grey_) is a good one.

I was gonna say maybe Earth.

David Ward - Violet, Gold, and Rose
Throwback soul with a cinematic twist, shimmering vocals, guest spots by Patrice Quinn (Kamasi Washington), and analog production by none other than Russ Elevado, who was behind the boards for D’Angelo’s work, amongst others.

No, there aren't more good songs, there are more god songs available due to the internet and the ability to distribute music (or literature, etc.) essentially free. Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the point in a recent essay that the internet has democratized cancel culture: whereas in the past, the powerful and wealthy had a monopoly on cancel culture, today the internet has democratized cancel culture. Coates: "This is suboptimal. The choice now would seem to be between building egalitarian institutions capable of withstanding public scrutiny, or further retreat into a dissembling fog." Yes, we have a choice between returning cancel culture exclusively to the powerful and wealthy, or ending it altogether. Ending cancel culture would be the optimal choice, but don't expect the powerful and wealthy to give up their monopoly. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/22/opinion/colin-kaepernick-nfl.html [For the dimwitted, the connection to music is that the internet has taken from the powerful and wealthy in the music industry the monopoly on choosing which music will be distributed and heard.]

One can, and many do, apply the same concept to politics: that the internet democratized politics, which resulted in the election of Donald Trump. But to believe that, one must also believe that democracy has no borders: the use of the internet by Russians (or Ukrainians for the Trump apologists) greatly contributed to Trump's election.

I was going to say something like this, rayward. Tyler Cowen had an annoying guest a while back who said that music changed so much in the 60s because of the Beatles. That’s a stupid argument by someone who should know better.

Music changed so much in that period due to multitrack recording, analog effects, stereo vinyl and FM stereo, a transatlantic market in popular culture that was nearly instantaneous and a huge cohort of young people with lots of money.

As to why there are no breakthroughs "In short, though we still obsess over hits," Anderson writes, "they are not quite the economic force they once were. Where are those fickle consumers going instead? No single place. They are scattered to the winds as markets fragment into a thousand niches." from The Long Tail.

If you sampled any one of the 3 dozen weird genres adventurous music listeners in 2019 listen to and told the average person in 1999 people listened to this in the future, they would panic and freak out.

The Beatles DID help - because they showed different people with different incentives how to make a lot of money / become famous / change the world by making popular music. Multi-track recording apparatus was expensive and did not sell itself. That is the entrepreneurial aspect that goes above and beyond the technology (and each is an important part of TFP). I think the average person today would still freak out at the weird, adventurous music-listener genres.

J.S. Ondara: Tales of America

This is a "concept album".

Just discovered he's just announce "B sides", a 5 song EP released for the "record day" next (black) friday. Also a Grammy nomination (of the many just released).

But this one of the albums I've played often this year.

Punk: Pup - Morbid Stuff
Pop: Ra Ra Riot - Superbloom, Lana Del Rey : Norman Fucking Rockwell
Tuareg Guitar: Mdou Moctar - Ilana (The Creator)
And of course Bon Iver - i,i

Sunn O))) is "popular music?"

More like obscure noise. It isn't popular and it isn't music.

I pulled up Sunn O))) on Spotify and I’ve been listening for 20 minutes waiting for a song to start...it’s just continuous intro with no beat drop. Maybe EDM has ruined me.

He is usually sincere in his opinions and preferences, but Tyler signals sometimes like the rest of us. I thinkt that is what he is doing here.

Just trying to be a bit unpredicatable.

Carly Rae Jepsen -- Dedicated

+1. Not as good as Emotion but much better than Eilish's album, which suffers from largely embracing the current trend of avoiding melody in popular music; e.g.:

On the last more general point (and no, this isn't an Old Coot rant about how "no one writes good music these days, ya damn kids"), I would say in terms of MUSIC BEING HEARD, the creative pendulum, if there is such a thing, has swung to classical-aka-composed music and away from pop-aka-performed music (sorry jazz, I don't know enough to comment). (In terms of music BEING CREATED, I think overall we are in a golden era... how many bands on Bandcamp? Quarter of a million? One just cannot assert with any basis in fact that nowhere in that ocean of strivers is there not something new and astonishing.) But in terms of WHAT GETS HEARD, classical orchestras and ensembles, after decades of being attacked for their stodginess, have really opened up their repertoire: Cleveland Orchestra does Let Me Tell You with Hannigan, ICE with Claire Chase is everywhere, LA Phil is completely off the hook (A. Norman's "Sustain"!!!!), etc. Sure, we are still paddling in a sea of Brahms and Bruckner, but (taking a deep breath) I would assert that a night at a major orchestra these days will expose a listener to more new and innovative stuff than at a week of pop concerts, complete with opening bands.

"My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult" - I think their new album came out last year (maybe 2018) and they just finished touring it. It was the best live show I saw this year--crazy fun and tight musicianship-- and the new songs seem to be about as good as the older stuff. My favorite album is "Confessions of a Knife". If you've never heard their stuff I'd try "Waiting for Mommie" because it's pretty typical, but "Strange Affairs" off the new album is good. Thank you.

Would recommend looking up the song Lemons by No Violet. I also really liked the album Stroke Manor by the Minus 5 and the new Sleater-Kinney.

--Earl Sweatshirt's Feet of Clay is my album of the year. I love this rap modernism road he's going down.
--FKA Twigs has an amazing live show, definitely see it if you have a chance. I find her music difficult to listen to on its own without the visuals, but no one can fault her for not trying something new.
--Big Thief came out with two pretty interesting folk/psych/rock albums this year. The music is something less than a breakthrough, however; it's basically folk rock with tasteful influences (Radiohead, Joanna Newsom, etc.). Nevertheless, I rate their song "Not" as my personal favorite of the year and one of the best rock lyrics in recent memory.
--Bon Iver's i,i is another great Bon Iver album (surprise).

I've liked Big Thief for a while but hadn't heard "Not". It reminded me of Neil Young songs like "Like a Hurricane", with lots of great squealing guitar. I loved it.

FKA Twigs has undeniable talent but have not been able to listen to it. I need to see the live show.

I recommend a culture-wide defection from popular music.

Granted, I stopped listening to contemporary pop years ago, but I assume the reasons that drove me still apply: pop music strives to elicit emotional responses that very few human beings are equipped to generate, responses the music itself fails to generate and demands for such responses are left to be fulfilled by the audio technology instead--"supplying the lack", exactly the way that non-diegetic music supplies "emotional content" to otherwise lifeless cinematic depictions.

This is another sad consequence of vast OVER-production. Pop music today continues to valorize the Sonic over the Semantic: it remains plenty loud (gosh golly gee whiz: wasn't audio engineering comparatively simple?), from which sonic spectrum it degrades quickly at one end into the Shrill Commercial and at the other end into Brittle Agitprop, with a lot of semantic emptiness in between (arguably, music content is poor when compared with the attainments of audio technology and sound reproduction: technical virtuosity far exceeds musicality and compelling songwriting).

[Solicited Predictions: Electric and electronic instrumentation will begin losing vast popular appeal as soon as the threats from Technogenic Climate Change become acutely felt. (yea or nay?)]

Delgres - from their website, "They are a Caribbean blues trio, a genre mainly sung in Creole nowadays, and they came together four years ago after Pascal met the drummer Baptiste Brondy and the sousaphone player Rafgee." Dobro blues, bilingual lyrics in the accompanying album booklet, political songs - what's not to like?

I recently discovered Anna Calvi, thanks to Morrissey showing one of her videos before he took the stage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyYGRN77M00

Hello Dave, much obliged for the Anna Calvi recommendation. My Monday just go a whole lot better.

Kur - Spare Me (album).
No clout chasing, just solid music.

I thought you'd propose Jennifer Lopez.

No. 1: J.S. Ondara.

***Please*** try to interview Billie Eilish in Conversations with Tyler. This would be absolutely unbelievably awesome.

Sturgill Simpson - Sound and Fury. Followed by the same - but full anime experience on Netflix

2018 “Hi-Lo” by Jack Stauber.

Crazy P - Age of Ego

To name a few...
Dance- Frank Moody, Jungle, Kraak & Smaak, Tesla Boy, Satin Jackets,
Pop/indie- LEISURE, Vulfpeck, Daniel Johns solo stuff (from Silverchair), Delv!s,
Electronica- Robotaki, Shook,
Queens of the Stone Age stick out, Jack White-Lazzaretto, Snarky Puppy, Oceansize-Meredith

A Winged Victory for the Sullen: The Undivided Five
Floating Points: Crush
Nivhek: After its Own Death / Walking in a Spiral Towards the House

I will never understand this urge that some have to share their musical preferences. They tend to be extremely idiosyncratic, like the specifics of your sexual proclivities, and are useless outside of your own skull.

Michael Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka

If you like music with some intelligence to it, I can highly recommend Bryan Beller's new album, Scenes from the Flood.

I googled "Tyler the Creator lyric", then randomly selected a single title from the list. Now I can't get it out of my head it's so damn catchy. So I'm clapping back at the haters, do not be out there saying Tyler is signalling!

Tyler, The Creator Lyrics
(feat. Hodgy Beats)

Got all the black bitches mad cause my main bitch vanilla
She tryna get her groove back like Stella, grab the umbrella
When it comes to your perception of my shit, I'm Helen Keller
When it comes to the perfection of my shit, I know you smell the
Rectum, I'm like a chromosome I always X 'em
Like Wolverine steps on attackin' a deadly weapon
I'm openin' a church to sell coke and Led Zeppelin
And fuck Mary in her ass.. ha-ha.. yo
I'm fuckin' Goldilocks up in the forest
In the three bear house eatin' their muthafuckin' porridge
I tell her it's my house, give her a tour
In my basement, and keep that bitch locked up in my storage
Rape her and record it, then edit it with more shit
Octopussy special effect erect bitches we bangin'
And please never disrespect my set with Canons
Hangin' from our necks like it's a muthafuckin' circus

You little niggas better check my French
You gettin' money better check my French
Ahh, what time is it, huh? Check my French
If you got my shit you better check my French
I make it move check my French
I speak English but check my French
Your ho be on my penis she check my French, bitch

I guess I left my dignity up in the cupboard, cause every girl I'm diggin'
When I'm diggin' in her pussy, I'm never usin' a rubber
But fuck it I guess I gotta stretch it out like it was flubber
And leave it drippin' green and red like double cheese buggers
Chewin' on cum like bubble gum from Hubba
This bitch knew dick like Bubba knew shrimp, yeah
Yo, I'm seventeen, already sniffin' blow
I tell my friends it's asthma every time I start to itch my throat
I got a new show for MTV, "Pimp My Boat"
Because some bitch said my semen was dirty, that's silly ho
The most that they can do is find me, I'm hiding
Somewhere where Chris Stokes can't find me
Oh no, Mister Stokes, I don't like misters, no
Don't tell R. Kelly where my little sister go

You little niggas better check my French
You gettin' money better check my French
Ahh, what time is it, huh? Check my French
If you got my shit you better check my French
I make it move check my French
I speak English but check my French
Your ho be on my penis she check my French, bitch

Yo, you little niggas better check my French
I got all stars and you can check my bench
Left Brain, Super 3, Creator Ace
Put expressions in their music and create the face
Of the picture punchline figured out, ahh I get you
No you don't nigga so why don't you go figure
You seem confused anyway, pressured enough?
You the type of dude that choke when the pressure is up
The pressure is the pump and the pressure is us
Bitches havin' eargasms and the pleasure is us
Niggas wanna be O.F. and write letters to us
Competition's competition, yo you better than us?
Digest what I'm sayin'? I don't think so
We sick shit, throw it up down in the sink, yo
The Odd niggas are beginnin' to spill these pink hoes
We think sorta odd so we think so

Crusin' in my go kart at Walmart sellin' cupcakes
Go 'head admit it faggot, this shit is tighter then butt rape
That involve Ballpark franks and silver duct tape
Pornos and hormones and boxes of DiGiorno
You homos is loco you're probably drinkin' Cuervo
With some vatos with the door closed watchin' Zorro, you homos.. O.F

I like blues musician Dave Alvin:
Downey to Lubbock
Run Conejo Run
Harlan County Line

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