People put a lot of trust in critics. Movies, records, food – a lot of faith is put in writers you have no relationship or little in common with, with the exception of perhaps agreeing with their taste in movies, records and food.
Over the next two weeks, this column will highlight favorite records of 2019. Credentials to make the list include the obvious of “does it sound good?” along with considering the band’s overall approach to making music; emotion and guts go farther than industry ties and mounds of cash.
2019 runners-up include: Mudhoney, Wilco, Lana Del Rey, a Bloodshot Records Country Compilation, Daddy Long Legs, Lewisdale Rocket Slide, The Crags, Tyler Childers, Purple Mountains, The Mountain Goats and many more.
10. The Flesh Eaters, “I Used to be Pretty.” This longtime Los Angeles-based punk supergroup’s early 2019 release is weird, abrasive and strange. The band of punk poet, filmmaker and music critic Chris D, who has remained at the helm from the get-go, this latest continues his barrage of startling doses of spoken-word poetry, the punchy guitar accentuated by vibraphone, giving it a gutter-lounge sound. It’s like having a philosophy professor give you a lesson in being angry at the world while backed by John Doe and DJ Bonebrake of X, Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman of The Blasters and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.
9. The Popravinas, “Willy Nilly.” Southern California’s Popravina’s make rock ’n’ roll music that bows to a good time. They deliver the hooks, they deliver the bounce, they deliver the fun; it’s a package where dream pop and garage punk play quarters, and at the end of the night, everyone is the best of friends. Willy Nilly lives in a neighborhood where NRBQ hangs with The Lemonheads, and they find themselves boldly bobbing for apples in a bucket filled with every great era of rock ’n’ roll.
8. Jesse Dayton, “Mixed Tape Volume 1.” It’s tough to include an album of covers in a top 10 of original music, however, Dayton is worth the exception. A Texas guitar player raised on country, punk and metal with a side-man resumé that includes time spent as a hired guitar player with Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, who also filled in for Billy Zoom in X, Dayton is that friend with the diverse record collection you envied, and this record of covers is a best of that record collection. He stamps his style all over solid covers of AC/DC and The Clash, The Cars and Dr. Feelgood, the repertoire as smart as it is tasteful.
7. Frankie and the Witch Fingers, “ZAM.” The modern-day psychedelic garage rock-movement has given ears a wealth of 21st century tunes, from bratty punk bands that dabble in feedback and noise to bands that deliver more art and prog-rock flair; “ZAM” lies somewhere in the middle, as the Los Angeles-based band isn’t afraid of the power chord and some underproduced audio reminiscent of the wonderfully crude first wave of American hardcore, while stretching songs out into the seven-minute mark.
6. DBUK, “Songs Nine Through Sixteen.” A Denver band featuring members Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, DBUK play music quieter, slower, and dare I say, weirder than that of their country, goth-rock counterparts. “Songs Nine through Sixteen” and the sound of DBUK are closer to the solo work of vocalist Munly, a musical world that defies categorization; if there’s any hint of country, folk or bluegrass, those hints are overshadowed by curveballs that you can’t even swing at. This is music that makes it hard to do anything like tap your foot or nod a beat; you just have to listen. Peel back the onion that is DBUK’s “Songs Nine Through Sixteen,” and layer after layer will reveal psychedelic country ramblings, dark gothic chants and hushed instrumentation. Yet despite an overall haunting feel, the quartet is funny and playful.
Numbers five through one will appear in next week’s column.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.