6th November 2023
2019 has been… well, it’s been. But whether you’re bogged down by the political chaos of the past year, or eager to make a fresh start in a new decade, no one can deny that 2019 was a stellar year for music. However, it feels like between the well-deserved praise of the Tylers and Ellishs of the industry, a fair few albums have soared under the radar. So, here at LGSM we’ve made it our mission to collect some of our top picks of 2019, that include some comebacks from old favourites, and some newcomers that are quickly making names for themselves.
Daisy the Great are relative newcomers to the music scene, only releasing their first full length LP ‘I’m Not Getting Any Taller’ this year. However, as for how small the collection of the songs they’ve released are, the groups release is far too intricate, honest and simply enjoyable not to include as a standout of the year. Throughout their album, the band, fronted by Brooklyn-based duo Mina Walker and Kelley Nicole Dugan, seem to capture a snapshot of youth that while fairly common for most people to experience, is hard to portray authentically, or without a pretentious filter over it. The feel of being 20-something, directionless, and full of excitement and cynicism is portrayed beautifully by the group, whose lyrics walk the fine line between genuine hilarity and insecurity, all while being backed with the pair’s pitch perfect harmonies.
The opener of the album ‘IDKW’, starts by adhering to a typical topes of a heartbreak track, with slow, somber backing and quiet vocals, before changing completely and becoming a group sing-along denouncing the relationship all together. It’s a declaration of happiness of being young and free, that runs throughout the album, and feels as candid as it is fun to listen to. However, this celebration of being young has a clear contrast, as the band do not shy away from portraying anxiety that can come with youth. A standout track ‘Take My Time’ reflects on being young and having the world at your feet, as well as the feeling of anxiety and futility that comes with it. The lyrics and backing are fairly somber, and yet feel so… normal. It’s endearingly honest, and serves as a wonderful contrast to joyful tone running through the album.
I’ll admit, I did a lot of thinking before deciding to choose this album out of the sea of new releases this year. But what set Daisy the Great apart from other top picks, is that through their works, Daisy the Great feel like friends. While enjoying their works, I often find it hard to relate with a lot of my favourite artists, their world of touring and stardom feeling a world away from life on Smithdown. But with Daisy the Great, that feeling melts away all together. The band are able to capture an honest feeling of all the excitement, mundanity and fear of being young, while mixing beautiful harmonies and interesting melodies within it. The result? A reckless, yet beautiful album, that will resonate with 20-somethings everywhere.
My Album of the year for 2019 is Kaiser Chiefs “Duck”. As a Leeds born student, perhaps the Leed’s born band provide a sense of home for myself, or perhaps their newest album is just really bloody good, regardless of my origin. Kaiser Chiefs “Duck” takes top spot for me personally, as it is an extremely upbeat, contagious record filled with positive messages and vibrant storytelling. Lead singer Ricky Wilson is energetic and electric as he sings about love, holidays in the North, and living your life in the moment before you grow old. Personal highlights include; “People know how to love one another”, “Wait”, and “Don’t just stand there, do something”. The song “Wait” see’s the band incorporate a full brass section, complimenting the rest of the band and providing a quicker, more upbeat pace to the already free-flowing music. On the other side, is the slower track of the album, “Target Market” – a love song about perseverance and the very real ‘tunnel vision’ you develop upon finding ‘the one’.
Ricky Wilson provides fans with a certain vulnerability that comes hand in hand with great songwriting. Whilst “Duck” is extremely well polished and produced with seamless excellency, it is not just digitally where the new album shines. Having seen Kaiser Chiefs twice in the summer of 2019, the songs hold a candle to their huge hits “Ruby” and “I Predict a Riot”. Performed brilliantly and with clear passion, the Kaiser Chiefs proved to the music industry that consistency is key. For me their newest album “Duck” provided an emotional soundtrack for 2019 – the highs and the lows.
Now this may not be the official process by which we determine the strength of an album, but being as The Tallest Man on Earth’s ‘I love you. It’s like a Fever Dream’ bagged the top spot of my most listened to album on ‘Spotify Unwrapped 2019’, I thought it was worthy of mention.
Swedish born folk singer Kristian Matsson, performing under the stage name ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ released ‘Fever Dream’ in April last year, his fifth studio album. Traditionally defined by his poetic lyrics, fingerpicked guitar and harsh vocals, Mattson in ‘Fever Dream’ initially seems to subscribe to this folky, Dylan-esq image he’s built for himself over the years, with little to suggest any intention to develop his style. However, as has been the way with each of his records, ‘Fever Dream’ demands a second listen, and it is only after this has been granted that the subtleties of Mattson’s sound are apparent; the energy of his early albums is dialled back to make way for the raw, personal lyrics which so poignantly illustrate the story of his own solitude.
Every time I’ve mentioned The Tallest Man on Earth to people as one of my favourite musicians, I’ve been greeted with nothing more than either a blank face or a slightly confused question on how he manages to be both a singer and a famous Guinness World Record holder. But the beauty and honesty of Mattson’s music is so worthy of recognition, and ‘I love you. It’s a Fever Dream’ only serves as further validation of this, a heart-wrenching reflection on loss, isolation and the unknown.
In 2019, I found that my writing, and listening choices were coming from a far more personal place than they have done in years past. So much so, that despite my preference for jazz and folk music, I found myself drawn into the bizarrely commercially viable world of Vampire Weekend in pursuit of music that spoke to my Jewish identity. My thoughts about Vampire Weekend have always been fairly neutral. Their music seemed little more than inoffensive indie-pop, but in the last 12 months, I found out that several of my musical heroes cite the band’s frontman, Ezra Koenig, as a major songwriting influence. I discovered, through my favourite movie podcast, that he’s not only Jewish, but expresses that part of his identity fairly explicitly in his music. That was enough to get me interested in the band’s new record, ‘Father of the Bride’.
Turns out, that not only is Koenig’s writing a beautiful rumination on contemporary Jewish-American identity, but the record’s instrumental work is utterly stunning, too. Vampire Weekend is not a band that puts out heavy, visceral, thumping material, but instead give you a considered and wonderfully thematically coherent songwriting delivered in seemingly impossibly accessible packages. ‘Harmony Hall’ ponders the toxicity of echo chambers and being conditioned to believe harmful stereotypes about one’s self, ‘Sympathy’ drags the idea of “Judeo-Christianity” as a concept created to turn Jews against Muslims, and ‘Jerusalem, New York, Berlin’ reflects on the struggle modern Jews face in being Zionist whilst opposing occupation and being constantly let down by recent Israeli governments. ‘Father of the Bride’ is, as far as I’m concerned, near perfect in its simple presentation of important topics without diminishing their complexity or nuances.
Conceived in a wave of Irish post-punk revival (see Girlband, The Murder Capital), Mercury prize nominated Dogrel injected into the genre a Joyciean lyricism, which surveys it’s surroundings with a romantic cynicism. A rousing mantra to those disillusioned with their social and political situation, on Dogrel Grian Chatten’s deadpan Dublin drawl resonates with an air of gritty displacement. It’s an album that starts on a front of pint-flinging anthems in ‘Big’ and ‘Boys In The Better Land’, faltering to revealing glimmers of vulnerability along the way in the dreary-eyed ballads of ‘Television Screens’ and ‘Roys Tune’.’ Chequeless Reckless’ may just contain some of my favourite lyrics of the year, reading like a manifesto against the obstinate characters of life. (“An idiot is someone that lets all of their education do all of the talking). However, though Dogrel’s poetic transcription of Dublin life may on the surface be all snarling wit, but it’s an underlying romanticism that sets it apart from it’s post-punk counterparts. Closer ‘Dublin City Sky’ for exapervades with a sullen melancholy, a lament to a toxic relationship despite the idyllic settings of the city sky. Whether the ‘she’ Chatten laments about is a love interest, or figurative of Dublin itself, Dogrel conveys a conflict between nostalgic idealism and a dejected reality. Whether it be for reasons romantic, political or social this is a reason the album has seemed to resonate with so many people. Dogrel is a woozy fist to the face for any Radio X dad that declared guitar music as ‘dead’.