Bit late posting this one this year, but I’ve done one of these posts every year since we started, and it would be a crime not to do one for 2019. So here we go, with the usual caveats that a) I don’t care if you think this is a stupid post because it’s my website, not yours and b) there are 18 lang cats now and few if any of them share my taste in music. So let this be a record of the records that made 2019 what it was and soundtracked a remarkable year.
Straight into it: You may notice quite the crossover between this and the TCWU playlist which you can find here. This was a huge year for heavy stuff, so it’s a bit less diverse than previous years.
10. KATE TEMPEST – THE BOOK OF TRAPS AND LESSONS
Mainly here because of the amazing show she did at Leith Theatre during the Edinburgh Festival. Still got goosebumps thinking about it, and this record takes me back to that. It’s sort of amazing to think that Rick Rubin – producer of Reign in Blood by Slayer, for example – produced this.
9. SAOR – FORGOTTEN PATHS
What do you mean you didn’t listen to Scottish one-man atmospheric folk-tinged black metal powerhouse Saor? You’re no fun. This is a great record – some trve kvlt metalheads don’t like that it’s a bit less raw than 2016’s Guardians, but they’re wrong. This is just full of all kinds of goodness, and is well worth an hour of your time.
8. TOOL – FEAR INOCULUM
I’ve never quite got on with Tool as well as I think I probably should. That said, Lateralus is a good record and Fear Inoculum reminded me of that mainly. There is a bit too much pretentious footering around in between the songs, and there’s a drum solo that should never have seen the light of day, but when it’s good it’s blisteringly good.
7. LANKUM – THE LIVELONG DAY
This was a late arrival for me this year, but knocked me sideways when I heard it. If you have even a little bit of trad music in you, you need to hear what Lankum does to it / with it. These are on my must-see-a-gig list for 2020. The version of Wild Rover that opens the record is a strong contender for song of the year. Just brilliant.
6. JAMES YORKSTON – THE ROUTE TO THE HARMONIUM
Let’s be honest, any time JY releases a record it’s going to end up here (see why here). Route was a different sort of record to some of my favourite JY stuff, but still got under my skin in a very pleasing way. Songs like Shallow, My Mouth Ain’t No Bible and The Irish Wars of Independence all make their way into my own little personal canon of favourite songs. If there’s one artist on this list I’d love readers to support, it’s Mr Yoikston.
5. INSOMNIUM – HEART LIKE A GRAVE
We’re getting into it now. Insomnium are Finnish melodic death metal gods and probably my favourite band of the last few years. This was a great record, but not at the heights of Winter’s Gate or One For Sorrow. Still, if you want to be made a bit less happy than you were and get an insight into what happens when you live in a country that has no daylight for a significant part of the year, then you’ll be hard pressed to do better than Heart Like A Grave. It just couldn’t quite get past the next few records; in another year it might have had the top spot. I do wish they’d stop filming their videos outside, though. It looks freezing.
4. AEPHANEMER – PROKOPTON
No, I hadn’t heard of them either, but incredibly this bunch from Toulouse have beaten the godfathers of the melodeath scene in this here listicle. This is a totally joyful record if you like heavy stuff. Great melodies, cracking overblown synth stuff, really heavy parts and all done with what I suppose we have to call joie de vivre. The fact that in a verrrrrry non-diverse part of the music world Aephanemer is 50% female, including the singer who has a great line in death growls, is icing sur le gateau, Rodney.
3. NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS – GHOSTEEN
Back down to earth with a thump. If you want to know what happens when you write a record absolutely bathed in grief after the death of your child, then here you go. I stayed up late to listen to the live stream of this when it launched, and almost couldn’t stay with it; I think any parent would struggle. Outside of that, this is a sort of mixture of intense, heavy imagery (‘I lay in the forest amongst the butterflies and the fireflies / And the burning horses and the flaming trees / As a spiral of children climb up to the sun / Waving goodbye to you and goodbye to me / As the past pulls away and the future begins’) over gossamer music which often isn’t really music at all, just loops and textures. I wasn’t too sure about it at the start, but now I’m hooked. I still have to be careful what kind of mood I’m in when I listen, though. Incidentally, this is a record which will reward you listening to a CD or record, or at least a high quality stream rather than a crappy MP3 via Spotify.
2. THE CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA – TO BELIEVE
I don’t like to thank Mike Barrett for many things, but I am glad he turned me onto The Cinematic Orchestra. This is my second most played record of the year and has soundtracked a huge amount of late night working in particular. The opening song – To Believe, which features Moses Sumney – is actually my song of the year. The whole record is pretty much flawless, and I can’t remember listening to something which spans so many genres and enjoying all of it – even the bits I wouldn’t normally choose to listen to – ever before. I’ll still be playing this for many years to come.
1. SOEN – LOTUS
This record is clearly my most played of 2019, and still gives me an adrenaline boost every time I listen to it. It’s heavy to be sure, but the singing is clean and it’s the sort of heavy record that even non-metalheads could enjoy. There are bits of prog in there, bits of what I can only describe as being what Muse would sound like if they were really a lot better than they are, and all sorts of other stuff. There are quieter bits, riffy bits, and I don’t know what else to say. Just an absolutely sublime record that sadly relatively few people will ever hear, but I’m convinced many would love if they did. Give it a try. And the drag video for Martyrs below is hilarious.
So there you have it, for what it’s worth. Gigs of the year: the aforementioned Kate Tempest for sure. Karine Polwart as mentioned in one TCWU doing her Scottish Songbook at the Usher Hall. Acid Reign at a dive bar (literally a dive bar in my case) in Glasgow. Devin Townsend at SVG3. And loads more. Probably the biggest disappointment was Anna Calvi at Leith Theatre – just didn’t do anything for me.
Right, that’s it. See you in slightly under 12 months for the 10th anniversary records of the year.