2019 End Of Year Lists: Albums Of The Year




While popular music's integrity keeps deteriorating in an unbelievably rapid manner, D//E still trusts in the underground, and supports the finest of the great music which came aplenty in 2019.

Our initial longlist of eligible Albums of the Year included about 120 entries, which made having to cut it down to a quarter of that for our annual 30 an excruciating procedure. However, this only means that there's more than enough considerable art out there ready to be discovered, it's just not shoved in your face by the mainstream media round the clock.

These are the ones that made the cut for D//E’s 2019 Albums of the Year…


30. Have A Nice Life: Sea Of Worry



A worthy follow up to two landmark albums, 2008's Deathconsciousness and 2014's The Unnatural World, HANL's newest endeavor doesn't sound much like its predecessors, but still engages through a different method, with more concise, straightforward and traditional style of songwriting. Masters of nihilistic poetry,  HANL excel again with their lyricism, and overall display their ability to still sound unique, even on an album that feels less detailed than their acclaimed previous work.



29. Earth: Full Upon Her Burning Lips



Trailblazers of minimalistic psychedelic drone metal and heavy rock, in 2019, almost thirty years after their early demos and first releases, Dylan Carlson's Earth are still capable of coming up with a piece of work that has a rightful place among the year's best. Riff-centered, monotonous and stripped down to rock and metal's core, Full Upon Her Burning Lips doesn't feature any surprises nor specialties, but it's Earth wholly congenial and consistent, and that's satisfying enough.



28. Reduction Plan: (Ae) Maeth



New York-based musician Daniel Manning's fourth full length as Reduction Plan is easily the project's most realized and finest creative effort thus far. (Ae) Maeth takes a darker direction, finds the artist using outside help for the first time by enlisting  producer Kevin McMahon and collaborating with Jae Matthews of Boy Harsher, and mixes up different moods from varied genres in an all around eclectic result.



27. HIDE: Hell Is Here



Alive with rage, bleakness and nightmarish clarity, the follow up to last year's Castration Anxiety by ulta dark avant-garde experimenters, HIDE, is a record of depth and extremity which the word 'intense' feels too faint to describe. On the back of their previous LP's acclaim, HIDE clear further away from conventionality and come up with another biting album, minimal, yet, totally deep.



26. Chelsea Wolfe: Birth Of Violence



On her return to the earthier, more toned down and frank approach of her traditional singer-songwriter ways, Chelsea Wolfe sounds comfortable and right at home. Birth Of Violence is pure gothic Americana, free of the metallic sharpness of her previous few albums, and still able to cut through quite candidly and thoroughly.



25. Uniform & The Body: Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back



On their second collaborative album the two extreme acts return with something inherently unorthodox, complementing each other's strengths, and generating vast amounts of organic poignancy. Musically the album gives a stab at synthpop electronica, next to its expected post industrial, noise rock and contemporary metal fundamentals, pushing the boundaries even more, and showcasing an ideal unison that had to be. Even better, it had to be twice.



24. Drowse: Light Mirror



No one can describe the depth of Light Mirror better than its own creator, a gifted individual who seems to be looking at everything in life through a creative lens, translating his experiences into art in an organic manner. This is an album which feels like a very much personal record, both for Kyle Bates who created it, and for the listener who comes into contact with its impressibility.



23. Swans: Leaving Meaning



Michael Gira has reformed and rethought the concept of Swans a few times in the past, on some occasions resulting to some of the most ingenious and nonconformist music the underground has even seen. Although Leaving Meaning is pushed as a product of a renovated version of Swans, the album still feels like something familiar for the band, a bit reaching toward Americana, gospel and the blues, still, very much tense, dark, menacing and inspiring as anyone would expect from Gira and the distinguished group of musicians he's gathered together for this record.



22. Blankenberge: More



With stronger production than before, Russian shoegazers, Blankenberge, stayed a bit under the radar in 2019, with the self-released follow up to the reputable Radiogaze from 2017 being an outright coherent album which makes shoegaze's old virtues sound fresh all over again. Clear of unnecessary complexity, More offers more of the well crafted heavy shoegaze sound that has established Blankenberge as one of the genre's contemporary best and most hopeful bands.



21. Spotlights: Love & Decay



Juxtaposing heaviness with melody, and heavy rock with shoegaze, New York's Spotlights easily meet the expectations set from their solid past releases, and go further to reveal an ambitious and artful record full of warmth and potency. Love & Decay, the band's third album, is their most accomplished one, and a thing of limitless depth, worthy of repeated listening sessions.



20. Djunah: Ex Voto



Produced by the great Kurt Ballou, and featuring the multi-leveled dexterity of Donna Diane, alongside Arctic Sleep and Fake Limbs drummer, Nick Smalkowski, Ex Voto brings Djunah's captivating live presence to record. It's a loud, passionate and direct album which collects influence from many diverse aspects of art to introduce one of the fastest rising acts in noise rock, sounding all masterly in the process.



19. Ritual Howls: Rendered Armor



Where dark Americana meets with post punk, industrial and gothic rock, Detroit's Ritual Howls lay out post apocalyptic contrivances and an indie western feel through their gripping fourth full length, one year after the amazing, Their Body EP. The sharply self-produced Rendered Armor merges traditional instrumentation with electronics very much efficiently, and hits it big as one of the band's most consummated endeavors.



18. Russian Baths: Deepfake



On their anticipated debut full length the New York-based Russian Baths live up to the high expectations set by their preceding outings. Deepfake turned out to be a genre defying record of grit and fortitude, abundant in imagination and creative power, while Uniform's Ben Greenberg handling the production plays its own significant part in the album’s overall effectiveness as well.



17. Lungbutter: Honey



Noisy, organically avantgardistic and obscure, Lungbutter’s debut, Honey, absorbs with its amalgamation of slowcore, noise rock, punk and sludge sounds, and gets a hold of the listener for its concise, yet, exciting entirety. It is a bit tough to follow, but the result can be overly gratifying.



16. Halshug: Drøm



Centered on the concept of dreams, and appearing more open-minded than ever before, Drøm is undoubtedly the most well-designed of all three albums by Danish punks, Halshug, up to this point. With crust punk and d-beat as the foundation, Drøm extends the bands horizons to industrial rock, darkwave and post punk, concluding to something all the way zealous, artful, and for the most part rather voluminous.



15. Lingua Ignota: Caligula



Everything in Lingua Ignota’s brief catalog so far seems thoroughly thought out and executed, and this year’s Caligula is no exception. Notably inclined toward classical tropes under its contemporary cutting-edge exoskeleton, the album is a visceral expression of a forward-thinking act who has a lot of pain and inherent darkness available to discharge in the most creative and commanding ways.



14. Ride: This Is Not A Safe Place



All veteran bands that reunite many years after their heyday must thirst for decency, and for their new material to come out up to par with what made them stand out in the first place. Such subjects have now Ride to look up to, whose second post-reunion LP doesn’t falter, doesn’t hold back and doesn’t lack anything compared to the innovatory shoegazey indie rock of their prime.



13. VR Sex: Human Traffic Jam



Way more darkly colored than all of the other projects in which he's been involved, VR Sex is Andrew Clinco (Deb Demure in Drab Majesty, also of Marriages and more), under the new name, Noel Skum, handling all the instrumentation and working together with Ben Greenberg (Uniform/The Men) on the production of Human Traffic Jam which was written around the same time as Drab Majesty’s Modern Mirror in Athens, Greece. Whether this turns out to be a one-off exercise or something that will live on, the album stands on its own unconditionally, and as one of the year’s most fervid post punk beginnings.



12. Tempers: Private Life



New York-based electronica duo, Tempers, found a proper home in Dais Records this year and released their third album, a work of dazzling, goth-inclined electropop which evidently presented the band’s gloomier side, together with their overarching cinematic qualities. Private Life is darkly melancholic to the whole extent, yet, its subtle, glimmering rays of light make a winsome contrasting effect which feels a little off-base and inimitable.



11. Men I Trust: Oncle Jazz



On their third album Canada's Men I Trust put together those balmy singles from the last couple of years, the material responsible for the band's enormous rise, and then some, presenting it all as a cohesive and well built full length. The result is some exemplary dreampop music in the form of the softest album in recent memory, overrun by tunefulness, sweet nostalgia and elegance.



10. Westkust: Westkust



Swedish shoegazers, Westkust, returned four year’s after their solid debut, Last Forever, on which they bestowed full vocal duties to their singer, Julia Bjernelind, and ended up sounding more lively and buoyant than ever. With tight structures and arrangements and rich production, the band’s self-titled sophomore full length is amiably wistful as much as it is optimistic, leading to an admirable listen.



9. DIIV: Deceiver



On their third album in total, and first since Zachary Cole Smith checked himself into treatment for substance abuse, DIIV dive deeper into gloom and dejection, as Deceiver naturally turns out as the band's most solemn, contemplative and substantially cathartic LP. DIIV are  a great band, and their greatness seems to be in constant development, while they achieve another milestone regardless of all the turmoil, and keep moving forward.



8. Mannequin Pussy: Patience



On their third and clearly best album yet Philadelphia's Mannequin Pussy keep things plain, observational, vivid and full on punk rock, maintaining the characteristic brevity of their songwriting, but adding in an impressible kind of charm, some anger and memorability, all of which could make Patience appeal to not only punk rockers, but much larger audiences. Although they're getting notably bigger, it is fortunate that the restless quartet still belongs cozily in the underground.



7. Boy Harsher: Careful



Careful arrive quite early in the year and came out exactly as was foreseeable from such a capable act like Boy Harsher, five year after their first appearance. It's overcast and it's moody, and although it doesn't reinvent anything for the consistent duo, it finds them excelling in what they do, exhibiting their knack for minimal, dark-inclined electronica infused with post punk and new wave essence.



6. Amyl And The Sniffers: Amyl And The Sniffers



This is straightforward Aussie punk at its finest, like they used to do it back in the day, excellently produced and performed, and fiery like hell. It's definitely the sharpest, most guttural and most explosive punk record of 2019, and a solid introduction to a band which will most likely go very far if they commit to that same sturdiness in their next efforts.



5. Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky: Droneflower



Two trustworthy creators of corresponding, yet, diverse musical worlds joined forces to bring together heaviness and ethereality, giving way to something pitch black, still sirenic, enchanting and elegiac. Droneflower, although closer to Nadler's domain, it brings out the virtues of both its prolific originators, and sounds immaculate from end to end.



4. Secret Shame: Dark Synthetics



Dark times call for dark art, and Secret Shame's impressive debut album is immersed in total gloom, running hands over the traditional post punk basics, and coming up with something fresh, simultaneously timeless and topical. The Asheville-based five-piece aim for a gritty sound, one which leans more toward deathrock and gothic rock, bursting through much more intensely than most of the lightweight indie rock bands of an analogous dark scope, those which are way more popular than Secret Shame, but nowhere near as convincing as them.



3. Elizabeth Colour Wheel: Nocebo



From the time progressive rock started to lose the excitement of its zenith, and gradually became tedious in many instances, it all hanged upon musicians from the undergound to make intricate rock music stimulating and eclectic again. Such a band is Elizabeth Colour Wheel, a five-piece from Boston with a very dark, psychedelic direction, gracefully layed out on the year's most outstanding debut. With more than a few genres thrown into the distinguishable mix, Nocebo is heavy and gritty, as much as it is enthralling in all respects.



2. All Your Sisters: Trust Ruins



No matter how much one believed in All Your Sisters' evident potential exhibited from the get go, it seemed a bit unlikely for them to conquer the greatness of 2016's Uncomfortable Skin. Still, Jordan Morrison achieved a record that's so organically dark and graver than all of his previous works, and stood out as one of the year's very finest. Whether these are the remnants of trust or a warning about its hurtfulness, Trust Ruins is a ponderous and straight out brilliant record. Its honesty is one of the main points for the album's triumph, while musically it clearly appears equivalent to recognizable and familiar sounds, but it still serves as something unmatched. This is what takes darkwave to the next level.



1. Drab Majesty: Modern Mirror



After a strong debut and a near perfect sophomore full length, Drab Majesty came forth with the world's finest synthpop record in many years. Modern Mirror is conceptually compelling, sonically sharp, and the best use of cultivated influences there is, as Deb Demure and collaborator Mona D. make the most out of the new wave, synthpop, goth pop and post punk vanguard, effectuating a specialty close-knit, steady and effectual. Since 2015 it all looked like this forward-thinking duo was comfortably marching toward an AOTY standing, something that came palpably and in double quick time.



In list form...

1. Drab Majesty: Modern Mirror
2. All Your Sisters: Trust Ruins
3. Elizabeth Colour Wheel: Nocebo
4. Secret Shame: Dark Synthetics
5. Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky: Droneflower
6. Amyl And The Sniffers: Amyl And The Sniffers
7. Boy Harsher: Careful
8. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
9. DIIV: Deceiver
10. Westkust: Westkust
11. Men I Trust: Oncle Jazz
12. Tempers: Private Life
13. VR Sex: Human Traffic Jam
14. Ride: This Is Not A Safe Place
15. Lingua Ignota: Caligula
16. Halshug: Drøm
17. Lungbutter: Honey
18. Russian Baths: Deepfake
19. Ritual Howls: Rendered Armor
20. Djunah: Ex Voto
21. Spotlights: Love & Decay
22. Blankenberge: More
23. Swans: Leaving Meaning
24. Drowse: Light Mirror
25. Uniform & The Body: Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back
26. Chelsea Wolfe: Birth Of Violence
27. HIDE: Hell Is Here
28. Reduction Plan: (Ae) Maeth
29. Earth: Full Upon Her Burning Lips
30. Have A Nice Life: Sea Of Worry





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