Top Records of 2019


Helms Alee – Noctiluca

Alternately (and sometimes simultaneously!) heavy as hell and laden with soaring beauty, Helms Alee are the oncoming storm. No band currently working effectively works in such a deft and unique field. That’s because there are none like them. What can I say? This is an essential record and I listen to it regularly. Not many bands can put out their 5th album and having it arguably be their best.
Helms Alee, long may they run.

Hurry Up Shotgun – This Crystal Vessel

Both brooding and soaring, intense but never boring… Oakland’s Hurry Up Shotgun have yet again delivered one of the best records of the year. Not explicitly any one genre, but pairing innovative arrangement and discordance with melody and harmony, HuS continues to took away and make adventuresome and worthy records that most people have never heard. Recommended for fans of the Chavez, The Afghan Whigs, Mudhoney, Les Savy Fav and the more danger laden QOTSA stuff.

Stunning work!

Djunah – Ex-Voto

I’ve said a lot about Djunah, and I imagine I will in the future. Remarkable band with a unique sound, an iconoclastic presence and a leg for a bass player. Weighty and worthy art worth paying attention to. Dive in and see what they have to offer. RIYL: Brainiac, Marnie Stern, Oxbow, Le Butcherettes, early PJ Harvey… but they really have a voice all their own.

SEMINARS – Iniquity Signals

SEMINARS is a badass band, and everybody oughta know. Still the downstroke kings, but now introducing elements of moodier post-punk and nuanced rhythmic interplay. The songs are great, the sound is top notch, what is not to love? 

B. Hamilton – Nothing and Nowhere

One of the most iconoclastic, yet easy to understand bands I can think of that almost nobody knows. It’s been literal years since B Hamilton’s last record and civilizations have risen and fell since then. 

There’s still a melding of Kevin Shields like guitar atmospherics with Frank Black style noisepop, but the blues is strong with this record. Without ever sounding a bit like Blues Hammer.

B Hamilton can be a hard band to describe, because they are more inventive, interesting and downright enjoyable than most bands that are genre adjacent to them. 

Also, drummer Raj’s work in Once and Future Band and now Black Crowes (!), means that B. Hamilton remains a jewel of a treasure for those that know and a new favorite band for those that don’t.

45 and Straight is a slice of octave laden insistence that ought to be a well known hit, but there isn’t a weak song on the record. 

Sounding both completely of it’s time and timeless at the same time. It’s the: “ok boomer” of rock records, but I mean that as the highest compliment.

Big Business – the Beast You Are

Whoa! Big Business come out ripping with an absolute monster of a record. Heavy use of keyboards and melody paired with assailing rhythms makes this record one of Big Business’s best with a vitality and ear for melody rarely found in “heavy” music.
For a guy that gets REALLY sick of “dudes yelling” over heavy riffs, Big Biz manages to be very tuneful while maintaining both intensity and heavy riffs.

Austerity Program – Bible Songs 1

the Bible, but just the dark and weird stuff. The world of the austerity program has not changed, it’s still bombast, indignance, drum machines and bullet points. In this case Justin and Thad’s focus on “the good book”, allow for some thematic Old Testament style brutality that fits like a dogmatic glove.

J. Robbins – Un-becoming

Utter badassery by J. Robbins of Jawbox, Burning Airlines. etc. mature and vital yet simultaneously wiry and energetic. You get everything you could hope for, erudite and hooky wordplay the jagged and melodic and much more.
Some songs would not be out of place on a new Jawbox record, while others are different thing entirely and would seem at home next to Brian Eno soundscapes and wiry lost post-punk classics.
I really hope this album doesn’t get lost in the mix, because if I didn’t have the slightest idea of who J. Robbins is. i’d love it.

Tropical Fuck Storm – Brain Drops

The inexorable & indefatigable Aussies are back and they mean business. Braindrops is an utterly befuddling and “wrong” sounding record that is oh so “right.”

There isn’t a clear monster single like “tyres” on this one, but the whole thing has a snakey, baked in the sun vibe that works its way into your subconscious.

I’m fully present for TFS brand of non-euclidian geometry rocking.

RIYL: Polvo, Bad Seeds, Dead Rider, Leonard Cohen, the KnifeAt this point: they just sound like themselves.

Drug Apts – Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances

The propulsive and relentless Sacramento rockers come back with their most fully realized and articulated record yet. 

Evoking the creativity and free feelings of the Ex, while sounding very well slotted into the more nuanced side of the noise rock revival. Drug Apts are both immediately familiar, and enjoyably offputting.

Angular guitars, insistent vocals, and a rhythm section that can groove while it grinds. 

Recommended for fans of Unwound, Gang of Four, Wire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Talking Heads and The Ex


Honorable mentions:

Christian Fitness – You Are the Ambulance

The indefatigable and unstoppable Falco strikes again! Staggeringly clever, ceaselessly hooky and required listening for fans of mclusky and future of the left, who are seeking new sounds. Gleefully irreverent music of consequence.

Nervous Curtains – I Tried To Fight It But I Was Inside It

The Kings of Dallas synth are back at it with a strong offering. There’s more sequencing this time, and the song material veers towards the explicitly political. The record rides an interesting line by being explicitly psych oriented, but lyrically grounded in harsh and brutal reality. Music to canvass to.

CUNTS – CUNTS

A Brutal and confrontational name, but fitting for the name and surprisingly song oriented. Recommended for fans of KARP, and noise rock infused hardcore. The record is deliberate and irreverent, while being deadly serious about what they are doing. Featuring members of Qui, Retox, Dead Cross and hepa.titus. The music of Cunts fills in nicely between noiserock weirdos like the Jesus lizard, the Cows and Butthole Surfers, while not sounding like a worshipful retread of any of those things. This is very smart music in a relatively dumb genre and it’s got a 2×4 on its shoulder, not a chip.

Multicult – Simultaneity Now

Tense. Terse, nervy and insistent. Multicult is a relentless machine of precision and tenacity. There are hooks to glom on to with their proggy sojourns, it never gets indulgent, it just invites you along to the adventure.

Magpies – Terrain

Missoula’s magpies would be indie darlings if they weren’t based in Montana. Strong songs paired with mid-period sonic youth discordance allows for magpies to have free reign in a genre that few others travel in. Moody, and assured. This record has certainly flown under the radars of most. That’s a shame. It’s great.

Conan Neutron’s Top Records of 2018

Conan Neutron’s top records of 2018:
1. Tropical Fuck Storm – a Laughing Death in Meatspace (TFS Band)
2. Lung – All the Kings Horses 
3. sewingneedle – User Error
4. Screaming Females– All at Once 
5. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
6. Body Futures– Maybe It’s Just the Weather 
7. Poster Children – Grand Bargain
8. Christian Fitness – Nuance the Musical 
9. Haunted Heads – Everything We Agreed About 
10. TONGUE PARTY – Looking for a Painful Death

Honorable Mentions: 
BLAHA– Survival Climb
The God Eaters – Fading Horizons
Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
WORK – Strictly Cruis’n
Mister Dude – Party Tape
The Messthetics – s/t
Dale Crover – Fickle Finger of Fate
(the) Melvins – Pinkus Abortion Technician 
Lung – Bottom of the Barrel 
The Hand – When All Of The Shit Hits All Of The Fans (The Hand Vol. 3 & 4)

I listened to a LOT of records over the year, but these were the ones that that I listened to the most. And at some point, you have to just let the train leave the station.
I’ll put the links below

I’m sure I missed a few, that’s fine. The point is: there’s a ton of amazing music out there. Go listen to it! And I guess, like the show’s FB page if you support this kind of deep dive. 
Note: this is slightly different from the best of 2018 show, which was a team effort and will be a different post

1. Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meat Space
Absolutely powerful stuff. Great songs with incredible left turns. Moody, claustrophobic and staggeringly self aware, like a sentient computer raised on Bill Hicks comedy specials, Howard Zinn, Black MIrror and Twin Peaks. I heard this blind, knowing nothing of any other or previous bands and loved it. Maybe you will too? It’s a hell of a ride. Possible record of the year.
RIYL: the pAperchAse, Dead Rider, Leonard Cohen, the Knife

2. Lung – All the King’s Horses
LUNG are back with a new album. You’ll never believe that a band with just Cello, vocals and drums can sound so full. Propulsive, Heavy, tuneful and thoughtful. Incredible lyrics, powerful arrangements and songs that stick with you for long after you stop listening. 

The only problem is they have a very unique sound, which isn’t always rewarded. I need you to trust me when I say that this is WELL worth your time and one of the best records of 2018. 

Bonus: a timely David Bowie cover.

3. sewingneedle – user error
Remarkably acrobatic musicianship paired with gorgeous harmonies. Musically, sewingneedle can hold their own with the fiercest noise rock band, yet there is melody and harmony. What madness is this? Great songs, great repeated listenability. 

RIYL: jawbox, slint, Polvo, Chavez, Shudder to Think, Shiner.
https://sewingneedle.bandcamp.com/album/user-error

4. Screaming FemalesAll At Once
Probably the best Screaming Females record yet… totally rips. A consistently great and hard working live band delivers their go-to record on record, what. 7? Not counting the live one. Incredible. These’s an adventure rock song on here and a song that legit sounds like it could be played as a prom. (I mean that as a compliment.)
As an aside, this is one of the records on my list that was probably most widely heard, yet wasn’t on that many lists. That’s really dumb. It’s great!
RIYL: Dinosaur Jr. Pixies, Silkworm
https://screamingfemales.bandcamp.com/album/all-at-once

5. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
Hello! Do you live under a rock? Yes? Ok! This is the long awaited 4th record by the formerly dead, now living rock quartet HOT SNAKES. It’s fueled by the riffs of John Reis and the vocals of Rick Froberg. A certain magic happens with these two powerhouses together. The music is an inheritor of bands like the Wipers and Crime, while bringing some of the academic polyrhythms/punk-prog of Drive Like Jehu too. It’s exactly what the Doctor ordered.
https://hotsnakes.bandcamp.com/album/jericho-sirens

6. Body Futures – Maybe it’s Just the Weather
B-52s and Shudder To Think superhero team-up, Dismemberment Plan covering the New Pornographers. Whatever! Body Futures play music as unique as their name, it’s catchy it’s angular and it’s absolutely vital. Let’s get down to it boppers. 
https://bodyfutures.bandcamp.com/…/maybe-its-just-the…

7. Poster Children – Grand Bargain
First Poster Children album in years and it’s an absolute corker! Intelligent lyrics, catchy riffs, hooks for days and frantic energy are all on deck. Music for the modern revolution. RIYL: Buzzcocks, Sonic Youth, Talking Heads, Husker Du
https://store.posterchildren.com/album/grand-bargain

https://store.posterchildren.com/album/grand-bargain

8. christian fitness – nuance: the musical 
Nuance makes heavy use of strings and adult arrangements? (not pornography, you understand.). There aren’t any “candle in the wind” style ballads, or any regrettable ska numbers, but after 3 rock-solid, rockers certain to please fans of mclusky and fotl. This one is different, denser, & a little more challenging. Delivered with a smirk of sardonicism and a twinge of dystopian theatrical heights. There’s a lot here, but it keeps me coming back to listen regularly. Fantastic album.
https://christianfitness.bandcamp.com/…/nuance-the-musical

9. Haunted Heads – Everything We Agreed About
Unforgettable hooks, raucous riffs and superior songwriting. In a different time Haunted Heads would be the darlings of the indie rock world. RIYL: Built to Spill (at their least jammy!), Sebadoh (at their most stable) and the Thermals. 
https://hauntedheads.bandcamp.com/…/everything-we…

10. TONGUE PARTY – Looking for a Painful Death
Minneapolis purveyors of the heavy come through with their best effort to date! Bringing forth the boundless energy of KARP along with a mid-period AmRep sensibility, Tongue Party’s brand of relentless touring and hard work has resulted in their most badass and immediate record yet. Learning Curve Records
https://tongueparty.bandcamp.com/…/looking-for-a…

HONORABLE MENTIONS!

HONORABLE MENTION 1: BLAHA – Survival Climb
Mike Blaha of the Blind Shake has a hell ass rock quarter, this is their most raucous to date and it’s sure to please those that like their rock both wiry and engaged. Worthy of a listen to anybody interested in the cross roads of post-punk and garage rock. 
https://nocoastrecordings.bandcamp.com/…/blaha-survival…

HONORABLE MENTION 2: The God Eaters – Fading Horizons
the pride of Marquette Michigan come out with another ep of noise rocky solid rippers! Ferocious, Precocious and that’s my prognosis. RIYL: Minutemen, Vaz, The Big Boys
https://thegodeaters.bandcamp.com/album/fading-horizons

HONORABLE MENTION 3: Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
A fascinating band! Sometimes hardcore, sometimes a bit more noiserock… strong songs and a powerful lady singer. A band to watch!

HONORABLE MENTION 4: WORK – Strictly Cruis’n
WORK are back, w/a tight new slab of some serious rock ‘n roll. (Well, not so serious if you consider the song titles… ) nevertheless, wry wordplay, clever songwriting & an intent to bring the damage w/ rock solid rhythms and hooky leads are on deck. Fans of the Minutemen, Spoon at their brattiest & loudest, Obits, & early ZZ Top can get stoked. This is ROCK music (ROCK, all caps, just like the band name WORK.) coming from a punk place. It’s well worth your time. Gotta gotta get to the show!
https://workmke.bandcamp.com/album/strictly-cruisn

HONORABLE MENTION #5: Mister Dude – Party Tape
WHAM! Mister Dude upside yo’ face. Deep feeling good about bad time jams, with some heavy Octave radness from two of the fellas from Police Teeth. The rock pedigree of SEMINARS, USS Horsewhip, etc. is as notable as the music itself. It’s a fun listen and a damn good ride. Party Tape indeed.
https://misterdude.bandcamp.com/album/party-tape

HONORABLE MENTION #6: The Messthetics – s/t
Killer instrumental goodness with one of the best rhythm sections of all time, Joe Lally and Brendan Canty of fugazi. Guitarist Anthony Pirog may not have the same level of punk rock notoriety, but he more than makes up for it with a level of acrobatic guitar exploration that rivals some of the greats. A great starting position for a worthy and notable new band. RIYL: Nels Cline Singers

HONORABLE MENTION #7: Dale Crover – The Fickle Finger of Fate
He’s not just half of the core of the Mighty Melvins, he’s not just the drum genius who makes things happen with me in Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends, he’s a talented songwriter, guitar player and singer and this is totally and completely worth your time! Cool songs, a little more classic rock than you might expect and worth a listen. Check it out, chocky. Awesome, vibe-y record with hidden hooks. 
https://melvinsofficial.bandcamp.com/…/the-fickle…

HONORABLE MENTION #8: (the) Melvins – Pinkus Abortion Technician. 
Mo’ Melvins! Long may they run, some fun covers and Don’t Forget to Breathe is one of my favorite Melvins songs in years.
https://melvinsofficial.bandcamp.com/…/pinkus-abortion…

HONORABLE MENTION #9: Lung – Bottom of the Barrel
What? Lung again? Yup.
Frenzied and furious Cello, Vocals and Drums badassery. Absolute earworms that comes at you from an aggressive punk/post-punk place but has an incredible sense of melody, hooks and purpose. This is legit plus stuff and I can’t think of a single band they really sound like. Just get it.
it’s technically 2017, but on the 2018 list for a technicality. Whatever! it’s still a great record. 

HONORABLE MENTION #10: The Hand – When All Of The Shit Hits All Of The Fans (The Hand Vol. 3 & 4)
Mysterious, elusive and irresistible, the HAND has done more than any band since the Residents in putting together a band image that forces you to judge them on the merits of the music. It’s quite the feat! However, I will say that this is zak sally, karl tebeest, and dale flattum. Zak played in Low and Enemymine, and Dale played in Steel Pole Bathtub, Milk Cult and Novex. Anyway, that’s a lot of front loading, this is raucous and hooky noiserock that can simultaneously evoke the Birthday Party, the Velvet Underground, the Melvins 

The HAND pull off a very special thing, by making all of their releases very limited edition and HYPER unique, hand made and limited edition. It’s easy to tell that multiple members of the band come from the world of comics, because this is a world to be invited into. 
https://the-hand.bandcamp.com/…/when-all-of-the-shit…

https://gougeawayfl.bandcamp.com/