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Operation Manatee Music Prize 2019: The Long List


Bwah Bwah Bwah Bwaaaaah!

It’s finally here! The only best album list that truly matters. The Operation Manatee Music Prize Long List.

This was the longest, most involved long list I’ve done. There were 170 albums to choose from. Only 103 made the cut. These are below. The Top 5 albums of 2019 will be posted soon.

Some rules to make it to this list:

  • Must be sonically interesting
  • No singles except full album-length/concept tracks; can be EPs
  • No compilations
  • No reissues

Little People – LANDLOPER (01/11/2019)

LANDLOPER is one of those super impressive DJ/producer albums. Even though it’s in danger of being overdone, though, there are still a handful of artists doing it at a level that surpasses their peers. The glitchy hip-hop beats, the interesting instrumentation, endless groove, and top-notch vocals interspersed by Rahel make this an easy repeat listen.

MonoNeon – My Feelings Be Peeling (01/12/2019)

This guy’s crazy! Back with yet another full-length release, MonoNeon keeps bringing the lo-fi funky weirdness. Clearly a student of the Bootsy Collins / P-funk school, nothing is off limits in the funk: love songs (She Was Round & Brown), salty snacks (Hot Cheetos), and… you know… the basics (Fart When You Pee).

Royal Canoe – Waver (01/25/2019)

Royal Canoe has such a cool sound. Waver is a bit more refined than their earlier work (as one might expect). For my taste, synthy pop rock is a dangerous area to be in, as there’s so much of it out there – it’s hard to be original and interesting. Yet, somehow, Royal Canoe keeps getting it done. This album is cool cool cool!

Kaada – ZombieLars Soundtrack (01/25/2019)

Kaada’s music is just gorgeous! This soundtrack may have been developed/produced/recorded around the same time as his 2018 album Closing Statements, as it has some similar elements (arpeggiating synthesizers and drum machines), but it’s also a little more urgent sounding. While some tracks have Kaada’s signature lyrical/melodic composition style, as a whole, the album plays better as background music than his solo artist work.

Kid Koala – Music To Draw To: Io (01/25/2019)

Kid Koala’s artistic endeavors have been varied and particularly ambitious of late. The second in his ambient, synth-laden Music To Draw To series, IO continues down this mellow but exciting musical path, featuring guest vocalists and memorable songs. It’s not every day a master of an instrument decides to start releasing a large amount of material showing such depth in a totally different side of music! Listen to this album late at night, on headphones. Don’t just put it on and resume tasks – really listen. The journey is its own reward.

Mayra Andrade – Manga (02/08/2019)

Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade’s new album, at times, feels like a dancing on a light breeze. At others, more like dancing in a Portuguese club. The use of modern electronic elements is relatively conservative here, giving the piano, percussion, strings, and vocal harmonies room to breathe, which is a welcome change from most of what people are doing these days. Really nice stuff!

Hauschka – A Different Forest (02/08/2019)

Hauschka’s music is haunting and beautiful, as always, on his latest release. Featuring just him on piano, the album has a bit more of a personal feel to it than some of his electronic-infused stuff. The whole thing feels like it could be a soundtrack to a beautiful German indie film set in a small town by a forest. The story is up to you.

Theon Cross – Fyah (02/15/2019)

It’s a badass, funky, fun album lead by a tubist and featuring plenty of saxophone! Of course it’s making my best album list!

The Cat Empire – Stolen Diamonds (02/15/2019)

For their eighth album, The Cat Empire make it sound easy. Their brand of Latin jazz meets ska meets funk just sounds tighter than ever before. This album makes me smile!

Dominique Fils-Aimé – Stay Tuned (02/22/2019)

Looping and vocal effects are hardly a new thing, but Dominique Fils-Aimé somehow makes it sound exciting again. This mix of percussion-heavy neo-soul with its layers and layers of voice make this a continually interesting listen.

Teeth Of The Sea – WRAITH (02/22/2019)

This cool collection of synth rock, lush ambient stuff, experimental dancey stuff, and healthy dose of jazz trumpet for good measure goes a long way with me. At times, it’s exciting. At others, noisy. Still others, it’s just mellow. Great album!

FET.NAT – Le Mal (02/25/2019)

Bizarre and fun! I love things that don’t sound like things I’ve already heard and are actually good and listenable. This insane mix of experimental electro funk noise something is something I’d recommend to anyone who gets bored with mainstream music.

Hozier – Wasteland Baby (03/01/2019)

The Take Me To Church EP was the first thing I ever spent money on, on, back in 2012 (along with 4 other albums). When that song became massive, and launched his self-titled album, two years later, I figured it would be impossible to follow up. Hozier’s no one-hit wonder, though. Wasteland, Baby! is awesome! Hozier’s soulful style and force-of-nature voice might be unstoppable – even under all that reverb ;). I went into this album cautious and was totally blown away with how good it is!

Little Simz – GREY AREA (03/01/2019)

Daaaammnn! Parts of this album are a really solid hip hop release, while parts are downright next level! Very few new releases make me want to listen on repeat, but Little Simz is making some very nice stuff.

Chelsea Wilson – Chasing Gold (03/15/2019)

Big string and harp intro leading into a ’60s/’70s funky disco lounge vibe? Oh hell yes! This recording had me hooked in the first few seconds. Great throwback to a smooth and sexy sound.

Clever Austin – Pareidolia (03/15/2019)

This unique mixture of lo-fi jazz, hip hop beats, funky bass lines, exotic samples, and lovely little percussive things reminds me of other mad scientists such as Mocky or Flying Lotus. This is a brilliantly musical recording that any musician or music lover would take pride in collecting.

Pan Amsterdam – Elevator Music, Vol. 1 (03/15/2019)

This is a wild recording! Not many jazz hip hop EPs feature Iggy Pop at a convenience store buying scratch lotto, and end with an 11-minute piece about a bobcat that apparently eats a baby. O.O

Dwight Trible – Mothership (03/15/2019)

I tend to shy away from new jazz albums that feel like a blast from the past. But good music is good music, and when it’s this good, I can’t help but listen! It’s one thing that this features a current who’s-who list of players (Hi Kamasi Washington), but you put Trible’s style and depth on it and it feels just as exciting as listening to a new Pharoah Sanders or Coltrane album – in 2019! Damn!

The Faint – Egowerk (03/15/2019)

Five years we’ve been waiting for a new The Faint album! The anticipation was so much I plainly didn’t notice this release until the end of December. Glad I did though. While they’ve always been a synth-heavy rock band, this album feels like their synthiest yet. While that’s all en vogue now, I’m glad to say that even though their sound has progressed and changed to maybe more of a “retro” sound, The Faint still sounds original. This album has some very cool music!

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Ancestral Recall (03/22/2019)

This is a badass recording! Featuring lots of polyrhythmic percussion, guest vocals from Saul Williams, and wild jazz exploration from the man, himself, it’s a nice leap forward in his catalogue of already boundary-pushing music.

Ibibio Sound Machine – Doko Mien (03/22/2019)

Oh hell yes! The new Ibibio Sound Machine album is on fire! It’s funky, disco-dancey, full of analog synth sounds, tight horns, and polyrhthmic percussion. The songs are catchy, fun, and just really, really good. This is one of my most listened-to releases of the year.

Apparat – LP5 (03/22/2019)

German producer Apparat’s new album is very impressive stuff. I kept it on repeat for a solid 2-3 weeks when it came out (a big deal for me – look at the size of this list). It’s highly musical, containing a beautiful mixture of electronic elements, wind instruments and acoustic instruments, vocal harmonies, etc. The whole thing has a sardonic element that draws you in and keeps you close. Love it!

Luke Abbott – Music From The Edge Of An Island (03/29/2019)

Beautiful soundscapes, mezmerizing rhythms, gorgeous colours, delightful melodies… Music From The Edge Of An Island feels like a fantastic adventure into an enchanted other world!

Kolida Babo (04/05/2019)

This is a really interesting and creative mixture of modern experimentalism and traditional Eastern sounds. Two woodwind players plus some Moogy texture goodness make this a really cool release worth multiple listens.

PUP – Morbid Stuff (04/05/2019)

Every time PUP releases something, the entire country talks about it. And rightly so. When someone asks them what kind of music they play, I really hope they don’t just say “pop/punk”, as, while true, it doesn’t do justice to how good this band really is. Using their brand of excellent “pop/punk”, they deliver songs that are not just good and memorable, but the song content and lyrics really take them to the next level! Listen to the lyrics. This album was absolutely my go-to summer jam!

Lars Lucy 8legions (04/07/2019)

This is one of the best debut recordings I’ve ever heard! This incredibly fun combo of computer-controlled acoustic instruments and synthesizers mixed with vocaloid, anime samples, and saxophone blows my mind! I stumbled upon Lars Lucy 8legions on Instagram, where he has a handful of videos, and was stoked to see he made an album!

Anderson .Paak – Ventura (04/12/2019)

What is even happening here? How does an artist keep releasing better and better albums? Isn’t everyone supposed to come in strong, then drop off the face of the Earth? While still co-executive produced by Dre, it sounds like .Paak had a lot more creative input to the production. This album is chock full of soul, live instrumentation – including strings, guest vocals by the likes of Smokey Robinson, André 3000, Nate Dogg, Brandy… Holy hell! This is an awesome release!

Cool Explosions (04/14/2019)

Cool Explosions took me totally by surprise with this release. I think the band name is all I had to go on when I first listened to this EP – I don’t think I expected much, to be honest. So happy to be surprised with how good this is! The synthy vibe, the quality, the vocals – yeah! It’s gotten frequent repeated play in my list.

Disasterpeace – Under The Silver Lake (04/19/2019)

This highly imaginative orchestral recording from acclaimed video game composer Disasterpeace is exciting, original, full of beautiful colours, and completely engulfs my attention. It is so cool!

Claude Fontaine (04/26/2019)

In a world oversaturated with synth-based, male-lead rock pop, Claude Fontaine comes as a breath of fresh air. The A side features a collection of just excellent lo-fi reggae tracks, while the B side offers best-in-class bossa nova. Lead by Fontaine’s understated, breathy vocals, this is such a great listen!

Kelly Finnigan – The Tales People Tell (04/26/2019)

Ever heard of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings? How about St. Paul & The Broken Bones? Kelly Finnigan is another voice in the neo-soul movement to pay close attention to. No, really. Not everything that meets this description is noteworthy, but this is a really good recording that you should listen to!

Amon Tobin – Fear In A Handful Of Dust (04/26/2019)

This album is so cool! As Amon Tobin’s sound and experience grow over the years, it’s always exciting to hear what he comes up with next. This album pulls you in and all the way down – immersing you in an ocean of sonic exploration. Okay, that’s my douchey way of saying this is a highly imaginative and lush-sounding recording. Go listen to it!

The Natural Yogurt Band – Braille, Slate & Stylus (05/03/2019)

This album is so cool! It’s partly a throwback to synth-filled fusion days, partly loungesque, partly rock jam, and ultra psychedelic. Time to call some pals, get out the bong you purchased in your early ’20s, turn the lights down and take a nice little stroll into outer space.

Donovan Woods – The Other Way (05/03/2019)

Releasing an acoustic version of your own folk album, a year after its release is a bold move – one that runs the risk of being completely missed or overshadowed by the original. For some reason, though, The Other Way is really incredible. This stripped-down, soulful release contains all the same songs as Both Ways, but they feel more personal, and they sound more intimate. This is a really good recording, either as an intro to Woods or as another title in the collection. Lovely stuff!

SAULT – 5 (05/05/2019)

This album is a whole lot of fun! There’s some funk/soul stuff, some catchy lyrics, some tender stuff, some experimental stuff, so lo-fi grooves… Yeah! This is a great listen!

Laneous – Monstera Deliciosa (05/10/2019)

I love recordings that I have no idea how to classify! This is lounge. This is R&B. This is pop. This is a Mike Patton fan! There is such an enjoyable mixture of excellent sounds going on here! The instrumentation is basically just a rock band plus vibraphone, but the arrangements and vocal harmonies make this way more than a simple rock band.

Haviah Mighty – 13th Floor (05/10/2019)

This album is incredible! It’s relentless, technically impressive, emotional, beautiful, ugly, dirty, super tight… fuck! This album is fucking incredible!

BCUC – The Healing (05/10/2019)

This funky, jammy, organized chaos is as much an Afrobeat jam as it is a spiritual journey. The tracks are simple – some percussion, electric bass, and a solo performer (sometimes a singer, sometimes Saul Williams, sometimes Femi Kuti), yet absolutely full of energy!

Tengger Cavalry – Northern Memory (Vol. 1) (05/10/2019)

This is easily my favourite Mongolian folk metal album of the year! Tennger Cavalry is back with their sharpest release yet. Sadly, it may prove to be the last, as the group’s founding member and sole creative force, Nature G, died just a month after its release.

Tengger Cavalry – Northern Memory (Vol. 2) (05/10/2019)

This is easily my second favourite Mongolian folk metal album of the year!

Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY! (05/10/2019)

There’s a lot of good music coming out on the Jagjaguwar label these days! Add Jamila Woods to the list. Lush synths, R&B / hip hop mentality, unique style, catchy tunes all make this a great release! The sound is fresh, but it’s got a definite nod to ’90s R&B that I really dig. Give it a listen – you’ll hear what I mean.

Rich Aucoin – Release (05/17/2019)

It took me a few listens to get into this album. Rich Aucoin is someone whom I support and have enjoyed on kind of a surface-level (saw him live – impossible not to enjoy), but never got into the music til now. I regret it now. Release is fun, deep, highly musical, and just great!

Josephine Wiggs – We Fall (05/17/2019)

No stranger to the music world, Josephine Wiggs’ new solo recording makes me want to listen over and over again. This pensive collection of slow-tempo/ambient acoustic/electric recordings is haunting and lovely! The composition is so nice, and the delivery feels like it’s being performed in a small church or large living room. It’s up close and personal, while floating around the room on guitar harmonies and cello strings.

Brad Mehldau – Finding Gabriel (05/17/2019)

Brad Mehldau’s latest is intense and perhaps surprising. Yeah, it’s jazz – where pretty much anything goes – but I’m not sure all jazz-heads would care for this release. Then again, there are some very rock elements to this album – and I know many rockers wouldn’t go for this. This plays more like a modern pop recording than anything though. I would recommend this to anyone into hip music, looking for a bit more of a jazz and classical influence. This is a very cool recording!

Skinny Pelembe – Dreaming Is Dead Now (05/24/2019)

At times, quietly pondering; at times, funkily dancing. Always a little psychedelic and weird. Dreaming Is Dead Now is a super cool release! This is a recording you’d put on when friends come over, to show them just how hip you are into the Johannesburg-meets-UK indie scene. 😉

Black Mountain – Destroyer (05/24/2019)

Black Mountain always deserves a spot in this list. Most of what impresses me in new music is boldness to do something different – and while I generally prefer that to be people pushing into totally new territory, I can’t deny the excellence in an album like this – which feels like a late-70s psych metal release. Not to say it’s unoriginal, though. Who else is releasing music like this today? No one! That’s who.

Flying Lotus – Flamagra (05/24/2019)

It was only a few short years ago that FlyLo topped my best album list with his incredible 2014 release, You’re Dead – winning the prestigious Operation Manatee Music Prize, that year, so I went into this with expections. Flamagra sounds like a Flying Lotus album – he’s got a sound. And again the credits read like a who’s who of jazz & r&b, today, this time featuring Thundercat, Anderson Paak, George Clinton, Solange, etc., etc. Credits aside, this is a cool album: his brand of jazz/hip hop/sample madness thing-he-does is so distinctly his, and is just taken to the next level here. Switching from a cheesy midi sax on a track called “Heroes In A Half Shell” to a BAD r&b track featuring Anderson Paak, next… who else is making music this cool? Who?

six impala – RUBBER (05/26/2019)

Nice, strange, sometimes experimental, sometimes acid house, sometimes ’90s techno, sometimes ambient… with voice acted scenes throughout. This album is loads of fun, very creative and really good!

The Liquor Store – Night Drive (05/31/2019)

Super slick retro synth mixed with some excellent modern hip hop, brass band, string quartet… uh… what the hell am I listening to? This is so good!

Kishi Bashi – Omoiyari (05/31/2019)

Kishi Bashi is so much fun! This is an artist whose work I purchase without sampling. I know I’ll be getting quality. No different with this album. Each Kishi Bashi release sounds less solo, loop pedal-ased and more band-based, and that really contributes to the maturity in his sound. Couple that with his ability to playfully create stories and melodies on the weighty topics of racism and Japanese-American history, post WWII, and we’ve got a really impressive work!

Damon Locks – Black Monument Ensemble – Where Future Unfolds (05/31/2019)

Wow! Featuring little more than voice and percussion, Damon Locks – Black Monument Ensemble brings an intense presence. This album is an improvised expression somewhere between free jazz, spoken word, and sound art. Recorded live, one can only imagine the energy that must have been in the room at the time. This is a really cool project – one to which I’m going to pay much closer attention, going forward.

Brandee Younger – Soul Awakening (06/07/2019)

The opening track of this jazz harpist’s new album features Ravi Coltrane. As if visions of Alice and John aren’t streaming through my mind within the first 30 seconds! I judge jazz recordings perhaps more sharply than any others, as its the first idiom I studied seriously. With that in mind, it takes a hell of a jazz recording to turn my ear. Well Brandee, well played. This is the kind of recording that makes me still love jazz.

Ryan Porter – Force For Good (06/14/2019)

It takes a badass motherfucker to make me care about a straight jazz album in 2019. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve studied jazz more deeply than anything else, and – let’s face it – jazz peaked in the ’60s, so it’s got to be some kind of excellent to make this list. Not only does this recording feature some of today’s who’s-who (Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, et.), it’s like these guys are channelling the old greats directly. This is a killer album!

SPAZA (06/21/2019)

Experimental jams from a rolling roster of multi-instrumentalists, all working to produce something heartfelt and meaningful about their neighbourhood in Johannesburg (read up on it – it’s cool). The album is influenced by free jazz and African vocals, and has a good dose of synthesizers and effects. Really neat listen!

Quantic – Atlantic Oscillations (06/21/2019)

Quantic’s latest album release is a musical triumph! It’s fun and disco-danceable, it’s complex – beautifully mixing orchestral, electronic and acoustic elements, it’s original, and it’s just fucking good! Go get your groove onto some of the most interesting music produced this year!

Black Pumas (06/21/2019)

Instead of getting into that vintage sound that so many r&b groups are going for these days (thanks Daptone), Black Pumas are opting to make old school soul with a modern sound. No, that doesn’t mean they’re getting all hip-hop on us. It just means they’re making really great new music with a good nod to the old days.

Georgia Anne Muldrow – VWETO II (06/21/2019)

Between guesting on a number of noteable releases this year, Georgia Anne Muldrow managed to pull off a very cool instrumental album. It’s as much hip hop as jazz, and while it’s instrumental hip hop (which tends to fare better with an MC or two messing it up), it’s got so much to listen to, the absence of a front or solo presence just doesn’t really matter. Listen to this and viiiiibe out!

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble – Be Known Ancient​/​Future​/​Music (06/21/2019)

Here’s another group that, despite being around seemingly forever, never stops delivering! Be Known Ancient​/​Future​/​Music is for jazz heads who love that spiritual/African/worldly sound Ethnic Heritage Ensemble are so good at.

Richard Reed Parry – Quiet River Of Dust Vol.2: That Side of the River (06/21/2019)

Following up last year’s Quiet River Of Dust, Richard Reed Parry (of Arcade Fire fame) brings us Vol 2. Like the first, the music’s instrumentation, style and feel paint like watercolours. This album feels like a walk in a foggy forest or along a rocky beach or by a quick stream on a grey day. Recommended listening atmosphere: a nice earthy pu’erh tea, a lover, a fireplace, and a dog.

Thom Yorke – Anima (06/27/2019)

Thom Yorke has a high self-made bar to surpass. He’s so consistently put out incredible pop and electronic music (and for so long, now), I can’t help but compare anything new to his towering backcatalog (especially with Radiohead, of course). With that in mind, I also try to judge releases from known artists partly as a standalone thing, trying to ask myself, “If this were released by some new, indie unheard of artist, would I like it just as much? Would I treat it the same?” In this case, as Yorke’s work goes, I really have to give the upper hand to Radiohead. But this album is actually good, on its own. It’s weird, glitchy, mellow, groovy, and still a really cool listen.

Resavoir (06/28/2019)

Excellent excellent excellent psych jazz stuff. This has all the elements of an experimental jazz album, but without going out to the dark side (free jazz), it has such gorgeous melodies and textures that just make you want to listen again and again.

KOKOKO! – Fangola (07/05/2019)

Once again, music from Kinshasa (capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo) is blowing my mind! This insane mixture of sounds varies from electronic dancehall stuff to almost synth rock to something more experimental. Whatever is going on here, I love it! It’s fun, it’s unique, and just really good.

Aisha Devi – S.L.F. (07/05/2019)

Dirty, grimey, experimental synth pop stuff. I love it! I like that this EP always kind of hints at dance music, without every laying four on the floor. Couple that with the overlaying pitch black tone, drenched in BIG reverb, and you’ve got something very interesting.

Jesca Hoop – Stone Child (07/05/2019)

This album is absolutely beautiful! Hoop’s skillful, personal writing, the gorgeous vocal melodies and relatively simple instrumentation all make this a poignant and awesome recording!

fax machine – Soup (07/05/2019)

This weird but charming collection of somewhat ambient, somewhat noisey, synth-ornamented post-rock tunes is a deeper listen that it may appear. To be fair, I have no idea what the lyrics are about, but the music is so endlessly interesting!

Saul Williams – Encrypted & Vulnerable (07/18/2019)

Hip hop poet extraordinaire, recording artist, singer, producer, actor, filmmaker Saul Williams is back, and farther out there than ever with his newest album. This experimental mix of electronic noises, synth, hip hop, and samples is far out on the fringe of what might be considered hip hop. The album further explores themes from 2016’s MartyrLoserKing, and connects to that, as well as a number of other works all revolving around cyber/hacking/whatever. This guy is a mad man – and I love it!

Bon Iver – i,i (08/09/2019)

Bon Iver makes such neat music! Their sound is original, fresh, and very very good. This sounds as much like a pop album as it does a movie score. The frenetic music never settles, featuring horns, choir, guitar, drums, synths, piano, and a plethora of other elements at any given moment. Top that with contributions by James Blake, Moses Sumney, and dozens of others, and you’ve got an incredible album!

Jadu Heart – Melt Away (08/16/2019)

This album’s got a nice feel to it. True, it sounds like a lot of stuff being produced these days: guitar, synth, drum machines; but not everyone sounds this nice, given the same formula. The production is lovely, and the layers of reverb give it that psych feel that I like, but the melancholy vocal style and quality that soars above it all, coupled with little surprises like sudden clean, unaffected sounds, really makes me want to listen again.

Baby Rose – To Myself (08/22/2019)

This album is, frankly, a lot better than I expected from a new artist who goes by “Baby Rose”. Yeah, it’s R&B, but it’s got this psychedlic, reverb-soaked, extra-slow, but still personal, with vocal harmonies vibe that makes it surprising. Baby Rose’s voice is unique, and the music is really good. What can I say? Happily surprised.

Fernando Falcão – Barracas Barrocas (08/23/2019)

Beautiful orchestral music – sometimes leaning toward jazz, sometimes contemporary orchestral or film-like. This is a gorgeous work of art!

OBUXUM – Re-Birth (08/23/2019)

Really really cool music from Toronto producer OBUXUM! There’s hip hop at the core, but this album is eclectic, original, cool, interesting, weird, and hardley contains the fuck-you attitude it’s trying to convey in the almost entirely instrumental tracks.

MonoNeon – Living The Best And Worst Life At The Same Damn Time! (09/04/2019)

As if one album a year is enough for MonoNeon! When you’re this neon, you need to unleash all the weird and funky shit you can come up with, all the damn time! I love the DIY/FU spirit of MonoNeon. Don’t forget to masturbate your problems away.

Guaxe (09/06/2019)

Mellow psych folk rock to make you feel good and pretend you’re a hippy.

Billy Woods – History Will Absolve Me (09/06/2019)

Originally released in 2012, this is a hell of a recording. Featuring a photo of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and named after Fidel Castro’s infamous quote, you kind of get an idea of the type of cutting, relentless content within. The content is coupled with unusual production and packed full of samples of racist movie quotes. Even though this is a re-release – including some new content, it deserves a spot on this list, because holy hell!

Begonia – Fear (09/13/2019)

Awesome, soulful stuff from Winnipeg’s new powerhouse, Begonia. This album is super cool! Begonia’s voice propels this collection of expertly-produced, partly fun, partly meaningful, excellent pop songs into the atmosphere and back.

Husky Loops – I Can’t Even Speak English (09/13/2019)

This album hits hard, and just keeps punching! If all pop music was this good, I’d start listening to radio (outside of CJTR) again. This badass collection of sample-heavy rockish tunes should have your [whatever kids are driving these days] bumping with music that’s actually good!

Brittany Howard – Jaime (09/20/2019)

Oh hell yes! This soulful, personal collection of very cool, laid-back alt rock songs is exactly what we need in 2019! Brittany Howard’s songwriting and musical sensibility, coupled with a killer band is reminiscent of Prince at times, Smokey Robinson at others. I hiiiighly recommend you give this a listen!

The Jump Off – CONCRETE (09/22/2019)

Super high-energy post-punk synth rock somethingorother, sort of in the vein of Fucked Up. There isn’t a lot of music that fits this description that I would spend money on in 2019 (a lot of it sucks, be real), but this was an easy purchase. It’s so f’n good!

SAULT – 7 (09/27/2019)

What’s better than releasing a cool, experimental funky soul album? Releasing two in a year! 7 is just a cool, just as funky, and just as fun! Bang this out in your car, pump it while cooking, play it while racing some Mario Kart – whatever. Just play it!

Car Bomb – Mordial (09/27/2019)

There aren’t many bands pushing the envelope of mainstream metal. Honestly, it might be harder for me to put a metal album on this list than any other genre. That’s because it mostly sounds like stuff I’ve already heard. So few try to move the music into new ground (for fear of not being metal enough maybe?). Not the case here. This is unmistakably metal, but also uniquely Car Bomb. This album is full of tricky riffs, awesome guitar playing and effects, and just the right ratio of rage and harmony. Fuck yeah!

Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury (09/27/2019)

Sturgill Simpson is the hero rock music needs! Musically, this album continues to push into his own realm of synth-infused, country-tinged pysch rock – featuring songs that are sometimes unsettling (Remember To Breathe), sometimes fun (Sing Along), and sometimes nice and jammy (Fastest Horse In Town). The album, alone, is ultra cool, and top caliber, but if Simpson wasn’t already carving enough of his own path with just the music, a surprising element pushes it way out of reach from other releases: an accompaning animated feature written and produced by Simpson and Junpei Mizusaki! Holy $#&@!

Cheick Tidiane Seck – Timbuktu – The Music of Randy Weston (10/06/2019)

Of any musical idiom, jazz is one of the hardest in which to impress me. Like rock, it’s pretty much all been done before, and almost definitely been done better, so I kind of can’t help going in with a ‘Meh. Show me whatchu got, I guess.’ Attitude. Probably not the most open mind, but man is it ever satisfying when you hear something like this. It’s not like it’s breaking new sonic ground. It’s just so f’n good!

Upperground Orchestra – Euganea (10/07/2019)

Head down Free Jazz Ln. Take a left at Synthsizer Rd. Go around in circles on Experimental Electronics Cr. At some point on your 3rd circuit, you’ll find Upperground Orchestra’s latest release.

Sarah Pagé – Dose Curves (10/11/2019)

Experimental, Arabic-infused jazz from one of its leading modern exponents. Yazz Ahmed’s latest release is a colourful and absolutely awesome exploration into this world! I personally wish there was more music like this in the world – then again, maybe that would make a recording like this less special. Either way, give this a listen, then another, then another!

Jaimie Branch – FLY or DIE II: bird dogs of paradise (10/11/2019)

Is progressive jazz a genre? It should be. This album is like listening to Charles Mingus, if he were just coming up today. The improvisational flow, mixed with the power and pointedness of the content (ie, tracks like “prayer for amerikkka pt. 1 & 2”) make this a far-out, great recording.

The Dead South – Sugar & Joy (10/11/2019)

The bigger this band gets, the more proud of them I am! Extra points for the home team, man! They don’t get a gimme pass though (I’ve left locals off of this list, this year). The Dead South are super tight, super fun, and deserve the accolades they get. This new release sounds has got some rippin-fast plucking, some dark and moody stuff, vocal harmonies all over – hell! What’s not to like?

The Gritness Acoustronics – Mahakali – The Music of Don Cherry (10/13/2019)

My advice: go to your local cannabis store. Get the really good shit. Turn the lights off. Light some candles, incense, whatever. When you’re feeling it, turn this album up to 11 and go crazy! This omage is super bad, and wildly cool!

Floating Points – Crush (10/18/2019)

Crush is kind of amazing! This highly creative album has so much going on, a lesser artist would just muddy up the same ingredients and release a fumble. Floating Points, on the other hand, somehow makes it all… err… float. Listen to this on headphones in the dark, then listen again full volume on the home stereo (do people still have those?). It’s so good!

Blacker Face – Distinctive Juju (10/18/2019)

Punk jazz has progressed and made an exciting stride with Blacker Face’s Distinctive Juju. This recording is abrasive, fun, and grimey, but also poignant, thoughtful, and complex. Recommended to anyone who wants to shake things up and challenge the status quo.

Circuit Kisser – Faking The Moon Landing (10/19/2019)

Circuit Kisser has clearly listened to some Weather Report in their lives. This synth-based jazz fusion EP is something I’d expect to have come out in 1985. Maybe that’s not fair though. I don’t quite feel like I’ve found the long-lost David Sanborn synth sessions – instead, it’s something interesting and new built with the same materials Herbie Hancock was using back in the day. I’d recommend this to any jazz heads and synth geeks alike.

Rich Ruth – Calming Signals (10/24/2019)

Sorry to stereotype, but when I think of new music coming out of Nashville, Tennessee, I think of something far from Rich Ruth’s ambient, mellow, synth- and sax-laden introspectives. But here we are. This album has a nice mixture of stucture and jam for me.

Little Scream – Speed Queen (10/25/2019)

There is so much good music in Canada these days. It makes me happy to hear an album like this. It’s hard to make music in the “indie rock” vein and actually be good, original, exciting – but that’s exactly what Little Scream is doing. This is a really good release! Good songwriting, good production, interesting instrumentation… yep. Great stuff!

Amon Tobin – Long Stories (10/25/2019)

Two albums in one year? That’s just how Amon Tobin rolls! Long stories is meant to compliment Fear In A Handful Of Dust – and it does. It feels like he just had too many ideas to cram into one LP, so he opted for two. This one feels more like a movie soundtrack to me – a dark, lush, excellent soundtrack!

Anamanaguchi – [USA] (10/25/2019)

Anamanaguchi is back – this time, “[USA] is the first Anamanaguchi album deliberately set in the real world.” Says the band. Not sure if this means they’re grown up, but their sound has. This album is heaps of fun for fans and the uninitiated, alike. Great chiptuney pop stuff!

Midland – The Alchemy of Circumstance (10/30/2019)

Fun, short electro EP featuring tons of modular synth-sounding blips and boops. Worth more than a cursory listen though. It’s lots of fun!

Sudan Archives – Athena (11/01/2019)

Sudan Archives is a badass doing cool original stuff! The cover of her first full-length album features a photo of a nude statue of herself. That should give you an idea of how bold this recording is. The music is highly creative, beautiful, and big – full of her incredible self-taught violin work, with some hip hoppish beats and a touch of experimental weirdness. Fuck! This is good stuff!

Free The Robots – Datu (11/07/2019)

Excellent instrumental hip hop / trip hop DJ/producer stuff from an artist exploring and expressing the depths of his Philippines heritage.

Machweo – Fire And Sea (11/08/2019)

Between minimal beats, an array of field recordings takes the fore, then gives way to simple melodic ideas, and ebbs and flows. I like that this album is both an easy background listen as well as something I can listen to over and over, and keep finding new elements!

Jamael Dean – Black Space Tapes (11/08/2019)

Another young jazzer drawing inspiration from the wild and spiritual side of post-bop jazz stuff, Jamael Dean is already working with some of the who’s who in the LA scene. This EP shows signs of Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane and makes me think Dean is going to be someone to watch out for in the coming years.

Ecker & Meulyzer – Carbon (11/18/2019)

Super interesting soundscapes, field recordings and experimental noises give way to ambient melodies and tricky beats in this very intriguing recording from the Berlin-based duo.

Junius Paul – Ism (11/22/2019)

Very very groovy stuff! Yet again, I am taken aback by a new jazz recording! Also, while not overly surprising – Chicago’s new music scene is ON FIRE! Junius Paul’s new album is experimental, psychedelic, cool-as-hell, jammy and so freaking good, featuring some neat experimental stuff in between jams. Ice cold stuff mixed with nice organic musicianship.

Stormzy – Heavy Is The Head (12/13/2019)

Damn, Stormzy! This is a hard-hitting, yet emotional, grimey-as-hell, tender-when-it-needs-to-be hip hop release. It reminds me of a harder Loyle Carner (maybe it’s just the accent). Lots of music sounds like this, these days, on the surface: beats with too much high-hat, samples, R&B influence – with rap on top. Unfortunately, that means it takes a lot of sifting through mediocrity to get to an album like this: something that uses the same elements as every other jerk out there, yet produces something that draws you in, makes you turn it up, makes you bounce in your chair while at work or driving, and maybe most importantly, makes you excited to listen again.

Anything missing from this list? Let me know in the comments below. 😉

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