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Operation Manatee Music Prize: Top 5 Albums of 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, the top 5 albums of 2019!


Lars Lucy 8legions (04/07/2019)

This stuff is ingenious! I started following Lars Lucy 8legions on Instagram a couple years back because it looked like he was doing some neat computer-controlled acoustic and electric instruments. Then I learned he also plays saxophone (bonus point), so I started paying closer attention. Before I knew it, he had a brand new album up on Bandcamp!

Sonically, alone, Lars Lucy 8legions is original enough to be noticed – the crazy, arpeggiated, lumpy basslines, the use of vocaloid, anime samples, synths/keys, and he’s no slouch on the sax… there’s a lot of cool, unique stuff going on here! But once you couple that with how he’s achieving this sound – by meticulously programming MIDI to machines which are physically “playing” the instruments – giving a surprisingly warm touch to his laid-back-yet-hectic mechanical beats and style – you’ve got an excellent, interesting, engaging work worth repeated listens!


Sudan Archives – Athena (11/01/2019)

There’s a raw, honest excellence in Sudan Archives’ music. She’s young and self-taught, but she’s no slouch. In fact, she’s made the OpMan Long List for the past 3 years! Back in 2017, I wrote, ‘I don’t know much about Sudan Archives, but I anticipate many more good things.’ Thanks for delivering, Sudan Archives!

Athena is a big leap in the right direction! Some of these tracks are good, jammy fun (Glorious), while others are absolutely beautiful, pulling you right into every evolving sound (Down On Me) and pulling you way, way down into the melody. The production is somewhere between a few big umbrella terms: “hip hop”, “electronic music”, “classical”, “R&B”, but way more than any or all. What’s really happening here is incredible, emotive, original, awesome music! Just excellent stuff!


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

Like so many artists I heard over the course of 2019, I’d never encountered Ibibio Sound Machine before. Fewer than 2 minutes into the first track, though, I heard sequenced synths, funk, Afrobeat, two different languages… I knew I’d stumbled upon something interesting.

Over the course of the summer and rest of the year, this was on heavy rotation for me! You know when an album/song comes on and you get excited about it each time it comes on? That’s rarer and rarer, nowadays, with so much music readily available, so I feel like that makes it all the more important when it does happen.

Doko Mien is beautifully delivered, ultra cool, makes me dance and smile. Good music just makes me happy!


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

Sound & Fury is something else! Cool synth-and-guitar-driven country-flavoured psych rock tunes in a style somewhere between Shooter Jennings, Merle Haggard, and… space?

You get the feeling, listening to this album, that you’re ripping down a lost highway in your restored and upgraded-to-run-on-bio-fuel-because-the-dystopian-near-future-world-has-run-scarce-of-crude-oil muscle car, with the radio blasting future country rock, your dark matter sidearm in the passenger seat, and a trunk full of enough modern weaponry to make The Terminator look like Anne of Green Gables. If you don’t make it to your destination soon, it’s all over for you – and it may be over for all of us!

But wait, this incredible sounding album doesn’t have to stand alone (although it easily could)! Simpson not only released a badass album, but an accompaning dystopian animated feature, produced and directed by himself and anime director/producer Junpei Mizusaki??? Holy hell!

Thank you, Sturgill, for making a sleazy rock album that is an actual work of fucking art!


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

Haviah Mighty’s new release is baad BAAAD ASS! In a time when everyone and their dog is releasing hip hop, I almost can’t believe there’s a new hip hop album this good! It is relentless, with track-after-track of heavily R&B-tinged boom bap bangers, fast, dirty, beautiful raps, introspective content, gorgeous modern production by Haviah and Tim “2oolman” Hill (of A Tribe Called Red)… Damn!

On the surface, this is already better than virtually every other rap album released this year (or in recent memory). But when you really listen to the content – racism, bullying, heritage, unity, sexuality – this is a bold album that just casually sits at the top, like the top was always just there, waiting for 13th Floor.

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