Whether you’re looking for suggested listening or want to compare notes, check out these Top 10 Albums lists, as well as favourite concerts and biggest musical disappointments of the year, by six music writers at Cult MTL.
Alex Cameron, Miami Memory (Secretly Canadian) BROCKHAMPTON, GINGER (Question Everything/RCA)
Young Thug, So Much Fun (Atlantic)
YBN Cordae, The Lost Boy (Atlantic)
Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride (Spring Snow)
Daniel Caesar, CASE STUDY 01 (Golden Child)
Post Malone, Hollywood’s Bleeding (Republic)
Tyla Yaweh, Heart Full of Rage (independent)
DaBaby, KIRK (Interscope)
Dreamville, Revenge of the Dreamers III (Interscope)
Biggest Disappointment: Khalid, Free Spirit
Best Show: Childish Gambino, Osheaga Festival, Aug. 4
Childish Gambino’s performance at Osheaga was the definition of “saving best for last.” His stage set-up was minimalistic and all eyes were on the shirtless Gambino prancing around in white pants. The whole performance felt like an extension of the “This Is America” music video as Gambino never took his view away from the camera that projected back to thousands in attendance. He showed off his dance moves and continued to prove that he’s a jack of all trades. The choir, Gambino’s beautiful falsetto and the summer’s heat made hearing “Redbone” live one of the most satisfying concert experiences I’ve ever witnessed.
Titus Andronicus, An Obelisk (Merge)
Swans, Leaving Meaning (Young God Records)
Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop (Rhino/Warner)
Chelsea Wolfe, Birth of Violence (Sargent House)
The Figgs, Shady Grove (Stomper)
Ramones, It’s Alive box set (Rhino/Warner)
Motörhead, 1979 box set (Sanctuary/BMG)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Ghosteen (Bad Seed Ltd)
The Kinks, Arthur or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire box set (BMG/Abkco)
The Scientists, Not For Sale: Live 1978/79 (Grown Up Wrong)
Biggest Disappointment: Katacombes closing at the end of the year.
Best Show: Titus Andronicus at l’Esco, Oct. 27
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my hardcore. metal and noise as much as the next fella but every now and again I need to hang my dunce cap on some serious songwriting that leans on tried and true pop format. Head T.A. duder Patrick Stickles’ gravelly bellow fluctuates from Joe Strummer to Mick Jones in a single breath but seems just as comfortable caterwauling over a punk slammer as it does an unrecorded Exile on Mainstreet ballad. Live is where Stickles’ sense of urgency and punk rock heft is really let loose, with even jaded and callous music hacks like moi being reduced to a puddle. Don’t be a simpleton! Grab the new rekkid.
Daniel O’Sullivan, Folly (O Genesis)
Speaker Music, of desire, longing (Planet Mu)
Caterina Barbieri, Ecstatic Computation (Editions Mego)
Chemical Brothers, No Geography (Virgin EMI/Astralwerks)
Thom Yorke, ANIMA (XL)
Underworld, Drift Series 1 (Caroline International)
Fly Pan Am, C’est ça (Constellation)
These New Puritans, Inside the Rose (Infectious)
Various Artists, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Columbia)
Various Artists, Bandcloud Presents Missives (independent)
Best Show: Hildur Gunadóttir performs Chernobyl, Telkom-Telos, Unsound Festival, Krakow, Poland, Oct. 13
Biggest Disappointment: RIP Keith Flint, Sept 17, 1969–March 4, 2019.
One of the best things that happened to me this decade was getting involved with the Krakow-based Unsound Festival. It allowed me to travel to Eastern Europe for the first time, a stone’s throw away from where my ancestors lived, just across the border in Ukraine. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster is a dark moment in an already horrifying Ukrainian national history. Chernobyl, the HBO drama, is among the few times I’ve ever heard mention in popular culture of the Ukrainian famine genocide, which starved and killed somewhere between 7 and 12 million people in the early 1930s. For me, it took a slow and somber score performed in a disused Polish factory in 2019 to finally lay these ghosts to rest.
Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Polydor)
(Sandy) Alex G, House of Sugar (Domino)
Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains (Drag City)
DaBaby, Kirk (Inters-cope/Billion Dollar Baby)
Jai Paul, Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) (XL)
Jenny Hval, The Practice of Love (Sacred Bones)
Cate Le Bon, Reward (Mexican Summer)
Ice Cream, FED UP (independent)
O Terno, <atrás/além> (Tratore)
Kim Gordon, No Home Record (Matador)
Biggest Disappointment: The realization that, for the first time, I wasn’t excited or curious about the release of a Kanye West album.
Best Show: Stereolab, Corona Theatre, Oct. 1
The Stereolab reunion tour’s stop in town was not a nostalgic affair; there were no pronouncements on the unlikelihood of their playing together that night. Instead, the band relentlessly blew through a set which, characteristically, swung from intellectual muzak to ear-splitting raucousness. Lætitia Sadier conversed with the crowd in French, but when it came time to introduce the songs just dryly declared the title, waited for four clicks of the drumsticks and caught the far-out wave of noise unleashed behind her.
Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride (Columbia/Sony)
Whitney, Forever Turned Around (Secretly Canadian)
Bad Bunny, X 100pre (Rimas)
PNL, Deux frères (QLF)
Loud, Tout ça pour ça (Joy Ride)
CFCF, Liquid Colours (BGM)
Corridor, Junior (Bonsound)
Young Thug, So Much Fun (300/Atlantic)
Bleu Jeans Bleu, Perfecto (Chalet Musique)
Weyes Blood, Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)
Best Show: Vampire Weekend, MTelus, Sept. 8
Biggest Disappointment: Mac DeMarco, Here Comes the Cowboy
I got married this year, so sue me: Vampire Weekend and Chance the Rapper dropped wedding albums in 2019 that were right in my wheelhouse. If you had asked me at the start of the decade if I thought a rapper de chez nous would be headlining the Bell Centre by the end of the 2010s, I wouldn’t have been totally shocked, but the fact that it was Loud? His progression from LLA to leading man is a testament to having a steely resolve. Here’s hoping he broke down some doors for others. Since leaving our fair city, Grimes and Mac DeMarco have admittedly achieved greater levels of worldwide fame/infamy, but at what cost? Since riding off in the cybertruck, Grimes’ music has gone a little industrial but remains interesting. Mac, on the other hand, just sounds tired.
King Princess, Cheap Queen (Zelig)
Danny Brown, uknowhatimsayin¿ (Warp)
Juice WRLD, Death Race for Love (Interscope)
Anderson .Paak, Ventura (12 Tone/Aftermath)
Nems, Gorilla Monsoon (Lyfer Gang)
Tyler, the Creator, Igor (Columbia)
JPEGMAFIA, All My Heroes Are Cornballs (EQT)
Loud, Tout Ça Pour Ça (Joyride)
Rapsody, Eve (Jamla)
Benny the Butcher, The Plugs I Met (Black Soprano)
Best Show: Tyler, the Creator, Place Bell, Sept. 11
Biggest Disappointment: Kanye West, Jesus Is King
Jesus merely crawls on this mercifully short, well-conceived but wrong-headedly executed foray into praise music from my all-around favourite artist of the 21st century, so far. “You’re my Chic-Fil-A” has gotta be one of the worst lines in the history of pop music, with any potential of being remotely quotable already well past the 24-hour-news-cycle shelf life that this project was otherwise quite audibly created to pander to. While a few joints stand and deliver (notably the Drtwrk-produced “Use This Gospel,” which not only welcomes back a reunited and in-shape Clipse, but also features Kenny G), JIK landed like a movie where you could tell they’d shown you all the most salvageable scenes in the trailer, but then did well at the box-office on opening weekend anyway. Spare us the director’s cut — and for that matter, the recently teased, Dr.Dre-connected sequel — get outta the pulpit and back in the lab, Yeezus. God has better things to do and so do you.
James Blake, Assume Form (Polydor)
The Comet Is Coming, Trust in the Lightforce of the Deep Mystery (Impulse)
Anderson .Paak, Ventura (Aftermath)
Shay Lia, Dangerous (Independent)
FKA Twigs, MAGDALENE (Young Turks)
Tuxedo, Tuxedo III (Funk on Sight)
Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO (Darkroom)
Flume, Hi, This Is Flume (Future Classic)
SiR, Chasing Summer (TDE)
Danny Brown, uknowwhatimsayin (Warp)
Best Show: Hubert Lenoir, Red Bull Music Festival, Sept. 23
Biggest Disappointment: Chance the Rapper, The Big Day (independent)
What does the term “album” even mean anymore? After a trifecta of out of the park mixtapes between 2012–2016, Chance the Rapper at long last let loose his formal debut album, The Big Day. Unfortunately, the project was also a big stinker, with the best of intentions meeting the worst execution. It’s a double-edged sword of an artist who seems happier, yet less creatively inspired than his once-melancholy past. Were there worse albums in 2019? Sure. But with Chance having grown to become one of hip hop’s most cherished musicians, the word “disappointment” does not apply more fittingly to any other project of the past year.