Yes, I realize that it’s nearly March of 2020. And yes, I realize that I have another site that’s dedicated to musical musings. But one-fourth of Leap Day really belongs to 2019, so I’m sneaking this one in today.

Below are my favorite albums of last year. Not that you asked… and you probably don’t care. But I do. Music is my happy place, and these albums took me to the mountaintop.

Please note that these are listed as my “favorites” and not the “best albums of 2019” for 2 reasons:

  1. I don’t claim to be a music guru.
  2. Music is a very personal medium – just because I love a particular album or artist doesn’t mean you will, and that’s fine.

And now let’s get back to the countdown…

The National – I Am Easy To Find

Gotta give some props to the Cincy boys (even though they didn’t really coalesce as a band until they regrouped in Brooklyn).

Ex Hex – It’s Real

A girl power power trio (no, I didn’t stutter) from D.C., these women really rock.

Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel

In this case, “D.C.” means “Dublin City” and this punk band from Ireland has a great sound.

Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock

Bob’s been around the block a few times – first with Hüsker Dü, and later Sugar, and he’s been putting out solo albums since 1989, but he hasn’t lost any speed off his fastball. Check out this sweaty, glasses-fogged solo performance of the title track.

Pernice Brothers – Share the Feeling

After a long layoff, Joe Pernice (and his brother Bob and friends) come back with another pop masterpiece. The album is tough to track down (I bought the digital version on Bandcamp) but well worth the effort.

Purple Mountains – self-titled

David Berman also returned from a long layoff with a brilliant release… sadly, he passed away shortly after the album came out.

Charly Bliss – Young Enough

This one is more poppy than most of my musical leanings, but it’s so darn good. I also saw Charly Bliss live at a small club with a tiny crowd… easily my favorite concert of 2019. This KEXP live session captures their blissful, youthful energy.

Caroline Spence – Mint Condition

Speaking of concerts at small clubs with tiny crowds… Caroline and her band played for less than 20 people (yours truly included) at a small room in the Cincy area and absolutely tore it up. Great voice, fantastic lyrics.

Bleached – Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough

Led by sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, this band can go from girl-group harmonies to all-out rockers. Well worth a listen.

Jay Som – Anak Ko

Melina Mae Duterte, the California daughter of Filipino immigrants, goes by the stage name of Jay Som. She describes her style as “headphone music” and her album is dreamy, ethereal… magical.

Black Belt Eagle Scout – At the Party With My Brown Friends

From the artist’s website:

My name is Katherine Paul and I am Black Belt Eagle Scout.   

I grew up on the Swinomish Indian Reservation in NW Washington state, learning to play piano, guitar and drums in my adolescent years. The very first form of music that I can remember experiencing was the sound of my dad singing native chants to coo me to sleep as a baby. I grew up around powwows and the songs my grandfather and grandmother sang with my family in their drum group. This is what shapes how I create music: with passion and from the heart. 

Jesse Malin – Sunset Kids

Jesse Malin is one of my favorite under-the-radar artists. Sadly, he’s been “under the radar” for more than 20 years. This album, produced by Lucinda Williams, showcases Jesse’s amazing range of song styles.

Better Oblivion Community Center – self-titled

Phoebe Bridgers teamed up with Conor Oberst for this surprise release, and it’s an absolute gem from start to finish. I just can’t stop listening to it. (The ad-hoc band also features Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes on drums!)

I’m usually not fond of fan-shot videos, but this is my favorite song on the album.

There you have it, my top picks to click for the year that was. Happy Leap Day!