The Perennial RAPHE Awards continue today with something for your ears. Yes, your ears! Those little holes in the side of your head that water gets into when you’re showering sometimes. Pull out your audiophile earbuds, plug them into your Zune, and let’s get listening to Joe’s Top 10 Favorite Albums of the year 2019.
10. Pivot Gang – You Can’t Sit With Us
This was just an incredibly fun record put out by a group made up of extremely talented young rappers. Joseph Chilliams really stands out here, showed an ability to be incisive and hilarious by slipping references in his verses in a way that feels natural, like a normal person would speak that way, as opposed to the corniness with which a lot other rappers do it.
Standout Track: Mortal Kombat
9. BEA1991 – Brand New Adult
I don’t remember quite how I ended up stumbling upon this record but I’m glad that I did. BEA1991 is a Dutch pop artist who kind of broke out into a scene I wasn’t privy to back in the earlier half of this decade, so this record was my introduction to her work. I feel like during my heavy Vaporwave days this would’ve fit in perfectly with what I was listening to, and it still hits quite well. She introduces this as an album that can be left up to interpretation, and I agree with that and that should be evidenced by how difficult of a time I’m having trying to write it.
Standout Track: Philip
8. Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed and Ready
For as volatile as this album was, its highs are spectacular. Every song absolutely stands on its own, but the gap in quality between its best tracks (Isolation, Wasted Nun) and its sort of afterthoughts (Pieces, Stupid Fish) kind of felt too wide for the whole album to stand as my favorite full work of the year. Yet, still, when Clem hits on this record, she hits absolutely brilliantly. Her voice matches fantastically with every heavy guitar/bass riff and the construction of the best songs on the record can just be mind-blowing at points.
Standout Track: Isolation
7. SAINT PEPSI – Mannequin Challenge
Ryan DeRobertis put out two of my favorite records of the decade in 2013’s Hit Vibes as SAINT PEPSI and 2015’s Prom King as Skylar Spence. He and The Knocks dropped a collaboration last year that I really enjoyed and felt flew way too far under the radar. I had no idea he’d come through with another, mostly instrumental record as SAINT PEPSI. While he didn’t invent the Future Funk sound, I truly think he’s one of the best at capturing that sort of nighttime drive through a neon-lit city aesthetic the genre evokes and this is just further confirmation of that. Unfortunately I don’t think enough of these tracks jut out from the record the way that “Cherry Pepsi” and “Skylar Spence” did off of Hit Vibes but as a whole it’s an absolutely delightful experience.
Standout Track: Sea Tea
6. Dude York – Falling
Alright, so this album has my favorite song of the year in its titular track. “Falling”, the song, is just gorgeous, a song based in the fear and joy inherent to love. Claire is so specific in the little things that make up genuine happiness shared between two people in a relationship to the point where I kept repeating that song the night it debuted and fell to the floor crying out of yearning. My reaction to that song was just that one DeviantArt commenter’s reaction to that picture of the guy shrunk down to the size of a baby.
Guitar solo on that track is lovely as well
Standout Track: Falling
5. Shaliek Jenkins – DAYS BEFORE FINESSEQUEST OST
Shaliek’s been consistently both one of the funniest and most creative people online, a guy I’ve been following in some capacity since he was on Tumblr in like 2013. This is the soundtrack to an as of yet unreleased game he’ll be releasing at some point in the near future. Each track kind of dabbles in a different genre in a way that I’m excited to experience when the full game comes out. The amazing thing about this record I think is the way that each track is different on a generic level but I still can readily recognize it as excellent music for a video game. I feel like this could exist between eras, somewhere between an OST for a game you’d see on the Saturn, PS2, or itch.io.
Standout Track: Bruh Moment Zone Act 2
4. Jay Som – Anak Ko
There was a hot moment in 2017 when I was about to drive from Lawrence to Omaha, Nebraska by myself to see Jay Som because most of my friends were gone and I’d leaned heavily on Everybody Works to get me through some of the worst moments. This record reflects Melina as a songwriter and a person in much higher spirits than she was on the last one. This record still feels like a songwriter going through a struggle, but it seems like she’s crested the rough times and is able to be thankful and introspective throughout this. Her sound has evolved a little bit as well in a way that actually reminds me more of her first release, 2016’s Turn Into. Back in 2017, I spoke of Everybody Works as my favorite album of that year less in celebratory tones and more in appreciative ones, and I’ve felt the same way here. I am just so lucky to have had the opportunity to hear Melina’s music. I finally got to see her live, also.
Standout Track: Crown
3. pronoun – i’ll show you stronger
Yeah this one came out of absolutely nowhere and knocked me right on to my back. First time that I clicked on the youtube link to “stay” in June, I think I spent most of the song repeatedly recoiling in astonishment at how well and how often Alyse managed to top herself over the course of the song. This entire record is themed around perseverance and I felt the sort of cautious strength of trying to build up courage reflected in Alyse’s voice and lyrics both. It’s practically a daily occurence that, as I’m doing something, one of the key snippets from “sadie” or “the pieces of you” will sneak in on repeat, and I think that speaks to how well this album has stuck with me over the year.
Standout Track: stay
2. Nilufer Yanya – Miss Universe
This is going to be one of the albums I’m listening to well into the future. Every track is memorable and the album as a whole is constructed very well around this sort of call-in mental health service theme. The decision to open with “In Your Head” is really microcosmic of how well Yanya sets up this album. Themes of isolation and confusion are communicated lyircally and matched with power and energy melodically. That song is fantastic, but the amazing thing about the full record is that even that A+ of a song doesn’t really have a complement. I think that’s really the most memorable thing here is how well Yanya can jump between genres. Every track feels honestly unique in a way that’s so, so satisfying, I had to pull myself away from just putting this on and taking up an evening listening to it every night as the year began to wind down.
Standout Track: Tears
1. Charly Bliss – Young Enough
This album basically won this award like the day after I listened to it for the first time. Just packed from beginning to end with fantastic track after fantastic track, each instantly memorable in the way that great Power Pop does. My goodness, can Eva Hendricks write a chorus. Charly Bliss deserves the sort of intensive following that the pop-punk bands of the mid-aughts got. Eva’s such a powerful presence and wonderful lyricist and she uses those skills so well with each song, she just has an excellent ability to communicate right from the heart lyrically and back it up with passion emotionally. She strikes me as a Bjork or Carly Rae Jepsen type in that way, and her songs hit me just as hard as theirs.
The best moment of Young Enough is the brief moment after the title track ends and track 7, “Bleach”, begins, and you realize you have another half of an album left to listen to. “Young Enough” the song hits like the last track on a great album should and the fact that my favorite two tracks off the record (“Chatroom” and “Hard to Believe”) are yet to come by that point reflects just how thorough this record is. It is instantly memorable from the moment that the synth on “Blown to Bits” starts to the final retread of the chorus of “The Truth”. Incredible work by this band.
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