2019, the year of huge changes. From buying a house to bringing a son into the world to getting engaged, it was a massive year. Massive enough that I still have a stack of records to listen to, a newborn really takes up a lot of time! However, through all the craziness, I was able to recognize 10 albums that made up my 2019. These albums shined through where I would constantly go back and listen. 2019 had a lot of good releases and it was tough to nail it down to only 10, but these albums were the ones that made a huge impact on me. As for 2020, it seems like another good year in music with some albums already pre-ordered! That is a first for me and shows 2020 is going to be another good year.
10. Bouncing Souls – Crucial Moments
Celebrating 30 years as a band, Bouncing Souls put out a 6 song E.P. that in my opinion would please even the oldest fans. For a short album, Crucial Moments has a little of everything from the Souls discography. Fast paced songs like “4th Avenue Sunrise” and “1989” sound like they could’ve been put on an album like The Gold Album while a song like “Favorite Everything” could’ve been placed on Hopeless Romantic. The album’s only draw back was that it was too short however, with the release of this album the Souls also put out a coffee table photo book showcasing their 30 years as a band. This hardcover book was a great companion to the album and showed fans how much of an impact the Souls made on fans and people they’ve met along the way.
Recommended Listen – “Home”
9. Sammy Kay – civil/WAR
It’s been years since Sammy Kay has released a “ska/rocksteady” album, but it doesn’t mean he has been quiet. Instead, Sammy Kay as taken his music towards more of an acoustic/folky sound which is good, if not better, than any of his ska related music. In all honesty, his latest album civil/WAR wasn’t even suppose to come out. Being burnt out on music, Sammy was encouraged by friends and fans to put it out since the songs had to be heard. They were that good. After a very successful crowdfunded Kickstarter, civil/WAR was born. A 10 song album that fits into any road trip through a state like Montana or just your own area during the mid-fall season. Hopefully this album rejuvenated Sammy to keep releasing music, because let it be ska or acoustic, his talents would be wasted if he doesn’t keep putting out music.
Recommended Listen – “Forgotten Ones”
8. Danny Black – Themes
With Good Old War taking the year off, guitarist Danny Black kept himself busy with touring as guitarist for Joshua Radin, who also put out an album this year, and releasing his second album Themes. Just like his first album, Themes is an all instrumental album that showcases Danny’s amazing guitar playing. It isn’t just about his guitar playing, but about how the music can transcend the listener in making the music their soundtrack to their life. Danny is a traveler and his albums show it through and through and even though there is no lyrics, the listener will appreciate how relaxing and relatable the music is.
Recommended Listen – “Right This Way (Your Table Is Ready)”
7. Western Settings – Another Year
Western Settings is a band that deserves a lot of success. The band has been around since 2013 and have released a handful of albums that don’t have one bad song. For their latest album Another Year they teamed up with A-F Records which is a huge step for them since majority of their album were self released. I don’t want to say this album shows them “maturing”, but they definitely are changing around their song structures compared to their previous work. It isn’t anything to alienate fans, but it show they are improving album over album. I see this album getting them more fans, and can only imagine the next album being a bigger stepping stone for them.
Recommended Listen – “Spinning World”
6. Early November – Lilac
An album that was supposed to be released at the end of 2018, but was pushed out to September 2019, Lilac was worth the wait. Since Early November’s return each album they released show them moving forward in their sound. For Lilac the album might be the most diverse album in their catalog. Ace Enders said that this album took awhile to put out because they redid a lot of it and it shows. This album isn’t just a rock album, but shows all Early November’s influences with a lot more slower tempo songs. Also the album could easily have five songs on national radio, let it be alternative or regular radio. Ace and company put out something special here and even though it was released late in the year, hopefully it picks up steam in 2020.
Recommended Listen – “Perfect Sphere (Bubble)”
5. Audio Karate – Malo
A lot of bands have reunited in the past few years, let it be because of a milestone of a record or anniversary, but one band I didn’t think would come back was Audio Karate. Reason being there hasn’t been any sort of activity or talks of the band for over 10 years. That changed in 2018 when they put out a E.P. featuring two “new” songs that they said would be featured on the “lost” Audio Karate third record. The story goes that after their second album Lady Melody, which was a great album, Audio Karate toured and then recorded what would’ve been their third album. However, it wouldn’t be released for the band eventually broke up and didn’t speak to each other. Wiretap records would come into the picture to release Space Camp on vinyl in 2018 and that would spark Audio Karate’s resurgence. The guys didn’t have new music, but after finding a hard drive with the third lost album on it, they decided to let this album see the light of day. The album had to be from around 2005/2006 and the main thing that makes this album stand out, like their other albums, is how timeless the songs are. These songs can be listened to today and the listener wouldn’t think twice that this album was from the early 2000’s. Audio Karate is a band that was onto something with how their songs were crafted, and in 2019 it is great to hear them back at it.
Recommended Listen – “Sin Cuchillo”
4. Catbite – Catbite
There wasn’t that much ska on my list this year. Either I missed some releases or 2020 is going to have tons of new ska albums, but one great ska record that came out was Philadelphia’s Catbite. Comprised of members of Last Martyrs Of A Lost Cause and Dull Blue Lights, two other great Philadelphia ska bands, Catbite takes the more traditional ska approach where their debut album stacks up against other ska albums like The Specials first album. The self titled album may seem short, only eight songs, but this debut is flawlessly where each song is fun, dancy, and catchy where you just hit the repeat button as soon as you finish. Even though I didn’t have a lot of new ska albums in 2019, this one made up for it 100%.
Recommended Listen – “Amphetamine Delight”
3. Jimmy Eat World – Surviving
Jimmy Eat World has been one of those bands that with each release I listen and go that was a good record. Some where better than others, but I always knew what I was getting with them, a great high quality album with no fillers or anything boring. However, for some reason Surviving just hit at the right time where I have to say this album is as good, if not better, than Bleed American. For some that is a bold statement, for others they will say fine because Futures is the best. It’s anyone’s opinion, but for me Surviving is just a straight up in and out rock record with some of the best songs Jimmy Eat World has ever recorded. With only ten songs at over 30 minutes and heavy guitar driven, this album gets the job done. It’s been awhile since I listened to a straight rock album and this album does everything I want out of an album like that.
Recommended Listen – “Criminal Energy”
2. Durand Jones & The Indications – American Love Call
Durand Jones & The Indications is a band name I heard for some time let it be online or a show in my area. I didn’t know any of their songs, but from what I read, I knew it would be something I’d like. It wasn’t until Record Store Day this year that I took the chance and picked up their latest album American Love Call. Instantly the album became a favorite, so much so that I would then photograph them a few months later in Philadelphia. I of course then bought all their albums, but American Love Call is more of slower soul album compared to the others. Regardless of the style this band will be huge in the coming year. With countless sold out shows and an amazing live show, do yourself a favor and make sure you listen to Durand Jones & The Indications.
Recommended Listen – The whole album
1.Austin Plaine – Stratford
I waited a long time for Austin Plaine’s latest album. Ever since there was any sort of talks of a second album coming it instantly became my most anticipated. His debut album has and is still in heavy rotation, and now so is Stratford. The album is similar to his debut where of course it is acoustic focused, but there is more country, folk, and the last song is something you’d think Bob Dylan would’ve performed. The album as a whole is perfect for those fall nights, winter days, and road trips in the summer, a album for all seasons. This album exceeded my expectations and was well worth the wait. It is also great to have this on vinyl and hope one day his debut gets released on vinyl also. I hope Austin keeps these albums coming.
Recommended Listen – The whole album, seriously.