There’s no denying that 2019 has been chaotic in nearly every way. But along the way, there was always some good music to get us through the madness. Genres were reborn and reinvented this year, with music from newcomers to the scene as well as the artists that we know and love. From emo to punk and everything in between, it’s been a great year to be a music fan. For Music Malady’s debut article, let’s take a look at some of the biggest and best alternative albums of the year.
Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
There are very few punk bands that could capture the attention of an entire country of music lovers with a debut album, and even fewer who could get nominated for a Mercury Prize in the process. But with Dogrel, Irish punks Fontaines D.C. have done just that. Taking clear inspiration from the greats of punk and post-punk, they created something entirely unique in the context of the modern music scene. From great anthems like ‘Big’ to the gentler, more folk-oriented ‘Dublin City Sky’, Fontaines D.C. established their identity as a band devoted to poetry and craftsmanship. Their gigs are a gathering of fans of all ages, who will gladly sing along to every word. Dogrel has been hailed by a number of critics as the album of the year, and its positive impact on the alternative music of 2019 is not something to be ignored.
Listen now via Partisan Records.
Foals – Part 2 Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost
From the release of the first installment of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, anticipation was high for the album’s sequel. The end result: a record that was bigger and bolder than what we had heard previously, one that was consistently epic and anthemic throughout. ‘Like Lightning’, ‘Black Bull’ and ‘The Runner’ stand out as the highlights of the album, but 10-minute musical journey of ‘Neptune’ ends the album on a majestic high. With Part 2 Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Foals set a precedent for ambitious musical projects, that other rock acts must strive to follow.
Listen now via Warner Music UK.
Yungblud – The Underrated Youth EP
Emo is back in a big way, and Yorkshire-born Yungblud is here to lead us into the future. A genre reborn, the underrated youth EP carves out a place for itself in the intersection between rock, rap and pop that nobody knew we needed. With this EP, a follow-up to last year’s full length album 21st Century Liability, Yungblud has cretaed something bold and unapologetic, that has earned him legions of fans finding a sense of community in his music. The true gem of the EP is his collaboration with Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds, ‘original me’. This album emphasises Yungblud’s lyrical skill – singing “hi, nice to meet ya, got nothing to believe in / so let me know when my breathing stops” and “I’m so sick of me / Wake up and hate to breathe” doesn’t make the underrated youth an easy listen, but it is the kind of raw songwriting that we need to hear.
Listen now via Locomotion Recordings.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Ghosteen reigns supreme as the most emotional album of the year, alternative or otherwise. This is the second album that Nick Cave has released since the death of his teenage son, and although it is difficult to listen to for how deeply personal it is, it certainly isn’t an album to be missed in the yearly round up. Sonically, the album is ethereal with sweeping soundscapes and a cutting absence of drums. Lyrically, it is unlike anything that has ever been released. Ghosteen shows that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds will never lose their beautiful ability to record an album that touches the world.
Listen now via Ghosteen Ltd.
New Model Army – From Here
New Model Army proved their skill in transcending the boundaries of alternative genres with their latest album, From Here. Recorded in a studio on a Norwegian island, this album takes a more acoustic-based approach than some of their more classic hits, but holds the unique New Model Army spark all the same. Ranging from heavier tracks and retrospective lyrics to songs that could easily fit in on the Game of Thrones soundtrack. The musical richness that you hear on this album is unparalleled, showing us that New Model Army will always be icons of alternative rock.
Listen now via Attack Attack Records
The Pixies – Beneath the Eyrie
Where more mainstream musicians strive to create the perfect summer album; on Beneath The Eyrie, The Pixies show us what it means to make a soundtrack for the colder weather. In its lyrics and sound, this album is gloriously creepy, using the fantastic and the supernatural to enhance the energy on the record. If you like surrealism in your playlist, then this is an album that you definitely didn’t miss in 2019. Although some of the songs go back to their 90s rock roots, most of this album is like nothing I’ve ever heard.
Listen now via BMG/Infectious
The Regrettes – How Do You Love?
The Regrettes are an intriguing band, if you get past the initial upset that they’re so young to have achieved so much. How Do You Love? is the shining example of pop-rock production, and how alternative music can learn from the most upbeat genres. ‘California Friends’ and ‘Pumpkin’ are two personal favourites, each one a treasure of romantic punk rock from a band that are only going to get bigger and better in the coming years. For such a young band, their lyrics and music are expertly perfected, and so their success in the scene comes as no surprise to anyone.
Listen now via Warner Bros
Honorable Mentions: The Live Albums
The Cure – Curaetion-25: From There To Here/ From Here To There
The Cure are no strangers to a live album, and in the span of their 40-year career they’ve released their fair share of recordings straight from their gigs. But their Curaetion-25 gig was completely unique. Coming directly from the Robert Smith-curated Meltdown Festival, this is an exploration of the post-punk icons’ career from their own point of view. This is not the standard setlist you will hear at a Cure concert, opting for a journey in deep cuts and band choices as opposed to the array of fan favourites that make an appearance at their gigs. These are songs that you wouldn’t hear live otherwise, and a perfect listen for superfans.
Listen now via Lost Images Ltd.
IDLES – A Beautiful Thing: Live at Le Bataclan
IDLES have well and truly burst onto the modern alternative scene in the last few years, following the critical acclaim of their 2018 album Joy as an Act of Resistance. This album was recorded directly from their performance in Paris’ Le Bataclan in the same year, and holds all of the wild energy of an IDLES gig while avoiding the terrifying injuries of the mosh pit (*cough* Alexandra Palace *cough*). Listen to this to hear one of the best live bands around, any time you like.
Listen now via Partisan Records