I’ve been doing these end of year round ups for seventeen years now, and it always seems that I start off with something along the lines of “well, that year was a bit rubbish wasn’t it, but at least there were some good records out.” It’s tempting to do the same again this year and, let’s be honest, if I listed all of the things that made 2019 awful, I’d still be here typing until new year’s eve 2020 – but it gets pretty tiring being mopey about all of the terrible things going on in the world, so let’s just skip that bit and get on to some of the excellent music that made the year just a little more joyful. We’ve collected a selection of favourites in a video playlist for you too, so you can get the new year off to a good start.
Following on from Idles’ success in 2018 there were some promising signs for a fresh wave of guitar bands making inroads on the mainstream, with Fontaines DC‘s anthemic rabble rousing punk, the art school post-punk of Black Midi and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard‘s sprawling prog epics earning national airplay and award nods galore, and there’s been plenty going on at the grassroots end of the spectrum too.
Hurtling‘s stratospheric debut Future from Here was a beautifully constructed emotional rollercoaster that swooped on waves of shimmering shoegaze and gritty alt rock, Piney Gir delivered yet another perfect slice of dreamy psychedelic indie pop with You Are Here and Calva Louise lived up to their early promise with the explosive, catchy punk of debut LP Rhinoceros. Unsurprisingly there was political fury aplenty to be found amongst the year’s albums, with Cassels‘ environmental treatise The Perfect Ending wrapped up in a beguiling maze of twisting post-punk barbs and Deux Furieuses‘ My War Is Your War was at turns confrontational, harrowing and a call to action. We had excellent albums from returning Joyzine favourites in Ben Fox Smith‘s odd-pop Taciturn Lanzarac, Mike Gale‘s lush and languid Summer Deluxe and not one but three albums from Peter Richard Adams, including a solo record, a new Hey You Guys! album and a second Christmas record with his wife Rosie. New discoveries included the icy post-punk explorations of Drahla‘s Useless Co-Ordinates and the frankly bonkers operatic genre-boundary demolition of Koenjihyakkei‘s Angherr Shisspa (Revisited).
In the shorter form there was a welcome foray into solo work from Kim Gordon with ‘Sketch Artist’, and Saint Agnes cemented their place in our hearts with garage goth rock stomper ‘Brother’ and the return of some familiar faces from previous Joyzine favourites in Les Futiles punky debut EP. There were plenty of new names on the tips of our tongues too, with South London proving particularly fertile ground – Italia 90 are likely to start making waves with the follow up to their excellent pair of 2019 EPs due on Fierce Panda and label mates Scrounge won’t be too far behind, while fellow Londoners Black Country, New Road are already turning heads and rightly so. DIY Space for London’s First Timers Fest continued to produce exciting new bands, headed up by Breakup Haircut and further afield we were stopped in our tracks by the political math-punk of Blackpool’s Those Fucking Snowflakes, who must win this year’s best title award for the excellent ‘Vegan Sausage Rolls vs Gammon Faced Vampires’.
And in the live arena there were a host of excellent shows from established Joyzine favourites of markedly different stripes – Otoboke Beaver‘s runaway train artpunk mayhem remained peerless at a packed Scala, Thomas Truax mesmerised us once again with his collection of curious contraptions at The Victoria and The Burning Hell‘s Lexington show threatened to turn into a mass love-in – while catching Pom Poko‘s high energy surrealist pop rush for the first time was a real treat. There were some fantastic city festivals with standout performances from Mclusky and Vodun at Portals and Art Brut at Top of the Alcopops, while CroCroLand brought an excellent line-up to our former hometwon including Croydonites Bugeye and Frauds alongside big name headliners.
Well, that’s it – so long 2019 and we’ll look forward to what 2020 has in store for us.
Article by Paul Maps
Not quite had enough of 2019 yet? Check out our writers’ picks of the year.