Top Albums of 2019

Thanks for coming back for three more of my top albums from 2019. Here we go!

#6. Future Teens – Breakup Season

Sometime in the spring, I saw a tweet that said Future Teens’ then-new track “Emotional Bachelor” was the future, and I thought it was a pretty lofty claim… until I listened to the song. The band features two vocalists, Amy and Daniel, and in this track they alternate taking the lead on each verse, as they recount the story of a lost love from different perspectives. This song instantly made my playlist for the year, and I eagerly awaited the full album release. I was lucky enough to see the band play twice this year, with both Hot Mulligan and Oso Oso, and got to see the life that they brought to their songs when played live.

When it comes to the album, it’s important to understand how the band brands their particular type of emo: “bummer pop”. I mean, come on, the album is called Breakup Season, that should hardly be a surprise. The opening track, “Happy New Year”, makes the album sound like it’s going to be a somber, sad stroll through self-loathing and soul-searching, but things swiftly pick up as it moves into the next track. Yes, many of the songs are a downer, but many of these songs are catchy, poppy takes on those bummers that will get you tapping your foot along, forgetting how sad some of these situations are.

While the vocals are split between Amy and Daniel, Amy seems to take the lead more often, but both vocalists have a real heartfelt approach to their style that makes every song feel like it connects with you. Their guitar riffs echo of early 2000s pop-punk and emo bands, but their lyrics feel a bit more grown up than those bands did. This album, while about breakups, takes a very adult approach to them, and realizes that people have to get on with their lives (for better or worse). Just listen to “Frequent Crier” if you don’t believe me, because it’s such a real-life breakup song, but still so goddamn fun. We’ve all been through Breakup Season before, and this album is there to remind everyone who’s been there, or even there right now, that it all gets better.

Standout Tracks: “Emotional Bachelor”, “Frequent Crier”, “Born to Stay”
Also Check Out: This full live set from earlier this year that has really good audio quality.

#5. American Football – American Football (LP3)

Remember yesterday’s PUP story? How I tried for so long to get in to the band, and it didn’t happen until their third album? Copy and paste that story for American Football. For years, I’ve heard from Joe about how I should, at least on paper, like American Football, but it never clicked. I’ve heard “Never Meant”, and I think it’s a good track, but the band has never gotten a hold on me.

At least, that’s how it was until “Silhouettes” came up on radio for me. I was listening while working, and when this song came on, I had to stop what I was doing. The intro is such a slow, subtle build, but it captivated me. I cannot think of a more perfect word to describe this album than “beautiful” – because everything about this album comes together in the same way as an artist paints a picture, or weaves a tapestry, and creates something that stirs a sense of awe and elegance in the listener. Despite tackling some serious subject matter at times, the songs never feel like they’re dragging you down. It encapsulates so many emotions, and they don’t just pass through your ears as you hear them, you feel them in your soul. The guest spots are an accent on some already interesting compositions, and are not a distraction from the spirit of the songs. This album is a weighted blanket – even though it lies heavily upon you, you still feel comfortable within it.

Standout Tracks: “Silhouettes”, “Heir Apparent”, “I Can’t Feel You”
Also Check Out: The band’s performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Sessions.

#4. The Get Up Kids – Problems

My love of The Get Up Kids is well documented. Their 1999 sophomore album, Something to Write Home About is not only one of my favorite albums ever, I believe it has made such a major impact on so much of the pop-punk/emo scene, you can hear its influence through many of the other albums on this list (either directly or indirectly). At their most recent date here in Metro Detroit, I was able to meet the band and get my copy of that album signed. I’m in pretty deep. Their four-track Kicker EP was my #2 album last year.

The best thing about The Get Up Kids in 2019 is that not only did they create that seminal piece of music twenty years ago, they’re still putting out music today, and it’s still really good. There was a brief period in time where the band was experimenting and putting together albums that didn’t click with a large portion of their fan base, but their past couple of releases have found the band going back to their roots and are once again crafting emotionally driven rock tracks touching on loneliness, loss, and anxiety. It’s not all doom and gloom, and they still stop to enjoy themselves, as there’s a fun track about a breakup over differing opinions on the Dinosaur Jr. catalog. To play on the “Get Up Dads” jokes they like to make at their shows, you even find a few tracks taking a parent’s point of view. The point is, from track to track, it’s easy to see that they’ve still got it.

At the heart of this album, you’ll find that the band remains at their best when they are singing about the emotions that resonate with just about anyone – love, friendship, sadness, and happiness – no matter what the situation may be. That’s why these songs can still make a personal connection across generations. Listening to Problems for the first time or the fiftieth, it’s hard to ignore fact that, after over two decades as a band, they can still put together songs that reach out to your soul. The lyrics and the melodies hit you in such a truthful and poignant manner, and it shows how skilled they are at their craft. They’re not reinventing the wheel with this album, but it’s like they pulled the old car out of the garage, fixed a few things that were broken, shined it up real nice, and took it around the block again just to let everyone hear the engine purr one more time.

Standout Tracks: “Satellite”, “Fairweather Friends”, “The Advocate”, “The Problem is Me”
Also Check Out: My heartbreak over the album release from the band’s side project, Radar State, below!

Disappointments of the Year

Yesterday I threw out a few honorable mentions that didn’t make the list, even though I liked them a bit. Today I’m doing the opposite. Here’s some albums I wanted to like, but just couldn’t put them on my list.

  • Radar State – Strays
    Please go back and read my opening paragraph about The Get Up Kids. Radar States is made up of Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic, the two vocalists of The Get Up Kids, along with Josh Berwanger of The Anniversary. The three trade off lead vocals throughout the album, which leads to a convoluted mess of an album. First off, I just can’t get behind Berwanger’s vocals because they’re such a different style from the TGUK members, and that’s alongside the fact that the Berwanger-led songs also have a different vibe than the tracks you get from Matt and Jim. I like two thirds of this album, but the third I don’t like, I really dislike. I made a Spotify playlist version that I enjoy much more than the actual album.
  • Jimmy Eat World – Surviving
    This is the first Jimmy Eat World album to feature a sax solo, as far as I am aware. It’s got one stellar track on it, “Delivery”, which I’d say is possibly even a top 20 track for the band. However, it’s just stylistically all over the place. Weird pseudo-electro-pop on “555”, a shitty grunge knockoff on “Criminal Energy”, and the Bruce Springsteen wannabe track “All the Way (Stay)”. Coming off of 2016’s Integrity Blues, which was one of the band’s best albums, this album slinks its way to the bottom of the pack much the same way bird shit slides down your car window on a hot summer day.
  • Tiny Moving Parts – breathe
    Last year, I told anyone with a set of ears how good TMP’s previous album Swell was, and named it my top album of last year. I saw them live supporting the album, and got to see the fun and energy they brought to the performance. This year, they dropped a new release, breathe, and it feels like a copy-and-paste job. If you told me these were tracks left on the cutting room floor from Swell, I wouldn’t doubt you, especially because of how quickly this album came out after the last. They were picked up by Hopeless Records in between albums, and I feel like that may have led to the rush. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad album. It’s just more of the same, with very little noticeable growth.
  • Heart Attack Man – Fake Blood
    I actually really like the title track from this album, but the rest of the album did not click for me no matter how much I tried.
  • The new song from Green Day
    It’s like someone who had never heard Green Day before read a description of what Green Day is supposed to sound like and tried to make a song. Also the mix on it is fucking awful and the vocals are buried. I’m not even linking to it. You don’t need to hear it.

Last top album post tomorrow, with a couple of surprises I never saw coming, and then we close out the year with my 2019 playlist!