DECEMBER 14 — One of the biggest surprises this year was finding myself suddenly being in two bands, and spending most of the year being thoroughly stimulated musically as I dug pretty deep to write, record and release not only my new band Playburst's debut album but also writing, recording and trying to finish my long time band Couple's long delayed fourth studio album.
So that meant listening to quite a lot of albums in order to find inspiration and to learn a trick or two with regards to production and arrangement, which also meant that since my two bands are nowhere near metal, and I just had to spend most of my spare time listening to as many records that are relevant to my two bands, there won't be any metal stuff on my list unfortunately this year.
So without wasting much time, here they are:
Prince Daddy & The Hyena’s Cosmic Thrill Seekers
This is quite simply one of the most magnificent musical achievements of the year; a giant leap ahead for this bunch of dudes from Albany playing a brand of emo that some have dubbed “sparklepunk”, which they've now sprinkled with loads of other genres as they come up with a complete banger of a concept album called Cosmic Thrill Seekers.
Already taking its place as one of the best punk rock concept albums in recent times alongside huge hits like My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade and Green Day's American Idiot, this album is every bit as catchy, anthemic and unforgettable as those two.
Fourteen songs contained within three movements/acts (the first five of which, making up Act 1, are undoubtedly the best sequenced opening to an album I've heard in a long time) about a guy who'd probably conquer the world if only he could get off his couch.
If they can top this masterpiece with whatever they come up with next, I'd be really, really impressed.
White Reaper’s You Deserve Love
A power pop band getting signed to a major label (Elektra Records) in 2019 is not what I'd call a likely scenario. But after three releases on indie champs Polyvinyl Records, power pop/garage pop band White Reaper has deservedly made the jump into the major leagues with an album so tight, so full of hooks and oh so slick that I wouldn't be surprised if they blow up into something like The Killers or Kings Of Leon, if their label plays its cards right, with the collection of songs they have in You Deserve Love.
Might Be Right is hands down my pick for single of the year, but 1F and my personal favourite Saturday could easily snag that title as well. Give this a spin, you deserve pop this good.
Dinosaur Pile-Up‘s Celebrity Mansions
A UK grunge band getting signed to a major label (Parlophone Records) in 2019 is not common. But after three indie albums, UK grunge heroes Dinosaur Pile-Up has deservedly made the jump into the major leagues with a banger of an album in Celebrity Mansions, which contains at least three songs that should've been big radio hits the way The Vines' Get Free was a long time ago.
Yes, it's not as awesome as their unbelievable second album Nature Nurture, but if you have any love for Nirvana, The Vines and the first three Foo Fighters albums, you owe it to yourself to check this album (and this band) out. This is party grunge at its very best.
The Dates’ Ask Again Later
From major labels, we go right to what sounds like a homemade album by one-man band The Dates aka Garrett Goddard (who used to be with far noisier bands like King Tuff and Personal And The Pizzas), who seems to be unashamedly channelling his love for Teenage Fanclub and Big Star, and channelling it magnificently.
Packed to the hilt with wondrously jangly and irresistibly pretty songs like album opener Any Other Nite, Pictures With Rene, Friday Nite @ Vineland and the impossibly lovely TRU Wolfpack, this is hands down one of the sweetest albums you'll encounter in 2019.
Pup’s Morbid Stuff
Anyone aware of Pup's greatness, thanks to the rowdy and shouty brilliance of their first two albums would be forgiven for having high hopes for this, their third full length album.
Exhibiting every bit of the songwriting genius of those first two albums, Morbid Stuff is a fair bit slicker and poppier album.
So depending on where you stand as their fan, this might or might not be a good thing. I'll be the first to admit that The Dream Is Over is still my favourite album of theirs, but any album that can boast a song as majestic as Scorpion Hill in its ranks, not to mention punky wonders like See You At Your Funeral and Bloody Mary, Kate and Ashley deserves to be on a whole bunch of best-of lists come the end of 2019.
Donnie Vie‘s Beautiful Things
Some of my friends will probably never understand my obsession with hair metal band Enuff Z'nuff, chiefly because even to this day they still sport that LA glam/hair metal look that bands like Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses were famous for when in reality their songs have more in common with Chicago power pop bands like Pezband and Off Broadway.
When lead singer Donnie Vie left the band and both the band and him released a new album in quick succession, it's clear that the whole Beatlesque power pop thing came from Donnie, as I couldn't even finish the new Z'nuff album but found myself totally captivated by Donnie's new solo album Beautiful Things, which finds him channelling The Beatles, John Lennon, Cheap Trick and the best of that trademark Enuff Z'nuff sound with song after song of beautiful melodic magic. My personal picks would be Whatever, Plain Jane and Breaking Me Down.
Iqbal M’s PSJKB
The breakout stars of the Malaysian indie scene this year, it's heartwarming to see their rise, from at first attracting all sorts of criticism for frontman Iqbal's often hilarious performance art piss takes until later on winning everyone's heart just by the strength of their songs and Iqbal's smartly sarcastic lyrics.
Blending Selamat Tinggal Dunia and Kembali-era Butterfingers with Ipoh indie rock heroes Muck's often breathtaking guitar work, the eight songs on this debut album are all winners in my book, sounding both Malaysian while still maintaining that modern indie rock flavour.
Favourite track? Album closer Perasaan Sedih Janganlah Kau Bimbang, of course!
Another breakout album from the Malaysian indie scene, Tekesima has more or less cemented Lust's place in Malaysian music history with its supremely confident and meticulously crafted collection of 2000s era indie rock a la Vampire Weekend, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Shins, The New Pornographers and the like.
A solid as heck album you can listen from start to finish, it's hard to pick my favourite songs here, as their trademark move of taking a song into a completely different territory somewhere around the two-minute mark means that every song is actually two songs merged into one, so there's always something interesting and hooky going on somewhere throughout.
But if I had to pick my favourite moment, it'll have to be the instrumental break in Good To Know, which is one of the most inspired left field turns in a song I've heard this year. Splendid.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.