In a year where most everyone went dark and foreboding and self-serious, “No Harm” from ANZ’s Invitation 2 Dance goes the opposite direction with an intense ray of light that parts the storm clouds. The track slingshots through a wonderful build and plants two dancing feet into a buoyant bassline and wriggling synth. Four minutes of proof that fun indeed still does exist in dance music.
The Juan Maclean “Zone Non Linear”
KH “Only Human”
Remix Of The Year
Georgia “About Work The Dancefloor” (Happa Remix)
There was no club track from 2019 that I listened to this year more than this one. Happa constructs a gleaming crystal bridge of breakdowns that glide beneath Georgia’s wonderful vocals. The remix threatens to never burst out into full bloom and then… it doesn’t. And it’s all the better for it. Georgia’s album is slated for early 2020 release and Happa’s most recent single with 96 Back goes further in this thrilling direction.
Top 10 Albums Of The Year
Big Brave – A Gaze Among Them Boy Harsher – Careful Fatima Al Qadiri – Atlantics Jay Som – Anak Ko Kanye West – Jesus Is King Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell! Lingua Ignota – CALIGULA Malibu – One Life Minimal Violence – InDreams Sunn O))) – Life Metal
A large part of the music of 2019 surveys the broken world; standing on a vista and watching a civilization consumed by flames. We can view the destruction in different ways through three of these albums: Jesus Is King, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, and CALIGULA. There is the judgment card that pleas for salvation and absolution. There is the high priestess card that looks on as Venice Beach is swept away by forlorn memories. There is the justice card that would end its trouble with a series of beheadings. In a year where the threat of climate crisis becomes very real, it seems right that some of the best albums of the year are as full of internal struggle as the world is.
Top 5 Reissues and Archival Compilations
Mort Garson – Mother Earth’s Plantasia Steve Hiett – Down On The Road By The Beach Toshifumi Hinata – Broken Belief Various Artists – Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 Various Artists – WXAXRXP Sessions
Everything here is worth your time and money. One reissue that flew under the radar a bit was Efficient Space’s reissue of Steve Hiett’s incredible and idiosyncratic 1983 album Down On The Road By The Beach. It’s the best ambient bedroom surf pop album made by a fashion photographer while taking time off in Japan you’ll hear this year.
Top 3 Shows Of The Year
ROAM: Vatican Shadow @ Grace Reformed Church, Washington, DC [Apr 27, 2019] Eurobeats Festival: Nídia @ Union Stage, Washington, DC [Sep 27, 2019] Helena Hauff @ U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC [Oct 10, 2019]
The indelible image of April’s ROAM show with Vatican Shadow is the fog from a smoke machine slowly rising through the pews at the Grace Reformed Church as Vatican Shadow’s heaving set started. In September I saw Portuguese artist Nídia at a sparsely attended (and sparsely advertised) show organized by the European Union National Institutes for Culture. Nídia’s set was fantastic – full of robust, slippery rhythms from the African diaspora. Helena Hauff’s set at U Hall lifted off with “Got Me Fucked Up” by Skin On Skin and was unrelenting from start to finish, all superhumanly mixed by Hauff strictly from her record crate. Three truly inspiring sets!
Label Of The Year
The Warp Records label is an institution of great music and, in its thirtieth year, it continued to push the boundaries with excellent releases. This year saw the release of Flying Lotus’s Flamagra, Danny Brown’s uknowhatimsayin, Kelly Moran’s Origin, TNGHT’s II, and Daniel Lopatin’s forthcoming soundtrack for Uncut Gems. Oh, and a 10 EP box set with previously unreleased music by Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada, and Seefeel and also 19 live shows by Autechre (including a 2015 live show from U Street Music Hall).