Best (Lesser Known) Releases of 2019

Those top album lists are all looking pretty alike right now. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great releases this year that definitely deserve the well-earned attention; DIIV’s surprisingly dense Deveiver and Yeasayer’s comeback with Erotic Reruns were pretty spectacular. Not to mention rising UK math-rockers Black Midi’s Schlagenheim, Wand’s Laughing Matter, and Aesop Rock’s pristine full-album collab with Tobacco, Malibu Ken. Beshken’s Aisle of Palm was also definitely spun dry by yours truly, along with Orville Peck’s Pony and Pond’s explosive Tasmania. Surf Curse’s Heaven Surrounds You also deserves a shoutout, and while I’m here I’ll drop some notable mentions to Drab Majesty’s Modern Mirror, Boy Harsher’s Careful, Black Marble’s Bigger Than Life, and Part Time’s stripped-disco album Late Night featuring David Loca. Shannon Lay’s August was impeccable, and in that vein I’ll mention the fantastic turn of a new leaf in Gia Margaret’s debut album There’s Always Glimmer, and Angel Olsen’s already-timeless All Mirrors. Basically, if you were paying attention you already know that there was some amazing music released this year, which is why I’m very excited to highlight a ton (50 to be exact) of albums that may have slid under the radar.

Mozes and the Firstborn – Dadcore (January 25)

Mozes and the Firstborn from the Netherlands brought us Dadcore at the beginning of 2019; a contagious combination of power-pop and sleazy garage-rock.

Favorite tracks: “Sad Supermarket Song” & “Scotch Tape/Stick With Me”

Pavo Pavo – Mystery Hour (January 25)

Retro-pop duo Pavo Pavo recorded this album post-breakup. The musical chemistry between Oliver Hill & Eliza Bagg is hard to deny, which is why they trudged on with releasing this one after the announcement of their indefinite hiatus.

Favorite tracks: “Mystery Hour” & “Mon Cheri”

Gap Girls – Alone Tonight (January 29)

While half of Surf Curse working on Current Joys, the other half is Gap Girls; a dark and melodic beat-driven indie project. Alone Tonight is Jacob Rubeck’s debut album under the moniker.

Favorite tracks: “Alone Tonight” & “Sunrise”

Beach Youth – Second (February 22)

French indie-pop quartet Beach Youth marry surf-rock with jangly twee-pop in their latest release, Second. The uplifting melodies on this release are embedded with a counter-balance of lyrics that are (mostly) on the sadder side of the spectrum.

Favorite tracks: “Bicycles” & “Everything”

Moon King – Voice of Lovers (April 2)

Moon King produces carefree, disco-inspired music, and Voice of Lovers further shows that his music is made for the dance floor.

Favorite tracks: “Blue & White” & “Neon Lights”

Patio – Essentials (April 5)

Essentials is the debut full-length album from all-girl trio Patio from Brooklyn. The album is brimming with soft-to-the-touch edgy post-punk that is as melodramatic as it is melodic.

Favorite tracks: “Boy Scout” & “Split”

Priests – The Seduction of Kansas (April 5)

The Seduction of Kansas is Priest’s latest spiky and sexy female-fronted post-punk goodness out of Washington D.C.

Favorite tracks: “Good Time Charlie” & “The Seduction of Kansas”

Blue Material – Blue Material (April 19)

Blue Material from Canada is a psych-pop project fronted by Thom Gillies. The self-titled album is 8 tracks that are as catchy as they are fresh – take a dip and ride the blue wave below.

Favorite tracks: “Blue Rider” & “Cosmic Thunder”

Dean Decay – Hot Take (April 26)

Dean Decay is a recently developed dark new-wave project from Los Angeles-based Daniel Dvorak. In Hot Take, prime balance is found between the rawness of forward quivering vocals and the shock of electric-jolting guitars.

Favorite tracks: “Dancing with No Sleep” & “Party Animal”

Sunbeam Sound Machine – Goodness Gracious (May 3)

Sunbeam Sound Machine play dreamy psychedelic-pop from Melbourne, Australia. This is also their second album following their debut in 2014.

Favorite tracks: “Everywhere” & “Seems Like You’ve Made Up Your Mind”

Dehd – Water (May 10)

In Water, Dehd intertwine twangy pop with garage rock. Compared to their heavy and hazy debut DEHD (2016), this release is a bit more bouncy while still maintaining their rawness.

Favorite tracks: “Love Calls” & “Lucky”

Beauty Queen – Out of Touch EP (May 12)

With the help of Henry Nowhere’s (of Daywave) production efforts, Katie Ianntello’s lush and sparkling solo project is brought to life with the release of her debut dreamy pop EP Out of Touch.

Favorite tracks: “The Only One” & “This Time Around”

Moonlight Breakfast – Affection (May 17)

Moonlight Breakfast play a unique blend of electronic and ‘cosmic disco’ which made Affection the perfect party playlist for summer.

Favorite tracks: “Dance Moves” & “Summer”

Trudy and The Romance – Sandman (May 24)

Since their formation in 2015, Trudy and the Romance have canned the genre ‘mutant 50s pop’ as their own unique modern spin on clean, bluesy doo-wop ballads.

Favorite tracks: My Baby’s Gone Away” & “Sandman”

Doug Tuttle – Dream Road (May 31)

Jangly psych-rock from Boston with a little bit of hazy folk in the mix. Doug Tuttle fans an air of familiarity on his latest release, Dream Road.

Favorite tracks: “Can You Feel It” & “Did You Need Someone”

Panther Modern – Los Angeles 2020 (May 31)

Panther Modern (Brady Keehn of Sextile) debuted his first EP this year, Los Angeles 2020. It’s an industrial-injected infectious 4-track-long party mix.

Favorite tracks: “Tasting Static” & “Body // Reaction”

French Vanilla – How Am I Not Myself? (June 7)

French Vanilla’s visionary hybrid of no-wave and post-punk is fresh out of Los Angeles.

Favorite tracks: “All the Time” & “Real or Not”

JayWood – Time (June 7)

JayWood from Manitoba, Canada channels a new strain of smooth and layered psych-funk in his album Time.

Favorite tracks: “Another Life” & “Seasons”

Stef Chura – Midnight (June 7)

Stef Chura’s high-energy indie rock is one to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to her bold and angsty one-of-a-kind sound.

Favorite tracks: “All I Do Is Lie” & “Scream”

Guidon Bear – Downwardly Mobile: Steel Accelerator (June 19)

Guidon Bear cultivate folky twee-pop in the vein of Big Thief and Land of Talk in Downwardly Mobile.

Favorite tracks: “Go Away” & “Hammer”

Sports Coach – Sports Spirits (June 21)

Sports Coach is a lo-fi solo project from Ventura’s Thatcher May. In Sports Spirits, he finds finds a happy quirky medium between chillwave and bouncy in-your-face melody.

Favorite tracks: “Baja Blast Off” & “Pillow King”

Pioneer 11 – Gravitorium (June 24)

Pioneer 11 launch you into an interstellar nothingness with the funk of their space-inspired psych-pop.

Favorite tracks: “The Trees” & “School of Fish”

SACRED PAWS – Run Around The Sun (July 8)

It’s impossible to not frown when listening to SACRED PAWS’ bubbly indie-pop.

Favorite tracks: “Almost It” & “Write This Down”

GOON – Heaven is Humming (July 19)

Grungey/indie quartet GOON bury you in their rotating soundscapes in Heaven is Humming. In the rubble, you’ll be thinking heaven is coming.

Favorite tracks: “Datura” & “Northern Saturn”

Pekoe Cat – Jungle Cop (July 19)

Pekoe Cat is a solo effort from Canada’s Kyle Woolven. Jungle Cop is a funky safari of psychedelic-pop sounds that channels all the best aspects of psych-pop while still maintaining it’s own original chime.

Favorite tracks: “A Maze” & “Weary of the Clown”

Wax Cowboy – Scott! (July 20)

Wax Cowboy play jangly indie-rock that sucks you in with its fluctuating patterns of the musical and vocal variety.

Favorite tracks: “Scott” & “Explorer 200”

Ian Ferguson – State of Gold (July 26)

Ian Ferguson is the “southern duke of garage-rock” hailing from Nashville, Tennessee.

Favorite tracks: “Love Crime” & “Worried Walk”

Alms – Dogpile (July 31)

Alternative/rock project Alms’ first album is a dark and echoey emotional collection of songs from Los Angeles.

Favorite tracks: “Heaven on Earth” & “White Noise”

Tearjerker – Faded (August 2)

Tearjerker present a soft and strong shoegaze-indie-rock palette with Faded. The Toronto-based trio has been going at it for 10 years now, but nothing about Faded sounds driven-down.

Favorite tracks: “Faded” & “Flipped”

Pocket Writer – Swimming Lessons (August 13)

Pocket Writer plays folk-ish wandering alternative-indie out of Ottawa (say that five times fast).

Favorite tracks – “Cardboard Living” & “Swimming Lessons”

Shane T – Holy Nights, Bad Advice EP (August 16)

“Pretty boy blues” meets a unique wind of country-influenced indie pop in Shane T’s new EP; Holy Nights, Bad Advice.

Favorite tracks: “Apartment Dream” & “Wasting Time”

Random Temple – Night Owl EP (August 20)

Random Temple’s short 3-track EP is the perfect taster for soul-filled indie rock. The kicker here is that Random Temple is the real name of this solo project’s founder.

Favorite tracks: “Night Owl” & “Red Flag”

Balue – Suburban Bliss (August 23)

Balue plays sunny and psychedelic indie-pop from his home in New Mexico. Many of themes on Suburban Bliss surround Eli’s major changes in life – becoming a dad and transitioning from a city to suburban family-life.

Favorite tracks: “Gettin’ Older” & Mind I Had”

Closing State – Hornet (August 25)

New York-based duo Closing State turn over a nostalgic leaf in their new gentle indie EP.

Favorite tracks: “Break” & “Home”

Natalie Green – So Far, So Good (August 30)

Natalie Green’s So Far, So Good is an indie album full of variety that offers some cheery numbers, right alongside moody and smooth ones.

Favorite tracks: “Abbe” & “Graham”

Niko – Melk (August 30)

Niko from the Netherlands play smooth and catchy indie-rock that will have you dancing and swaying along at first listen.

Favorite tracks: “Everything” & “Splendor”

Orchin – Serene (August 30)

Orchin’s shoegaze soundscapes created in Serene swirl around in motion throughout the eight tracks on the record.

Favorite tracks: “My Wish” & “Two”

Cat Scan – In Nature (September 6)

Cat Scan’s debut LP In Nature is a colorful arrangement of energetic power-pop and Southern Californian garage-punk.

Favorite tracks: “Fax” & “Lysol”

Soft Shelter – Underwater (September 6)

Soft Shelter from Santa Barbara is the solo effort of grad student David Vivian, who formerly named the project after his name before the transition to the new moniker of Soft Shelter. Underwater features chill, psychedelic dream-pop perfect for floating along life’s currents.

Favorite tracks: “Always” & “Weekend”

Jessi Blue – Lips Do What Hands Do (September 13)

The debut release from 18-year-old Jessi Blue is a sultry collection of soulful bedroom-pop diary entries.

Favorite tracks: “Alexandria” & “Frank Said”

Orchid Mantis – Light as Leaving (September 17)

Orchid Mantis is sample-based roomy dream-pop from Atlanta’s Thomas Howard.

Favorite tracks: “Cop Lights” & “No One Else Around”

Snapghost – Purgatory EP (October 1)

San Diego-based Snapghost came in hot with his first solo EP Purgatory. It’s layered electronic music that has a complimentary balance between heavy bass and chill beats.

Favorite tracks: “Omega” & “Purgatory”

FEET – What’s Inside is More Than Just Ham (October 4)

FEET from the UK have released their debut album on their own Clapped Records label. What’s Inside is More Than Just Ham contains a mix of songs that showcase a post-punk energy while also dipping into a type of pop/indie.

Favorite tracks: “Chalet 47” & “Dog Walking”

BODEGA – Shiny New Model (October 11)

BODEGA from NYC play laid-back post-slacker-punk that will have you starting a riot upon first listen.

Favorite tracks: “Knife on the Platter” & “Treasures of the Ancient World”

The Hecks – My Star (October 11)

The Hecks weave a fascinating combination of vintage-feeling new wave and fuzzy post-punk in My Star.

Favorite tracks: “My Star” & “The King is Close”

Tino Drima – Suitin’ Up EP (October 11)

Tino Drima bring us a big-band feel with their charming indie-doo-wop ballads in Suitin’ Up.

Favorite tracks: “Lover” & “Doctor”

Spooky Mansion – That’s Me! EP (October 29)

Spooky Mansion’s EP That’s Me! is a surf and garage rock combo that’s as fun as it is refreshing. A little bit of fuzz and spunk makes this EP a unique must-listen.

Favorite tracks: “Money” & “Real Jerk”

Tummyache – Humpday EP (November 1)

Singer/songwriter Bryce Soren’s new alternative-pop project Tummyache is high-energy and emotionally-charged, and Humpday is the perfect debut for her new musical chapter.

Favorite tracks: “Commonplace” & “Machine”

Girl Ray – Girl (November 22)

Girl Ray are a “girl power” indie-pop trio from London and their 2020 album Girl encapsulates this perfectly. This release follows their debut Earl Grey from 2017.

Favorite tracks: “Girl” & “Show Me More”

L. Martin & Kyle McEvoy – Everything (November 22)

L.Martin (of The Walters) joined forces with multi-instrumentalist Kyle McEvoy for his debut full-album Everything. The result is a relaxing, swaying collection of songs perfect for clearing the head.

Favorite tracks: “”Gardens” & Lullaby”

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