Another year – heck, another decade – is winding down, which means that it is time for the ubiquitous best of year lists. Without further ado, here are my picks for the best albums of 2019.
Matthew Ryan somewhat quietly released a pair of EPs in 2019 before closing the year by combining them into The Future Was Beautiful. As Ryan describes it, his desire was to “slow walk an album”. The result is a somewhat sonically eclectic yet thematically consistent reflection on living in turbulent times.
Key Tracks: On Our Death Day, And It’s Such a Drag, Steer Your Way, Warm Lightning
Featured Twangville coverage of Matthew Ryan:A Premiere From Matthew Ryan, Monday Morning Video – Brent Best and Matthew Ryan, Mayer’s Playlist for Winter 2018, Part 2, Mayer’s Picks – Best of 2017, and Matthew Ryan Talks the Economics of Touring, His First Gig and the Value of Having a Gang
L.A.-based The Wild Reeds continue to evolve from their rootsy beginnings to a sonically rich and electrified pallet. Cheers is steeped in rich melodies and gorgeous harmonies that stand in contrast to intense lyrics about dealing with personal and professional adversity.
Key Tracks: A Way to Stop, Don’t Pretend, P.S. Nevermind, My Name, Cheers
Featured Twangville coverage of the Wild Reeds: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2019, Part 1, Monday Morning Video: The Wild Reeds, and Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Part 2
Joe Pug returns after a four year recording hiatus with a breathtaking album that hearkens back to the acoustic beauty – and lyrical punch – of his early releases.
Key Tracks: Exit, The Letdown, Moonlight of Your Room, The Stranger I’ve Been, Empty Hands and Broad Shoulders
Featured Twangville coverage of Joe Pug: Mayer’s Playlist for Summer 2019, Part 2, Readers’ Pick: Joe Pug – The Flood in Color, Monday Morning Video – Joe Pug “Call It What You Will”, and Joe Pug On Touring In a Hand-Me-Down Van and an Expensive Line-Item From His Music Budget
Josh Ritter, with an assist from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, plugs in for his most electrifying – both musically and lyrically – album in years. Ritter’s vibrant storytelling, rich in both detail and emotion, have established him as one of the leading songwriters of his generation.
Featured Tracks: Ground Don’t Want Me, Old Black Magic, I Still Love You (Now and Then), All Some Kind of Dream, Losing Battles
Featured Twangville coverage of Josh Ritter: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2019, Part 2, Monday Morning Video – A Trio for the New Year, and Monday Morning Video – Josh Ritter Sings to the Dogs, Mayer’s Playlist for October 2015, Part 2
Thrashing Through the Passion is the sound of a rock band maturing without losing the electrifying edge that has defined their sound. The return of keyboardist Franz Nicolay adds depth without softening the twin guitar attack of Tad Kubler and Steve Selvidge and the spitfire street poetry of Craig Finn.
Featured Tracks: Denver Haircut, Epaulets, You Did Good, Kid, Entitlement Crew, T-Shirt Tux, Confusion in the Marketplace
Featured Twangville coverage of the Hold Steady: Mayer’s Playlist for April 2014, Part 2, Twangville Town Hall: Heaven is Whenever – The Hold Steady, and The Hold Steady @ Chelsea’s Cafe in Baton Rouge, LA 8-7
Safe Passage is a tranquil and beautiful reflection on finding one’s way through life, infused with Abney’s gentle optimism. Lyrics like “give yourself some grace when the dark winds blow” and “kind days are coming, warm nights and loving, may you be there always” give Abney’s latest an intoxicating charm.
Featured Tracks: I Just Wanna Feel Good, Kind Days, Turn Again, When the Dark Winds Blow, Days of Disconnect, Maybe Happy
Featured Twangville coverage of John Calvin Abney: Monday Morning Video – John Calvin Abney “Maybe Happy” and Mayer’s Picks – Best Songs of 2018, Part 2, Monday Morning Video – John Calvin Abney
Almost every year some previously unknown to me artist lands on my top ten list. This year’s entry is Oklahoma’s M. Lockwood Porter. Communion in the Ashes is a glorious rock record that pairs anthemic melodies with biting social and political commentary.
Featured Tracks: Communion in the Ashes, Waiting for a Sign, Get Back to the Wild, The Dream is Dead, Anything For Greed, This Fear Won’t Control Me
Featured Twangville coverage of M. Lockwood Porter: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2019, Part 1
McDermott’s latest is comprised of songs that were considered for, but ultimately left off his recent span of albums. Orphans is a testament to the depth of his talent, a brilliant collection of ballads and acoustic-based rockers that leaves one wondering what other gems remain in his songwriting closet.
Featured Tracks: Tell Tale Heart, The Last Thing I Ever Do, Ne’er Do Well, Givin’ Up the Ghost, The Wrong Side of Town, Full Moon Goodbye, What if Today Were My Last
Featured Twangville coverage of Michael McDermott: Mayer’s Playlist for January/February 2019, Part 1, Michael McDermott Comes Out From Under (Album Premiere), andMichael McDermott On the Spinal Tap Stonehenge Set and a Career’s Worth of Tour Vehicles
After time spent touring with the late, lamented Show Ponies, Harris steps out with a tremendous solo debut. The album arrives fully formed, a regal rock record that bristles with both lyrical and musical drama and intensity.
Featured Tracks: The Smoke and the Stars, Cussing at the Light, Confused, Giving In, Phantom Limb, I’m Afraid, Blessed Interruption
Featured Twangville coverage of Jason Hawk Harris: Mayer’s Playlist for Summer 2019, Part 2 and Jason Hawk Harris on The Atkins Diet and Staying Anchored to the Music
1. TODD MAY, Let’s Go Get Lost
Todd May clearly celebrates quality over quantity. While his album releases have been sporadic, damn if the music he does release doesn’t encapsulate all that is good about music. Let’s Go Get Lost crackles with a timeless charm, an enticing rock album with jazz, blues and country elements nestled in its crevices. It wonderfully hearkens back to a time when songwriting craft was paramount, brilliantly showcasing the melodic and lyrical charm of May’s songs.
Featured Tracks: All of them!
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.