By Leah Ogden
Despite last year being filled with new music that I mostly found myself indifferent towards, there were still a few releases that I think are worth writing about. These artists are ones that I would recommend in general, but I’ve collected some recent triumphs and tracks from Jeffrey Lewis, Darcy Clay, The Mountain Goats, Jeff Rosenstock, and the Artic Monkeys that I find entirely worth checking out in 2019.
Lewis is an artist I discovered last year, and recently, I’ve grown even more enamored with how artistic all of his work is. It’s free in form and choice, yet still upbeat and kitschy with a lot of bold thoughts thrown around. In 2018, he released an entire cover album, “Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010),” of psychedelic pieces written by aforementioned Kupferberg, a well known beat poet and frontman of The Fugs. While this release seems a little bizarre, it does show where Lewis has drawn a lot of his own inspiration from, and having an entire album dedicated to this man, including rare tracks only seen on Kupferberg’s demo tapes, pays a pretty neat homage to this culture he hopes to revive.
Songs To Listen To:
- “Cult Boyfriend”
This is one of the catchiest songs I have ever heard! It’s actually what drew me into his work in the first place. The fact that it sounds so smooth and pleasing to the ear despite its purposeful ruggedness (Lewis talks throughout the song, even stopping to think, on top of carefree, fast paced guitar work) is what makes it stick with you. I’ve never felt as if I didn’t want to hear this song ever since I first discovered it–it’s one of the few songs I’m always in the mood for.
- “Krongu Green Slime”
Less popular, and even more nonsensical, this song is one for which I have a super soft spot. At over six minutes of the same repeating chords and beats, it’s actually quite lulling–I listen to this tune to relax. I love the concept of it as well because it tells a little story. Overall, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I’d call it a musical journey.
It’s been a little over 20 years since Clay’s death, which might explain how criminally underrated his work seems to be. His songs all have powerful and nerve-wracking beats, and honestly, they’re unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. His music evokes a pretty unique feeling from me.
Songs To Listen To:
- “Jesus I Was Evil”
This is the kind of song for energetic dancing and fast driving. I’ve gotten a similar reception every time I’ve played it around someone–they don’t recognize it, but instantly enjoy it. I want more people to be exposed to this song!
A psychedelic but invigorating rendition of Dolly Parton’s shining gem. Clay plays around with his sound on the track without disgracing it.
The Mountain Goats
This indie folk rock group released an EP of a mere three songs a few months back, and they’ve come as a shocking twist in John Darnielle’s, the main component of the group, career. The three songs are incredibly consistent, definitely fitting together as a package and seeming to fade from one to another. Although these songs are quite different from the albums they’ve put out in the past–dark sounding, slow, and mysterious, with a lot of saxophone solos–they’re pretty cool.
Songs To Listen To:
- “No Children”
If you aren’t already familiar with the group, this song is a good place to start. It shows their sound and capabilities pretty well, making it their most popular track.
- “Going to Georgia”
This song shows off their more lo-fi style, but with the same passionate vocals. This is one of my personal favorites.
I found Rosenstock through a friend of mine who absentmindedly posted a screenshot of his album “We Cool?,” and honestly, I was only interested in the music because I thought the cover art was pretty neat. However, I ended up really liking the angsty, indie punk sound, so I’m glad I actually checked it out. Incidentally, Rosenstock released an album on New Year’s Day last year, “POST,” which stands as a political statement perfect for the frustration he’s always been good at putting into sound.
Songs to Listen To:
- “The Lows”
This is the title track of his album “The Lows,” but I think it encapsulates his sound pretty nicely.
- “Yr Throat”
“What’s the point in having a voice when it gets stuck inside your throat?” is a great question that’s relevant to our current social climate.
A perfect bummy ballad that’s relaxed and slowed, despite the moving beats that hold it together.
Maybe the most well known band on this list, but I believe it’s for good reason. As a somewhat long-time fan, I’ve come to appreciate every one of their releases over time, despite how different they can be from the last. After waiting five years after the shocking change in aesthetics we saw from “AM,” they’ve finally released something new: 11 track concept album “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.” It’s yet another face of the band and what they can do that I, at first, paid no mind. Nearly all of the songs have the same slow, spacey sound, but I do like the concept they’re exploring and the new artistic space they’ve seemed to enter, and now, I recognize the same romantic and dreamy quality they’ve held onto throughout all their other collections. It’s well thought out and a sweet, calming experience.
Songs To Listen To:
It has the same dear croon you’ve known, the same strange references Alex Turner, the lead vocalist, always seems to include, and the same poetic lyrics, with a new pace and direction. “Anyway” is a beautiful song that sounds as if it were from outer space. It’s a single on “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino,” and if you’re interested in their new work at all, I’d definitely recommend this track.
- “Suck It and See”
This is the song that won me over to their music. It’s a classic song of pining with an unhealthy message to boot, but it just sounds so good. The imagery in the song is all so unique that it certainly adds to the overall charm.