Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2019: Wait, That’s Not an Album! (and Last Year’s Leftovers)

It’s inevitable most years that some of the best music I listen to either isn’t going to fit strictly into the album format and thus won’t be eligible for my Favorite Albums list, or else it’ll have been released the previous year, and thus get added to that year’s list retroactively. In 2019 in particular, there were enough cases of this that I’m basically willing to consider this rundown of EPs, live albums, re-releases, and/or seasonal albums as my “Honorable Mentions” list for the year. 2018 also proved to be the gift that kept on giving, as I got turned on to several strong releases that I hadn’t known about yet when I wrote up last year’s countdown.

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My Epic – Ultraviolet: I think we’re all lost ’til we’ve lived in the wilderness.

Artist: My Epic
Album: Ultraviolet EP
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A slow-burning but thoughtful set of songs about the implications of believing in the unseen, that serves as a compelling introduction to the My Epic sound even if it’s not 100% representative of the band’s range.

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Liam Singer – Finish Him: You won’t hear this album in Nordic cathedrals. But it’s still quite divine.

Artist: Liam Singer
Album: Finish Him
Year: 2019
Grade: A

In Brief: Singer’s expressive, percussive, and incredibly intricate style of piano-based indie pop music, with occasional choral and electronic accents, is truly a magnificent thing to behold. Equal parts playful and confident, uncertain and exploratory, this hour-long album makes me feel a level of excitement over discovering a brilliant new artist that I experience maybe two or three times a decade. (And this is his fifth album, which means I’ve been missing out for quite some time now.)

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Polychrome: Hear the colors. See the sound. (Taste the rainbow?)

Artist: Polychrome
Album: Polychrome
Year: 2018
Grade: B

In Brief: A strong start for a promising synthpop act, in a genre where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. Their reliance on vocal samples, bright pop hooks, and occasional more eerie/atmospheric passages to serve as a contrast, showcases diversity across this playful set of songs. But it also becomes apparent toward the end that there’s a bit of filler here – all pleasant ambient and instrumental stuff, but a bit lighter on the big, bright pop songs than I might have preferred.

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Myles Kennedy – Year of the Tiger: Just a man and his will to survive.

Artist: Myles Kennedy
Album: Year of the Tiger
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A surprising detour into folk and blues-influenced rock territory that demonstrates a more personal and eclectic side of the Alter Bridge frontman. Though the subject matter on his solo debut is often quite dark, it’s also cathartic, and a refreshing change of pace from what I would have expected.

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Lovebites – Clockwork Immortality: I won’t become a doll you control.

Artist: Lovebites
Album: Clockwork Immortality
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: This all-female power metal band from Japan may not have reinvented the genre in any meaningful way, but they play the hell out of their instruments and have a ton of fun doing it. At the end of the day, I can’t fault them for that – especially when the end result puts such a massive smile on my face.

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Django Django – Marble Skies: I guess the title “Marble Madness” was already taken.

Artist: Django Django
Album: Marble Skies
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A powerhouse synthpop/electronic rock album that knows when to ham it up and when to peel back the layers a bit for more of an organic performance. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, something different happens. This is my kind of band for sure.

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