I am taking the Best of 2019 Playlist off the main page to be replaced with the new 2020 one. I will still keep adding to it if I find anything I missed. It can be accessed from the blog, through this post:
Released: 24 Jan 2020 Label: Big Stir Listen and Buy Here California's Anton Barbeau is a recent discovery for me and has been making albums since the 90s. His sound is a blend of Power Pop with the Psych rock of Robyn Hitchcock. He has collaborated with legendary Psych band - The Bevis Frond. From listening to his earlier work, it is hard to see why he is not better known. I'd recommend people who are new to him to also check out the 'Empire of Potential' compilation which includes lost gems - 'Automatic Door' and 'Third Eye'. His surreal and very entertaining lyrics set him apart from contemporaries. My favourite song here is opener 'Wire from the Wall' which sounds like 80s R.E.M. but with more of a psychedelic sound. It is brilliantly catchy and memorable. Other highlights include 'Jingle Jangle' which, as the title would suggest, is an example of his more melodic guitar pop. It is very summery, at times recalling The Byrds. 'Haunted in Fenland' demonstrates storytelling vaguely reminiscent of Dylan, with epic production. 'Back to Balmain' sounds like a mix of 80s electro pop with Psych, and also brought to mind the artist - Ariel Pink. 'Tidy Up Yourself' is gloriously surreal and even has reggae beats. There is so much variety in these songs, making it a hugely enjoyable and entertaining listening experience. A lost songwriting genius, well worth checking out.
Released: 24 Jan 2020 Label: Violette Listen on Spotify The latest release from Violette is another beautiful 'Elp' (between an EP and an LP) this time from The Pistachio Kid. He is also known as Charlie McKeon, from Liverpool. I was aware of his intricate folk demos from a while ago and this is his first proper release. It opens with the lovely 'Sweet Sweet Remedies' which is soulful and has hints of Paul Simon. It is unique and pure, completely a cappella, and the layers of harmonies are so effective. It is really moving to listen to and sounds like it could be from any era 40s onwards. Folk ballad 'Everything and Anything' is another highlight, stripped back to just guitar and vocal like much of the EP. Again it is an emotional listen and the hints of jazz add to the timelessness. My favourite song here is 'Park Song' which is very dark lyrically. It is a heartbreaking story about a lost love who could not be saved. The very subtle 'Killingfields' demonstrates some skilled guitar work and delicate melodies. It ends on the wonderfully heartfelt 'Mama You've Been On My Mind'. A superb EP, full of well-crafted songs, so simple and yet emotionally captivating. Highly recommended.
Released: 13 Dec 2019 Label: Matinee Recordings Listen on Spotify The song Indian Ocean was my introduction to this band. It really moved me, despite not yet knowing the sad circumstances behind the song. This is the band's last ever single, after guitarist James Werle died of cancer in 2018. The remaining band members recorded these songs after his death. 'Indian Ocean' is an amazingly beautiful and powerful song which paints a vivid picture in your mind. Melodically, it is stunning too and the vocals are so heartfelt. It is a timeless classic. The lyrics 'I can't even sing, the words won't come out of my mouth' are repeated at the end, so emotionally that its a struggle to hold back the tears. Their sound is largely indie pop but with hints of folk which is demonstrated more in the next song. 'In Dreams' is a lovely ballad with R.E.M. vibes. Another sweet song tinged with sadness. On the whole this is a very moving listen and there could not be a better way for the band to say farewell.
Released: 10 Jan 2020 Label: Kool Kat Musik Listen on Bandcamp This is Emperor Penguin's 4th album. I have been following this band for a couple of years now and was drawn in by their fun, slightly psychedelic brand of Power Pop. Their albums are never short of quirky lyrics and great melodies and this is no exception. The album opens with the anthemic 'Hello Picasso'. The sound is reminiscent of The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again, in places. There is lots of psychedelic goodness and skilled guitar solos. 'What's Come Over Me' is another highlight with strong hooks and has that 60's Beatles charm. 'Brand New Yesterday' is another example of superbly written guitar pop and is also very catchy. 'You'll Be The Death Of Me' is my favourite song here and instantly memorable, the harmonies recalling The Byrds. 'Speedwell Blue' sounds different to anything else on the album and features the vocals of Lisa Mychols, prominent in the Power Pop genre, whose music is also well worth investigating. The song has chilled out vibes and hints of jazz. 'The Burning Man' is an impressive closer, with its soaring chorus and epic production. It is full of energy, like many of the other songs on this album. This is a hugely enjoyable and varied album, one which fans of guitar pop should really check out. A superb listen.
Released: 31 Jan 2020 Label: _ Listen on Bandcamp Brighton's Beat Hotel are new to me and this is a really enjoyable EP with 80's/90's indie vibes. Opening track 'Feel It', is strongly anthemic and has elements of many of the best songs of the Brit Pop era. Their sound is reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain. 'Low Slung Loser' has added blues swagger and attitude, reminding me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in places. My favourite song here is 'Beat Girl' which is a wonderfully melodic ballad. The chorus has some sweet harmonies, it is also quite shoegazey reminding me of The House of Love. 'Daddy, I Drown' is another strong song with New Order vibes. There are hints of sadness and longing. A highly recommended EP full of well-written songs. A band which I will be investigating a lot further.