The Glide 20- Glide’s Best Albums of 2019

While 2019 might signal the end of the decade and decade end best-of lists; 2019 had its own share of strong musical moments. While no specific genre or trend dominated the year, standouts in the soul realm carried a strong voice with Black Pumas, Michael Kiwanuka, Brittany Howard taking soulful artistry to progressive heights. Tool and Bruce Springsteen returned with their most ambitious and daring work in years – of course for Tool it had been 13 years, but Fear Inoculum proved well worth the wait. Aldous Harding, Rhiannon Giddens and Sharon Van Etten continued to up their game with mood striking works, while newcomers Yola, Che Apalache and Ghost Light all set new boundaries in their respective genres. The Claypool Lennon Delirium (pictured above), Fontaines D.C. and Yawpers took their adventurous rock to new realms of psych, post-punk and alt-country. So here we go with our 17th version of the Glide 20 – Glide’s 20 best albums of 2019, followed by 20 honorable mentions – all in alphabetical order….


Aldous Harding – Designer

New Zealand’s Harding plays the role of the sea-swept curator on this Nick Drake-ish collection of songs with poignant heartfelt vocals across jazzy melodies. Its Harding’s ability to transform soft tones into Feist melodies and post psych influences. The mood works like a mood soundtrack with sparse vocals and tinkering musical interludes that bring us to a misty world of the serene and odd.

Black Pumas- Black Pumas

Black Pumas’s self-titled debut gives us a Tarantino type scored film that stenches of 70’s soul and funk yet most importantly, provides a 2019 stamp of originality. Already selling out venues with their awe-inspiring live performances, the album backs up the live energy with a crisp fusion of shivering vocals, tight production, groove inspired rhythms and a newfound take on Texas soul.


Brittany Howard- Jaime

Howard is best known as the powerful voice and guitar in front of Alabama Shakes. On Jaime, she creates a more personal sound that integrates ethereal, electronic elements. The result is wonderfully emotive vocals running through a field of electronic beats and synthesizers. There’s a pop progressiveness coupled with old-fashioned loneliness and an all-around progressiveness in the boundaries of soul, that only Howard can pull off solo.


Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars

Springsteen takes a new notch to his ever legendary resume but tackling the southwest on this grandiose and orchestral marvel aptly titled Western Stars. We knew almost anything Bruce touches turns to gold, but these songs all display a unifying theme of cinematic glory, uplifting hymns and rusty ballads to put this one in his top seven easily- what a good thing.


Che Apalache –Rearrange My Heart

While much of today’s disturbing rhetoric on immigration aims to divide, Che Apalache is a band forming a bridge between North and South America, infusing traditional bluegrass with Latin stylings as an American-led band of primarily Latin American musicians. Produced by Bela Fleck, this offering of global folk is ground-breaking in reinventing the possibilities of bluegrass and world music where Appalachia transcends to the Andes.

The Comet Is Coming – The Comet Is Coming

The spiritual music made by John and Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders in the late ‘60s is surely an inspiration for the UK jazz trio, and, like those iconic figures. TCIC is on the same Impulse! label, pushing the envelope into the 21st century with spiritual jazz that owes as much to the ‘60s sound as it does to futuristic music like that from Bladerunner.


The Delines – The Imperial

The Delines have an irresistible, compelling sound, due to the weary, soulful vocals of Amy Boone and guitarist/songwriter Willy Vlautin’s desperate noir arrangements centered on his vivid, mostly down and out characters. It may sound like Dusty Springfield in Memphis at 3 AM or an exhausted Rickie Lee Jones finishing a set on fumes. The Imperial brings subtle power in these spare arrangements that draw the listener in immediately and have a riveting effect.


Faye Webster- Atlanta Millionaires Club

Aaliyah is Faye Webster’s muse generally, but she also conjures Angel Olsen in her vocals, with hints of Courtney Barnett popping up in her penchant for observational details. Webster’s choruses often repeat one line or phrase over and over, building dynamics with swells of R&B harmonies and horns, and of course her ubiquitous pedal steel. Webster’s forte is silken expressions of lonesome introversion, and she does it with a radiating confidence that compels rapt attention.

Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel

Late 70’s and early 80’s post-punk has certainly been redone in many facets in recent years but most of it has come off as fashionable here today gone tomorrow – Kaiser Chiefs or Kasabian anyone? Dogrel is a destroyer with real deal working-class sound and melodic mood swinging music with a muscular rhythm section that spells a vital relief from most young bands that play as pretenders.

Fruit Bats – Gold Past Life

AM Gold is an otherwise overused term- and sure it’s a guilty pleasure but do we really want to keep hearing Seals and Crofts retreads? Will Eric D. Johnson and Fruit Bats offer powerful melodies and his most accomplished recording yet where nostalgic vibes, feel-good choruses ride up against Johnson’s clever lyrics that are as part thought-provoking as they are playful.

Ghost Light- Best Kept Secrets

Ghost Light’s debut album, Best Kept Secrets proves there may be more good ideas here than the playing time of the album allows. Tom Hamilton shows his prowess as a band-leader where indie rock meets improv, with an edgy underbelly, where technical compositional flair matches an arena rock immediacy. The ceiling is high for these musical assassins, where their live shows are already becoming must-hear sets.

J.S. Ondara – Tales of America

In Tales of America, his stunning full-length debut album, Kenyan J.S. Ondara holds a mirror to the promise of his adopted country. His voice, at the same time resonant and fragile, is front and center in the spare arrangement, and the effect is haunting and shattering as he explores the paradox of today’s America from an immigrant’s perspective.


Michael Kiwanuka – KIWANUKA

It seemed for years that Kiwanuka was waiting for his breakthrough moment to place him in the upper echelon of artists revered for their presence as much as their talent. The London native draws on his modern vintage sound to create a sublime mixture of psych soul and a modern What’s Going On feel. The production and arrangements are more confident and self-assured of anything the frontman or most others dished out in 2019. Bring on the next couple of decades for this career artist.


Rhiannon Giddens – There Is No Other

Rhiannon Giddens and Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi are painting their own version of the universality of roots music on There is No Other. Many of the songs on There Is No Other are structurally simple but most of the arrangements are compellingly imaginative. This is a magical listen from as tight a partnership as you’ll hear. As the title implies, it’s incomparable.

Ryan Bingham – American Love Song

The power of Ryan Bingham’s voice is a funny thing. It’s almost like an instrument itself, seemingly somehow always drenched in reverb his body manufacturers. Here he dives into his most personal and political album to date and lets his voice drive the engine- where blues, gospel and  Western vintage variety co-mingle. While Americana has been owned in the mainstream by Avetts and Mumfords, Bingham still does it better than anyone.

Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Remind Me Tomorrow has a propensity to creep out an illustrious edge of electronic-induced pop arrangements but it is always pulled in with an authentic type of lyricism that can’t be taken lightly. Her usual folk style crawls through underneath a mask of heavy pop elements than ever attempted before. While “Comeback Kid” might be the most potent single of the year that didn’t hit the mainstream, we can’t overlook the rest of this flawless album that puts Van Etten in the near realm of PJ Harvey.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium – South of Reality

Take two familiar names and you might spell a bit of a reason to overreact or expect something surreal. Les and Sean prove to be the real deal on this second album from TCLD where The Flaming Lips can learn a thing or two about modern weirdo psych-rock. Capturing the essence of late-period Beatles, jangling guitars, soaring harmonies and Claypool’s whimsical bass lines, and you got quite the audible treat.


Tool – Fear Inncoculum

As a band, Tool has never been tighter as they have crafted six of the finest songs of their career (10, including the four ambient interlude tracks spread throughout Fear Inoculum) which of which sends the listener down a spiral of metal psychedelia that delights and maddens in equal turns. Tool has always been a powerful combination, but they’re at the top of their respective games here and have never sounded better.


The Yawpers – Human Question

The fourth full length from Denver based The Yawpers (Bloodshot Records) is a rollicking slice of shambolic rock and roll; this record rattles, shakes, and riffs with a spirit reminiscent of The Replacements anything-goes excitement. Yawpers’ twists, emotional singing, and willingness to distort musical conventions makes Human Question quite a thrill ride where rawk meets an unwillingness to compromise.

Yola- Walk Through Fire

The debut full-length album from songstress Yola showcases her phenomenal vocals over lush retro-pop and light soul/country arraignments. Produced by Dan Auerbach, the album is a throwback to Nashville’s 60’s sound even with rousing horns and sparkling production. However, its Yola’s vocal charms making Walk Through Fire a version of an Americana Lizzo. 

20 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

Anders Osborne- Buddha and the Blues

Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

Bill Scorzari – Now I’m Free

Calexico and Iron and Wine – Years to Burn

Dream Theater- Distance Over Time

Drugdealer – Raw Honey

Ex Hex- It’s Real

Greensky Bluegrass- All For Money

Jazzmeia Horn – Love and Liberation

Jenny Lewis –On The Line

Lizzo – Cuz I Love You

Los Coast – Samsara

Mavis Staples – We Get By

North Mississippi Allstars- Up and Rolling

Sam Cohen – The Future’s Still Ringing In My Ears

Vandoliers- Forever

Van Morrison – Three Chords and the Truth

Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising

White Denim – Side Effects

Yak – Pursuit of Momentary Happiness

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