Ahh yes, it’s time for one of my favorite activities during the end of the year. No, it’s not slamming peppermint Kahula—though that’s on the list. It’s time to reflect on my favorite records from the year, which I’ve always loved due to my bizarre and insatiable need to tell people what media to consume. This year, I spent a lot of time listening to post-punk, PC music and most of all forms of darkwave. This list features 10 artists who helped shape my year in records.
10. Khalid – Free Spirit (RCA Records)
A few years ago, when Khalid released American Teen, I fell in love; it felt like such an honest account of what it felt like to be a teenager. This year, Khalid came back with a mature and sincere narrative about being in love as a 20-something and navigating the world of entertainment. With its fresh, pop beats and synth-inspired sounds, this was one of my favorite additions to the pop catalog.
9. Molchat Doma – Etahzi (Detri Records/Molchat Doma)
If you had told me that one of my favorite bands would be darkwave band from Belarus, I would have said probs not; however, Molchat Doma beautifully illustrate the bleak and brutalist landscape of eastern Europe with ease. The echoing coos come to call to the listener in an enchanting way and leave you wrapped up in its mysterious semi-synth majesty.
8. TRST – The Destroyer-1 (Grouch Records)
TRST proved their club creds a few years ago with their track “Sulk,” but in the years since, they have proved themselves to be a fully realized gothic and trance pop group. On this record, they completely come into their own in a uniquely tender way. With less club appeal and more introspective and romantic reasoning, this record is the beginning of self-awareness.
7. Covenant – Fieldworks Exkursion (Metropolis Records)
What can I say about Covenant that hasn’t already been said? While technically an EP, it covers enough ground to satiate the hunger for a full record. Featuring unique samples taken from their journeys, it gives a personal look into the lives of our favorite Swedes. This EP also spotlights the artist grabyourface on the track “False Gods.” However, what brings the EP full circle is the recitation of the German poem, “Das Nibelugenlid (Erstes Abenteuer).” I looked up the translation, and I suggest that you do, too.
6. Charli XCX – Charli (Asylum Records)
Semi-underground, but with the pop world at her disposal, Charli XCX released her best work yet. Charli XCX gives an intimate and sincere look at stardom and relationships. The effeminate vocals and sugary, pop beats are incredibly fun, and Charli’s writing has proved to be the star of the show. The track “Official” is one of the best love songs of the year.
5. Swain – Negative Space (End Hits Records)
This record is so effortlessly sexy. It brands itself as a mature indie record, but it has the playability of being heard in an Urban Outfitters. Slightly darker, “Skin on Skin” is deliciously filthy and could be easily weaponized. The versatility of this record makes it a crowd-pleaser; you’ll enjoy it; your mom will like it; your neighbor upstairs in your apartment complex will love it.
4. Black Marble – Bigger Than Life (Sacred Bones Records)
Simply sensational, this record was so heartfelt and genuine. Lyrically, it’s Black Marble’s most intimate endeavor, taking us on a journey of longing and understanding. Its 80s notions expose their influences and what makes the band tick.
3. Greet Death – New Hell (Deathwish Inc.)
Slowcore has never sounded so good, and yes, I cried to this one, too. Greet Death are the ultimate sadbois; their carefully tailored tracks layered with devastating vocals make your heart feel like it’s imploding with every listen. Their epic finale, “New Hell,” reshaped me as a person and molded me in a new image. The intensity of this record is unmatched and was one of the most heartbreaking features of the year.
2. Mover Shaker – Another Truck Stop (Skeletal Lightning)
A record three years in the making, this is the truest form of Mover Shaker. Coming into their own, this record takes us to new places with tracks that cover the spectrum of emotion, lyrically focusing on the development of relationships. Drawing inspiration from Midwest emo and their contemporaries, Mover Shaker reveal themselves and give us the rawest explanation of who they are and what they stand for. This is merely the beginning of their journey.
- Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror (Dais Records)
I cried six times to this record, so take my word for it; it’s literally one of the best records out right now. The synthwave-inspired tracks are ripped directly from the 80’s club scene, and clocking in at 42 minutes, we get a full, feature-length film told through reverb, modular synths, and modded pedals. The two tracks on this record that inspired me were “Oxycotin” and “Out of Sequence.” Both of them are a shot to the heart; it feels like an alcohol-fuelled dream walk. This is transcendence. This is beyond human comprehension. This is ethereal; it’s like kissing g*d.
We’ve sure had a lot of fun during this countdown, and I hope that you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I can’t wait to see what we discover in 2020 and beyond. If you really enjoyed this stream of consciousness, follow my twitter @tinatlking where the musical musings never stop. See ya’ll next year. <3