1. Her Name Is Calla – Animal Choir
Animal Choir is Her Name Is Calla’s last hurrah. After a decade of making increasingly stirring, striking, and special sounds, the British outfit are calling it quits. But they have not gone quietly. Their final record is a dense, epic, adventurous effort mixing post-rock thunder with the finest indie ingredients and hints of neo-classical, dark ambience, and electronica too.
It’s fit to burst, positively wracked with dynamic shifts and turns, but still manages to move forward with momentum and intent. It’s akin to the best work of The Antlers, Arcade Fire, and Animal Collective, but feels like an album alone, a remote island of a record. What a fine and fearsome hurrah it is. Buy the digital album here.
2. Black to Comm – Seven Horses for Seven Kings
It feels incredibly safe to say that Seven Horses for Seven Kings won’t be for everyone. For some, just the haunting, harrowing drones of the opening track will be too much noise terror to handle. Others though, those brave enough to go on, will experience an unforgettable hour of music. This latest record from sound designer Marc Richter feels like anxiety turned into song. It feels like an exorcism gone wrong. And it’s definitely coming to get you. Buy the digital album here.
3. 65daysofstatic – Replicr, 2019
Barely there compared to 2013’s cinematic Wild Light, the seventh record by UK outfit 65daysofstatic is built from bubbling bass, buried melodies, corrupted clicks, and robot whirrs. Rather than point to any standout tracks, this is instead best experienced as a whole album. It’s occasionally a cold and distant one, yes, but what better soundtrack for times like these. Stream the record here.
4. Spotlights – Love & Decay
The third Spotlights album is a bold, brilliant effort that doesn’t just encourage comparisons to the band’s doom-and-gloom-enthused peers but the vaunted likes of Isis, Jesu, and Deftones too. Anyone who has already fallen under Spotlights’ spell will only fall deeper here. Everyone else should prepare to be converted. Buy the digital album here.
5. Lingua Ignota – Caligula
A searing ode to pain, recovery, weakness, and strength that features ominous doom, intense noise rock, banshee screams, and summons for Satan, Caligula is not an easy listen. It is, however, impossible to ignore. An instant classic. Buy the digital album here.
6. Pelican – Nighttime Stories
Returning to the more aggressive tones that made their name without once feeling like they’re treading old ground or going through the motions, Pelican put in a powerhouse, post-rock performance on Nighttime Stories. Buy the digital album here.
7. Cloudkicker – Unending
Ben Sharp is now a victim of his own success. While Unending is packed with addictive, shifting rhythms; inimitable riffs; and memorable textures, it’s perhaps one of the less unique Cloudkicker records. Still, nobody does this sort of thing better. Buy the digital album here.
8. Infinity Shred- Forever, a Fast Life
It’s rare that a band can stick to their formula, producing decidedly more of the same, and still receive the highest possible praise. But while Infinity Shred pretty much repeat themselves here, Forever, a Fast Life is one of the best albums of the year. Download the digital album here.
9. PSOTY – Sunless
The band formerly-known as Pet Slimmers of the Year did more than streamline their name this year. They focused on what made them stand out before now, cut out everything else, and produced a post-metal treasure that’s a rare balance of power and emotion, depth and darkness. Buy the digital album here.
10. American Football – S/T
Like moss on the walls of an old house, the third, self-titled effort from these emo pioneers is a slow grower. Much better than the previous album, it benefits from not caring so much about their seminal debut while striving for something new. Beautiful. Buy the digital album here.
11. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost
Not without its flaws (some on-the-nose lyrics, the criminal sidelining of Jack Bevan’s drumming), Foals’ mammoth, two-part effort still boasts big riffs, bigger melodies, beautiful melancholy, and a couple of the catchiest songs of the year.