This year’s list a just a straight top-ten releases with no EP or LP distinctions. For whatever reason, 2019 wasn’t a year of musical quantity so much as it was a year of musical quality for me. I didn’t get into a ton of new music this year, but the records on this list all hit on ingenuitive musicianship and that’s what I love about them. Even the artwork on many of these releases is imaginative and clever. I think it’s also worth noting that three of my top-ten releases this year came by way of Triple B Records. Good on that label for having such an active and successful year.
Top 10 of 2019
This band has quietly released some very impressive music in their short time as a band. Their combination of the gritty Gainesville punk sound with some more foundational melodic punk influences give Desperate Acts a really catchy sound. They also weave in some eerie guitar melodies that give their songs more dynamism. "Medic" is my favorite on this EP.
This a huge release from One Step Closer. The band combines Dischord Records-style emotion with the more straightforward hardcore sensibilities of (dare I say) Have Heart. The recording itself does extremely well in capturing the band's energy, particularly in the emotive cadences in the vocals. From Me to You is hardcore played with ingenuity and thoughtfulness. I had "Dusk" on repeat for a long time as the most impressive track on this record.
Know Hope Records
Vinnie Caruana has honed his skills as an acoustic musician for some years now, and this record reflects that development. But there's also a grittiness to this record that I think goes a bit overlooked. The driving acoustic power behind "Providence" and the lo-hi ambience in "Dying in the Living Room" make them standout tracks on a subtly powerful record overall.
7. Hangman: One By One
Hangman's 2017 EP made my year-end list then, and this LP makes the list this year for much the same reasons. Hangman is heavier and angrier than all. Their heaviness balances grooving breakdowns with tightly wound chugging verses that serve as vocalist Dan Mulligan's launching pad of vitriol. Few band can harness the chaotic energy of their vocalists on record, but Hangman has yet again managed to do just that. This LP is not easy listening, but it's not meant to be. And don"t let the brutishness fool you, the songwriting is strong. "New Dawn" is my favorite song on One By One.
6. Restraining Order: This World Is Too Much
Triple B Records
Another band I got to see live a few times this year, Restraining Order bring a youthful earnest energy to the stage and I love that about them. Their debut LP was pretty highly anticipated in the hardcore underground, and it most certainly did not disappoint. The band combines punk and hardcore sounds with a contemporary twist, and the title track on this record is a great introduction to their sound. I also love 'something for the Youth" on this LP.
This EP is all about fun punk rock anthems. The guitar work is super impressive and offers layers to the songs that give the band's sound more dimensionality. It also doesn"t hurt that singer Marc Adams knows his way around a melody, and that the band includes members of Kill Your Idols and Mind Over Matter. But I really love this EP for it's sing-alongs, light-heartedness, and musicianship. Listen to "I Wanna Float" for a good introduction to 64.
Blood Year is the most cohesive record in my list this year, but cohesion is always a big part of Russian Circles albums. This band harnesses the eerie and unsettling like no other. And yet all of their songs are somehow also infectious. "Kohokia" is my favorite track on this record.
3. Life's Question: A Tale of Sudden Love and Unforgettable Heartbreak
New Morality Zine
I saw Life's Question twice this year, and their live sets were super impressive. Although this is just a three-song release, it's in keeping with the band's short-cassette-style offerings. There's just so much going on with the band's sound. There's an eerie grooviness balanced against big metal guitar leads, all complemented by the band's unusual vocal stylings. With Life's Question, the listener gets the best parts of Helmet, Bane, and Mike Dijan-era Crown of Thornz. Give "Who Stole the Soul" a listen, and get with Life's Question.
2. Abuse of Power: What on Earth Can We Do
Triple B Records
Abuse of Power bring well-written fast melodic hardcore riffage and powerful vocal stylings on their first LP release. Every instrument shines at some point on the record, from super sharp bass lines and drum fills to subtle guitar harmonics and octaves. I love this record for its hardcore punk crossover appeal, and its impressive song-writing. "Leap Year" is my go-to song on this super impressive LP.
Time and Pressure manage to deftly combine thoughtful and antagonistic lyrical content with a modern hardcore sound in creating my favorite release of the year. The Gateway City Sound is eleven songs of fast-paced, heavy, and introspective hardcore, and I"ve been spinning it regularly since it came out. I love the guitar leads and thudding drums, and I can"t say enough about the lyrics. "Hiroshima Lovers" and "The Lost Boys" are my favorite songs on this best record of 2019.