A few weeks ago, I saw a post which said something along the lines of “My first and second halves of 2019 felt like two different years” and that’s pretty much a personal account of my last 365 days. Non-music-wise, the first half of the year was tragically filled with the deaths of epic amounts of friends and acquaintances, emotional turmoil, mental exhaustion, all wrapped up in deep-seeded ennui which left me feeling like I was losing myself more and more every day. I felt every single thing that happened and was said to me so deeply and yet almost not at all.
In the second part of the year, I watched my very best friend and surrogate sister get married and then whisked her away on a girls-only honeymoon, embarking on one of the most epic trips of my life. I jumped out of a fucking airplane 10,000 feet above the earth curing my fear of both planes and flying. It took me to Minnesota where I – along with a motley crew of amazing friends I’ve met though music – took over the largest state fair in the country fueled by White Claw and Red Bull slushees while covered in glittery face paint (see you at the birthing barn!). The year was filled with apologies and forgiveness and with the start of the slow process of healing. In my ongoing quest to take better care of myself both mentally and physically, I tried something new and scary and attended a class offered at my gym where they do cheerleader-inspired dance routines to pop songs and I. Fucking. Love. It. I smile for a straight hour now every Monday night. Suck on that, seasonal depression! And this year took me again to Fest. But this year, I prioritized spending personal time with those I care about over manically sprinting to venues to catch bands. Oh… and I went on a pilgrimage to St. Augustine to meet my personal hero, Chicago’s own Chance the Snapper.
2019 has also been very hard for me in regards to the website. Many of our contributors faced their own challenges, not all that different than my own. Divorce, break-ups, cross country moves, job loss, depression, and everything in between continually pummeled the amazing people who offer their time on this site. And I don’t think I need to elaborate on the more popular (and sane?) choice when deciding between focusing on trying to keep your shit together just so you can function on a daily basis and meeting your goals while working for free for a music website. Unless you’re me of course, depressed and sobbing hysterically at the thought of a world without Brit Strummer (or Chris Mattern or Johnny Wilson or…) as I drafted News articles and wrote interview questions because I knew no one else was going to.
While it was completely draining to feel like I spent this year fighting mostly alone on the front lines, Bad Copy actually is probably one of the only consistent things that got me up and out of my mental shit every single day. When my professional life started to fall apart due to a 18 month long sexual harassment issue which everyone at my work seemingly wanted to magically just go away, I was able to shift my efforts to covering shows, to helping bands, to retaining a tiny semblance of self-importance, something this situation and this man were trying to rip away from me. There were days it was tedious like a full time job and there were others days I wanted to do nothing more than get lost in writing and editing. My website year can be surmised in the immortal words of The Replacements: “I hate music, sometimes I don’t.” Let’s get to the ‘sometimes I don’t’ part, shall we?
Top Albums of 2019:
As a rule of thumb, you should probably always add any album you’ve contributed vocals on to your yearly list. It’s a good thing that both this album and The Eradicator fucking own. I’m so proud of what this band has become, how they’ve really stepped into their own, and how ingeniously creative they are in a music scene where almost everything sounds exactly the same.
Side note: I had no idea how hard learning to properly chant the first song would be for a group of six or so people. And now, it haunts my dreams. T-H-E-E-R-A….
It finally came out! Another Year is Western Settings’ version of GnR’s Chinese Democracy except this album doesn’t blow. Produced by Dead to Me’s Chicken, it’s got a bit of a different sound than 2015’s LP release Yes It Is or 2016’s EP Old Pain. But we’re growing up and getting older and listening to the rehashed versions of the same songs and the same ideas is boring as shit (I’m looking at you, Menzingers!). So gimme something a tad slower and a bit more steady. I can guarantee that Western Settings will still shred your face off whenever you see them live.
Yes, I Can’t is another album I’ve waited years to hear. Devon Kay & the Solutions has returned with a bit of a lineup tweak (including the addition of about half of Jacob Horn Trio) which has done nothing but favors for the Chicago-based band.
I’m not sure if there is another song which came out this year that I related to more than the title track of this album. “I’m sorry but I can’t always be there for you / just the way you might want me to / You can scream into the stratosphere / but my heart is far away from here” became my mantra regarding the maintaining any of my personal relationships this year. It’s the lyrical equivalent to responding to a text with the purple shirt blonde lady shrug emoji, something I’ve also began to heavily favor. Devon and the dudes are already putting out new music and have a new album in the works. Catch them on my 2020 list too, probably.
While I now live across the country, I still try to keep up with whatever’s going on with music on the West Coast. Tony from Bomb Pop must have mentioned Sacramento’s Sad Girlz Club a million and a half times before I really sat down and gave a good hard listen to their February release. But less than ten seconds into the first song, “Ex-Men,” I was sold. The rest of the album doesn’t let up either. It also helps that the band is made up of some of the best people… and that singer/guitarist Shelby (aka one of the cutest and kindest people on the planet) and I have made plans to party together in three different countries in 2020!
6.) Lizzo – Cuz I Love You (Nice Life & Atlantic Records)
Literally last night, Mat Stokes looked me dead in the eye and said, “My year was a lot worse before I found Lizzo.” Hard agree, my friend. She represents a number of demographics who are not as readily accepted in popular music (or most sects of music?). She loves herself for who she is and that is so goddamn empowering in today’s garbage fire society. One phrase, “100% that bitch,” has become a phenomena so strong that you see it everywhere from t-shirts to commercials to embroidery pieces. She’s also a classically trained flautest and, if you saw her performance at the BET Awards this year, you know she fucking shreds (or whatever the flute equivalent is to shredding). There’s just something about the way Lizzo encourages me to “Boss up and change your life” in her song “Good As Hell” that makes me think that I can accomplish anything.
Another pop album on my list? Hell yeah. Like so many, I’m burned out on white men in their 30s whining about women who broke their hearts (I’m still looking at you, Menzingers!). But if we’re talking about broken hearts, I would be remiss to skip over CRJ’s “Party for One” which – similarly to Lizzo – reminds its listeners that you don’t need another person to make you whole. Of course, her new album also features catchy sugary sweet pop songs like “Now That I Found You” and “Automatically in Love” which are tried and true CRJ style love songs, being both adorably cute AND empowering as hell. And I dare you to try not to dance around your house to “Feels Right.”
Before I sat down and listened to Dedicated, my first thought was that there was no way she could even get close to 2015’s Emotion. God, I hate being wrong. Was the song “Too Much” written about me? I believe so.
4.) Blood People – Great Reactor (Self-Released)
If there was a house band which lived in my head and set my thoughts to music in my late teens and early 20s, that band would be Blood People. And if you know me well enough, you know that many things in my life haven’t changed since that time *adjusts decade old bra located under t-shirt I’ve owned for over half my life*. They released a solid fucking EP showcasing their talents and they rip through those songs with even more piss and vinegar when live. One can make 100 Distillers comparisons and there’s no denying that singer Aly Jados exudes the same badass I-could-kick-you-in-the-teeth-while-playing-guitar-and-never-miss-a-note-so-fuck-off energy as Brody Dalle. But I find Blood People more accessible, more explorative, and even more energetic than The Distillers. Chicago has a music culture so rich it’s overwhelming to the faint of heart and we are so lucky to have this four piece as a part of that.
This one snuck up on me, and not merely because it was released in late September. Did I post articles about the band in Spring AND Summer of this year? Yep. Did Jason S. Thompson send me the album for review before its release? Ummhmm. And yet, somehow it took an international trip in October and the feelings is spawned to get me to sit down and really give this thing a deep dive. Fuck, it’s good.
Cory (Arliss Nancy) and Jason (The Sky We Scrape) are two Americans who have both recently(-ish) moved to Germany. They’ve teamed up with Max (Captain Asshole) and a dude named Bastian who I know nothing about except he smiles like the Mona Lisa when he drums. While the songs lyrically cover a wide range of topics, their broad themes are perfectly encapsulated within the album’s title. Keep this one close. Not merely because it’s a fucking banger, but because we’re all gonna need Cory and Jason to help us though the process of moving internationally if/when President Dipshit is re-elected.
In my La Escalera Fest Day 3 review, I wrote “[Problem Daughter’s] new song ‘Modern Stigmata’ may be the most perfect punk song of all time, and definitely of 2019.” It’s nice to see that in a year filled with errors and backsliding, I was actually able to get something right. But it’s not only that one song that’s a heavy hitter. I’ve spent the last nine months fiendishly devouring each of the eleven tracks on this album again and again, a rarity for me as I’m more of a “pick five standouts and skip the rest” kind of lady. The SLC-based four piece somehow continually finds ways to produce full albums packed with earworms which never even dance on the precipice of repetitive or trite.
While the album chronologically picks up where 2016’s Fits of Disorganized Boredom leaves off, the version of Problem Daughter showcased in the new LP displays huge strides in both lyrical and musical maturity. *sigh* My friends are growing up (trash).
1.) Boob Sweat – S/T EP
There is a 200% chance that Grand Rapids, MI’s Boob Sweat is better than your band. This is their first official release and the three songs on this EP are everything I didn’t know I needed in my life until I stumbled upon them. In June, they released a new single called “Happy Now?” which got stuck in my head for months afterwards. I had the chance to see the band live in August in Michigan and, to no surprise, that only adhered them to my heart more. While all three tracks are bangers, “Gilman” is my hands-down favorite of the bunch. It’s so epic and perfect that it would be right at home in the opening credits of a classic cult teen movie like 10 Things I Hate About You or Can’t Hardly Wait. I am eagerly awaiting whatever comes next for Boob Sweat in the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.
Top Album of 2019 Where the Band Broke Up Post-Release & I’m Super Upset About It:
Ellen and the Degenerates – Return of the Herb
Just when I was feeling nice and comfortable and safe with one of my new favorite bands, they go and break up! In February, Brooklyn’s Ellen and the Degenerates released the follow up to the 2017 EP Herb Alert. Three months later, they played their last show. But there’s a silver lining! It was announced earlier this month that members of the band along with members of Sketchy have come together to form a new band, Depressed Mode. Plus, we can still enjoy Return of the Herb and their prior releases as we pray for a reunion show.
Top Album Of 2019 Which Was Released Last Week & I Need More Time To Digest Before Placing On My Top 10 List Although I Know It Would For Sure Be On There:
Jacob Horn Trio – Places
Last Thursday, we premiered a new EP by Chicago’s Jacob Horn Trio and I haven’t stopped listening to the five songs since. There are so many things I love about this band from their ironic name (there are seven members) to the gruffness of Jacob’s voice which pairs so wonderfully with the horns to their chaotic and inspiring live shows. They’re one of those bands that makes me feel lucky to live in Chicago. God I love it here and I love this band.
Top Albums of 2020 (a Foretelling):
Bad Cop / Bad Cop – the amazing and unstoppable ladies of BCBC recorded new music this year, and if my limited knowledge of the music industry tells me anything, it should be out next year on Fat Wreck Chords. I didn’t think they could make a more powerful album than Not Sorry and then they released Warriors. I can’t wait to see what sort of anthemic, uplifting tracks grace this new LP.
Bandaid Brigade – The brainchild of PEARS‘ Zach Quinn and Scorpios/Gods of Mount Olympus’ Brian Wahlstrom will be officially releasing their debut LP, I’m Separate, on January 21st. Ever since the band released the music video for their first song “Travel Light”, I was hooked and needed more. And now that I have it – thank you PR gods for providing me with this keyboard packed epic 80s themed goodness – I can tell you that this album WILL be on my 2020 list.
Beach Bunny – Sad, sincere, love lost, and melodic. What’s not to love about Beach Bunny? I’ve been enamored with this Chicago band for about two years, following them all over the city, mesmerized by how perfect their songs not only are written but are executed live. Beach Bunny will be releasing their debut LP on (when else?) Valentine’s Day 2020 and will be hitting the road right after heading to the West and East Coasts. Some of the dates are already sold out!
Kesha – If the internet knows anything about me it’s that I drink Tito’s & Soda, obsess over unicorns, and love this woman. She’s released four songs off the new album, entitled High Road which releases on January 31st, and I’m HERE FOR ALL OF IT. Her 2017 release Rainbow was centralized around the hurt and healing process of her ongoing legal battles with King of the Douchebags and totally not a real MD, Dr. Luke, and his emotional and physical abuse over the years. Masterpiece? Yeah, I may have been known to use that word to describe it from time to time. High Road celebrates the party after the healing. “Because I think life is a vacation from where we go when we die,” Kesha stated. Remember those PR gods I thanked above? If any of ya’ll want to pass along this RCA/Kemosabe release in advance, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
Top Song of 2019 Featured in A Sketch Comedy Which Has Seeped Into All Aspects Of My Life & I Will Never Escape Nor Do I Ever Want To:
And that’s all I’ve got. Everything will be okay. We’ve got this. And if it’s not… at least we’ve got music to get us through… and tacos. See you all next year. <3