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Songs of the year: 2019

This year I’ve taken time out to listen to a lot of new music. I’ve had a whale of a time, and these are the songs that I most enjoyed, there’s some absolute bangers among them. The 80 tracks are arranged alphabetically – I don’t think I could have done much else, given my time constraints, and the dizzying range of genres represented here.

There’s a handful of big names here, but most are artists that I’m only just discovering, and tracks you very probably won’t have heard before. That’s commercial radio’s loss, and your gain. Please leave a comment below, and let me know what you liked here and what you didn’t. And if you’re excited by any of these as much as I am, please check out the artists and buy their stuff.

 

Albert Castiglia -Thoughts and Prayers

Driving blues rock from Florida

 

Anna Mieke – If

Contemporary folk. Anna Mieke, or Anna-Mieke Bishop, is a musician and songwriter from Wicklow, Ireland

 

Aoibheann and Pamela Queally – Honeymoon/ Martin Rochfords/ The Leading Roll (Reels)
Irish traditional. The sisters from Kilmaley, Co. Clare (concertina and fiddle) have made a whole album of West Clare music

 

ARGH KiD – Riot
The new sound of Manchester: “It’s a massive, dirty bass driven hip hop monster from the stable of Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine.”

 

Big Thief – Not

The Brooklyn indie rock four piece released two landmark albums in 2019. Two Hands was recorded in just a handful of takes and with few overdubs.

 

Bou – Wine Ya B
Also from Manchester, Bou is a new face on the Drum & Bass scene

 

Brecc – Madness

Dutch techno DJ & Producer from Utrecht

 

Brighde Chaimbeul – Tornala Maika

Scottish traditional: smallpipes from Skye

 

Chase & Status – Original Business

Drum & bass. The all conquering London duo return with the album Rtrn II Jungle 

 

Chicken Snake – Worried Blues

Dirty gothic blues inspired rock from New Orleans

 

Code Walk – touch

Techno from Copenhagen

 

Daddy Long Legs – Morning Noon & Night

Explosive punk blues from New York City

 

Dale Ann Bradley – Pretty, Dark Hearted Emma Brown
Bluegrass. “I grew up in a tar and paper covered shack right near Loretta Lynn’s childhood home,” – Dale Ann Bradley on her rustic origin in the hills of east Kentucky as a hardscrabble preacher’s daughter.

 

David Harrow & Ghetto Priest – Bakklehot (Oicho Remix)
Glitchy electronica from London duo

 

 

Debby Friday – Fatal
Canadian electronic producer who says she’s tired of being stigmatised as an angry queer black woman

 

Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan – Begha ghara ayo
Indian folk from Rajasthan. Rahis and his three younger brothers, Teepu Khan, a great and virtuous tabla player and vocalist; Sanjay Khan, the outstanding lead vocalist and harmonium player; and Amrat Hussain, a phenomenal tabla player, are the heart of the DHOAD group. They’re the product of more than seven generations of talented musicians

 

Dori Freeman – I’ll Be Coming Home
Appalachian folk/country. For her latest album Every Single Star, Dori writes songs “as a contented mother, and not as a jilted lover”

 

Dub Phizix & Strategy – Calm

More Manchester Drum & Bass, this time with a political edge

 

Eabhal – This is how the Ladies Dance

Scottish traditional: five young looking faces from Uist

 

Exilles – Compex

Techno from Turin – “they strictly perform live”

 

Fontaines D.C. – Big
From the Dublin punk band’s Mercury music prize nominated debut album

 

Gino and the Goons – Glory Days Gone

Ramones inspired garage rock from Tampa

 

The Goa Express – The Day

From Burnley, now Manchester based. Indie rock with echoes of Inspiral Carpets

 

Grafix – Acid Generation

Bristol based Drum & Bass producer

 

Harry Harris – Things John Hated

Welsh born alt folk songwriter based in Edinburgh

 

Hayes Carll – Times Like These

Texan country rock troubadour – “I finally made it to the Opry at age 43 after 20 years in the business”

 

Headsticks – Cynical

Conscious and angry punk music from Stoke on Trent

 

House Gospel Choir – Salvation
House and gospel music – a marriage made in heaven ! The London choir has grown to over 150 members of all religions and backgrounds. 

 

Ian Prowse – We Ride At Dawn
Ellesmere Port‘s finest, folk rock singer with a heart and a social conscience

 

Illyus & Barrientos – Shout

House DJ duo of immigrant stock, now kings of the Glasgow scene

 

James Yorkston – The Villages I Have Known My Entire Life

Alt folk from the East Neuk of Fife

 

Jeanines – No Home

62 seconds of indie pop magic from Brooklyn

 

Jeffrey Lewis – My Girlfriend Doesn’t Worry

Antifolk singer songwriter from New York City

 

Jimmy Eat World – All The Way (Stay)

Emo rock quartet from Arizona

 

Joan Shelley – Tell Me Something

The indie folk singer’s 6th album Like The River Loves The Sea is “a love letter to her home state of Kentucky

 

Josh Ritter – All Some Kind Of Dream

State of the nation number with a folk rock vibe by the songwriter from Moscow Idaho

 

Josienne Clarke – Things I Didn’t Need

Scottish trad from the Isle of Bute. Debut solo album from one half of the award winning duo

 

Just Mustard – October

Indie rock number with swirling noise, reminds me of a band called the Raveonettes who featured in my songs of the year for 2009 ! These are a young five piece band from Dundalk, Ireland

 

Justin Townes Earle – Ain’t Got No Money

Bluesy roots rock from the Nashville born songwriter who’s long since transcended the tag of being the son of Steve Earle

 

JyellowL – Quote Unquote

The announcement that Ozone would be included on the soundtrack for EA Sports FIFA 20 and Volta Football soundtracks (making him the only Irish artist to be featured) has propelled the young hip hop artist to a new international level

 

Kate Tempest – All Humans Too Late

Inimitable poet/spoken word performer, recording artist, novelist and playwright from London

 

Kilfenora Ceili Band – Molly Bán

Hailing from County Clare, they claim to be Ireland’s oldest ceili band 

 

Kings Of Tomorrow featuring April Morgan – Fire (Sandy Rivera & Laroye’s Fire Funk Remix)

Kings of Tomorrow is an alias of New York based House DJ Sandy Rivera

 

Lakou Mizik – Bouyon Lakou (feat. The Soul Rebels)

Lakou Mizik is a collective of Haitian musicians formed in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. The world music group includes elder legends and rising young talents

 

The Last Poets – Toxic Times

The year’s hardest hitting protest song comes from the first album for 20 years from the legendary New York wordsmiths who were among the forefathers of hip hop

 

Little Simz – Venom

Punchy North London rapper who picked up her first Mercury music prize nomination this year 

 

Lucy Rose – What Does It Take

On her album No Words Left, the English indie folk singer tackles the subject of depression. “People seem keen to lump me in the female singer-songwriter box, and I think I’m a lot more than that”

 

Lula Wiles – Morphine

Young female Boston trio with an indie folk number, though songs with a little country twang are also provided. “None of us are named Lula”

 

Luna and the Moonhounds – Dancing with the Devil

Female fronted blues rock from Coventry

 

Mavis Staples – Brothers And Sisters

Glorious return of Chicago born soul icon best known for a series of 1970s soul classics

 

Memes – Blah Blah Blah

Punk duo from Glasgow: love Idles, then you’ll love this

 

The Mysterines – Gasoline

So proud that these come from the Wirral: garage rockers with an ear for a good melody

 

Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Rainbow of Colors

I’m not usually a big fan of rockers carrying on past retirement age, but the Canadian veteran has really delivered here: a great anthem for our movement and our times

 

Objectiv – Bad Karma (feat Haribo)

Up and coming Drum & Bass producer based in London

 

Omar Souleyman – Layle

Global dance music sensation from Syria

 

JS Ondara – God Bless America

The folksy Kenyan American singer songwriter says that when making his debut album Tales of America, “Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan were the two albums I had in my head”

 

Our Native Daughters – Barbados

Songs of Our Native Daughters is the work of four banjo players, all women of colour, interpreting African-American women’s stories of struggle, resistance, and hope. The group was assembled by Rhiannon Giddens who sings on this track. Outstanding.

 

Parno Graszt – Shunén romálé – Halljátok cigányok

Roma traditional music from Hungary

 

Patty Griffin – Mama’s Worried

Intimate, confessional acoustic folk number from Maine native and singer songwriter legend

 

Plan B – First Past The Post

Clued up London rapper Plan B on why Britain’s electoral system is fucked, why Brexit needs to be stopped, and the merits of tactical voting

 

Rodney Crowell – Caw Caw Blues feat Vince Gill

The veteran singer songwriter looks to his home state of Texas for inspiration in his latest album. For me, this track with its high voltage blues rock leaped out immediately.

 

Roseanne Reid – Amy

Scottish songwriter, daughter of Proclaimer Craig Reid. This indie folk number triumphed in the Lyrics Only category at the Nashville-based International Song Competition, chosen from 160,000 entries from 130 countries

 

Scrap Brain – Crybaby

Raucous hardcore punk that feels real and heartfelt. London/Oxford

 

Sisso – Chafu

There’s an explosive new electronic dance style coming out of Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania; and Sisso is the man to show us what it’s all about

 

Skepta – Wish You Were Here

Battle of the UK grime stars:  Skepta disses on fellow Londoner Wiley

 

Skinny Pelembe – No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish

Down tempo trip hop. Born in Johannesburg, Skinny now lives in London

 

The Specials – 10 Commandments

Saffiyah Khan guest vocals on superb riposte by the reformed English band to Prince Buster’s ska classic

 

Speng Bond & Cusci – Open the Borders

Conscious hard hitting roots reggae made in Birmingham by veteran of the UK sound system scene

 

Steve Earle & The Dukes – Dublin Blues

The multiple Grammy winning Texas born roots rocker is back, and at 64 still at the top his game 

 

Stiff Richards – Bad Disease

Raucous, energetic punk rock from Melbourne

 

Tedeschi Trucks Band – When Will I Begin

Signs is a mature album that showcases the versatility of the Florida based husband and wife band. This is a soulful ballad

 

Tindersticks – No Treasure But Hope

Beautifully understated alt folk by the alternative rock band from Nottingham

 

Todd Snider – The Ghost of Johnny Cash

Rootsy folk rock from Portland, Oregon

 

A Tribe Called Red – The OG

Ottawa based band, working here with Black Bear, a Québécois  group of Pow Wow singers and drum group, making radical genre bending music. The OG opens with the words of Cree politician Romeo Saganash from an inspirational speech about the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Indigenous rights

 

The Twilight Sad – Auge/Maschine

Scottish indie rock from Kilsyth in North Lanarkshire. Previously they reached no 20 in my best songs of 2009

 

Ty Segall – Taste

No year is complete without a Ty Segall album (or several !). The Californian scuzz rocker’s latest offering is guitar-free (not that you’d notice the difference)

 

Vivian Girls – At It Again

Reformed girl band from Brooklyn bringing you more jangly fuzz rock with 60s tinged melodies. The Girls were at number 7 in my best songs of 2011.

 

Waed Bouhassoun – Je dors le cœur blesse

Arabic traditional music, performed by Waed, a Syrian female singer and oud player, now living in Paris

 

Wechekeche ñi Trawün – La Tierra NO se vende

Chilean rappers Wechekeche Ni Trawun are on a mission to support the Mapuche indigenous people’s fight for justice and land rights

 

Xenu & the Thetans – Amigos Muertos

And to finish off, more noisy garage punk, this from Mexico City

 

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