Albums of the Year- 2019

Moderate Rock’s 2019 was, apparently, a mood. This year’s Album of the Year list sits under a storm cloud. Oh sure, there are glimmers of light, but there is also doom, gloom, big riffs, nasty noise, and a record that sounds like it wants to pull you through a portal into a nightmare dimension. Downer jams galore.

The list does come from a place of love though. Out of the thousands worthy of further mention- the return of the The Shaking Sensations, Infinity Shred living up to their name, Altarage’s scorched earth sounds- these are the records that have stuck with me this year. These are the albums I want to rave about, to share, to show off. Some you will know, others you might not.

I hope you find something to love.

11 because Spinal Tap.

11. PELICAN- ‘Nighttime Stories’
Pelican return to the more aggressive tones that made their name without once feeling like they’re treading old ground or going through the motions.

10. PSOTY- ‘Sunless’
A post-metal treasure that’s a rare balance of power and emotion, depth and darkness.

9. AMERICAN FOOTBALL- ‘American Football’
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.

8. CLOUDKICKER- ‘Unending
The unexpected return of Ben Sharp’s brilliant one-man band. Nobody does this better.

7. CULT OF LUNA- ‘A Dawn to Fear’
Another intense effort but those that stick with it will walk through a forest of rare sonic quality, discover clever heaviness both familiar and new, and hear music that further elevates its composers above genre or comparison. A record to revere.

6. 65DAYSOFSTATIC- ‘Replicr, 2019’
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.

5. 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. 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.

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 likes of Isis, Jesu, and Deftones too. Anyone that has already fallen under Spotlights’ spell will only fall deeper. Everyone else should prepare to be converted.

A hot-to-touch melting pot of 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.

2. OUTLANDER- ‘The Valium Machine’
It might be one of the slowest slow burns of the year, but once the hypnotic post-rock, delirious doom, and original oddness on this Birmingham band’s debut seeps into your system, there’s no escape.

1. HER NAME IS CALLA- ‘Animal Choir
After a decade of making increasingly stirring, striking and special sounds, Her Name Is Calla called it quits. But they did not go 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 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.

Kudos too, to Kids See Ghosts and Spanish Love Songs for albums I fell in love with this year that actually came out last year.

Here’s to 2020!


  • For all of everything, we both agree AMiii was low down in the top 10 at least. Need to check a lot of this out.

    • I feel like you know most of them, I just doubled down on my gloomy vibes this year. You will love or hate that Lingua Ignota record; blew my mind.

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