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2019 Year End Best Of

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2019: EvilSponge’s 18th year on the web, and our sparsest content year to date. Finding the time to write about music is difficult these days… I can make excuses, but life really just gets in the way, from work obligations to dating to hanging out with her children to social events …

That said, i thought that this was a great year for music. I heard a lot of interesting things and have never wanted for music to stir my mind and soul. There is always something new and fresh to grab my attention, and i like that.

I also went farther down the rabbit hole of Doom Metal this year, and maybe exploring this other genre is part of what has made things seem fresh and exciting. I don’t quite know if i can put into words the grasp this stuff has on my mind: the dark lyrics, the grinding guitars, and the deep rhythms all combine to make something that, when i listen to it, imparts a feeling of catharsis. How is it that a 20 minute droning mostly instrumental metal song about Odin’s 8-lgged horse (It’s called Between Sleipnir’s Breaths and is the lead track on Sunn o))))’s first release of 2019) can help calm the mind and make everything seem okay? Catharsis is a mystery, even if it something that i crave from music.

But not everyone is as into the Doom as i am, and i do listen to a wide range of things, so i tried to keep that in mind when coming up with my year-end lists.

  1. Il Contrario Di Annegare by Action Dead Mouse
    “The opposite of drowning” is what the title means. I have been following Action Dead Mouse for a few years now, and then band has grown a lot. This is an LP of intense post-hardcore that fills the Fugazi-shaped hole in my heart. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

  2. somesurprises by somesurprises
    One of the most rewarding things about being a music reviewer is discovering something that you would never have heard of without being sent a promo. Such was the case with somesurprises. This promo of psychedelic dreampop really resonated with me, and i ended up listening to it so much over

  3. Sego Sucks by Sego
    When i first listened to this promo, i thought that perhaps it was a little too messy, with too many layers going on. The band does seem to subscribe to the “Might as well throw in the kitchen sink too” style of production… However, these songs are very catchy and in time the record won me over.

  4. Cut Your Teeth by Necking
    What’s not to like about a fast punk record with lots of shouting and thundering rhythms and … lyrics about things i can relate to. Like call center jobs, and not wanting to go out at night, etc.

  5. Lifemetal by Sunn o)))
    Sunn o))) make long droning songs out of layers of guitar played slowly and through distortion. They are like Low without Mimi and more distortion pedals, in a way. They are also, in my opinion, an ambient heavy metal band. What they do here is take ambient metal and strip it down to layers of guitar feedback sliding against each other. The record is only 4 “songs” each about 20 minutes long, so it takes a kind of patience to listen to Sunn o))). I found this record to be particularly rewarding on repeated listens.

  6. Live Vol 2 by Saint Vitus
    This was a bonus disc that came with my copy of the latest Saint Vitus record. I liked that record, but i spent a lot of time with this live disc, which captures the band in 2013 firing on all cylinders. It gets bonus points for making the surly teenage daughter of my girlfriend exclaim, “What the hell is this?” as she was forced to ride with me somewhere as i played this in the car. Wow – it annoyed a teenager enough to make her interact with an adult! You go, Saint Vitus.

  7. Blood Year by Russian Circles
    Russian Circles have been remarkably consistent of late: putting out an album of quality heavy metal influenced instrumental post rock (think more Mogwai than Explosions in the Sky) about every 18 months or so. This one has helped soundtrack my fall and early winter.

  8. Maybe Someday by Tombstones in Their Eyes
    Western shoegaze, lethargic and distorted, the voice lost in echo. And catchy too! These guys continue to impress.

  9. Equivalents by Loscil
    And of course i spent a lot of time with the latest missive of dub electronica to come out of Canada. This is a lovely record, very typical of Loscil.

  10. No Home Record by Kim Gordon
    I read Kim Gordon’s book Girl In a Band this year, and enjoyed it, even if the Sonic Youth related content was sparse (some albums got a paragraph while other records have almost a chapter devoted to them…). Then she released this solo record. It is, well, it’s a Kim Gordon record. She has always pushed boundaries musically, making songs that ebb and flow in very odd directions. I appreciate what she is doing and in general like this record a lot, even if there are some songs that go on for 6 minutes where she gaspily chants things over a chugging drum machine beat. Kim Gordon’s work is not for everyone, but there are some really neat ideas here, as well as several moments of real beauty.
Non 2019 releases:

Man cannot live on new music alone, and i am always wandering through record stores looking at old discs and taking old records and CDs off the self to listen to. These are the things that really stood out to me this year, in alphabetical order.

Live 2 by Amenra
I was super impressed by this band when they opened for Yob in April. They made a sort of dense shoegazerish metal, with occasional black metal growling vocals, and sometimes regular vocals. The music though! That two guitar attack was amazing, and i bought this from the band. There is a bit much of the black metal growl, but i am learning to look past that. These guys are doing some very interesting things.

Live at Roadburn 2015 by Bell Witch
Apparently this is a limited edition record that the band had for sale when i saw them back in August. Three songs, one from their debut 2012 release and 2 from their 2015 classic Four Phantoms. Long, droning, ebbing and flowing – ambient post rock heavy metal bliss.

Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath
When looking through used records at Decatur CD while killing time one evening, i found an almost new copy of the 2010 re-release of this record in the used bin for dirt cheap. I snapped it up and have been listening to this over and over.

Red Medicine by Fugazi
I listen to a lot of Fugazi. They are a constant in my life, one of their CDs almost always in the car, near that car CD player. For some reason this was the one that i kept drifting back to this year. Target has become one of my favorite Fugazi songs, as Picciotto sneers “and i realize i hate the sound of guitars / a thousand grudging young millionaires”.

Born Too Late by Saint Vitus
When i discovered this band again after many years, i had to track down a copy of this record since i could no longer play my old cassette. Fortunately, SST Records still has it in print. This is sludgy, the guitar are a distorted blur and the vocals are full of despair and pain. I play this loud so that my neighbors can hear it as well!

Greatest Hits by Steely Dan
Oh god, Steely Dan! They are the most pretentious classic rock group, right? Well, for some reason i had them and Supertramp confused in my mind. My girlfriend is into SD though, and when on vacation in Florida i found a very good copy of this 2-disc set at Tonevendor for a really good price. I took the chance. When we finally got home to Georgia and my turntable, i discovered that, well, Steely Dan are not Supertramp, and that the first two songs on this disc (Do It Again and Reeling in the Years) are actually 2 classic rock songs that i liked a lot, i just had no idea who did them. Huh. I have spent a lot of time with this set. There is a lot going on here, and a lot to enjoy.

Rites of Spring by Rites of Spring
After many years looking for a copy of this, i found one at some online sale. Early Guy Picciotto in fine form.

  1. You and I by The Meeting Places
    Holy blap, The Meeting Places are back after a long hiatus. And they still make really good shoegazey guitar rock. Hecks yeah!

  2. Bishop by Victory Hands
    I don’t quite get the Nixon obsession of these guys, but this record is a solid post-hardcore disc.

  3. Sun Mercury by Epic 45
    A companion EP to their 2018 full-length Through Broken Summer, this is even dreamier and hazier. There is an outtake, a remix of that outtake by July Skies, and a re-interpretation or another album tune by Spc Eco, and three additional tracks. This is very pretty.

  4. Swim Team by Christelle Bofale
    This Congolese immigrant to Austin has a lovely voice and plays a wonderful chiming guitar. I hope to hear more music from her soon.

  5. Faraway Business by Renata Zeiguer
    This is a lovely little EP of folkish jazzy pop by a singer with a great voice
  1. Bell Witch on Wed 7 Aug
    This concert was three days before i had a massive data migration at work, but there was no way i was missing it! And they were incredible in concert once again. I will go and see them whenever i can.

  2. Cold Cave with Adult. on Thurs 7 March
    I have liked Cold Cave for a long time but never managed to see them. And i have enjoyed Adult. for years, although it has been a long time since i saw them. This concert was totally worth being tired at the office the next day. As my friend Fran said after the show, “Cold Cave are what New Order could sound like if they didn’t suck now!” Indeed.

  3. Amenra opening for Yob on Wed 10 April
    I knew nothing about Amenra going in to the show, but they were on stage when i entered Hell at The Masquerade, making a wonderful racket. They impressed a lot. Then the show kind of lost some momentum due to a long Voivod set, but Yob came on at the end and played a heck of a show.

  4. The Church on Sat 20 Apr
    I have been a fan of The Church since 1985, and this was the 10th time i have seen them in concert (i think). It was the second time i have dragged the girlfriend to see them, and she doesn’t seem to mind. This show was the anniversary of the release of Starfish, so they played that album all the way through. I, like most of the crowd, know every word and note on that record and it is always a blast to see them perform it whole. Afterwards they came back for a second set of other tunes, which was nice. A fun night by a band that continues to be awesome.

  5. This Is Not Fugazi at Oakhurst Porchfest on Sat 12 Oct
    I listen to a lot of Fugazi. I have essentially memorized their records by this point. And yet … i never got to see them in concert. This Is Not Fugazi is one of the growing number of local bands dedicated to playing one band in particular. And, well, i have issues with this sort of Musical Cosplay Recreationism, specifically that it means i am getting old. And yet … they played 13 Songs on the porch of some McMansion across the tracks from me, drinking beer and flailing away under stage lights. And it was awesome. It really was. God i’m old…

  6. In Sonitus Lux at Oakhurst Porchfest on Sat 12 Oct
    I went to see this set at Porchfest because the description of the band as ambient virtuoso sitar music sounded interesting. The reality was far more awesome than that description led me to believe. This was an amazing performance: these two guys are wonderful musicians, and this was really cool to see.

I saw a few other shows, but in retrospect they were not that exciting. There are several shows that i wanted to see but had to miss either due to cash flow issues, scheduling (concerts on Fridays are bad timing for me now), or girlfriend conflicts (she is not going to come to a noise rock show with me, so i have to decide between seeing some bands and spending time with the girl). Oh well.

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