2019 was filled with lots of anticipated releases from bands and artists across all genres. After much deliberation, here’s my top five favorite albums of 2019.
5. “NINE” – blink-182
After blink-182 released the lead single for “NINE” – “Blame It On My Youth” – I had no hope for this album. However, as they released more singles, like “Generational Divide” and “Happy Days,” I slowly regained hope. I figured it would have a similar vibe to their album “California” – mediocre pop rock – but as soon as the opening track “The First Time” started, I felt like I was listening to one of their older albums. The more pop-influenced, mainstream songs like “Blame It on My Youth” are definitely the weaker songs on the album, but songs like “Darkside” and “No Heart to Speak Of” that go back to the band’s roots are what made this album stand out to me and might be some of my favorite blink-182 songs in general. Obviously, blink-182 will never be as good as they were when Tom Delonge was a part of the band, but this album gets them pretty close to that level.
4. “Berkeley’s on Fire” – SWMRS
I had first heard of SWMRS when I saw them open for All Time Low in 2017, and I was not a fan. However, once I saw how many people were raving about this album, I gave them a chance – and I am so glad I did. There’s really no way to simply label SWMRS or this album; every song pulls inspiration from a different genre, but almost every song on this album has a political undertone. The opening, title track “Berkeley’s on Fire” is not-so-subtly about the 2017 Berkeley protests and denounces neo-Nazis. The album features vocals from both brothers Max and Cole Becker, and the songs alternate from being politically-charged, angry, punk-influenced vocals from Cole to calmer, alternative pop-influenced vocals from Max. The diversity of songs from sappy, acoustic love songs like “IKEA Date” and “Bad Allergies,” to angry, political songs like “Lose Lose Lose” and “Hellboy,” and even old-school hip-hop inspired “Steve Got Robbed” is what makes this album stand out to me.
3. “Love is Dead and We Killed Her” – Doll Skin
Doll Skin have been one of my favorite bands and one of my biggest inspirations since I saw them at Warped Tour in 2018. As soon as I saw a video of them playing the then unreleased song “Your Idols Are Dying” live, my expectations for this album were very high. I could tell they were going to a darker, heavier place both in their sound and lyrics, and I couldn’t wait. Opening track “Don’t Cross My Path” delivers on the heavier sound, exploring more of singer Sydney Dolezal’s unclean vocals. I’ve always been impressed with the capabilities of Dolezal’s voice for her age – 19 at the time it was released – but her vocals on this album completely blew me away, especially in the bridge of “Empty House.” This album also flexes guitarist Alex Snowden’s abilities, with most songs having at least a short but extremely impressive guitar solo. Doll Skin truly stepped it up with this album, leaving me excitedly waiting to hear what they’ll do next.
2. “FANDOM” – Waterparks
Ever since I first heard Waterparks’ debut album “Double Dare,” they’ve been my favorite band. However, listening to their album “Entertainment” which was released last year, I didn’t get the same feeling I did with “Double Dare,” and I was desperately hoping I wouldn’t have the same reaction to “FANDOM.” Once the first single “Turbulent” was released, I started to get nervous – when “Watch What Happens Next” was released and I felt like I was listening to one of their older songs based on the instrumentals but with the angrier lyrics of their newer songs, my excitement for “FANDOM” grew exponentially. When the album was released and I listened to the opening track “Cherry Red” for the first time, it felt like I was transported back to 2017 when I first discovered Waterparks; the closing track “I Felt Younger When We Met” also gave me similar feelings. “FANDOM” is a great mix of songs, with sad, acoustic songs like “High Definition” and “Never Bloom Again”; angry, upbeat songs like “War Crimes” and “Turbulent”; and even a short joke song – “Group Chat.” The way that “I Felt Younger When We Met” loops back into “Cherry Red” always has me listening to the album on repeat just to hear that seamless transition. All in all, “FANDOM” definitely left me satisfied and rejuvenated my love of Waterparks.
1. “Sin” – John Floreani
Out of every album released in 2019, “Sin” is the one I found myself returning to the most. I first discovered Trophy Eyes – and, subsequently, singer John Floreani’s solo work – when I saw them at Warped Tour this summer; ever since then, I have not been able to stop listening to them. What stands out about this album is the capabilities of Floreani’s voice; when, with Trophy Eyes, he uses his voice mainly for screaming, but he sings normally for his solo work here. The lower range that he showcases on this album, especially on songs such as “Cocaine” and “Repent,” is so unique for a vocalist in this genre, while also bringing the raspiness heard in Trophy Eyes’ work in songs such as “Echoes” and “I Don’t Want To Be Here Either.” The raw, emotional honesty in his lyrics over acoustic instrumentals makes this album easy to listen to and enjoy in any situation and mood, which is why “Sin” is my favorite album of 2019.
Honorable Mentions: “A Different Shade of Blue” – Knocked Loose, “How It Feels to Be Lost” – Sleeping With Sirens, “Hallucinations – EP” – PVRIS