Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
With the year and decade coming to an end it is time for taking stock and reflecting on what has been and gone. Not wanting to break with tradition I decided to trawl through twelve months of releases to bring you my albums of the year. As usual, it is an extremely personal affair. Looking back, I picked the records which had some form of emotional resonance with me. From alt-pop to hip hop, ambiance to house, these were the albums which cut though the torrent of bullshit and made 2019 a great year to be alive. By JOHN BITTLES
So, prepare yourself both spiritually and physically, and let us begin…
Oneknowing by Lena Raine (Local Action)
Released back in March, Lena Raine’s gorgeously bittersweet debut album was damn close to sublime. Best known as a video game composer, Oneknowing saw the artist step into the limelight in her own right with stunningly stirring results. With vocals and melancholy synths gliding in and out of the mix, the record conjures a world of silence and mystery which lures you straight into its warm embrace. The melodic ambiance of A Chance To Rest, Light Rail’s quiet yearning and the hazy beats of Momodani all stand out. Star of the show, though, are the soft strings and hushed vocals of Tsukuyomi, a track so beautiful, you can practically feel your heart swell as it plays.
Track To Check – Tsukuyomi.
Stars Are The Light by Moon Duo (Sacred Bones)
Best known for their psychedelic drone masterpieces, Californian twosome Moon Duo re-emerged this year with a poppier, warmer sound. Cosy and inviting, their seventh LP sees the band add a touch of dancefloor dynamism to their trademark dirges. The result is their most accomplished album in years. Picks include the hazy, sun-kissed swoon of Flying, the euphoric trance rush of Stars Are The Light, the romantic dub skank of Fall (In Your Love), and the heady goodness of Fever Night. An unbridled delight from start to finish, Stars Are The Light makes the perfect soundtrack to dreaming away your life.
Track to Check – Stars Are The Light.
The Lonely Machine by John Shima (FireScope Records)
John Shima has been a name to watch for those who like their techno with a huge dollop of Detroit soul for a while now. His Elements Unknown EP and Step Into The Light with Steven Rutter took the mournful electro template and made it his own. This Summer saw John up his game even further with the melancholy electronic vignettes which made up The Lonely Machine. From the crisp beats, warm synths and Artificial Intelligence style bleeps of opener Intel, to the gorgeously heady title track which closes things in style, this is an album full of compassion and emotional depth.
Track to Check – Empires.
MF Bloom + Flowervillain II by MF Doom vs Tyler The Creator (Altered Crates)
MF Bloom + Flowervillian II is a tribute/remix album of two of rap’s heavyweights that features samples from the likes of Frank Ocean, Sade and Kanye West. While sounding slightly deranged, this inspired bootleg turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. With Santana style guitars running throughout, this is hip hop after too much time lounging in the sun. It is also undeniably brilliant! One listen to the laidback rap of 911dawn, the ridiculously divine A Bored Dedication, or the gloriously funky Cherish The End is all it takes to hear exactly what I mean. In a year when underground hip hop has never sounded better, this was the cream of the crop.
Track to Check – A Bored Dedication.
Sacred Dreams by Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation (Rocket Recordings)
Sometimes, by happy coincidence you happen to come across a band who you immediately know are going to change your life. One such group were London based psych-rockers Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation. With a rich sound full of sonic wonder, Josefin and friends create a fabulous aural collage which instantly makes you feel alive. Picks include the Krautrock style opener Feel The Sun, the euphoric trance rush of I Can Feel It, the narcotic swoon of Hey Little Boy, and the Slowdive style haze of Let It Come. Hints of Can, Toy, Stereolab and more combine on an amazing album created to be played loud.
Track to Check – I Can Feel It.
Graal (Prologue) by Christian Löffler (Ki Records)
Ki Records boss Christian Löffler has, over the years, created some of the most exquisite electronic music to grace these ears. Beautifully realised, albums such as Mare and A Forest are more than capable of moving the feet as well as the heart. This year saw the release of mini-album Graal, a stunning piece of work. Opener Ry is, quite simply, one of the most beautifully affecting pieces of music you will hear all year, discordant clanks giving way to the type of melody most producers would give their souls for. At a mere 30 minutes long, Graal is short and sweet, but boy does it pack a hell of a punch.
Track to Check – Ry.
The Practice Of Love by Jenny Hval (Sacred Bones)
In a great year for the label Sacred Bones, Norwegian artist Jenny Hval’s seventh LP slipped almost unnoticed onto record store shelves. Three years after the gothic art-pop of Blood Bitch, The Practice Of Love finds the experimentalist collaborating with Vivian Wang, Laura Jean Englert and Félicia Atkinson to spectacular effect. Sounding like nothing else around, the album is brimming with ideas, yet is never obtuse. Opener Lions is a spoken word piece which suddenly morphs into glorious pop while, in the right hands, Accident, Ashes To Ashes and Six Red Cannas could cause dancefloor devastation in a club. Fiercely intelligent and utterly bewitching, it seems impossible to listen to The Practice Of Love without wanting more.
Track To Check – Accident.
Building Bridges by Move D (Aus Music)
Just in time for summer came David Moufang’s sublime new LP. Fabulously deep and with a healthy dollop of funk, Building Bridges is a record you find yourself getting lost in for hours at a time. Cycles opens proceedings with a French touch style groove. From here the album takes in dub techno (Init, One Small Step), Warp style electronica (Dots, Tiny Fluffy Spacepods), heady house (Dusted Links, Building Bridges), and lots more. Containing more heart and soul than most, this is dance music worth getting excited about.
Track To Check – Building Bridges.
Look Up Sharp by Carla Dal Forno (Kallista)
Post-punk basslines and heady electronics form the perfect background to Carla Dal Forno’s wistful vocals on the follow-up to her excellent debut You Know What It’s Like. Already sounding like a timeless classic, Look Up Sharp is full of textures, layers and skilful flourishes which only become noticeable after a few plays. Highlights include the bass heavy opener No Trace, the dirge-like brilliance of Hype Sleep, the deliciously heady I’m Conscious and the widescreen wonder of Took A Long Time. Every track works though, making Look Up Sharp an album you’ll find yourself listening to again and again.
Track to Check – No Trace.
It Should Be Us by Andy Stott (Modern Love)
Erupting from your sound system with an explosion of dub heavy bass throbs, Andy Stott’s latest is billed as an EP, but its nine deep electronic tracks make is as rich and rewarding as any LP. At times sounding like the record is being played at 33rpm instead of 45, these slow, ponderous vignettes do strange but wonderful things to the brain. Just listen to the dense, hypnotic groove of Collapse, the fractured dubstep of the title track, or the technoid dub of Not This Time to get the gist. Immersive and aurally thrilling, this is one ride you will never want to end.
Track to Check – Collapse.
The Best Of the Rest
What It Is by Kapote (Toy Tonics)
Toy Tonics first ever artist album is full of disco goodness and funk-filled grooves. Make no mistake, this is the sound of house music in 2019.
Crushing by Julia Jacklin (Transgressive)
Quietly reflective and beautifully honest, Julia Jacklin’s sophomore LP is rich, engaging and will keep you company thorough the quiet moments in your life.
Night City Life Compiled by Ilan Pdahtzur (Spacetalk)
London label Spacetalk came up trumps again this year with a dreamy collection of synth pop, hazy disco and liquid funk. It’s ok if you only bought one compilation in 2019 as long as it was this one!
Serfs Up! by Fat White Family (Domino)
Post-punk rhythms mix with a healthy dose of echo and dub on one of Britain’s most explosive bands’ fantastically eclectic LP.
Hollow Earth by Pye Corner Audio (Ghost Box)
Let’s be honest here, everything that Martin Jenkins is involved with tends to be brilliant. So, why would this stunning collection of rich electronica be any different? After repeated listens, not a single reason comes to mind.