Thursday, January 9, 2020

SPAZ presents THE BEST CDs OF 2019!

This list consists of the 40 best full-length CD albums released in 2019.  Why just CDs? Because that is what I listen to... I know that vinyl is all the rage, but I'm sticking to my old school ways. Gosh, I remember the good old days - four years ago - when vinyl was considered 'old school'. Man, I'm getting old! For the record (pun intended), many of these titles are available on vinyl!

Anyway, I did not focus on EPs (three to four songs) or mini-albums (five to eight songs). However, I must admit that one EP and one mini-album were just too good to ignore so they made it!

My list of CDs started with 103 titles. I had to whittle that down a bit and ended up with 78. Then, I had to go over that with a fine-toothed comb in order to cut it down to the 40 you see below. I was originally going to go with 20 titles but I knew that'd be too difficult...

My criteria for every release on this list started with, "How does it make me feel?" From there, I had to base it on how many times I originally played it, how many times I went back to it later, and how it made me feel when I played it as I compiled this list. 

I had to be honest. I know I may offend a few FB friends with some exclusions (and even a few inclusions) but what you see here is what moved me the most. And guess what? There are so many releases I did NOT hear this year.  I peeked at a few lists tonight AFTER I compiled mine and realized just how out of touch I am with many of my music journalist friends. But variety is the spice of life so I say check out all the unfamiliar titles on every list in order to get a well-rounded view of this great big world of Pop music! 

So, here we go...


THE BEST CD ALBUMS OF 2019

1.  (tie) LANNIE FLOWERS/HOME
(tie) THE RUBINOOS/FROM HOME
Two fantastic albums. Both with the word ‘Home’ in the title. Both filled to the brim with wonderful melodies. Two different moods but the exact same results: pure magic!

2.     THE AMPLIFIER HEADS/LOUDAH
Sal Baglio (The Stompers/Rock E. Rollins) brings Rock ‘n’ Roll back and packed it full of great melodies!

3.     RED BOX/CHASE THE SETTING SUN
Only their fourth album in 36 years, but their glorious blend of heartfelt Pop and worldly rhythms is better than ever.

4.     FREDERICK JULIUS/FIXERS & ELIXIRS
Blend beautiful melodies with heavenly harmonies and you’ve got an album that will appeal to many generations of Pop fans. For lovers of Beach Boys/Explorers Club-type harmonies.

5.     GARY DALY/GONE FROM HERE
China Crisis frontman steps out on his own and presents a warm album that is filled with love, loss, and melodic hooks.

6.     THE BOBBLEHEADS/MYTHS & FABLES
San Francisco quartet with a unique sound. Full-force guitar Pop with a quirky but lovable edge. They just keep getting better.

7.     FISCHER-Z/SWIMMING IN THUNDERSTORMS
John Watts continues to create some of the smartest Rock and Pop some 40+ years after the first FZ album. Like Ian McNabb, he just seems to get better with age and is always relevant.

8.     STATUS QUO/BACKBONE
Going strong 50+ years after their debut, Status Quo are truly the UK’s greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band. Meat ‘n’ potatoes with plenty of melodic hooks.

9.     MY LIFE STORY/WORLD CITIZEN
Jack Shillingford has revived his ‘90s band and changed the format a little, moving away from the orchestral sound of old and embracing the Rock that influenced him. Loads of melodies to be explored here.

10.  LATIN QUARTER TRIO/THE COLOR SCHEME
Steve Skaith and friends have stripped down the Latin Quarter sound and offer up a warm and wonderful collection of re-imagined versions of a handful of LQ classics.

11.  (tie) JEFF WHALEN/10 MORE ROCK SUPER HITS
(tie) THE BROTHERS STEVE/#1
It is nearly impossible to give either of these albums separate rankings. They both share members (including Jeff Whalen) but are very different albums once you dip your toes into their Pop deliciousness.

12.  FOREVER APARKS/FIREFLY
Jerry T. Jones (One The Juggler/Glamweazel) returns and shows a thoughtful, gentler side that sounds like the musical love child of David Bowie and Robyn Hitchcock.

13.  (tie) BILL LLOYD & THE TALLYMEN/2GTRSBSDRMS
(tie) PROJECT: GHOST OUTFIT/PROJECT: GHOST OUTFIT
Two peas in a Pop… er… pod. Bill Lloyd is American Pop music’s secret weapon – he probably appears on at least eight albums that you love. On 2GTRSBSDRMS, he revisits some of his classic solo material live in the studio. On the debut release by supergroup Project: Ghost Outfit, Bill is joined by Adam Shoenfield, Keith Brogdon, and Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson.

14.  THE LUNAR LAUGH/GOODNIGHT NOISES EVERYWHERE
Their third album sees the band take their Pop influences to new heights. Once lumped in with the Power Pop brigade, The Lunar Laugh has moved beyond genres with this album.

15.  LAZY SUSAN/BOUND
Kevin Jones straddles the line between Pop and Americana but if there is one thing that is certain, he’s one hell of a singer/songwriter. Hints of early ‘70s Neil Diamond, The Band, and Neil Young can be heard alongside mournful harmonica and tasty Glen Campbell-like guitar.

16.  VANILLA/MYSTIK KNIGHTS OF TACOMA
Once a member of Liar’s Club, Jayson Jarmon’s traveling band of minstrels have created an album that embraces influences like XTC, Prefab Sprout, and many other quirky favorites.

17.  IT’S KARMA IT’S COOL/HIPSTERS & AEROPLANES
I don’t normally add mini albums to my list, but this is too good to ignore. Sounding like The La’s fronted by Buddy Holly or Peter Noone, this is chock full of goodness!

18.  (tie) NINE BELOW ZERO/AVALANCHE
(tie) THE TRUTH/KEEP ON KEEPING ON
British Rhythm & Blues outfit Nine Below Zero knock another album out of the park. Loads of great hooks floating around this album, which is filled with passion and energy. Dennis Greaves’ other band, The Truth released a four song EP that contains “Keep On Keeping On”, which is my #1 song of the year. I normally wouldn’t include an EP on an album list but I want to bring attention to this amazing song!

19.  STEPHEN CUMMINGS/PRISONER OF LOVE
Four decades after the demise of Australian legends The Sports, Stephen continues to travel down his own musical path. Eclectic, eccentric, heartfelt, and honest.

20.  DANNY & THE DOORKNOBS/JUKEBOX IN THE L.A. RIVER
Vitus Matare revives the long-dormant Danny & The Doorknobs name for a new album filled with inventive and experimental Pop gems.

21.  SCOTT GAGNER/HUMMINGBIRD HEART
Great melodic Pop with plenty of heart. It may not be Power Pop, but it is Pop with great emotional power.

22.  SLUMBERJET/WORLD OF SOUND
Well-crafted, smart Pop that will appeal to fans of Crowded House and Play-era Squeeze.

23.  EMPEROR PENGUIN/WALNUT FASCIA
Pop music that seems to get better with every spin. You’ll have a new ‘favorite song off the album’ each time you play it!

24.  PHIL JUDD/FLIGHTLESS BIRD
Nobody makes albums like Phil Judd. Quirky, eccentric, and well-arranged recordings that often defy classification. Dive deep and discover new layers with every spin!

25.  IDENTICAL SUNS/WEEK MINDED
A sophomore album that blows the debut album away. Like The Lunar Laugh, Identical Suns successfully explore new musical avenues without sacrificing melodic hooks.

26.  CLOUD ELEVEN/FOOTNOTE
Like the gentle sound of waves crashing on the shore, Footnote is a Pop album that is comforting, intimate, and quite lovely.

27.  NICK FRATER/FULL FATHOM FREIGHT-TRAIN
Frater has a lot of musical influences that he wears on his sleeve… yet he manages to craft a sound that is original, passionate, and inviting.  Hooks galore for you to explore.

28.  RICHARD TURGEON/GO DEEP
Smart, sharp Pop from a singer/songwriter that keeps on going from strength to strength. Lots of great melodies to absorb.

29.  THE VAPOR TRAILS/SEE YOU IN THE NEXT WORLD
This Scottish band look back to the ‘60s for inspiration but avoid sounding too retro. The hooks and harmonies will remind you of Summer rain and the joy and pain of unrequited love.

30.  THE DECIBELS/SCENE NOT HEARD
Energetic, punchy Pop. I could easily call ‘em Power Pop but I’m trying to avoid placing them in any genre. But if you like crunchy and rockin’ guitar Pop, then you’ll dig these chaps. And if you love Power Pop, listen now!

31.  HOT CHIP/A BATH FULL OF ECSTASY
This British Electro-Pop band offers up a streamlined and much more immediate album than ever before. They still sound like The Korgis in a modern Electro universe and it is wonderful.

32.  THE BEAT/PUBLIC CONFIDENTIAL
Ranking Roger’s final musical statement is a modern take on the classic sound of The Beat. With Mick Lister’s (The Truth) help, this final release is a wonderful entry into the band’s respected back catalog.

33.  THE RALLIES/UPSIDE DOWN
Sweet Pop with plenty of great hooks and harmonies. The Rallies have a great understanding of how music and emotion are intertwined.

34.  VENICE/JACARANDA STREET
The sound of Laurel Canyon, CSN, and straightforward Pop is alive and well in Venice. The band, not the city.

35.  JEFF LESCHER/ALL IS GRACE
The mastermind behind Chicago’s underrated Green, Lescher takes a solo trip with this rough, romantic, and emotional collection of songs.

36.  DAVID BROOKINGS & THE AVERAGE LOOKINGS/SCORPIO MONOLOGUE
Veteran singer/songwriter David Brookings return with his most Power Poppin’ release yet. It is all about the songs on this silver platter.

37.  JOHNATHAN PUSHKAR/STRAIGHTEN UP
If you’re looking for straight Power Pop, look no further than this platter. It jangles, it chimes, it fizzes, and it POPS!

38.  TRIP WIRE/ONCE AND ALWAYS
Trip Wire are hard to classify but easy to love. Are they Pop? Rock? Americana? I’d say the answer is YES!

39.  THE GOLD NEEDLES/THROUGH A WINDOW
Guitar Pop from the UK. Loads of melodic hooks and harmonies. Isn’t that what matters most in this wonderful, pulsating world of Pop music?

40.  MORRISSEY/CALIFORNIA SON
I sure wish Steven would shut his mouth in interviews and focus on the music. Recent controversies cast a dark shadow over this great collection of cover versions given the Morrissey treatment.



 So, open those wallets and start checking out some great music, folks!

Your pal in 2019 and 2020,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

4 comments:

Matt Street said...

Awesome list! Lived seeing Lannie and The Rubes at the top of the mountain! Lots of stuff I need to explore! Wonderful my friend! Cheers, Matt Street

Matt Street said...

*LOVED

Alan Petsche said...


In addition to the artists on the list that are my favorites of 2019 (Rubinoos, Flowers, Pushkar, The Beat, Lloyd, Emperor Penguin) I am now going to buy a BUNCH of CDs from the list that I didn't know about that I will also love !!!

Craig S. Mullins said...

Thanks for this list Spaz! How did I miss those Bill Lloyd albums? Wow... gotta go buy em now!