Although we’re well into 2020 now, 2019, much like every year, had its good moments and delivered some humbling bad moments. The same could be said for the year in music. It seemed the year that music and I had our falling out, the first time in our almost-40-year relationship. Labels and artists didn’t want their music out physically (I listen to physical music) and I only went to 40 gigs in 2019, the lowest since I was a teenager juggling high school and a blossoming obsession with music.
Festivals seemed to dry up completely in Toronto, not long after the market was saturated with them. Festivals that did survive in North America seemed to be almost carbon copy of other North American festivals. Or maybe old age and my obsession with physical music have put me out of touch with reality. Even my annual pilgrimage to Montreal for Osheaga got clipped to one day this year – either I wasn’t inspired by the lineup, aside from their booking of the Chemical Brothers for the Saturday night, or my heart wasn’t into it in 2019. But what gigs I did enjoy really did impress, as much as top gigs any other year;
Top 5 Gigs of 2019:
- The Chemical Brothers @ Osheaga Festival, August 3 – After a 17 year Canadian absence, Tom and Ed silenced their skeptics with bone destroying bass, pounding beats and a retina-searing lightshow that I did not want to end.
- Idles/A Place to Bury Strangers @ Danforth Music Hall, July 30 – My first time seeing both bands. Any other band would just pack their bags after Strangers’ intense set, but Idles just kept in their lane and delivered their own kind of special.
- Janelle Monae @ Osheaga Festival, August 3 – Janelle brought together a whole array of individuals and schooled us all on how to deliver a high-energy, fun and empowering set. She should have followed Logic….
- Massive Attack @ Meridian Hall, September 17 – Performing Mezzanine and bringing along Horace Andy and the angelic Elizabeth Fraser is only half the story. The other was the dazzling lights, sound and the covers so impressively tackled here.
- Tool @ Scotiabank Arena, November 11 – Sometimes head-strong young men make silly decisions and ignore a band through much of their existence. I’ve done this in so many instances including with Tool a band I wrote off 26 years ago when I saw them. But I can admit I was wrong and so thankful I decided to check my head and allow myself to be blown away by such a slick production.
Albums of 2019
Again, I don’t listen to everything. Saddled with only 2 ears, limited to only 24 hours of sleep and hampered by the need to sleep every now and then, I just can’t get to everything. My friends play a key role in helping me dig into something new and even after this review, I welcome any suggestions. I did acquire almost 100 CDs over the year of new music. But not everything released and/or worthy this year came out on the departing format, but I’ll leave that to the kids to speak on. This will be my last one of these year-end lists and as usual is very interchangeable depending on the day, the time of day or whatever mood I’m in at that particular hour!
- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (Awal).
- Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy (Domino).
- Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka (Interscope).
- Angel Olsen – All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar).
- James Blake – Assume Form (Polydor).
- Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY! (Jagjaguwar).
- Lizzo – Cuz I Love You (Atlantic).
- Beirut – Gallipoli (4AD).
- Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury (Elektra).
- FKA Twigs – Magdalene (Young Turks).
- Brittany Howard – Jaime (ATO).
- Kim Gordon – No Home Record (Matador).
- Sharon van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar).
- Little Simz – Grey Area (Age 101).
- Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin? (Warp).
- Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel (Partisan).
- Gary Clark Jr. – This Land (Warner).
- Dave – Psychodrama (Neighbourhood).
- Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Interscope).
- Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Interscope).
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana (Madlib Invasion).
- Bon Iver – i,i (Jagjaguwar).
- Orville Peck – Pony (Sub-Pop).
- Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next (Republic).
- Kano – Hoodies All Summer (Parlophone).
- Steve Mason – About the Light (Domino).
- Pup – Morbid Stuff (Little Dipper).
- Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain (Method).
- Torche – Admission (Relapse).
- Spellling – Mazy Fly (Sacred Bones).