We live in an oversaturated world. Between YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp and all the others, there is so much entertainment constant consistently vying for your eyes and ears that it’s literally impossible to consume all of it. Even for the most ardent music fan, there are so many releases every week that unless all you do is sit and listen to each and every one of them, there is no way you can keep up. The unfortunate thing about all of this is that certain bands and artists put their blood, sweat and tears into crafting their work and it can, unfortunately, fall on deaf ears and slip away. Whereas even ten years ago a groups album cycle would last months now most bands are lucky if it lasts a couple of weeks. As music writers, we all here at Northern Transmissions probably consume more of this content than the average person so we decided to put together a list of our favourite most overlooked albums that many people may have missed. Yes, some of these albums were celebrated and did find a fanbase for sure but many of which just couldn’t stand out among some of the larger releases of the year.
Many of you reading this have most likely heard of all these artists, as they have been spotlighted in some of the larger music publications this year but hopefully, this will be a good opportunity for you to deep dive into these works more. The diversity on display is wonderful. These are artists and bands from all over the world and from all different genres. Each has made a bold statement with their albums and have most likely found their fans and hopefully will continue to find more as they are all hugely talented and it is always exciting to see what these artists will create next inter evolution. There are some old standbys like Canadian trio Men I Trust and their 24 (!!!) track third album Oncle Jazz. There are a couple of very awesome solo debuts from leaders of popular bands such as Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and her record Jamie as well as Caroline Polachek of Charilift who released her beautiful debut solo album Pang this year. Newbies to most Ducks Unlimited recently released their debut EP Get Bleak and LA-based Sasami broke away from her former band Cherry Glazerr to put out her awesome self-title album. There’s a ton here to dig into, so kick back, fire up the internet and enjoy.
The 10 Most Overlooked Albums of 2019
Men I Trust – Oncle Jazz
The Canadian trio has been independently releasing their music for years now and except for a live album, there was a bit of gap between their sophomore 2015 record Headroom and this year Oncle Jazz. With member Emily Proulx joining the act full time, the album is all woozy synths and chill vibes. It’s hallucinatory modern lounge music that is never boring and that is saying something for an album that spans 24 songs and over an hour of music.
Ducks Unlimited – Get Bleak
Toronto’s Ducks Unlimited create the most addictive jangle pop music that isn’t a Slumberland Records release. Released in the middle of the darkest, rainiest time of the year, Get Bleak was a beautiful ray of sunshine to hold onto. Regardless of the lyrical content, one listen to their Flying Nun inspired EP will put a spring in your step and a smile in your heart.
The Murder Capitol – When I Have Fears
The UK has had quite the burgeoning post-punk scene popping up over the last couple of years. Dublin’s The Murder Capitol have toured with many of the bright lights of that dark scene, such as Idles, Fontaines DC and Shame and craft similarly heavy and hard-hitting music. Their debut album When I Have Fears kicks off with the punishing five-minute track “For Everything” and rarely lets up from there. Inspired by everything from Joy Division and Pixies to Savages and The Bad Seeds, there is a lot here to please even the darkest of hearts.
Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Hiding Places
Discomfort is a helluva drug and one that Brooklyn based rapper Billy Woods and LA producer Kenny Segal make their trade-in. Their first collaborative album Hiding Places is full of tight beats courtesy of Segal and a growly, dirty flow via Woods. This isn’t all uncomfortable though, Woods does ingest enough humour and pathos into the subjects that he raps about, ranging from romantic agony, social anxiety and a generalized fear of becoming obsolete to keep you listening and fully invested in this powerful album.
Brittany Howard – Jaime
The Alabama Shakes front person steps out for her first solo album and what an album it is. Dedicated to her sister Jaime who passed away as a teenager, Howard assembles an all-star band, featuring the amazing Nate Smith on drums, that focuses on the singer/songwriters personal history and where she intends to go in the future. It is an absolutely breathtaking album that highlights how much talent Howard has and it is so exciting to see her breaking through the rest of the noise out there and also exciting to hear what she will do next.
Faye Webster – Atlanta Millionaire Crabs
It’s hard to believe musician and photographer Faye Webster is only 21 years old and has released her third album and one that just drips with a pensiveness of someone twice that age. The singer does have a way of writing serene indie folk that is perfectly balanced for any time of day. She immediately throws you into her world and it’s one that is fully realized and achingly alluring.
Caroline Polachek – Pang
One of the highlights of this year has been the intriguing and beguiling Pang by former Charlift vocalist Caroline Polachek. With its base in electronic indie pop, the album is so beautifully emotional and asserts Polachek as an immediate bright spot of this and any genre. From the poppy pep of “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” to the sombre eloquence of “Caroline Shut Up”, Pang is one of those special albums that doesn’t come along much and when they do you should grab it by both hands and tell everyone you know to look into its wonder.
Sasami – Sasami
The former session player for such bands as Cherry Glazerr, King Tuff and Mitski stepped out on her own this year and put together an incredible debut solo album. It’s a hypnotic and emotionally charged album that anchors Sasami’s voice on chiming, jangly guitars, interesting rollicking drums and some of the hookiest vocal melodies of the year.
PUP – Morbid Stuff
Toronto rockers PUP released their great third album Morbid Stuff which found the band crafting their most cathartic collection of songs yet. With blazing guitars, blasting drums and the perfect amount of gang vocals, Morbid Stuff, as described by a friend, is nostalgic, sassy and it fucking rips!
Ezra Furman – Twelve Nudes
Ezra Furman is a singular artist. Sure, one who has been clearly influenced by some gigantic artists of the past, such as Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but this influence doesn’t feel like strictly an aesthetic choice made by an artist who is trying to find their voice but one who that was so intrinsically inspired by that music and by the personalities that created it. It’s a protest record for this generation but as Furman says, “this record is political, but it offers an emotional reaction rather than being specific or partisan.” It’s through this emotionally cathartic album that the listener will find so much reliability to the material and Furman’s take on what it feels like to be living in the world as we know it today.