Let’s make like a boomerang and circle back to the biggest and best records of 2019 – our choice cuts – by way of impressive stats, STACK reviews, and from STACK‘s conversations with the artists themselves.
The Teskey Brothers, Run Home Slow (Ivy League)
“If you’ve previously eschewed The Teskey Brothers because you don’t like folk, you need to pull the bluegrass from your eyes and immerse yourself in Run Home Slow. Its sweet ‘60s syncopation, dreamy rock ‘n’ roll, romantic Van Morrison-esque rhythm and blues, and tender neo-soul compositions elevate the boys’ former folk leanings into absolutely gorgeous new territory. At its conclusion you will not be upset you spent 45 divine minutes letting these Melbourne lads cast their spell over you.” – ZKR
Dope Lemon’s Angus Stone on his second album under the Dope Lemon moniker, Smooth Big Cat:
“What I really like with this record, and just feels really special to me, is that we did it all in one stream of consciousness – in one sitting. We didn’t walk away from the session and come back two weeks later. Sometimes when you do that, you can hear inconsistencies in the flow. A big part of the string that pulls it all together was that little wooden block. A friend, he got it from over in Seattle… For me, when I listen to it now, it reminds me of – you know those old cartoons where the skeletons are dancing? It reminds me of that. The bones going, ‘clink, clink, clonk, clonk.’”
Read the full interview here.
(Smooth Big Cat – Warner)
Lana Del Rey, Norman F-cking Rockwell! (Universal)
10: Number of international music publications which ranked NFR! as the #1 album of 2019
2: Number of Grammys for which NFR! is nominated (Album of the Year, and Song of the Year for the title track)
9: Number of co-writers listed for Del Rey’s cover of Sublime’s Doin’ Time; in addition to the Sublime bandmembers, the song credits Ad-Rock and the late MCA from Beastie Boys, producer Rick Rubin, and the composer George Gershwin, who wrote the jazz standard on which Sublime’s song was based, Summertime
“Having cycled through several reinventions since 2002’s ubiquitous Complicated, Head Above Water might be Avril Lavigne’s most confident statement yet.
Heavily influenced by her struggles with Lyme Disease, Head Above Water reflects a far more mature Lavigne than the anachronistic pop-punk of her last record. This album is crushing: mostly shaped by ballads, every moment feels considered… It was a long road to get here, but Head Above Water is Lavigne’s best album to date.”
– Jake Cleland
2016: Year that Sir Rod Stewart was knighted
30: Number of tours Stewart has undertaken over the course of his career; his latest, Rod Stewart: The Hits! comes to Australia in October 2020
50: Number of years Stewart has been a solo performer, having released his first solo album An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down in 1969
2: Number of times Stewart has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once in 1994 as a solo artist, and again in 2012 as a member of his band Faces
“The monster brass-bash of the opening, title track from Tones and I’s debut EP The Kids Are Coming initially sounds as if she’s going to tell us Grease is the word, but as soon as this astute musician’s beats slap in it’s clear there are no throwbacks here. This electrifying song is less a call-to-arms than an assurance of imminent arrival; Toni Watson doesn’t need to marshal anyone, because this tribe is already organically united in their shared beliefs.
Watson displays a Sia-like confidence in the way she hurls, tweaks and growls her lyrics of damnation at the socio-political status quo, but she’s also an accomplished storyteller of the micro: Jimmy is a companion piece to heart-shredding single Johnny Run Away, while the hook-charged Dance Monkey and Never Seen The Rain have already burned to the zenith of the ARIA charts. The hype around Watson surpasses even that which circled Tash Sultana a few years ago, but it is – like that other seasoned busker quickly courted by Sony Music – totally warranted.” – ZKR
Jimmy Barnes on the common thread of human experience he’s discovered on the way to making My Criminal Record:
“I think you’d be surprised how much people have in common. What I found [with] writing this record, is people’s experiences are similar. They might not go through the exact same things, but there’s degrees of it, and people can relate to it. Whether it’s feeling not good enough, or feeling let down, or feeling angry – everybody has their own trauma to deal with and their own stuff to deal with, and I figure if I just laid mine out as purely as I could, then people have a chance of relating.”
Read the full interview here.
(My Criminal Record – Bloodlines)
4: Number of Human Nature albums which have hit #1 on the ARIAs chart
6: Number of different Australian Symphony Orchestras with which they have performed (the Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmanian, Queensland, and West Australian Symphony Orchestras)
2019: The year the four-piece were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame
“Eilish has carved a niche as an unapologetic gets-what-she-wants lyricist, and here that manifests as dark, jittering party anthems punctured by sardonic ballads, all determined to shock. Processing Regina Spektor via The Weeknd, or Drake via Lana Del Rey, Eilish’s version of teenagedom brings all the glorious, rapturous mess to the fore.” – Jake Cleland
Jessica Mauboy, Hilda (Sony)
“A lot of singers have come and gone since Mauboy became a star while still a teenager. Now 30, ‘I’m not finished,’ she defiantly declares in the show-stopping Little Things. And she’s right. Hilda (which takes its title from Mauboy’s middle name) is a sassy collection that swings between urban, pop and ballads. And with such a potent voice, Mauboy is capable of making it all work.” – Jeff Jenkins
James Blunt, Once Upon A Mind (Warner)
7: Number of shows James Blunt will play across Australia in November this year, for his Once Upon A Mind tour
23 million: Number of albums Blunt has sold worldwide across his career
14: Number of years the t-shirt and pants Blunt wore in his clip for hit song You’re Beautiful (2005) hung in his wardrobe before he wore them again this year in the clip for Once Upon A Mind’s lead single, Cold
2006: The year James Blunt stopped being relevant, according to himself:
Bring Me The Horizon’s frontman Oli Sykes on the theme of the band’s record amo (which is named for the Portuguese word for ‘I love’):
“Love’s the one thing you shouldn’t compromise on. We compromise with a lot of things in our lives. There’s no real excuse to try to find something pure and amazing. I guess I was worried when I wrote this album that because I mention divorce and heartbreak, that maybe I was trying to say love’s bad, or to swear off it. But it’s not. It’s the most powerful emotion in the world. When you first fall in love and you get that feeling, there’s no drug that even compares to it, so of course it’s worth fighting for and it’s worth striving for. I think sometimes people need reminding.”
Read the full interview here.
(amo – Sony)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Ghosteen (Bad Seed Ltd.)
“Created after one of his twin sons, Arthur, died aged 15 in a tragic accident, some songs on Ghosteen revealed themselves to Nick Cave in ‘fever dreams’.
The Bad Seeds take supporting roles on album number 17, with Warren Ellis’s ever-present, atmospheric synth drone complemented by spectral vocal harmonies, ominous bass and occasional mystery percussion. During this record’s 14-plus-minute closer Hollywood, Cave paraphrases a Buddhist parable. “Kisa had a baby, but the baby died,” he sings in fractured falsetto – art imitates life, and we feel Cave’s sorrow. Listen to Ghosteen in public at your own risk.” – Bryget Chrisfield
7: Number of singles Luke Combs has released across his two albums, This One’s For You Too (2017) and this year’s What You See Is What You Get; all seven reached #1 on Billboard’s Country Chart
2019: Year in which Combs was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry; he is the newest member amongst a distinguished list which includes Loretta Lynn, Vince Gill, and Dolly Parton amongst its 68-strong cohort
7: Number of awards Combs won in 2019, including three Billboard Music Awards, two Country Music Association Awards, and a CMT Music Award
Hilltop Hoods, The Great Expanse (Hilltop Hoods/Universal)
“This eighth album is aptly-titled: it’s wonderfully varied, running a gamut of emotions and stylistic cues. There are reminders of the importance of humility and community (What Becomes of Us), a lucky dip back into childhood pop culture (Clark Griswold), and fearless dives into fat brass or the clipped rush of trance synths (Be Yourself, OOFT). Leave Me Lonely is the Cosby Sweater of the bunch, bumping with an easy saunter and full of hilarious wordplay.
Hilltops have gathered no moss, masterfully distilling where they’re at in their continual creative march.” – ZKR
31: Years since Keith Richards released this, his debut solo album
6: Number of previously unreleased tracks included on the 2019 reissue of the record (in addition to its original 11 tracks)
500,000: Number of units required to be sold for an album to be certified Gold in the US – a status achieved by Talk Is Cheap