Top 25 Albums of the Year

Top 25 Albums of the Year

By Penny Bennett

Dec 17, 2019 19:00

Well 2019 certainly was a year, wasn't it? We may have only just made it through by the skin of our teeth but we did it, and we don't know about you but for us, music was a huge part of that. So sit back, try to relax, and enjoy the top 25 albums that helped get us through 2019.

25. Hobo Johnson – The Fall of Hobo Johnson

Divisive as always, Hobo Johnson’s strangely enrapturing fusion of spoken-word, hip-hop, rock, and folk return in his third full length outing – but while he was held back by his somewhat cringe-inducing interpretations of love and loneliness in previous works, this time we see a far more introspective Johnson, with lamentations over his inability to find love now rooted in his own failings and misconceptions. It’s rarely pretty, at times returning to that uncomfortable level of awkwardness, but it’s refreshingly honest and sincere in a way his previous works weren’t, and displays a talent for performing in a host of genres throughout the wildly varied album. Johnson may not be for everyone, and that’s fine. The self-proclaimed “first human being born and raised in a 1994 Toyota Corolla” has made a wonderfully vulnerable, high quality album that shows there’s a razor sharp musical proficiency behind the awkward exterior. [Fiachra Johnston]

24. Throes – ‘In The Hands Of An Angry God’

This debut full-length from Idaho noisemongers Throes is comfortably the heaviest release on this list, but the quality of it is undeniable, and it’s not hard to see why Holy Roar Records – who have their finger firmly on the pulse of the best underground heavy music – chose Throes to be one of their rare international signings. Throes take influence from across the spectrum of extreme music, showing elements of Converge, Cult Leader, Neurosis, Amenra, and even Deftones, and savagely blend them to create a record that is absolutely disgusting in the best possible way. From the blistering pace of ‘Bad Meat’ to the unflinching trudge of ‘They Never Spoke’, there’s something in here for absolutely anyone who likes their music to kick the shit out of them in one way or another. [Liam Knowles]

Read our full review of ‘In The Hands Of An Angry God’

23. Tiny Moving Parts – ‘breathe’

Flying the flag for modern day emo music, Minnesota trio Tiny Moving Parts return with ‘breathe’, their most ambitious album yet. Heavily themed around death, the album is lyrically morbid, but that doesn’t stop the likes of ‘Vertebrae’ and ‘Medicine’ from being some of the biggest singalongs of the year. You can hear the emotional torture that singer and lead guitarist Dylan Mattheisen has been going though as his unique voice screams “I need to forget who I am” on the latter. The upbeat riffs and unique solos of Mattheisen stand out head and shoulders above many of their contemporaries. It’s rare to see the high standard of musicianship that ‘breathe’ oozes in this corner of the alternative genre. [Louis Kerry]

22. Stray From The Path – ‘Internal Atomics’

Stray From The Path have never been ones to bite their tongue when it comes to speaking on the state of the world, and ‘Internal Atomics’ sees their signature brand of rage soar way past boiling point. Each song has been written for one purpose, and one purpose only – to clock you square in the jaw and leave a lasting impact. It’s no secret that this band have been angry for years, but they’ve never sounded as pissed off as they sound on this album. From the brutal assault of ’Second Death’ focusing on paedophilia in the church, the politically venomous ‘Something In The Water’, the personal ode to mental health struggles in ‘Holding Cells For The Living Hell’ and the “think for yourself” call to arms blaring out of ‘Ring Leader’, there is no stone left unturned and no issue ignored. It goes without saying that, for a large number of us at least, the world is a pretty bleak place to be right now. A lot of us are being discriminated against, intimidated, abused, and we simply are not being heard. ’Internal Atomics’ is a molotov cocktail, and they want you to get angry enough to throw it. No, they NEED you to get angry enough to throw it. Where Rage Against The Machine were the voice of one generation, Stray From The Path are the voice for this one, fuelling listeners with the passion and confidence to use their own voice and stand for something instead of silently sitting back and watching their world change without them. The time for action is now, and this is the soundtrack to that action. In the words of Drew York: “The choice is yours – change the world.” Without a doubt, the most furious, seething, and infectious record of 2019. [Dave Stewart]

Read our full review of ‘Internal Atomics’

21. La Dispute – ‘Panorama’

Five years after ‘Rooms of the House’, La Dispute returned this year with fourth full–length album ‘Panorama’. The album is bleaker than its predecessor and deals with more personal subject matter. Front man and chief lyricist Jordan Dreyer, though now based in Seattle, turns to car journeys through his old native Grand Rapids, Michigan, neighbourhood, and anxiety-inducing conversations he’s had with his current partner for thematic inspiration. The guitars are more subtle here and feature less immediate sounding riffs than they did on ‘Rooms…’. The band reteam with producer Will Yip, who handles this softer playing style, as well as the unobtrusive introduction of instruments like trumpets and synths, deftly. ‘Panorama’ showed the post-hardcore quintet have lost none of their talent for effective and affecting musical storytelling. [Greg Hyde]

Read our full review of ‘Panorama’

20. Dayseeker – ‘Sleeptalk’

Immaculate production, ethereal soundscapes, heaviness by the bucketload, and emotionally devastating lyrics – Dayseeker pulled out all the stops to deliver their fourth full length album in the form of an almighty gut punch. If that sounds bad, it shouldn’t do – so majestically crafted are these ten tracks that it’s often difficult to stop listening, despite the soaring choruses being cause for overwhelming emotion at times. Balancing an almost poppy approach to melody with plenty of atmospheric layering and electronics, it’s all brought together by hefty, no-bullshit breakdowns for a unique metalcore/post-hardcore sound that’s as rowdy as it is heartfelt. Dayseeker may have been flying a little under the radar so far, but ‘Sleeptalk’ is the album that will surely put them firmly on the map across the globe. [Gemma Rogers]

Read our full review of ‘Sleeptalk’

19. Dinosaur Pile Up – ‘Celebrity Mansions’

Wonderfully sardonic and snide, the post-grunge Dinosaur Pile-Up’s fourth album deals with modern life, mental health, and acceptance, asking the question “is anything worth it?” If nothing else, this album is. The devil-may-care attitude throws back to the pop-punk of the early 2000s with bands like Green Day, but the punky alt-rock of the Foo Fighters in ‘Pouring Gasoline’, or the spoken word style in ‘Back Foot’, suggest a band comfortable with dipping in and out of styles without succumbing to temptation and falling into one. It’s quite the homage album, but one that stands out as one of the grungier highlights of the year. [Fiachra Johnston]

Read our live review of Dinosaur Pile Up’s show at Boston Music Rooms, London

18. Refused – ‘War Music’

In a world where the smell of discontent is thick in the air, who better than to light the fuse of revolution than Refused. Ever since the Swedish punks ended their lengthy hiatus they have continued their crusade against capitalism, and make the sort of siren songs that are very much perfect for the time we live in. ‘War Music’, their second album since reforming in 2014, is a riposte to the greed, misogyny, and outright tyranny that seems to be engulfing the world. At a time when the forces that be attempt to drive us apart, Dennis Lyxzen and co speak of the importance of community and ultimately a desire for something better. Musically, it’s as visceral as their chaotic earlier material, but polished with slick riffs and a maturity that comes with years of facepalming at each crooked turn the world takes. Lyxzen’s signature screams and message seem as poignant as ever and tracks such as ‘I Wanna Watch The World Burn’, ‘REV001’, and ‘Economy Of Death’ are as powerful as anything Refused have penned in the past. If this is how a revolution begins, ‘War Music’ is the soundtrack you want ringing in your ears. [Tom Walsh]

Read our live review of Refused’s show at Academy 1, Manchester

17. Northlane – ‘Alien’

2019 has been a hell of a year for Northlane, and they owe a lot of their success to ‘Alien’, their fifth full length record. Musically it doesn’t hold any punches back, winding up haymaker after haymaker with complete disregard for your safety. Blending their already established djenty onslaught with hints of nu-metal and expansive electronic landscapes, they morphed their metal monster into a towering futuristic colossus, both beautiful and intimidating in stature. There’s the unrelenting carnage compressed within ‘Details Matter’ and ‘Talking Heads’, the gloomy industrial ripples of ‘4D’ and ‘Eclipse’, the melodic monoliths ‘Bloodline’ and ‘Jinn’, the serene and poignant ‘Sleepless’ – Northlane have shown exactly how far their songwriting has come and masterfully displayed it with class and clarity. Not only did the band change the way the music sounded, but they also completely changed their approach to the lyrics too. Vocalist Marcus Bridge delved deeper into his psyche than ever before, writing the most honest, personal and moving material in Northlane’s career. Every single pained word that leaves Bridge’s body adds so much extra weight to the music, making it their most devastatingly unique offering to date. ’Alien’ saw Northlane dig deeper than ever before in search of gold, and they found it in quantities larger than they could’ve imagined. One of the most refreshing metal releases of the year. [Dave Stewart]

Read our full review of ‘Alien’

16. Cory Wells – ‘The Way We Are’

‘The Way We Are’ is an authentic heartbreak album imbued in sorrow, grief and pain, where songs like ‘Keiko’, ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Broken’ all tell their stories as listeners journey through what feels like the stages of an ending relationship. But you’d be wrong to think it’s a record filled with run of the mill sad songs. Growing up playing in metal and punk bands shaped Cory Wells to not only be able to effortlessly shift between singing and screaming parts, but to also think about song structure in a different way. Wells also does a phenomenal job of keeping his lyrics free of the mysticism emo acts so often dip into, choosing instead to write in a way that’s relatable. The album also features one of the best duets of the year as Wells and Lizzy Farrell’s voices blend together in torrential emotion on ‘Fall Apart’. Thoughtfully structured and brilliantly performed, ‘The Way We Are’ is ultimately an acoustic post-hardcore album with emo tendencies that’s achingly beautiful. [Renette van der Merwe]

Read our live review of Cory’s support slot with Dashboard Confessional

15. Crystal Lake – ‘Helix’

Every year, there’ll be an album that comes seemingly out of nowhere to make an instant and phenomenal impact; an album that pushes the boundaries of genre and expectation to create something wholly unique, and incredibly exciting. This year, that album is ‘Helix’, from Japanese metalcore powerhouses Crystal Lake. Bringing melodies as intense as their fearsome heaviness, ‘Helix’ is jawdropping from start to finish, from the pummelling opening of ‘Aeon’ through to the final devastating roars of ‘Sanctuary’, and it’s not only the music that’s heavy – the deeply emotional words of songs like ‘Devilcry’ show a band capable of producing quality and depth across the board. When it comes to metalcore, you don’t get better or more innovative than this. [Gemma Rogers]

Read our full review of ‘Helix’

Read our live review of Crystal Lake’s show at Star & Garter, Manchester

14. The Rocket Summer – ‘Sweet Shivers’

Prior to the release of his seventh studio album, The Rocket Summer’s Bryce Avary shared his experience of synaesthesia, with the feeling and sense of colour being intrinsically bound to the music he creates – and, in ‘Sweet Shivers’, it shows. Bright, vivid colours are swirled into the core of this beautifully vibrant album as it spins chaos into hope, voicing our innermost battles as only Avary can. This is a deeply personal record, yet finds more relatability as a result; Avary opens his heart and mind in a way that allows us in, to find our own comfort and joy in his words and music as we absorb the light it generates. The production, too, is stunning, making every moment a delight to revel in, from the danceworthy (‘5 4 3 2 1 Z’, ‘Shatter Us’), to the delicate and uplifting (‘Apartment 413’, ‘World’s Greatest’). ‘Sweet Shivers’ feels like a warm welcome home after a lifetime out in the cold and rain, and The Rocket Summer continues to be one of the greatest artists of our generation.  [Gemma Rogers]

Read our full review of ‘Sweet Shivers’

13. The Menzingers  – ‘Hello Exile’

For a band known for waxing lyrical about youth and excessive drinking, some may have wondered what The Menzingers would sound like as they entered their thirties. ‘Hello Exile’ answers those questions, and then some, from the politically charged eco-anthem ‘Strawberry Mansion’ to the mournful and introspective ‘I Can’t Stop Drinking’. The Menzingers innately possess the rare ability for their stories to feel like yours; that you’ve driven the same roads as them, you’ve drunk too much in the dive bars they frequent and reluctantly stayed in the cheap motels they so lament, and ‘Hello Exile’ hones in on this skill. With this in mind, sadly the line “what kind of monsters did our parents vote for?” in ‘America (You’re Freaking Me Out)’ has taken on a new meaning for those of us in the UK given recent political events, but offers a sliver of comfort in solidarity. ‘Hello Exile’ is the sound of The Menzingers all grown up, and they sound all the finer for it. [Romy Gregory]

Read our full review of ‘Hello Exile’

12. Ithaca – ‘The Language Of Injury’

London hardcore mob Ithaca FINALLY released their debut album this year after delay upon delay, but it was more than worth the wait. ‘The Language Of Injury’ takes the emotional metalcore of Poison The Well and mixes it with the angular intensity of Botch to create a truly triumphant record that somehow feels simultaneously intimate and expansive. This album has been on a difficult journey, which makes vocalist Djamila Azzouz’s lyrics about letting go of the past and pushing forward on tracks like ‘New Covenant’ and ‘Clsr’ feel almost allegorical, or at least it would do if they weren’t clearly so deeply personal. ‘Slow Negative Order’ is perhaps the song with the clearest message; Azzouz has had enough of living for other people and is ready to live for herself, and her acerbic vocal delivery will ensure no-one would ever dare challenge her on this. It’s also impossible to talk about this record without talking about the riffs. Dual guitarists Sam Chetan-Welsh and Will Sweet have absolutely mastered the combination of antagonising panic-chords and sludgy palm-muted chugging; the breakdown at the end of ‘Impulse Crush’ alone will leave even the strongest neck in absolute tatters. Ithaca’s lineup, which boasts a variety of ethnicities and genders, makes ‘The Language Of Injury’ feel like a record that’s more reflective of heavy music’s diverse fanbase than most of 2019’s releases. The value of being inclusive in a genre rife with gatekeepers cannot be understated, and the fact that Ithaca can generate this feeling whilst also writing an album of absolute stonkers like this makes them one of the UK’s most vital bands. Make sure you don’t sleep on them. [Liam Knowles]

Read our live review of Ithaca’s support slot with Bleeding Through

11. The Murder Capital – ‘When I Have Fears’

Bands like Girl Band and Fontaines DC have helped bring the Irish punk scene to the forefront of rock worldwide with sound and fury, with vicious guitars and roaring percussion. But by all accounts, The Murder Capital have taken this movement and tweaked it to perfection. Out of all the fantastic Irish releases this year (and there were many), ‘When I Have Fears’ is the most complete, the most well defined, the most heart-wrenching of them all. Covering a swathe of topics, from grief in ‘Green & Blue’, to impermanence in ‘Don’t Cling To Life’, and life after loss in ‘On Twisted Ground’, it ranges from explosive and violent to sweet and tender at the drop of a hat, and as heartbreaking as their stories are, it’s an utterly infatuating collection of tales. It’s not the easiest of albums to get through without shedding a tear for the suffering the band have gone through, but it’s a reminder the Irish punk scene is perhaps the most flourishing music scene in the world [Fiachra Johnston]

Read our full review of ‘When I Have Fears’

10. Gender Roles – ‘Prang’

It’s difficult to understate the year Gender Roles have had. A successful headline tour, numerous festival and support appearances, and heaps of exposure thanks to their standout performance at Maida Vale for Annie Mac (and consequently shared by Daniel P Carter). The catalyst for this was their phenomenal debut album ‘Prang’. The south coast trio have created a unique sound that melds grunge and punk into the purest example of the DIY sound of Brighton. Mixing grotty, distorted guitars with bounding basslines and jagged drums, it would be easy to assume it’s just… noise. But sitting above that is Tom Bennett’s vocals, and more importantly, their menacingly clever and deceptively moving lyrics. Touching on subjects as delicate as insecurity and anxiety, grief and loss, there’s potential for it to be a somewhat difficult and depressing listen. And yet, throughout the record, there’s a positivity that radiates – as if, whatever happens and however bad it gets, they can empathise. While singles ‘You Look Like Death’ and ‘Hey With Two Whys’ are the perfect introduction to the band, the standout is closer ‘Bubble’, a track that incorporates all the core elements of Gender Roles and rolls it into one, succinct six minute portion. Bouncy rhythms, memorable hooks and a chorus that sticks like glue, if there’s one track to really sell the album, it’s this one. Overall, it’s an album that is of such a consistently high quality, you would expect it to be a couple records in. To pull this off as a debut isn’t just impressive, it’s staggering. [Andy Joice]

Read our full review of ‘Prang’

Read our live review of Gender Roles’s support slot with Boston Manor

9. Dream State – ‘Primrose Path’

When you’ve already developed a distinctive style and considerable fanbase long before you release your debut album, it adds more than a little pressure when that full length does come along. Fortunately, Dream State are the exact kind of band to turn that pressure into the most brilliant of diamonds; ‘Primrose Path’ takes their established sound and takes it on an emotional journey of heavy twists and beautiful turns for an album that far exceeds all expectations. It would take a hardened heart indeed not to be moved by the power of these songs, with the kind of varied and fresh feel that stands up to more than a few (hundred) relistens. If you said you could resist putting this on at maximum volume and belting out every word of tracks like ‘Twenty Letters’ and ‘Open Windows’, we simply wouldn’t believe you – this is music made to be loved deeply, and it’s only too easy to do so. ‘Primrose Path’ is only the start for Dream State, but what a start it is.  [Gemma Rogers]

Read our full review of ‘Primrose Path’

Read our live review of Dream State’s show at ULU London

8. Holding Absence – ‘Holding Absence’

Debut albums often come with little expectation, but Holding Absence had built a loyal, intense fanbase long before theirs was released in March this year, meaning they faced more expectations than most. While that may be the case, these expectations were far superseded, as the band’s self-titled album turned out to be one of the most beautiful records we’ve seen from a new band, not just this year, but pretty much ever. It’s haunting and devastating, uplifting and hopeful all at the same time, and within its confines there’s something for every emotion, however powerful and overwhelming it may feel in the moment. As final track ‘Wilt’ draws to a close, the catharsis peaks, and all at once you feel nothing but calm. As music becomes ever more vulnerable and candid, Holding Absence find themselves at the forefront of that movement, and this debut is one that fans will hold dear to them long into the band’s career. [Yasmin Brown]

Read our full review of ‘Holding Absence’

Read our live review of Holding Absence’s show at Key Club, Leeds

7. Slipknot – ‘We Are Not Your Kind’

It’s difficult finding new and creative ways to innovate in metal, but Slipknot have seemingly found the solution: don’t reinvent the wheel, reinvent the car around it. Those longing for the Slipknot of old will be let down, but honestly it’s hard to care when this new album’s reinterpretations and fresh takes on old metal trends are so damn good. The gospel choir elements of ‘Unsainted’, the thundering stomping beat of ‘Spiders’, the almost mechanical guitars of ‘Critical Darling’ that could slice a car in half, every song is an experiment in both soundscapes and production – a musical thesis statement Corey and his band of misfits proselytise to the audience in a wonderfully successful attempt to show there’s a lot more to the band than Iowa screams and 4/4 time signatures. This is perhaps their most significant work to date, and will be a keystone in metal going forward for years to come. [Fiachra Johnston]

6. Jimmy Eat World – ‘Surviving’

Ten albums in and Jimmy Eat World are still effortlessly making art that simultaneously pushes boundaries and warms hearts like your favourite old blanket. Every album over the past 25 years has brought something fresh to the music industry, and ‘Surviving’ is no exception to this rule. Filled with new sonic risks and personal yet relatable themes, this record has been described by critics across the board as the band’s best album since fan favourite ‘Futures’ and, since its release, fans have been in agreement. As we roll over to 2020, we’re left feeling very lucky that we still have this band in our lives, and hope there are many more years of excellence to come from Jimmy Eat World. [Yasmin Brown]

Read our full review of ‘Surviving’

Read our live review of Jimmy Eat World’s show at PRYZM, Kingston

5. Fever 333 – ‘Strength in Numb333rs’

Jason Aalon Butler’s reputation for releasing some of the most inspiring albums in rock almost every year speaks for itself – certainly with his former band letlive, and now with Fever 333’s debut full-length ‘Strength in Numb333rs’. Filled with soaring choruses, aggressive rapping, and even elements of trap and electronic music, Fever 333 refuse to be confined to structure, mashing up genres as flawlessly as Linkin Park used to. ‘Strength in Numb333rs’ is completely focused on 2019 and every injustice going on in the world. Politically and socially conscious, the album spreads a message of unity and an uprising for their generation; released in January, ‘Strength in Numb333rs’ set the bar at a mighty high for the rest of the year. A modern day ‘Shape of Punk To Come’. [Louis Kerry]

Read our full review of ‘Strength in Numb333rs’

Read our live review of Fever 333’s show at O2 Forum Kentish Town

4. Knocked Loose – ‘A Different Shade Of Blue’

Of all the heavy music subgenres that came to prevalence in the 2010s, one of the most surprising and exciting – particularly to fans of a certain age – was the revival of ‘real’ metalcore, most shockingly at the hands of a brace of bands who were far too young to have experienced the original wave first-hand. Jesus Piece, Vein, Vatican, and most prominently Code Orange and Knocked Loose revitalised the kind of chug-chug-skreee breakdowns most commonly associated with mid/late-90s hardcore, only with an invigorated sense of adrenalin and attitude. In the middle of the decade, both of the latter two bands dropped scene-defining records in ‘I Am King’ and ‘Laugh Tracks’, but when it came to following those records up, the bands’ paths started to diverge drastically. Where Code Orange already seemed dissatisfied with their hardcore lineage and started to inject massive amounts of industrial and nu-metal into their approach on ‘Forever’, ‘A Different Shade Of Blue’, the second full-length from Knocked Loose, instead refined and damn-near perfected their sound without shaking the formula up too much. No awkward electronica passages or meandering goth breaks, just wall-to-wall riffs, squeals and slams created for the sole purpose of sending a seething pit apeshit. Front man Bryan Garris’ shrill howl might grate somewhat, but it works in the band’s favour, ensuring their sound is unmistakable from their peers, and whilst there’s little to truly shock or surprise fans of the band’s previous outing, the pin-sharp songcraft on display is second to none and cements Knocked Loose as hardcore’s premiere merchants of no-nonsense mosh for the new decade. [James Lee]

Read our full review of ‘A Different Shade Of Blue’

3. While She Sleeps – ‘SO WHAT?’

While it may have been an early 2019 release, While She Sleeps’ ‘SO WHAT?’ maintained its impact across the course of the year, allowing you to uncover new layers with each listen. It’s an album wherein each and every song stands out from one another, making it almost impossible to pick a favourite. ‘SO WHAT?’ sees While She Sleeps take embark on a brand new sonic journey, and while it is a departure from past albums – taking full advantage of the genre-less streaming world that we live in today – it’s still so undeniably recognisable as a While She Sleeps album. This is a record that excited existing fans, while bringing in a whole new demographic of music lovers. Executed to perfection, it’s hard to imagine how While She Sleeps could possibly have done any better.  [Yasmin Brown]

2. PUP – ‘Morbid Stuff’

As 2019 closes, it’s difficult to quantify what a year it’s been for PUP. Aside from playing a staggering 125 shows across 15 countries, they’ve created their own record label, Little Dipper, with ‘Morbid Stuff’ being their first release. And what a first release. Given the strength of their two previous albums, 2013’s ‘PUP’ and 2016’s ‘The Dream Is Over’, it seemed it would be difficult to reach the starry heights of before. But, in typical fashion, their almost trademarked brand of snarky, snotty pop punk surpassed expectations, creating a trilogy of outrageously fun, catchy albums. While their humour still permeates throughout the record (‘Bloody Mary, Kate and Ashley’ a prime example), there’s a valiant step towards new ground. ‘See You At Your Funeral’ utilises a basic chord structure peppered with intricate drumfills that throws back to 60s rock, including a delicate piano outro, but includes a modern twist – a focus on self-care and self-awareness. ‘Scorpion Hill’ and ‘City’ build from gentler slow tempos to rousing finales whilst telling stories of the downtrodden everyman. Nihilism (or, depending on your perspective, realism) is rife from start to finish, with such lines as ‘I’ve been having some pretty dark thoughts/I like them a lot’ and ‘And if the world is gonna burn/Everyone should get a turn to light it up’ resonate with those of similar mindsets. The chorus of ‘just cause you’re sad again, it doesn’t make you special at all’ in ‘Free At Last’ gives the most insight into PUP as a band. What should be an achingly macabre view somehow feels uplifting and revitalising. Because if that’s how you feel, you can be sure the band have felt it too. So while we thought it might be difficult to get near the quality of their two earlier albums, PUP have released what is potentially their most polished, most honest, and most fun record – and one that absolutely deserves to be this high in our Albums Of The Year ranking. There are clearly only three definites in life –Death, Taxes, and PUP releasing utterly stunning albums. [Andy Joice]

Read our full review of ‘Morbid Stuff’

Read our live review of PUP’s show at Stylus, Leeds

1. Microwave – ‘Death Is A Warm Blanket’

It’s easy to pour your soul into your art, it’s harder to make it tangible enough for people to lose themselves within it – but it’s something Microwave have no doubt achieved with ‘Death Is A Warm Blanket’. Sonically, it’s unlike the band we’ve come to know over their first two albums. Where ‘Much Love’ and ‘Stovall’ cleverly wrapped front man Nathan Hardy’s pessimism in cheery melodies, the third puts it on full display. After facing a year of both physical and mental ill health, Hardy has even taken it a step further by finding freedom in nihilism and giving free reign to his darker thoughts – and the sound reflects it.

Although more instrumentally diverse – something that can be attributed to a wide variety of influences – the overall sound is more urgent and brooding, the perfect soundtrack to Hardy’s catharsis. It’s something that might not be audible in the first jazzy seconds of ‘Float To The Top’ or the piano intro of ‘Pull’, but the helplessness of an entire generation is always pulsing just below the fuzz of wailing guitars if you choose to listen.

Hardy’s vocal range remains impressive, his voice tender, almost intimate, on tracks like ‘Part Of It’, ‘Love’s Will Tear Us Apart’ and the first moments of opening track ‘Leather Daddy’, while an edge of desperation creeps into the screams on ‘Mirrors’, ‘Pull’ and ‘DIAWB’. As vulnerable as his voice is, it’s brimming with palpable emotion so magnetic that it becomes an orbit with an undeniable gravitational pull, and there’s no escaping once you’re caught in it.

In an age of music where genres are dying, it’s refreshing to find a record so whole. It’s not free of its nuances, often invading foreign genres, but it exists in its entirety as a post-hardcore record that walks an extraordinarly beautiful tightrope between light and dark elements. A true masterpiece, the album feels sculpted, but not overproduced to the point where it loses all heart. There are edges, some interesting angles, but it all comes together to create a listening experience that feels epic in the truest sense of the word.

Listening to ‘Death Is A Warm Blanket’ feels big, like the first time hearing Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ or My Chemical Romance’s ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ – the three are in no way comparable, but they’re all made of the same stuff. Magic. Undeniable talent. Superior craft. It’s the thing that makes it feel like you’re experiencing something that will inevitably go down in music history as a crucial part of it. [Renette van der Merwe]

Read our full review of ‘Death Is A Warm Blanket’