As half time for 2019 approaches, let’s do what is expected of every music based website on the face of the internet and look back at our favourite releases of the year so far – and because we’re Tracksuite, you get a playlist.
Like an old school M.C, - let’s break it down.
First up, the opening track from one of the earliest releases of the year, ‘Midnight Monsoon’ by Subjective, the new collaborative project from Goldie and James Davidson and their album ‘Act One: Music for Inanimate Objects’. The Line of Best Fit describes how the ‘Sweeping strings and shuffling percussion soften the pounding kick drum’ as this track establishes the quality ambient work to come. Then another album opener, ‘Feet’ from Peckham alt rock outfit Fat White Family, who’ve seen a surge in 2019 off the back of their new album Serf’s Up! Skinny said – ‘Lead single ‘Feet’ is the group’s statement of intent: a sprawling, decaying disco track that puts up a united front.’ Followed swiftly by the return of The Twilight Sad on mighty form with ‘VTr’ from the album ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ – NME said “it’s a track as driven by change and hope as it is loaded with sadness’. Kicking on from this with ‘Woman’ from another new collaboration by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and American producer Danger Mouse from the album ‘Lux Prima’ released in March. Also released in March was the album ‘On The Line’ by indomitable country rock singer songwriter Jenny Lewis and the incredible track ‘Red Bull and Hennessy’ – Rolling Stone said ‘The singer channels the groove of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” throughout “Red Bull & Hennessy,” crooning over a steady, two-note bassline, rippling tremolo guitars and chiming piano melodies.’ The playlist breaks free from the guitars and takes up the beats with the standout track ‘Afrika’ from new DJ Yoda album ‘Home Cooking’, then follows with two back to back legendary returns – first from Chaka Khan with the utter groove monster ‘Like Sugar’ from ‘Hello Happiness’, her first album in 11 years and then ‘B.L.M’ from new album ‘Encore’ by The Specials, their first studio album of new material in over 20 years. This politically charged track NME describes ‘finds Lynval Golding telling the story of his father arriving in the UK on the Windrush to help rebuild a war-torn Britain, and his own experiences of racism in the UK and America’. The beat sticks with French producer Yuksek and fresh disco fire in ‘I Don’t Have A Drum Machine’ and steps up again from English DJ producer John Ford aka Joyryde with the epic hard house mixer upper ‘I’m Gone’. Tracksuite would very much love to hear more big tunes take this alt route in future.
Changing direction a little after the first third of the mix with ‘Sugar Mama’ from the haunting genius of multidisciplinary performing artist Dua Saleh from the ‘Nur’ EP, the earliest release in the mix from January 3rdon Against Giants. Continuing to bring you down smoothly with the stretch sound of third generation mardi gras Indian chief Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and the title track from his new album ‘Ancestral Recall’ feat Saul Williams. Then the electronic nu-jazz sound of Ninja Tune’s Cinematic Orchestra and ‘A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life feat. the unmistakable tones of Rodney Smith, aka Roots Manuva from their fifth album ‘To Believe’. The wheel then turns again as we follow on with the highly stylised and impossible to compartmentalise alt country sound of Canadian musician Orville Peck – who Loud and Quiet says ‘His rich, crooning tenor is heavily reminiscent of Roy Orbison being appropriated by David Lynch’. The Line of Best Fit says ‘album opener "Dead of Night" is held around a faint percussive tambourine rattlesnake and a solitary allure. As Peck’s lustrous voice swills effortlessly into the intonated croon of Chris Isaak, you can hear the Nevada desert’s incompatibility to young, same-sex love.’ We stay in alt country territory with Sweden’s Daniel Norgren from his release ‘Wooh Dang’ and the affirming ballad ‘The Power’. Then troubled and reformed trio Ohtis with the brilliant ‘Runnin’ from their album ‘Curve of Earth’ – The Line of Best Fit again says “Runnin” shows Ohtis not in a state of disarray despite the track’s content, but rather a group with razor-sharp focus, simply conscious of how things once were.’ Roseanne Reid follows on with ‘Levi’ from one of Tracksuite’s favourite albums of the year, her debut ‘Trails’ – an incredibly mature and accomplished collection of tracks that lays the foundation for a must follow career. Another of Tracksuite’s favourite all time female vocalists Naomi Bedford along with partner in life and music Paul Simmonds reworking again the fantastic old folk ballad ‘Matty Groves’ that she first did on her Bluebirds EP in 2012. Then back on the country tip with some pure good old boy sound from Logan Ledger and ‘Starlight’, one of two taster songs dropped ahead of the release of his debut album due in the autumn. Legendary Americana producer T Bone Burnett describes his first impression of Ledger; ‘He had, and has, a voice filled with history. I could hear echoes of one great singer after another in his tone’. Sticking with the old country sound on ‘Flint City Shake It’, a highly infectious shit kicker from Justin Townes Earle on the album ‘The Saint of Lost Causes’.
Another change of gear into the final third with another best album of the year contender in the aptly named ‘My Finest Work Yet’ by Andrew Bird. AV Club said ‘Tracks like “Olympians” … a full-throated sing-along that wouldn’t be out of place in a Beatles tune like “All You Need Is Love.” Then the opener ‘Change’ off the fourteenth studio album by American rhythm blues and gospel queen Mavis Staples sets up the force of nature that is North Carolina’s Resse McHenry and the blistering passion fuelled ‘Detroit’ from her astounding album ‘No Dados’. Another voice loaded with greats of the past is American soul singer `Kelly Finnigan who stokes the fire with ‘I Called You Back Baby’. Charging on with ‘Who’ by German electronic duo Modeselektor feat . Estonian rapper and artist Tommy Cash. Clash Mag described it as ‘Frantic but without sacrificing melody, 'Who' feels like a dance-rap masterpiece from an alternate dimension.’ Chase and Status returned recently with their new album ‘RTRN II JUNGLE’, a blazing homage to their drum and bass, jungle music roots that feels truthful and fresh in equal measure. Hard to pick a favourite but right now its ‘Program’. Carrying the pace and energy straight into ‘Summon the Fire’ by The Comet is Coming – Shabaka Hutchings continuing to rule with another fine selection of huge jazz gems. Taking the baton, Dublin post punks Fontaines D.C. with ‘Hurricane Laughter’ from their debut album ‘Dogrel’ – DIY Mag says ‘its verses full of stream-of-consciousness intrigue before building to a moshpit-inducing, shout-along inclusive chorus’. Now screaming up the final straight with Gothenburg’s Westkust with the opener ‘Swebeach’ from their new self titled album. Nothing But Hope and Passion said of it, ‘Swebeach is shoegaze direct-injected with rocket fuel, a great wall of scorching, abrasive guitar sound cut through with Julia Bjernelind’s vocal, melody that stands its ground through the musical storm’. And finally, taking us over the finishing line, Tracksuite faves from Denver, The Yawpers and ‘Forgiveness Through Pain’, that Popmatters also picked as an album highlight saying, ‘Parmet's thunderous guitar overtakes Cook's bluesy noodling in the opening of "Forgiveness Through Pain", driven maddeningly forward by Koshak's drums and Cook's white-boy jive vocals (the best I've heard this side of Steven Tyler at his peak)’.
And that be the playlist – get around it. Tracksuite abides.