It was another new beginning. A new place in a familiar setting. And I was too excited to go through it all.
But music-wise, 2019 was rather disappointing. Not only that it was filled with festivals with cancelled line-ups, but also there was not really a lot of exciting releases. Yes, I must admit that I was thrilled over Pet Shop Boys’ both “Agenda” EP and “Hotspot” LP as well as the opportunity to go to Pinkpop again and saw The Cure live, but finding 19 best tracks from 2019 was quite a challenge. Mostly I was still listening to 80s and 90s bands like Pet Shop Boys, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Divine Comedy, Underworld, and The Chemical Brothers. Pet Shop Boys is once again reigned my 2019 Wrapped on Spotify, along with The Divine Comedy, The Lightning Seeds, Taron Egerton, and New Order.
Here is the full list of my top 19 tracks of 2019
1. THE DIVINE COMEDY – Queuejumper
The Divine Comedy’s “Office Politics” was a great album with synth-driven songs, including the album title “Office Politics”, “Infernal Machine” that has a strong Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” vibe and tongue-twisting track “The Synthesiser Service Centre Supper Summer Sale”. Neil Hannon even made a special Spotify playlist called Synth Time Immortal, and it is filled with essential synth tracks, from Ultravox’s “Sleepwalk” to Depeche Mode’s “New Life” to Yazoo’s “Nobody’s Diary”. I always love an album with a strong theme and concept, and listening to this album is like entering a British office in the 90s. Their first single “Queuejumper” is an interesting track with Hannon’s satirical view of those who like to cut a waiting line. Surely this kind of people really exist and they are actively involved in office politics.
2. PET SHOP BOYS – On Social Media
From Neil Hannon to Neil Tennant (trivia: both provided backing vocals for Robbie Williams’ “No Regrets” back in 1997), Pet Shop Boys’ “Agenda” is an EP with satirical lyrics to what is currently happening in this modern world. “On Social Media” is sneering on how it changes people’s behaviour and mindset, and oh how I missed this kind of song from them. I listened to this EP intensively early last year, and if you are anti-capitalism and sick of what is happening in the world at the moment, you really should listen to this.
You’re part of the conversation
You’re there in every debate
From football to religion to contemporary art
You’re ready to pontificate
3. UNDERWORLD – S T A R
After a powerful EP with Iggy Pop in 2018, Underworld is releasing a set of singles digitally, each accompanied with a music video. Each of these tracks and music videos was released every week, launched in late 2018. When S T A R was released, I immediately felt the rawness of the track, and at the same time was very much impressed by the lyrics.
4. ELTON JOHN & TARON EGERTON – (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again
Rocketman was probably the best movie I had seen in 2019, and I was lucky enough to be able to see it in the cinema during my brief visit to the Netherlands. Taron Egerton was impressive in portraying Elton John. I believe that nobody could play Elton as good as Taron, and we all know how good he was singing “I’m Still Standing” in Sing. Everything was connected – Taron had sung Elton’s song before, while Elton was a special guest in Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle, where Taron was the lead actor. Kingsman was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who produced the 1998 cult “Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels” in which Dexter Fletcher, the director of Rocketman, played one of the four main characters. I actually made a whole mind map for this but that should be for another blog.
Anyway, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” was the new single from the movie soundtrack, and it was a duet by Elton and Taron. I personally think that this duet should be included in the list of Elton’s greatest duets, along with “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (with Kiki Dee) and “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (with George Michael).
5. CIAO LUCIFER – REPLACE YOU
I met Willem at Smell and Art class back in 2010 and I had known about his music project Ciao Lucifer since then. Apparently it was on hiatus for some time, until they released new singles a couple of years ago. A nice coincidence was, they actually came to Indonesia and performed at the Erasmus Huis!
So I got to meet Willem again, and also the other half of the band Marnix. They were very laid back (they actually took a train from Solo to Jakarta to reduce carbon footprints) and entertaining. The duo released an album “Are We Even Growing Up?” a couple of months after their Indonesian tour, which contains their singles in the last two years. “Replace You” was one of them, and it was a nice, laid-back song that you can listen to while getting high on a quiet Sunday afternoon, reminiscing and contemplating on your past.
6. SEEKER LOVER KEEPER – LET IT OUT
The power trio was back and their first single “Let It Out” was the ultimate remedy for my depressive soul. The heavenly voices of Sally Seltmann, Holly Throsby, and Sarah Blasko would definitely take you to a serene sanctuary away from the hustles of the troubled mind.
7. THE LEGENDS feat. CLUB 8 – LOOKING FOR LOVE
The Legends and Club 8 – aren’t they both the bands of Johan Angergård? I thought it could be The Legends featuring Karolina Komstedt.. In fact, I had been wondering whether the song “Looking For Love” sounded more like The Legends or Club 8. Overanalysis aside, it was a short, sweet track with Karolina Komstedt on vocals, giving you the feels of Club 8’s 2003 track “The Beauty of the Way We’re Living”.
8. ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK – DON’T GO
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released a box set filled with an extensive collection of their singles in the span of their 40-year music career last year. Apparently “Don’t Go” was their 40th single, and it has a similar feel of “What Have We Done” or “Metroland”. The box set also includes several remixes, including a remix by Vince Clarke on their 1979 single “Almost”. Surely my heart leapt when I listened to this track for the first time. The ultimate synth legends collabo.
9. BRENDAN MACLEAN – GOES WITHOUT SAYING
An artist that falls to my how come I only know them now? category last year was definitely Brendan Maclean. The openly gay singer-songwriter was giving all the feels and being brutally honest about the actual life we are living now. While his 2013 hit “Stupid” was a sarcastic take on someone you might fall in love to with a cheerful tune which you can dance the night away, while “Goes Without Saying” will make you drown into all your feelings while drinking a whole bottle of wine.
10. RIDE – REPETITION
I had never been a big fan of Ride, but their 2018 concert was probably one of the best concerts I have ever seen, with one of the best crowd as well. Being in the middle of fans singing “Vapour Trail” in unison was definitely a surreal experience. Last year they released a full album, “This Is Not A Safe Place”, and “Repetition” was their second single. It has this very catchy beat with a strong synth bassline that I just could not have enough of.
11. THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – GOT TO KEEP ON
The Chemical Brothers bagged two Grammy awards this year for Dance/Electronic Album (No Geography) and Dance/Electronic Recording (Got To Keep On), and it was quite obvious. “No Geography” is a strong album that once again set their position in the dance/electronic scene in the span of three decades of their career. “Got To Keep On” was probably the ultimate dance single, one that would be placed alongside their early anthems like “Hey Boy, Hey Girl”, “Block Rockin’ Beats”, or their later single “Go” from the 2014 album “Born in the Echoes”.
12. BECK – SAW LIGHTNING
Beck is back and again with a genre twist. Collaborating with Pharrell, the album “Hyperspace” is filled with synth-driven songs, although my favourite track “Saw Lightning” was more of a mix of blues-rap with freestyle harmonica.
13. JOHNNY MARR – ARMATOPIA
We all know that the world is coming to an end sooner than we might have expected, and Johnny Marr had made a perfect song to celebrate this. “Armatopia” gave this disco kind of feeling but at the same time a sense of dystopia. So maybe we can call this discopia? (p.s. dyscopia is an inability of coping)
14. ROUGE MARY – BOOGIE DOWN
Rouge Mary is going solo and releasing an EP called “Remedy” that would take you to the 70s disco vibe. “Boogie Down” was a cover of Al Jarreau’s 1983 single and it really made you want to roller skate under a disco ball and flickering pink lights.
15. MUNA – NUMBER ONE FAN
MUNA’s “Saves The World” might not be as swell as their debut album “About U”, but “Number One Fan” is an honest song about self-love that deserves a bigger appreciation. Maybe everyone should get a copy of themselves from a mirror and start dancing. I would definitely do that to Nouvelle Vague’s Bossanova cover of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself”
16. HAIM – NOW I’M IN IT
HAIM’s “Now I’m In It” is also about self-reflection although on the contrary to MUNA’s it is about battling with depression and breakdowns. I used to listen to this a lot during my after-office walk to my late-afternoon swim – in my case swimming is a way to take away my constant anxiety.
17. JACK SAVORETTI feat. MIKA – YOUTH & LOVE
I was pretty lucky to get a glimpse of Jack Savoretti at the Pinkpop last year. His vocal was as awesome as in the recordings, and his charisma was well-spread across the Brightland tent. His latest album “Singing to Strangers” includes a duet with Kylie Minogue in “Music’s Too Sad Without You” (it was also in Kylie’s “Golden” album), but the duet version of “Youth and Love” with Mika was only released later. It was certainly a unique collaboration.
18. BARNS COURTNEY – YOU & I
An artist I discovered at Pinkpop was Barns Courtney. The young British singer was highly energetic and he delivered a very powerful performance. His songs got me totally hooked, and “You and I” was no exception.
19. THE DSM IV – FUNLAND
When I first listened to “Funland” on Spotify in January last year, I was like, “Hey, what a cool bass-baritone voice. Who’s this?” So I searched on The DSM IV and craved for more of their songs online but only ended up with two other singles. But this song was such an earworm that I just couldn’t get it out of my head for several months. Especially the first verse:
Never trust a man with no enemies
Must be doing something wrong
On the substitute bench:
MORRISSEY – WEDDING BELL BLUES
One song that was highly considered was Morrissey’s “Wedding Bell Blues”, a cover of Laura Nyro’s 1966 song. Surely it was interesting because it was sung in a casual, non-heteronormative way by the sexually-fluid (surely this is debatable, and throughout my life I was wishing he was an asexual but I was very much wrong) Morrissey and bisexual Billy Joe Armstrong. But.. yes I would much rather have Johnny Marr on the list for now.
Anyway, I was too late in downloading my 2019 wrapped and was too lazy to screenshots my 2019 last.fm history so I would just leave it like this now. The mixtape will be on the next post.