Music in 2019

Published 30 December, 2019.

2019 was the year I was reminded how important it is to do things which make you happy. It’s such a simple idea, but one that I’d managed to forget. Music—especially live music—makes me happy, and getting to spend so much of 2019 attending gigs and listening to new albums made it one of the best years I’ve had in a long time.

Here are some of the things which made me happy in 2019.

Song of The Year: Kate Tempest — Hold Your Own

Even the thought of writing about this song is getting me a little teary.

Songs rarely resonate with me like Hold Your Own. Often, songwriters lose me by being overly earnest, as if they’re trying a little bit too hard. Maybe this has to do with growing up in the 90s or in Melbourne, a time and a place which drip heavily with cynicism. I really don’t know why, but I don’t get this from Kate Tempest.

Hold Your Own has this amazing ability to tear me down, then build me back up. By the end I’m better than ever, overflowing with joy and confidence.

After listening to this song, I love myself. I stop thinking about what others think of me, or how I measure up against what I “should” be and what I “should” be doing. It’s punk as fuck.

I tried to pick out a quote from the song to sum it up, but I can’t. The whole thing is amazing.

Festival of the Year: End of the Road

Standing in a field with tears running down my face after watching Kate Tempest perform my favourite song of the year, I looked across the crowd and saw thousands of people feeling exactly the same way. Ultimately, people make any gathering. At End of the Road, I got the impression that these were my people. Every single person I interacted with made it a better experience.

Looking back at the lineup is blowing my mind. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Scalping, The Beths, Viagra Boys, Stella Donnelly, Shame, Fontaines D.C., Low, Beak>, Pottery, Pom Poko, Bilge Pump, Goat Girl … I don’t think I really appreciated it at the time, but it was an incredible lineup.

I hope to see you there next year.

Albums of the Year

Penelope Isles — Until The Tide Creeps In

I first came across Penelope Isles in January, when I noticed they had a song called Cut Your Hair. It’s not a cover of the Pavement song, but a song from an alternate reality where Stephen Malkmus grew up on the Isle of Man, then went to university in Brighton.

It’s hard to believe this is their first album. It’s a great collection of summertime-slacker-pop songs punctuated by massive build-it-up-to-tear-it-down moments.

Fontaines D.C. — Dogrel

I wasn’t immediately taken with Fontaines D.C. The first time I saw them play I thought they were a bit pretentious. It took a few listens for me to get this album, and it wasn’t until I was lucky enough to see them play in Chicago that I fell head-over-heels for it.

These songs have a confidence and power to them that get into your head and dare you to take on the world.

Palehound — Black Friday

I don’t remember how I first came across Palehound. As far as I can tell she hasn’t played outside of North America for as long as I’ve been a fan. But ever since I first heard Healthier Folk from her first album, I’ve loved each of her subsequent albums. It feels like she’s getting more and more confident at telling her own stories with every album. This year’s is no exception.

John — Out Here On The Fringes

This is rock and roll. That two-piece, guitar-through-two-amps sound will always get me.

Life — A Picture Of Good Health

Describing my song of the year, I said that songwriters tend to lose me by being too earnest. A song whose chorus is “Pissants! Whoo!” is the opposite of that, and I love it.

A Beautiful Thing: IDLES Live at Le Bataclan

An online community of IDLES fans has changed my life. This album is a document of the music and the people who have helped me make that change. All is love.

Gigs of the Year

IDLES at Alexandra Palace (7 December)

The pinnacle of the joy music brought into my life in 2019. The day leading up to this, organised by the AF Gang, was perfect. The gig itself was mind-blowing. I still struggle to believe a show in such a massive venue could feel so personal, intimate, loving, and vital. The after-party was pretty good too.

IDLES at Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow (3 December)

Most “gigs of the year” lists I’ve seen don’t repeat bands. I thought about leaving this show off this list, but it didn’t feel fair. I’d wanted to see a show at Barrowland Ballroom for a few years, and I doubt this experience could’ve been beaten. Again, it was a powerful, loving experience.

Kate Tempest at End of the Road, Dorset (31 August)

This was where my song and festival of the year was cemented. The same waves of emotion that were lifting me up and pulling me down were being felt by everyone around me. We were all at sea together. I can’t remember being part of an audience who were so present for every single word of a performance. It was magical.

Fontaines D.C. at Lincoln Hall, Chicago (15 September)

This was a band at their very best, playing a smaller venue with excellent sound. It was perfect, and I was so incredibly fortunate to get a ticket to this show at the last minute1.

Penelope Isles at Oslo (5 December)

This was more like a party than a gig. Oslo is normally an okay room to see a gig in, but this night it was cozy. Family and friends travelled to this show from all corners of the UK, and somehow I (the oversized Australian awkwardly attending on his own) felt perfectly welcome at the party.

  1. Special shout-out to Kelly, the AF Ganger I met at Riot Fest in Chicago who offered me a ticket to this show at the last minute. I don’t deserve such generosity.