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DJ Monterey’s Top Albums of 2019


Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows

This album is a true work of art. With a departure from their last album, Great Grandpa has created an introspective, honest album that addresses the feelings of anxiety and heartbreak. It features gentle reminders on the song “Bloom” that you will always have people surrounding you that care, no matter how anxiety-ridden or lonely you may feel. Conversely, “Treat Jar” and “Digger” are hitting breakup songs, reflecting on the toils of caring too much. Overall, this album caught me unprepared for how much it would make me feel and think about life, who I am and the person I am becoming. I can see this album staying in my heart and mind for many years to come, seeing as though it feels like a close friend or sibling providing reassurance and comfort.


Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed & Ready

Clementine Creevy is a powerhouse musician and if you need proof, look no further than this album. Taking on a range of themes such as self-deprecation, isolation and shame with their signature starry, spaced-out indie rock sound, this is their most honest album to date. Similar to Great Grandpa, Cherry Glazerr was previously known for their witty, humorous music, but are switching gears with their most recent release. Songs like “Stupid Fish” and “Self Explained” highlight Creevy’s racing, relatable thoughts and emotions, while “Wasted Nun” has a more self-deprecating, dark tone to it and “Juicy Socks” resembles an almost child-like innocence. This album made me see Cherry Glazerr as a harder version of Paramore (one of my all-time favorite bands), which gives one explanation as to why I’m so attracted to their raw energy and overall aesthetic.


Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

As a surprise collaboration from Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst, this was bound to be a beautiful work. Their voices and styles intertwine perfectly to create this smooth, expertly crafted album highlighting the struggles of humanity. They released a few cult-like teasers for the collaboration, with no explicit references as to what was actually happening, which made the release of the album that much more exciting. I was overjoyed to see this collaboration happen, even taking a trip to Meow Wolf to see them live (which you can read more about here). This album brings a sense of wonder and observation in songs like “Sleepwalkin’” and “My City” while maintaining both artists’ melancholic roots in “Service Road” and “Dominos,” even straying into a more electronic, synthy vibe in “Exception to the Rule.” Overall, this album has influences from both artists, with them switching off on main and background vocals throughout the work and constantly changing up their sound.


Orville Peck – Pony

YEE HAW! I could just leave it at that, but the main point is that Orville Peck delivered the best country album of the year. Bringing an LGBTQ+ lens to the country music scene, Peck has revolutionized what it means to be a country musician. Peck’s voice is pure silk draped over quivering guitars, influencing even the biggest haters of the genre to slip into his signature fringed cowboy hat and go for a ride. From the alluring, sultry sound of “Roses Are Falling” to the starry power ballad, “Queen of the Rodeo” and the traditional-sounding “Dead of Night,” there’s something for everyone. The most unique aspect of Peck’s music is his blend of classic Americana and outlaw western with nuanced ideas, creating unheard of diversity that I cannot wait to hear more of in the future.


Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Honestly, I hadn’t listened to Lana Del Rey since my Tumblr-girl phase in high school, but Del Rey’s velvety vocals pulled me right back in. This album has a through-line of self-acceptance and finding power within yourself. The slow ballad “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it” shows a new vulnerable side to her music, with Del Rey spilling all her confusion and toils into this song. On the other side of the record, the title track has hitting lyrics like “your poetry’s bad and you blame the news” which contribute to the disparaging tone of the song. Overall, Norman Fucking Rockwell offers 14 tracks critiquing not only the people around Del Rey, but also herself in a refreshing, original fashion.


Tacocat – This Mess Is a Place

Bringing their classic Seattle rock sound mixed with wit and commentary on the world, Tacocat released an upbeat, funky album this year. This is easily one of the best albums to drive to given the explosive energy and easy groove. “Meet Me at La Palma,” a song that addresses the disarray of the world in a unique way, is the wittiest song on the entire album. Painting the picture of meeting an old ally at a run-down restaurant/bar, the song is largely about dancing through all of life’s problems and ignoring large faults. Furthermore, “Little Friend” is a wholesome song about a pet cat, while “New World” fantasizes about waking up to a blank slate. With all the negativity floating around this year, this album provided a great temporary escape from it all.


Palehound – Black Friday

Serving as one of the most sincere, caring albums of 2019, this album tugs at the heartstrings. “Aaron” is one of the most ground-breaking love songs to ever exist, as lead singer Ellen Kempner expresses support for her partner’s gender transition. You can easily hear the pure bliss gushing from every pore of this song, making the listener fall in love with how much Kempner cherishes her partner. Other parts of the album reflect the same feeling of attentiveness and care in different regards. From the mellow, shimmering sound of “In Town” to the quietly powerful, Western-tinged sound of “Killer”, Palehound has created a work that hits on all the different aspects of love and fear. Kempner is a profound musician who has figured out how to expertly mold lyrics to fit her exact needs, which shines through perfectly on Black Friday.


Clairo – Immunity

Delivering one of the softest, most flowy albums of the year, Immunity evokes a sense of isolation and independence. The song “Feel Something” deals with ideas of fighting with inner conflict and the dichotomy between wanting to care for someone and knowing they’re not worth your time. Playing with heavy beats intertwined with her simple, bedroom pop style, it adds another layer of depth to her music. This is one of those albums that is so easy to love due to how soothing and sleek it feels. Clairo has an effortless grace to her voice and the way she manages to keep control, even when the subject matter is intensely emotional, is truly admirable.


Dude York – Falling

I’m a huge fan of the Seattle alternative rock sound and Dude York brought that and more to Falling. On top of being the nicest people to ever exist (evidenced by the interview I had the pleasure of doing with them earlier this year), they provide a mixture of wit and genuine emotion backed by shimmering guitars. On this album, they are largely influenced by early 2000’s pop-punk music, while taking their own unique spin on the sound. “Box” directly references The Killers’ 2004 hit song “Mr. Brightside” in the first few lines, but adds their own existential, glittery sound to it. The whole album reflects the idea of the album cover: something beautiful and delicate that has been smashed and crumbled to pieces. With little dark moments embedded in the overall light of the album, it shows the complexity and variation this band is capable of.


Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence

Birth of Violence was my album for the entire month of October. With the inclusion of phantom howls and violins resembling a ghastly wind, this album has many layers of spookiness to it. Wolfe’s voice seems to ooze through all the tracks, with one of my favorite songs being the sharp-edged, vampy tune “Deranged for Rock & Roll.” This album has a different aesthetic to it than Wolfe’s previous work, straying from her screeching, metallic sound to resemble more goth-folk. Keeping the same power as her previous albums, Wolfe’s change is both appreciated and revered as a masterclass in staying true to your roots while constantly evolving.

Honorable Mentions:

Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Hovvdy – Heavy Lifter
Adia Victoria – Silences
Hobo Johnson – The Fall of Hobo Johnson
Alex Lahey – The Best of Luck Club