10. Bobby Krlic, Midsommar (Original Score) (Milan)
It’s a great time for new movie scores, as more and more film directors are reaching out to musicians, largely electronic/ambient artists, to create the scores for their work. One of 2019’s most memorable soundtracks was for one of the most unsettling flicks of the year, Ari Aster’s creepazoid pagan horror film Midsommar. Best known as The Haxan Cloak, Bobby Krlic specializes in creating dark, ominous, sometimes harrowing music (his collaboration with doom metal band The Body was especially brilliant) and his aesthetic is a perfect fit for the movie. Pastoral sounds lure the listener/viewer in, only to pull the rug out with jarring moments of atonal sounds. It’s a perfect reflection of a terrifying story that takes place under the midnight sun, where sheer horror takes place in broad daylight.
9. Goldfrapp, Black Cherry (Mute)
Originally release in 2003, Goldfrapp’s second album was a striking change in direction from the instant classic trip hop experiment Felt Mountain, ditching the dreamy, surrealist torch songs in favour of something a lot more brash, glammy, confrontational, and sexual. I was cautiously optimistic at the time: incredibly I ranked it at 13 on my year-end list that year, but as the years passed it grew and grew in stature, ultimately becoming one of the most defining albums for me that decade. This special vinyl re-release was wonderful to delve into; the singles (“Train”, “Strict Machine”, “Twist”, “Black Cherry”) remain stunners, but deep cuts like “Tiptoe”, “Crystalline Green”, and “Slippage” show just how musically rich this wonderful album is.
8. Meshuggah, Nothing (Nuclear Blast)
Meshuggah’s 2002 album Nothing was a monumental influence on me when it first came out, changing the way I thought about heavy metal music and what it was capable of. After years of turning up my nose at 1990s “extreme metal”, Nothing was a wake-up call, a display of staggering musicality and innovation, in which intricate, complicated rhythms coalesced with brute force and delicate, fluid, jazz-influenced guitar solos. It remains my favourite Meshuggah album, and when it was re-released this year on double vinyl, I didn’t hesitate to scoop up a copy and subject my wife and dog to the monstrous, baffling, enthralling music on this record.
7. Motörhead, 1979 (Sanctuary)
1979 was a crucial year for the loudest rock ‘n’ roll band in history, as the mighty Motörhead released two classic albums and took the world by storm, profoundly influencing heavy metal and punk rock in the process. It was only appropriate for the Motörhead camp to release a complete retrospective of that year, and the resulting 1979 collection is a total blast. Both albums are included, of course, with Overkill being the slightly superior product, and without a doubt one of the greatest metal albums in history. Two live shows are included as well, one from March 1979 and the other from November, as well as a collection of alternate takes and demos. This set is available in a very expensive vinyl set, but for the rest of us, it’s on Spotify. No matter the platform, however, 1979 is a riot from start to finish.
6. Prince, Originals (Warner)
As great as Prince’s own recorded work was, he was an absolute genius when it came to writing songs for other artists, and this collection of demo tracks recorded between 1981 and 1991 is one compilation many people have been craving for years. No matter what the musical style was, the man knew what made a great song, as this collection attests. Many legendary songs make requisite appearances here (“Manic Monday”, “Jungle Love”, “The Glamorous Life”, the immortal “Nothing Compares 2 U”) and even in demo form sound fully-formed as the amorphous Prince shifts from funk to psychedelic rock to pop with ease that remains astonishing to this day. Originals isn’t without pleasant surprises, too: he channels George Clinton on the glorious “Holly Rock”, “You’re My Love” tops Kenny Rogers’ 1982 rendition, while “Make-Up”, originally written for Vanity, is a brilliant piece of electronic experimentation. It’s rare that a collection of demos would be just as important as a musician’s greatest albums, but this is such a case. Originals deserves a place alongside Purple Rain, Sign O the Times, and 1999. [And speaking of 1999, the colossal deluxe reissue is an absolute must as well! The only reason I didn’t include it is because there’s so much to unpack that it’ll take me months. The conciseness of Originals compels me to prefer that one, but make no mistake, both are absolute treasures.]