Mr. Owl’s Top 15 Albums of 2019

A tribute to MMC’s many contributors.

This is as much a tribute to my fellow reviewers here at Mini Music Critic as anything else. Without y’all, this would’ve been a considerably smaller list.

Unlike my previous articles that go on forever, I’m gonna follow the “mini” aesthetic of this website and be as brief as possible. Besides, with all but four records on here being the result of reviews on MMC, you can (and should) just go read the original reviews for yourself!

So, in no particular order:

Joe Jackson: Fool 
(a personal fave)

Didn’t see much mention of this album since its release in January, which is a shame since it continues the hot streak started by Jackson on 2016’s grand Fast Forward. Forty years on, Joe Jackson is still as original and invigorating as ever!

The Black Keys: “Let’s Rock” 
(Reviewed by Nick Kubiak)

Boy, do they EVER!!! Starts with an incredible riff and keeps the intensity sky-high throughout. The album I played the loudest this year, with the sole exception of….

Sturgill Simpson: Sound & Fury
(Reviewed by Andrew Mackens)

This is the album ZZ Top has been trying to make since Eliminator. Best heard while careening down the highway with the windows down and the volume cranked to 11.

Swimming Tapes: Morningside 
(Reviewed by Brendan Shanahan)

Three words from Brendan’s review were all I needed to eagerly seek this one out: “Real Estate vibe.” Curiosity well rewarded! Nothing like the sound of interdependent jangly guitars in each ear.

SantanaAfrica Speaks 
(another personal fave)

His most adventurous album since 1973’s Caravanserai (and sounding like a distant cousin), Santana brings his tantalizing buffet of guitar wizardry and rockin’ Latin rhythms, landing this time in the heart of Africa with the soulful vocals of Buika throughout. 

Phil Keaggy & Rex Paul: Illumination 
(yet another personal fave)

My favorite Christian album this year is also one of my favorite albums of 2019 period. Don’t let the dogma turn you off; there is much to ponder here, along with some of the finest guitar playing you’ll ever hear!

Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel 
(Reviewed by Carlo Thomas)

Loud and proud. Every time I listen to this I hear the same kind of energy that fueled London Calling, and I really can’t think of any higher praise for an album than that!

Black Pumas: Black Pumas
(Reviewed by Brendan Shanahan)

This one took a while to like, but once it clicked it became heavy in the rotation. “Colors,” “Stay Gold” and especially the transcendent album closer “Sweet Conversations” keep this on constant rotation around here.

The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion 
(Reviewed by Carlo Thomas)

Raw, rocking, full of energy and great stories with characters that could be any one of us, this sounds like another fine chapter in a grand novel that has been unfolding since their first record.

Oh Sees: Face Stabber 
(Reviewed by Stine Omega)

Wacky, exhilarating, colorful, all over the place but never messy, John Dwyer & Co. run the gamut from short punk stompers to extended proggy jams,. The music matches the cover: you will be devoured and you will love every minute of it!

The Who: WHO
(Reviewed by yours truly)

Nearly half a century years since they put out anything worth listening to under this name, the ‘orrible ‘oo record an album for the ages that stands up next to anything from their original golden run in the late ’60s/early ’70s. As vital for the young-ins as it is for us old fogies.

Michael Kiwanuka: KIWANUKA
(Reviewed by Rob Nicklin)

The more I listen to this, the more it moves me. A journey from the top to the bottom of the soul, with themes of redemption throughout, all carried along with a backbeat that sounds more like a heartbeat.

DIIV: Deceiver
(Reviewed by Carlo Thomas)

With guitars sounding like they were mixed by Eddie Kramer in the mid-’70s, this is prime emo/shoegaze with steel sheets of guitars raining all around you.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
(Reviewed by me) 

Recorded fifty years ago, this mythic performance finally saw the light of day in 2019, and it was well worth the wait!

Peppa Pig: My First Album 
(Reviewed by the mighty Quinn Brown)

Look, nothing I can say here will do justice to the masterwork that is Quinn’s review and Peppa’s album, but suffice to say your life will be changed when (not if) you both read the review and listen to this record. And you will listen to this because once it has you in its grip, you will want to run away but you can’t. Such is the power of this album. The fact that it’s not showing up on anyone else’s “Best of 2019” list is merely a testament to just how far ahead of her time Ms. Pig’s music is. We can only pray we’ll eventually catch up.