Country Perspective’s Top 10 Albums of 2019

Back in the day, Country Perspective would spend around a month doing end of the year posts, recognizing the best and worst across several categories. While it was fun in a way, it was also quite tiring. And I imagine it had to be quite tiring for the reader too. After all I imagine you read several other music blogs and year-end posts. Speaking also as a reader of many blogs, it gets old after reading so many of these posts when really these things have two major points: 1) Giving proper recognition to the absolute best in music and 2) Giving you the listener a potential new album/artist to listen to. Plus, it’s fun to compare lists.

So with my lack of interest in doing so many year end posts and this blog having it’s major focus on albums, this is going to be the only best of 2019 post, the best albums of the year. It was a pretty good year for albums, as there were so many good ones across multiple genres. While there were some disappointments that stood out for me, pleasant new surprises more than made up for them (you’ll see some of them made the top 10 even). While it certainly didn’t touch the best years of this decade (hello 2014), 2019 is one of the better years of music in the 2010s (I’ll be doing my best of the decade posts in 2020).

But before I get to my top ten albums of 2019, I want to list some honorable mentions that weren’t quite good enough for the top ten, but still good albums that I recommend you check out…

Honorable Mentions

Country Perspective’s Top 10 Albums of 2019

10. Benny The Butcher – The Plugs I Met

Dirty, grimy and nasty is how I would describe the sounds and lyrics of this album. And I love it! The entire Griselda hip-hop collective is fantastic and rightly getting their due now that they’re signed to Eminem’s Shady Records (check out the album they dropped in November). But the star is undoubtedly Benny The Butcher and this album is the proof. All of his work is great, but this is an excellent entry point. When the king of coke rap in Pusha T endorses your coke rap (dropping a great feature on this album too), well you know you’re doing something right.

9. Cody Jinks – The Wanting

While I wouldn’t put the The Wanting as Cody Jinks’ best work, it’s certainly close and features maybe the most badass album cover of 2019. This album offers deep introspection on life, passion and love. The instrumentation is varied, going from slow ballads to rockers. And he did this all while dropping another album the week before that just missed this list. Jinks is undoubtedly one of the hardest working artists in music today and I was impressed by what he accomplished in dropping two great albums within a week of each other. If you’re someone looking to get into country music, Jinks is one of the first you should check out.

8. Dee White – Southern Gentleman

This album was released all the way back in January, but you should not forget about it. Dee White proves himself to be one of the most promising new country artists to watch with his debut album Southern Gentleman. White’s voice evokes memories of Roy Orbison and George Jones and he’s only 19-years-old. And while he feels like a classic artist in every sense, his lyrics are still modern. There are several great storytelling moments on this album and White even holds his own with fantastic vocalists like Ashley McBryde and Alison Krauss. I can’t wait to hear more from Dee White.

7. Tyler Childers – Country Squire

Country Squire is an incredible album and with its perfectly short run time, you’ll find yourself replaying it again and again. While some were disappointed by this follow-up to Purgatory, I was instantly impressed with this album. What’s great is these are old songs that have been played by Childers live for years and with live music being what pays the bills for artists, it only makes sense to record these songs. While we’re still due for Tyler Childers’ absolute best work, this is a pretty damn good album to play while we wait for it.

6. Michaela Anne – Desert Dove

Michaela Anne delivers an amazing album in Desert Dove. It’s full of smooth and breezy songs that only take a couple of listens to truly enjoy. Like my good friend and fellow music writer Zackary Kephart says, this album is quite similar to Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour and that was my top album of 2018. So if you enjoyed that album, this is a must-listen. This also feels like Anne’s breakout moment, as she finds the sound and themes she needed to truly show her full potential and prove herself as an artist that should be on your radar if you love country music or just great music in general.

5. Kishi Bash – Omoiyari

Omoiyari is a wonderful album full of beautiful lyrics and sounds that cover an important topic in American history that more people show know about. Why Kishi Bashi is not more covered by music journalists I’ll never know, but this music reviewer is telling you that you need to check him out. He’s a multi-instrumentalist who writes his own lyrics and can cover a wide variety of sounds so damn well. On this album he masters the chamber pop/orchestral pop sound while giving you an informative history lesson too. As a music nerd and history nerd, it’s a double win!

4. Mike and The Moonpies – Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold

So I would be remiss if I didn’t point that my top four is clearly ahead of the rest, being that they all received 10/10 ratings, with each at one point or another getting consideration for Country Perspective’s 2019 Album of the Year. And out of all them, this was my biggest surprise of 2019. Mike and the Moonpies deliver something special with Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold. It’s fantastic in both sound and songwriting. The group clearly left their comfort zone. It honors the tried and true, while delivering something that feels new too. This is a band for me that went from releasing two albums I couldn’t get into at all to releasing an album that I can’t find a single fault in.

3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana 

I found hip-hop in 2019 to be pretty disappointing. But I never find the work of Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib to be disappointing, as this duo once again delivers big with Bandana. After delivering a classic in Piñata, they manage to nearly match it, which absolutely blows my mind. Gibbs raps his ass off on this album, delivering some of his best bars ever, while finding a great balance of bangers and humor while also offering introspection on more serious topics like when he was falsely accused of rape and systematic racism. Madlib brings some of the best beats in the game, picking some excellent samples as he always does. If there’s one hip-hop album you listen to this year, it’s this one.

2. Sturgill Simpson – SOUND & FURY

SOUND & FURY from start to finish feels like one long song, as it’s both cohesive in sound and lyrics, telling several stories that tie into overarching theme of Simpson being angry at a lot of things in the world, but when it comes down to it he’s most angry at himself and what he let himself become. Each track explores the flawed thoughts and actions of a flawed man. This album sounds like early to mid 70s music and sounds like the eccentric, frenetic sounds of Jeff Lyne and Electric Light Orchestra meets the in-your-face, sneering lyrics of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The amount of care and detail given to every aspect makes this one of the best albums you’ll hear in 2019 and yet another excellent album from Sturgill Simpson.

Country Perspective’s 2019 Album of the Year…

1. Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

If you still think of Carly Rae Jepsen as just the “Call Me Maybe” girl, well you’re just plain wrong. Because when she released Emotion and Emotion Side B, she showed me that there’s not a better pop artist making music today. Jepsen further proves with Dedicated that she just gets pop music: the over-the-top production, the overwhelming emotions, the catchy hooks, exciting themes and everything in-between. It’s appropriate she has an album named Dedicated considering she writes hundreds of songs for each album and spends months culling down to the final track list. This true dedication to her music shines through on every lyric and sound on this album. It’s a complete album from front to back, touching on the several emotions of love through the many trials and tribulations of a relationship. And it wouldn’t surprise me a bit that the “B cuts” for this album are equally as great in quality. Not only is this the best album of 2019 in my mind, but one of the best of the 2010s.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts on Country Perspective’s Top 10 Albums of 2019 below and feel free to offer your own list. Also feel free to ask me about any music releases/news from 2019 too (think of it as a 2019 music AMA), as my late start didn’t allow me to discuss everything I would have liked to discuss.

The Hodgepodge: Hey Taste of Country, Music Reviews Still Matter!

Jason Aldean
Somebody has to call out Jason Aldean when he puts out a bad song. And I have no problem doing it.

When it comes to the corporate country blog Taste of Country, I like to generally ignore it because I have no respect for the blog, as I outlined in this piece months ago. They bring zero journalistic integrity to the table and are a glorified public relations arm for artists and labels. Today I want to talk about a piece they actually seemed to put some time into and offered some sort of opinion. Shocking, right? They actually took a break from kissing major labels’ asses and writing fluff pieces to offer an opinion from an actual person. The topic of the piece? Do Record Reviews Matter in the Age of Social Media?

First off this is pretty damn ironic coming from Taste of Country, considering the fact that they don’t review music. As I said they are a PR machine and don’t offer opinions and analysis on music. Every song is a unique little snowflake and every artist is a creative ball of sunshine and rainbows. Nothing is bad and everything is good. You get the picture. So to the piece itself now. They begin the article asking the question above of record reviews mattering in this day and age. They then cite an NPR article from 2013 in which indie band Arcade Fire talks about receiving negative reviews for their Reflektor album, yet it was still a major chart hit. The NPR piece and band basically brush off negative reviews and say it really has no bearing on the fans. Taste of Country then writes the following:

There are plenty of examples of this in country music; in fact, the disparity between artists who are seeing the biggest commercial success in the genre and those who are the most critically applauded has arguably never been greater. Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, Sturgill Simpson and more of country’s most respected singer-songwriters have received glowing reviews, while generally finding little-to-no support from country radio, with only Musgraves scoring a Top 10 single there. Meanwhile, some of the biggest superstars in the genre routinely score commercial hits with songs that either receive lukewarm or outright negative reviews.

Hey, this is correct. But you want to know something about those radio stations that aren’t playing Musgraves, Clark and Simpson, Taste of Country? The same labels pulling the strings behind radio are the same pulling the strings behind your site. You are essentially why they’re “held back” and not on radio. The labels are pushing the trash to radio and not the genuinely good music, but you conveniently ignore these simple facts. But wait this article continues to get more ridiculous! Taste of Country goes on to cite Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” as an example. They quote the reviews from Country Weekly and Country Universe bashing the song (those mean blogs!), along with Zac Brown’s quote that he thought it was the worst song he has ever heard. After that they write about how Bryan still accomplished a bunch of accolades with that song and his 2013 album Crash My Party. Then this gem of a line:

With that being the case, it’s not hard to see why many people feel professional reviewers are simply talking to themselves and their peers at this point, rather than influencing the tastes and decision-making of the fans.

Are you kidding me? Where the hell do I begin with this? I’ll start with the easy point: reviewers without a doubt are influencing fans. I know because you guys have told Derek and myself that you’ve found great new music thanks to us. Go to Saving Country Music and there are fans constantly telling Trigger that they’ve found music thanks to his reviews. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. But Taste of Country can’t say this because they don’t write reviews, so how do they know? They have no idea what they’re saying.

The second big crux that this Taste of Country article is insinuating is that because Bryan’s Crash My Party was a huge success chart wise and sales wise, it’s great. I’ve said this point a hundred times, right here on this site and I guess I am going to have to say it once again. Chart success, radio success and sales success doesn’t mean the music is of high quality. I’ll use the cheeseburger example to further illustrate this. McDonald’s sells billions of cheeseburgers a year. They’re one of the wealthiest companies in the world and are statistically a success. Now tell me this: Does McDonald’s make the best cheeseburger? I’ll venture to say most of you would say no. It’s not the best cheeseburger. Maybe you think your mother makes the best cheeseburger. Maybe you know a little hole in the wall that makes the best cheeseburgers ever. I know one of my favorite places to get a cheeseburger is Five Guys. They don’t sell near the burgers a year that McDonald’s does. But they sell the most! That says nothing about the taste and quality of the product. It says they have the greatest access to the public at large and are simply more present than Five Guys. A personal example: There are a total of 10 McDonald’s within a 40 minute drive of where I live. There is only one Five Guys within that area.

Taste of food is subjective, just like music. Music is a highly subjective art form. It is not black and white, only gray. The quality of music can’t be measured with numbers and metrics. Music is something that you need to hear for yourself. It’s a human interaction that engages your mind, body, heart and spirit. A robot can’t listen to a song and tell you how it feels, but a person certainly can. While iTunes, Spotify and YouTube can certainly give you suggestions, it simply isn’t the same as getting suggestions from a real, live person. When you call tech support when dealing with a faulty product, would you rather be greeted by automated messages or a real person? I know I would choose the latter every single time. People want to replace everything with a machine in today’s world, but some things just can’t be replaced with a machine. Only a person can do a certain job and a reviewer is certainly a job for a real, live human.

The rest of the article is really nothing special. The majority of it is getting the perspective of publicist Claire Cook, who does promotional work for Average Joes Entertainment (the label that is home to hick-hop acts like Colt Ford and The Lacs). Her comments are pretty neutral on the subject, although she does mention how she views reviews as a promotion vehicle for artists and that good reviews can help. Taste of Country tacks on after this:

It’s getting harder and harder for individual acts to get positive reviews from respected sources, in part because there are more acts competing for exposure than ever, and in part because so many outlets simply don’t publish in-depth reviews anymore.

If this is insinuating why Average Joes’ artists don’t get good reviews, I got news for Taste of Country and that label: they don’t get good reviews because their music sucks. I have been pitched numerous times by Average Joes and I refuse every time because hick-hop is horrible and not a valid art form. I don’t consider it a part of country music. It would be a waste of time to review it because it all sounds the same and has no respect for the roots of country music. There are many others that feel the same way. And the problem of outlets not publishing in-depth reviews anymore? That’s on you Taste of Country and the other blogs you cite that have dropped reviews from their sites. Rolling Stone is part of the problem too, as I don’t consider a paragraph a review. LA Weekly dropped them because they said they didn’t get a lot of hits on reviews. Maybe that’s a sign that people don’t like your reviews? I don’t know because I don’t read them, but I certainly have no problem getting hits for my reviews and I think our reviews are pretty in-depth compared to most other blogs’ reviews.

I’ve blubbered on enough about Taste of Country for one day, so to my final point: reviews definitely still matter. If they didn’t I wouldn’t have started this site. Multiple independent country blogs wouldn’t still be doing reviews either. People still read and appreciate hearing thoughts from reviewers. Not only that, but it brings fans together in comments sections in reviews everywhere. Do you see people coming together on iTunes comments or Taste of Country comments section on music reviews? No you do not because they’re lifeless reviews that in no way are constructive or helpful to people reading them. You tried really hard to bring an opinion to the table, Taste of Country, and unfortunately for you it was completely off base. Now run along and go back to praising Florida Georgia Line or ranking country artists with their shirts off (this is a real thing on their site). Let us music reviewers get back to doing the job you should be doing.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Billy Currington’s new album Summer Forever is coming out next Tuesday. Based on the track listing, I’m expecting a mixed bag. There will surely be some summer anthems and bro country, but I think there will be a few deeper songs too.
  • Gloriana is releasing their third album, Three, next week. You gotta think this is an important album for them, as their relevancy on the charts and radio has waned considerably in recent years. I’m really not sure what to expect with this one.
  • The new collaboration album between country icons Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard is also slated to be released on June 2. It’s titled Django & Jimmie, as the two pay homage to guitarist Django Reinhardt and country musician Jimmie Rodgers. You can get an early listen on it, as it’s currently available for streaming at NPR.
  • Lindi Ortega has released another song from her new album Faded Gloryville, slated to come out on August 7. It’s a cover of the Bee Gees’ song “To Love Somebody” and it’s fantastic. Can this album get here already?
  • Joy Williams, the former one half of The Civil Wars, is releasing a solo album on June 30 titled Venus.

Throwback Thursday Song

Dwight Yoakam – “Guitars, Cadillacs” – I heard this song come on the other day on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country station and it still sounds as good as when it came out. Who doesn’t enjoy a little hillbilly music from Dwight?

Non-Country Song of the Week

The Black Keys – “Gold On The Ceiling” – The Black Keys were on my long list of artists I’ve put off for far too long to give an in-depth listen to and I’m definitely a fan now. “Gold On The Ceiling” was one of the most successful singles off their brilliant 2011 album El Camino. I definitely recommend listening to this song and that entire album.

Tweet of the Week

So for those on Twitter, Tuesday night was pretty heated in the world of country music on the social media platform. Keith Hill, a radio programmer, said the quote above on the weekly Country Aircheck. Pretty damn ridiculous. This situation is now being termed #SaladGate. Not only do I recommend checking out Grady Smith’s timeline on all of this, but definitely recommend checking out Windmills Country’s timeline too. She took Hill to school on Tuesday night! Windmills is an absolute must-follow for all country music fans and people interested in the industry. Oh and female artists are noticing the quote too:

There are a lot of fed up people over the situation with female artists on country radio, but the female artists are by far the most fed up. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them steps up and calls out radio for its bullshit. They have nothing to lose because radio already hates them. When Carrie probably misses out on another airplay #1, I hope she has the guts to say something.

iTunes Reviews That Rock!

Kick The Dust Up Great Reviews

So I heard that Luke Bryan’s new single “Kick The Dust Up” was getting some backlash on iTunes and I went to look for myself. Holy crap, it’s true! These are the three top reviews under it and one of them is a Bryan fan who hates it. Please please please please please let this be the beginning of change in mainstream country music.

One More Thing…

No it’s not bad news this week! It’s great news. I’m going to be at the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati next Friday and Saturday covering it. So if you’re at it be sure to say hi if you see me. The lineup is great and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’ll have a post on the site recapping my experience and the artists performing.

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!