ICYMI Edition: 10 Standouts From The 1st Half Of 2019

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The midway point of 2019 is still in the rearview, so I think there’s still time for my annual midyear ICYMI version of the Weekly RecommNeds where I give you 10 recommendations of new music from the first six months of the year, five that I’ve already featured here and five that weren’t. Some of these you may already have on your radar or you’ve listened to them because you read about them here or elsewhere. But just in case, here’s a review of 10 of my favorite releases (of many, many) of 2019 so far.

And just a note that you can find all the Weekly RecommNeds in this Spotify playlist which is updated weekly with all the great under-the-radar new music featured here. While I’m at it, here is a playlist with my “Five Star” picks for 2019 and another one for my still-pretty-great “Four Star” releases. Both of those are updated regularly, so check in if you’re looking for some new music. You may just find your new favorite band in there!

Without further ado, in alphabetical order …

Sam Cohen: The Future’s Still Ringing In My Ears

In theory, you are already familiar with Sam Cohen who was many years ago the guitarist in Apollo Sunshine and has since formed the wonderful Yellowbirds and now is putting out music under his own name. If you’re new to Sam, his newest, The Future’s Still Ringing In My Ears is as good an introduction as any, I think some of his strongest work yet. Great songwriting, Cohen’s unique melodic style and his killer guitar playing. If you haven’t heard it already, definitely give it a spin.


The Comet Is Coming: Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery

We’ve featured many of U.K. sax wizard Shabaka Hutchings’ projects here at the Weekly RecommNeds over the years, so it’s great to see him starting to get a lot of recognition here in the U.S. Perhaps his most exciting band is The Comet Is Coming who has put out so much great music over the years. If you’ve never heard them, now’s the time to get on the bandwagon, their Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery is a breakout masterpiece pushing the boundaries of jazz and electronica and, frankly, music in general. It’s groovy and head messy and a whole lot of awesome. A no-doubt’r 2019 must hear.


Elephant9: Psychedelic Backfire I & II

It was just a couple weeks ago that I featured the pair of live releases from Norway’s Elephant9, so hopefully you have been digging in, because there is much, much to dig here. Funny enough, in the middle of writing this I got an email from a friend asking if I’d heard this one yet, so hopefully you too are already enjoying the wicked organ-bass-drums groovalicious jammers from this most excellent trio. Some of the best music released this year, don’t miss it.

Spotify (Vol. 2)


Fruit Bats: Gold Past Life

Somehow not everyone in the universe is not hip to Eric Johnson and Fruit Bats, there are actually some people who were not eagerly awaiting the release of their newest album Gold Past Life quite as much as I was. Are you one of them? Don’t despair, you can still get your ears on one of my favorite records of the year. Johnson comes through again with a brilliant set of amazing songs rife with delicious indie-rock grooves. Can’t recommend this one enough.


Hampshire & Foat: Saint Lawrence

I love getting recommendations of music that’s total off my radar (please don’t hesitate to send me any you’ve been hiding from me, I listen to it all, I promise), and love even more to pass them along to you. Saint Lawrence, the new album from Hampshire & Foat is one that I caught wind of through the grapevine and, man, would I have been bummed if I had missed out on this one. A gorgeous, perfect blend of ambient, soul-centering instrumental “jazz-folk,” recorded, as all albums of this beauty must be, in churches in some far-flung locale. When the shit seems like too much, put this one on and just reset for a bit. Just lovely.


Dave Harrington Group Pure Imagination, No Country

I think this one was featured in my first RecommNeds column of 2019, so there’s a chance you missed it or haven’t revisited it in a while and that would be a shame because Pure Imagination, No Country is a not-to-be-missed record. Dave Harrington is at the vanguard of an exciting improvisation and experimental music scene in New York City and the new record captures some of the magic and exploration that many New York heads get to see regularly. If you’re not familiar with Harrington’s guitar playing or his ability to assemble and direct a band of once-in-a-generation talent to ecstatic, beautiful, funky ends, do yourself a favor and give this a listen and thank me later.


Jouis: Mind Bahn

Mind Bahn, the newest from RecommNed regular Jouis was featured a couple of months ago and I was digging the hell out of it back then and maybe digging it even more now, it’s that kind of record. Have you checked it out? Jouis is a Brit band that brings old school Genesis-style prog-rock to a proper modern-day place with an easy-to-love groove and some excellent excursions. As I wrote back then: “If you dig the jams and the twists and turns of good, old fashioned progressive rock, you’re gonna really enjoy this,” and ain’t it the truth. Enjoy!


Leafcutter John: Yes! Come Parade With Us

Sometimes something comes up in the listening queue and I have no idea how it got in there, who recommended it or where it came from, so I have no idea who to thank. That’s the case for the previously-unknown-to-me Leafcutter John whose new release Yes! Come Parade With Us kind of knocked me off my feet with its mind-spinning, beautiful blisstronica. There’s so much going on in here and all of it is fantastic, moving and ecstatic. Even if you think you’re not into electronic music, I think you’ve got to give this a few minutes of your time, it’s that good.


Rozi Plain: What A Boost

Here’s another one that I featured during the first six months of RecommNeds, but perhaps you didn’t get around to it or missed it in the shuffle of heavy Eurojams or far-flung weirdoshit. The album is What A Boost and it’s a masterpiece in subtle, twisting, penetrating songsmithing. Rozi Plain spent a bit of time recently touring with This Is The Kit, another we-love-her artist around here, and she takes some of that magnetic-personality vibe and expands it in wonderful ways. It’s tough to capture the absolute unmistakable charms of this one in words, so do yourself a favor and listen. I think you’ll dig.


Pom Poko: Birthday

Somehow of all the great music from Europe I like to feature week-to-week, I ended up with two awesome releases from Norway in this mid-year recap. I guess that’s the place to be in the first half of 2019 because Birthday, the debut LP from Norway art-rockers Pom Poko is an absolute must-hear, one of my favorite discoveries of January – June 2019. This album is fun and weird and interesting and it rocks and it grooves, it brings to mind other shit you already dig, but is a unique thing all of itself. It’s a messy collage of sounds but it just works really, really well. Hopefully you already checked it out when it was first featured here, but in case you missed it…