Sounds and Shadows 2019 albums of the year.

2019 has been quite a year for my dream. It has found it’s tar dark wings and started flapping them to places I never imagined it would go. I have new writers like Collin, Katy, and Adrian. I have 4 times as many followers. Made new friends which I have come to love and value. Traveled to distant lands. Started a podcast. In general it gets me excited for the future that so many people all over the world have shared with me this love of what is happening in modern music.

Unlike last year when I did a top albums review all alone I know had a wine drenched democracy of shouting voices sitting in a room and debating what had moved them in this years music. It was an amazing feeling I had forgotten. I wanted to make this list hold weight. So we made hard cuts and decisions to get our list down to 4 genres and 10 albums per genre. Everyone had input and voice and no one 100% agreed. I love that. This was never suppose to be about me but about the celebration of art. I hope you find something new here. I know I did and it fills me with hope for places a song or album can still move me. We split it into 4 parts 1) Post Punk/Goth 2) Industrial/EDM 3) Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave 4) Wildcards

First up is Post Punk/Goth. This one is my primary wheelhouse so I took point here. There has been a true resurgence in this genre and this was a hard list to choose. The albums listed here are all amazing but we fought long and hard to try and pick some form of order. Here is what we found.

10) October Burns Black (Reflections) – London superband and Traditional goth act from London put out this amazing record this year. James Tramel (The Wake) has composed this album with Rod Hanna (Vox), Lars Kappeler (Guitars) and Tommy Olsson (Guitars) Simon Rippin. It is so full of flowing sinister goth sounds. It really holds true to the sounds of yesterday while forging new ground. Every song is an emotive blast.

https://octoberburnsblack.bandcamp.com/

9.5) Ritual Howls (Rendered Armor) – I know, i cheated. I just can’t leave this record off. We debated and argued so hard to get this list to 10. This album is just such a world beater. It’s Nick Cave putting on the armor of Echo and the Bunnyman. They are even Detroit fam. They are keeping a flame burning for a sound that cannot be forgotten.

https://ritualhowls.bandcamp.com/album/rendered-armor

9) Frozen Charlottes (Wax Venues) – Santa Ana post punk doom weavers Frozen Charlotte released this beautiful album in November of this year. I have been in love with Chandler Grace, Janell, and Sky’s savagely dark spit and vinegar punk goth style since their previous incarnation. With Wax Venus they really found a way to refine that edge to a razor point of intensity, Waxing and waning like the moon in a flowing dance around the fire witchcraft ritual.

https://frozencharlottes.bandcamp.com/album/wax-venus

8) La Me’canique (Dernier Voyage) – This is such a lovely record from Cold Transmission that really embraces the post punk ideals. It’s wide, flowing, and full of landscapes. It feels large and comes through the lens of a distant camera. I think of 80’s Duran Duran and the way they transported you to another place while listening to the songs. A vacation in musical form.

https://lamecanique.bandcamp.com/album/dernier-voyage-2

7) Mark E Moon (Refer) – Another exceptional album with a lot of traditional goth elements. Another Cold Transmission band on this list who has a wonderful vibe of old Peter Murphy but with a modern edge full of poetic lyrics and Mark’s deep resonant vocals. Lots of balance and pop hook in this record. I want to peel the layers of this onion and find the core of it’s art.

https://markemoon1.bandcamp.com/album/refer

6) Crying Vessel (Illusions) Slade Templeton is bringing the glam razzle dazzle back into dark music. His dark rich voice climbs and slide around an impressive range. I found it in my heart, and building a place in my head. I had the wonderful opportunity to see them live in Germany this year and it really gave this record another plateau of range. A perfect mixture of previous styles and modern technology this record is a must have.

https://cryingvessel.bandcamp.com/album/illusions-ep

5) Golden Apes (Kasbek) – Berlin based post punk Golden Apes have been making music for a long time. To find an album of this power and depth of idea deep in a storied career is a noteworthy achievement. Peer Lebrecht has a voice so full of soul and power that it wraps you in it’s world. The music is a masterclass in what post punk can achieve in movement and embrace. I will finally get to see this played live in Boston this year for their first US tour. If you don’t know about this record plunge head first into one of the genres most exciting artists.

https://goldenapes.bandcamp.com/album/kasbek

4) Antipole (Radial Glare) – Karl Morton Dahl of Norway holds the distinction of being the most reviewed artist on Sounds and Shadows. I feel moved by every album he has made. This one found a way to hit a special new level for me. Antipole is everything you love about post punk music like Joy Division and New Order. Karl is a true historian of the genre, but finds exciting new ideas about how to use modern technology to make the concept sharper and more intense. This record was such a wonderful tribute to his homeland. A record that transports you to that reflected, glittering place of dark ice. Paris Alexander and Eirene of Young and Cold records have added perfect vocal compliments to create one of this years stand out records.

https://antipole.bandcamp.com/album/radial-glare

3) The Dream Collision (The Certainty of Forever) – This album from Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW was a piece of art that left me changed and moved. Pedro has possibly the most beautiful and sensual voice in modern dark music. This record was so stripped down and exposed I found myself unforgettably moved. It is powerful and tender like Nick Cave but with the beauty and elegance of Ian McCullah. A truly moving offering.

https://thedreamcollision.bandcamp.com/album/the-certainty-of-forever

2) Twin Tribes (Ceremony) – With their recent transition to Negative Gain Joel and Luis of Twin Tribes hold a special place here at Sounds and Shadows. Their Debut album “Shadows” was the inspiration for this webpage. They are bringing the concepts of spiritual post punk into the modern era. This sophomore offering was not a lull but a leap forward in concept, depth, and power. Rich and full of energy each song is a ritual to summon forth an intimate experience in the listener. You probably need this one on vinyl. Also they do a must see live show, find them in your town and bare witness.

https://twintribes.bandcamp.com/

Sonsombre (Veil of the Ending) – So goth music has always been so obsessed with the past. If it wasn’t Sisters of Mercy it seems people just couldn’t find a way to embrace another wave. Sonsombre newly signed to Cleopatra has found a way to capture that original Traditional concept and rebuild it with fresh sounds and modern ideals. This record was a game changer that opened a new door to a darker dimension. Poetic lyrics, powerful delivery, slithering snakes of oil and shadow woven into guitar riffs of power and delicate dexterity. If this isn’t in your collection you are living in history. The Future is Black.

https://sonsombre.bandcamp.com/album/the-veils-of-ending

Part II is the best Industrial/EDM – I grew up on industrial. It was my punk rock. My scream at the world release. Somewhere along the way i just drifted to other avenues. This year was a huge one for me to rediscover Industrial. Adding in Adrian and Collin to the family who are both stronger on Industrial than me have really helped me find this world again. The albums that have come out this year and bringing it back front and center for a lot of people. These were our top picks.

10) Klack (Introducing the 1984 Renault Le Car) – Matt and Eric are workhorses. They had a Daddybear album, Null Device, and another Klack album all this year which could have easily made this list. This album rose to the top for me. It’s perfect blend of retro and fresh feel with dance beats and unique concepts has become a go to for my listening parties. New ideas for the new industrial.

https://klack.bandcamp.com/album/introducing-the-1984-renault-lecar

9) Lingua Ignota (Caligula) – I just found this through Adrian. Wow. It was like nothing I have heard. This is a sound so frightening and intense it gives The Goblins nightmares. It is the sound of a priestess ripping out her own eyes and bleeding from the sockets. Do not listen right before bed unless you want to be haunted by disturbing dreams. I speak from experience.

https://linguaignota.bandcamp.com/album/caligula

8) Kid Saint Nothing (Above_Below) – What a treat that I get to add a dear friend from Kalamazoo MI to this list. They belong here. This album is a raw heartfelt therapy session scream set to catchy dance beats. It’s wide and intense and needs to be played constantly on your listening device.

https://kidsaintnothing.bandcamp.com/releases

7) Dogtablet (Feathers and Skin) – Industrial music lords Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King have worked with others to create this massively powerful record of animalistic spirit totem sounds. It feels like a creature speeding free under a moonlit sky. This album came late in the year but has been my constant companion ever sense.

https://dogtablet.bandcamp.com/album/feathers-skin

6) FIRES (All My Dreams Are of This Place) – Aedra is a force of nature. Her intensity and vocals have really pushed the edges of the Industrial genre. This album has a tight mixture of early 2000 emo and electroclash force. Whenever I need to find my inner tiger to face the day this album is where I reach first.

https://firesngp.bandcamp.com/album/all-of-my-dreams-are-of-this-place

5) Moris Blak (The Irregularity of Being ) – This album is a force of creative expression and cyber blending technology. Lots of amazing guest vocalists like Pete Crane, Amelia Arsenic, and Angel Metro. A true tapestry of electronic sound woven and blended with dance hall beats and shattering brash power. This needs to be in heavy rotation of every club you shake your ass at.

https://morisblakngp.bandcamp.com/album/the-irregularity-of-being

4) Curse Mackey (Instant Exorcism) – Curse has been a huge part of the industrial scene for a long time as Evil Mothers, Pig, Pigface, ect. This album represents his first solo offering and it is nothing short of breathtaking. This album has such a focus on lyrics with a true William Burroughs literary quality. Full of slashing beats and laser focused vocals. I own it on LP. You need it on LP.

https://cursemackeyngp.bandcamp.com/album/instant-exorcism

3) Bones UK (Bones UK) – More of a big label offering but a straight burner. This album is on the top of Collin’s list this year. I love the ladies getting representation in this genre and this album cooks from front to back. Lovely pop hooks to really add some mainstream club vibe, and we unapologetically love that.

2) Stoneburner (Technology Implies Belligerence) – This record changed the game for me. It made me fall back in love with Industrial music. It has that same old school flavor, but takes such incredible chances. A thinking persons industrial with a concept and follow through. Steven Archer of Ego Likeness has unleashed something transcendent and powerful and managed to save enough in the tank to follow the record with another this year “Massdriver”. Both are incredible pieces of art you need to explore but you never forget your first love. This record was that for me.

https://stoneburnerngp.bandcamp.com/album/technology-implies-belligerence

  1. Go Fight (Anthem) – Jim Marcus and Die Warsaw were a part of my first obsession with Industrial music. A titan in the genre and one of the great humans who holds this scene together. This record is all covers of the 80’s songs that helped build his musical life. It’s perfectly crafted. It’s full of soul. It finds a way to make something of the past connect with my present. I mean any time i can hear two of my favorite things in this life Go Fight and Shriekback happen simultaneously consider me hooked. Nothing on this record doesn’t immediately send my body into motion. This is the work of a master crafting a love letter to the things that built him.

https://gofight.bandcamp.com/

Next up is Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave: Another brutal list to try and widdle down to 10 albums with everything wonderful released this year. As genres have expanded and new ground was broken the resulting art which is dreamy and beautiful has grown with it. This is a list of our favorites.

10) Lilith My Mother (Her Fall) – Beautiful dance magic with clear pop beauty infused with midnight dark lyrics and fallen angel vocals. Every song fills me up and has me asking questions. Do not sleep on this amazing artist.

https://lilithmymother.bandcamp.com/album/her-fall

9) Corlyx (In 2 the Skin) – Sexy LA sludge grunge is my weakness and this album is the cure. It’s sensual, powerful, and forces your body into motion. Caitlin has a voice that wraps around you and stirs that hairs on the back of your neck. Doesn’t your party deserve to be this hot?

https://corlyx.bandcamp.com/album/in2-the-skin

8) Standalone (Standalone) – Steven Seibold of Hate Dept has unleashed this solo project so delicious and stripped down with beautiful synth sounds crafted with a wizards touch. It’s so personal and easy to relate to at once. The vocals are smooth and elegant and hold your heart with tender timing. So underrated.

https://standalonengp.bandcamp.com/album/standalone

7) Boy Harsher (Country Girl Uncut) – The feels of this record. It’s a smokey dimly let exclusive club that would turn me away at the door in music form. It’s efficient in the use of layers and sounds and has gorgeous imagery in the lyrics. I love everything about the crafting done on this record.

https://boyharsher.bandcamp.com/album/country-girl-uncut

6) Agent Side Grinder (A/X) – Oh the delicious post punk infused stabbing drum beats. The dynamic vocals have a dark tone and emotional delivery. It’s full of songs that always feel like they are moving faster than they are. It’s that energy and crackling synth pad sound that makes ASG have such a unique sound. This album builds on everything that makes them one of the biggest names in the genre.

https://agentsidegrinder.bandcamp.com/album/a-x

5) Sweat Boys (Nervous Prayers) – This record off of Give/Take strikes a special chord with me. Sitting in my room listening to Yaz “Upstairs at Erics” was such an impact on me. Waiting to hear a synth driven album that captured that same purity and exposed feeling has been something i have searched for a long time. With this record my search finally ended. It’s beautiful, electric, and makes me jump up and down like only a 260lbs man on a pogo stick can. If yuo care at all about synth pop you need this in your ears.

https://sweatboys.bandcamp.com/album/nervous-prayers

4) Drab Majesty (Modern Mirror) – Drab Majesty off Dais records isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. Knowing the exact amount of every sound to use to get a perfect blend is such a difficult art form. The harmonies, and flowing lush beauty. They are like aliens operating at another level from us common music plebs. This album is staggering and unique in it’s beauty and darkness.

https://drabmajesty.bandcamp.com/

3) Mr.Kitty (Ephemeral) – 31 tracks, all of them good. Take that in for a moment. This album was such a memorizing accomplishment. It’s an artist exposing themselves and making it sound lovely and pure. I played this record so many times this year I feel like I have a personal relationship with the artist and I have never spoken to them. If you don’t have this you need to make that a priority.

https://mrkittyngp.bandcamp.com/album/ephemeral

2) Hante (Fierce) – The soundtrack to a film of a better life lived than mine. Just listening to the gorgeous vocals and visual sounds on this record fill me with hope. The creative force unleashed here is an epic achievement. It makes you think, it makes you believe.

https://hante.bandcamp.com/album/fierce

  1. Wingtips (Exposure Therapy) – Look I can tell you what I love about this music. To me the real power of this album is that so many great musicians I know all talk about how much this record meant to them. It has been mentioned and picked on our podcast by almost everyone we have interviewed. It’s perfect, nostalgic, fresh, and full of texture and intensity. Every track is a banger. Every line is a poem. This was our combined number one pick out of one of the hardest categories to judge.

https://wingtips.bandcamp.com/album/exposure-therapy

Final Catagory Wildcards: This was all the things too far out of the box to fit anywhere else. In a way I feel like it made it really exciting and definitely some of my top overall picks.

10) Scary Black (Shadow Dwellers) – Kentucky sinister darkness Scary black released this shadow storm full of familiar elements and fantasy sparkles. It’s full of dangerous dreams and lovely rich vocal melodies. I really look forward to their future.

https://scaryblackssr.bandcamp.com/

9.5) Vlimmer (XIIIII) – German sound wizard Alexander continues to spew forth the most gloriously textured collections of sounds with pull heart strings like a horses reins. It baffles me how good every single release is.

https://blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com/album/xiiiii

9) The Purge (Rain) – Strange winding electronic storms. This album feels like weather shifting and changing. It has a flavor of trauma and young love lost. Thomas does a beautiful job using his vocal range to tell stories and build tension. It’s my sad rainy day music.

https://thepurgeva.bandcamp.com/album/rain

8) Girl Band (The Talkies) – Strange twisting and powerful. I really liked the chant of this band and the abrupt changes. This one came courtesy of Katy. Really intense sound.

8.5) The Joy Thieves (This Will Kill That) – Again a little bit of cheating here but this EP needs to be on the list. Such a perfect blend of hard rock and industrial with some of the biggest vocal talent in modern industrial. It’s smash everything in this room music because you are happy. I first described it as Clutch beating the shit out of Stabbing Westward with a baseball bat and I stand by that.

https://armalyte.bandcamp.com/track/joy-thieves

7) SYZYGYX (Fading Bodies) – One of the fastest up and coming bands in the scene. On both Negative Gain and Cold Transmission Luna and Josh are a sonic experience full of sexy dark disco grooves you would find in David Lynch’s private club at 3am. It breaks every mold and is always in my rotation.

https://syzygy-x.bandcamp.com/album/fading-bodies

6) The Ghost of Bela Lugosi – Ok technically not an album, but my house my rules. Australian based Vin Price has released about 12 singles this year and everyone of them is straight fire. It’s so punk rock, so raw, but so melodic and beautiful. It touches every part of every genre and I am here for all of it. It won’t play by the rules and that is part of it’s power.

https://ghostoflugosi.bandcamp.com/

5) Sea of Worry (Have a Nice Life) – Topsy turvy and wondrous. This one is very dark but doesn’t fit in a box. That’s part of it’s power. Fierce drum beats and spectral vocal lines.

https://haveanicelife.bandcamp.com/album/sea-of-worry

4) Hide (Hell is Here) – Sheer unbridled power with a meaningful message. This is like nothing you have heard. Raw, intense, full of power tools. The vocals have more spit and acid than most metal. This album changed my world view

https://hide3.bandcamp.com/

3) ELZ and The Cult (Psychodrama) – Visually, sonically, sassily, there is nothing about this album that does not completely enthrall me. It’s filthy, beautiful, it’s a horrible dream of a broken world that i can’t escape or look away from. I find a new layer to it every time i listen. You must have this.

https://elzandthecult.bandcamp.com/album/psychodrama-cold-transmission-edition

2) Palais Ideal (Pressure Points) – I have been waiting to make this one of my top albums of the year all year long. This record broke all the boundaries of post punk. It’s thoughtful, precise, unique, and tells a story of some of the best science fiction I read in any novel. A thought provoking example of the power of music. Have this on LP and feel it’s warmth and glory as it was meant to be spun

https://palaisideal.bandcamp.com/album/pressure-points

  1. Mesa Luna (Feel Nothing) – This one came to our attention courtesy of Jason Corbett (Actors). We didn’t have enough shoegaze representation here and this album was a stunner. #1 pick from Katy. It’s haunting, diverse and full of life. Take a journey with this record.

https://mesaluna.bandcamp.com/

I had about 40 more albums this year that could have made this list. Maybe I will do an honorable mentions. I’m shredded though. There is currently a glorious revolution happening in music. Be a part of it. This list is a great place to start. Happy Holidays from us at Sounds and Shadows.

Dissonance : Ascent

Album: Ascent

Label: https://www.facebook.com/hakatakinternational/

Members: Cat Hall (FOUNDING MEMBER) David Sebrind (FOUNDING MEMBER) Jim Marcus GoFight/DieWarsaw (producer and co-writer of Dissonance EP) Kurt Larson Vocals on Poison Kiss
Mastered: Jim Marcus

https://www.facebook.com/CatHallDissonance/

https://dissonanceband.bandcamp.com/album/ascent

I find new music from a lot of sources. Sometimes someone in a band reaches out, or I hear a song on one of the wonderful Radio programs I listen too. What I am trying to say is that sometimes the word of who an artist associates themselves with can be the first thing that draws me to them. This was the case with the talented singer of Dissonance Cat Hall. No one short of Jim Marcus (Go Fight and Die Warzaw) heard something in Cat’s voice that made him want to write music and produce for her. The legend Kurt Larson (Information Society) was such a fan he wanted to sing on one of the tracks of this EP. If that isn’t a ringing enough endorsement to get your attention I don’t know what is. It certainly caused me to sit up and take notice and I am really glad I did. Cat Hall has a unique and haunting voice that shows amazing range of both pitch and style in a way that captivates and comforts at the same time. Marcus is the master of taking heavy dance beats and mainlining them with energy and life to create the perfect dark pop playground for Cat’s words and lyrics to tell her story. Her voice ranges from a sultry, rich jazzy cadence to a piercing powerful beauty of airy delight.

These are dance magic club hits with teeth and lyrics of accusation for relationships and boundaries. I found the lyrics refreshing in that it doesn’t get lost in imagery and pretension. It lends well to the pop sensibility of the music. The transitions are masterfully crafted and they keep the energy flowing through you while Cat builds and bends the melodies from one style to the next. Influences here as you might expect definitely have Information Society, Go Fight, even some 90s Susanne Vega. I think the other thing that left such an impression was that this was dark dance music but with soul. Just enough R & B to the vocal style to have a flavor that made it something new in the genre.

I had some standout tracks I felt really spoke to me:

Poison Kiss – I grew up enthralled with Information Society. This song could easily have been on one of their albums that was never made but should have been. Kurt Larson does what he does and the beats and keys are tightly crafted dark rainbow slime. I love it. Cat blends seamlessly and I think of this track almost like a wonderful bonus to an already strong EP.

Murder of Love – Ok this is the stand out bomb track for me. First off it’s a clever concept with the metaphor of a courtroom trial of charging someone with the crime of murdering your heart. It’s an interesting and relate-able concept with that wonderful “Pray for Mercy” lifted melody line. The beats on this are so tight and the transitions Jim Marcus does are a masterclass in pop sensibility.

Drive – This was Rachel’s favorite track. A strange and sultry trip hop feeling croon. Puts me in a place of driving through a dark and empty city street. The vocals take on a bit of Beth Gibbons (Portishead) and those buzzing and blinking keyboard waves creep over the landscape effortlessly.

Overall this album is a fun and polished offering that highlights Cat’s wonderful vocal range and flirts with a mixture of genres with top tier production and a supporting cast out of my dreams. Definitely something that would send me sprinting to any dance floor in my proximity.

Go Fight : Tokyo Sexwale

Band: Go Fight

Album: Tokyo Sexwale

Label: Go Station

Jim Marcus; Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Synths, Noise 
Daniel Evans: Bass, Guitar, Synths, Noise 
Vince McAley: Drums, Percussion, Noise 
Mission Marcus: Bass, Guitar, Noise 

Produced, Mixed and Mastered at: Go Station 

https://gofight.bandcamp.com/album/tokyo-sexwale

https://www.facebook.com/gofightband/

So I am excited for this review of Go Fight’s album “Tokyo Sexwale”. As a young angry man in the early 90s I never had a punk rock phase to express that feeling. Instead I found Industrial music as that outlet. I heard Pretty Hate Machine at 14 and I was all in. Most of what Industrial music came to mean to me was an expression of that angst I felt at the world. I went to a show around 1995 to see two bands Sister Machine Gun and Die Warzau. It really left me changed in my mindset that this music I loved full of drum machines and thick remixed heavy metal guitar was possible of so much more range in emotion and tone. Fast forward 24 years and I am listening to Pat Allen’s radio program when he plays a song called Chemical by Go Fight. That feeling was back, Pat used the wonderful term “fundustrial” but what really struck me was that same feeling of serious concepts carried with a beautiful pop energy. Then I learned of the connection between Die Warzau and Go Fight. While I danced my tail off around my bedroom I was transported back those 25 years by this fresh searing explosion of sound.

This album is all crisp sexy motion, covered in a layer of technicolor slime, and spun through a cement mixer. Jim Marcus has one of those unique and captivating voices that leads you in rhythmic chants mixed in with beautiful call and answer melodies. The songs keep building and driving pulling and pushing you around the dance floor. I don’t know if anyone in the business is writing better drum loops and fills in heavy dance music. These lyrics are anything but pop fluff. These are heady, often political, very in your face real challenges that are such a wonderful contradiction to the hot club feel of the music. This is music inspiration. Full of fight and life. Full of hope and energy. Evans and Marcus do a masterful job of laying bass, guitar, and tapestry to the vocals without overshadowing. They are the fire that fuels this engine. My only regrets about this album are that I didn’t find it sooner.

Standout tracks:

Chemical – I’ll start with this because it was my introduction to Go Fight but also because this song is a total jam. It starts with Marcus doing a sexy spoken chant describing the strange and complicated world of modern dating in technology. It’s so tongue and cheek but speaks to a relevant issue that touches on real emotion. Also the hook on the chorus is impossible not to sing along to. I challenge anyone to hear this song and not go running for the nearest dance floor.

Another Fucking Love Song – This one is another single but that crunchy guitar riff and Jim’s blues driven cadence sung with such venom and drive. Again they are really taking on a serious feeling that faces our culture and wrapping it in a golden industrial disco wrapper.

Queer the World – Great title! This bass line is coming at you right off the bat and sways you while the guitar cuts. Telling a series of stories in concrete terms before leading up to that deep chant of Queer the World. It makes me want to join the revolution right now.

Overall this album is one I can’t believe I found so late in 2018. It is so full of everything I love about music and fired from a glorious bright colored cannon of progressive ideals and themes I related to. It also makes me want to dig through my old cds to find Die Warzau. Seriously this record belongs on every modern dance mix in the world. I love every aspect of it. Got buy it!