Order 89 – “Barbara”
Sometimes, the best songs are the ones that just fucking rock. “Barbara” is sung entirely in French. I have no idea what he’s saying. All I know is that the Bond villain guitar riding that backbeat is the soundtrack for your next black-and-white high-speed chase scene. Pop the clutch and turn it up.
Sydney Valette – “Back from Mexico”
There’s something uncommonly sexy about this tense, driven track. The persistent rhythm and guitar lines create a near trance-state that never relinquishes its paranoid grip, and by the time it starts fading, it’s not clear whether three or 30 minutes have passed. Darkwave at its absolute best.
Automatic – “Calling It”
2019 gave us songs that were technically more progressive, had loftier conceptual intents, and were overall more worthy of academic praise. Who gives a shit. Automatic, a trio that recaptures the all-things-are-possible 80s energy of Delta 5, Bush Tetras and Violent Femmes, debuted with this crucial, relevant, only-possible-in-2019, pop-punk anthem to our detached, narcissistic modern world. Don’t think. Just click.
Silent Runners – “Forgotten”
Launching forward with a tense bassline and unsettling percussion, Silent Runners take us through several levels of emotional hell; we’re forgotten, we can’t feel, we start to question everything. But the magic comes three minutes in, where the music itself breaks apart, sheds the clothes it entered with, and walks back out with a fervor and anger that suggest maybe not everything is numb.
Panther Modern – “Creep”
There’s no point in trying to describe the merit of Panther Modern. You’re either all in or you’ve already left. If you’re still here, turn this shit up.
Odonis Odonis – “Insect”
Odonis Odonis are a musical chemlab genre-melting all kinds of shit into some new mutant thing that has no peers. “Insect”, with its lolling, drunk bass, no-wave guitar noise and paranoid vocals is the anthem of whatever this is, and we have no option but to accept the blindfold, kneel, and submit fully.
Null Device – “Four Lines Across the Moon”
This standout from Null Device’s 2109 LP nails every facet of their complex DNA. Delicate and precise electro programming? Check. Exceptional vocals wrapped in a radio-perfect hook? Check. Moodiness to suit any proper goth archetype? Check. This is what a genre evolving sounds like, and we’re all the better for it.
Moaan Exis – “Imminent”
Remember the first time you heard Skinny Puppy and were like “yup, this is the hardest darkest shit ever and I’m all in?” That’s Moaan Exis. “Imminent” represents the zero-compromise, hard-as-nails tribal techno industrial of the album, but arrives as a fully formed anthemic stomp that will shatter both dancefloors and headphones.
Maenad Veyl – “Bleak”
Techno, at its very best, evokes emotion through a musical format in motion. You feel while you move; moving makes you feel harder. Maenad Veyl’s “Bleak” is the downward slide of one lost soul; the beat carries us into a doomsday bassline, suicidal synth washes drag us further from sanity, and the saturated sitar midway through confirms the new unreality. By the end, the world is undone and you’re still dancing.
Iris – “Third Strike”
Iris’ 2019 album Six delivers a few moments of shocking genius that remind us that the futurepop / EBM / synthpop genre menagerie can still deliver the highest of highs. Bittersweet, patient and emotive, “Third Strike” somehow captures the discontent of 2019 with the global anxiety of 2020 on the horizon.
The Foreign Resort – “Hearts Fade Out”
This is The Foreign Resort at their very best: concentrating their dark romanticism into a perfect alchemy of evocative synth lines, passionate guitar, a bottom end that will rattle any sound system, and an elegant lyrical story that somehow captures your precise mood. Also, those fucking hand claps.
The Colors of Silence – “A Light in the Dark”
If you’ve ever wondered what Joy Division would sound like recording with modern equipment, The Colors of Silence have answered that question for you. This is world-class new-retro post-punk goth that fully embraces the template of early 80s Factory Records but pulls from our generation’s own reservoir of paranoia and malaise.
Chasms – “Shadow”
The defining theme of Chasms’ sophomore LP was their move away from straight-forward post-punk toward more dub and atmospherics. This, the opening track, is an absolute statement of intent, and crushes both minds and subwoofers. The first two languid minutes set the stage for the heart-stopping bass and rhythm drop, and the next 45 luscious minutes press you further into Chasms’ narcotic world.
Hapax – “Creature of Distance”
With the best elements of Hapax on full display — riveting synths, cavernous guitars, take-no-prisoners vocals — “Creature of Distance” is the musical equivalent of a novel’s hard-stopping plot twist, and you can just feel the torment of the protagonist grasping for some kind of light. Don’t expect a happy ending.