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Great Music of 2019

Adjusting to the new year? Take a step back with Music Lovers as we look at some of the most exciting releases of 2019 to help ease you into 2020. All albums are available in the library catalogue.

 

40
Stray Cats

To celebrate their 40th anniversary, legendary rockabilly trio Stray Cats recently released their first album of new material since the early '90s. It's one of their best albums to date, measuring up to the band's classic early albums. With a raw, stripped-back sound and great neo-rockabilly tracks such as "Cat Fight," "Three Times a Charm" and "That's Messed Up," this album will please listeners who like roots rock 'n' roll. Brian Setzer's guitar and vocals are as exciting and imaginative as ever, while bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom play with the same fire and energy they had decades ago.

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Still Here
Beasts

The Beasts of Bourbon, for decades one of Australia's most exciting and interesting underground rock bands, sadly came to an end in 2018 when guitarist Spencer P Jones and bassist Brian Hooper both passed away. In the wake of that loss, surviving members Tex Perkins, Kim Salmon, Boris Sujdovic, Tony Pola and Charlie Owen got together to quickly record this off-the-cuff album as The Beasts. It's a great, loose and hard-rocking effort that Beasts of Bourbon fans will definitely enjoy.

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In Cauda Venenum
Opeth

Opeth is an ever-evolving band. They have left some fans behind, many have remained, and they have also made new fans. Going from black metal to progressive rock is quite a journey but one thread has always been there, one constant, and that is the band's ability to mix folk, classical and progressive rock influences. Mikael Akerlfeldt's vocals on this album are clean and silky, and some of the best of his career. The songs are luscious and epic. In many ways, In Cauda Venenum sounds like a classic progressive rock band from the '70s, and it delivers some of the most beautiful and melodic passages of Opeth's career, perfectly balanced with heavier moments and riffs. This album is an incredible tour de force.

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Lotus
Soen

When Soen released their first album, "Cognitive," the band was often compared to Tool. The comparisons were warranted but it was clear that Soen had its own personality and musicality with a stronger focus on melodies. Their subsequent albums were great but there was always the sense that they were still working things out. That is until they released "Lotus" this year, a perfect album that distils everything great about them. The musicianship is excellent, the dynamics a perfect balance between precise and methodical music craft and a focus on melody and emotion. Joel Ekelof's vocals shine in every song, and the band is playing better than ever. Soen focuses on riffs and grooves but understands the importance of melodies and knows when to go big and when to be nuanced. An outstanding album through and through.

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Are We Soldiers
Teramaze

Teramaze have been busy this decade. After a 15-year hiatus, they've released four albums since 2012. "Her Halo" (2015) was a classic melodic prog-metal album which demonstrated a mature sound that perfectly balanced pop-rock elements with excellent musicianship. Are We Soldiers sounds familiar - all those elements are still present but there are a couple of big differences here. The original singer, Brett Rerekura, is back. His vocals may not soar as much as Nathan Peachey's, but they fit this album perfectly with a more versatile and straightforward delivery. More importantly, Teramaze have refreshed and modernised their sound, leaning closer to Haken's Vector than Dream Theater. At the end of the day though, Teramaze deliver an excellent, infectious album that showcases their musicianship, delivers plenty of hooks and shows their ability to create big choruses.

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Amyl and the Sniffers
Amyl and the Sniffers

On their self-titled debut album, local band Amyl and the Sniffers party like it's 1977. This is straight up punk rock in the style of the Sex Pistols, but with a distinctly Australian angle as far as the vocals, lyrics and band image are concerned. And like the Sex Pistols, the songs have sharp and meaningful lyrics, set to deceptively simple fast and loud glam-punk rock riffing. Like most bands of the 21st Century, Amyl and the Sniffers take elements from the past and mash them together in a way that feels new and exciting. This is a great album for those who like their punk rock loud, fast, smart and with energy to burn.

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Baby, Please Come Home
Jimmie Vaughan

The Blues is a music genre that is steeped in tradition and history. Bound by form and playing styles, it has its own legendary players and iconic songs that are part of the canon. But within the genre there are creative innovators and there are blues purists. Jimmie Vaughan remains firmly and fortunately in the latter group. On his first studio album in 8 years, the Texan bluesman has recorded an album of songs which celebrate the playing styles and songs of legendary blues players, but all played with the distinctive sound and unique tone that Vaughan is known for. Never merely a copyist, Vaughan adds his own energy and love of the genre to each song so that they have their own distinctive feel while still maintaining their original structure. Highlights include the title track, "Baby, Please Come Home," and the instrumental, "Hold It."

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Mojo
Ash Grunwald

This year has been a busy one for Ash Grunwald. Besides releasing "Mojo," his first new album in five years, Ash wrote his first book, "Surf By Day, Jam By Night," which is a collection of conversations with famous surfers who are also musicians. Ash also oversaw the release of his own signature hollow-body Pratley guitar. "Hammer", the first original song on "Mojo," features a chorus that Ash took from his days working on his father's construction site. The album also features covers of songs by Townes Van Zandt, Chester Burnett, and a stomping version of Tom Waits' "Going Out West." Other tracks feature collaborations with Joe Bonamassa, The Teskey Brothers and the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson. Grunwald's deep voice and powerful playing are complimented by the horn arrangements, and the album has a high energy feel. Throughout the album, Grunwald's guitar soars between gritty distortion and bright melodic lines. "Mojo" is an addition to Ash Grunwald's impressive canon of work.

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