We now return to our regularly scheduled program.
Hello! I’m back, here with another year of this silly music column. I must, on some level, enjoy writing it, since I keep refusing to take that end-of-the-year opportunity to just stop. I don’t know how long I’m going to keep tm3am going, but at least I can say that 2018 is not going to be its last year. I have a couple long-term goals, like seeing this column through to its 20th anniversary on Nov. 29, 2020 and outlasting Paul Dailing by writing at least 1,002 of these things, so onward we go.
I’m making that sound a lot more mercenary and defeatist than I feel. In truth I’ve found the weekly deadline a difficult thing to meet over the past couple years, and have often sat down to write tm3am and found I have no energy for it. Part of it has been the frankly exhausting world we live in now, with each week bringing new things to be outraged or conflicted about. Part of it was the paltry musical offerings of last year, which brought us only one great album (and a bunch of good ones, to be fair).
But part of it is my need to recapture the reason I wanted to write this column in the first place. It’s meant to be a chronicle of the joy of being an obsessive music fan, and I need it to be more about the joyous part. So this year I may not simply write about whatever is out in record stores in a given week. Often these aren’t the records bringing me joy, and I’d like this column to reflect what I am actually enjoying listening to.
That’s not to say I won’t be focusing on new music when it moves me. In fact, most of the below reasons to love 2019 are confirmed new releases, and the others are new release rumors I am jazzed about. New music is in my blood, and this year already looks like it’s going to be better than the last. (“And it’s one more day up in the canyons…”) What follows is in no way comprehensive – there are new things coming from Solange and the Raconteurs and others that didn’t make the list, but that I am aware of. These are just the ones I’m most excited about.
Without further ado, here are 19 reasons to love 2019:
- Pedro the Lion, Phoenix (Jan. 18)
We’ll start with one I’ve heard already, thanks to NPR’s First Listen feature. David Bazan has convened his band for the first time in 15 years to chronicle tales of his childhood in Phoenix, Arizona, and the result is gorgeous. I’ll likely have more to say about this next week, but for now I’ll just say that there’s a huge difference between Bazan on his own and Bazan with the band, and this album exemplifies it. It’s a lovely thing.
- Joe Jackson, Fool (Jan. 18)
Yet another of this week’s new records. (It’s a good week – Alice Merton, Sharon Van Etten, Juliana Hatfield and Guster are all returning, as is the next artist on this list.) Joe Jackson has been on a serious upswing lately – he continues to be an acerbic lyricist and a swell melodicist, having grown into his grumpy old man persona nicely, and what I’ve heard of Fool continues the streak.
- James Blake, Assume Form (Jan. 18)
The last one I’ll mention from this week. Blake’s fourth album was just announced a few days ago, and already I’m excited. There’s no one like him, and even if he just continues doing what he’s always done – minimal electronic soundscapes buoyed by his ethereal, elastic voice – Assume Form will be worth hearing. I’m hopeful that he will branch out a little, and guest spots from Moses Sumney and Andre 3000 bode well.
- Swervedriver, Future Ruins (Jan. 25)
I remain thankful and amazed by the shoegaze revival that continues apace. Sure, we’re still waiting for another My Bloody Valentine record, but new albums from stalwarts like Slowdive and Lush, along with new bands like Teenage Wrist, have kept the dream alive. Swervedriver’s reunion album, 2015’s I Wasn’t Born to Lose You, was fantastic, and they’re cementing that reunion with a new set of songs next week.
- David Mead, Cobra Pumps (Jan. 29)
The last January album I will mention is also the one I am most excited for. David Mead is a songwriter’s songwriter and an incredible singer, and he’s never quite gotten his due. His last album, 2011’s Dudes, was full of snarky pop wonderment, and Cobra Pumps looks to be the same. It’s been too long since we last heard Mead’s dulcet tones, and I’m ready.
- All Hail the Silence, Daggers (Feb. 8)
Technically this is another January record, as it will be available to pre-orderers on Jan. 25, but it will be in stores two weeks later. This is the long-awaited double-disc debut album from BT’s ‘80s pop collaboration with singer Christian Burns, and everything I’ve heard from this has thrilled me. AHTS’ songs have a Depeche Mode meets Yazoo feel to them, and Burns is a terrific singer for this style. Very excited.
- Copeland, Blushing (Feb. 15)
Five years ago, Aaron Marsh and his band put out Ixora, a beautiful experiment in lush songwriting and production. Ixora was actually three albums (Ixora, its companion Twin, and the third album that appeared when you played both together in sync), and it brought Copeland into this new realm of studio wizardry and complex arrangements.Blushing is all on one disc, but from the three singles it sounds like another step into mind-bending territory for this band.
- Peter Mulvey, There Is Another World (Feb. 15)
I’ve been a Peter Mulvey fan since the ‘90s, and even I was blown away by Are You Listening, his first record for Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. There Is Another World evidently came quickly, and is a reaction to the state of the country and the world. If anyone can find the dark poetry at the heart of our current malaise, it’s Peter Mulvey, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing what he has come up with.
- Amanda Palmer, There Will Be No Intermission (March 8)
My guess is that no one else will craft a reaction to the world quite as powerful as Amanda Palmer has on There Will Be No Intermission. This is reportedly a 78-minute monster, full of painful stories and difficult topics and righteous anger. Palmer has been charting her own course through Patreon for years now, and this is her first album created with no limitations, with every element in her control. I can’t say I expect to enjoy it, but I do expect to be moved and challenged by it. And that’s what art is for.
- Esperanza Spalding, 12 Little Spells (March 29)
Technically, Esperanza’s seventh album is out already – it was released song by song last year on YouTube and streaming services. But I’m old-fashioned, so I’m holding out for the CD, which will actually contain 16 little spells. Esperanza Spalding is one of the few artists out there now who deserves to be called a genius, and I’m so in for anything she does. Evidently this will be her last project in the album format, and I’m interested to see where she goes next.
- Three new albums from Ryan Adams (first one April 19, other release dates TBD)
The last time Ryan Adams released three albums in one year, it was 2005 and the results were pretty fantastic. (Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29.) He’s promised to do the same in 2019, and the first of those three, Big Colors, is set for April 19. The second will be called Wednesdays, and that’s all we know right now. Adams hasn’t been on quite the same hot streak lately that he was in 2005, but he’s still one of the best, and these should all be worth hearing.
- Jonathan Coulton, Some Guys (April)
Internet superstar Jonathan Coulton made one of the best albums of 2017 with Solid State. He’s following it up with a bizarre project: an album of note-for-note covers of sensitive soft-rock hits of the ‘70s. You know the type – “Baker Street” and “How Deep is Your Love” and “On and On” and “Easy.” I just happen to love all of those songs. Coulton launched a stunningly successful Kickstarter for this record, and is pitching it as a blow against the patriarchy. But even if you just think of it as a bunch of lovely songs, this’ll be worth it.
- Devin Townsend, Empath
Now we’re into the albums I know are coming, but have no set release date. Devin Townsend remains one of the most idiosyncratic and remarkable musicians working, and over the past couple years he’s taken some victory laps, playing old albums live and putting his long-running Devin Townsend Project to bed. Empath is the first of four (I think) records he’s working on, and the opening salvo of his new direction. I’ll follow him anywhere, so I’m psyched, of course.
- Derek Webb, Targets
Derek Webb made the best album of 2017 with Fingers Crossed, a stark and devastating chronicle of his twin divorces from his wife and from God. He’s promised a return to the pop-rock he does so well on Targets, and I’m sure we will get more of his honest perspective on what it means to leave the life you thought you knew behind. Webb is self-releasing this album, and we’re not sure when, but I will be first in line to buy one.
- A new Sleater-Kinney album produced by St. Vincent
I don’t know that I need to say anything else here, right? There’s a new Sleater-Kinney album coming, and the band has been working with St. Vincent in the producer’s chair. If that sentence does nothing for you, I don’t know what to say.
- Fish, Weltschmertz
Thirty years after leaving Marillion to launch his solo career, Scottish singer Fish will close it out with what he has announced will be a double album. Fish’s solo work has been spotty, but not lately – his last four albums have been wonderful, and the three songs he’s released from this final one are even better. Expect long, proggy poems and some dark observations from a man who has seen it all. I’m looking forward to the record, but not to bidding Fish farewell as a recording artist. Should be a bittersweet listen.
- New Celldweller, Circle of Dust and Scandroid albums
The mad professor known as Klayton has so many musical personas that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with them all. This year will definitely see a new one from his synthwave project Scandroid, called The Darkness and the Light, but we should also hear new things from his industrial metal band Circle of Dust and his genre-defying Celldweller identity. Keeping up with Klayton is hard, but very worth it.
- A new Tool album
I know, it feels like a pipe dream, but the rumblings are louder than ever that we might get Tool’s first record in 13 years sometime in 2019. We’re going on 30 years of this band’s existence and this will be only their fifth album. I do imagine that their complex metal sculptures take time to build, but I also hope that whatever new record they come up with won’t crumple under the weight of expectations. (See Maynard James Keenan’s other band, A Perfect Circle, for exhibit A.)
- Something from The Dear Hunter
And finally, an entry for which I have no evidence whatsoever, except that I really want something new from Casey Crescenzo and company. Their Acts sequence remains one of the finest musical achievements of the past 15 years, and while I’m sure we won’t get the climactic Act VI anytime soon, I’m here for anything Crescenzo wants to give us. And hey, if he wants to surprise us with Act VI, I won’t complain.
As I said, this list is in no way comprehensive. But it does represent my hope for a really strong year of music, and I’ll be here chronicling my experience navigating through it. Thanks to everyone who reads this little endeavor of mine. Year Nineteen, here we go.
Next week, Pedro and Jackson and maybe some others. Follow Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tm3am.
See you in line Tuesday morning.