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Best Indie and Alternative Albums 2019

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Best Indie and Alternative Albums 2019

Posted on 13 December 2019 by Joe

Our best albums 2019 list features the 15 albums that we can’t stop listening to.

What a year! It’s been beset with political turmoil. But in terms of music its been another fantastic 12 months.

This time around 15 albums have impressed us for our annual round up. This ranges from a return to form for one of our favourite US acts to an intriguing funk concept album about Trump.

Lots of our other top acts over the last few years have also marked 2019 in style with stellar releases. There’s plenty of interesting new acts as well that impressed during the year.

But enough from us. Here’s the 15 best albums of 2019 that we urge you to seek out and investigate yourselves.

15.The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons

John Darnielle and co once again excel with  a collection taking in themes of celebrity and this time the mythical heroes of their youth. Here the production is even more sumptious than it has been in recent years, with one of our favourite artists Owen Pallet on production desk duties. Read our full review here.

14. John Howard – Cut the Wire

1 Cover

The singer songwriter’s fierce sense of independence rises to the fore on this collection that has a far greater focus on his 1960s and 1970s musical influences, sitting somewhere between The Beach Boys and whimsical English pop. Read the full review here.

13. Jenny Lewis – On The Line

Jenny Lewis On the Line

We may miss the sparkling pop of Rilo Kiley but Jenny Lewis is still delivering great songs as a solo artist. Continuing on from where 2014’s The Voyager left off she cements her role as one of the best country-pop balladeers around.

12. Stealing Sheep – Big Wows

Stealing Sheep

The evolution of Stealing Sheep continues and any of the more folksy pastoral elements of their first two albums  have been cast aside in favour of a greater pure-pop approach. The good news is that it suits them perfectly, and anyone who has seen them live this year can attest to what a great glittery performance that is. Additionally, ‘Jokin’ Me’ has to be the best song released this year and deserves to be a chart smash (if that even exists as a thing anymore?).

11. The National – I Am Easy To Find


The “stadium band it’s ok to like” continue to deliver the goods on their eight album. An array of guest female vocalists add some difference to the sound this time around and compliment Matt Berninger’s smooth croon perfectly.

10. The New Pornographers – In The Morse Code of Break Lights

New Pornographers

The second Dan Bejar free New Pornographers album in a row may miss his contributions but the rest of the band do their best to make up for that. Simi Stone joins the band, adding a third female vocalist, and AC Newman delivers some pitch-perfect tunes. ‘You’ll Need A Backseat Driver’ is worth the admission fee alone.

9. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountain

Purple Mountains

Purple Mountains is notable as David Berman’s first post-Silver Jews album, and his first recorded work in over a decade. It is also notable as one of the most consistent records of his fascinating career. Sadly it stands as his final work, tragically he committed suicide in August this year.

8. Guided By Voices – Warp and Woof


This is just one of the three albums the prolific band released this year. Originally coming out as a set of EPs the songs are short, urgent and focused. It is a purple patch for the lo-fi legends but this stands out (just) as the best of the bunch.

7. Pip Blom – Boat

Pip Blom

The Dutch indie popsters have a very identifiable sound, and a very appealing one. Their debut album continues on from their excellent early singles and is one of the most enjoyable, and freshest, releases of the year.

6. Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All the Time

Album number five for the Scottish act is full of epic melodies and meloncholy lyrics as they cement their place as one of the most innovate indie rock and alternative bands in the UK. James Alexander Graham’s downright beautiful vocals elevate them even further. VTr and The Arbor are among our favourite tracks here.

5. Penelope Isles – Until the Tide Creeps In

Penelope Isles

Brighton base dPenelope Isles play a melodic dream pop, their debut album has a scope and sophistication that reveals their music school background. In lazy journo style I hereby dub them “the British Deerhunter”.

4. School of Language – 45

School of Language live in Bristol in 2014 (Pic by Joe Lepper)

School of Language live in Bristol in 2014 (Pic by Joe Lepper)

David Brewis from Field Music turns his attention to Donald Trump and the US far right on this cheeky, funky and in places angry collection. The lyrics left us nodding in agreement and chuckling, while David’s inventive take on his influences of Prince and Talking Heads continues to impress us. Read the full review here.

3. Corridor – Junior

Junior - Corridor

Sub-Pop’s Corridor are a French Canadian band that deliver a pulsing guitar pop that evokes post-punk and the pulsing rhythms of Stereolab in equal measure. It is epic and rhythmic and melodic and one of our favourite discoveries of the year.

2. Fontaines DC – Dogrel

Fontaines DC at Glastonbury 2019, photo by Joe Lepper

Fontaines DC at Glastonbury 2019, photo by Joe Lepper

This  Dublin band’s stunning debut sounds like a blend of Joy Division, The Smiths and the Buzzcocks. While lyrically they are cemented in their Dublin background, especially with Grian Chatten’s powerful vocals. They impressed us so much at Glastonbury 2019 that we rushed out to buy this debut – there’s not many live acts that have the power and talent to do that.

1. Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?


Their best album since 2010’s melody packed release Halcyon Digest? We certainly think so. In fact its filled with even more melody and inventive ways to present a song, veering from classic pop  to alternative rock at will on this all killer, no filler collection.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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Deerhunter (Brighton Concorde 2 – 4th November 2019)

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Deerhunter (Brighton Concorde 2 – 4th November 2019)

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Dorian

I struggle to write a review these days. I’m not a trained journalist, I’m a music fan. I’m middle aged. I don’t have a trend to align myself to. I hear good albums and see good gigs all the time. What I don’t see or hear that much is anything I have anything much interesting to say about.

You’re lucky to see a band at their best play a great gig. I’ve been lucky enough to do so several times in my life, but more often that not I’m seeing a good band play a good show. That is nothing to sniff at, but it is nothing to write home about.

So attending Deerhunter this week I was lucky enough to see a really really good band play an interesting, and definitely unusual gig.


I’d looked at recent set-lists and I had a good idea of what the band would play. 5 or 6 tracks from the latest album and Halcyon Digest (each) and a couple from earlier albums. This in itself is very good news as these are, to my mind, their best two albums with (the lengthily titled) Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? being a contender for album of the year.

The gig started as such. After some really nasty white noise (for about 5 minutes) Bradford and Co. play some really solid versions of those tracks. ‘No Ones Sleeping’ is great, ‘Revival’ is beautiful. The set continues as expected.

Between tracks Bradford engages with the crowd, he’s witty and likeable, his faux-English accent amuses me. About half way through the evening things start to get a bit weirder. He announces the start of  a dance contest that he’d hinted at earlier in the evening.

Six people are invited onto the stage and the band start to play a sort of mid-60s instrumental tune whilst the contestants dance awkwardly on the stage. This lasts for some time. At the end of this a voting process begins where the acts are judged based on the loudness of the audience clapping and cheering. At the end of this Bradford Cox picks his favourite and they are awarded the trophy.

The Deerhunter Dance Contest

The Deerhunter Dance Contest

This rather lengthy diversion has eaten into lot of song time, so it is another surprise when the band decide to play their new, non-album, 13 minute single ‘Timebends’. This is the first live outing for the song, and it is great, but t probably knocks another three songs off the list for the evening.

It is at this point that the gig takes a lengthier break. Bradford appears to want to stop playing for a while and starts chatting to the crowd. This goes on for some time. So long that audience discontent starts to set in. It is fascinating to watch. It has the same feel as an extended Stewart Lee joke, the longer it continues the funnier it seems. Conversely, to those who want him to play some more songs the more annoyed they get.

After 30(!) minutes someone shouts “Nothing Ever Happened!” and Bradford immediately agrees. The band then play this early favourite and it sounds great. It is at this point that the band are told their time is up and leave the stage, Bradford himself clearly a bit surprised to have run out of time.

A great gig? Perhaps not. An interesting and memorable gig? Definitely.

By Dorian Rogers


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Sic Alps – Napa Asylum

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Sic Alps – Napa Asylum

Posted on 26 January 2011 by Joe

With Napa Asylum Sic Alps have created arguably the first genuine punk album of the year.

The San Francisco band of Mike Donovan and Matt Hartman, complete with extra guitars and drums from Noel von Harmonson, have stubbornly stuck with their eight track recorder to achieve the correct punk DIY feel. They have also served up an impressive 22 tracks, mostly around the one to three minute mark, to provide a sense of value for money that Joe Strummer would have been proud.

There’s always been elements of the punk pioneers from the 60s counter culture in Sic Alps music and that’s particularly the case on Napa Asylum, their fourth album. With its fuzzed up 60s melodies, it’s at times reminiscent of the likes of The Deviants, who featured on last year’s excellent Dirty Water punk pioneers compilation from Future Noise Music’s punk label Year Zero.

There’s a lot of similarities with Guided By Voices as well, melodic lo-fi pop delivered in tight, short bursts. But for our money Napa Asylum could be perhaps best described as Deerhunter without the slick production or perhaps even Wavves, but with more melody and likability.

Not all tracks work, but like one liners from a good comedian, there’s so many of them that it doesn’t matter. Wait a while and a gem will soon emerge.

Among the best are a run of tracks in the first half from the surf punk of ‘Cement Surfboard’ through to ‘Zeppo Epp,’ including the album’s standout ‘Saint Peter Writes His Book’.

But others such as (the overlong by Sic Alps standards) ‘Trip Train’ and the thoroughly unpleasant ‘My My Lai’ lack the melody and  garage punk chic of this album’s many other highlights.

Also , the lo-fi doesn’t always work. The bass can judder in the ears at time. But overall this is a giddy, heady slice of fuzzed up garage rock with some welcome punk attitude.


by Joe Lepper


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Top 20 Albums of 2010

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Top 20 Albums of 2010

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Joe

We usually compile a top ten albums of the year list, but in recognition  of 2010 being one of the best years in recent memory for indie/alternative releases we’ve decided to double the size.

The year started well with ambitious albums by the likes of Field Music, Los Campesinos! and Owen Pallett and got better with stellar releases from the likes of The National, the welcome return of Belle and Sebastian and some surprises from the likes of Janelle Monae. Some familiar names return to our end of year countdown on a list that features some excellent new UK music. Sit back, get your emails to Santa ready and enjoy Neon Filler’s Top 20 Albums of 2010.

1. Field Music Measure

Measure, a double album no less, sees the band move on yet another level. There are aspects of the sweeping, mazy songs on their eponymous debut as well as the jerky, more structured pop of second album Tones of Town, but a whole lot more has been added. Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, even ELO, XTC, The Move and 10cc are thrown into the mix. This album came out at the beginning of the year but its breadth and ambition continues to astound as the year comes to an end.  Read our full review here.

2. The Miserable Rich – Of Flight and Fury

Of Flight and Fury is the second album from Brighton’s The Miserable Rich and it picks up from where their excellent debut left off. Part of Brighton’s Willkommen Collective they are the most compact and focused of the bunch. One of our top ten bands to watch out for in 2011, we are expecting big things from this band. Read our full review here.

3. Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – Essex Arms

The album is the second part in a trilogy about Hayman’s native Essex and continues with a warts and all nostalgic look at working class England. Like its predecessor Pram Town (which topped our Top Ten Albums of 2009 list) Essex Arms is wonderfully evocative of a place and time, without descending into sneering or cloying sentiment. Surely Hayman has earned national treasure status by now.  Read our full review here.

Essex Arms

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern - Essex Arms

4. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter have named their fourth album Halcyon Digest for good reason, as once again the US band serves up an unusual and effective mix of music that takes a range of influences from the golden years of rock n roll to the 1990s shoegazers. Halcyon Digest is lush, layered and timeless. Deerhunter’s most focused and accessible album yet. Read our full review here.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

5. Janelle Monae

The debut album from former stage school kid and Outkast collaborator Janelle Monáe could well be the most eclectic album of the year so far. Mixing orchestral pieces, hip hop, soul, pop, psychedelic rock, folk and even a collaboration with Of Montreal into 18 tracks. It is ambitious and mesmerising as it effortless travels between genres. Read our full review here.

6. Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love

It’s been a long wait for such adoring fans, but the band are now firmly back after a four year hiatus touring and with a sparkly new album, Write About Love, a concept album of sorts about, well, love. So where does Write About Love sit in its catalogue?  For us its one of their best yet. Welcome back Belle and Sebastian. Read our full review here.

Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love

7. The Walkmen – Lisbon

With Lisbon US band The Walkmen have delivered a perfect follow up to their last album You and Me, which topped our Top Ten Albums list for 2008. Retaining You and Me’s stripped back, timeless production with nods to the 50s and 60s, Lisbon has plenty more goose bump moments and once again offers a perfect showcase for lead singer Hamilton Leithhauser’s stunning rock vocals and the band’s love of vintage instruments. Read our full review here.

8. Owen Pallett – Heartland

With the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara involved, Heartland is at times pure Brian Wilson  as it effortlessly takes in aspects of classical music, electronica, pop and indie-cool. Read our full review here.

Owen Pallett

9. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

As debuts go Astro Coast is already a modern indie classic. Full of  a marvellous mix of riffs, indie rock influences such as  Sonic Youth and Pavement, passionate singing and some neat tricks as well. It is all that is good about the best of modern US indie rock. Read our full review here.

10. The National  – High Violet

How can a band this good, this radio friendly, this professional not be bigger? Why is it that the likes of Muse, Radiohead and Coldplay play in front of multi-zillion seater stadiums and headline major festivals and not The National? After the release of High Violet The National are well on their way to similar success. Read our full review here.

11. Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago.

When the end of the world comes, as pollution lays waste to the Earth, Shearwater’s leader singer Jonathan Meiburg will be on a nuclear  ravaged tropical island somewhere screaming bloody murder in his haunting baritone at the corporations and politicians. This indie/folk/rock album is powerful stuff. Read our full review here.

12. Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt

Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson, who takes to the stage under the name Tallest Man On Earth, must be bored to tears with being compared with early Bob Dylan, especially when in many respects he is actually better than the great man at the same stage in his career. Read our full review here.

13. Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Opening track and lead single ‘The High Road’ kicks things off beautifully on this debut album from Shins frontman James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse and is a sign of the good things to come. By the time you’ve listened to ‘Vaporise’ and Mercer’s surprisingly good falsetto on ‘The Ghost Inside’ you know that the duo have produced something worthy of an end of year best of list. Read our full review here.

14. Beach House  – Teen Dream

The slicker production and attention to detail  on Teen Dream  compared to previous releases unsurprisingly coincides with a move to the label Sub Pop, which has a strong track record of getting the best out of its eclectic mix of artists ranging from The Fleet Foxes to Postal Service. Read our full review here.

15. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring

Los Campesinos! are among the most divisive of bands. A bunch of shouty students, spouting immature teen angst to some, one of the most innovative British bands around for others. Their 2010 release Romance is Boring is a pretty good case for the latter’s cause. Read our full review here.

16. New Pornographers – Together

When we first heard the song ‘Your Hands (Together)’, from the fifth album by The New Pornographers, we were disappointed. So much so that we avoided the album and didn’t review it on this site. But after hearing another track from the album, the brilliant ‘Crash Years’ (one of our songs of the year) we realised we were missing out. Building on the more subtle styles of 2007’s Challengers with a return to the more bombastic power chords of their earlier albums this is classic pop music at its best.

The New Pornographers - Together

17. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

After the first 30 seconds of opening track ‘Like The Ocean Like The Innocent’ we were sceptical. We’ve heard enough meandering drone rock to last a lifetime, but nine minutes later at the end of the track we were converted. This is music with genuine substance and power. Read our full review here.

18. Allo Darlin’

Allo Darlin’s self titled debut is a near perfect slice of British “twee” pop played by associates of Amelia Fletcher and Darren Hayman. Melodic, sweet and sensitive it has possible singles from start to finish. The more jaded listener might find songs like ‘Heartbeat Chili’ a little hard to stomach, but if you keep your mind open there is much to love here. One of the discoveries of 2010, and very much a band to watch in 2011.

Allo Darlin

19. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

Second appearance for Danger Mouse in our top 20, this time his long awaited collaboration with the late Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse. Unreleased for some time due to contractual wrangles it was originally intended to accompany a book of visuals by David Lynch. The book was published, but the album itself was shelved and emerged some months later during 2010. It features contributions from a number of singers and musicians including the Flaming lips, Suzanne Vega, Iggy Pop, can be a difficult listen in places but as you would expect from Linkous and Danger Mouse, stunning in others. Read our full review here.

20. Fang Island  – Fang Island

Imagine if you will Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyons, but better, speeded up and backed by members of Primus, Faith No More and The Descendents. It’s a heady mix of humour, power chords and squealing solos that Fang Island pull off with aplomb. Read our full review here.

To hear more by the bands above (and some other great acts from the year) listen to our best of 2010 Spotify playlist.

See Also – Top Ten Albums of 2008, Top Ten Albums of 2009

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest


Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Posted on 27 September 2010 by Joe

Deerhunter have named their fourth album Halcyon Digest for good reason, as once again the US band serves up an unusual and effective mix of music that takes a range of influences from the golden years of rock n roll to the 1990s shoegazers. Halcyon Digest is lush, layered and timeless. Deerhunter’s most focused and accessible album yet.

Their last album Microcastle gave glimpses of what was to come but under producer Ben Allen, who also worked on Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, Halcyon Digest takes the band to the next level.

The band, of lead singer Bradford Cox, singer and guitarist Lockett Pundt, bass player Josh Fauver, and drummer Moses Archuleta are at the top of their game here. Cox’s vulnerable vocals backed by a swathe of sound combining vintage guitar twangs with more traditional indie rock moments is perfectly delivered.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

Opener ‘Earthquake’ sets the scene well as it builds up the ambience with guitar jangling in gradually. Cox’s vocals whisper in as the sound of a vinyl record’s scratch builds up with the layers and tension.

The catchy ‘Dont Cry’ is one of my favourites as is ‘Revival’, one of an array of standouts with its instantly appealing chorus and off beat guitar.

With ‘Sailing’ the tone dips, the guitar gets crisper and cleaner allowing Cox’s vocals to shine. For those that have seen Deerhunter live, the freakishly tall figure of  Cox is a sight  to behind, humble at times and ill at ease as a performer . It’s an image that belies the assuredness of his and his band’s ability.

Deerhunter at ATP 2009 Festival, Minehead

Other highpoints are ‘Memory Boy’, the nearest to a radio friendly single, ‘Basement Scene’ which comes at you like an indie rock Everly Brothers, ‘Helicopter’ like Donovan and ‘Fountain Stairs’ like the Velvet Underground. There is so much of interest here for both revivalists and those looking for something new.

‘Desire Lines’ is another standout, fantastic mazy guitar riff carrying this centrepiece track on the album.

Not many bands are so aware of their studio, their production and instruments as Deerhunter. Perhaps The Walkmen are the only others able to take vintage sounds to create something so contemporary.

So where does this compare with Microcastle? Better is the answer as Deerhunter deliver one of the highpoints of the year.


by Joe Lepper


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