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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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October Preview

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October Preview

Posted on 01 October 2012 by Dorian

Here is our October preview of the best music releases and events in the coming month. Items marked with an * are currently scheduled for review on the site.


Album of the month: The Greatest Hits Of Boston Spaceships – Out Of The Universe By Sundown*

We wouldn’t normally pick a best-of collection as our album of the month but as this is the first Boston Spaceships album to get a UK release we’ll make an exception. Collecting 15 tracks from the bands five albums it represents some of the best music of Robert Pollard’s career. (Out on Fire Records on the 8th October)

Boston Spaceships - Greatest Hits Of Boston Spaceships

The Greatest Hits Of Boston Spaceships

1st October

Dark Dark Dark – Who Needs Who

Bob Mould – Silver Age*

Tim Burgess – Oh No I Love You

The Soft Pack – Strapped

Field Music…Play (read our review)

8th October

Tame Impala – Lonerism*

Why? – Mumps etc.

Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth (read our review)

Tall Ships – Everything Touching

15th October

AC Newman – Shut Down The Streets*

Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man

Jim Jones Revue – The Savage Heart

Jason Lytle – Department Of Disappearance

22nd October

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Lost Songs

Of Montreal – Daughter Of Cloud*

Peter Broderick – These Walls Of Mine

29th October

Neil Young – Psychedelic Pill

Madness – Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da

Gigs and tours

Tour of the month: Field Music

Field Music have been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and you have the opportunity to see them on what may be their last tour for some time.

  • Oct 03 2012, Aberdeen, The Lemon Tree
  • Oct 04 2012, Glasgow, Oran Mor
  • Oct 05 2012, Leeds, The Cockpit
  • Oct 06 2012, Liverpool, Kazimier
  • Oct 10 2012, Southampton, Cellars
  • Oct 11 2012, Cardiff, clwb Ifor Bach
  • Oct 12 2012, Wolverhampton, Slade Rooms
  • Oct 17 2012, London, Electric Ballroom
  • Oct 18 2012, Brighton, The Haunt*
  • Oct 19 2012, Bath, Komedia
  • Oct 20 2012, Coventry, Warwick Arts Centre
Field Music

Field Music

The Twilight Sad tour the UK in October:

  • 18 Thur NEWCASTLE Cluny
  • 19 Fri WAKEFIELD The Hop
  • 20 Sat MANCHESTER Sound Control
  • 22 Mon BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds
  • 23 Tue LONDON Dingwalls
  • 24 Wed BRISTOL Louisiana
  • 25 Thur CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
  • 26 Fri LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
  • 27 Sat PRESTON Mad Ferret
Cheatahs – The new Wichita Records signings on tour, including several dates with The Cribs
  • 17 October – London, 100 Club w/Veronica Falls & Mazes
  • 23 October – Oxford, Academy 2, w/The Cribs
  • 24 October – Norwich, Waterfront w/The Cribs
  • 25 October – Liverpool, 02 Academy w/The Cribs
  • 26 October – Manchester, Apollo w/The Cribs
  • 29 October – Manchester, 02 Academy w/The Cribs
  • 30 October – Sheffield, 02 Academy w/The Cribs
  • 01 November – Leicester, Academy w/The Cribs
  • 02 November – London, The Others
  • 06 November – London, Village Underground w/Cloud Nothings

The Tallest Man On Earth – Dates across the UK and Ireland through October

  • HMV Forum Kentish Town, London, Oct 23
  • Colston Hall Bristol, Oct 24*
  • Vicar Street Dublin, Oct 25
  • Mandela Hall Belfast, Oct 27
  • HMV Picture House Edinburgh, Oct 28
  • HMV Ritz Manchester, Manchester, Oct 29
  • St Bartholomews Church Brighton, Oct 31
Efterklang – The Danish band play live with the Northern Sinfonia
  • 23.10 GATESHEAD, NEWCASTLE, UK – The Sage
  • 24.10 EDINBURGH, UK – Usher Hall
  • 27.10 COVENTRY, UK – Warwick Arts Centre
  • 28.10 BRIGHTON, UK – Dome
  • 29.10 MANCHESTER, UK – Bridgewater Hall
  • 30.10 LONDON, UK – Barbican


The festival season is over in the traditional sense, but there are still interesting festival events happening through the Autumn.


Oxjam is a nationwide music event throughout October with events nationwide raising money for Oxfam. Our event featuring Rotifer, Tigercats and Danny Kendall is sure to be on of the best but you can look for events throughout the month in your area on the Oxjam wegottickets portal. You can find out more about the event, and about the good work that Oxfam does with the money raised, by visiting www.oxfam.org.uk/oxjam.



A Carefully Planned Festival

A Carefully Planned Festival is a multi-venue festival featuring 100 acts in Manchester on the 20th and 21st October. Amongst the bands playing is Neon Filler favourite Free Swim who will be playing track from their brilliant new EP She Dreams In Lights. More details can be found at www.acarefullyplannedfestival.wordpress.com.

Other stuff

Magical Mystery Tour on DVD

On the 8th October you will have the opportunity to purchase a the much maligned 1967 Beatles film on DVD and Blu-Ray. The soundtrack has considerable high points, including ‘I Am The Walrus’, but the jury is out on the film that was considered one of the band’s bigger follies.

The Magical Mystery Tour

The Magical Mystery Tour

To get your album/gig/tour/film/book/festival/t-shirt included in our monthly preview please send details to dorian@neonfiller.com.

By Dorian Rogers


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The Twilight Sad – The Fleece, Bristol (Feb 13, 2012)

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The Twilight Sad – The Fleece, Bristol (Feb 13, 2012)

Posted on 14 February 2012 by Joe

During last year’s early promotion for The Twilight Sad’s latest album No One Can Ever Know the Scottish Band selected final track Kill It In The Morning to unveil their new sound. With  Andy Wetherall producing, No One Can Ever Know brought vintage synths and Kraut rock bass  to the fore and left the band’s trademark guitar feedback low in the mix. It was no surprise to see this same track open their mesmerizing hour long set at Bristol’s The Fleece. They are clearly proud of the album and on the night its driving bass, synths and above all lead singer James Graham’s almighty vocals were spot on.

The Twilight Sad

The bulk of No One Can Ever Know got an airing tonight but there was still enough time to squeeze in two or three tracks from their 2009 My Bloody Valentine-esque album Forget The Night Ahead, including the album’s lead single I Became a Prostitute and opener Reflection of the Television. Thankfully they didn’t ditch the guitar feedback and squeals for this and this wall of sound was turned back up for these rare tracks from Forget The Night Ahead in the set.

While the music and their new direction is enticing enough it is Graham’s vocals and stage presence that is the band’s real draw. At times he appears Ian Curtis like, as if in a trance as his haunting, and quite frankly beautiful voice, soars above the synths, bass, precision drumming and feedback. Each ambiguous lyric hinting at the dark nature of society and relationships appears to be torn from him as he shows a genuine passion for performing and the subject matter.

The Twilight Sad

Of course it is an act, but an act he performs remarkably, complete with mimed silent screams when the guitar and synths take centre stage. In between songs there was time for some banter showing that beneath the serious way they take music there is also a likeability with no trace of arrogance. “I love you,” shouted one of the 150-200 crowd at this legendary pub venue that over the years has played host to Radiohead, Pulp, Coldplay and pretty much every major rock act of the last 20 years. With a smile Graham looked at her and said in the broadest Scottish accent, “ah, no you don’t really. I’m a total knobhead.”

While refusing to play an encore and leaving the stage as  the squeals of feedback continue may appear aloof for some bands this is not the case for The Twilight Sad. Before leaving the stage Graham said: “Thanks so much for coming to our gig on this cold Monday night. We are a small band from Scotland and we don’t expect people to come. Thank you.” This was a masterclass in how to give an impassioned performance  without the trappings or rock arrogance.


Support came from Somerset’s Evacuees, an indie guitar rock band of the type the NME believe are dead or  should be killed off in a funeral pyre with Kaiser Chiefs at the top. While the lead singer was guilty of a low slung guitar cliché or two they showed that indie guitar music is far from dead. This regular support band at Bristol venues are good at the genre, put in a more than solid set and when the NME remembers guitars are cool again their hacks may perhaps come knocking on their door, that is if they know where Bristol is.

Let's Wrestle

Second support Let’s Wrestle, led by singer and chief song writer Wesley Patrick Gonzalez, lived up to their Pitchfork billing from last year as a ”band of early twentysomethings that comprehensively captures the mindset of young men kicking and screaming against their inevitable transition into adulthood.”

Their brand of jangly indie pop has a real edge and they put in a headliner style set for an appreciative crowd that was mainly hearing them for the first time. Among the highlights was In Dreams Part II with its Wedding Present-style, driving guitar and Opium Den, which Gonzalaz dryly dedicates to their friend Ben, “because his name rhymes with the name of the song.”

by Joe Lepper


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The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know


The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know

Posted on 07 February 2012 by Joe

The My Bloody Valentine-esque guitars may have been discarded on this their third abum but Scottish band The Twilight Sad have lost none of their intensity.

On their previous album Forget The Night Ahead (see our Top 10 Albums of 2009 list) singer James Graham’s stunning and heavily Scottish accented vocals soared out of a wall of squealing guitars. This time around with Andrew Weatherall as producer and a bunch of vntage synths from Ben Hillier the sound is more controlled. Now Graham’s voice is complimented  by deep, burring 1980s synths, reminiscent of Depeche Mode at their most sombre or early New Order.

Opener Alphabet and end track Kill It In The Morning, which the band selected to release late last year as an early preview of the album, are a definite statement of intent regarding the use of keyboards. It tells their fans, ‘we’ve changed the instruments, but we are still the same band you love deep down.’

With guitar taking backseat the bass also comes to the fore, giving the band a new krautrock sound.  It’s this driving bass that makes tracks such as Dead City, with its enormous chorus, among the best on the album.

Granted the change in instrumentation is startling,  but it is a move that will only gain them new admirers. If anything it helps the listener focus on Graham’s vocals and  his ambiguous lyrics, which  as with their previous albums hint at the horrors that lurk in society and relationships.

The controlled passion here reminds me instantly of The National, while the use of vintage instruments reminds  me of The Walkmen. This album could be a turning point for the band that propels them to similar success.

There’s even a good single on the album, Another Bed, which in an interview with Thisisfakediy Graham admits “is probably the closest thing we’ve ever had to a proper single.” He adds though that this is an album that “is meant to be listened to as a whole.” We’d go even further saying that due to his vocals and use of familiar vintage keyboards this is an album that demands to be listened to as a whole. Album of the year? Well, early days, but its certainly in the running.


by Joe Lepper


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The Twilight Sad – Another Bed

Posted on 31 January 2012 by Joe

Enjoying this latest single from The Twilight Sad’s third album No One Can Ever Know, released in February 2012.


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Album Releases To Watch Out For In 2012

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Album Releases To Watch Out For In 2012

Posted on 14 December 2011 by Joe

Here’s Neon Filler’s five key album releases to look out for during those first few cold months of 2012. Looks like it’s going to be a good year for independent and alternative music releases with some contenders for our end of year best of 2012 list already beginning to emerge.

Guided by Voices –  Let’s Go Eat the Factory

Release date: January 1, 2012 (global outside US). Label: Fire Records

In 2010 the classic Guided By Voices line up of Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and Kevin Fennell reunited for a series of shows in the US. But this was no mere trip down memory lane. The band has also been working on new material and plan to release two albums in early 2012. The first of these is Let’s Go Eat the Factory, which includes the single The Unsinkable Fats Domino. We’ve been given an exclusive  listen and according to our reviewer it’s a “21 song set of vintage Guided By Voices lo-fi pop brilliance.” Read our full review here.

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

Release date: January 24, 2012. Label:  Wichita Recordings

This Swedish duo, who are still only young and were made moderately famous on YouTube a couple of years ago for their cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,  have already released two impressive albums. This, their third album, which has been produced by Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes, is set to  take them to the big time. The title track video has already been released and shows a new depth to their music. What’s more their vocals sound better than ever.

The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know

Release date: February 6, 2012. Label: Fat Cat Records

Forget the Night Ahead, the last album by this powerful, moody Scottish band made our Top Ten Albums of 2009 list. It quite simply blew us away.

We’ve had a listen to their next album. They’ve upped the production quality and clearly listened to a few later Depeche Mode albums but  have lost none of their power. The full track list is: ‘Alphabet’/ ‘Dead City’/ ‘Sick’/ ‘Don’t Move’/ ‘Nil’/ ‘Don’t Look At Me’/ ‘Not Sleeping’/ ‘Another Bed’/ ‘Kill It In The Morning’.

Shearwater – Animal Joy

Release date: February 13, 2012. Label: Sub Pop

Shearwater, the band formed by members of Okkervil River and now a full time project for its singer and chief songwriter Jonathan Meiburg, have moved label to the mighty Sub Pop but look set to lose none of their trademark beauty. It’s all about nature with Shearwater, with their last three albums focusing on environmental splendour and tragedy. Animal Joy was recorded in their native Texas, includes the track Breaking the Yearlings and was produced by Danny Reisch. Their previous two albums have both been listed in our 2008 and 2010 end of year lists. We are already predicting a placing in our 2012 list for Animal Joy from what we’ve heard.

The Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of the Sea

Release Date: March 5 (UK) March 6 (US). Label: Domino (UK), Merge Records (US)

The Magnetic Fields 1999 classic album 69 Love Songs reached the top 10 in our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Music Albums list. Love at the Bottom of the Sea marks a return to Merge, the US label that released 69 Love Songs.

This move bodes well for another stellar release from Stephin Merritt and his band. Contributors include Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, John Woo, Shirley Simms, Johny Blood, and Daniel Handler. Merritt has promised a mixture of synth and acoustic instruments this time round.

Compiled by Joe Lepper

See Also: Top 10 bands to watch out for in 2012.


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The Twilight Sad To Release Third Album Feb 2012


The Twilight Sad To Release Third Album Feb 2012

Posted on 22 September 2011 by Joe

Scottish  band The  Twilight Sad have announced plans to release their third album in February 2012.

Called No One Can Ever Know, their PR people tell us that its set to “mark a sonic shift” from their trademark haunting squealing guitar rock. Think “Depeche Mode, The Cure or even Nine Inch Nails” they tell us.

To promote the release they are offering a free download of Kill It In the Morning, a track from the Fat Cat released album. Click here for details.

The Twilight Sad – Kill It In The Morning by Fat Cat Records

The first single from the album will be ‘Sick’ and is due for a 7” and digital release on November 15.

No One Can Ever Know is the follow up to Forget The Night Ahead, which made our Top Ten Albums of 2009 list. Full review here.

by Joe Lepper


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The Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Joe

In an era of where jolly synth pop seemingly rules, it is refreshing to occasionally hear some loud, squealing, introspective guitar music for a change, especially when it is so expertly delivered by the likes of The Twilight Sad.

The Scottish band’s debut 2007 Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters was a critical success and led to support slots with among others Snow Patrol, Smashing Pumpkins and Mogwai. For their second album Forget the Night Ahead they’ve upped the ante. The My Bloody Valentine-esque wall of sound created by guitarist Andy MacFarlane is larger and singer James Graham’s vocals are even more passionate.

What is perhaps most striking is the vocals by Graham, whose thick Scottish accent is clear across the album. This gives The Twilight Sad a real point of difference and is perhaps clearly shown across second track ‘I Became A Prostitute’, which was the first single off the album.

The album really gets into its stride with third track ‘Seven Years of Letters’, which is being released as the second single this month (Oct). It is among the more restrained tracks and works well, allowing the melody to really shine through the wall of sound.

Like much of the album the lyrics on ‘Seven Years of Letters’ are deliberately cryptic, hinting at regret, guilt and arguments, but never telling the full story. Its central lyric of, “we’re on a hiding to nowhere,” is a case in point. It could relate to a range of situations, without ever spelling out the reason for Graham’s despair. While this ambiguity can be frustrating on other albums it somehow fits with the power and scale of Forget the Night Ahead.

On the less restrained side is another stand out track, ‘That Birthday Present’. There’s no let up as it presents a relentless barrage of squealing guitars backed with pounding drums and bass, all delivered at breakneck pace, barely giving the listener a chance to grab breath.  It’s remarkable stuff.

Not all the album is about creating a brooding guitar-scaped wall of sound. The pace slows down markedly in places, such as on the largely vocals and piano track, ‘Floorboards under the bed.’ But with this dip in speed, there is also a dip in passion and this track is among the less effective. Overall though Forget The Night Ahead is a breathtaking listen that successfully takes The Twilight Sad’s late 1980s influenced music to another level.


by Joe Lepper


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