Top Ten New Releases Of 2019
2019 was a spectacular year for pop, so here’s the Classic Pop pick for last year’s top ten new releases…
Gary Daly – Gone From Here
China Crisis’ Gary Daly’s solo debut was an indispensable, softly-spoken mix of Terry Hall’s solo work, Stephen Duffy’s classicist songwriting and Crowded House’s melodies. Synths were still fundamental to its sound, but it was Daly’s candour, plus a cameo from It’s Immaterial’s John Campbell, that made this so endearing.
The Specials – Encore
Four decades after their debut – also reissued this year – Terry Hall, Lynval Golding et al couldn’t have timed their confrontational, yet celebratory return better. They revisited old ground, of course, but the familiarity of their approach was as thrilling as drifts into new territory, especially Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys’s irresistible disco.
Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
The Boss’ 19th album was a lush, widescreen affair that confirmed his status as a master storyteller, as well as one of America’s most charismatic songwriters. Inspired by 70s Californian pop, and full of a corresponding – if gritty – nostalgia, this was a string-drenched masterpiece, peaceful, sincere and full of warmth.
Lloyd Cole – Guesswork
Though it picked up from where his previous two records left off, Cole’s 12th solo album also found him exploring the intimate approach of The Blue Nile. Wit and charm combine with his minimalist electronic pallet on this heart-warming acknowledgement of middle-age.
Coldplay – Everyday Life
Coldplay’s eighth album proved revelatory, with Chris Martin and co. attempting unexpected experiments with Afro-beat, lo-fi, gospel, folk and blues. There were big choruses, inevitably, but there was also an overdue attempt to break the mould, especially on the Femi Kuti-guesting Arabesque and Trouble In Town, which offered the year’s
Anna of The North – Dream Girl
This year’s Scandinavian model pop star was Anna Lotterud, whose second album felt gloriously young at heart, yet still seemed crafted by a veteran. Her debt to the 80s remained evident, but the mischievous title track, the Lily Allen-esque Thank Me Later and disco-flavoured My Love highlighted her versatility and character.
Bananarama – In Stereo
It may not have been a total reinvention, but Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward’s long-awaited studio return was a riot. Richard X steered Love In Stereo the right side of corny, Dance Music could give Kylie a run for her money, and Stuff Like That was as good as their vintage 80s peak.
Stats – Other People’s Lives
Fronted by Ed Seed, a veteran of La Roux’s and Dua Lipa’s bands, Stats’ debut will definitely have pleased LCD Soundsystem fans, but older heads will have clocked how it simply draws excitably from the same well, not least Bowie. There’s Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and Eurythmics in there, too.
Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
While some were distracted by Elizabeth Woolridge Grant’s odd claim, given her pseudonym, that she’d “never had a persona”, others revelled in her sixth album’s sultry sophistication and her attempts to look beneath the bonnet of the American Dream. Doin’ Time even got away with quoting Gershwin’s Summertime.
Rustin Man – Drift Code
Talk Talk fans mourned Mark Hollis’ passing in February, but may have found consolation in the overdue return of former bandmate, Paul Webb, aka Rustin Man. Very different to 2002’s Beth Gibbons collaboration, this was admittedly idiosyncratic – Webb’s voice sounds much like Robert Wyatt’s – but it’s worthy of close attention.
Wyndham Wallace, John Earls, Mark Lindores and Steve Harnell