Deep Rotations: 2019 — 40+ Essential Records + Mixtape

While listening back to some key releases from 2019, I realized just how much this music is a reflection of the turbulent, pivotal times we’re living through, and that humanity’s expression through music and art is still a vital and powerful force that should not be underestimated. Each piece of music shared here reflects the times in a unique way and serves a different function. Certain albums aim to confront and expand the political consciousness of the listener with bleak realism and harsh truths, while others offer solace, healing, or escapism from this material reality. Many records look to the past, either to expose and learn from its evils, or to preserve cherished traditions, myths, and memories. Much of this music calls for community, rebellion, perseverance, and love, despite all the hardships and suffering humanity is facing. Music is one of the most powerful means of communication in existence and we must preserve and support it, and to do so we must commit to supporting not only musicians and other artists, but the communities they come from; we must ensure their voices are heard against the constant noise of politicians and media and those who wish to see us divided and confused. Thanks for keeping your ears and minds open, the world needs that now more than ever.

Below is an all-vinyl DJ mix of tracks from my favorite records of 2019, followed by a list of said records.

Favorite Records of 2019

While there was so many amazing albums from last year and I’m still discovering more and more that I missed, here’s a list of 21 favorites that I was able to pick up and spend quality time with, in alphabetical order by artist:

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – Mandatory Reality

Style: Post-Minimalism with Gnawa and Spiritual Jazz influences
Vibe: Meditative, Slow, Hypnotic,  Soothing, Mosaic
Musicians: Hamid Drake (Percussion), Lisa Alvarado (Harmonium), Josh Abrams (Guimbri), Mikal Avery (Percissopm), Ben Boye (Autoharp), Nick Mazzarella (saxophone), Jason Stein (Bass Clarinet), Ben Lamar Gay (Cornet)
Label: Eremite

Oren Ambarchi – Simian Angel

Style: Experimental, Electro-acoustic, Ambient
Vibe: Aquatic, Hypnotic, Mysterious, Exploratory
Label: Editions Mego

Bibio – Ribbons

On his latest, producer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Bibio crafts the perfect springtime album. The assorted batch of songs includes serene folk-pop, pastoral guitar instrumentals and subdued synth-funk. With its lush instrumentation, nature field recordings and Whitman-esque lyrics, Ribbons often feels like daydreaming in a garden or out in the woods by a trickling stream. (Read the full review here)

Style: Folk Pop, Hypnagogic Pop
Themes: Nature, Escapism
Vibe: Spring, Warm, Morning, Uplifting, Contemplative, Peaceful, Catchy
Instrumentation: Acoustic Guitar, Sampler, Violin, Mandolin, Mellotron, Synth, Bass
Label: Warp

A.A. Bondy – Enderness


Style: Ambient Pop, Singer/Songwriter
Vibe: Melancholy, Atmospheric, Sparse, Surreal Lyricism, Loner
Themes: Modern Society, Pop Culture, Love
Label: Fat Possum

jaimie branch – Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise

Style: Avant-Garde Jazz
Vibe: Rebellious, Colorful, Warm, Political, Communal, Thematic
Instrumentation: Trumpet, Cello, Upright Bass, Drums, Synthesizer, Vocals
Label: International Anthem Recording Co.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Tracing Back the Radiance


Washes of piano, harp, and other ephemeral sonic artifacts float through Ledesma’s peaceful, almost static atmospheres like a night breeze through the quiet woods.

Style: Ambient, Electro-Acoustic
Vibe: Soothing, Organic, Meditative, Immersive
Label: Mexican Summer

The Comet is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery

Style: Electro-Jazz, Progressive Electronic
Vibe: Apocalyptic, Intense, Cosmic, Driving, Spiritual, Energetic, Epic
Instrumentation: Tenor Saxophone, Synth, Drums
Label: Impulse! Records

Fly Pan Am – C’est ça

Style: Experimental Rock, Post-Rock, Shoegaze, Noise Rock
Vibe: Chaotic, Eclectic, Noisy, Heavy
Label: Constellation Records

Eamon Fogarty – Blue Values


Style: Singer/Songwriter, Cosmic American Music, Jazz-Influenced Folk-Rock
Vibe: Expansive, Cosmic, Lyrical, Warm, Lush
Label: Jealous Butcher Records

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

Style: Hip-Hop, Gangsta Rap, Boom Bap
Vibe: Confident, Introspective, Technical, Lush
Label: RCA, ESGN, Madlib Invazion

Dave Harrington Group – Pure Imagination, No Country

Style: Jazz-Rock, Electro-Jazz
Vibe: Exploratory, Energetic, Atmospheric
Label: Yeggs

Kokoroko – Kokoroko0fc3c3dd-c823-4a63-b450-a26866352ea6

Style: Jazz Funk, Afro-beat
Vibe: Groovy, Warm
Label: Brownswood Recordings

Land of Kush – Sand Enigma


Style: Arabic Jazz, Psych, Experimental Rock, Big Band
Vibe: Dense, Progressive, Complex, Intense, Psychedelic, Groovy
Instrumentation: 20+ piece band playing santur, upright bass, horns, strings, vocals, flute, percussion, guitar, and more
Label: Constellation

Sarah Louise – Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars

Style: Experimental, American Primitivism, Appalachian Folk, Free Folk
Vibe: Forest, Abstract, Earthy
Instrumentation: Processed Electric Guitar
Label: Thrill Jockey

Efrim Manuel Menuck & Kevin Doria are Sing Sinck, Sing

Style: Drone, Noise, Experimental
Themes: Classism, Capitalism, Police Brutality
Vibe: Political, Raw, Droney, Murky, Persistant, Communal
Instrumentation: Vocals, Synthesizers, Drum Machine, Guitars
Label: Constellation Records

Moon Bros – The Easy Way is Hard Enough


Style: American Primitivism, Folk
Vibe: Pastoral, Heartfelt
Instrumentation: 6- & 12-String Acoustic Guitars, Harmonica, Pedal Steel
Label: Western Vinyl 

Moor Mother – Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes

“Spinning Shadows
A revealing of the temporal roots that serve as the quanta DNA of our reality.
The shadow map, The pasts imagination
An Analog rendering of power”

Futuristic imagery is often portrayed with utopian visions, but, on her latest record, Moor Mother paints the future just as bleakly (or even more-so) as the past or present. Past, present, and future are all NOW, the DNA of the past is NOW, the future is determined by what we do NOW. So if we continue going

Style: Experimental, Noise, Spoken Word, Industrial Hip-Hop
Vibe: Powerful, Urgent, Ritualistic, Futuristic, Conscious, Dark, Dystopian, Poetic, Intense, Dense, Angry
Themes: Time, Black Quantum Futurism, History, Capitalism/Consumerism, Racism, Death,  Politics, Culture
Instrumentation: Spoken Word, Synthesizers, Samples, Drums
Label: Don Giovanni

Purchase accompanying Poetry Book:

Junius Paul – Ism

Style: Free Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz
Vibe: Colorful, Eclectic, Energetic, Communal, Improvisation
Instrumentation: Upright Bass, Cello, Piano, Organ, Drums, Keys, Synths, Saxophone, Trumpet, Guitar, Sampler
Label: International Anthem

Sandro Perri – Soft Landing


Style: Progressive Pop, Singer/Songwriter
Vibe: Impressionistic, Melodic, Soft, Atmospheric, Warm, Ethereal
Label: Constellation Records

Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis

Style: Avant-Garde Jazz, Experimental
Vibe: Ritualistic, Conceptual, Intense, Complex, Poetic, Rootsy
Themes: Memory, History Family, Racism
Instrumentation: Saxophone, Spoken Word, Upright Bass, Electric Guitar, Oud, Drums
Label: Constellation

Solange – When I Get Home

Style: Modern SoulArt Pop, Chopped N Screwed

Vibe: ReflectiveLushMellowConfidentGroovyIntrospectiveSummerWarm

Musical Attributes: MelodicSoftSuiteVignettesPolishedStudio-as-an-InstrumentBeats

Label: Columbia

Spaza – Spaza

StyleExperimentalCollective ImprovisationFree JazzAbstract Groove
InstrumentationUpright BassPercussion, Electric ViolinSynthesizersTromboneMultiple Vocalists (sometimes with FX or autotune)


75 Dollar Bill – I Was Real

Style: Tishoumaren-inspired Experimental Rock, Psych, Microtonal
Vibe: Hypnotic, Improvisation, Psychedelic
Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Percussion, Saxophone
Label: Thin Wrist Recording

Other Recommended Albums:

  • Blacks’ Myths  – II (Driving Experimental, Avant-Garde Jazz Rhythm Duo)
  • Hemlock Ernst & Kenny Segal – Back at the House (Depressive Underground Hip-Hop)
  • Tom Chandler – Gone (Drone, Ambient, Electric Guitar)
  • Your Old Droog – It Wasn’t Even Close (Psychedelic Hip-Hop, Boom-Bap)
  • Dengue Dengue Dengue – Zenit & Nadir (Afro-Peruvian Percussion, Experimental, Bass Music)
  • Little Simz – Grey Area (Conscious Hip-Hop, UK)
  • Quelle Chris – Guns (Underground Hip-Hop, Conscious, Detroit)
  • Richard Dawson – 2020 (Singer/Songwriter)
  • Kirk Barley – Landscapes (Ambient, Experimental)
  • Bill Orcutt –  Odds Against Tomorrow (American Primitivism, Solo Electric Guitar, Experimental)
  • Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿ (Abstract Hip-Hop, Boom-Bap)
  • Damon Locks & the Black Monument Ensemble – Where Future Unfolds (Future Jazz, Avant-Garde)
  • Marcus Hamblett – Detritus (Experimental, Electro-Acoustic Improvisation)
  • Natalie Rose Lebrecht – Mandarava Rose (Cosmic Drone, Healing Music, New Age)
  • Avey Tare – Cows on Hourglass Pond (Psychedelic, Electronic, Singer/Songwriter)
  • Lake Mary & The Ranch Family Band – Sun Dogs (Primitivist Folk-Rock)
  • JJ Whitefield – Brother All Alone (Psychedelic Groove, Jazz-Funk, Germany)
  • Light Conductor – Sequence One (Progressive Electronic, Modular Synthesis)
  • Rustin Man – Drift Code (Singer/Songwriter, Art Pop)

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