Scriv’s Favorite Albums of the Decade: 2019

Jeepers here we are already.

Billie Eilish—When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
I have a lot of thoughts on Billie Eilish’s cultural impact, but none of them pertain to this album specifically, so I’m gonna put them at the bottom of this post because I don’t know how to do toggle text in WordPress.* When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? produced the first widely-celebrated summer hit-single that I was genuinely into at the time that it was out since “Call Me Maybe” (and I was actually willing to admit it this time). There are tracks that don’t really land for me on this album, but between the multitude of perspectives Eilish sings from, the delightful minimalism of the production and Finneas’s incorporation of nonmusical sounds into the beats (I see Lorde and Mitski’s fingerprints here), and the degree to which the whole thing leans into a genuine eeriness, it’s overall a bit like exploring a haunted house, full of nooks and crannies and tiny details that could go by unobserved but that reward your attention.

Cattle Decapitation—Death Atlas
Death Atlas feels like a capstone of Cattle Decapitation’s decade, a pinnacle of their newer, more experimental sound, mutated past the rigidity of genre conventions without sacrificing an iota of brutality. They now they sit on a throne of skulls, the loudest harbinger yet of the end times to come. No metal album with an atmospheric intro and two interludes should be this good. The metastasizing weight and brutality of “Vulturous”, Travis Ryan’s ever-intensifying vocal gymnastics and increasing tendency towards huge, anthemic sung passages, the explosive opening and moshy midtempo of “Finish Them”, and the epic, melodic “Time’s Cruel Curtain” are standouts.

Chained To The Bottom Of The Ocean—I Carry My Awareness of Defeat Like a Banner of Victory
I had the privileged of discovering this band in a live context when they opened for Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle, and if the headliners had never appeared and CTTBOTO’s set has been the last of the night, I would have gotten my money’s worth. Theirs is the kind of sludge that feels primordial; their guitar tone is inexorable, a glacier a mile high. But their vocals, raw and rabid and loud, send this weight crashing down on all-too-contemporary concerns. Also, I’ve never heard a heavier Devo cover (apparently they cover Deathcab for Cutie on their newer release this year???).

clipping.– There Existed An Addiction to Blood
They got me this time: CLPPNG had me shocked and tantalized (especially “Body & Blood”, the seed from which this album sprouted), but There Existed An Addiction To Blood genuinely scared me (specifically “Club Down” and “The Show”). The production on this album crackles and sears; it’s my favorite clipping album from that standpoint, although not the easiest listen. Not content to be outdone by his collaborators, Daveed Diggs has perfected the hyperspeed delivery he exhibits on CLPPNG’s “get up” and injected There Existed An Addiction To Blood with some of his most clever turns of phrase and impactful images to date. If I were a radio DJ, “Blood of the Fang” would be seeing serious rotation: it feels like a message that this country badly needs, right now.

No One Knows What The Dead Think – s/t
This album is a bucket of cold water to the face, in a fun way (maybe delivered by a friend on roller skates?). It can be hard to have fun while a guy screams your ear off, but these songs have a levity to them that most grindcore albums either fail to or just aren’t interested in achieving; that levity is exactly what got my attention. A little more down-to-earth than the melodic aspects of Gridlink’s final album, a little more direct, but no less of a rip-roaring time.

SUNN O))) – Life Metal
I dare you to find me a heavier album that came out this decade. It’s heavy, sure, but it’s heavy in the way that lava is heavy—it moves, it flows, it breathes, and it crushes and burns as it does so. The inclusion of clean vocals in the first track was one of the best decisions SUNN O))) have ever made.

 

* I’m trying my best to watch closely to see what becomes of Billie Eilish’s cultural impact. On the one hand, she’s brought her super-weird aesthetics into the mainstream, and there are aspects of those aesthetics that are profoundly dark and anti-commercial, which I dig , and which I think could be used as tools to galvanize people (she reminds me a lot of IC3PEAK, whose work has been met with censorship and police attention in their native Russia). On the other hand, a lot of her promotional work, and the grind she put in to become the first person born this century to hit #1, are undeniable evidence that commercial appeal is critical to her; this combined with her tendency towards lite nihilism makes me worry that she could end up being shaped into another agent of hopelessness or distraction by the economic forces that dictate the trajectory of her career, and thus her social impact. (I dream of a future where Amanada Palmer takes her under her wing, but at this point Billie is bigger than Amanda Palmer, and yeah, yikes, that probably won’t happen.) But maybe I’m not giving her enough credit; she started out on Soundcloud, and given the social values she promotes, it’s pretty clear that she’s got a sense of integrity that she wants to uphold.