monoblogue music: 2019’s top 5

For the sixth and final time, I’ve taken the albums I’ve reviewed this year and selected those I thought were the cream of the crop. It turned out to be a diverse group between newcomers and a couple repeaters from the past, and releases that run the gamut from a four-song EP to the wrapup of a three-EP trilogy that finally got its due this year. While I was definitely disappointed that the reviews basically dried up in the latter half of the year (so I only had 16 total) I actually had a pretty good complement of contenders, which will include an honorable mention.

So who made the cut in 2019? As I’m about to reveal, it’s a group that may seem familiar in a number of ways.

It’s the second time Rich Lerner made the list, following on 2017’s “Push On Thru.”

5. “Jammin’ With Juma” by Rich Lerner and the Groove (featuring Juma Sultan)

Original review: February 23.

Using the talents of longtime percussionist and Woodstock alumni Juma Sultan, who cut his teeth touring with Jimi Hendrix. Rich Lerner and the Groove put their own stamp on a number of covers (including one by Hendrix) as well as creating originals in a similar vein.

Lerner, a veteran of the music business himself, borrowed liberally from several corners of the musical world to create this album and mixed them together very well to create something worth listening to.

The first (and only) local band album I ever reviewed for this feature, it definitely leaves you wanting more.

4. “Wasted Time” by Future Thrills

Original review: January 19.

While the cover may remind you of a DIY effort, this one is actually well-produced and makes you wish they had twice the songs on the EP.

What sold me on this four-song collection was how they built off a punk-rock foundation by adding disparate elements and making them work well. You can tell they’ve developed a rather unique style that should carry them well as they write more songs and further refine their sound -just don’t overdo it and make it sound too packaged and you’ll be fine. They’re promising more stuff in 2020 and I’m going to be all ears looking forward to it.

2019’s coda to a trilogy that’s had one release in each of the last three calendar years.

3. “Fight To The Death” by Paul Maged

Original review: July 13.

The finale to a trilogy Maged released over the last three years, this ranking reflects the full trilogy. “Fight To The Death” is the angriest of the trio, but also the weakest: on its own it may not have made the top 5. On the other hand, 2018’s “The Glass River” and 2017’s “Light Years Away” would have been easy top 5 selections and they brought up the average, so to speak.

Maged has gotten a lot of mileage from having a previous #1 album here (2014’s “Diamonds and Demons”) so he may be a little disappointed in only coming in third. Still, the consistency of his good music overall (not to mention his constant marketing and other talents) is something to be commended. I doubt he and I would ever see eye-to-eye politically, but if I ever cross his path for a live show I can let all that slide.

The musical troubadour has kept himself busy touring in 2019 to support this fine EP.

2. “Words For Yesterday” by Benny Bassett

Original review: March 30.

It’s only six songs, but if you didn’t know Benny Bassett – or happened upon him at one of his regular hotel shows – this would be a great introduction. It’s music that would be right at home on a variety of outlets because it’s perfectly triangulated between straight-ahead rock, alternative, and the country-rock made popular in the 1970’s by bands like the Eagles and Poco.

If there were a smart producer or record label talent scout out there, they might grab up this onetime attorney and see what he could do with his songwriting ability and a little extra marketing push to help him along.

This one is a definite throwback. It might make you actually like ’70s music this time.
  1. “Final Notice!” by Lord Sonny the Unifier

Original review: May 25.

As you more than likely have guessed from all the reviews and other music-related stuff I’ve done over the years, I grew up listening to what would now be described as classic rock.

But there were a lot of artists who didn’t quite get the airplay that Journey, Styx, Foreigner, or Led Zeppelin did, and a good number of those played what would now be described as “prog-rock.” This disparate group somehow found their way into the conscience of those comprising LSTU, though, and they carried the torch forty years forward in a great way.

So while I was carried back to 1979, I got to enjoy it with the updates and new technology that made it sound even better. “Final Notice!” turned out to be the final winner in the sweepstakes I call monoblogue music.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention a great instrumental album that just missed the top 5: back in May I reviewed a eponymous effort from an artist calling himself Versal that deserves some honorable mention here, too.

Anyway, to wrap all of this up: if I get curious enough I may see what my twenty-odd bands featured as top 5 artists over the years are up to. But this will close out monoblogue music as a regular feature. I will still do the occasional “Weekend of local rock” posts if I catch acts worth doing them for. (I really should have done one for Casting Crowns when they played here but that show was over two months ago now.)

I guess all that’s left to say for monoblogue music is thanks to James Moore at IMP for working with me all these years and, more importantly, thanks to you for listening.