Spotify rolled out its year-end Spotify Wrapped playlists today!
I’ve been excited to see what mine looks like for a while now, in part because this is my first year using Spotify with any consistency whatsoever, and (also) in part because I’ve always been unreasonably* jealous of others’ playlists in past years.
This year did not turn out quite how I thought it would. In 2017 and 2018, the portion of my personal music-listening pie that was dedicated to black and death metal grew. However, as the calendar turned, I anticipated that my 2019 would be a year of largely punk and punk-derived rock and roll listening… but, for various reasons, it instead exploded into a largely metal listening-fest!
I’ve linked my Top 100 at the bottom, but I thought it might be fun to expound upon my Top 20 from the list. This (Top 100) is not a “releases from 2019” list, like many I’ve seen on Twitter so far today. And it’s certainly not anywhere close to the most diverse list out there. But it reflects three main playlists I’ve referenced this year: two that I’ve created (a Metal list & a Rock-n-Roll/Punk list), and… The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery, my favorite Wes Montgomery record, which was in heavy rotation this year.
It’s been an oddly skewed musical year for me. A very heavy year, musically… reflecting some things in my life and the world that I might expound upon at a later date. Normally, my music listening is all over the place. This year was different.
That’s enough of an intro. Here were my Top 20 tracks listened to — on Spotify — in 2019.
20. “Abominations” – Morbid Angel, Blessed Are The Sick
I’m not a Morbid Angel connoisseur, per se — I own a few of their records, and my favorites are Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and Gateways to Annihilation, from the Steve Tucker era — but to my ears, this is the catchiest MA song. The short main riff is hypnotic and repetitive, the vocal cadences in the verses and choruses are short and rhythmically pleasing, and the words are suitably evil.
19. “Caustic Acrostic” – Fugazi, End Hits
Again, not a Fugazi connoisseur, but this song was suggested to me, and I was immediately drawn to the way the guitars complement and mesh with one another, while remaining distinct from each other throughout the song. Two minutes of musicality and energy: a recipe for many repeat listens!
18. “Snakes & Vultures” – UADA, Cult of a Dying Sun
I was introduced to UADA in 2018 when they released their second album, Cult of a Dying Sun. While I really like their sound, I have a difficult time listening to them for a full album because their songs are generally fairly long, and at this point in my life, I’m finding that I like my music in smaller bites. That said, this is definitely my favorite piece from Cult… and I’ve listened to it many, many times over the past year and a half.
17. “Borderlines” – Baroness, Gold & Grey
I really like a lot about this song (and album), but I also have a negative association with it (stupid relationship things, blah) that I’ve been trying to work through lately. The fuzz – and the mix – can be a little harsh at times, but the songwriting, musicianship, and vocals are fantastic. Highly recommended!
16. “Gouge Away” – Pixies, Doolittle
I could never get into the Pixies, for years. I know, I know… but I heard this song for the first time ever sometime in the past year, and basically had a spiritual awakening in that regard. Based on the biblical story of Samson, with some dynamic shifts from “verse” to “chorus”, I was smitten; and while that crush eventually calmed down, I still love the song.
15. “Straws Pulled At Random” – Meshuggah, Nothing
Ever since my cousin David sent me a dubbed cassette of Destroy Erase Improve while we were in college, I’ve loved Meshuggah. Through 30-plus years of astounding music, they’ve gone from heavily Metallica-influenced riffage to mind-crushing, steel door-slamming chaos to droney, hypnotic riffage to mechanized precision (and much in-between and beyond). “Straws Pulled At Random” is a song that I keep going back to, because when I listen to it, I imagine that I am being lifted gently when the notes go up, and then set down gently when they slip back down, as if I am being carried on waves. And the sequence that begins at 3:05 and carries through the end of the song is just musically joyous to me!
14. “Suffer” – Bad Religion, Suffer
I’ve had a weird relationship with punk music, and with Bad Religion. The first BR album I heard was The New America when it released, and I was not impressed at the time for whatever reason, and so I barely ever thought about them thereafter… which was my loss. But this year, I fell in love with the band, and as such there are four BR songs in my Top 20 spins, including two from their seminal Suffer record.
13. “I Only Deal In Truth” – Crowbar, Sever The Wicked Hand
This is probably my favorite Crowbar song, although there are certainly others in the running. Kirk Windstein is a master of heavy, melodic riffs that sometimes make my stomach wonder if it’s going to survive, and other times simply make my heart start to burst. This song has both of those moments/riffs. Listen all the way to the end. “I need to bury this!”
12. “Disciple” – Slayer, God Hates Us All
I see a lot of Loud Voices On The Internet claiming that Slayer hasn’t done anything of note / classic / great / whatever since [insert 80s or maybe 90s Slayer release here]. But I got into a lot of these bands as an adult — well after they were initially big / influential / classic — due to my circumstances growing up. And my impression of “Disciple” from 2001 is that it is one of their most intense songs (through the first 2:51). The vocals and lyrics really carry it for me.
11. “Aneuthanasia” – Gorgoroth, Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatum Trahunt
I like the structure of “Aneuthanasia” – especially when it gets fast and kind of Slayer-y at 0:48! I started to get into Gorgoroth shortly before Gaahl and King tried to wrest control of the band from Infernus, and wasn’t sure that I’d like the new-old lineup with Pest on vocals. But QPAST had a few songs that I like, and this is the one I still listen to the most. The mix isn’t the greatest, but it’s still effective in my opinion.
10. “Hardwired” – Metallica, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct
I’m on the fence about this album: it has some songs that I really enjoy, and others that I am absolutely bored by. The dynamic range is too small, and the guitars are a little too low in the mix, although the album sounds better than the digitally crushed Death Magnetic. But to me the album is bloated. Several songs are too long, and some on the second disc could have been excised entirely. And while my favorite track is probably “Spit Out The Bone”, I like how “Hardwired” just rips from start to finish in just over three minutes. It’s a fun little song to play on guitar – I often use it warm up – and a fun song to listen to in the morning to get me hepped up for the day!
9. “Dearly Beloved” – Bad Religion, New Maps Of Hell
One of my favorite BR songs, and it tells an interesting story. “I won’t deny that I’m inclined to isolate! Dearly beloved, I can’t relate to you.”
8. “New America” – Bad Religion, The New America
With almost two decades in the books since this record came out, and I heard this song, and I promptly dust-binned the record and the band because I wasn’t into the style at the time, I’m glad that I finally rediscovered it/them. The lyrics are, unsurprisingly, as pertinent today as they were at the time – as is the case with most BR songs.
7. “Dark Intentions” – The Haunted, Made Me Do It
Haha, one of my Top 10 spins this year was effectively an album intro! It’s here for two reasons: a) it’s ear candy to me and b) I learned how to play it on guitar this year, so it got some extra spins during that process.
6. “Things” – Meat Puppets, Too High To Die
This song is more than 25 years old, and I’ve been a fan since the first time I heard it. It’s weird, and it’s got fun lyrics, and I love singing along. It’s here because I love it.
5. “What Can You Do?” – Bad Religion, Suffer
I’m not surprised that this was the BR song that I listened to most this year. The lyrics are, again, perfect for the times: uncompromising and accurate. “The world’s falling apart at the rifts, and surprisingly, the leaders can’t make any sense of it. We mean nothing to this world, we’re all someone else’s fool, but oh, what can you do?”
4. “Thrasher’s Abattoir” – Carcass, Surgical Steel
Surgical Steel has several awesome songs on it, and “Unfit For Human Consumption” – a great track and crazy video! – shows up further down my list outside the Top 20, but this is the one I go to most often for some face-ripping energy to start the day. Clocking in at 1:50, it crushes from start to finish, and I love how the drums speed up between every “line” of the verses.
3. “Eaten” – Bloodbath, Nightmares Made Flesh
I got into several of the bands on my list for the first time this year, and Bloodbath was one of them. This is an extremely heavy track, with evil, serpentine riffs, and Peter Tägtgren’s vocal performance is incredible. The song is based on a true story, although I find the lyrics to be simultaneously horrifying and hilarious. I had this song stuck in my head a ton this past spring and early summer. For as messed-up as it is, it’s quite catchy!
2. “Dødskamp” – 1349, Dødskamp (single)
Finally, we get to a song that’s hands-down my favorite song of 2019. “Dødskamp” was released in January as a single, inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting of the same name as part of an artistic commission by Visit Norway (and reworked for their album The Infernal Pathway, released in October). The lyrics about the “death struggle” are haunting and quite heavy, and the ferocity of the performance — and the way the song resolves at the end — still make my hair stand up. “Triumphis mortis!”
1. “Bathe In Blood” – Bloodbath, Resurrection Through Carnage
The first time I listened to a Bloodbath song, it was this one, via a live video on Youtube, where Mikael Åkerfeldt is obviously reading the lyrics as he sings them. This song has incredible groove, from the vocal cadences to the almost death-n-roll pacing of the verses and choruses. Believe it or not, I’m not really a fan of this type of subject in metal (my list here notwithstanding…), but I feel like this song creates more of a “horror” vibe than a “gore” one. At any rate, this song unfailingly makes me want to headbang, and as such was often a complement to my coffee and/or commute in the mornings! “Eyes stare blank / Unable to see as death reappears / Unspeakable chill in the hyper-white light / Fall to my knees in fear….”
I will admit to being surprised by some of the results here, when looking at some of the other songs on the larger list, but I think I’ve figured out why certain things are the way they are.
First of all, there’s no song that I’ve listened to than “Dødskamp” this year, but the problem is that I’ve split my listens between the album and single versions, so they’re effectively different tracks/songs, which probably knocked that song out of the top spot. Similarly, I listened to several VLTIMAS songs (“Praevalidas”, “Monolilith”, “Diabolus Est Saguis”) a ton, but each of those were pre-release singles, and once their debut album released in March, I tossed the whole album onto my Metal playlist and removed the singles. So again, a split. Similar situations exist with new songs by Gaahls WYRD (“Carving The Voices”), along with others whose music didn’t even crack my Top 100 because of this. I’ll have to see if I can rein that in so that my list next year is more properly reflective of my true Top 100 spins.
That aside, 64 or 65 of my official Top 100 spins were “metal”, as were 12 of my Top 20. That’s a pretty heavy year, regardless! I’m excited to see how different the list is a year from now.
And here is the link to the full list:
*Unreasonably, because I could have simply used Spotify before this year! (See beginning of post for reference.)
Thanks for reading this post by Russ Sponsler (@DischordantRuss) at Dischordant Forms. I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know in the comments if you wrote about your #SpotifyWrapped year-end list – I’d love to read about it!