Awards season is officially over, but KZUU has a few takes from music in 2019 that we aren’t quite ready to get rid of. Our Music Directors here at KZUU were asked to vote for their favorite Non-Commercial: Artist of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the year for 2019. Here’s what we decided:
Artist of the Year:
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Shane: Talk about an awesome band! They came out with not 1, but 2 solid albums in 2019. And in terms of discography they were completely different from anything they ever released, yet stylistically consistent. They also have great music videos and a very present personality live. If you haven’t seen their KEXP performance, change that! It’s great.
Ryan T: Shane did a pretty good job summing up my thoughts, but I will add that it was cool that both of the themes of the records were environmentally focused. On the first album released from the past year “Fishing For Fishes”, focused on trying to protect our current planet’s ecosystems from the effects of climate change. This record took on more of a psych-pop rock feel whereas their second record of the year, “Infest The Rats’ Nest”, was more of a heavy metal/rock record of sorts. The theme of this record seemed like an angry response to their first record, trying to warn us of the turmoil that we may experience from climate change. I also recommend checking out their live performances on YouTube. They’re incredibly well thought out, and they will captivate you for hours on end.
Derek: I didn’t get into their releases from last year as much as I did with the five from 2017, but the two albums they put out were both great. I loved how they mixed classic thrash metal with their own unique style on Infest the Rats’ Nest. They’ve gone a little bit metal in the past, but it was mostly of the doom metal variety when they did. I didn’t get a chance to see them live last year, but I’m sure the songs from Infest the Rats’ Nest were super fun. I wonder what their next release will sound like, because with King Gizz you really have no idea.
Jacob: KG never fails to impress, and the blend of psych-rock and prog only gets more fun to listen to with time. I’m more of a “Polygondwanaland” fan, but regardless of album, KG & TLW are a solid jam-band for the 21st century. Also, it’s worth noting that at least one song from “Infest The Rats’ Nest” is played whenever my metalhead pals and I get together and drink, so make of that what you will.
Flint: King Gizzard was actually one of the first “new” bands I discovered through my pal Derek here at the radio station last year. They’re an interesting bunch, there’s no denying that. In fact, if nothing else, their ability to transcend genres and really deliver something fresh and exciting with each album is worthy of recognition here at the station.
Jett: Does King Gizzard deserve the artist of the year? In every bit, yes. This artist is creative and unique, offering a fun twist in the indie genre. I am always excited to see what’s next for them as far as albums go, and with 2 releases this past year, I was impressed. The indie genre tends to encapsulate many sounds and patterns for better or for worse but, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard offers a refreshingly consistent addition.
Ryan W.: Everyone else has kind of summed up all my thoughts, but to recap: 2 albums in a year, both bangers, and a refreshing uniqueness. Artist of the year is definitely well-deserved!
Song of the Year:
The Japanese House: Something Has to Change
Shane: When we talk about defining moments in time for music, ‘The Japanese House’ delivers one of those turning points in indie music through ‘Something Has to Change’. Although having a vocoder might seem polarizing to purists in music, Amber Bain has shown that vocoders can be used in the context of a texture rather than just a voice. I look forward to musicians building off what she brings to the table.
Ryan T: Amber Bain released quite the catchy track that almost seems like it was left off of “Good At Falling”, her 2019 record, at the last moment. It seems to have a lot of overlapping meaning with the record. They both deal with relationship troubles and Bain seems like she’s trying to “change”, as the title indicates, for the better. The sound is reminiscent of the record as well, although I would say the track is slightly pop-ier (that’s not a word) than the record was. You can see hints of this pop-iness (again, not a word) in tracks like “Maybe You’re the Reason” and “You Seemed so Happy”. Check this track out, check the record out, and keep an eye out for anything new to come from her.
Derek: I had never listened to this song before the voting. When I checked it out I thought it was pretty good, although nothing too special for my tastes. The little electronic elements were pretty interesting however. It’s definitely a great pop song.
Flint: The Japanese House blew my socks off with “Saw You In A Dream” when I first heard it. There’s something magical about the way Bain’s songwriting includes vocoder that is oddly reminiscent of Imogen Heap, and maybe that’s the reason why I like her so much. “Something Has to Change” is definitely much more upbeat than “Saw You In A Dream”, which may mark a nice transition for the artist in the coming years.
Jacob: This feels almost like a weird hybridization of Black Moth Super Rainbow and Clairo, which is definitely somebody’s favorite kind of sound, but not mine. That said, the production was nice, breathy and a little ethereal, which is a cool sound that a lot of artists try to perfect. Amber Bain feels like she’s got a handle on that specific branch of the music scene, and I’m interested to see what she comes out with next.
Jett: I’m glad others at the radio enjoy this song so much. I wasn’t too big of a fan personally speaking, but if multiple people appreciate this track, I can live through them vicariously.
Ryan W.: I actually hadn’t listened to the song before the Kablammy’s, but I really enjoyed it! It got me groovin’ so I can’t complain.
Album of the Year:
Shane: I personally wasn’t struck by this album, but a lot of people at the station love their stuff, and that obviously means DIIV worthy of recognition.
Derek: This was my personal favorite album of the year, I even wrote a review of it for our website. It has everything I would want from a modern shoegaze band, with amazing guitar tones and dreamy vibe. It’s also a really nice progression from their first two albums, which were great themselves. Apparently the lead singer was just recently clean from drug abuse during the recording of this album, and you can easily tell how that inspired the darker lyrics and sound. My favorite songs are Taker, For the Guilty, and Horsehead.
Flint: If you were to ask me to listen to shoegaze a year ago, I’d tell you to kick rocks. However, DIIV manages to capture the essence of the genre while still holding my attention. It’s a solid album, and after listening to it a few times I’ve really come to appreciate it more.
Jett: It was clear to see (imo) that DIIV’s Deceiver would be the recipient of album of the year, from battling drug addiction to the overcoming of that, front-man Zachary Cole Smith has made a powerful statement with this album. The sounds across the album have depth and structure, and DIIV is an important contributor of shoegaze-like sounds within the indie genre. “Taker” to me was the most noteworthy of the album, I still re-visit it frequently.
Ryan W.: After giving this a listen, I can easily see why this is album of the year, I can understand what people like about it. I don’t think it’s an album I would listen to over and over again, but I respect it’s message as an entity.
- Showboat Honey by Kyle Craft for Album of the Year (Top Left)
- SWMRS for Artist of the Year (Bottom Left)
- Good Faith by Madeon for Album of the Year (Top Right)
- Gretel by (Sandy) Alex G for Song of the Year (Bottom Right)
Shane: SWMRS came out with a solid album last year. And the Madeon album is absolutely beautiful. I wish all indie artists thought about their albums the way Madeon does.
Derek: (Sandy) Alex G’s album House of Sugar was a stand-out release from last year, and Gretal was my favorite song off of it. This album shows Alex G’s progression from his earlier releases. Gretal seemed like sort of a mix of his styles, with the variety of instrumentation, including electronic elements, and his soft, Elliott Smith-like voice. I was never a super big Madeon fan, but I was still a little disappointed with Good Faith. I liked the style he used on Adventure much more, although there are still some songs on Good Faith that I liked. I just thought that a lot of it leaned a little more into pop than I would’ve preferred.
Jett: I really appreciated the SWMRS album that came out last year. I had only heard of them through one of our directors (Ryan White) that brought them up in a meeting and I was stoked that he did. They offer an energetic, rebellious energy that I can (in my mind) heavily relate to. “Gretel” to me was the greatest song of 2019, the symmetry, development, and simple soft melodies that Alex G brought to the table were noteworthy. I’m just excited that it is at least an honorable mention.
Ryan W.: SWMRS! Such an awesome band, and “Berkeley’s on Fire,” was a politically charged tour de force of an album. Not to mention that Max Becker (guitarist/vocalist) and members of their crew were in the ICU for a bit at the end of 2019, and had to cancel a lot of their tour dates. They did a lot of impressive stuff last year, despite setbacks. “Showboat Honey” by Kyle Craft is also an awesome album. I first heard it off our preview racks, (I think Shane recommended it) and it’s now one of my absolute favorites!
Check out the some of the tracks mentioned below: