We can dish out our thoughts on what the best things in ATL music were in 2019, but let’s be honest—who really cares what we think? (Don’t worry, we did our due diligence and published a list of The Top 25 Atlanta Albums of 2019, the Top 50 Atlanta Tracks of 2019, and Honorable Mentions for Best of Atlanta 2019.) However, we also thought it was time to ask Atlanta’s own musicians and artists what they think.
We’ve begun to collect submissions from some of our favorites in the city about their top 5 things when it comes to Atlanta music in 2019. Stay tuned on this page as we will continue to publish these submissions throughout the rest of the year.
Matt Lambert (All the Saints, Night Cleaner)
1. Balkans reunion. Not technically in Atlanta, but 100% Atlanta. Seeing the Balkans at el Cid in Los Angeles was my favorite musical moment of 2019. Incredible to see the crowd explode into pogo & stage diving/crowdsurfing as soon as the boys hit the first note. Their fans knew EVERY word.
2. Kibi James at the Metropolitan. Such a great setting to experience them for the first time. Surrounded by lace, leaves, and great lighting in the living room of a metropolitan loft. ‘Twas a fantastic evening hosted by friend and artist Mason Webb
3. Nurse at 529. Seeing Aaron and the boys back from a little hiatus was wonderful. They slayed as usual and the room was full of good energy… a family reunion of sorts.
4. Solar Flower at 529. As part of the 2nd installment of my 529 residency, these guys ripped as per usual. What’s not to love about loud loud loud Univox guitars, Rick basses & fuzz. The quickest route to my soul.
5. Night Cleaner residency at 529: def not wanting to self-promote… just really a big thank you and hug to all the bands and friends (especially Kyle Svvek, Denny Bowen, Jacob Blaisdell, Ian Hassett, Jon Allinson, and Bon Allinson) that helped me run through a residency at 529 this year as I rifled through multiple versions of Night Cleaner.
Chandler Kelly (True Blossom), @trueblossomband
1. Food Court. We played this benefit show for the Housing Justice League at Food Court just a couple weeks ago and it was probably the best vibe we got at a show all year. A lot of the magic from Mammal Gallery has successfully migrated to the new location.
2. “Old Sam” by Thousandaire. I saw them live a few months ago and this song just really jumped out at me. Adam from True Blossom also plays in this band and I had to get the title from him (it’s not released yet). It’s the same type of sludge-pop that like Eric’s Trip and Dinosaur Jr. made, and that stuff can be really boring if it doesn’t have any style. This shit has style, and it absolutely rips.
3. Hi Rise. A new band with Doug Bleichner and Meredith of Neighbor Lady and some other friends. I guess it’s a type of post-punk band, but the songs are so melodic, and they don’t even bother elbowing you in the ribs with the melody like Orange Juice, or dressing it up in boutique fuzz like it’s 2008. There’s just a lot of melody, a lot of song.
4. I Will Only Come When It’s a Yes by Rose Hotel. Another band that Adam plays in. I’m sure most people reading this have heard the album, and so I don’t need to sell it here, but count me as one of its admirers. What a beautiful record.
5. Irrelevant Fest. This year I really enjoyed sets by Pike Co, Breathers, Blammo, Neighbor Lady, Karaoke, and Fantasy Guys, just to count a few. It’s fantastic every year.
Editor’s note: Due to inner conflict and general overwhelm of there being just too much good shit in Atlanta this year, the members of ATL up-and-coming punk outfit Riboflavin asked if they could submit their Top Five as a unit, with one entry per member. We are suckers for this band and said OK FINE.
Logan: Daniel Betts (aka your_special_daniel) played a show at the Bakery back in August and it fuckin’ blew me away. A rare treat he gave us that night. I rewatch the video I took on my IG quite often because that’s the only evidence I have. Literally swept me away. Daniel, if you’re reading this, please play again. ♥️
Sarah: I mean, I guess you could call Lemon Crush a hardcore band. They have a hard edge and torrential rhythms, but it seems like they just do whatever they want, which gives them this groovy substrate any uninitiated dork (hand-raise emoji) can latch onto. Ryan’s (Nag, Tie-Dye) acrobatic stage presence comes as no surprise to anyone who’s seen his freaky drumming style. His vocals swing erratically between whining and yelling and sing-song cadences, which I personally find very sick. Michael’s (Playytime) quick rude bass songs pick up Kathleen’s (Nag, Crunchy) versatile rhythms (it’s particularly fun to watch her swing her way through like John Henry on Murmur’s tottering stack of pallets looking like her heart was gonna explode with concentration) and David (Nurse, Dasher) plays guitar like a fly-fisher with a dissonant whir and the abrupt plop of a hook. This was only their third show and they’re just getting started so look out for their December 2019 recordings coming out in the early new year.
Tyler: Solar Flower. From the moment they sound checked on their first show last year to (I hope) forever, they made the rest of the room. The rest of the night, every member of every other band seemed like it either didn’t matter or was a nice salad to munch on while waiting for the beautiful entree. The combination of all the influences that created that noise enveloped me and hypnotized me. They render it impossible to not dance or chant along.
Maryam: My top pick is Blammo. Whenever I see them live, I feel like I am at all the cool shows of the ’80s and ’70s that I missed out on. Also, special shoutout to Nag, I learn so much from them.
Riboflavin plays Disco Hypnosis on New Year’s Eve at Food Court with Material Girls, Mute Sphere, Cindy Cane, & DJ Krystal V. 680 Murphy Ave., Atlanta, Ga. $15. 8 p.m.
Jordan Reynolds (Rose Hotel), @rosehotel_
1. Kibi James’ new EP Azúcar.
2. Shepherds’ LP Insignificant Whip.
3. The re-emergence of Mammal Gallery as a venue via Food Court and the promise of all the exciting things in the horizon with them!
4. Seeing Mute Sphere perform at Mother—amazing to see such an interesting and talented band perform in a super intimate venue like that.
5. All of the photos that Casey Doran takes, in general, but specifically his portraits of local Atlanta artists and musicians.
Ryan Parks (Fit of Body, Harsh Riddims Blood Sucking Cassette Co.), @harsh_riddims_bscc
1.) Divine Interface‘s new album, Seeking Arrangement. I’ve been enjoying it for a while now, but it won’t be out until next year.
2.) Same for the new Taves’ EP that we’re putting out on Harsh Riddims.
3.) Moth Sweat‘s set in August, at the Drunken Unicorn
4.) Sarah Swillum
5.) Coco and Clair Clair‘s Halloween house show. I tapped out after that
Lee Gunselman (Breathers), @breathers.biz
1. The Queendom‘s NYE performance. Breathers played the 529 New Year’s Eve party which was not only fun transition into 2019, but we were introduced to the Queendom by having the opportunity to share the bill with them. Their performance is exciting and engaging with hype trap production with lush synth parts.
2. True Blossom, “Me & U” music video. Rising from the ashes of Shampoo, True Blossom has become one of my favorite pop/rock acts in Atlanta. Directed by Robert Lambert with aesthetic design assistance from Joanna Patterson and Elizabeth Salmi, the “Me & U” video is an enchanting “band-playing-in-a-room” style video with vanity shots that make you want to dance.
3. Fit of Body/King Nappa house show. Fit of Body performed at a Coco and ClairClair house show in Adair Park a couple months ago. Fit of Body (Ryan Parks) has always been a captivating performer/producer in ATL for several years. It was cool to see King Nappa backing him on production, then segueing into a full-on classic Detroit-style house DJ set.
4. Curt Castle, If I’m Here at All LP. Ryan Engelberger’s solo project might be the best over-looked sophisticated ATL indie rock record of the year. Engelberger’s song writing has the emotional draw of Springsteen and the pop sensibilities of Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon.
5. Red Sea, Sugar & Spice LP release show. Sugar & Spice is a boppy shift from the band’s earlier work, but still maintains ear-jerking syncopation. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with their new live set up where all their live instruments are connected to midi pick-ups which allows them to explore more rich sounds while maintaining their tight and organic sound.
Chris Daresta (Anticipation, Pyramid Club, DKA Records), @anticipationdka
1. TWINS, New Cold Dream LP. A beautiful LP of synthpop performed by one of my best friends. Matt Weiner is a constant source of inspiration for me. This new LP is such a leap forward with incredible production, songwriting, art, photography, etc.
2. CRT’s rise and destruction of Atlanta dance floors. I am so impressed with my friend Michael [Keenan] and his new project CRT. His live and recorded output as CRT has really been a step forward in 2019. I’m excited to see what he does in 2020 and to work with him on so many upcoming projects.
3. Alternative venues like the Bakery, Food Court, etc. Atlanta is desperately in need of places for alternative/independent/DIY art to flourish. Although venues like the EARL are great, it would be nice to see more people branch out and go to new venues. It doesn’t have to be a bar in East Atlanta for a show to be fun. (Editor’s note: Amen.) I’m just happy to see people still going out to shows but kudos to the more adventurous music fans!
4. The Mainline zine and Aja for creating it. It is nice to see an alternative to the boring music zines that have been around for years. I’m excited to see what happens! (Editor’s note: Aw, shucks. Us too!)
5. Geographic North record label. Always excellent. Always beautiful. Great releases with stunning artwork!
William Lackey (Sweet William), @sw33t_william
Everything here speaks for itself:
1. NO EYES. Super detailed, sick footwork, etc. Teklife & never normal.
2. Deantoni Parks. The master drummer of technoself. Respect.
3. Faye Webster. Best thing here since weyes blood.
4. Anonima. Just loved every time I’ve caught a set.
DJ Chelx, @chelxatl
1. New multi-genre dance party Prism hosted at Mother Bar + Kitchen. PRISM feels like a night out where you let loose like it’s your birthday even though it may not be, or the type of house party you remember fondly the next day. A place that can be whatever you want it to be. Featuring all types of music, fun and upbeat, from hip-hop, house, experimental, RnB remixes, Baile funk, and more. PRISM feels intimate and fun. People seemed free. Usually in nightlife spaces you feel like you might need alcohol to enjoy yourself, but at PRISM it was a place where I felt okay to dance freely.
2. EarthGang, Mirrorland (released Sept. 6, 2019, via Interscope/Dreamville/Spillage Village)
3. Cyberia: dance event hosted by the Lava House at Sound Table this year.
5. Hip-hop artist DavidTheTragic and album Bender released this year.
Jon Allinson (More, ex-Abby Gogo), @more_theband
“It’s been an exciting year to move back to Atlanta. A lot has changed but a lot has stayed the same. Here is my list of favorite shows and happenings in 2019—in no particular order:
1. All the Saints record release at the EARL. On the topic of some never changing, All the Saints have been a constant in my Atlanta experience. It’s been a pleasure watching them do the deal for the 13 years we have known each other—wow!
2. This brings me to reconnecting with Matt Lambert (All the Saints, Night Cleaner) and helping him push his vision with a couple Night Cleaner shows that I got to participate in. It’s always fun playing someone else’s music you’re a fan of.
3. Irrelevant Music Festival. It is reassuring to know that the Atlanta music scene still has some heart. It was an honor to be a part of the opening night. I hope this event continues on in 2020.
4. A Drug Called Tradition’s 7-inch release with Nest Egg at 529. You know I have to shout out to the brother band. There was a particular energy that night… I was amongst old friends and new. I love watching bands and being able to tell they just genuinely love what they are doing. This translated into the crowd that night and everyone was really a part of the experience. Good stuff.
5. The debut of our new band More at the Earl. This was a five band bill, and we played last to a small but enthusiastic crowd that was there to see what we have been working on. All the bands brought something to the table, with a special shout out to Strobobeam and the Wilful Boys, and it really ended up being a special night for us. It is an incredible feeling to be playing music again in a city I love and working with people I love even more. I am beyond grateful I still get to do this and look forward to what 2020 has to offer. (Editor’s note: More’s debut release to arrive in spring 2020.)
Honorable mention: Omni record release show at the Earl. It is always great to watch your friends have success in music. I’ve known Philip since the Carnivores days and it is really inspiring to see hard work pay off.”
Adrian Benedykt Switon (Shepherds), @shepherdsatl
“Here it is: Adrian’s top 5 Atlanta musical obsessions of 2019, in no particular order:
1. Every show performed by Riboflavin. (Editor’s note: We are all standing anxiously and idly by as we await Riboflavin’s first release, which sources say they are now recording. In the meantime, check out this ripping track, “Porkchops,” featured on the compilation released by Absent Control in November. This volume features some other top tier Atlanta punk outfits, too.)
2. I Will Only Come When It’s a Yes LP by Rose Hotel
3. The finely crafted and ever evolving artistry of Nadia Marie
4. Kyle Swick‘s lyrical prowess with Sunset Pig
5. The introspective death twang of gloom country outfit Lowtown.”