Best of

Pure Rawk’s Top 10 Albums of 2019


Well, here we are again folks – welcome to Pure Rawk’s round-up of what we thought was the best of 2019. Upon deciding that we would go for a Top 10 this year, we found ourselves in a quandary after the staff vote with two albums tied in tenth place. So I guess you could say that this was more of a Top 11 really (This list goes one louder… Ed), but hey, consider it a little bonus from us to you. Anyway, let’s get on with this shall we – enjoy!

Words by Nick Spragg, Steve Brixey, Ben Pollard-Mathias and Andy Close

10. FRANK TURNER – “No Man’s Land”

Frank Turner’s punk-folk stylings wouldn’t normally be my ‘thing’, but I always enjoy a catchy tune and clever lyricism, so his positive messages and relentless, workaholic attitude have resonated ever since. I found it odd, therefore, when Frank got pilloried in certain sections of the media for ‘daring’ to write an album about 13 women from history, essentially just because he’s not a woman himself. Anyway, as proven by his recent acoustic tour, the songs on No Man’s Land stand up effortlessly against much of Frank’s previous work; in fact it’s arguable that the defiant The Lioness should remain in his setlist for many years to come. Far more than a stop-gap or a gimmick, No Man’s Land is a special and emotive set of songs sprinkled with some real respect for the subject matter. (NS)

10. SERVERS – “Ad Nauseam”

It’s funny how you can stumble upon pure brilliance. A former editor of mine raved about Yorkshire mob Servers’ 2014 debut Leave With Us and something made me take notice; and since then I haven’t looked back. With influences from far and wide, the band can be chugging through a Sisters Of Mercy melody one minute before diving into a terrifying industrial rampage the next, and with Ad Nauseam they truly came of age. Standout tracks Watch You Bleed and The Cellar are chock-full of darkness yet insanely catchy riffs and Lee Storrar’s vocal work continues to entrance like a cult leader pouring the Kool-Aid. The vast, sweeping orchestration is still present and correct throughout Ad Nauseam, and themes of love and lust also prevail, ensuring that with this third record the band have created their most rounded and addictive clutch of songs yet. (NS)

9. HAWK EYES – “Advice”

You’d be forgiven for missing the brief return of Hawk Eyes this year, but it’s well worth you looking for Advice, especially if you’re a fan of John, Idles or Alice In Chains. The album is a little more groove driven than their previous releases, but it still has plenty of crunching guitars. Follow Me is a stand out track driven by bassist Ryan’s bass lines, allowing the distorted guitars and singer Andy’s vocals to hang off it. Never Left Me evokes Skyspinners from the band’s first album, and is the track that is closest to that era, whereas there are hints of Alice In Chains’ Rain When I Die on the track Advice. The band also explore new territories on the album, with Smokes beings narrated by Richard O’Brien, while the band lay down their heavy chords and Andy’s chorus. Advice is consistently strong throughout, filled with distorted guitars, heavy bass lines and experimentation. Let’s hope the band don’t leave it so long before their next release. (BPM)

8. DINOSAUR PILE-UP – “Celebrity Mansions”

Hey, remember the mid-nineties? If the ten brilliantly executed slices or pop-rock on offer on Celebrity Mansions is anything to go by, Dinosaur Pile-Up sure do. Wearing their influences proudly, Celebrity Mansions is packed with the kind of gems Weezer and Foo Fighters used to make… y’know, back when they used to make really great records. From gloriously riffy opener Thrash Metal Cassette to the grungy Black Limousine and storming album highlight Back Foot, Celebrity Mansions is loaded with sunshine infused slacker anthems guaranteed to put a smile on your face. After ten years and three albums with occasional moments of brilliance, Celebrity Mansions feels like the record where everything has come together for and Matt Bigland and Co. DPU just levelled up. Here’s hoping Celebrity Mansions brings them the success they deserve. (SB)

7. DANKO JONES – “A Rock Supreme”

Yup, you guessed it, another Danko Jones album with the main themes being “rock” and “roll”. You’d almost roll your eyes at the obviousness of it all, until the DJ3 do what they do best and whack you upside the head with a dose of pure tight-as-you-like power on the likes of I’m In A Band. Hand on heart, Danko has done slightly better albums than this down the years, but even when he’s putting out an album which has a few filler tracks on it, the guy can still intersperse them with stuff that puts a lot of the competition to shame and there were more than enough such moments on A Rock Supreme to make it a worthy purchase. (AC)

6. MICHAEL MONROE – “One Man Gang”

After what seemed like an interminable delay, 2019 saw Mike Monroe finally unleash his long-awaited fourth solo album and happy to say that it was well worth the wait. While the likes of Last Train To Tokyo and Black Ties And Red Tape are pure nitro blasts of energy and The Perils Of Being An Outsider see Monroe railing against faceless corporate rock with admirable determination, Wasted Years and In The Tall Grass are a more measured side to the band’s songwriting, and provided some much needed light to the shade. He may have been in the game for close to four decades now but Monroe is showing no signs of slowing down, and thank the lord for that. (AC)

5. SAINT AGNES – “Welcome To Silvertown”

Saint Agnes’ debut album has been a long time in the making and to say it delivered is understating matters somewhat. Mixing doomy Nick Cave style goth rock (I Feel Dangerous Around You, Witching Hour) with scuzzed up Stooges assaults like the title track and Death Or Glory Gang, this was a scarily accomplished debut album and it’s truly mind-boggling to think just how good this lot can get with this as their starting block. If you’ve not heard of this band (and their profile seems to be deservedly mushrooming at the moment) then you really owe it to yourself to go and check them out as soon as possible. (AC)

4. THE DOWN ‘N’ OUTZ – “This Is How We Roll”

Until now, the Down ‘n’ Outz had always just seemed like a bit of an enjoyable knockabout band for Joe Elliott to indulge his Mott the Hoople and Ian Hunter fascination. On putting out an album of original material though, we suddenly had to sit up and take note. The songs on here definitely hark shamelessly back to the era of 70s excess, but when you’ve got as keen an ear for this sort of thing as Elliott has, you’ve got an album which well and truly knocks it out of the park, veering between big rousing singalongs like the title track and Another Man’s War and shamelessly grandiose widescreen epics like their quite lovely ode to Bowie Goodnight Mr Jones. How good you ask? Put it this way, if this were a Leps album I’d happily be proclaiming it their best since “Pyromania”. (AC)

3. THE DARKNESS – “Easter Is Cancelled”

Showing a more complex side to Lowestoft’s finest, Easter Is Cancelled proves that they’re still very much a relevant band in 2019. While the likes of Live Till I Die and In Another Life had plenty of hooks to keep the long time fans happy, How Can I Lose Your Love? and Rock ‘n’ Roll Deserves To Die saw them pushing the boat out a bit by adding some new tricks into the book (seriously, how many other bands can you think of who would do a song with a fast verse leading into a slow chorus and still somehow get away with it through sheer chutzpah?) without losing the anthemic qualities that have always been this lot’s strong point. (AC)

2. RYAN HAMILTON & THE HARLEQUIN GHOSTS – “This Is The Sound”

It’s been quite the journey for Ryan Hamilton and his band, but their new album proves, it was worth taking. The band’s country-twinged pop sensibilities are present throughout, especially on songs such as Feels Like Falling In Love, Let You Go and Same Page, whereas Mamacita and Get Down are lighter moments, both being catchy fun rock n roll party songs. All Fall Down and Girl Vs Monster slow things down a little, without going into soppy ballad territory, and Bottoms Up is a fun song about saying goodbye to bad influences, with a deceptively upbeat chorus that is ridiculously easy to pick up. The album’s main lyrical theme is taking on board everything that has happened to the band, and harnessing that energy into moving onwards and upwards, and as a result the entire album a positive vibe, making it all too easy to stick it on repeat. This Is The Sound (TITS for short) is a heartwarming and positive record, full of huge anthemic choruses, and should be in everyone’s record collection. (BPM)

1. THE WILDHEARTS – “Renaissance Men”

Comeback of the year? Nah, comeback of the decade. Even a couple of years ago the idea of a new Wildhearts album, let alone one featuring estranged bassist Danny McCormack, seemed pretty far fetched. But somehow, 2019 has defied all expectations and gifted us a new Wildhearts record that is every bit the equal of the very best albums from their incredible back catalogue. Let’s face it, there’s enough good will towards The Wildhearts that any record bearing their name would have been guaranteed a warm reception, which makes the fact the band care enough to produce an album as visceral and exciting as Renaissance Men all the more remarkable. This time round, Ginger and Co. have distilled the core elements of rock and roll into ten ferocious tracks that offer a timely reminder of everything that made you fall in love with the band in the first place, without ever trying to rehash past glories. Tracks like Let ‘Em Go, Diagnosis and Dislocated have already been embraced as bona fide classics in the Wildhearts catalogue, and rightly so. (SB)