"I'll reminisce about the days of old, with that old time rock & roll." In an age where Bob Seger's song is over 40, and an LP format which seems less and less important, 2019 overachieved. Artists are doubling down on concept records, instead of rushing singles to streaming services. This top 5 list reflects the trend.

The album is far from over.

5. Coldplay - Everyday Life

20 years ago, they burst onto the scene as the next big thing (sorry, Travis) after Oasis commercially flamed out somewhere in 1997. By 2005, they basically were the new U2. After a mid-career pop crossover, Coldplay suddenly decided to detour into borderline prog-rock/concept record territory? Pardon me while I sharpen the knives to slice this up (puts on record)...wait, what? Coldplay emerged as only band on the planet who would successfully channel both The Chainsmokers and Pink Floyd in the same decade. They made their greatest record, and best since 2008's Viva la Vida. A few years ago, it sounded like they were hanging on. Now, for the first time in their career, it feels like they are leading the way.

Key Track: Trouble in Town

 

4. Eli "Paperboy" Reed – 99 Cent Dreams

Everything about Reed's 6th record is smooth. 99 Cent was cut at Sam Phillips Recording Studios in Memphis, TN with Matt Ross-Spang, who has worked with Jason Isbell and Margo Price. Channeling Same Cooke and Al Green, Reed continues the second phase of his career with another solid effort.

Key track : Said She Would

 

3. Gary Clark Jr. - This Land

Long (unfairly) saddled with the "future of blues" tag, Clark broke out of the box with a record which at times is equal parts Prince (Pearl Cadillac) and Buddy Guy (What About Us). Year-end lists sometimes suffer from shiny new toy syndrome, and one can forget records released earlier in the year. Despite dropping in February, there was no way this was being left out. Clark's best, and most direct message to date.

Key Track : This Land

 

2. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars

Like many aging acts, Bruce Springsteen found new life through Netflix. Instead of the documentary (Eagles, Chicago) or theatrical (Motley Crue) route, Bruce released the widely successful Springsteen on Broadway, in which he even called out his iconic persona "I made it all up." Bruce has always been a master storyteller, and it's front and center on his 19th studio album. Short of a country record, it's more 70's California singer/songwriter. The title cut tells a bit part actor's tale of woe, who's claim to fame was being shot by John Wayne in an old Western, and you believe it could be a first person account, despite knowing better. Springsteen is Roy Orbison-like on There Goes My Miracle, and it was an album I nearly wore out last summer.

Key Track: Hello Sunshine

 

1. Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury

While every band on the planet was self consciously trying to 'save rock,' a journeyman country singer-songwriter flipped the script, gave zero f****,  and made the best rock record of the decade. Name-checking Johnny Cash, and wearing his middle finger T-shirt can play well in a focus group driven commercial world, but the actual songs can end up with the soul of a freshly paved parking lot. They're all missing real spirit of the Man in Black. The middle finger on display is 'to' the establishment, not to pander to it. Simpson made a record full of loud guitars, synthesizers, soundbites,and songs about staying home instead of going out to blend in. How 2019, right? Sound & Fury was one of the most unexpected moves in popular music this year, and certainly the most rewarding.

Key Track : Fastest Horse in Town