As the year (and the decade) comes to a close, it’s time we take a look back at some of our favorite albums of 2019. Overall, it was a rather great year for most fusion genres. And while some were a little lackluster (we’re looking at you Celtic Punk) the albums we did get were exceptionally amazing. Along with the winners in our primary categories, we have a top 15 “Best of” list featuring more amazing albums and EP’s. Take a look, have a listen, and let us know what some of your favorite releases of the year were.
Album of the Year: The Spell – Cellar Darling‘The Spell’ from progressive folk rock act Cellar Darling tops our list this year as the best album of 2019. ‘The Spell’ is a concept album that is based around the old ‘Dance of Death’ story that’s been told since the Middle Ages through various forms of media. Everything that went into creating this record, from the writing, the vocals, the musicianship, the artwork, and the story, was executed with absolute perfection. Which is why ‘The Spell” is also the first album that Folk N Rock has awarded a perfect 10 out of 10 in nearly five years. Be sure to read our full review, as this album has an abundance of standout moments.
Best Folk Rock Album: The Gereg – The HuMongolian folk rock act The Hu has been a bit of a viral sensation that broke out into the mainstream, which is something that’s extremely difficult to achieve as a rock / metal band. Especially in the United States. Their success is well-deserved as their songs are unique, catchy, and they have produced one of the most incredible albums of the year with ‘The Gereg.’ As a rising tide lifts all ships, The Hu have also been able to cast a light on the incredible Mongolian Folk Metal scene as well. It’s a very exciting time for this style of music, and we look forward to hearing more from what The Hu has to offer.
Best Folk Album: Märchen & Mythen – Faun
Pagan Folk act Faun poured a lot of time, effort, and love into Märchen & Mythen. With those three ingredients, the band produced a phenomenal concept album which is based around various German stories and fairytales. Faun has a well-documented history of releasing some great Medieval / pagan / Fantasy / Celtic albums, and while this one might be a bit on the softer side,(though lyrically, it actually can get a bit dark) it’s still everything you’d expect and want in a Faun record. The bands new vocalist Laura Fella also brings so much to the album by setting a great tone with her euphoric style. Märchen & Mythen features great storytelling, amazing vocals, and as always, excellent musicianship.
Best Folk Punk Album: The Walker Roaders – The Walker Roaders
James Fearnley of The Pogues, along with ex-Flogging Molly’s Ted Hutt and ex- Dropkick Murphys Marc Orrell, came together this year and created one of the most exciting projects we’ve seen in a long time. The Walker Roaders can be seen as somewhat as a hybrid of these three bands. However, as with The Pogues, The Walker Roaders sound is a bit more than just your garden-variety Folk / Celtic punk, as it can overlap into various styles. The release of their self-titled debut album, is filled with incredible songwriting, storytelling, and some great sing-along tracks. This record is a must-have for any fans of those three bands, especially those looking for something to satisfy their hunger for new Pogues like material.
Best Celtic Album: Heyday – Fiddler’s Green
German-based Celtic Rock / Punk veterans Fiddler’s Green have consistently been putting out amazing albums for nearly 30 years. It’s actually quite surreal to think about how nearly every two years, this band has managed to put out a solid record. ‘Heyday’ is going to be yet another notch on their belt. The album has a lot of content with 15 tracks (22 for the Deluxe Edition) and is yet again filled to the brim with energetic, loud and fast tunes. Even though overall Celtic punk seems to have had a bit of a lackluster year, Fiddler’s Green are one of those bands that will never disappoint.
Best Rock Album: Club Majesty – Royal RepublicSwedish based rockers Royal Republics fifth studio album ‘Club Majesty,’ has got to be the most fun record that’s been released this year. The band has been notorious for experimenting with various sounds and styles, and on ‘Club Majesty,’ they certainly have taken it to another level. Back into the past that is. It’s filled with a ton of 80s nostalgia, and noticeable influences. A few that spring to mind include Dead or Alive, Timbuk 3, and the Magnum P.I. Theme. We’re not exactly sure how much that was intentional, but nevertheless it certainly put a new style on an old sound with a unique rock twist.
Best Punk Album: Daydream Explosion – The DollyrotsThe Dollyrots are another band that have always been able to give you a bit of a nostalgic feel. They do a fantastic good job by combining their own unique and authentic style mixed with that familiar 90s pop punk sound. Daydream Explosion is filled with so much great content, that this one has been a straight play through for us. It seems punk rock in general had an overall fairly solid year, but this is the one record we kept coming back to, and that we kept listening to, and the one that we’ve been talking about since summer.
Best Alternative Album: Skye Wallace – Skye WallaceFolk Punk artists Skye Wallace has always been dipping her toe a little bit into the alternative side with her fusion sound, and on her self-titled release, she seems to have jumped right in. However, those folk elements are still present in her storytelling. With her music being rooted so deeply in folk, Skye is a great storyteller, and a phenomenal songwriter. Her latest release is so incredibly well-rounded and features many great rock anthems as well. Single after single, this was one of our most anticipated releases of the year, and our expectations were certainly met as this is one of the best albums of 2019.
Best Debut Album: Magnetic Moves – Katie ToupinWith phenomenal songwriting, insanely good musicianship, and a fantastic and unique voice, Katie Toupin seemed determined to prove that she was a jack of all trades. As it turns out, she happens to be a master of all trades as well. ‘Magnetic Moves,’ is a textbook example (so to speak) of this. The album is a showcase of her strengths as a songwriter and vocalist, while veering off into a new, but somewhat familiar direction for her. We’ can’t reiterated enough on how good this record was, especially since there were a lot of fantastic debuts this year to be up against. Katie didn’t just slap down her competition, its more like she nuked them from orbit.
Best Concept Album: Ancient Winter – LeahNormally, you might expect to find Leah on Folk N Metals “Best Of” list. For this release, she took her sound into a somewhat different direction, by being a bit more on the world music side of things. Ancient Winter is a concept album that was originally proposed as a Christmas record, but then evolved into a more general holiday / Winter theme. While we certainly look forward to the next Celtic Folk Metal album from her, it would actually be great for her to take on more fun projects like this from time to time. Perhaps an album for the other seasons.
Best EP: From The Very Beginning – Ariadne’s ThreadAdrianna Zborowska is another artist that you normally would expect to see on one of Folk N Metals list, but her medieval folk project Ariadne’s Thread, takes her on a more traditional path. The five song EP “From The Very Beginning” is one of the most impressive debuts from a folk band that we’ve ever heard. It features amazing melodies, huge hooks, and beautiful vocals. It’s going to be very exciting to see where the band goes from here, and we are eagerly anticipating an LP.