2019 has been not only a great year for releases, live shows and festivals but also four our little site.
So without boring you with a massive blurb, below the team have their say on their albums of the year, their favourite gigs, shots and who you should be looking out for in 2020.
Craig Henderson: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: The Wildhearts - 'Renaissance Men'
I'm not going to deny it; I'm a massive fan, but this album - their first in ten years - saw The Wildhearts come screaming out of the darkness to reclaim their crown as Britain's best Rock band with an album that's stuffed to the point of overflowing with sing-along anthems, ear-melting riffs and life-affirming, air-punching vitality. Ariba!
Gig Of The Year: The Wildhearts - Edinburgh Liquid Room, 4th May 2019
It only happens once in a blue moon that The Wildhearts play Edinburgh. I've seen them many times, but on that particular night they were tighter than a gnat's sphincter and created an atmosphere of such euphoric bliss in the room that it left me buzzing for days afterwards.
Band To Look Out For In 2020: Exploring Birdsong
I recently reviewed their debut EP 'The Thing With Feathers' and was extremely impressed with their songwriting, maturity and ridiculous talent. They're definitely a band to look out for and I've got a tingling sensation that they're gonna be massive.
Gordon Rae: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: DREAM STATE - 'Primrose Path'
Phenomenal album form start to finish. Deeply personal and heartfelt with phenomenal riffs and powerful vocals throughout. One of the best debut albums of all time.
Gig Of The Year: FEVER 333 - Leeds Stylus, November 6th 2019
The band had an unrivaled explosive energy on stage with a presence that could not be denied, and that energy was returned by the crowd. The set wasn't entirely high energy, with songs such as 'Inglewood' and 'Am I Here?' bringing the pace down while still providing an emotional impact.
Band To Look Out For In 2020: VALUES
Leeds Metal outfit with some of the best original Metalcore in recent years. Making waves in the Leeds scene, as well as across the country following a tour supporting Ice Nine Kills in September. If they keep the momentum built in 2019, they're sure to go far.
Mike McLaughlin: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: Beabadoobee - 'Space Cadet'
Oh look, someone remembers the good bit of the '90's. I stumbled on this completely by accident when YouTube threw "I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus" at me one morning while I pottered about the house.
Gig Of The Year: Twisted Illusion - Manchester Academy 3, December 7th 2019
Augmented by backing harmony vocals the latest incarnation of Twisted Illusion burned through an incredible performance of the forthcoming 'Excite The Light Part 2' before satisfying the faithful fans with some huge crowd pleasers from their catalogue.
Band To Look Out For In 2020: Either of the above bands are well worth keeping an eye on, so if you like your Prog with intricate harmonies keep an eye on Twisted Illusion. Or if you're a big fan of what the U.S. Alternative scene gave us in the early nineties then Beabadoobee is definitely the one to watch.
Olly Dean: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: The Amazons - 'Future Dust'
It's the bands second album and it's a thumper. With tracks like 'Mother', 'Fuzzy Tree', 'Doubt It', the 4 piece rockers have become undoubtedly one of the biggest Rock bands on the planet.
Gig Of The Year: The Amazons - O2 Academy, Bournemouth, November 19th 2019
As part of their UK tour. Lead singer Matt Thomson exuded energy and passion as their show mixed old and new hits to perfection.
Band To Look Out For In 2010: Dopamine
Dopamine, are 3 rockers from Salisbury. Having released 2 singles to critical acclaim and radio play all over the world. Having debuted at Great Escape Festival and Byline, their new single will be released early next year and continuing to build their fan base from their energetic and engaging gigs across the UK.
Michael Braunton: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: The Wildhearts - 'Renaissance Men'
A cracking return for fans and newcomers alike, 'Renaissance Men' manages to fuse together the passion of 90s-era Wildhearts with the fury that can only come from being an adult in this fucked-up world. There is not a bad cut on the album, and I've already listened to it too many times to count.
Gig Of The Year: Beyond The Black - Exchange, Bristol, October 29th 2019
I wrote a whole review about this show (so feel free to go back and read that if you didn't), but this was absolutely a live highlight of my year. I went in with reasonable expectations and was absolutely blown away by the showmanship, the musicianship and the song choices. The atmosphere was amazing and every member of the crowd felt like part of the gang. I feel incredibly lucky to have seen them this time around, as I'm sure they will be playing bigger and bigger rooms on future tours.
Band To Look Out For In 2010: Ryan Hamilton And The Harlequin Ghosts
This was a tough one - there were lots of great choices to pick from - but for me, the amazing Ryan Hamilton is clearly on a trajectory straight to the top. This year's album "This Is The Sound" is full of amazing tunes, and this band are sure to be appearing on many peoples radars over the next year.
Scott Hamilton: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - 'Ghosteen'
Here Cave releases his most beautiful, delicate songs of grief and loss. What should be an album of pain and suffering actually evolves into the most beautiful love filled eulogy.
Gig Of The Year: Frank Turner And The Sleeping Souls, First Direct Arena, Leeds, January 27th 2019
What better way to celebrate my birthday than being surrounded by friends and covering a gig by one of my favourite artists? Throw in some excellent photos from Neil Vary to help capture those moments. My first FT gig (I ended up clocking 3 shows by him this year) and such an uplifting experience.
Band To Look Out For In 2020: The Idol Dead
Yeah, they've been going for just over ten years now but the band are due to release their next album sometime in the next year. To say I'm eagerly awaiting the follow up to "Tension And Release" would be an understatement.
Bill Adamson: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: AVALANCHE PARTY - '24 Carat Diamond Trephine'
Although Nick Cave's Ghosteen was a close second.
Gig Of The Year: Foo Fighters - Leeds Festival 2019
But so many other great ones too.
Band To Look Out For In 2020: My Wonderful Daze
Brent Jones: Photographer
Album Of The Year: AudioBooks - 'NOW! (In A Minute)
I first saw these at Focus Wales this year then at Bluedot and Future Yard, the album may have come out the year before but its the one I've played the most this year.
Gig Of The Year: Iggy Pop - London Jazz Festival 2019
Show of the year for me was Iggy Pop at The Barbican London Jazz Festival this November playing his new album FREE with Leron Thomas, Jazz trumpeter and then playing old album tracks perfect night, just brilliant.
Band To Look Out For in 2020: Beija Flo
The song I've played the most this year is 'One Of Those Things' by Beija Flo, so she is going to be the one to lookout for next year, she also played Future Yard a real talent entertaining funny and very honest about herself, great song writer.
My Shot Of The Year: Billie Eilish - Glastonbury Festival 2019
Just 17 under so much Scrutiny I thought this picture captured the all eyes on her, can't wait to see what she does next.
Iain McClay: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: Hands Off Gretel - 'I Want The World'
It’s been a while since a band have made such a full on statement in one body of work.
Gig Of The Year: Hands Off Gretel / As Sirens Fall - Fulford Arms, York, July 10th 2019
One band who are at the top of the game and one who are about to break in a huge way.
Band To Look Out For In 2020: As Sirens Fall
They are going to be huge, it’s just a matter of time.
Neil Vary: Photographer
Album Of The Year: The Wildhearts - 'Renaissance Men'
A fine return by the band back with the classic lineup of Ginger, CJ, Ritch and Danny.
Gig Of The Year: Frank Turner And The Sleeping Souls - First Direct Arena, Leeds, January 27th 2019
Not only was this my first time photographing at the arena. But this gig also helped complete a personal journey for me. As some of you know in early 2017 I had a mental breakdown. I had to finally admit to myself and my family that I wasn't okay. Truth is I've never really been okay. But it finally happened I reached the bottom and couldn't continue. Away to the doctors I went, them came six months of therapy, counselling or whatever you want to call it. Letting somebody else inside the dark corners of my mind was a strange experience.
But anyway enough of that back to the music. One of the things that really helped me during that time was the album "Positive Songs For Negative" by Frank Turner. It became my therapy album, it helped me see that things could get better. I listened to that album a lot.
At some point in 2018 I watched Frank's film "Get Better" in the film Frank mentioned that he personally responds to emails from fans. So I thought fuck it I'd email him, mainly to thank him for helping me. Even though he didn't know he had. I also mentioned that I did gig photography, Frank emailed back the same day. In the email he said to contact him the next time he played Leeds and he'd make sure I was in the photo pit.
In 2018 Frank released the album "Be More Kind" that was like the second part of my recovery. Not only could I make my life better but I could also helps others, kindness costs nothing. Then came the tour, Frank was good to his word and on the 27th January this year I was in the photo pit at Leeds Arena.
Probably the most emotional gig I'll ever cover. But I did it.
Life can be hard but it can Get Better 💜
Band To Look Out For In 2020: Lauren Tate/ Hands Off Gretel.
Next year is going to be a big year for Lauren with and with the band.
My Shot Of The Year: Alice Cooper - First Direct Arena, Leeds, October 7th 2019
Gordon Armstrong: Photographer
Album Of The Year: Tool - 'Fear Inoculum'
Whilst it has been 13 years since their last release this picks up nicely where it left off then takes it to a next level. Danny Carey is just incredible on the drum kit at times mirroring Adam Jones' riffs no matter how intricate. It's a lengthy album but it's one easy to put on repeat and find something new each listen.
Gig Of The Year: The Cure - Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, August 16th 2019
I was going through a stressful time as my dad had been in hospital over a month following a stroke and I was travelling to visit pretty much every day as well as working and trying to have a life. I was then invited to not only go to the one day fest headlined by The Cure but also to photograph it - I wasn't going to go due to the situation but my wife said I should and needed to, then a good friend and his wife who were going up and back same day offered me a lift saying if there was any emergency they'd drive straight back (same rule for them too having a new baby). So cutting a long story short it pissed down all day it was muddy as hell but I saw Mogwai play a blistering set then The Cure just mesmerise 65000 people for 2.5 hours --I even got a shot of Robert having a smile - which normally would have been my shot of the year but ....
My Shot Of The Year: KISS - Metro Road Arena, Newcastle, July 14th 2019
My shot of the year has to be this one of Paul Stanley - A photographers dream band to shoot they give you so much to work with in the short space of time you have to photograph. Also a stand out show as I only found out 90 mins before the gig that I had the pass.
Dave Shipley: Photographer
Album Of The Year: The Wildhearts - 'Renaissance Me' / Ryan Hamilton And The Harlequin Ghosts - 'This Is The Sound'
Yeah I realise that's two but I like both equally so really difficult to choose between them. The Wildhearts is full of power and raw angst which you would normally expect from the younger generation. It pulls no punches and highlights the issues we find ourselves living through currently. It is full of hooks and riffs and delivers from start to finish. This is the sound is a different album in that it's not as heavy but it is my go to album when I want something a bit mellower. However don't let that fool you it too is full of glorious hooks and sing a long anthems all brought together beautifully.
Gig Of The Year: Evil Scarecrow - Primordial Radio AGM 2019
Wow, just bonkers beyond belief but utterley brilliant and if the crowd is up for it an amazing experience. If you've not seen them before, just go. Not sure I've laughed or done so many stupid moves at a gig ever (well whilst sober) .
Band To Watch Out For In 2020:
Again I'm stretching this. There are loads but the ones that instantly spring to mind are Hands Off Gretel, As Sirens Fall , Ryan Hamilton And The Harlequin Ghosts , Millie Manders And The Shutup, The Lazys and Alien Weaponry. Sorry boss for stretching it and to everyone else go check them out.
My Shot Of The Year: Millie Manders And The Shutup - Primordial Radio AGM 2019
I always try if possible to create a portrait type of shot at the gigs I cover. It doesnt always work and some work better then others but this shot for me so far is the one I like the most.
Vikki Holding: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: The Wildhearts - 'Renaissance Men'
It was the album we've all been waiting for since Chutzpah!, and it surpassed all expectations.
Gig Of The Year: Ginger And The Sinner - Dancehouse, Manchester, November 7th 2019
A new format for some of my favourite songs, and one of the most fun acoustic shows I've seen.
Band To Watch In 2020: The Idol Dead
Gerald Stansbury: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: The Sweet Things - 'In Borrowed Shoes On Borrowed Time'
Band To Watch Out For In 2020: Trope
Andrew Forcer: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: Am I Dead Yet? - 'Am I Dead Yet?'
Just perfect from start to finish.
Gig Of The Year: Jim Bob - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, October 11th 2019
The night was almost religious in its glory.
Band To Watch Out For In 2020: Am I Dead Yet?
Sam Robinson: Photographer
Album Of The Year: ISSUES - 'Beautiful Oblivion'
ISSUES were always going to be under pressure with this album after parting ways with heavy vocalist Michael Bohn, but what we have as a result shows exactly why change was necessary. It gave them the creative freedom to do what they want, and we got their most diverse and powerful record to date. All killer no filler.
Gig Of The Year Enter Shikari, O2 Academy Birmingham, February 1st
Having been told before hand not only how fun they are to see live but also how fun to photograph as well this was always going to be a big show for me this year, and Enter Shikari absolutely did not disappoint, an absolutely electric show, 10/10.
Band To Watch Out For In 2020: Holding Absence
Holding Absence have been on the circuit for a couple of years now, this year finally saw them put out their debut album, which is an absolute masterpiece. Still a band that are relatively unknown to the masses, I can't wait to see what their next move is as everything they touch turns to gold!
My Shot Of The Year: DON BROCO - Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham, February 8th
With this being my first arena show I was definitely feeling the pressure going into the photo pit. But this capture of Rob Damiani giving the crowd a bit of love really helped settle my nerves!
Claire Simmons: Photographer
Album Of The Year: Opeth - 'In Cauda Venenum'
Gig Of The Year - Damnation Festival 2019
Band To Watch Out For In 2020: Malevolence
Sheffield's very own Hardcore non-Hardcore Metal chav band. They're ace.
My Shot Of The Year: Airbourne, O2 Academy, Sheffield, November 28th 2019
Spencer Rixon: Reviewer
Album Of The Year: King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard - 'Infest The Rats Nest'
The band have already explored most avenues around Psychedlic Rock, so this time they turn their attention to the world of Thrash Metal, resulting in one of the strongest albums to date from one of the most prolific bands of the decade.
Gig Of The Year - Big Thief - O2 Ritz, Manchester, June 22nd 2019
The tender, yet dynamic sound of Big Thief translates beautifully into the live setting. The undercurrents of tension and conflict that lie beneath the surface of even their sweetest songs give the group a real excitement, where soft ballads are interrupted by sharp sections of harsh noise that comes in right where it needs to, but not always where you expect it.
Band To Watch Out For In 2020: Salt The Snail
If you enjoy bands like the recently deceased Heck, or Pulled Apart by Horses, where the live energy of the band is easily the most magnetic part of their performance, then Salt The Snail are for you. The band are constantly making and breaking their own rules throughout the set. Expect the unexpected, and then be surprised anyway.
Sean Friswell: Editor/Photographer
Album Of The Year: While She Sleeps - 'So What?'
Few bands have captivated me over the years like WSS does. And with 2019's 'So What?' knocking it out of the park it was always going to be my album of the year. Not a single song I'd skip.
Gig Of The Year: Parkway Drive, O2 Apollo, Manchester, January 30th 3019
2019 was the year that the world truly started to pay attention to the Australian Metallers. Their UK run of shows saw them play hit after hit, all backed up with an excellent stage show.
Band To Watch Out For In 2020: DREAM STATE
With their debut album 'Primrose Path' being well received by fans and critics alike, 2019 put DREAM STATE on the map. 2020 will see them rank higher on festival billings and filling out larger venues. Mark my words!
My Shot Of The Year: Parkway Drive, O2 Apollo, Manchester, January 30th 3019
I don't get out to shows as often as I used to, as my position as editor takes most of my time. But I did mange to knock Parkway Drive of my Wishlist of bands to shoot and they didn't disappoint.
Thank you for reading and we hope what remains of 2019 brings you nothing but happiness and here is to what we hope will be another incredible year.