Kathleen Mahoney is a Boston-based musician who makes spooky synth pop under the moniker Kathy Snax.
Snax pix: A non-exhaustive list of music from 2019 I loved in no order:
(Alternative title—2019: the year I got really into power pop)
Mick Trouble – Here’s the Mick Trouble LP
Ok, this is the one exception to the “no order” proclamation–this was my favorite album of the year. Mick Trouble, the fictional persona of New York-based musician Jed Smith, is a pitch-perfect facsimile of UK mod rock, complete with a fake British accent and song titles like “Bloody Blighty” and “A Council Boy.” Music pastiche is tricky—there are countless bands out there unimaginatively parroting country and psych from decades earlier. In this case, however, it feels thrilling; I’m not sure if that’s because there aren’t many musicians trying to sound like Television Personalities, or because it’s so well-executed, or just because it’s astoundingly fun to listen to. (It also takes many turns for the weird and absurd—see if you can find the Heathers reference tucked into one of the songs.) If you hung out with me at all in 2019, I probably played this for you or at least proselytized about it. Viva Mick Trouble!
Splitting Image – Thank You
The first and (sadly!) only EP from this veritable Boston supergroup (Lira and Caufield of Mini Dresses, Dee-Parts; Jim of Kremlin Bats; Travis of Pleaser, halfsour, Love Strangers). Dark, angular, weird post-punk. Lira’s got one of the most versatile, captivating voices in town, and she goes full-on Siouxsie Sioux on these songs. I’m still holding out hope for a reunion show someday.
Crave On – Ace on the Outspeaker
Boston ex-pats Crave On who now reside in Nashville made one of the more original albums I heard this year. Seamlessly fusing synthesizers and violin and drum machine beats, it is hard to place this album in any one genre. Frontman Patrick Orr delivers thoughtful lyrics in a voice that is simultaneously talk-singy, disarmingly straightforward, and heartfelt. A joy to listen to!
Ex Hex – It’s Real
We can all agree that Mary Timony is a national treasure, right? While her turn from cerebral, baroque indie to swaggering hard rock was unexpected (she cites Def Leppard as the major inspiration for this album), the execution is so. darn. good. Ex Hex’s second album leans more heavily into glam and power pop than their first, each song brimming with hooks and harmonies. Bonus: they’re nice as hell! Earlier this year, after missing out on buying tickets to a sold-out Ex Hex show in Portsmouth, I messaged the bass player on Instagram (who I do not know) in a desperate Hail Mary pass. She got back to me right away and put me on the list. It was one of the best shows I’ve been to.
Jeanines – Jeanines
Tight, catchy, occasionally heart-breaking guitar pop songs reminiscent of the indie rock titans of the 80s and 90s (and they clearly know their influences—the album includes a Lucksmiths cover). My boyfriend and I made a spur of the moment decision to drive to New York to see the Jeanines at Slumberland Records’ 30th anniversary party, and boy, was it worth it. Can’t wait to hear what they do next. (Fun fact: one half of this duo is Jed Smith a.k.a. Mick Trouble!)
Blueberry Syrup – Blueberry Syrup
A hazy keyboard-fueled 60s dream from Somerville’s resident mod man and Farfisa aficionado Nick Moon. Close your eyes and lets these boys take you on a psychedelic JOURNEY!
Loretta – Bleach My Brain
Loretta’s first album is fast-paced punk meets Shangri-Las. In a historically dude-heavy genre, it’s great to hear guitar-player Francesca and bassist Vanessa singing in tandem, “What makes you think you can look at me / What makes you think you can talk to me / I was a nice girl but I can’t take it no more.”
The Stroppies – Whoosh
If you’re a sucker for Flying Nun-era indie like I am, you’ll enjoy this album packed with jangly guitars and chirpy keyboards.
Mini Dresses – Heaven Sent
The newest masterpiece by one of my favorite local bands. Largely recorded in apartments, this album is dream pop distilled to its most magical elements.
ABC Gum – The New Arcade
This debut record by Bloomington-based ABC Music is chock full of timeless power pop earworms. Elements of bubblegum and garage and everything in between.
Chrome Bouquet – Bricklayer
Cerebral musings over loungy jazz arrangements from Boston music fixture Andy Sadoway. Favorite lyric: “Last night I dreamt I stayed up all night / I woke up more tired than I felt before / Last night I dreamt where all the fucking cowboys went.”
Lilith – Safer Off
90s-inspired indie pop with fuzzy guitars and disarmingly sweet Juliana Hatfield-esque vocals.
Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
Much has been written about Purple Mountains and the late Dave Berman, and I’m not sure I have anything new or original to contribute here and now. His music has been a through line of my adult life—through long car rides and bouts of heartache and as a touchstone for bonding with some of my closest friends. His long-awaited return to music features Berman’s signature wordplay and more ornate production than some of his previous efforts. On Purple Mountains, Berman articulates loneliness in a way that makes you feel less alone and more human.
Pale Lips – After Dark
Infectious power pop in the vein of Nikki Corvette. Driving Chuck Berry guitar riffs, Ramones swagger, and lots of backing oohs, ahs, and la la las.
Other 2019 favorites:
Local show: Patty Melt (EP Release), Love Strangers, Splitting Image @ Lilypad (8/30)
A magical night of musical camaraderie right before Travis and Carrie of Patty Melt moved to New York (and featuring Travis on drums in all three bands).
Local record store: The Vinyl Vault in Littleton, MA
Local food: Po’Boys and Pies in Salem
Local DJ night: Cool Breeze & Private Dancer at State Park (first Thursday of the month)
TV show: I Think You Should Leave. Tim Robinson is a madman and a genius.
Instagram account: @jonwurster
Best Show contributor/Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster’s Instagram is a goldmine for music nerds and appreciators of bottom-of-the-barrel base humor. A good chunk of his content is dubbed #rockandrollweirdness – archival photos of bizarre meetings and appearances in rock history, like Roy Orbison in a go-kart or Paul Stanley talking to children wearing Paul Stanley pajamas. In another unrelated vein of posts, he reposts user-submitted pictures of god-awful puns and other terrible content found in the wild with the hashtag #mynewworstfriend. (This loyal follower was his new worst friend on no less than three occasions in 2019.)
Podcast: Night Call, Best Show Gems, FOH
Book: Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino