Top Tunes ’19: Jonah Krueger

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Every year WOUB Culture spotlights what music-centric folks in the region have been listening to all year round right in time for the holidays in our annual Top Tunes feature. 


Jonah Krueger is currently a journalism student at Ohio University. He spends most of his time talking as much about music as he can before the person he is conversing with gets bored and walks away. Over the summer, he and his girlfriend took a trip to Chicago to see 70’s experimental rock group This Heat (now touring as This is Not This Heat), a concert he loved and his girlfriend hated. He took her to a Conor Oberst show the next day to make up for it.

2019! The end of a decade! It has been an exciting, strange 365 days, but it sure was packed full of amazing music. Here are some of my favorites, some of which were released this year, some are from the past, and all are very, very worth a listen.

black midiSchlagenheim (2019)

Yes, I am also touting black midi as “the next big thing.” Ever since the YouTube algorithm blessed me—and hundreds of thousands of other Slint and Drive Like Jehu fans—with their KEXP performance, I have been riding the hype train to an embarrassing extent, including driving 8 hours to see them perform in Philadelphia (Which can be seen here. My buddy and I are the ones in the front dancing).

As positive as their pre-album features were, black midi faced an incredibly daunting task—meeting the expectations of their content-hungry fans who had spent months scouring the internet for new information and bootlegged live shows. Fortunately, Schlagenheim delivers. By including the songs established by their live act, including a re-recorded “bmbmbm,” and supplementing their unpredictable energy with lavish and layered production, Schlagenheim somehow satisfied fans (i.e. me and my pretentious friends) without coming across as pandering or underwhelming.

I mean, I dare you to listen to a song like “953” or “Near DT, MI” or “Of Schlagenhiem” and refrain from shadow boxing in a fit of adrenaline-fueled mania. Maybe I am just a sucker for dynamic, noisy music, but even if that is the case, black midi is doing it better than just about any other band out there today.

And above all, she does indeed move with a purpose. Oh, what a magnificent purpose.


Ten In the Swear Jar – Accordion Solo! (2005)

It’s February 28, 2019. The good ole’ folks that run Record Store Day have released the official list of exclusive vinyl pressings that will be available during the event. As I eagerly scroll through the list and exclaim in excitement at seeing artists like “Death Grips” and “Frank Black,” I slow down as I hit the T section. A mysterious band name, Ten In the Swear Jar, is tagged with the words Xiu Xiu. What could it mean?

As it turns out, Ten In the Swear Jar (XITSJ) was Jamie Stuart’s pre-Xiu Xiu project that, according to Asian Man Records, was active for only about a year. However, the fruit of this activity was made widely available in 2005 through the release of a compilation known as Accordion Solo!. 

The album, which compiles the full discography of the band, is truly a must-listen for any fan of Jamie Stuart’s work. It features early versions of fan-favorite Xiu Xiu tracks (“Sad Girl” and “I Love the Valley”), unsettling samples, and, yes, accordion solos. Even beyond the connection to Stuart’s more popular projects, it houses some of his catchiest songs. Take a listen to “San Jose Fight Song” and try not to nod your head.

So, after becoming obsessed with the compilation, buying what may be the prettiest vinyl package I have ever seen, and having a conversation with the owner of the local record store in which I was labeled an “outlier” for my interest in XITSJ, I am now a self-proclaimed “Jar-Head” (“Swearer”? “Tener”? Our club is still figuring out the logistics).


Tropical F*ck StormBraindrops (2019)

Excuse my French, but this album is f*cking crazy. It isn’t the fastest, most abrasive album of the year, nor is it the most experimental, but the foundations of Braindrops are unlike any other record—except maybe the band’s debut. The groves are strong and off-kilter, the song structures barrel forward with unstoppable inertia, and the guitar tones are akin to a wax statue commemorating “rock and roll” melting as you admire it. It feels as if the whole thing could come crumbling in on itself at any moment, an energy that is impossible to avoid while listening.

Even in its quietest moments, frontman Gareth Liddiard and the lead guitars share a drunken, woozy charisma that subtly reinforces the tension more than it releases it. The imagery explored, as the album art suggests, strengthens this tension in the most absurd way possible as Liddiard muses over bird shit mayors, Looney Tunes biology, and crystal clear bathroom mirrors with his charming Australian accent. It is a wild ride.

Tropical F*ck Storm have been creating music that is wholly unique since their formation, and until a band from the states can scratch the hyper-specific itch that they do, I’ll be screaming in my best Australian.


Circulatory SystemCirculatory System (2001)

When I am attempting to sell Circulatory System to someone, I can usually hook them with one sentence: “Jeff Mangum from Neutral Milk Hotel is involved.” Now, the truth is that Jeff Mangum appears as little more than a cameo on Circulatory System’s self-titled album, an album that sounds very little like the legendary In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. In my defense, they are both products of the Elephant 6 collective and, in the end, most people liked the record. No harm, no foul.

Putting aside my deceptive tactics, this album deserves much more attention than it currently attracts. With its Beatles-inspired psychedelia, overstuffed production and tightly written songs, Circulatory System is a trip well worth taking. It’s an auditory riddle, unlocking secrets with each new listen. It’s a hall of mirrors that disorients the listener in a surprisingly fun way. It’s a highly detailed photograph that is just ever so slightly out of focus. It’s candy to the ears. It’s the next thing you should listen to.


Jordaan Mason and the Horse MuseumDivorce Lawyers I Shaved My Head (2009)

I am not overstating the artistry of this album when I say Divorce Lawyers I Shaved My Head is utterly awe-inspiring. A concept record that tells the story of the destructive marriage of two people, both of which deal with gender, sexuality, and identity issues. Songs about sex, mental health, relationships, and war are backed by sparse, emotional folk instrumentals and a piercing vocal performance from Jordaan Mason. This is not an album to put on during a party, nor is it the type of music you can listen to while casually relaxing. This is a grand artistic statement that deserves your full attention while it is playing. I suggest you give it just that.


GrayShades of… (2011)

Gray is the no-wave, experimental musical project from renowned visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. If you have seen his artwork, you may have an idea of just how innovative, unique, and off-kilter Gray’s Music is.

The history of Basquiat and his relatively unknown band is fascinating and much too long to adequately explain in the context of a “Top Tunes” list. Rest assured, though, Shades Of… offers a blend of jazz, post-punk, and all things avant-garde (including what sounds like an artistic take on a prank phone call recorded to tape). It’s comedic at times, unsettling at others and is nothing short of a gripping experience.


Touché AmoréDead Horse X (2019)

Dead Horse X is a rerecording of Touché Amoré’s 2009 album …To the Beat of a Dead Horse (Think Car Seat Headrest’s treatment of Twin Fantasy). Is it the perfect post-hardcore/screamo album? I’d argue that it’s pretty damn close. It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s brief, and it has surprisingly satisfying payoffs built from just seconds of set up. The new performances add to the aggression and the updated production is immaculate. As my best friend put it, “The drums are total insanity. It’s everything drums should be.” I love it.

If you like your emotional hardcore a little more personal, ambitious, or if you want it to make you weep, check out the band’s amazing 2016 record Stage Four. Though, be prepared for a mournful, emotionally devastating experience.


In addition to these albums, several amazing songs didn’t fit in with my usual, pretentious way of exclusively listening to albums in full. Some are singles that have no record to call their home and others are standouts from albums or EPs that for one reason or another I pulled away from their original context. Either way, I had each of these tracks on repeat.



Black Country, New Road – “Sunglasses”

Man, Speedy Wunderground had quite the year, didn’t they? In addition to putting out the lead single for black midi, they helped break acts like Squid and, the band in question, Black Country, New Road. While the band’s Speedy Wunderground single, “Athens, France,” is just as impressive as “Sunglasses,” it’s the latter that I prefer. The simple, almost metal-tinged hook, the linear song structure, the strange culmination of sounds, and the bold, poetic, unmatched performance from frontman Isaac Wood (just take a look at this concert footage) make it undoubtedly one of the best songs of the year. For God’s sake, release more music!

Suckers – “It Gets Your Body Moving”

Don’t be deceived by the title, “It Gets Your Body Moving” is far from the energetic dance track you may be expecting. However, the track is a beautiful development of a simple theme. By the end of the first chorus, you will hear much of what the song has to offer both lyrically and harmonically. Yet, what makes the track so irresistible isn’t the composition so much as it is the execution. The song builds and builds and builds, relying on the simplicity of the lead melody to keep the whole thing together. You may not move your body, but you’ll most definitely be shouting along with the group vocals by the end of your first listen.

Caracara – “Better”

If the theme hasn’t become obvious, I am bound to fall in love with any song that plays with dynamics or offers a moment of supreme satisfaction. Caracara’s “Better” offers up both of these, as the linear indie-rock tune features a strong build and a payoff that rivals that of any other song released this year.

Vashti Bunyan – “Train Song”

I was first introduced to this song through the intro of the television program Patriot, a show I wanted to like much more than I did. Nevertheless, the song remains a haunting earworm of a folk song that I attempt, and fail, to sing every time I pick up a guitar.

Clarence Clarity – “Bipolar Rainbows”

Now, this is my kind of pop-song. Grand, experimentally inclined, and borderline cheesy, “Bipolar Rainbows” is the hooky, well-studied summer banger we all deserve. Fair warning, however, the song is highly addictive. Proceed with caution.

Smith Street Band – “Birthdays”

Is there an official way I can submit this song as a candidate for “Most Fun Song to Sing in the Car?”

Cap’n Jazz – “Oh Messy Life”

Yes, it’s a midwestern emo mainstay. But, damn it if it isn’t amazing! In a perfect world, there would be as many memes about this song as there are for American Football’s “Never Meant.”