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best of wordless (2019)

Our best-of 2019 wordless playlist includes 100 of our favorite wordless songs from last year, clocking in at just over 8 hours: the perfect workday soundtrack.

It's a mix of old and new—including great new releases by wordless artists, mixed in with some vintage wordless that finally reached our ears in 2019. (So technically, our annual best-of playlists will neither be "annual" or "best-of"... rather music we discovered, gathered, and thoroughly enjoyed that year, usually through the magic of Spotify algorithms.)

Diving into 2019, and starting with the old/"new to us" category. We've got "The Big Ship" by Brian Eno, a 1975 wordless song that still sounds great today. Further back, we stumbled on a recording of Django Reinhardt jamming on guitar in 1947—and it's fantastic. Last year also saw the 15th anniversary re-release of El Ten Eleven’s debut album, a solid reminder that this LA band makes some of the best post-rock on earth. We've got an Explosions in the Sky song from the 2013 soundtrack for indie film Prince Avalanche—haven’t seen it, but Paul Rudd + Explosions = we're intrigued. And a 2011 song by Clams Casino, whose day job is producing tracks for artists like A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Rey.

A bunch of actually-new wordless music also made it onto our 2019 mix. Breaking down some favorites by genre:

Instrumental: It was good year for British albums without words: London-based Portico Quartet's "Memory Streams," Cinematic Orchestra's "To Believe," and Manchester-based GoGo Penguin's "Ocean in a Drop"— an album partly inspired by experimental 1980s film Koyaanisqatsi, with a nod to the Rumi quote "you are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop."

Guitars: Meanwhile, some great guitar music was made in North America last year. Mexico's Rodrigo y Gabriela put out "Mettavolution," their Grammy-winning first full-length album in five years and a real rocker, including 19-minute barnstormer "Echoes." New Jersey electric guitarist Delicate Steve released "Till I Burn Up," his latest album of intense, poppy hooks. William Tyler, a Nashville native with alt-country roots (and former member of Silver Jews), put out “Goes West”—a laid-back, melodic album with just the right level of twang.

Electronic: Last year Tourist, the British musician who won a Grammy for co-writing Sam Smith's "Stay with Me," released his second and third full-length electronic albums: "Wild" and "Everyday." Tom Day also released two albums in 2019: the chilled-out “Selected Works” and “Fables.” And high-energy Weval released "The Weight," their first album in three years.

Other: Some music slips through the genre cracks. We loved the low pulsing beat of "Singularity" by John Hopkins, the indie-rock-song-without-indie-lyrics "We Should Be Holding Hands" by Blonde Redhead, and the beautiful instrumentals of "Two Places" by Luke Howard. The ambient/downtempo band Arms and Sleepers put out "Ruined by Geography" and Lycoriscoris put out "Flight." Thom Yorke released "Anima," his third solo album with several effectively wordless tracks (i.e. particularly unintelligible Yorkian crooning). And there was "Camino del Ratón" by Don Chicharrón—an incredible Peruvian-music band from Denver led by some great guys we happened to have gone to high school with.

We'll put together one of these playlists at the start of every year. To get it in your inbox, head back to the homepage and sign up for our (very infrequent, non-annoying) newsletter list.


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