Top 89 of 2019: Best Sessions

Top 89 of 2019
Top 89 of 2019 - Best Sessions 2019 (MPR)

We love airing our listener-decided Top 89 countdown every year (in 2019, the countdown will air on Dec. 31 from 5 p.m. to midnight and rebroadcast on Jan. 1 from 12 to 7 p.m.; listen here). But 89 songs alone can't tell the story of a whole year of music. That's where our bonus categories come in!

In this post, we've got an eye on the best in-studio sessions of 2019, as determined by The Current's staff with input from listeners.

Lizzo

As the year that would be known as the Year of Lizzo was unfolding, Lizzo visited our studio in May for a session hosted by Sanni Brown and Sean McPherson. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar player Walter Williams, Lizzo's incredible voice was on full display. Between songs, she regaled Brown, McPherson and The Current's audience with her wit and her recollections of life in Minnesota. Even though she's been in Los Angeles since 2016, there will always be a strong local kinship with Lizzo.

Claypool Lennon Delirium

"I think the thing about Les is that he doesn't overthink things when it comes to recording because he has a sort of belief in capturing spontaneity," Sean Lennon told Mary Lucia about his collaboration with Les Claypool. For our part, we're glad to have captured their spontaneity when they visited our studio back in April. And as innovative as the Claypool Lennon Delirium's music-making is, it also became clear that when it comes to the vocals — particularly on "Blood and Rockets" — Sean Lennon is a chip off the old block.

Angel Olsen

Reflecting on her 2019 release, All Mirrors, Angel Olsen told Mary Lucia, "It was a hard record to make." But it was clear that hard work paid off, particularly when Olsen and her band performed a selection of songs from the record right in our studio.

Hozier

With stories and songs to regale us, Hozier completely captivated us in studio with music from his 2019 album, Wasteland, Baby!. But perhaps the biggest surprise came when Hozier went off script and performed an a cappella rendition of the traditional Irish folk song, "The Humours of Whiskey."

Black Pumas

Now Grammy nominated for Best New Artist, Black Pumas visited us in studio back in July to play their music and to tell the story of how they casually, if not accidentally, came together to form a band. We're looking forward to more live music from this Austin, Texas, outfit when they headline The Current's 15th Anniversary Party at First Avenue on January 18.

My Brightest Diamond

My Brightest Diamond — the artist name of Shara Nova — clearly shone like one when she performed in our studio in May. To see My Brightest Diamond perform is to see an artist fully enveloped in her craft; as songs pour forth, Nova's arms reach out, moving fluidly and expressively with the music.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela

Who needs lyrics with licks like these? And even after a career that has spanned 20 years and counting, Rodrigo y Gabriela still enjoy surprises — like their 2020 Grammy nomination in the category of Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. "It's something unexpected for us after 20 years of being around and many albums," Rodrigo Sanchez said when the guitar duo visited us in November. "We are grateful and happy. This is a good moment for us — we already kind of won. It's a victory already."

Bruce Hornsby

The beloved piano man gained a lot of notice in 2019 for his collaboration with Bon Iver, but it's Hornsby's longtime collaboration with filmmaker Spike Lee that ultimately birthed Hornsby's 2019 album, Absolute Zero. From more than 230 pieces of incidental music Hornsby has written for film, the unused compositions formed the foundation for the new record. One of those castoffs became, appropriately enough, "Cast-Off," a song co-written by Hornsby and Vernon and the third track Absolute Zero. Hornsby shared songs and stories with us during an August visit to our studio.

Nur-D

Twin Cities rapper Matt Allen, known as Nur-D, didn't start out as the hip-hop artist he is today. In fact, he went from being a shy guy playing keyboard in a rock band to being the five-time Shut Up and Rap Champion just a year and a half ago. "I've always loved [hip-hop]," Nur-D told Andrea Swensson, "but I never thought it'd be something that I would do — mostly because I'm weird." As his June visit to our studio and fan reactions have shown, weird is good.

Seratones

Returning in 2019 with their second full-length album, Power, Seratones lead singer and guitarist AJ Haynes was not intimidated by the proverbial sophomore album. "Always walk into everything with no expectations," she told Mark Wheat. "It's exciting; it's a time to reinvent yourself. ... It feels really good. I'd never really had an anxiety about a sophomore record — you know: buy the ticket, take the ride." Seratones took us along for that magical ride in our studio in September, and they'll be back on January 18 when they perform at The Current's 15th Anniversary Party at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

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