Top 50 Albums of 2019

This is now my fourth year creating a Top 50 list and it is hard to say whether the experiences are getting easier or harder for me. With every passing year I discover more and more and 2019 was no exception. I also graduated from college this spring so I had a lot more time on my hands to discover new music. I ended up listening to over 150 albums from this year alone so needless to say there were some tough cuts that needed to be made. But, like every year, I am incredibly proud of this list and loved how well it ended up coming together. As always, I hope everyone reading this can have some of their opinions both validated and challenged. Oh, and maybe you can find something new to listen to. Enjoy!

50) Cage the Elephant – Social Cues

Cage the Elephant seems to come through with a great album every other record they put out and Social Cues was definitely the band on a good year. After their last album quickly disappeared from my mind as one of their blander, more forgettable releases, Social Cues showed the band taking things in a more lively direction, even with singer Matt Schultz’ divorce looming in the background. Producer John Hill’s touch is noticed on singles like “Social Cues” and “Ready to Let Go,” two of the groups catchiest tracks to date. It is nice to see the band still playing with their sound after ten years and I also like how the group approached the subject of divorce. It is clear that the wound is still fresh but they do not let that get in the way of making a great album.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Ready to Let Go
  2. Broken Boy
  3. Goodbye
  4. Black Madonna
  5. House of Glass

49) Kevin Abstract – Arizona Baby

You would think that with the short turnaround between Brockhampton albums combined with constant touring would drain your creativity but Kevin Abstract found the time to put together his best solo project to date. Sure, having Jack Antanoff produce your project will always help, but much of what works here falls on Abstract. The writing is a sign of what would eventually come on Ginger, with introspective themes of maturity and fame all over here. There are also plenty of fun tracks that remind me why I love Abstract’s contributions to Brockhampton so much. Songs like “Georgia” and “Baby Boy” are incredibly pop songs that deserved the kind of attention that other singles from Brockhampton got.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Corpus Christi
  2. Georgia
  3. American Problem
  4. Peach
  5. Joyride

48) Rich Brian – The Sailor

I have always wanted music from Rich Brian that was as entertaining as his personality. There have been flashes of greatness but this was his first project to genuinely impress me. The production on this project is much more textured than before, diving into some pretty smooth and psychedelic beats. Brian’s flows are also much more confident, showing that he is very much still evolving with his lyricism and technical skills. For a 20 year old, Brian is already leagues above nearly any rappers his age and it has me excited to see where he will go from here. This album might not be perfect but it shows a lot of promise and will absolutely satisfy fans and turn others on as well.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Yellow (feat. Bekon)
  2. Slow Down Turbo
  3. Kids
  4. The Sailor
  5. 100 Degrees

47) Uboa – The Origin of My Depression

Most of the time when I make these lists, I am hoping that people reading will be encouraged to check out some music they previously wouldn’t have exposed to. That might not be totally the case with this one. Not to say this doesn’t have its appeal, it certainly does, but it is easily the least accessible record on this list. The Origin of My Depression is a dark, occasionally frightening, collection of ambient music. The production is haunting and the vocals sound beautiful against it, that is until the distortion and screams start to kick in and turn this project upside down. Easily one of the most challenging and horrific records I have listened to this year, but I keep going back to it for reasons that are still a little unclear to me.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. The Origin of My Depression
  2. An Angel of Great and Terrible Light
  3. Lay Down and Rot
  4. Misspent Youth
  5. Please Don’t Leave Me

46) Flume – Hi My Name Is Flume

As a producer, Flume has produced some of the most interesting electronic music to break onto the charts in years. After his fantastic, and admittedly pop-friendly, sophomore album Skin, Flume takes a much different approach with this mixtape. Experimental is a word I would use to describe much of Flume’s music but this is experimental even by his standards. The focus is very much on the production on here and less on the featured artists which in this situation is the right move. The mixtape’s 17 tracks fly by as Flume slows off his impeccable ability to quickly create an atmosphere and expand upon his style that he has established so well up until this point. The few features we do get are all fantastic, giving smaller acts like Slowthai and JPEGMAFIA a great platform to shine.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. High Beams (feat. Slowthai)
  2. Spring (feat. Eprom)
  3. How to Build a Relationship (feat. JPEGMAFIA)
  4. Is It Cold in the Water? (Flume & Eprom Remix)
  5. Wormhole

45) Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats – Anger Management

In just 18 minutes Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats create one of the most directly abrasive and energetic albums of the year. Kenny Beats has consistently proven himself as a great producer with beats that always bring out an artist’s best. This is very much the case here as Rico Nasty sounds more focused and direct with her aggressive delivery than ever before. Each bar she spits feels strong and purposeful, without ever sounding over the top. This is arguably Nasty’s best work and further proof that Kenny Beats should be producing albums for just about every great rapper out right now.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Cold
  2. Big Titties (feat. Baauer & EarthGang)
  3. Hatin
  4. Sell Out
  5. Cheat Codes (feat. Baauer)

44) Aldous Harding – Designer

Every year there is at least one quiet singer-songwriter that manages to break through and really connect with me. This year, that album was Designer, a weird little album from New Zealand that is hard to put my finger on even after months of listening. The lyrics are occasionally strange and either are going over my head or do not make sense at all, either is alright with me. The production is as soft as Harding’s vocals which sets a wonderful mood for the album. This is the kind of music you put on at the end of the day and listen to by yourself to relax. You can choose to think too hard about this or not at all and you will likely get a great listening experience regardless.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. The Barrel
  2. Fixture Picture
  3. Weight of the Planets
  4. Zoo Eyes
  5. Treasure

43) Bon Iver – I, I

It has become increasingly difficult to predict where Justin Vernon will take his music from album to album. I thought the band’s electronic experimentation on 22, A Million was an interesting and exciting change of pace, but did miss the folk music they had become famous for. On I, I these two paths merge a bit to create another unique album in the group’s discography. For as experimental as the production might get, the songs themselves are still written from a seemingly sincere place and Vernon continues to prove he knows how to set a tone with a wide variety of sounds.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Hey, Ma
  2. Faith
  3. Salem
  4. Naeem
  5. We

42) Taylor Swift – Lover

The discourse on Taylor Swift has gotten exhausting in recent years, with people trying to dissect just about everything both in her personal life and her music. As someone who found 1989 to be overrated and reputation to be a train wreck, it was hard to get excited about Lover. Fortunately, Lover works in a way her past albums have not for me. Instead of wasting so much dwelling on her own image, Swift focuses on being true to herself and as a result creates one of her most personal albums to date. Lover is the perfect combination of fun love songs and soft ballads that reminds us why Swift became the superstar she is today. It isn’t perfect but it definitely has some of the best songs Swift has ever made and is easily her best record since Red.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Cruel Summer
  2. Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)
  3. Cornelia Street
  4. Lover
  5. Paper Rings

41) Clipping. – There Existed an Addiction to Blood

I wish I wasn’t recommending this album in December because this is easily the best Halloween album to come out in 2019. Continuing down the road of experimental concept records, Clipping. crafts a horrorcore album that dives into both the fantastical horror of werewolves and zombies, and the real horrors of torture and murder, and tie them together with some punching metaphors about modern society. It is a weird listening experience that occasionally gets genuinely disturbing. Following the space horror of Splendor & Misery, it is clear that Daveed Diggs is constantly pushing himself to tell unique and creative stories and this album certainly delivers in doing that.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Blood of the Fang
  2. Nothing is Safe
  3. Story 7
  4. La Mala Ordina (with Rita) (feat. Elcamino & Benny the Butcher)
  5. The Show

40) Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

If you are still sleeping on Carly Rae Jepsen you are doing a disservice to nobody but yourself. Like on her last album, Dedicated is just one catchy pop song after another, each with the wonderful aesthetics of 80s and 90s synth-pop. Despite having a similar sound to Emotion, Jepsen does more than enough to make this record feel unique in comparison. I would say the production and overall song quality is much more consistent this time around, meaning the overall atmosphere is a little more distinct here. That being said, songs like “Now That I Found You” and “Party For One” were absolutely perfect for Top 40 radio and the fact they were not two of the biggest hits of the year is a crime.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Too Much
  2. Julien
  3. Automatically in Love
  4. Party for One
  5. No Drug Like Me

39) Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿

After the fever dream that was Atrocity Exhibition, Danny Brown goes down a completely new path with this record. The album is executively produced by Q-Tip who brings a throwback, sample-heavy sound that is smoother than anything I have become used to hearing from Brown. Despite this cleaner sound, Danny Brown’s wild flows and intense vocals are still here and have plenty of room to move. The few features on here also standout in a huge way with Run the Jewels delivering two excellent verses and JPEGMAFIA sounding more like Pharrell than ever before. The album flies by in just 34 minutes but the winning Danny Brown/Q-Tip combination makes sure not a moment of it is wasted.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Negro Spiritual (feat. JPEGMAFIA)
  2. 3 Tearz (feat. Run the Jewels)
  3. Savage Nomad
  4. Best Life
  5. Shine (feat. Blood Orange)

38) Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

I will be the first to admit that this album took a long time to grow on me. Compared to their first three albums, Father of the Bride is definitely a lot lighter in sound, even if it is this is their longest record. Perhaps this is partly because of the departure of Rostam Batmanglij from the band’s lineup but they certainly are still great. The production is lush and textured and the addition of several guest vocalists help keep the album interesting throughout its longer length. Simply put, the pretentious aura that have helped define Vampire Weekend is still intact here and this album as a whole is one of the easiest, most pleasant albums you could listen to this year.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Harmony Hall
  2. Sympathy
  3. Married in a Gold Rush (feat. Danielle Haim)
  4. This Life
  5. Unbearably White

37) Thom Yorke – Anima

Radiohead is my favorite band so there is always going to be some excitement when Thom Yorke releases a solo album. While I have had mixed feelings about his solo work in the past, his work on Suspiria last year was phenomenal and Anima is yet another great project from him. The production, courtesy of Nigel Godrich, is exactly what we would expect from Yorke at this point in his career. Distorted and dizzying, the electronics are always lively and compliment Yorke incredibly well. It might not be as fully realized as a Radiohead album but it is definitely the most complete album that Thom Yorke has ever put out.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Twist
  2. Traffic
  3. Dawn Chorus
  4. Not the News
  5. Runwayaway

36) Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

Angel Olsen has quietly created on of the best indie rock discographies of the decade and All Mirrors is a worthy addition to this discography. This album takes a drastic detour from her other records, focusing heavily on its production which is some of the most gorgeous you will hear this year. Each track is backed up with a sweeping orchestra that elevates Olsen’s vocal delivery to new heights. Even with this shift in sound, Olsen’s voice as a songwriter is still attached as the emotional substance of the lyrics are enough to match the lush production that flows through this record.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. All Mirrors
  2. Lark
  3. What It Is
  4. Chance
  5. Impasse

35) Quelle Chris – Guns

If you could not tell from the album title and cover, this is an album about guns. Not just guns but the communities effected by gun violence. It is a seemingly broad subject that Quelle Chris breaks down into individual elements to keep this album from ever feeling repetitive. The writing on here is superb, with the political themes being tackled with nuanced, entertaining bars that one would expect from Quelle Chris. There are plenty of comical bars throughout, reminding you of Quelle Chris’ colorful personality. The instrumentation on here is the best that has ever accompanied Chris, with the beats being loaded with lavish jazz production that certainly adds character on these already loaded tracks.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Straight Shot (feat. Cavalier, Bilal Salaam, Eldar Djangirov & James Acaster)
  2. Obamacare
  3. Guns
  4. Box of Wheaties (feat. Denmark Vessey, Maurese & Ronnie “Hands” Palmolive)
  5. Mind Ya Bidness

34) Lizzo – Cuz I Love You

There are few artists who had a 2019 as big as Lizzo and I am beyond excited that her moment has finally come. Everything I have enjoyed about Lizzo’s singles from the last few years is here and turned up to 11. The production on this album feels huge, only amplifying Lizzo’s powerful voice and personality. While running for just a short 33 minutes, Lizzo is able to show off how dynamic of an artist she truly is. Songs like “Juice” and “Like a Girl” are energetic pop bangers, “Tempo” is a fun pop rap track and “Jerome” and “Lingerie” are excellent traditional R&B ballads. All these different sounds are tied together nearly perfectly by Lizzo’s magnetic presence that owns every second of this record.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Juice
  2. Jerome
  3. Like a Girl
  4. Cuz I Love You
  5. Tempo (feat. Missy Elliott)

33) Denzel Curry – ZUU

Less than a year after the dark and ambitious TA13OO, Curry comes through with a 29 minute album that is just one banger after another to remind us all why he is one of the best young artists out now. Outside of a couple interludes, not a second of this is wasted as Curry’s fast flows pack these short tracks with intensity and swagger. The production is also more layered and varied than many will give it credit for. While this might just seem like the kind of bangers that Curry and his team could produce in their sleep, there is a surprising amount going on here. Much of this album is a tribute to Curry’s upbringing and his home of Carol City and these moments arguable hit the strongest.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Speedboat
  2. Birdz (feat. Rick Ross)
  3. Ricky
  4. P.A.T. (feat. PlayThatBoiZay)
  5. Wish (feat. Kiddo Marv)

32) Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Back in 2015 I had the pleasure of seeing Sharon Van Etten at Boston Calling music festival where she opened for Tame Impala and Beck, two giant artists. Despite only performing for 30 minutes, she stuck with me but it was not until 2019 that she released music that lived up to what I saw at that show. Remind Me Tomorrow is a refreshing take on the singer-songwriter genre, taking bigger production and tying it in with some really compelling themes. Between this and her last album Van Etten gave birth to her first child and this life experience definitely fuels much of this album. When she is looking at the world around her and her relationships with others it feels uniquely earned. Also, “Seventeen” is one of the best songs of the entire year and is reason enough to check this out.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Seventeen
  2. No One’s Easy to Love
  3. You Shadow
  4. Comeback Kid
  5. Jupiter 4

31) Harry Styles – Fine Line

Nobody was more surprised than me that Harry Styles ended up being an incredible solo artist. But for as much as I enjoyed his debut, a piece of me assumed it was going to be a fluke. That being said, he just might have topped it with Fine Line. The influences from 70s and 80s rock artists are still here but Styles adds more of his own personality to it this time, shining through the excellent production he has been provided. The depth of this album is a major step up to me as Styles’ vocal delivery is much more emotive this time, giving this album more than a few tender moments. There are few albums that were so easy for me to listen to this year and I am now officially sold on Harry Styles as a genuinely impressive solo artist.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. She
  2. Adore You
  3. Falling
  4. Fine Line
  5. Golden

30) Brittany Howard – Jaime

Alabama Shakes’ last album Sound & Color was a personal favorite of mine the year it came out and that was mainly due to lead singer Brittany Howard’s dynamic presence. This presence is carried over on a big way on Jaime, a project that gives her more room to experiment with her sound and delivery. The album doesn’t just focus on rock but also plays with jazz, soul and funk and Howard nails all of it. As much as the gap between Alabama Shakes albums has been difficult, if Howard keeps making music like this I am more than happy to see where her solo career takes her.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. 13th Century Metal
  2. Georgia
  3. Stay High
  4. History Repeats
  5. Short and Sweet

29) Charli XCX – Charli

Up until now there have been two halves of Charli XCX. The mainstream pop side of her who made hits like “Boom Clap” and “Fancy,” but more recently there is the side who has become friendly with the PC Music camp, going into glitchier, experimental pop music that could not be further from the mainstream. Charli is an attempt to marry these two sides and a damn great one at that. Charli XCX and her many excellent features come together to create energetic pop songs that each have a distinct sound and style. While there are certainly some concessions made to make this album sound more accessible, they never feel cheap and instead help to expand Charli’s sound further into some pretty exciting territory.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Gone (feat. Christine and the Queens)
  2. White Mercedes
  3. Next Level Charli
  4. Cross You Out (feat. Sky Ferreira)
  5. Click (feat. Kim Petras & Tommy Cash)

28) Tyler Childers – Country Squire

I didn’t discover this album until much later in the year and I am so glad I came across it because it is such an easy listen for me. It might be a little softer than a lot of the country I usually listen to, but there is no denying that Tyler Childers is massively talented and will be making great music for years. Sure, having Sturgill Simpson produce your album will help, but Childers’ vocals and songwriting are certainly special. There is a deeper level of passion in his voice that elevates his songs about love and country living that you would expect to see on an album like this. It all works together to create something that is better than it has any right to be. The dips of experimentation this record takes also all pay off and show that Childers has many interesting ideas up his sleeve.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Peace of Mind
  2. All Your’n
  3. House Fire
  4. Creeker
  5. Country Squire

27) Anderson .Paak – Ventura

As someone who appreciated Oxnard for its large scope and flashy production, I think it was equally good to see Paak go back to his roots to create a smaller, smoother R&B album. Coming out just six month after his last album, Ventura feels more effortless but also more sincere, making it one of Paak’s best to date. While his iconic raspy voice is stronger than ever, .Paak also substitutes the hip-hop production of his last record for a live band that accompanies him beautifully. Even with features from legendary artists like Andre 3000, Brandy and Smokey Robinson, Paak never feels like anything less than the star of the show, providing his guests with a great platform to accompany him. This album could have felt like a rushed follow up to an ambitiously big album but instead feels completely distinct which speaks to the genius of Paak.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. King James
  2. Come Home (feat. Andre 3000)
  3. What Can We Do (feat. Nate Dogg)
  4. Make it Better (feat. Smokey Robinson)
  5. Yada Yada

26) The Highwomen – The Highwomen

This album looked too good on paper to not work. Creating a country super group with Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby and Marren Morris sets a high bar, especially with Dave Cobb producing, and as expected this is a phenomenal record. Each woman is given ample opportunity to shine and give insight on their upbringing and life views. It is one of the most empowering country releases of the past few years without ever feeling preachy. Often super groups can feel bloated and unbalanced but the girls here know exactly where their strengths lie and balance these songs accordingly, giving you the sense these girls have been making music together for years.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. If She Ever Loves Me
  2. Heaven Is a Honky Tonk
  3. Old Soul
  4. My Name Can’t Be Mama
  5. Wheels of Laredo

25) Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury

Sturgill Simpson has always been an artist that has moved fluidly throughout subgenres of country. Whether it be psychedelic or Southern rock, he has become comfortable with a variety of different sounds. With this considered, I still do not think people were ready for what we got on Sound & Fury, a psychedelic, groovy rock album that sees Simpson further from country than ever before. This will undoubtedly turn many people off but I would be lying if I didn’t say this was one of the most fun music listening experiences of the year. The first half of this album has such a fun energy to it while the second half gets a little more introspective without compromising its new sound. This is the kind of experimentation that keeps an artist exciting and I am glad Simpson is pushing the boundaries of his sound in such drastic ways.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Make Art Not Friends
  2. Sing Along
  3. Best Clockmaker on Mars
  4. A Good Look
  5. All Said and Done

24) Black Midi – Schlagenheim

I cannot think of many bands that can get compared to Gorillaz, Death Grips and Captain Beefheart after releasing just one album, but Black Midi managed to do it. What else needs to be said to prove that Schlagenheim is one of the best and most unique debuts to come out all year. The production is wild, unpredictable and messy in all the right ways and compliments the writing which occasionally dives into some strong political subject matter. I admire the musicianship of this record so much and am currently dreaming of a future live album from these guys to see the energy of this album amplified even more. But as it stands, this is a crazy fun time and one of the most memorable releases of the entire year.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Bmbmbm
  2. 953
  3. Ducter
  4. Near DT, MI
  5. Western

23) Orville Peck – Pony

Orville Peck is a unique discovery for a variety of reasons. One is his persona outside of his music, staying anonymous behind a fringed lone ranger mask. Even I will admit his image is the main reason I was curious enough to check out his debut and I am grateful that I did because this is a fantastic take on a vintage country album. There are plenty of modern flourishes that accompany the traditional steel guitars and banjos you would expect on this kind of record. And Peck’s personality in his music is just as magnetic as it is outside of it. His stern, cold delivery works perfectly with the instrumentation and Peck’s writing is surprisingly honest despite his anonymity. I do not see this guy going away anytime soon so I recommend you jump on this bandwagon as soon as you can.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Turn to Hate
  2. Kansas (Remembers Me Now)
  3. Dead of Night
  4. Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)
  5. Roses Are Falling

22) Charly Bliss – Young Enough

When Charly Bliss released Guppy in 2017, I knew they were a fun indie pop band with a load of potential and produced catchy hooks like it was nothing. And as fun as I found that album, I think Young Enough is a step up in pretty much every way. The tracks feel more fleshed out in terms of songwriting and instrumentation and I had even more fun with them this time around. Part of this might be due to getting a chance to see them over the summer but I definitely felt this album helped me connect with these guys closer than I had before. Fun indie albums like these seem to have become a lost art form, rarely sounding authentically fun while maintaining the raw energy that makes indie music work so well.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Under You
  2. Capacity
  3. Young Enough
  4. Chatroom
  5. Blown to Bits

21) Ian Noe – Between the Country

It might be easy to say this is great because of Dave Cobb’s production, a common theme for my favorite country albums of any given year, but even for Cobb this is special. This is a more somber album, still reflecting on the themes of living in a small rural town, but Ian Noe’s outlook is much darker. Death, poverty and substance abuse are all over this album, painting a brutally realistically view of the pain these communities often must go through. Cobb’s production is fitting for Noe’s delivery, not giving him any more instrumentation than needed, letting Noe take the spotlight on each song.  This is one of the best written country albums in a long time and one I found myself engaged in with each repeated listen.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Letter to Madeline
  2. Between the Country
  3. Irene (Ravin’ Bomb)
  4. Dead on the River (Rolling Down)
  5. If Today Doesn’t Do Me In

20) Rapsody – Eve

Rapsody has quietly become one of the greatest rappers out now, consistently putting out great verses and tracks and now has come through with her greatest album to date. Eve uses each of its songs to empower, taking the name of an influential black woman. The songs might not be directly about the women they are named for, but they take the spirit of them. The features on this album are as good as it gets with legendary rappers like GZA and Queen Latifah delivering their best verses in years and current stars like J. Cole and JID lending help out as well. Despite all this star power, Rapsody is undoubtedly shining the brightest here, coming through with one of the strongest voices in modern hip hop.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Ibtihaj (feat. D’Angelo & GZA)
  2. Hatshepsut (feat. Queen Latifah)
  3. Myrlie (feat. Mereba)
  4. Afeni (feat. PJ Burton)
  5. Nina

19) Stella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs

This is one of the most candid album to come out this year in the subject matters it tackles. As the title fittingly alludes to, the album tells many stories of abusive men and the negative consequences of their actions. It is both clearly presented and poetically written to make what could have been an overly preachy record seem much more grounded. And for a debut, this album showcases just how much of a fresh voice Stella Donnelly is. While the production rarely strays away from what you might come to expect in indie rock, her writing and voice are so distinct that it makes this one of the most memorable records of the year. Songs like “Allergies” and “Boys Will Be Boys” are two of the most heartbreaking ballads of the year and it is all sold by Donnelly’s emotive presence as a singer. Fantastic debut and one that deserves the hype it has been receiving.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Boys Will Be Boys
  2. Beware of the Dogs
  3. Mosquito
  4. Tricks
  5. Old Man

18) The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

There is a lot to be said about any band that makes it to a seventeenth album, but there is even more to be said about a band who makes it that far while maintaining a great level of quality. On In League with Dragons, the band takes things a little more back to basics compared to 2017’s ambitious Goths. The songs here take The Mountain Goats back to their folk side with smoother production thanks to Owen Pallett and as always excellent songwriting by John Darnielle. Whether he is writing a song from the perspective of a possum or Ozzy Osbourne, looking at baseball or fascism, there is a distinct voice behind it which helps this album add up to something special.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Going Invisible 2
  2. Younger
  3. Passaic 1975
  4. An Antidote for Strychnine
  5. Waylon Jennings Live!

17) FKA Twigs – Magdalene

Quick confession, I never fell in love with FKA Twigs’ debut LP1 in the same way as everyone else. It is undeniably great but the replay value could be stronger. Magdalene, however, is very much down my alley. The songs here are closer to something you would expect off of a Grimes album, some beautiful and organic instrumentation mixed with glitchy electronics and distortion to create something pleasantly unique. And of course FKA Twigs ties it all together nicely with her tender voice that bleeds emotion and sensuality. This is a major step up from an already impressive debut album and well worth the five year wait between records.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Cellophane
  2. Home With You
  3. Fallen Alien
  4. Mirrored Heart
  5. Thousand Eyes

16) Baroness – Gold & Grey

This is apparently a quite a controversial record in the metal community, I understand this album might have had flaws in how it was mixed, but there are few albums that I took me on a ride this year like Gold & Grey. Despite a lineup change with a new guitarist, this band sounds just as powerful and heavy as ever before. John Dyer Baizley’s vocal delivery reminded me why he is one of the best metal vocalists we have now and these songs pack such a punch it was hard for me to stop revisiting this one all year. This is all I want when it comes to the metal I listen to. Powerful vocals, heavy production, all tied together with melodies that combine these elements in a memorable way and that is absolutely where Gold & Grey delivered for me.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Borderlines
  2. I’m Already Gone
  3. Throw Me an Anchor
  4. Pale Sun
  5. Seasons

15) Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

This was easily one of my most anticipated records of 2019. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s first album together was easily one of the best hip hop records of the decade and I have been waiting years to see how they would follow it up. While Bandana is not quite as excellent as Piñata, it still showcases both artists at the top of their games. Gibbs’ delivery is always excellent but the way he is able to consistently switch up his flows and energy to fit Madlib’s complex beats is always a pleasure to listen to. There is not a single moment or idea on this album that is wasted or a single song that does not pay off.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Half Manne Half Cocaine
  2. Giannis (feat. Anderson .Paak)
  3. Crime Pays
  4. Palmolive (feat. Pusha T & Killer Mike)
  5. Situations

14) Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

There is no denying Slipknot’s contributions toward metal over the last 20 years. Even if I do not love a project from them, they are all distinct from each other and have several things to enjoy and admire about them. We Are Not Your Kind might just be one of the best records the band has ever come out with. Nearly all the tracks on here see the band taking the best elements of their earlier albums and moving forward with them, adding both catchiness and grittiness to the production. Lead singer Corey Taylor’s vocal delivery is excellent as always as he avoids sounding repetitive on each song, finding many ways to mix up his style. This is just an overall fantastic metal record that is very easy to get into and a very welcome return to form for one of the genre’s most iconic groups.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Nero Forte
  2. Unsainted
  3. Not Long for This World
  4. Critical Darling
  5. Spiders

13) Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

-This album had absolutely no right to be as fantastic as it was considering it is the major label debut album from a 17-year-old singer-songwriter. Despite her young age, Eilish is able to craft surprisingly emotional tracks that play into her immaturity while her brother/producer Finneas creates an intimidating and dark atmosphere. At its heart this is a pop album, but there really are few albums I can think of that fit into the mold of this. For that reason, this gives me hope that Eilish is paving the way forward for other darker, more atmospheric pop stars to rise up. Not since Lorde’s Pure Heroin has a debut pop album so perfectly captured their generation’s feelings and I am hoping Eilish only goes up from here.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Wish You Were Gay
  2. All the Good Girls Go To Hell
  3. You Should See Me in a Crown
  4. Bury a Friend
  5. My Strange Addiction

12) Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain

2019 was an especially kind year for Slowthai. Between getting to get features on several of the year’s best projects and getting to open for Brockhampton on their most recent tour, he has been able to throw himself out there like never before. His most impressive accomplishment, however, is easily this debut album which is a perfect introduction to who Slowthai is as an artist. As the title would suggest, this is an overtly political record, but Slowthai presents his commentary from a working class perspective, putting his own life experiences at the forefront of these songs. It makes this a clever, personal debut that gets to the heart of Slowthai. This is one of those records that I imagine hits even harder in the U.K. but from my perspective this is still a great time loaded with important messages.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Doorman (feat. Mura Musa)
  2. Inglorious (feat. Skepta)
  3. Northampton’s Child
  4. Toaster
  5. Nothing Great About Britain

11) Brockhampton – Ginger

After releasing five albums in two years you would expect Brockhampton’s output to start to feel repetitive or uninteresting. This is absolutely not the case as the group might have put out one of their best records yet. Ginger is the natural progression from Iridescence, which was already an introspective look at the group’s growing fame and the instability within the group after Ameer Vann was removed. On this album, the group not only continues examining these themes but seem much more damaged by them, clearly looking for a sense of catharsis. Even with this added maturity the group is able to come through with a number of entertaining tracks that are perfect for their fans. The Saturation era is over but the future looks incredibly bright for these guys.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Dearly Departed
  2. If You Pray Right
  3. Sugar
  4. No Halo
  5. Victor Roberts

10) Alex Cameron – Miami Memory

There were high expectations for Alex Cameron after his last record Forced Witness¸ one of 2017’s most entertaining releases. On Miami Memory, Cameron continues his 80’s synth-pop sound and clever writing but manages to create something more personal for him. Many of the songs on here are centered around his current relationship and while his writing is still playful, it is always sincere. Outside of his own personal relationship this album does an excellent job of empowering women with tracks like “Far From Born Again” where Cameron humanizes and attempts to destigmatize sex workers and “Bad For the Boys” is an excellent dissection of toxic masculinity. As someone who adores Forced Witness, it is safe to say Alex Cameron is continuing to make exciting and entertaining music.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Bad For the Boys
  2. Far From Born Again
  3. Miami Memory
  4. Too Far
  5. Divorce

9) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Infest the Rats’ Nest

I had no idea that King Gizzard were going to come out with my favorite metal album of the year, mainly because they have never made a pure thrash metal album before. Despite the overall sound being much different from what we are used to from the band, the album is still very much King Gizzard at its core. This is a concept album about the destruction of Earth due to climate change and a group of people trying to settle on a new planet to try and survive. The kind of politically charged and ambitious album you would expect to hear from the group, just with a much different backdrop. The heavier sound only adds to my enjoyment of the climate themes, something that is often stereotyped as being discussed by softer genres. As much as I love many folk songs about the subject, hearing the topic discussed in blunt terms on a thrash metal project warms my heart.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Mars for the Rich
  2. Planet B
  3. Superbug
  4. Self-Immolate
  5. Organ Farmer

8) Pup – Morbid Stuff

If my brain in high school turned into an album, it would probably sound something like Morbid Stuff. This is a vulnerable album, with lead singer Stefan Babcock screaming about his feelings about his failed relationships, society and other common punk topics in a candid, but self-aware way. Bobcock knows he sounds ridiculous on many of these songs but that does not stop him from screaming his thoughts out. Even if you take the occasional melodrama away, what you are left with is still one of the most entertaining releases of the year. Each song is fast and punchy like all great punk should be and delivered with perfect clarity, especially when the gang vocals kick in. This is easily Pup’s best record to date and is also the best punk album to come out this year.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Scorpion Hill
  2. Kids
  3. Free at Last
  4. City
  5. Morbid Stuff

7) Little Simz – Grey Area

I had a passive knowledge of who Little Simz was before this album. After one listen I knew that she had made something special and is undeniably one of the best young rappers in hip hop today. This albums works beyond Simz’ flow but her writing brings a level of sincerity and honesty that few rappers, especially female rappers, have been able to express in this way. Each song is delivered with ferocious confidence that shows that Simz’ knows this is her time to shine and she absolutely does. The production throughout this is also incredibly dynamic, utilizing odd samples and switch ups that keep challenging Simz to deliver stronger and stronger flows. In its quick 35 minute length, Grey Area does more than many albums twice its length are able to accomplish.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Wounds (feat. Chronixx)
  2. Boss
  3. Flowers (feat. Michael Kiwanuka)
  4. Venom
  5. Sherbert Sunset

6) Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising

I have always liked Weyes Blood, but have not found a project where she fully shined until now. It is actually insane how much of a step up this is from literally anything she has done before. First, the production, which utilizes mix of chamber pop and soft rock elements, is absolutely flawless from start to finish. Listening to this for the first time was absolutely blissful and then I began to dive into Natalie Mering’s vocals which have never felt more pronounced. She is an assertive presence, even among the larger-than-life production that is swelling around her. Indie artists have spent years singing about nostalgic feelings of simpler times and reflecting on our modern world, but few do so in the commanding way that Mering does here, making this one of the many accomplishes of Titanic Rising.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Something to Believe
  2. Movies
  3. Everyday
  4. A Lot’s Gonna Change
  5. Andromeda

5) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

Nick Cave’s last album was a deeply broken look into death following the unexpected passing of his teenage son. Ghosteen picks up exactly where Skeleton Tree left off, looking at death, and its impacts, in a more abstract but no less real way. Finding peace and meaning in life after going through such trauma is unimaginable and Ghosteen does what it can to relay those feelings that Cave has. The production is absolutely gorgeous, taking more influence from ambient music to create vast, colorful and textured instrumentation that gracefully compliment Cave’s deep, broken delivery. Just like Skeleton Tree, this is not an easy listen, there is deep pain rooted in every song, but if you take the time to go into it you will be rewarded for it.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Hollywood
  2. Waiting for You
  3. Ghosteen
  4. Bright Horses
  5. Galleon Ship

4) Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!

I have always wanted to be a fan of Lana Del Rey, but there was always an emotional disconnect between me and her albums. That was until Norman Fucking Rockwell! that impressed me in just about every way and is easily a collection of Lana Del Rey’s career best work. Lana’s drawn out vocals sound sharper and more emotive than ever. She is able to convey heartbreak, denial, confusion and more in just how she is delivering each note. Jack Antonoff is also due a load of credit for his role as producer here. This album’s production here complements her better than any production she has gotten up until this point, really driving the emotion of this album. This was a real heartbreaker for me and one that I have consistently listened to since its release when I need to feel catharsis.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Happiness is a Butterfly
  2. Venice Bitch
  3. The Greatest
  4. Mariners Apartment Complex
  5. Norman fucking Rockwell

3) Tyler, the Creator – Igor

Back in 2017 Flower Boy topped my year end list thanks to being a beautifully crafted and produced album and feeling like a creative breakthrough and artistic reinvention for Tyler, the Creator. Now, in 2019, Tyler continues to prove he is a pioneer of his craft. Igor is nothing like Flower Boy, it is another complete 180 from Tyler, and a very welcome one. The production is fuzzy, the vocal mixing is unique, the features are buried and through it all Tyler’s singing voice is used more than ever. It all comes together to form a bizarrely infectious sonic experiment that continues to pay off with each song. Like with Flower Boy, the album has a lyrical arc, this time dealing with the emotional growth of learning to move on from someone you previously loved. While a seemingly simple subject matter, Tyler tells the story in an emotionally engaging way that will have you going through many times to pick up little details. Tyler proves here that he is always going to be pushing and experiment with his sound and that has me beyond excited to see where the rest of his career goes from here.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. A Boy is a Gun
  2. What’s Good
  3. Gone, Gone/Thank You
  4. Earfquake
  5. I Think

2) Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains

There is absolutely no way to discuss this record without discussing the artist who created it, Silver Jews singer David Berman. This was Berman’s first project following the Silver Jews’ breakup and sadly was his last as he took his life a month after Purple Mountains’ release. This fact makes the songs on here deeply unsettling. Berman uses this album to explore depression in an extremely candid and occasionally darkly humorous way, which now is all the more painful. While it might be difficult to discuss the album now, it is very important to note how much of an excellent achievement this was for Berman. After going several years without putting music out, Purple Mountains still sounds like a seasoned singer-songwriter making personal, well-constructed songs that are shockingly infectious. “Margaritas at the Mall” and “Storyline Fever” are genuinely bouncy songs, even if the subtext is tragic. It is one of the most upsetting releases of the year, yet one I have gone back to more times than I would have ever imagined.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Nights That Won’t Happen
  2. I Loved Being My Mother’s Son
  3. Margaritas at the Mall
  4. That’s Just the Way That I Feel
  5. Storyline Fever

1) JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs

This might be an unconventional pick for the top spot but it is a decision I am not taking lightly. Last year I found JPEGMAFIA’s breakthrough album Veteran to be an entertaining, unique take on hip hop. It was certainly unlike anything I had ever heard before and I was excited to see where Peggy would take his next project. In my opinion, JPEGMAFIA took the groundwork laid out on Veteran and created something that hit me harder than any other project this year. All My Heroes Are Cornballs is a complex record stuffed with intense bars, noisy experimental beats and clever writing, all thanks to JPEGMAFIA. Writing and producing this kaleidoscopic array of songs is impressive enough, but the versatility that Peggy shows in his chaotic delivery and insane production is absolutely worthy of the most praise. This is an album that demands to be listened to from start to finish in one sitting, with each song feeling like a small piece of a much bigger puzzle that JPEGMAFIA is putting together. Whether I judge this for its content, its production, its entertainment value or its originality, this is the best album of the year and is a benchmark for any underground hip hop album that comes out in the next decade.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot
  2. Free the Frail (feat. Helena Deland)
  3. Thot Tactics
  4. Papi I Missed U
  5. Kenan Vs. Kel

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