Best Albums of 2019
- Charly Bliss – Young Enough
Overcoming personal trauma and millennial burnout are the fuel for the fire behind the year’s best album. Young Enough, the second album from the Brooklyn quartet is essentially the act smothering that fire with glitter. Lead singer Eva Hendricks reclaims her narrative from an abusive former partner with a combination of rage, tears, and glee. The synths, guitars, and drums from Eva, her brother Sam, Spencer Fox and Dan Shure electrify the furnace which turns the coal of pain into the diamond that is the triumph of coming out the other side.
- Bon Iver – i,i
Striking at first, Bon Iver’s fourth album can initially sound like a series of sketches and unfinished thoughts. However, the more time one spends with it, these sketches become beautiful moving objects. The combination of found sounds, unorthodox instrumentation and too-many eclectic collaborators to fill a small town make i,i one of 2019’s most creative records.
- Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
The structure and mentality of Vampire Weekend changed dramatically during their near 6-year hiatus between 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City and this year’s Father of the Bride. Rostam, the architect of VW’s signature sound, left the band to pursue a solo and production career. Ezra Koenig and Ariel Reichtstaid inspired by the Grateful Dead, the internet and the Time Crisis Beats 1 radio show subverted the band’s roots. FotB crosses a full spectrum of orchestral, ska, jam, choral and electronic music for a complete refresh of the Vampire Weekend canon.
- Solange – When I Get Home
The younger Knowles sister follows up her critically acclaimed A Seat At The Table with a love letter to her native Houston. Home bounces like UGK but glides like an avant-garde work. Each song feels like a quick glimpse into a piece of H-Town on a chrome slab. (I’ve never been to Houston, and I’m sure I sound like it.)
- Brittany Howard – Jaime
The Alabama Shakes lead singer tells a tale or eleven on her debut solo album. Howard not only writes stories of her black and queer America but journeys from R&B to hard rock to metal in less than 40 minutes. Using her idiosyncratic voice and exceptional talent, Howard tells us exactly who she is and refuses to let anyone tell her otherwise.
- Helado Negro – This is How You Smile
This is How You Smile is as soothing as a piece of music can be. It’s a warm bath after a long week. Roberto Carlos Lange coos with his voice and twinkles on the guitar as the world tunes out of focus. In this manic and overstimulated world, it’s critical that music still has the power to draw us to ourselves.
- Billie Eilish – when we all fall asleep, where do we go?
The kids might be ok with telling us they’re not okay. If you don’t know who Billie Eilish is, well, maybe you didn’t listen to music in 2019. She’s what would happen if Lorde lived in Halloweentown. A prodigal songwriter, Eilish sings as several different characters over baroque beats by her brother Finneas. Billie Eilish gives me hope that kids can still find their own identity in this hyperconnected age.
- Whitney – Forever Turned Around
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Chicago band Whitney doesn’t reinvent the wheel on their second album. Their first record Light Upon The Lake, a country-tinged indie rock jaunt was one of the best works of 2016. I’ve always advocated the best way for a band or artist to stay relevant after a great album is to keep most of it, but tie in some new creative elements. However, sometimes, I just want seconds.
- Purple Mountains – Self-titled
Released less than a month before Berman’s suicide, Mountains was the window into the mind of a man who tethered his bonds and grimaced as the foundations of our society. Working with members of the band Woods after a decade long hiatus, Berman’s ultimate work was dark country tales of a man and a world, both in decline.
- Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Donald Trump is still president. Climate change is threatening our very existence and no is power seems to care. Robots are taking our jobs. Living in 2019 could feel like the end of the world. Lana Del Rey has always sounded like she’s singing at a hotel piano lounge during the apocalypse since her rise to prominence in 2012, but on NFR she perfects her timing. The record is weird, biting and funny, while still making for a Sublime cover.
Best songs of 2019
- Charly Bliss – “Chatroom”
- Bon Iver – “iMi”
- Lizzo – “Juice”
- Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen”
- 21 Savage – “a lot” (featuring J. Cole)
- Charli XCX – “Gone” (featuring Christine & The Queens)
- Angel Olsen – “All Mirrors”
- Vampire Weekend – “Bambina”
- Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road” (Remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus)
- Charly Bliss – “Capacity”
- Tyler Childers – “All Your’n”
- The Comet is Coming – “Summon The Fire”
- Big Thief – “Cattails”
- Better Oblivion Community Center – “Dylan Thomas”
- Normani – “Motivation”
- Zack Fox & Kenny Beats – “Jesus is the One (I Got Depression)”
- Stormzy – “Vossi Bop”
- The National – “Not in Kansas”
- Brittany Howard – “Goat Head”
- Aldous Harding – “The Barrel”
- Craig Finn – “Something to Hope For”
- Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats – “Big Titties” (featuring Earthgang & Bauuer)
- Fontaines D.C. – “Boys in the Better Land”
- Girlpool – “Pretty”
- Clairo – “I Wouldn’t Ask You”