Contributions and reviews by Lindsay Bell, Craig Clemens, and Michael Primiani
This year, as has been the case for approximately the last 4 or 5 years, the album has lost it’s luster as the preferred medium of music consumption. As the world moves towards playlists, algorithms, or just singles on YouTube consumed one-by-one, the LP in it’s physical (and digital) forms may be seeing it’s twilight. All this may be true, but it still remains that great bands like Foals, Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs and Big Thief all released not one, but two albums apiece. These artists, and many others like them, said “no, thank you” to conventional wisdom and released amazing records that capped of a decade of seismic change in the music industry.
This time in history is sometimes overwhelming with a literal stream of media and content to explore – so it’s only fitting that we add to this content tsunami with our teams favourite albums of 2019.
5. Toro Y Moi – Outer Peace
4. James Blake – Assume Form
3. Jordan Rakei – Origin
2. Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
1. Solange – When I Get Home
Emerging as a true visionary with a piece of self-discovery, When I Get Home trusts it’s audience in a unique way that eschews hand-holding and easy answers. Driven by deep feelings and mindfulness, Solange borders on the avant-garde by intensifying a jazz approach that is filled with sonic repetition and nearly freeform collaboration. A truly personal album that ditches the standards of the pop industry in a year where R&B and hip hop proved the most innovative and original genres, Solange stands apart from her contemporaries.
Favourite track: Stay Flo
5. The Desert Sessions – Volumes 11 & 12
4. Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock
3. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
2. Mark Lanegan Band – Somebody’s Knocking
1. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 2)
A great conclusion to the most adventurous project of their career, it’s the knockout closing LP that illuminates the mastery of dynamics and cathartic release. Of course, Part 2 is best enjoyed alongside it’s counterpart and predecessor, even standing alone Part 2 is a enormous and towering achievement in it’s own right. Oddly muscular, even in it’s most pretentious moments, Foals are reliably brilliant – a group that relies in the seas of ever changing times and tastes. Boundary-pushing and satisfying, Foals has been one of the biggest and most enlightening band in Britian for nearly a decade – finally, they’ve started to sound like it.
Favourite track: The Runner
5. Cate Le Bon – Reward
4. K A R Y Y N – The Quanta Series
3. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
2. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
1. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Easily one of the strongest album of the year, this is the tops of this genre for very good reason. All at once colliding with ideas both past and present, a new found sound pushes expectations with an album that marks time passing and minds changing – a continued rebirth. An absolute stunner, this is her biggest and boldest sounding release while remaining confrontational and challenging. If, for some reason, you happened to overlook All Mirrors in 2019, this is a deep listen that is perfect for those looking for something to digest other than a holiday feast.
Favourite Track: All Mirrors
5. Chromatics – Closer to Grey
4. Jay Som – Anak Ko
3. Hatchie – Keepsake
2. Vanishing Twin – The Age of Immunology
1. The Japanese House – Good At Falling
(Posted originally on Release Day, March 1st)
Arriving with steady momentum, The Japanese House has carved out a sonically bright and glistening piece of pop music that merges the style seen in their first three EPs. In a mere 40 minutes, Amber Bain has illustrated her maturation as a musician and a producer that makes her completely unforgettable.
Favourite Track: Maybe You’re the Reason
5. Teebs – Anicca
4. Laurel Halo – Dj-Kicks
3. Caterina Barbieri – Ecstatic Computation
2. Kano – Hoodies All Summer
1. JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Tumultuous but empowering, All My Heroes Are Cornballs captures the feelings of living in a world of endless information. Posting compulsively, we’ve become the zombies we we’re told never to become. We are our own childhood nightmare. JPEGMAFIA reflects this perfectly. Broadening his visceral image and sound into a vulnerable, humanizing project, by the end of the album the listener hears a rallying cry for the post-internet messageboard troll – a broodish and bouncy manifesto for the digitally-misunderstood.
Favourite Track: Free The Frail
5. Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy
4. Sigrid – Sucker Punch
3. (Tied) MUNA – Saves the World; Self Esteem – Compliments Please; Taylor Swift – Lover
2. Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
1. Charli XCX – Charli
(Posted originally on Release Day | September 13th)
Infectiously indulgent and absolutely boundlessly liberating, Charli is a all-guns blazing pitch for XCX to reach super-stardom. A direct result of years of experimentation, this album wears it metallic, raw beats and synths on it’s sleeve while the embattled singer reveals her anxieties for all to see. Yet another winning release from an artist who won’t be stopped in pushing pop music into the future.
Favourite Track: 1999
5. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
4. Rhiannon Diggens – There Is No Other (with Francesco Turrisi)
3. Aldous Harding – Designer
2. Julia Jacklin – Crushing
1. Big Theif – Two Hands
Putting out two good albums in one year is a remarkable feat. However, what’s more incredible is when the second album is even better than the first. Such is the case with Brooklyn based folk outfit Big Thief, who released their third album U.F.O.F. in May and their fourth album Two Hands in October. While U.F.O.F. dwells in quiet indie folk, the band shows their teeth and cranks up the volume on Two Hands – which is more folk rock than indie folk. Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s raw and unmistakable singing voice weaves in and out of sounding like it belongs on a punk record to sounding soft and serene. Lyrics that aim to explain feelings that cannot be explained are complimented by carefully crafted guitar arpeggios in sync with the punches of the drums. If there’s one thing Big Thief is guilty of, it’s stealing our hearts and attention.
Favourite Track: Not
5. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
4. Rapsody – Eve
3. Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
2. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
1. Dave – Psychodrama
This is very much a sit-down-and-listen record. There’s nothing in here to get hyped about, but by seriously and critically listening one finds this quasi-concept album is incredibly bold and thought-provoking. Consistently engaging, echoing the complex life of being broken and marginalized in the UK, it feels like a bit of a coming out party for the British rap scene.
Favourite track: Streatham
5. CHAI – PUNK
4. Sumflower Bean – King of the Dudes
3. Nilufer Yaya – Miss Universe
2. Frightened Rabbit – Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’
1. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
Van Etten’s 2019 offering may just be the crowning achievement in her already peerless catalog. By doubling-down on her artistic tendencies, Van Etten has shown she’s an eternally enduring artist brimming with cohesive and creative works, while not being chained to a style. The album itself is thematically relateable while still exploring beyond previous musical boundaries. This an album of incredible resonance and depth that sounds both dark and strangely comforting at the same time.
Favourite Track: No One’s Easy to Love
5. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 1)
4. (Tie) Frightened Rabbit – Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’; Blood Red Shoes – Get Tragic
3. Marika Hackmn – Any Human Friend
2. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
1. Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows
If there was a category for “Most Overlooked Album of 2019” this record from the Seattle-based indie outfit would walk away with that prize as well. While the group has left their post-grunge roots behind and, with Four of Arrows, are now embracing a more expansive sound the album continues to pop and crackle with every track – the only difference is the nuance that makes for a much richer and far deeper emotional payoff. There’s an amount of sadness throughout, but it remains triumphant. Hurt and confused, but dazzling and joyful, this record is a beckoning call.
Favourite Track: Treat Jar
5. Nerija – Blume
4. Floating Points – Late Night Tales
3. Exra Collective – You Can’t Steal My Joy
2. The Comet Is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
1. Flying Lotus – Flamagra
A staggered fever dream of 27 tracks, most of them between 60 and 90 seconds in length, this uniquely talented artist takes his listeners on a journey that is united in both chaos and calm. Predictably unpredictable, FlyLo is at the absolute top of his game – sounding vaporous his growth as a record producer has resulted in a form of electronic funk that is wholly and entirely his own. The brilliant aura of sound and feeling come together and create an opus of joy and tranquility. This album is a perfect reminder, if anybody really needed one, that Flying Lotus sounds absolutely transcendent.
Favourite Track: Takashi
5. Pond – Tasmania
4. (Tied) Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?; Crumb – Jinx
3. Avey Tare – Cows on Hourglass Pond
2. Vanishing Twin – The Age of Ummunology
1. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
House of Sugar follows the same format as most of Alex Giannascoli’s recent releases, where a range of styles are delivered in short bursts throughout the album. Giannascoli serves up delicious multi-genre, bite sized hors d’oeuvres off a platter that is rooted in lo-fi indie folk as the base for all experimentation. Offerings include psychedelic rock, ambient electronica, vaporwave and alt-country. Criticism has been launched at Giannascoli for rarely developing these styles beyond the 3 minute mark. We argue the contrary – that the slipping in and out of genre that’s so prevalent on (Sandy) Alex G’s House of Sugar is the album’s charm. We wonder if Giannascoli will ever take one of these many sounds and develop a full album out of it. Effectively, turning one of the many bite size hors d’oeuvres into a full meal. Regardless, we are hungry for what’s next.
Favourite Track: Hope
5. Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
4. Mark Ronson – Late Night Feelings
3. Ariana Grande – thank u, next
2. Beyonce – HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM
1. Jenny Lewis – On the Line
Jenny Lewis’ 4th solo album On The Line is an evocative exploration of the artist’s ominous journey to becoming an emotionally resilient and autonomous figure. The album plays like a reflective road trip along the West Coast, sifting through the catalogue of Lewis’ harrowing past. The California indie-folk artist captures the wounds of her mother’s heroin addiction, father’s absence and former toxic relationships through hazy-hypnotic melodies, powerful imagery and seductive wordplay. Although her story is strikingly sinister, there’s a sense that she’s experienced an evolution in order to leave her painful past in the rear-view mirror. On The Line personifies Lewis’ storytelling genius and ability to confront agonizing subjects in the overture of a breezy daydream. While her previous work reflects a more pessimistic and morbid side of Lewis, this album is a foray into lighter realms – an acceptance of her past and appreciation of life to come.
Favourite track: Red Bull & Hennessy
5. AJ Tracey – AJ Tracey
4. BROCKHAMPTON – GINGER
3. Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding
2. Kevin Abstract – ARIZONA BABY
1. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Energetic, liberating and emotionally charged – Lizzo’s 2019 album Cuz I Love You is a celebration of womanhood, sexuality and self-love. Her booming vocal range, sassy lyrics and fusion of R&B, soul and hip-hop result in infectious anthems that preach body positivity and independence. They exude a level of vulnerability necessary to empathize with the common strife associated with relationships and femininity. Tracks such as “Cuz I Love You” and “Exactly How I Feel (Feat. Gucci Mane)” showcase her singing prowess with ample octave range, while “Jerome” and “Lingerie” present a more sultry, stripped down version of Lizzo. The nude self-portrait displayed on Cuz I Love You’s album cover personifies her journey to self-acceptance, from falling victim to societal standards of body image, to flaunting her thick form with the kind of fiery confidence every woman aspires to have. In both visual and vocal presentation, Lizzo simply holds nothing back.
Favorite Track: Juice
5. Drugdealer – Raw Honey
4. 75 Dollar Bill – I Was Real
3. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
2. Vanishing Twin – The Age of Immunology
1. Brittany Howard – Jaime
Brittany Howard’s debut solo album is a heartful rendering of sound and storytelling that transcends the listener into the ethos of her southern roots. The Alabama Shakes frontwoman brought in star-studded musicians such as bassist Zac Cockrell, jazz pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Nate Smith to bring her profoundly intimate narrative to life. The album is an experimental fusion of blues, synth-rock and soul accompanied by Howard’s signature raw vocals. Jaime is named after her late sister who passed away of retinoblastoma when they were teens. Howard’s soul-baring lyrics explore themes of love, spirituality, sexuality and race from the perspective of a biracial and bisexual woman growing up in the tumultuous political climate of the southern United States. Contemplative, daring and deeply moving, Brittany Howard’s mesmerizing solo record establishes her as one of the great soul queens of our generation.
Favorite Track: Stay High
5. Anderson .Paak – Ventura
4. Solange – When I Get Home
3. Jordan Rakei – Origin
2. Jamilia Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
1. Beyonce – HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM
In 2018, Beyoncé made history on the Coachella stage as the first Black-female headliner by staging a monumental compilation of her music combined with countless cultural traditions that personify Black power, excellence and beauty. Her mega-watt vocals were supported by a marching band, fraternity steppers and a backup choir that reference the institution of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) while masterfully displaying the creative talents of each performer. To characterize this production like Beyoncé, “there’s just so much damn swag.” This album deliberately embodies Black cultural entities and pays homage to a myriad of historical figures such as Malcolm X and Nina Simone, who were pivotal in the Black Power Movement. By incorporating these elements, Beyoncé unleashes the voices of an entire community too often silenced within the popular music industry and honors those who paved the way for her. HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM is a political statement, a cultural touchstone and a triumphant corroboration of Black-female expression.
Favorite Track: Love On Top – Homecoming Live
5. Mike Patton & Jean-Claude Vannier – Corpse Flower
4. Marika Hackman – Any Human Friend
3. (Tied) Opeth – In Cauda Venenum; Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows
2. Richard Dawson – 2020
1. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
An absolutely fantastic work, proving without a shadow of a doubt that David Berman is one of the greatest living songwriters. Returning with a melancholic, hauntingly beautiful and witty album, the results is a project that is born of great perspective and nihilism. Lonely without being self-indulgent, it’s possibly the years most listenable album, which reminds us exactly how much we’ve all really missed all that Berman can bring.
Favourite Track: All My Happiness is Gone
5. Julia Jacklin – Crushing
4. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
3. Brittany Howard – Jaime
2. (Tied) Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow; Richard Dawson – 2020
1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Simplicity is mesmerizing. In minimalism there’s a meditative quality to sparse piano music and melodic lines that weave expertly through a haze of shimmering light. This is what we’ve got again with Ghosteen. Cave has written about love before, but it’s never been this profound. Rather than reveling and celebrating, we find Cave clinging to the threads. Long, sad, brooding and full of longing and grief this marks an incredible 17 albums from Nick Cave – this one, being the most terribly sad and beautiful.
Favourite track: Bright Horses
5. Helado Negro – This Is How You Smile
4. Shura – forevher
3. (Tied) Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy; The Japanese House – Good At Falling
2. (Tied) MUNA – Saves the World; Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
1. Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
Track for track you’re not going to find an album that is more concise and vivid counterpoint to the absolute horror that was Jenny Hval’s previous record Blood Bitch. Compared to her previous work that was dense and structural, this album is almost completely loose, a comfy drifting soundscape of electronic grooves and backdrops. Greatly ambitious, this was a bold new directions for Hval that was a thrilling and unique examination of her world.
Favourite track: High Alice
5. Young Thug – So Much Fun
4. Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats – Anger Management
3. (Tied) 2 Chainz – Rap or Go to the Leauge; Maxo Kream – Brandon Banks
2. Megan Thee Stallion – Fever
1. Denzel Curry – ZUU
(Originally posted on Release Day | May 31)
An absolutely strong offering from Denzel Curry – this is absolutely a record you’ll want to nod your head and dance to. In a well-deserved salute to the his fans and the masses Curry has taken the introspection of his previous work and turned it completely around and possibly finally shedding his label as the “most underrated rapper in the game”.
Favourite track: Speedboat
Our own Master T had the opportunity to interview Denzel Curry in September, check out that sit-down here:
Best Albums of 2019
10. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
9. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
8. Ariana – Grande – thank u, next
7. (Tied) Jenny Lewis – On The Line; Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
6. (Tied) PUP – Morbid Stuff; Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana; Tyler, The Creator – IGOR
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
4. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
3. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
2. Michael Kiwanuka – Michael Kiwanuka
1. Brittany Howard – Jaime