Our Picks for Best Albums of 2019

2019 was a politically charged, at times somber, year. Music that debuted this year reflected that, especially from our youth like Billie Eilish, Dave, and Little Simz. We also saw a lot of self-reflection and inspiration from the liked of Jamila Woods, Lizzo, Tyler, the Creator, Lana Del Rey, and Sharon Van Etten. If this year is indicative of what is to come, then we’re pumped for 2020! Here is our list of the 20 best albums of 2019:

[20] When I Get Home, Solange

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “A stunning effort. Solange creates such fully realized art that even when she may be expressing uncertainty and doubt, she’s charging herself–and her audience–with finding possibility.” – Entertainment Weekly. “When I Get Home is a challenging and satisfying follow-up to “A Seat at the Table,” one that will probably baffle some fans but intrigue and engage even more.” – Variety. “The album rewards repetition, in listening and in execution.” – Pitchfork.

What we say: Solange is an artist and challenges the industry with ever record she drops.

Song we listened to the most:  “Cranes in the Sky”

[19] Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “Beyond the amber waves of grain, Purple Mountains offer fans a feast of food for thought.” – NOW Magazine. “David Berman is one of our greatest living songwriters and he’s returned in beautiful, melancholic form as Purple Mountains to speak to the lifelong nihilistic depressive in all of us.” – Consequence of Sound. “Purple Mountains is the sound of that guy starting to come to terms with his reality, and maybe building a new emotional architecture in the wreckage. In any case, keep ’em coming. The journey is worth it.” – Rolling Stone.

What we say: Purple Mountains proves what a phenomenal songwriter David Berman is.

Song we listened to the most:  “Darkness and Cold”

[18] Schlagenheim, Black Midi

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “An experimental, genre-less and extremely noisy sound to exception results. Schlagenheim is beyond weird, is a legitimate one of a kind record, is a masterpiece.” – Paste. “Schlagenheim may possess some semblance of the aforementioned genres, alongside others like kraut and yes, even jazz, but pining for some rigid label is futile, because Schlagenheim is one of the most unique rock records released this year and maybe of the past five years.” – The 405. “There is a sort of pure, youthful exuberance to what black midi are making, but their experimentation also carries with it a sense of mission.” – Consequences of Sound.

What we say: Loud, different and a lot of fun.

Song we listened to the most: “Speedway”

[17] Jaime, Brittany Howard

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “With Jaime, Howard proves what many of us already speculated: The magic behind Alabama Shakes was Brittany Howard.” – Consequences of Sound. “Throughout Jamie, Howard also continues to challenge the impressive instrument of her voice in unpredictable ways…Her quest for personal fulfillment doubles as creative bloom as well, revealing new dimensions of her talent.” – Uncut. “The album’s 11 songs are spontaneous, fluid and entirely indifferent to genre as they pour out of her like the torrential rains of an evening thunderstorm.” – Paste.

What we say: We have missed the Alabama Shakes, and Howard delivers with Jaime.

Song we listened to the most: “Stay High”

[16] Cuz I Love You, Lizzo

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “The 31-year-old bares herself and parlays stereotypical insecurities into liberating strength, hurling bombs of empowerment.” – Austin Chronicle. “The record is purposefully compact, genre-blending, unifying, reaffirming, devoid of corniness, with just two well-selcted features that heighten but do not overshadow her performance. If other artists are clever they’ll take note: Lizzo has just set the standard for how to make a perfect pop record.” – Consequence of Sound. “She’s got a sly sense of music history, which is how she can reach so far on Cuz I Love You.” – Rolling Stone.

What we say: 2019 was the year of Lizzo. As it should be. Lizzo for President!

Song we listened to the most: All of them! “Truth Hurts” “Water Me” “Soulmate” “Juice”

[15] Kiwanuka, Michael Kiwanuka

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “Ultimately, this is an album in which a troubled spirit seeks the relief of music to mesmerizing and charged effect. And that is timeless.” – The Telegraph.  “This is an exceptionally compelling, absorbing, rich, and genuinely human piece of work.” – The Line of Best Fit.  “It sounds timeless and contemporary; the instrumental interludes and the stylistic and tempo shifts all hang together because of his warm, sincere vocals and fantastic songwriting.” – The Guardian.

What we say: So far Kiwanuka has gotten us through the start of the holiday season with is beautiful instrumentals and his timeless voice.

Song we listened to the most: “Solid Ground”

[14] Igor, Tyler, The Creator

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “The production here is superb. Tyler has never been one for traditional song structure, but on IGOR he’s like the Minotaur luring you through a maze that twists and turns around seemingly impossible corners, drawing you into the thrilling unknown…This is Tyler’s best work to date.” – The Independent.  “Tyler and a motorcade’s worth of supporting vocalists fulfill the promise and threat with what plays out, a creatively vital and emotionally heartsick set with as much pain, vulnerability, and compulsion as a classic soul LP.” – AllMusic.

What we say: We love Tyler’s 2017 Flower Boy but IGOR may have topped it.

Song we listened to the most:  EARFQUAKE

[13] Remind Me Tomorrow, Sharon Van Etten

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “It’s her grandest, greatest evolution yet.” – No Ripcord. “While it sounds different from anything Van Etten has ever done, it also never sounds like anyone but her. Her big, sweeping choruses and singer songwritery melodies adapt surprisingly well to their new context, with heavy synthetic baselines and sparkling electronic embellishments accenting her echo-laden, multi-tracked vocals.” – Variety.

What we say: We had “Seventeen” stuck in our head most of this year.

Song we listened to the most: “Seventeen”

[12] Titanic Rising, Weyes Blood

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

 

What the critics say: “A strong contender for album of the year… Titanic Rising is remarkable for its breadth, effortlessly shifting form the 90-second ambient wash of the title track to Picture Me Better’s homespun take on the cosmic cowboyisms of Kacey Musgraves. Then there are Merings’ lyrics, evincing a similar shift in scale and scope.” – Record Collector. “Titanic Rising is a new thing, her own stamp on the world. Like all the best musicians and songwriters before her, she plumbed the depths of her imagination and brought fourth a masterpiece from the depths.” – The Line of Best Fit.

What we say: “Titanic Rising” is an unbelievably beautiful album that transcends niches.

Song we listened to the most: “Everyday”

[11] Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “An album that could soundtrack an afternoon picnic or be used as fodder for a doctorate thesis on songwriting. It’s beautifully realized cider in an age of unsatisfying answers.” – Variety. “The tracks are playfully, restlessly inventive.” – The New York Times.

What we say: It’s very Vampire Weekend and it’s what was needed for a post Batmanglij fourth studio Album.

Song we listened to the most: “This Life”

[10] Two Hands, Big Thief

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 Best Albums of 2019

What the critics say: “Two Hands is Big Thief’s best to date, and undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year.” – The Independent. “The more Big Thief zoom in, the more magical they sound.” – Pitchfork. “A raw, primitive nod to the planet we inhabit and our connection to it.” – Clash Music.

What we say: This is not the only time Big Thief is on this list and that says it all for the year they had in 2019.

Song we listened to the most: “Not”

[10] Legacy! Legacy!, Jamila Woods

What the critics say: “Woods embodies the cultural makeup of Chicago, tackles the multiplicity of identity, and balances her dominance with flawlessly selected features that build her up…This record could be the basis for a college course or used as an actually accurate history book.” – Consequence of Sound. “Woods, herself, a poet, singer, activist, and teacher, casts Legacy! Legacy! as a beacon for a type of self-empowerment informed by the predecessors who built and shaped culture.” – PopMatters. “The result is free-spitted and joyful record, infused with a sense of community and full of affirmations you can repeat in the mirror.” – The Guardian.

What we say: If this is Woods’ only Legacy, then it’s a phenomenal one.

Song we listened to the most: “Baldwin (feat. Nico Segal)”

[8] Magadealene, FKA twigs

What the critics say: “By its close, FKA twigs is an unstoppable force of nature.” – NME. “Magdalene is an album that, like FKA twigs herself, defines both genre and classification. Yet it’s a late contender for album of the year, with songs that will live on for months to come.” – musicOMH.com. “Magdalene sees FKA twigs reach a wholly satisfying pinnacle that is unlikely to be rivaled by any of her peers in 2019.” – Sputnikmusic.

What we say: There are a lot of great ideas in this album that all work well together to create what might be FKA twigs’ masterpiece.

Song we listened to the most: “holy terrain (feat. Future)” and “Fallen Alien”

[7] Ghosteen, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

What the critics say: “It can only tower when it comes to naming this decade’s great albums; miles above and light years ahead of anything else.” – Record Collector. “It’s another masterpiece that will forever be enshrined in his ever-growing legacy. Absolute perfection.” – Sputnikmusic. “Ghosteen is a masterpiece of melancholy. You mourn right along with him and hope he finds solace. ” – Rolling Stone.

What we say: 2019 was often a somber year and Ghosteen was there for us in those moments.

Song we listened to the most: “Waiting for you”

[6] Dogrel, Fontaines D.C.

What the critics say: “Fontaines DC wear their influences close to their sleeve, with nods to The Pogues, The Strokes and Joy Division, but these influences are absorbed into their indignity, to create something that is instantly familiar and accessible, but also thrillingly compelling.” – musicOMH.com. “This is the kind of songwriting quality that bands can take years to reach, or never reach at all: brilliant, top to bottom.” – The Guardian.

What we say: Guitar music isn’t dead. This was one of our favorite albums to play at the beach this past summer.

Song we listened to the most: “Liberty Bell”

[5] Norman Fucking Rockwell, Lana Del Rey

What the critics say: “Piano, reverb and guitar fuzz make it Del Rey’s dreamiest and most cohesive album since 2015’s Honeymoon and her most rock-inspired since 2014’s Ultraviolence.” – NOW Magazine. “Norman Fucking Rockwell! proves (again) Del Rey as a fully-realized artist who has remained true to her obsessions — aesthetic, cultural, and personal — outlasting the misogynist criticism that could have derailed her early career. Del Rey delivers a gaze that swivels internally and externally, that can simultaneously observe our national existential dread and her own sudden hope for a “Hallmark” love.” – Consequence of Sound. “Norman Fucking Rockwell is Lana Del Rey unfiltered, full of beauty, emotion, heartbreak, and devastation.” – PopMatters.

What we say: As we wrote “Kanye is blond and gone, so is the American dream,” Del Rey brilliantly reflects on the death of the American dream while still holding on to hope for our Norman Rockwell painting moment.

Song we listened to the most: “Norman Fucking Rockwell”

[4] UFOF, Big Thief

What the critics say: “Their third and undoubtedly best album U.F.O.F, a mesmerizing flood of life filled down into a concerted drip.” – Pitchfork. “A foray into artful album rock for the band, U.F.O.F’s shifts in presentation and subtle and seem wholly organic throughout. It’s a record deserving of such an evocative title, which captures its dreamily impressionistic yet unsettling nature.” – AllMusic.

What we say:  The most ethereal and mystic album of 2019.

Song we listened to the most: “UFOF”

[3] When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Billie Eilish

What the critics say: “It’s enjoyable and familiar, but retains Billie’s disruptive streak. It’s a brave and resounding first step for an artist with bags of potential over the next decade, you’ll no doubt see popular music scabbing to try and replicate what this album does on every level.” – NME. “While she hasn’t quite inherited the pop monarchy from Swift and other elites, Eilish’s debut makes a strong case that it won’t be long until we see her in a crown.” – Consequences of Sound. “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is a brave and fortuitous debut album from the LA teen, capturing the hopes, fears and vulnerabilities of an entire generation. This genius in this record is its unaffected reliability.” – Clash Music.

What we say: We, like many, have been following Billie’s career. What we like most about her is she is true to herself. Billie has circulated herself with a team of people who allow her to be Billie Eilish and this album prove that. It is not lost on us that at just 17 (turning 18 this month) she has put not one of the best albums of the decade, inspired an entire generation, and has captured the voice and sounds of our own heads.

Song we listened to the most: “Bury a Friend”

[2] Psychodrama, Dave

What the critics say: “Unvarnished and emotionally raw, it frequently makes for tough listening. Equally, as a showcase for Dave’s talents, it unquestionably works. His lyrics are smart, thoughtful, unflinching and self-aware…The end result is certainly the boldest album to emerge from UK hip-hop’s renaissance. It may also be the best.” – The Guardian. “In exploring himself on Psychodrama, Dave has produced a masterpiece. This 20-year-old has lost in some ways and won in others, and asks us to listen as he tries to find some answers. The lessons you learn with Dave are sure to live long in the memory.’ – NME.  “One of the most thoughtful, moving, and necessary albums of 2019 so far.” – The Independent.

What we say: The British are coming and taking over Hip Hop.

Song we listened to the most: “Black” and “Location (feat. Burna Boy)”[1] Grey Area, Little Simz

What the critics say: “What Simz does here is phenomenal. This is an album — and artist — to cherish.” – The Independent. “On Grey Area, it feels as if everything has come together in perfect unison, resulting in one of the strongest rap albums of 2019.” – AllMusic. “Having stripped away the narrative cloak that shrouded the highlights of ‘Stillness in Wonderland’, she’s crafted a knockout record — and finally come true on her early promise. This is the best rap record of the year so far.” – NME

What we say: The British are coming and taking over Hip Hop.

Song we listened to the most: “Selfish (feat. Cleo Sol)”