It is time to take a breath, because the rollercoaster that was the year of 2019 is successfully over. Funny how quickly, time flies and we are all excited to hop into the next decade. We wouldn’t want to start with the whole “new year, new me” storyline, because that it just too cliché.
Hopefully, you had the chance to succeed in every field you had set goals in and even if you did not get the desired results, there is plenty of time to continue your path and fulfil your newest wishes in this new year and decade.
As we all know, the end of every year comes with our annual ‘Albums of the Year’ list, presenting our album picks that added the most colour in the complex mosaic of the music scene. 2019 has been the breakout year for many uprising artists with mind-blowing sounds and thrilling new music, and we’re always happy to highlight the ones that stand out from the mainstream.
The emerging forces that led many artists were bedroom pop and electronica cloudy hip hop. The strong breakthrough revelations of 2019 were led by the dark whispering vocals of Billie Eilish and Lizzo’s badass rapping skills. Both broke out of the scene almost out of nowhere, and managed to be nominated in various categories at the Grammys.
Also, this was Taylor Swift’s year, and it paid her with the award of not just the artist of the year, but also of the whole decade at the American Music Awards. With a total of 29 awards in her pocket, she managed to surpass Michael Jackson’s record of 24.
Names like Tyler the Creator, Stormzy and the Brockhampton collective became main additions of the most listened to playlists on music streaming platforms, highlighting that you do not only have to produce commercial pop music to reach a wider range of listeners.
Thanks to Tereza Bittnerova and Zoe Eskitzopoulou for editorialising our list for us this year and bringing it to life. The first part of our ‘Albums of 2019’ list highlights the best albums of the year, from #50 to #21 – check them out here – we continue our countdown from #20 to #11 below.
20. Brittany Howard – Jaime
Her hugely anticipated solo debut album Jamie, although named after her late sister, is firstly about the singer herself. It effortlessly flows between genres, rhythms and vocal styles, always keeping the listener excited about what is coming next.
Howard chronicles her journey of growing up biracial in South Africa, talking about a “Goat Head” someone put in their car or her relationship with God on “He Loves Me”.
She is taking her sound beyond expectation on the masterfully arranged “13the Century Metal” with heavy instrumentals supporting her “We are all brothers and sisters” chant. Jamie is a thrilling emotional piece of work, deserving all the praise it has been getting.
19. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
Having already seen Big Thief once in the list, admittedly 2019 had been a wildly creative year for the Brooklyn based quartet. At the start of the previous year, the band offered the world a dazzling folk rock masterpiece titled U.F.O.F.
For one more time, the lead singer Adrianne Lenker sings along the surreal instrumental tunes in total harmony, inviting the listener to escape in peaceful imaginations.
The rest of the members, bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivchenia create a sunny environment for the guitarist Buck Meek, who plays gracefully simple chords in sublime combinations. The natural sound of this record is unveiling effortlessly a mixture of dreams, emotions and thoughts in a comforting way.
18. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
David Berman has proved himself one of the greatest musicians of the 2000’s with his indie rock project Silver Jews. The members have gone their separate ways in 2009 and after ten long years, to the joy of many, Berman has returned under a new moniker Purple Mountains and an album of the same name.
He may have lost the band behind him, but the dark and nihilistic view of the world has stayed. Above Purple Mountains, there is a dark cloud of sadness glooming, yet he manages to, with his clever lyricism, offer humorous moments.
With lyrics such as “when I try to drown my thoughts in gin, I find my worst ideas know how to swim”, he speaks on his years of substance addiction and along a soft upbeat melody he tells us “All My Happiness Is Gone”.
Nearly a month after the release of the album, Berman committed suicide, continuing his legacy for the last time, with his beautiful melodies and haunting lyrics creating a melancholic manifest for the sad.
17. Ariana Grande – thank u, next
After releasing Sweetener in August 2018, which she dedicated to the Manchester Arena terror attack, Grande continued to go through a rough time, losing her ex boyfriend Mac Miller to substance abuse, and breaking off her engagement to comedian Pete Davidson.
At such an emotional period in her life, Ariana took to the studio to vent her emotions in the best way she knew how – singing – and thank u, next was the fruit of that venting.
Her voice has adapted over the years to suit her R&B inspired pop music, and she’s come a long way since her first album, ditching her belting ballads for sultry, refreshing bluesy vocals. On this record, Ariana Grande switched it up again, surprising everyone with the absolute honesty and vulnerability running through her lyrics.
She wrote the songs herself, and alongside collaborations with Savan Kotecha, Ilya Salmanzadeh, and Victoria Monét, the album is a complete collection of love, darkness and progression. It’s human, it’s real, and that’s exactly what we’ve missed from Ariana Grande on her previous albums. Finally she showed her true self, without being afraid of what people thought.
16. slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
Grime rapper slowthai stood still as a nonconformist last year with his communicative album Nothing Great About Britain. With a rough punk background following him, his rap bars are a piece of work that the British authorities will have a hard time to digest. Mocking the aristocrats and playing it dumb in a clever way, the performer is a lyrical genius.
In spite of his hardcore punchy way of rapping, most of his instrumentality maintains a lo-fi ambiance with dominant drum beats. Easily, we can recognise that this a verbal manifesto. Filled with fear, anger, disappointment, there are allegations to the nation that has occupied the media the most the past year, with its extravagant political changes.
15. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
After going viral on Twitter in October 2018 with her flute playing video, Lizzo has taken the music world by the storm in 2019, with the release of her third album titled Cuz I Love You. Not only her instrumental skills are impressive, her energetic vocals present an incredible range and control over her colorful tone.
The album is full of anthemic tales of self-love, witty lyricism and big vocal runs. Opening with the heartfelt soulful lyric “I’m crying cuz I love you”, followed by an equivalently powerful charging of a brass orchestra, it is clear this project is not to be skipped.
With song such as “Like A Girl”, “Juice” or “Heaven Help Me”, she proves herself to be honest and empowering, yet vulnerable pop star, not only the music industry, but also young fans all over the world, need.
14. Vampire Weekend – Father Of The Bride
Fans of Vampire Weekend have been waiting for six years to listen to new material of the now trio, the first album since the departure of the producer and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij. Father Of The Bride finds Vampire Weekend to be their most relaxed selves to date, with joyful tunes awakening the feelings of familiarity.
From its first song, the album offers many musically wholesome moments, ranging from a choir appearance on the opening track “Hold You Know” to string orchestra parts on “Rich Man”.
Throughout the album, a story of love is told with three duets with Danielle Haim, of the HAIM trio. The singer, songwriter and guitarist and mastermind behind Vampire Weekend, Ezra Koenig knows very well not to take himself too seriously and the album gloriously proves that.
13. Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
We are getting closer to the top of the list, and we have not witnessed many punk acts for quite some time. Fontaines D.C. are here to break that chain with their debut album Dogrel which they released in the previous year’s spring time.
Not caring if the flowers were blooming outside, the band was gathering in the secretive pubs of Dublin, and constructed a much-needed rebellious record in the late 2010s.
The lead singer, Grian Chatten, is almost speak-singing in his native Irish language, while sharp and quick drum kicks follow him. Later, the vivid guitar lines and the rhythmic bass beats deliver a poking and agonizing call to free the restrained.
The bandmates are delicately not overlapping the frontman’s voice in an attend to let the lyrics be heard, who are inspired by old revolutionary movements of literature like the Beats.
12. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
The singer stood defenceless in front of her audiences and unpacked all her personal struggles about being a singer, an actress and a go to university mom. The astonishing trait of this record, is that she does not emit any sorrow feelings about her life, on the contrary she sings in a glowing, proud tone of voice.
The general musicality of this confession series has its roots in a heavy pop soundscape, but the singer’s natural folk identity sparks either in her soothing vocals or in the use of acoustic instruments. We are always pleased to listen to personal records, especially when they are so finely crafted, resulting to highly relatable quality works.
11. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
Dreamy interludes, forceful lyrics, groovy beats, the list could go on for an hour with what Michael Kiwanuka’s latest album included. The deep voice singer has been releasing dexterous projects throughout his career, gaining one of the higher seats on the scale of progressive soul, but Kiwanuka is an innermost statement.
Due to the timeless, contemporary essence of the songs, it is quite difficult to categorize this record. Parts of electric blues to hearty exquisite jazz tangle in a journey to psychedelic soundscapes.
The main focus is the artist’s battle with low self-esteem, anxiety and research of the truth in a world where malicious acts of racism and violence are often skipped across. Play this on a vinyl turner and let it become your company on a lonely evening.
Click HERE for a full list of our Top 50 Albums of 2019!