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 #41 – check them out here – we continue our countdown from #40 to #31 below.
40. Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy
Apart from this being the London coming quintet’s seventh studio album, we can assure you that this is probably their most monumental pop writing, where innovative synths, Alexis Taylor’s unique voice and joyful rhythms pleasure the listener.
The intriguing title of the album sums up almost perfectly this record’s sound. Like a drug the groovy guitar riffs and upbeat electronica additions lift you up to a complete euphoric state. However, as soon as their effects fade, the confusion of the chords and the melancholy of the vocals hit you, unveiling the band’s genius experimental view of the pop landscape.
39. Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee
Throughout his career, Raphael Saadiq has had experience next to significant names of music industry like Mick Jagger and Solange, but it was the summer of 2019 when he got utterly personal with his fans.
Jimmy Lee is more of a therapeutic confession, where the soul musician is describing the process of losing his four siblings. Listening to his sorrow tone of voice, you can sense the bittersweet feeling his is overwhelmed while singing his lyrics.
Even though the general theme of the album focuses on heavy issues as is drug addiction problems and dealing with loss, this is far from a difficult record to listen to.
Musically, the base is vintage gentle funk, which is brought to the future with psychedelic guitar chords and an electronic pulse in the instrumentation. Quite interesting is to notice Saadiq’s blissful vocals turning into raging shouts to sooth his anguish.
38. Kim Gordon – No Home Record
In the last year, she decided to put all her experiences into practice and she released her first solo album No Home Record. It seems like this is more of a personal project, with experimental ideas that leave her previous works sounding like songs for 5-year-olds.
The whole albums base is pop-rock dynamics that are invaded by multiple noisy textures of all kinds. Some times they are thrilling guitar chords, others they are perplexing drum loops with obscure effects in the vocals. Any way she has decided to distort the elements, she has achieved a bold mixture of high-quality alternative melodies, in a beautifully relentlessly chaotic record.
37. Kano – Hoodies All Summer
From the start, he lets us into his mind with the turbulent flow accompanied by a melancholic beat with the opening track “Free Years Later”. Turning frustration into an advice to younger generations, on the track “Trouble” or speaking about the crime riddled environment he grew up in on “Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil”.
A minimalistic production makes sure Kano’s words are clearly heard, celebrating the community as heard on Pan-Fried, a feature with Kojo Funds, highlighting his home town. The record further proves Kano to be the versatile talent English rap scene deserves.
36. Richard Dawson – 2020
According to his record label, the musician was drawn by the usage of pop with the intention to an easier listening sound. Although, his disorienting spatial style is gone, we can definitely say that these tracks still are compositional masterpieces.
There is a general feeling of conversational singing, through his lyrics that are mostly focused on problems in our society. The protagonists of his stories could be anyone and that is probably what has made this album more accessible to a wider set of music researchers.
Then, the instrumentation feels gritty in some parts causing an angry atmosphere, but when the synths appear with his soft change of tones, a hopeful spirit takes over.
35. Baroness – Gold & Grey
The American metal band Baroness took a few years between records to make a great comeback with their 5th studio album and 2nd album since their recovery from the 2012 bus crash and subsequent line up-changes titled Gold & Grey.
The album touches on the topic of the trauma the band went through together on songs such as Seasons, displaying their maturity in sound and songwriting.
The record feels very atmospheric, as aside from the intriguing lyrics on nearly every song, there are both tremendous guitar solos accompanied by heavy drums and mezmerizing melancholically dark instrumentals combined with the founder John Baizley’s impressive vocals present, together creating one of the most compelling works of Baroness to date.
34. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
No need for introduction for Bruce Springsteen, who has been a constant in the music industry since the 70’s. In 2019, he has released his 19th studio album, proving he still has a lot of good things to say with his music.
Western Stars contains sound we have been yet to hear from The Boss, and while revisiting many of the cowboy stereotypes, he manages to create a pleasant, and most importantly, not boring, country pop record.
Songs driven by character find listener imagining themselves riding the horse in a desert, chasing the wind or evoking memories to a charming getaway with your loved one. As country has been getting reinvented lately with artists such as Lil Nas X, Bruce Springsteen has shown us that going back to the roots can end up being pretty wonderful.
33. Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
The experimental musician has paid a tribute to the same titled drama thriller by Valie Export, which is focused on the dark side of romance. In this album, though, there is no object of love or admiration or even heartbreak. It is a statement of what this feeling can do to your mind and soul as well as the actions that it can produce.
Her poetry like lyrics are accompanied by soothing synths and electronic loops that sink the listeners whole body to an alluring universe. Her ethereal, sublime vocals help in forming a dreamscape imagery, making this album an example of new wave trance in the 2000s. If you play this on repeat you will be happy to discover more and more surprises in every layer of the song.
32. Lingua Ignota – Caligula
After making a name for herself in 2017 with the album All Bitches Die, the singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Kristin Hayter known as Lingua Ignota has come back in 2019 with Caligula. It is a mind blowing unapologetic confession of a survivor of abuse, infused with fury and a lust for revenge.
Caligula is not an easy listen as we get to visit the absolute darkest parts of Lingua’s mind through a theatrical and melodramatic blend of metal, opera, noise and even throat singing.
Her voice is her most powerful instrument, going from singing about throwing the abuser’s body in the river in a beautiful soprano to shrieks and screams accompanied by dramatic instrumentals. Caligula is an righteously angry apocalyptic confession infused with religious iconography, creating a wave of the rawest emotion.
31. Rapsody – Eve
Rapsody’s album Eve was radiating woman power vibes from the record shops shelves. Every song is a tribute to every powerful black woman figure the rapper admires. In her own innovative way, she has re-introduced Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey and many more, elevating them with illuminating flows about their personalities, struggles and successes.
This record contains from cloudy, dark, grotesque vocal loops in the background to sharp cut funky beats and each time the rapper has achieved to catch the spirit of the rhythm.
The sound diversity is also enhanced by well-established artists such as Queen Latifah, K.Roosevelt and J.Cole that came together to produce Eve. As a result, this is a black force’s punch to the mainstream pop scene.
Click HERE for a full list of our Top 50 Albums of 2019!