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 #11 – check them out here – we continue our countdown from #11 to #1 below.
10. Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
There probably wasn’t a teenager more famous in 2019 than Billie Eilish. Working with her brother and producer Finneas, they have given us the enormously anticipated debut album When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?. Together they continue to prove that they are the breath of fresh air in music.
With Billie’s soft eerie vocals and the nightmare resounding instrumental production, as heard on “bury a friend”, we embark on an extraordinary journey exploring topics such as sleep paralysis, one’s place in the world and among peers or love.
This album oozes originality, with the purposefully overproduced bass on “xanny”, the haunting sadness present in “listen before i go” or the badass vibe of “you should see me in a crown”, Billie Eilish proves she is the one that should stay on our radar.
9. Solange – When I Get Home
The album is Solange’s praise to her beloved Houston and her ancestors in the R&B and funk scenes. The album may contain 19 tracks, but it lasts only 39 minutes and there are no one time hit rockets. This is why, it is mostly preferred to be considered as an extended cohesive one piece.
There is a general repetition of the same chopped phrases over the progression of each track, but that does not mean that we do not have to pay attention to them.
One line that really stands out is “I can’t be a singular expression of myself, there’s too many parts, too many spaces, too many manifestations, too many lines, too many curves”, a vision of her internal multi-dimensional beauty.
8. Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
Hearing IGOR for the first time, I had to fight off the idea that this wasn’t just Tyler spectacularly jumping the gun, throwing in every and any ingredient at his disposal, leaving us with an Eton Mess of synths and vocal layering. But these thoughts thinned out as the album progressed in a second, third, and fourth encore. A testament to the album’s replay value.
Needless to say, the production on IGOR is pretty fantastic. The arrangement of instrumentals, smooth vocal harmonies, cherry picked samples and sequencing techniques all contribute immensely to the perfect chaos that emerges. He also has a deep seated love for synthesisers, apparently, which goes without saying: I bet he had fun making this.
His last Grammy-nominated album Flower Boy was the first step away from what critics are calling the ‘childish provocations of his past’, and IGOR cemented that gap by stepping away from the rap game all together. Even he is confused by the genre, though he’s big on singing — hence the jokes stage persona.
There is no doubt his albums continue to grow and mature musically, but it might be to the detriment of an original fan base that admired the honest, disturbed reality of Tyler’s artistic spirit. But to go from pissing on the critics (and mums) around the world, to having bans lifted and music appreciated, is not something to be discredited. The music is good. Surely that is all that matters?
7. Little Simz – GREY Area
The North London rapper Little Simz had not been recognized the way she should have until the starting months of 2019 when she released her striking album GREY Area. Her lack of publicity, motivated her even more and she came out unapologetic in probably the most beautifully crafted rap album of the year.
She shoots proudly with her knockout hooks alongside with layered melodies. The harmonious ambiance is often enhanced by natural instruments which are followed by dark low bap beats and climax is reached when Simbi Ajikawo goes on breathless rants. Her energy is so uplifting, that can cause circling dizziness, still she lets us crash in dark downfalls.
6. Dave – Psychodrama
Lauded for his political consciousness on “Question Time” yet his knack for making hits like recent chart topper “Funky Friday”, Dave is undoubtedly a gem in the crown of UK music. It’s been EPs and singles up until this point, but in 2019, he presented his debut full length effort, Psychodrama.
It’s a journey of an album – tracks succinctly interwoven by the words of a therapist who guides Dave, and the listener through the drama in a series of parts.
If we, for a second, examine the definition of psychodrama as “a form of psychotherapy in which patients act out events from their past“, then this album is exactly that. But its beauty in particular is that it’s very personal, there is a universality in his story. Dave was chosen to tell his story. To tell his brother’s story. And all those that came before him.
With Psychodrama, in many ways, Dave is allowing himself to be vulnerable in place of black men who don’t feel able to, in the hope that we can learn to get to that place. Addressing the issues of mental health, we get to understand the complexities of a men in his position, in the hope that they can gain the humanity that was harshly stripped away back again.
5. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
All Mirrors is Angel Olsen’s fourth studio album, righteously dubbed as her best work yet. It follows a journey of one becoming themselves once again, focusing on the trauma, the drama and the transition, after coming out of relationships, however bad or toxic they may have been, saying “You just wanted to forget that your heart was full of sh*t”.
The 11-piece string section Olsen worked with, along with producers Ben Babbitt and John Congleton, breathe an intensely rich cinematic atmosphere into many of the songs, and together with her metamorphosis embracing lyrics and stunning vocals it is impossible to leave any of the eleven songs on All Mirrors without feelings of affection.
4. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Have you ever thought how velvet would sound if it was a song? Well, that was discovered in Weyes Blood’s alternative folk album Titanic Rising in the year of 2019. The title is inspired by the world-famous movie, her go-to therapy whenever she was feeling at her lowest.
David Bowie’s influence is pretty obvious right from the start of the album, where we are charmingly welcomed by a tribute to the Side B of his own “Low”. In addition to that, there appear to be pretty straightforward Beatles based parts. As a result, a record that combines acid, stargazing psychedelic pop with high pitched periodical tempos captivated the curious and the cratediggers.
3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Ghosteen is the cathartic final record of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds apocalyptic trilogy that contained “Push The Sky Away” and “Skeleton Tree”. With the sculpting of the tracks starting after the death of Cave’s son, this album is a profound exploration of experiencing loss of someone beloved.
Many lyrical references to Jesus and raw but heart-dropping phrases like “you’re still in me, baby, I need you.”, determine this album as the most honest we have ever listened to. The instrumentation is alluring with white synth noises and piano interludes, while gentle chanting voices ameliorate the dramatic effect. This is a mourning poetic piece, crafted similarly to the Homeric poems.
2. FKA Twigs – Magdalene
Like a phoenix ascending from its ashes, FKA Twigs‘ follow up to her critically acclaimed debut album LP1, Magdalene sees the singer successfully rebuilding herself after a difficult journey full of emotional and physical pain.
It shows Twigs fully in control of her vision that is greatly transcending genres, creating one of the most innovative and exceptional pop records of 2019.
With contributions from big names such as Future, Benny Blanco, Jack Antonoff or Skrillex, among others, the production broadcasts a vision beyond our world.
Accompanied by equally extraordinary vocals, ranging from shiver causing soprano notes on thousand eyes to her powerful lyrics executed by a voice modified with digital effects, FKA Twigs has managed to rise from heartbreak with an exceptional collection of her cosmic perception.
1. Lana Del Rey – Norman F*****g Rockwell!
On the top of our 50 Best Albums of 2019 you will find none other than Lana Del Rey. The songstress known for her melancholy, metaphors and tender voice has returned with Norman F*****g Rockwell. She is still as wonderfully nostalgic as ever, but she seems to have become more aware of herself.
Paying homage to the United States of America on songs such as “California” or “Venice Bitch”, she doesn’t shy away from painting the picture how it is. Because as much as it might be one of her biggest inspirations, she admits that “L.A. is in flames, it’s getting hot”, dialling down on her ever present patriotic character, accepting the reality of what is going on with her country.
The queen of aesthetics is surrounded by fuzzy guitar licks and sublime synths – a familiar environment for her to showcase her most vulnerable vocals. Every single one of the tracks submits a tender experience of multi-layered fantasy dreamscapes.
However, we always come across astonishing embellishments like vibrant solos and electronic loops, that constitute this record worthy of the first place above many other music masters of 2019.
Click HERE for a full list of our Top 50 Albums of 2019!