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.
So, with no further due, here is our countdown of the best albums of 2019 to add up to your playlist as you take 2020 – thanks to Tereza Bittnerova and Zoe Eskitzopoulou for editorialising our list for us this year and bringing it to life.
50. Marika Hackman – Any Human Friend
With the releases of her albums We Slept At Last and I’m Not Your Man, Marika Hackman has proved to everyone that is able to exceed in intimate, slow burning tracks as well as in upbeat alternative rock bangers. Last summer, she shared a new album titled Any Human Friend where she has combined those and marked her name in the list of the uprising indie artists of the 2010’s.
On the instrumentation side, the intimate strings of some tracks are enough to make your eyes tear for a bit, while you will not want to resist dancing to playful pop hooks. Her erotic voice comes along to connect everything in an almost effortless way. Furthermore, we advise you to pay some attention to her heart breaking, clever and sometimes humorous lyrics that make her songs even more memorable.
49. Tinashe – Songs For You
The first full-length self-released album by the singer Tinashe titled Songs For You has gotten a lot of attention, partly due to her public split form her former label. Her 2014 debut has been dubbed as one of the best R&B releases of the decade, but her following release Joyride not as successful. Reclaiming her status, Songs For You is a collection of songs radiating freedom and unrestrained capability of the talent.
Easily transforming between genres, from R&B, funk or pop to acoustic numbers or trap, sometimes within a single track, and topics, from being ready to party with lyrics such as “drink, smoke, dance, vibe a little bit” to overcoming heartbreak, she manages to further prove her music is worth the listener’s attention with her amazing soprano.
48. Burna Boy – African Giant
Undoubtedly, this is the his most powerful project so far, showcasing his ability to broaden continuously his dancehall vibe. The Nigerian singer is inspired by both personal and political issues, which he has enlightened with bright, soft, laid-back grooves.
After his previous year’s album Outside, that gained the attention of mostly Western audiences, the artist has made progress to achieve a more unifying sound.
This album is filled with genre mixing collaborations to create a polyrhythmic ambiance. Some of the artists featured are Zlatan in “Killing Dem”, Damian Marley in “Different”, Serani and Jorja Smith, resulting in African fusion excellence.
47. Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby
On her debut album Shea Butter Baby, Ari Lennox invites us to witness her story of growing up. The warmhearted 12-song collection sees the singer become independent and living on her own in the playful funk track “New Apartment” or showing off her impressive vocal range on the ‘self-medicating to forget past love’ tale “I Been”.
The album ranges from deeper R&B moments as can be heard on “Whipped Cream” to more frequent tales of coming of age in a messy, fun, but also powerful and honest way, bringing emotion to every song, whether it’s joy or frustration. With the charming reliability of the Shea Butter Baby album, Ari Lennox has created a good starting position in the music industry for herself.
46. Sampa The Great – The Return
The latest album from Sampa The Great titled The Return is a wholesome easy listen; Nineteen tracks split into four sections by interludes, Sampa clearly portrays her versatile, experimental style while moving through genres.
From melodic, harmonised gospel infused to MF Doom or Brockhampton influences, Sampa accommodates for a wide range of moods, with an instrumentally well produced and well structured project.
Focusing on her relationship with the industry and the expectations to constantly produce music; alongside calling herself the “house n***a of this country”, The Return depicts Sampa’s route to independence in music and life, with an undertone of struggle and anxiety to break from the subjects of immigration and racism in Australia, where she has been based for the last six years.
45. Thom Yorke – ANIMA
A great marketing campaign has disrupted the daily life of a London commuter with advertisment for a dream camera containing a number to call or text to get your dreams back. Not long after, it has become clear that it is a promo for non other that the dream and dystopia focused Radiohead singer Thom Yorke’s third solo album titled Anima.
As one could expect from a Thom Yorke project, Anima radiates hopelessness of the fractured present and collapsed future. With electronic tendencies and effects of distortion depicting his fear of technology by using it. not only every guitar solo, bassline or vocal sample, but also every glitch seemed to have found the right place to be on the darkest and most riveting solo release of Thom Yorke to date.
44. James Blake – Assume Form
This album, as opposed to his previous work, finds the singer expressing feelings of happiness. That is, as can be heard on “Lullaby For My Insomniac” or the minor key romance number “Barefoot In The Park” featuring Rosalía, clearly influenced by his girlfriend, The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil.
However, James Blake succeeds to find a balance, expressing his anxiety of the uncertainty of a new relationships on “Are You In Love” or the ravishing ballad “Into The Red” giving his partner the credit for the bad days becoming rare. As he lyrically explores the feelings of not being lonely, his sound stays loyal to percussion as a means to push the melody forward.
43. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
This is the indie singer’s third album with Domino production company, while working again with mixer Jacob Portrait who seems to fully understand what (Sandy) Alex G is trying to get through to the world – a new wave Americana sound.
Even though, at first it might seem quite chaotic and cloudy, the album’s structure is very well refined in order to methodically drive you to fantasy lands.
In an almost vaporwave essence, there are numerous surprising elements added, from electronica drum loops to dramatic violins and repetitive second voices. Many thought that this sound was quite difficult to progress but at the bottom of its complexity, anyone can find peace and unwind.
42. JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs
In 2019 JPEGMAFIA teased us in many weird ways sharing posts that stated “ALL I WANT TO DO IS DISAPPOINT U” and fake insulting listening parties encouraging to brace ourselves for an unsatisfactory upcoming album. Of course on September 13, when he released his third studio album All My Heroes Are Cornballs, we could absolutely see that this is not the case at all.
His anti-campaign alongside with the delivered new sound prove that we are not referring to the typical Spotify artist who cares to be accepted by audiences. This album spreads vivid energy with daring and almost angry lyrics, experimental hip hop electronic additions. Everything is combined in such a delicate way and a new age rebel manifesto is created to gather the voices of the anti heroes.
41. Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe
Starting writing from the age of 12 and then sharing her tracks on Soundcloud in the last five years, Nilüfer Yanya released her debut album Miss Universe in the springtime of 2019. This is a showcase of her confidence in her own abilities on song writing, in spite of the pressures of clout chasing in our days.
We have to applaud the fact that this album has a very widespread range of genres, which probably reveals that Yanya has many aces in the hole. Her voice’s soft but powerful hue fits so well with the finespun instrumentation of her songs. From uplifting guitar riffs to the sound of wind instruments and dreamy synths, these are a few additions that serve a classy groovy sound.
Click HERE for a full list of our Top 50 Albums of 2019!