Something special happened in 2019. Music was great again (insert cheesy MAGA reference here.) Not that it hasn’t been good, but it has honestly been a long time since I believed it was a great year for music.
Given that a majority of musicians are left-leaning I have always believed that the best music comes out when the right is in power. The George W Bush years are a stellar example of this. Way better music in those years than the Obama years. Feeling unheard and ignored I believe kickstarts our collective creativity. I don’t really follow country music, but my inkling is it thrived from 2009-2017. I have no actual evidence to back this up; call it a working theory.
I say this to say that I could have done 50 albums that I thought were worthy of note this year, but I am lazy and when I look at AOTY lists I usually just skip to the top five anyway. So I did five, and five honorable mentions. These are personal to me. My hope, as always, is that someone else can share in the joy these albums brought me in this year of our lord 2019.
These are not in any particular order.
With the emergence of Chilled Cow’s insanely famous YouTube channel “LoFi Hip Hop Beats to Relax Study To,” I see more and more people are welcoming this genre of music into their lives.
No one does this better than Helsinki, Finland’s Lauri Achté. Known artistically as Kupla, his natural approach to the emotional ability of music is stunning. You feel the cold when he wants you to. You feel the sun when he wants you to. You find a truly analog peace through his digital landscapes. This was easily my heaviest rotation and everything he has put out so far has been hard for me to put down.
Greet Death–New Hell
The alternative/pop/sludge album we didn’t know we needed. This Flint, Michigan trio’s sophomore release is a masterpiece in emotive pop metal. With blistering distortion and exquisitely dark lyrics bookended by unusual pop progressions and vocal styles it is enough to make the most skeptic emo kids grin. If you are looking for something “new,” this is it.
“Entertainment,” a beautiful anti-love song, is probably the high point of the songwriting. While “Strange Day” is probably the single which most embodies their vision. “New Hell” hits all the right notes. Honestly, this band is what indie music has needed for a long time.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib–Bandana
An album of almost unbridled ambition. The only thing more impressive than MadLibs incredibly exciting beat arrangements is Freddie’s masterful use of them. An album that needs to be experienced. Words can never do the justice it deserves…unless they are Freddie’s words.
“Crime Pays” shows off MadLibs incredible abilities. “Situations” shows off Freddie’s masterful lyricism. (He even rhymes a word with itself which I normally hate but then he does it with a different word in the next two lines and I couldn’t help but taking it as a fuck you to my pretentious ideas about that.) “Flat Tummy Tea” shows what happens when two giants collide. Bandana is an instant classic. Freddie Gibbs is the new king of storytelling. Be amazed at Hip Hop’s most extraordinary 2019 release.
Tyler The Creator–IGOR
Continuing to shatter my expectations Tyler has created a neo-soul masterpiece. A break-up record that thumps like an EDM album. (but good tho). A soul record that breaks the wall between retro and unique. (but good tho)
“EARFQUAKE” is a song I will listen to for years to come and is for sure the peak of the album. “NEW MAGIC WAND” is the most fun track I heard this year. “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” has as much soul in it as anything else you are apt to find in 2019. I would like to thank whomever hurt him and gave us this.
Tahliah Debrett Barnett(FKA Twigs) is a revelation. It isn’t just her uncanny vocal ability. It isn’t just her brilliant use of experimental sounds to create a pop landscape. It isn’t just her honest and incredible songwriting. It is all of these things and then there is something else. Something intangible. Something magical.
“Sad Day” would be a top 40 hit if the people that decided those things knew who she was. On “Mary Magdalene,” the height of her songwriting, she holds you in her grasp through every syllable. “Fallen Alien” is a blistering break up song that is just abrasive enough (a task that is incredibly hard to do) “Cellophane” is a ballad, but a distant one. A last gasp of something lost. She is not lost though. She has found exactly where she belongs. She owns this world.
Club Night-What Life
Black Marble-Bigger Than Life
Sadness- I Want To Be There
Sharon Van Etten- Remind Me Tomorrow