TYF’s Top 50 Albums of 2019

2019 was a long year, wasn’t it? Despite this year being difficult in many ways, it was an excellent 12 months for music. New releases from established icons, cult favorites and breakthrough acts helped define the year, from Lizzo to Taylor Swift to Fontaines D.C. to Denzel Curry.

As with the last few years, The Young Folks asked its music staff to compile individual Top 25 lists, which were then used to create a list of our culmulative Top 50 favoirte albums of 2019.

Before we get into the list proper, here are a few albums that almost made our list, or were favorites of one of our writers.

Honorable Mentions

50. Muna – Saves the World

Power trio Muna gave us one of the decade’s best albums with 2017’s “About U,” an album that’s impossible to interrupt once it’s begun cycling one hit after another. In “Saves the Day” their sophomore effort they try and recapture that magic, and while they don’t pass their own high bar, they come close with an album that’s vibrant, wistful and beautifully composed and produced. “Pink Light” and “Taken” are particular highlights of lost romance and introspection.  – Allyson Johnson

49. Bishop Briggs – Champion

Bishop Briggs’s album is a powerhouse throughout. From arena-rocking anthems like “Can You Hear Me Now” to the tended-sided “Tattooed On My Heart” each of the ten songs on her 2019 album Champion delivers a confident, vocal-centric experience. Briggs sings songs to rock out to alongside sentimental ballads with the whole experience melding into a cohesive alternative rock album. Absolutely confident while brandishing her vulnerable, Champion lives up to its name and is a great addition to Bishop Briggs’s discography. –Max Russell

48. Todd Snider – Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3

You wait patiently through over 10 minutes of excellent Dylan and Guthrie homages for a tour-de-force to come on this album, and then it does. On “The Blues on Banjo” Todd Snider is an unstoppable font of language, spouting off childishly (“I peed myself”, “zip-a-Dee-doo-dah motherfucker”), satirically (“we’re sending out our thoughts and our prayers”), and precisely (“Would you believe the same financial institution/Backing both sides of every war/Since before the French Revolution/Still runs the Federal Reserve?”) about the state of the world over a banjo that often struggles to keep up with his furious pace. It’s a demented Robert Johnson update for our times. The rest of the album is solo acoustic folk stuff with special guests both alive (Amanda Shires, Jason Isbell) and dead (or are they?) (Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley). The title references Cash’s home studio where it was recorded, and the fact that newbies to Snider will likely be driven to seek out the nonexistent volumes 1 and 2 is just one of countless great jokes here. I haven’t stopped counting ’em, anyway. – Oliver Hollander

47. Slauson Malone – A Quiet Farewell 2016-2018

The burgeoning New York creative scene is just bursting with immensely talented producers and rappers. Jasper Marsalis, formerly of Standing on the Corner fame, is one of those producers that ignores the confines of traditional song craftsmanship. His debut album, A Quiet Farwell, Twenty-Sixteen to Twenty-Eighteen, skillfully mixes many genres together to conjure up a world that is holistically Black at heart. A Quiet Farwell is a record that defies traditional categorization. There are moments of hip-hop, jazz, alternative R&B, sound-collage and even instances of plunderphonics. Much like its cover, the album feels like a beautiful void of sorts, full of dizzying samples and haunting textures. 
Thematically, it can feel like Marsalis is vying for a sense of freedom from his environment. Many of the songs on the record evoke freedom, despite a world that is trying to quell Black lives. “Smile,” a track that has four different interpretations, sums up the album perfectly: “Smile at the past when I see it.” It’s a hopeful record at the end of the day, but Marsalis knows the cost of that freedom. – Mark Wesley

46. Polo G – Die a Legend

Never has a title of one’s project carried so much weight and so much emotion than Polo G’s debut album. The hip hop genre has never felt so much pain. Too many rappers have died from guns or drugs over the past two years. There’s a problem with artists glamorizing these dangerous lifestyles, and there’s a problem with our corrupt government not taking care of its people. We’re all to blame.


Die a Legend is Polo G’s plea for change. It’s also a harrowing account of Chicago’s darkest corners; a place where people endlessly play “cops and robbers.” You can hear Polo G’s pain in every verse, every bar, and every word. There’s no ad-libs, very little features, and minimal auto-tune; just raw emotion. Polo G uses classic Chicago drill as a platform for poignant storytelling, making Die A Legend a certified street classic. – Ryan Feyre

45. Kanye West – Jesus is King

Even after antagonizing his own fans with a delayed release, by the time his blue-tinged album dropped, fans flocked to Jesus Is King while causing an uptick in Biblical searches online. Weaving a soulful choir with modern-day rap, Kanye brings his skill as a producer with the help of a heavenly ambiance that hooks a large audience raised on Sunday hymns. You can argue against his politics, but his genius building beats and lyrics that fully immerse the listener is hard to deny. His personality grates plenty of people, but as a composer, he is committed to his craft and this gospel-inspired turn gives him ample material to work with. – Max Russell

44. French Vanilla – How Am I Not Myself?

More bands in the punk and new wave sphere should have saxophone players. Like Bush Tetras, X-Ray Spex and Downtown Boys before them, French Vanilla proves the versatility of this ubiquitous woodwind on their stellar sophomore album How Am I Not Myself?. The album is an energetic collection of quirky dance-punk tunes that unleashes its sax riffs at the exact right moments in every song it appears in. “Suddenly” uses it as punctuation, while “All the Time” lets it color otherwise empty spaces and keeps the song’s momentum going. The album’s fun, upbeat sound plays well of singer Sally Spitz’s charismatic vocals and lyrics that mix personal, political and social concerns. How Am I Not Myself? feels like a mission statement for French Vanilla going forward. We could always use more socially conscious sax-punk bands. – Ryan Gibbs

43. Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel

IDLES comparisons are inevitable. “Big” might as well be a track from Joy as an act of resistance. But there are two key differences here. The first is that Fontaines D.C. are less overtly political, though that says more about IDLES than it does about Fontaines D.C. The second is that where IDLES are a heavy band, Joe Talbot’s voice weighing down every moment, Fontaines D.C. are nimble. Their playing is more thrilling and their songs aim higher. Gonna be big? – Joey Daniewicz


42. Lingua Ignota – CALIGULA

The first minute into Kristin Hayter’s latest album CALIGULA sets the tone for the rest of the record. Her voice rises from the ashes, almost as if a resurrection has taken place. Hayter, under the name Lingua Ignota, creates a hellish landscape that is both colossally operatic and downright harrowing. Utilizing a fusion of metal, noise, and opera, CALIGULA is a sanguinary takedown of misogynists and sexual abusers that burns all that come across it. Hayter’s voice shrieks through the instrumentation demanding to be heard. 
CALIGULA is brimming with a righteous fury that retells a mortifying story of betrayal, heartbreak, and affliction. “MAY FAILURE BE YOUR NOOSE” sees Hayter at her most tormented as she wails “Everything burns down around me.” The vocals will occasionally cease in their aggressiveness and lure you into a false sense of calmness, just to absolutely pummel you with a barrage of noise. This album is certainly not for the faint of heart, but those who are willing to give it a try will experience one of the most heart-rending releases of the decade. – Mark Wesley

41. JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs

JPEG Mafia became one of rap’s premier breakout stars with an album filled with jagged song structure, hilarious metaphors, and stellar production. Songs rarely end how they started; making AMHAC a thrilling listen from start to finish. Without conviction, Peggy challenges common masculine tropes and the overt nature of rap’s infatuation with monetization. He seamlessly transitions between auto-croon melodies and harsh metal-rap without losing sight of his message. Very rarely have we’ve seen a rapper so comfortable with their production methods. He’s not acting entitled either. He acknowledges that there’s room for improvement in everyone. Satire has never felt so sweet.  – Ryan Feyre

40. Chromatics – Closer to Grey

For the last five years, synth-pop group Chromatics have teased their upcoming album Dear Tommy with everything from multiple singles to their high-profile appearance on David Lynch’s revived Twin Peaks. Dear Tommy did not come out in 2019; Instead Chromatics surprised its fanbase in 2019 with Closer to Grey, an album not even their most devoted followers knew about until just before it was released. Closer to Grey isn’t Dear Tommy. To the album’s benefit, it is a completely separate collection of songs that hue closer to dream pop than the italo disco tones of 2012’s Kill for Love. Album highlights like “You’re No Good”, “Twist the Knife” and a lengthy cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “On the Wall” sparkle through bandleader Johnny Jewel’s sterling, clear production and Ruth Radelet’s crisp vocals. If we’re due to for a longer wait for Dear Tommy, Closer to Grey proves throughout its 45 minute runtime that it is more than just a stopgap. – Ryan Gibbs

39. Blood Orange – Angel’s Pulse

Devonte Hynes is not only a producer and a singer. He’s a composer, an orchestrator; a woke friend with world-changing ideas. He can also get unapologetically intimate like he so often does on Angel’s Pulse. Hynes deftly combines hip hop with R&B/soul so effortlessly-it’s hard to ignore his swagger. Over a short half hour, Hynes paints a portrait of a proud African American (“Dark & Handsome”) with a clear gratitude for Memphis (“Gold Teeth”) and the culture that’s changed music for the better. Angel’s Pulse showcases a selfless artist who finds beauty in the mundane, all while being optimistic about the future. – Ryan Feyre


38. Big Thief – UFOF

Big Thief will go down as the indie heroes of 2019 for releasing two critically acclaimed works in one year, this and Two Hands. And whilst I’ll always consider Two Hands superior, I seem to be in the minority on that front. UFOF has emerged as the clear consensus favourite (not just in this TYF poll). Described by the band as “celestial”, it certainly is that, sounding quiet and dreamy, like it’ll float away into the ether without warning. It also sounds relaxed, easy as a Sunday morning. But I don’t need to tell anyone who’s listened that that’s just an illusion: you don’t get to sound thistight and compelling as a band without hard work. The magic of their interplay may make them sound relaxed, but like a great jazz band that only comes about through years of hard practise. UFOF is the result, and the band’s reward. – Oliver Hollander

37. Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britian

 No other album in the 2010s perfectly captures the political unrest and lower-class anxieties of the UK like Nothing Great About Britain. This is an album that feels essential, not just for present-day, but for all those that follow after it. The manner in which Slowthai raps may seem off-kilter to some, but the emotion and pain seer through any trepidation that one might have.”Drug Dealer” is a belter of a track that attacks the preconceived notion that many privileged people have about poor individuals of color. All of the aggressive moments are never aimless, rather Slowthai directs his anger directly at the authority that is working to destroy the ways of life of many people. – Mark Wesley

36. Maggie Rogers – Heard It in a Past Life

Ever since surprising Pharrell with the song “Alaska” and becoming a viral sensation in the process, the world has been waiting for Maggie Rogers’s debut. Heard It In a Past Life keeps the focus on her singular voice. “Alaska” is the most grounded track as it was least touched by production while the other songs lean on electro-synth to fill out the album. Part folksy, part sentimental pop, the twelve songs from the singer-songwriter dig deep to reveal a genuine artist with a sound that is uniquely her own. – Max Russell

35. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar

Even longtime fans of (Sandy) Alex G couldn’t have predicted the hard left he would pivot to in House of Sugar considering his folkier, guitar heavy past. In House of Sugar, he opened up his perspective with a sound undeniably enigmatic and very far out there. Some of his greatest work on the album are his most experimental, such as the mind benders “Taking” and “Project 2” with their vaporwave synths and ghostlike vocal layering, to the piano and string assortment of “Sugar” and live recording jam of the title track. It’s an exciting output from the unpredictable artist, promising a future of further intrigue. – Allyson Johnson

34. Laura Stevenson – The Big Freeze

Laura Stevenson wrote one of the most achingly romantic songs in 2019. In “Living Room, NY” she croons “So I’ll fold the world to be there tonight/Because I want to fall asleep on your time/I want to fall asleep where you lie/I want to fall asleep with you shifting by my side.” It’s enough to make one reach out to those nearest them in an empathetic need for intimacy.  In Stevenson’s latest The Big Freeze she makes big on her ability to evoke emotional responses from the lightest vocal trill, compelling harmony and deeply introspective bout of lyricism. Lacking the bleaker elements of her previous albums and with a fuller sound, there’s a weight maturity to her latest, with songs such as “Living Room, NY,” “Hum,” “Value Inn” and “Low Slow” among her very best. – Allyson Johnson

33. Black Midi – Schalgenheim

Black Midi seem to be 2019 act most compared to other groups. The young British quartet burst onto the scene with so little information about them, that the holes in their biography seemed to be filled with an endless list of comparisons to other rock iconoclasts. Ever since their early singles and KEXP session from early this year, they’ve brought comparisons to groups as far ranging as King Crimson, XTC, Slint and The Fall. Whatever influences you gleam from their sound, Black Midi used them to create something new with Schragenheim. The album is a showcase for their wiry version of math rock that relies on proggy guitar pyrotechnics and the incredible, almost effortless drumming of band MVP Morgan Simpson. Songs like “bmbmbm” and “Ducter” are cavernous and spacious, but eventually explode with nervous energy. “Speedway”, the album’s most accessible moment, builds upon a deadpan vocal delivery and a chiming guitar loop to create a song that has real momentum instead of feeling repetitive. Sometimes new bands can’t live up to their early buzz, but Black Midi have delivered good on their hype with this impressive debut. – Ryan Gibbs

32. YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy

Good to know that after Chance The Rapper bummed everyone out with The Big Day this year, there was an emergency back-up Chance The Rapper to listen to. Ok no, it’s not fair to call YBN Cordae a Chance-clone (even though Chance is on this album). But the 22-year-old has a quirkiness and creativity similar to Chance The-Now Husband. What Cordae brings to the table himself is a mix of Southern swagger, juvenile delivery and touches of introspective realness. Don’t be fooled by the cartoonish bounce of “Have Mercy” or the braggadocious “RNP,” Cordae is well aware of the rough road he’s had to come up from (“Wintertime,” “Been Around”) and clearly wants more respect. – Jon Winkler

31. Taylor Swift – Lover

She has such a knack for focussed detail on her best songs you feel that they could perform laser eye surgery on you. From “His hands around a cold glass/Make me wanna know that body like it’s mine” to the whole damn lyric of “Cornelia Street”, the cumulative effect of expertly deployed details on Lover can be overwhelming. Forgive her the somewhat clumsy forays into women’s rights (“The Man”), gay rights (“You Need to Calm Down”), and Landaaan (“London Boy”), and you have something of a tour de force on your hands. As for the music, well, the hooks just keep on coming, a relentlessly fun barrage of them, for just over an hour. Tightened and given an appealing sheen by Jack Antonoff’s production, there is joy and warmth to be felt on every song. Even “ME!”, the shitty lead single, sounds slightly better in the context of the general sugar rush here. Best Tay Tay ever? Sure, why not. – Oliver Hollander

30. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

It seems as if every time Sharon Van Etten releases a new album, listeners are astounded to witness her leap forward in execution and ability. This happened with her previous albums, and yet it’s happened again with Remind Me TomorrowTomorrow may feature the truly most significant evolutionary step for Sharon Van Etten, as this is the first album in which she performs her songs primarily accompanied by piano instead of her guitar. The resulting sonic texture gives her somber voice a jolt of energy that makes you feel as if you are hearing a new musician. On her most rollicking songs, “Comeback Kid” and “Seventeen,” Van Etten reminds us that she is not nearly done growing and has endless surprises in store for us. – Beth Winchester

29. Charly Bliss – Young Enough

Charly Bliss has gone through something of a musical metamorphosis over the past few years, rising from something grungier and smokey to vibrant and club ready pop. Their latest album “Young Enough” perfectly demonstrates this surprisingly graceful change, with infectious and cotton candy sweet sounding numbers such as “Blown to Bits,” “Capacity” and “Young Enough” without ever sacrificing the edge that put them on the map in the first place.  – Allyson Johnson

28. Banks – III

With the aptly titled III, BANKS’s third album shows her power as a vocalist along with her vulnerability. This duality is infused with each song, adding a dose of venom to go along with the beauty. Her hauntingly elegant voice combines with just the right amount of electro-synth to amplify her music rather than drown her out. With each experimental track, her singing is the unifying thread tying the experience together. Each song builds an alluring ambiance that can be listened with intent or as great background for a dimly lit cocktail lounge. – Max Russell

27. Control Top – Covert Contracts

A quick burst of 2010s punk rock energy, Control Top’s debut effort Covert Contracts doesn’t even pass the 30-minute mark, but has a lot to say over its 11 blistering tracks. Bassist Ali Carter’s sings with both tension and bitter sarcasm on songs that detail everything from the drudgery of office work (“Office Rage”) and scummy assholes who talk over everyone (“Type A”). The trio themselves are locked into a groove with every song, building flashy guitar licks and pummelling drumming around Carter’s voices and strong bass playing. One of the best debut rock albums in a year full of them, Covert Contracts introduces Control Top as a unignorable force in millennial punk rock. – Ryan Gibbs

26. The Highwomen – The Highwomen

We are in dire need of more supergroups, especially if the collaboration will be as seamless and successful as this one. Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby, and Amanda Shires brought expertise from various country sub-genres and songwriting approaches to create a four-woman force that casually demonstrates how valuable it is to have women artists telling women’s stories. From the opening twist on their supergroup inspiration, The Highwaymen, and their self-titled song, the women cover women’s history, motherhood, queer relationships, parental relationships, and self-respect from their unique perspectives. The standout track is “Crowded Table,” a harmonious song extolling the virtue of connection, empathy, and community that these women personify in their grouping.  – Beth Winchester

25. Stella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs

Some of the best rock music is coming from the continent down-under. Courtney Barnett and Camp Cope have been leading the bastion forward in making catchy singer-songwriter tracks with an unashamedly feminist slant. Now, Stella Donnelly is taking the baton and running forward with her own spin on her debut album Beware of the Dogs. Donnelly’s mix of humor and directness gives the songs a real endearing quality. The album’s best moments are when Donnelly creates glistening and kinetic indie-rock tracks that hit on topics of love and political injustices. “Boys Will Be Boys”, “Old Man” and “Tricks”, are refreshingly necessary attacks on toxic masculinity and rape culture. Donnelly’s lyricism is brazenly poignant and it’s what makes Beware of the Dogs among one of the best albums of the year. – Mark Wesley

24. Ariana Grande – thank u, next

Just 6 months after Sweetener, and 5 months after the death of her ex, came the inevitable album of thank u, next to frame its indelible single. And whilst it’s not as perfect as that single – how could it be? – it’s pretty great. Grande’s sometimes compared to Mariah Carey, and at her worst I can see why: the technique of flexing vocal chords without any substance rears its ugly head on occasion. What was she thinking with her The Sound of Music vocal interpolations on “7 Rings”? But for the most part, Grande seems in control on thank u, next, with help from her dozen-plus team of producers and co-writers. Grande professes to be “Needy”, but you can’t hear that at all in the album’s production. It would be “needy” to smother the songs in an excess of loud beats, back-up vocalists, guest spots etc. Instead, you come away from listening to thank u, next with just the aural image of one woman riding a crest of midtempo trap waves, purely at her own leisure. That might be an illusion – I’ve already mentioned the number of producers and co-writers credited on the album. But it’s a powerful one. – Oliver Hollander

23. Charli XCX – Charli

It only takes a couple seconds into CHARLI to realize the scope of the project itself. The enigmatic pop star opens the album with “Next Level Charli”, a track that perfectly encapsulates the direction in which the album will go down. The glossy piano feels luminous and Charli’s autotuned vocals just burst through with a soaring delivery. With CHARLI, Charli XCX is launching pop music forward 10 or 20 years. The album is littered with anthems like the all-encompassing  and gorgeous”Gone”, a collaboration with fellow hitmaker Christine and the Queens. “1999” sees Charli connecting with Troye Sivan to create an earnest tune that is achingly nostalgic for a bygone era. Earworms are abound on CHARLI and it absolutely feels like Charli XCX is pushing her talents to a whole new level.  – Mark Wesley

22. Caroline Polachek – Pang

After a few albums spent as the underestimated member of Chairlift, and after a couple of small-scale side projects, Caroline Polachek finally released her first solo album as an artist in 2019. Pang is relatively stuffed with 14 tracks that delve deeply into the artist’s introspective journey. The eclecticism of Polachek’s musical interests makes the album a joy to hear. Whether she’s singing a pop gem about a crush (“Pang”), the yearning, R’n’B-inflected “Ocean of Tears,” or playfully admiring a partner who is “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” Polachek’s sense of humor, sensitivity, imagination, and superior soprano all find showcase moments on this immensely enjoyable, continually rewarding debut album.  – Beth Winchester

21. Brockhampton – Ginger

In Brockhampton’s latest “Ginger” the busiest boy band working today released three of the best hits yet with the late 90’s/early 2000’s crooning “No Halo,” moody “Ginger” and super boy band hit “Sugar,” they demonstrate the versatility and charisma that’s built their current dedicated audience. The album lacks coherence at times but as a final package it still soars, with rapid paced rapper Dom and silky voiced Bear Face getting true moments to shine. Mellow and mature, it’s a step in the right direction as they evolve from the flash in the pan youthfulness of their previous works.  – Allyson Johnson

20. Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!

Chicago’s Jamila Woods is a pioneering songwriter that has put out consistently engaging R&B albums that teem with Black influence. LEGACY! LEGACY! , Woods’ sophomore record, is an ode to legendary innovators of color like Eartha Kitt, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Baldwin. Opening track BETTY, similarly to its inspiration Betty Davis, sees Woods delivering a sultry R&B, funk tune. This track, in particular, is chalked full of wonderful lyrical moments including Woods’ takedown of over-compensating men who feel as if their masculinity is under attack. Themes of self-love and acceptance also appear within the songs on the record. All over LEGACY! LEGACY!, Woods is able to seamlessly blend political discourse with an intimate view of her own personal experiences. – Mark Wesley

19. The Japanese House – Good at Falling

Deliciously low-fi with beats and rhythmic flows that lull listeners into a satisfied hypnosis, The Japanese House album “Good at Falling” see’s British singer songwriter Amber Bain come fully into her own. Deeply intimate and reflective of personal tragedy and grace like love, the album, “Lilo” in particular, is tender and atmospheric, utilizing the juxtaposition of heavy synths and Gen Z existential dread to create something disarmingly pop friendly, but no less introspective. – Allyson Johnson

18. Thom Yorke – ANIMA

The problem with Thom Yorke’s solo projects is almost too easy to say: they don’t have Radiohead on them. Take away the cinematic textures Yorke’s original band brings to the table and all you have are skeletal electronic beats missing emotion. On his third solo outing, Yorke sounds like he’s actually reaching for something epic and succeeds. Though only nine tracks and 48 minutes long, ANIMA is more of one flowing piece than an album divided by song. The stuttering percussion of “Twist” flows into the drone of “Dawn Chorus.” The album cover is quite fitting, Yorke sinking into a shrinking haze. – Jon Winkler

17. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

Angel Olsen’s fourth album is nothing less than the sound of a soul exorcising its demons. As such, it’s devastating, gorgeous, and endlessly cathartic—think Dusty Springfield by way of Scott Walker. Super-producer John Congleton and the blast of a 14-piece string ensemble lay the foundation for Olsen’s masterful, no-frills musings on heartbreak and the strange ways we all fall in and out of love. Her smoky, hypnotic croon—a force of nature in its own right—raises each track from hell unto heaven, from the scorching 7-minute romantic rebuke of “Lark” to the Broadway-ready grandeur of closer “Chance.” All Mirrors sees Olsen finding peace and healing through her art, not to mention solidifying her place among the decade’s most extraordinary songwriters. – Michael Heimbaugh

16. Denzel Curry – Zuu

Denzel Curry has become the unsung hero; the antithesis to mainstream popularity if you will. He’s a rapper from Florida, a lover of grunge music, and one of the highlights from the infamous Raider Klan. His music incites aggression and introspection. Rarely does he stay within the lines of pop-rap’s homogeneity (ahem, Drake); he breaks them as if his life depends on it. Zuu is the first time he walks the fine line between mainstream appeal and hardcore trap, and it works out tremendously. Curry paints Florida as a place for family, friends and debauchery. He’s short, concise, and to the point. Zuu finds Curry at his most appreciative of home. It also finds him thoroughly mastering his songwriting and multi-dimensional aesthetic. He’s one of rap’s great lyricists, and will continue to be. – Ryan Feyre

15. Beyoncé – Homecoming: The Live Album

She sneezed on Coachella, and Coachella got waysicker. Her definitive live performance becomes a concept album about the pain and impossibility of striving for perfection – which is really the main theme of her whole career. I’ll be damned if she doesn’t near achieve it: every song hits hard here, for 2 hours straight, many of them harder than their studio versions. The Netflix film makes her vision even clearer: watch the dozens of black bodies, moving somewhat in unison and yet all dancing differently, hence moving in perfection and imperfection at the same time. As usual with Beyoncé, the flaws are what interest her most as an artist. But she comes mighty close to flawless herself with the Destiny’s Child-“Get Me Bodied”-“Single Ladies” sequence on this album. – Oliver Hollander

14. 100 gecs – 1000 gecs

The debut album from 100 Gecs — the duo of Laura Les and Dylan Brady — is a pop record that is quite literally sounds nothing like one. 1000 Gecs is a smorgasbord of influences that culminates in an album full of wild instrumentals and even wilder vocals. Every track within the album’s 23-minutes hits like a barrage of genre-weaving missiles. “Money Machine” is one of 2019’s most off-kilter hits from Laura’s hilarious taunting at the beginning to a hook that will have you instantaneously chanting along with it.  With its unique pop-approach, Brady and Les push each other to creative highs making one of the most idiosyncratic albums of the year. – Mark Wesley

13. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising

“Movies” may be the best song of 2019 as well as a perfect encapsulation of what makes Weyes Blood so alluring. Their music is uniformly cinematic, going big and broad with production and tempo so that there’s no anticipating just where they’re going to go with any given song. Chamber pop inspired and influenced by everything from the celestial to mythology, Weyes Blood’s fourth studio album sees the artist come into their own, with a vision that’s blistering, haunting and just the right amount of weird.  – Allyson Johnson

12. FKA Twigs – Magdalene

Several years have passed between FKA Twigs’ first release, LP1, and her second, MAGDALENE. That distance is audible on this sophomore release, as the endlessly dynamic and inventive album carries the weight of several years’ worth of life. The dissolution of a long-term relationship coincided with the painful growth and removal of uterine fibroids, and the resulting musical creation is filled with songs examining commitment, physical and emotional pain, disconnection from your body, and the alienation of celebrity. In nine succinct songs, FKA Twigs swings wildly from whispered hymns to operatic heartache, from R’n’B to punk, and back into the intricate, artful electronic pop art that made LP1 so acclaimed. She flexes her vocal range more than ever before, experiments with sometimes wildly different styles, and all the while proves that she is a much more formidable artist than anyone may have guessed. – Beth Winchester

11. Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

On her highly anticipated follow-up to critical darling E•MO•TION, Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen returned with another collection of well crafted pop songs that expand her reputation as one of the most admired pop stars of the decade. Like on E•MO•TION, every song on Dedicated feels like a perfect pop single, full of Jepsen’s fun-loving, vivid lyrics and retro-futurist synth-pop sounds. The album is an encyclopedia of romance, covering everything from the euphoric “Now That I Found You” to wistful remembrances like “Julien” to potential breakup songs like “Happy Not Knowing”. Throughout its runtime and its many lovelorn instant pop classics, Dedicated feels like the successor to “Emotion”, by building upon its strengths while forging its own sonic path. – Ryan Gibbs

10. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains

In July, ex-Silver Jews frontman David Berman broke a decade of musical silence with a stunning collection of new songs under the moniker Purple Mountains. A month later, he was gone. Even without the added gut-punch of his death, mortality and loss weigh heavy upon the record. In his signature sad-sack growl, Berman confronts his demons one by one—and by so doing, bears his audience’s burdens on his shoulders if only for a while. His heartfelt, often darkly hilarious lyrics give voice to his struggles with depression, to the pain of losing his mother and separating from his wife. He wrings bittersweet poetry from the simplest of premises—falling snow, getting plastered at the mall, even incels. Valuable input from members of psych-folk outfit Woods gives Purple Mountains a scrappy bar-band charm that illumines hope in the grimmest corners of life. It’s one last songwriting masterclass from one of our greatest documenters of human emotion. – Michael Heimbaugh

9. Brittany Howard – Jaime

Brittany Howard steps out on her own with Jaime and delivers a political Southern rock and soul album that feels like nothing short of a career-defining achievement. Howard, most known for leading the Grammy-award winning Alabama Shakes, is able to craft songs about queer identity and religious devotion into soaring anthems that conjure up deep-seated emotions about the current political unrest. The album is autobiographical in nature as Howard retells stories from her childhood on “Georgia” and “Goat Head.” The album itself was named after her old sister who passed away at a very young age. Howard’s lyrics are carried to new heights with her angelic vocal delivery, which ranges from yearning on “Short and Sweet” to a James Brown-inspired style on opener “History Repeats.” The latter track sets the tone for the entire album as it sets the boundaries for past-and-present. Howard laments about the lack of progress by repeatedly stating: “History repeats and we defeat ourselves.” The album delivers a sweeping look into Blackness, mixing genres like R&B, soul, gospel, rock, and jazz. Tracks “He Loves Me” and “Stay High” are dripping with a certain soulful swagger that compares with some of the funk and soul legends of times past. Jaime is not only an impressive debut, rather it cements Brittany Howard in the upper echelon of American songwriters. – Mark Wesley

8. Jenny Lewis – On the Line

Jenny Lewis has never released a “bad” album because a Jenny Lewis album is never released carelessly. On the Line was the first musical production of any kind from Jenny Lewis since 2016’s “supergroup” album, NAF, and her first solo record since 2014. Understandably, the end of a long relationship and the death of her estranged mother prevented her from releasing anything sooner. Those twin wounds are present throughout On the Line, put through Lewis’ distinctive wise, yet self-deprecating, voice and pushed through the prism of ‘70s California rock. Lewis employs all-time collaborators like Benmont Tench, Ringo Starr, and Beck to back her up in songs like “Red Bull and Hennessy,” “Heads Gonna Roll,” and “Do Si Do,” which pound out of the speakers with a remarkable amount of life force. The new, rocking version of Lewis coexists with some of her most moving ballads, “Dogwood” in particular, which bluntly portrays a relationship decaying right before your eyes. With her succinct, dynamic, and honest On the Line, Jenny Lewis demonstrates her unique ability to transform personal experience into specific stories that are full of endlessly memorable metaphors, hooky turns of phrase and emotional musical expression.  – Beth Winchester

7. Tyler, the Creator – IGOR

Heartbreak is such a tired concept in music-so much so that people can’t take the “sad boy aesthetic” seriously. Most deem the image as corny or cringe-worthy. When explored with nuance however, heartbreak can lead to emotional intimacy and a frequent sense of relatability. Tyler, the Creator’s early work was anything but intimate, which is why IGOR is so intriguing. Over the course of the decade, Tyler used music as a platform for shocking lyricism and decadent character-play. He was a provocateur more than an idolizer; a villain more than a companion. He gained a lot of haters from being polarized. Like any great movie twist though, Tyler shocked people in 2019-not with his language this time-but by overtaking DJ Khaled for the number one spot on the Billboard charts in the summer. IGOR is a narrative-driven heartbreak tale filled with jarring synths, angelic percussion and distorted boom-bap drums. Tyler uses his voice to guide listeners through an entangled web of mixed emotions. He gives love a gentle tone on “Earfquake” and “I Think;” avoids it on “New Magic Wand” and “I Don’t Love You Anymore;” and accepts it in all of its complexities on “Are We Still Friends?” For once, we get the full scope of Tyler’s emotions; not just the aggressive ones. IGOR is undoubtedly his most alluring body of work to date. – Ryan Feyre

6. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You

Cuz I Love You swept into 2019 with a full roster of empowering anthems. Whether she is pumping up a crowd or letting herself cry over an old love, her latest album is contagious and her popularity has skyrocketed as a result. Lizzo brings the party with her powerful and unapologetic vocals celebrating body positivity for everyone. Almost every woman in the U.S. can belt Lizzo’s lyrics, as every song on Cuz I Love You is a hit. She is relatable and a superstar all in one, with her music leaving one of the largest cultural imprints on 2019’s entertainment. From countless trailers and backing up film montages, Lizzo’s music is immediately recognizable and there are few people who got through 2019 without hearing her sing. With all the glory that deservedly comes from the album, it pales in comparison to the praise she receives from her larger than life shows. Lizzo’s powerhouse energy, both on stage and on Instagram, continues to elevate her from a performer to an inspirational icon. The fact that she can rock a flute and twerk at the same time is added icing on the cake that is the Lizzo experience. – Max Russell

5. Solange – When I Get Home

It’s not so bad being in your big sister’s shadow. While your elder sibling is off conquering the world and doing it as publicly as possible, you get to sit in your own space to carefully craft something after sounds no one would expect you’d be into. That’s been the career trajectory of Solange, silently putting together records that are as gorgeous as big sister Beyonce’s are triumphant. Three years after A Seat at the Table got her what that album title asked for, Solange somehow found a way to further expand her musical taste for a sensual and out-of-this-world R&B record. Her newest album title implies a tease, a promise to show-off something when she reaches her comfort zone. When I Get Home is all about comfort with every song layered with deep funk-bass, spacey synthesizers and hi-hats. It’s as if Solange is hosting her own lounge party deep in the Houston heat. She’s also not looking for vocal dominance. Hearing her light, airy voice hop along the music of “Binz,” “My Skin My Logo” and “Time (Is)” brings about endless joy. Her falsetto is reminiscent of Aaliyah, but with more confidence and knowledge of how to work with a track. The album itself feels both masterfully crafted, yet somehow improvised and effortless. You can just imagine Solange waving her arms like a magician, concocting more free-flowing funk without a care in the world. She’s not as famous as her older sister, but she certainly sounds like she has more freedom. – Jon Winkler

4. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Who said goth music couldn’t be fun? Eilish puts together a devilishly clever set of dark minimalist pop songs here with her brother: the production is as quiet, sneaky, and fleet-footed as a fox. It stays fresh until about 2/3 of the way through, when the songs start to peter out. But before then there’s sounds aplenty to mesmerise the ears. Particularly on the two highlights: “bad guy” is as spooky and silly as teen pop ought to be, what with its casually enunciated “duh”s, which are as musical as anything you’ll hear this year. And “my strange addiction” samples The Office (US version) in an ingenious move that puts postmodernism through the internet meme blender and somehow comes out catchy rather than annoying. Every time you think you’ve heard everything there is to hear in pop music, along comes another young maestro to catch you out. And few have done it with the level of “gotcha!” of Billie Eilish. Long may we see her in a crown. – Oliver Hollander

3. Bon Iver- i,i

i,i shows the steady upward progression of Justin Vernon as a songwriter and storyteller. The albums of Bon Iver are tailored towards the seasons. For Emma, Forever Ago was a desolate wintery record where Vernon ruminated about lost love and time. It was a career-defining album that would eventually be the jumping-off point for the series of critically-acclaimed records that would be released. Unlike the solitude in which that album was recorded, i,i feels like a revelation that is both simultaneously calming and frenetic. Long lost are the woeful cries of For Emma and the eponymous sophomore album. i,i is overflowing with collaborations from Moses Sumney, Bruce Hornsby, and James Blake. The overflowing use of jittery electronics gives songs like “Naeem” and “iMi” a texture that evokes an early fall morning. Vernon’s lyrics still have a twinge of sadness and paranoia in them, yet the positivity shines through the political malaise. Highlights are the stunningly gorgeous synths that begin on “Faith” and “Hey, Ma”, where Justin brings nostalgia to the forefront conjuring up sentimental imagery of home and a matronly love. It’s a testament to growth over time and the progression that crafts us into our fullest potential. – Mark Wesley

2. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Lana Del Rey somehow manages to stay resolutely Herself, and yet reinvent her approach with every album. On Norman Fucking Rockwell!, the one-time Upstate New York princess has transformed herself into a beachy, California-sun-drenched Lady of the Canyon. NFR!, like most Del Rey releases goes over the hour mark but has very little of what feels like “filler.” If you can get through the initial introductory whirlwind of “Norman fucking Rockwell,” “Mariners Apartment Complex,” and “Venice Bitch,” without needing to listen to every successive minute of the album, you are stronger than most. Throughout the album, Del Rey combines her unique lyrics—concise, poetic, self-aware yet also self-serious—with swoon-worthy arrangements that harken back to singer-songwriters of the California past, and in one case the 1990s. This potent combination creates a modern yet instantly classic depiction of relationships, celebrity, decadence, aging, and regret. By the time the fantastic, aptly-titled song “The greatest” arrives late in the album, you are entirely in the thrall of Del Rey’s powers as a writer and performer of an undeniably specific character she has found herself fully embodying. It isn’t very easy to predict where Lana Del Rey may go after this, as this may be the peak version of the Lana we’ve come to know so far.  – Beth Winchester

1. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

“We took a vow in summertime / Now we find ourselves in late December,” Ezra Koenig sings on “Harmony Hall” Vampire Weekend’s first new piece of music in over five years. The couplet aptly invokes the passage of time for a group that’s spent the last decade-plus reshaping the landscape of American music. Indeed, once you’ve created three albums worth of generation-defining indie rock, what do you do next? Is there even anything more to say?
The answer, happily, is yes. On Father of the Bride, Koenig and co.—now down from quartet to trio—execute a major (but not total) overhaul of their globetrotting chamber-pop sound. The album draws influence from surprising sources—among them the quirky jazz-psychedelia of the Grateful Dead and the shimmering country-pop of Kacey Musgraves, and even touches of Tin Pan Alley and White Album-era Beatles. 
A massive curveball, to be sure, but it works. Koenig further cements himself the songwriter’s songwriter we always knew he was; his lyrics are sharper and more straightforward than ever, obsessed with a world and a love gone wrong. The songs are cynical and rosy-eyed, experimental and rapturously beautiful in equal measure, and new flourishes and nuances reveal themselves with each listen. New collaborators like Steve Lacy and Danielle Haim only add to the complexity of Ariel Rechtshaid’s brilliant production. Time may have aged Vampire Weekend, but it certainly hasn’t sapped their creativity and craftsmanship.
It’s easy enough to get hung up on what “doesn’t” work about FotB. The record’s detractors have renounced it as overlong, half-baked, unrepresentative, and flat-out embarrassing—and don’t get them started on that hideous cover. But to concentrate on its flaws is to cheat yourself out of the most charming, ingenious, intricate, and truly wonderful records of the year. Through its imperfections, it achieves its own form of perfection. – Michael Heimbaugh


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