Top 20 Albums of 2019
20: FKA twigs – MAGDELENE
FKA twigs returned with the most fragile piece of music I’ve heard all year. Every song on this record is like walking on a tightrope over a house of glass; knowing that if you slip everything would shatter, with Cellophane being the perfect example of this, its pure bliss to the ears. ‘MAGDELENE’ is a devastating but mature follow on from 2014’s ‘LP1’, that pulls at the heartstrings till they snap.
19: Pup – Morbid Stuff
Taking the pop punk sound, with an emphasis on punk, this Canadian band came through with their third record, packing the track list with catchy earworm riffs and choruses. Nihilistic lyrics covered in wit as laced all over this album, as front man Stefan Babcock almost talks (or shouts) at you about all his problems. On paper it sounds like a heavy listen, but it’s nothing short of a cathartic joyride.
18: Danny Brown – uknowwhatimsayin
Pioneer Danny Brown has such a diverse discography, with moments of outright stupidity in his lyrics to bars that hit you out hard straight of nowhere. Danny has seen life, but ‘uknowwhatimsayin’ feels like Danny doesn’t really care anymore & wants to have a bit of fun with it. Danny’s flow over these obscure beats is incredible, not even to mention his witty lyricism.
17: Fontaines D.C – Dogrel
Fontaines D.C almost came out of nowhere, but with such a unique sound that’s indistinguishable to any other band. Music to mosh or even dance to, hooks that will stay in your head for weeks and smart lyricism covers this album. Dogrel is a bold, yet straight forward, rock release that fuses elements of blues and punk, hitting all the night notes along the way.
16: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
The infamous duo is back, following up 2014’s Piñata with an impressive, and potentially stronger, release. Madlib takes a bit of a backseat when fusing the beats together, allowing Freddie to really come into his own. The album is stacked full of amazing tracks, such as Crime Pays and Half Manne Half Cocaine, which are some of the best of Freddie’s career.
15: Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy
This was a big surprise for me. I’ve never took much notice of Hot Chip, and when I’ve tried to give them a go it’s rarely stuck the landing and made me look for more. This was until I heard ‘Hungry Child’, which fuses house and psychedelic pop with a warm glow of summer ambience; it felt fuzzy and warm, all while being music to have a little skank to. As more singles dropped I anticipated the release of the record and it did not disappoint. Every song on this record carries that warm, fuzzy summery aesthetic, letting you escape reality and enter a warm wonderland of colour and sound; best consumed on a sunny day.
14: James Blake – Assume Form
With a three year hiatus of solo work, as James has become a more prominent producer, working with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Frank Ocean, Assume Form is a change of pace for James in many ways, turning out for the better. A clear R&B and Hip-Hop influence has seeped into his music, all while remaining constant with this lush aesthetic. Layers upon layers of subtle instrumentation, as James glides over each track with his angelic voice, Assume form is like being tucked into bed with a heated blanket on, while a storm blows outside.
13: Bring Me the Horizon – amo
The bold change of sound for band left many fans angry and confused as to why they would do this, but I personally found it refreshing. ‘amo’ is a unique listen, as the maturity of the band really shows with the experimentation apparent on the track list, fusing their pop-rock sound with a more industrial edge, creating a distinctive sound. Grimes appearing on the track-list left me slightly confused until I heard the track, as ‘nihilist blues’ is potentially one of the best songs the band has ever released. Straying completely away from the sound they creating their foundations on, amo is a bold move that paid off far better than anyone will give them credit for. If it wasn’t for a case of ‘mother tounge’ being on the tracklist, ‘amo’ would be much higher on the list.
12: Flume – Hi This Is Flume
Yet another unexpected record (well mixtape) that blew me away. The seamless flow of unique beats and surprising feature (such as the likes of slowthai and JPEGMAFIA) creates one of the most exciting listening experiences of 2019. To take it one step further a film was uploaded to YouTube to accompany the mixtape. There’s not much I can say about the record, it’s just something you need to experience for yourself (just make sure you’re wearing headphones for the full effect).
11: Apparat – LP5
Just missing out on that top ten is one of the most blissful records of the year, the walls of synths and strange beats accompanied by Apparat’s unique voice make the record constantly compelling. The album is sometimes reminiscent of Radiohead in many ways, with how certain instruments seap in and out of the mix, making you feel numb but over stimulated at the same time – the sort of stuff that makes your hairs stand up.
10: Michael Kiwanunka – Kiwanuka
‘Kiwanuka’ only gets better the more and more you listen to it, with its deep soul and blues roots smothering you with washed out guitar, luscious backing vocals and Michael’s voice guiding you through the journey that is this album. It’s grand but subtle, stacked full of some of 2019’s best music, such as the tracks ‘Hero’ and ‘Living In Denial’; it feels as though it’s a classic record of the genre, already becoming a precedent for what the genre can achieve.
9: Loyle Carner – Not Waving but Drowning
Loyle’s 2017 released Yesterday’s Gone felt humble, but felt as if it was holding something back – as if he hadn’t really truly found himself in music. Because of this, I was excited for his new release but didn’t expect to be blown away by his delivery – boy was I wrong.’ Not Waving But Drowning’ is an exceptional dive into the mind and soul of the UK rapper, hitting you with bars that go straight to the bone making you think of old friends, and others making you thankful for those around you. The features on the album work in Loyles favour too, as they fit perfectly with the atmosphere the album creates.
8: Denzel Curry – ZUU
This album is so much fun it’s beyond belief. Although it’s not as thought provoking as ‘TA13OO’, ‘ZUU’ provides back-to-back bangers as he flies over this hard trap beats as if it’s nothing. ‘BIRDZ FEAT. RICK ROSS’ is a standout track, with its piercing siren beat that pulls out any bit of adrenaline you have in you and urges you to release it. ‘ZUU’ feels like carelessly cruising on a summer’s day, and reinforces the fact that Denzel is one of the strongest on the scene right now.
7: Lana Del Ray – Norman Fucking Rockwell
Lana has never been to my taste – she was always too slow and had a tendency to almost drag herself along an album. That isn’t the case for ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’. Jack Antonoff’s production gives NFR a purely cinematic feel, as Lana guides us through this classic Hollywood-esque narrative of love, sex and broken hearts. With over an hour in length, it would be hard for almost anyone to keep you constantly engaged – but Lana succeeds. Almost every second of this album is a delight – a real must listen.
6: Brockhampton – GINGER
The best boy-band since One Direction return with a sombre, mature and heartfelt record. Where ‘iridescence’ felt rushed and incomplete, ‘GINGER’ pulls through. It’s clear they have had time to think about the Ameer allegations that had came to light before they recorded iridescence, as the overall mood and content of the tracks massively differs. Don’t get me wrong this record is the definition of sad boi hours. ‘GINGER’ feels like group therapy, if the therapy was to involve insanely catchy hooks, heartfelt (and sometimes aggressive) deliveries and a slowthai feature. Without the statement that is GINGER I’m not sure how else Brockhampton would have truly progressed as a band, and for that I’m grateful.
5: Thom Yorke – ANIMA
There is so much but also so little to say about ‘ANIMA’. Once again the Radiohead front man ventures into his own world of drum machines, as he builds a gloomy world with almost nothing but his haunting voice and electronic beats. ‘Dawn Chorus’ manages to stuff feelings of nostalgia, loneliness, solitude, emptiness and overwhelming affection into its five minute run time, and these feelings translate to the entirety of the record. It’s apparent that Thom has a greater understanding of these sorts of worlds he creates since making ‘The King of Limbs’ with Radiohead, as each track here seamlessly works with the next all while standing firmly on its own as an excellent example of what electronic music can sound like.
4: Chase & Status – RTRN II JUNGLE
This is just wild. Each track with a pounding heavy bass over rattling drums, wild and fulfilling bass drops and a catchy hook creating a near perfect drum and bass album. ‘RTRN II JUNGLE’ a versatile album too, with the beats not being in your face it lets you listen to it in so many circumstances only demanding it’s full attention when you want to give it that. Chase and Status have crafted a wild and exhilarating album; a modern classic for the genre.
3: Tyler, The Creator – IGOR
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? After 2017’s ‘Flower Boy’ expectations were high for Tyler’s next project, in which he met and then exceeded them with ease. IGOR see Tyler transition to a neo-soul sound, while still occasionally dipping into his roots., as we experience a character experience love in a deluded and obsessed way over this new sound. With the entire album creating such a journey it’s hard to pick just one standout track. ‘Earfquake’ is one of the biggest earworms of the year, ‘I Think’ sound like something Kanye could have created during his ‘Graduation’ sessions, and tracks like ‘New Magic Wand’ see Tyler encompass feelings of frustration, sadness and obsession all over a piercing beat. ‘Are We Still Friends?’ is a hard hitting, euphoric end to the album, with glorious synths and backing vocals working alongside Tylers altered vocals; a truly nostalgic yet unique experience.
2: Tourist – Everyday
Tourist has crafted one of the most subtle and elevating pieces of music I’ve heard all year. Listening to ‘Everyday’ is like waking up just to see the sun rise and watching as everyday life begins for the day. ‘Emily’ encapsulates that feeling more than any other track, as the vocals kick in with the pumping beat it’s hard not to feel relaxed. ‘Someone Else’ is one of the more understated tracks on the album, as it gradually builds, with echoed, arpeggiated and distorted notes alongside other faint instrumentals. ‘Violet’ feels carries a nostalgic but melancholic feeling; it feels real and hard hitting. In many ways I find it hard to really portray how this makes me feel, it’s a bombardment of soothing emotions over well crafted soft electronic beats. The album feels deeply personal, and it’s truly extraordinary how much emotion is portrayed in this album.
1: Bon Iver – i,i
On their fourth release,’ i,i’ encapsulates everything Bon Iver has created up until this point and in turn created their most complete piece – dare I say it. ‘i,i’ brings the melancholy and unexplainable sadness of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, to meet with the gorgeous arrangements and instrumental imagery of ‘Bon Iver’, and is all topped off by the glitchy jazz infused sampling of ‘22, A Million’. It is clear that Justin Vernon and Co are working together to their upmost potential, making every second necessary to the journey they are taking you on. Vernon’s voice either hits you like a punch to the gut or with a bombardment of euphoria on tracks such as ‘iMi’, ‘Naeem’ and ‘Hey, Ma’ (the feeling is dependant entirely on your mood). ‘i,i´ feels like Bon Iver’s most complete piece of work, with Vernon sounding settled and content within himself as the band are fully utilised to create an outstanding release.
Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
(Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
JPEGMAFIA- All my heroes are cornballs
Little Simz – Grey Area
Turnover - Altogether
Billie Eilish – WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO
Microwave – Death is a warm blanket
Harry Styles – Fine Line
Slipknot – We are not your kind
Mat Kerekes – Ruby (Live in the garage)
Bonobo – fabric presents Bonobo
Alex Cameron – Miami Memory
La Dispute – Panorama
Rex Orange County - Pony
The National – I Am Easy To Find
Charlie XCX – Charlie
Foals – Part 1 Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost
Coldplay – Everyday life