album of the year 2019
The 20-year-old – born Mikaela Straus – released a debut album filled with louche balladry that, despite her New York pedigree, is plump with west coast studio richness. The result: 10 existential bangers riddled with post-millennial anxiety and fuelled by compulsion. Best moment: The breezy cha-cha-cha of ‘Hear Me Calling’, an idiosyncratic track that speaks to Juice WLRD’s eclecticism. The jagged beauty in Slowthai’s theatrical retelling of childhood antics and struggles – alongside proclamations of love and self-assurance – thrust the listener into flux that was emotive and unpredictable, but always exciting. A queer singing cowboy who obscures his identity with a fringed leather face mask, it’d be easy to write Canadian singer-songwriter Peck off as a novelty were his music not so utterly sublime and delivered with such sincerity. ‘When I Get Home’ is short, sharp and perfectly formed. But with ‘MAGDALENE’, her message was this: fuck with me at your peril. NME said: ‘MAGDALENE’ is an album about rebuilding after collapse… By its close, FKA twigs is an unstoppable force of nature. Best bit: The beat-switch in ‘Bad Guy’s final third, where a monstrous bassline rips through the song. Best bit: The cinematic, Steve Lacy-featuring tracks ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Flower Moon’. There was an honesty and romanticism to ‘Dogrel’ that defined the record, and when Chatten snarled “Is it too real for ya?” on ‘Too Real’, irony was refreshingly thrown out the door in favour of true, cast-iron connection. Yes, Tyler was as loud and creative as he had been before, figuring stuff out in his own multi-talented, multi-faceted way – with loads of interesting collaborators, including Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert – but on this album, Tyler was… sincere. And he had a new album called, ‘IGOR’ was different from his previous albums. The rollicking ‘Hero’ lamented brutality against black citizens and on the muted, elegiac ‘Solid Ground’ he insisted: “, “As with each of his albums to date, Kiwanuka navigates the past and the present, skilfully making sounds and subjects appear both classic and contemporary at once.”. There was less of the braggadocio that peppered her previous work. Ultimately, ’Madame X’ represented an eclectic, masterful new phase that stood tall amid her inimitable back catalogue. For additional information about bands formed, reformed, disbanded, or on hiatus, for deaths of musicians, and for links to musical awards, see 2019 in music . BBT Read the full review. The emergence of a new Desert Sessions album in 2019 was something of a surprise. His death is tragic, his legacy indisputable. Like Sons of Kemet’s Your Queen Is a Reptile, each track on poet/activist/songwriter Jamila Woods’s second album is named for a pivotal artist of colour, whose legacies she explores as models of how to live life to the fullest. CROSSWORD CLUE: Her “Girl” won the 2019 CMA for Album of the Year: 2 wds. Key track: ‘Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot’, Best bit: Peggy’s attempt to smoke out basic bitches with ‘BasicBitchTearGas’, a cover of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’. Tyler was back. Recorded after he’d successfully completed treatment for addiction and armed himself with a renewed approach to songwriting, ‘Deceiver’ saw the band pair sobering realities with distorted guitars, replacing their usually sweet melodies with pained catharsis. TS, In a nutshell: A genre-hopping collection from trap’s divisive court jester. It was conceived in divided, aggressive times, and The Chemical Brothers sought to unite people with their awe-inspiring ninth studio album. Over metronomic garage-rock, frontman James McGovern sings like a man reading a list of demands out of a high window, but also modulates into sweeping gothic romance. Key track: ‘Lesley’, a twisting, turning, 11-minute opus that sees Dave encounter a pregnant woman trapped in an abusive relationship. At Maggie Rogers’ online store you can buy a range of merch that declares her to be a “witchy feminist rock star”. Riotous anthem ‘Spin Girl, Let’s Activate’ was a battle cry for dancefloor dwellers, while ‘Power to the People’ – which sampled chanting activists and audio from a ’80s ACT UP rally – was a glorious protest song. The Cali rap-crooner’s fourth continued in the vein of previous records ‘Malibu’ and ‘Oxnard’ in charting his rise from ambitious young buck to star. The emergence of a new Desert Sessions album in 2019 was something of a surprise. It was Tyler the Creator, in a pink and red suit stood in front of Buckingham Palace. In a nutshell: Prodigious talent delivers game-changing debut. The LA teen’s debut album was bold, brash and little like anything that’s come before, as the 17-year-old paired muffled beats, barely audible vocal takes and cutting-edge song-writing. Much as Kacey Musgraves broke open country songwriting in 2018 with the love-bombing body high of Golden Hour, Sturgill Simpson casts himself as the genre’s outlier in 2019. Mering bookended the album with this song, which promoted faith in the face of ominous change, and the disconcerting instrumental ‘Nearer To Thee’. 2019’s not been great – in fact, things haven’t been great for a while – and Richard Dawson’s album suggests it’s not going to get any better in 2020. Basically: things are about to get really weird. The country artist won the coveted Album of the Year award at the Grammys on Sunday night for her critically acclaimed, genre-bending record (and EW’s pick for Best Album … T he most compelling albums released this year include three Brits with vastly different sounds, a 17-year-old Angeleno and an elder statesman of the New York underground rap world. Super-saturated and drenched in theatrical flourishes, Post Malone, ‘Hollywood’s Bleeding’ (Republic Records), It was conceived in divided, aggressive times, and, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 1)’ (Warner Bros). Rex Orange County won over swarms of fans with knowingly schmaltzy love songs that apparently described a golden period in his life. This is a band caught deep in one of the songwriting grooves of the century. Whether it’s bossa nova pop, Snail Mail-style slacker grunge or moody synthetic rock in the tradition of the xx, Yanya’s songwriting bar flexes and warps but stays permanently high. Jubilant opener ‘You Ain’t The Problem’ saw him shed off old insecurities as he vowed to stop getting in his own way, no longer willing to give in to self-doubt, beaming: “No need to play myself… I used to hate myself… Break out the prison”. Polachek explores and is often overcome by this new reality, reflecting her sense of discovery in choruses that loop like Escher staircases (Door) and vocal runs so startling (Ocean of Tears) they seem to suggest the invention of entirely new emotions. Kitty Empire Read the full review. And then there were his lyrics: gorgeous, triumphant odes to personal fulfilment and celebrating your identity. K-SW, In a nutshell: Old dudes in masks don’t age – they just get better. Elegiac and rickety, it’s a lasting testament to his mordant and philosophical poetry, but also to his pain: “The end of all wanting is all I’ve been wanting,” he sings on That’s Just the Way That I Feel. And he had a new album called ‘IGOR’ – and what an album. HM. Erland Cooper ‘Sad day’ used warped syntax to depict a sad wank: ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ (Method Records), With a wicked sense of humour, she picked out her own flaws, as well as those of the men in her life (“, The result was a strikingly cinematic conclusion, evoking a, On 18 May 2019, music fans in the UK took a look at Twitter and promptly lost their shit. After Clairo’s lo-fi, bedroom-pop hit Pretty Girl went viral, there was the risk that her ascent to pop proper would obliterate the intimacy that made her appeal in the first place. Tracks either abruptly snap off like an unfinished thought or dissolve into the silent distance. “Now, I’m so amazing.” EH, In a nutshell: Van Etten goes widescreen with surprise heartland rock epic. Best bit: The throat-cracking vocals on ‘God Is’, where Kanye admits that his faith helped him overcome sex addiction and gave his life renewed purpose. Fans had been waiting five years for a new Charli XCX album, a time in which the singer-songwriter moved away from the radio-ready synth-pop of hits like ‘Boom Clap’ and ‘I Love It’ towards crystalline, PC Music-affiliated experimental pop. With razor-sharp commentary that touched on everything from romance to success, exposed empty nationalism and even got nostalgic about the 99p Flake, ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ showcased the breadth of Slowthai’s focus and his ability to interweave humour and personality with the bleak and sometimes tragic. Very little is known about her life, and any concrete details are very thin on the ground. These are notable albums, defined as having received significant coverage from reliable sources independent of the subject. Key track: If, at the start of the decade, you’d told us the kid who ate cockroaches and talked about stabbing Bruno Mars in his goddamn oesophagus would end the 2010s with a song as heartbreakingly earnest as “Earfquake”, we’d have called you a goddamn liar. Best bit: When she snaps, “You was meant to be in my Grammy speech – your entire loss”, on ‘Sherbet Sunset’. Calvin Harris and The 1975 led the field with two wins each at the 2019 Brit Awards. It lands alongside a string of high profile collabs which have made 2019 Burna Boy's year. 2. The other Dublin post-punk success story of 2019 alongside Fontaines DC, The Murder Capital have a bit more monochrome hauteur – but there’s still a touch of lairiness. Jack Barnett’s vocals, conversational yet epic, add their own particular drama. There are spectral strings and synths, bells, electronics, a smattering of piano notes. In a nutshell: A break-up and its fallout, via the medium of wispy pop, It’s been a revelation watching Amber Bain step into the spotlight. And it came from an artist all too familiar with being in the public eye in the shadow of a famous man. A blessed return to form. If last album ‘Is The Is Are’ felt like “the light at the end of the tunnel” as troubled frontman Zachary Cole Smith put it, third album ‘Deceiver’ is what’s on the other side. But peel away the gaudy rollout, two misrepresentative lead singles and the baggage surrounding its creator and you’re left with an endearing, adventurous old-school pop album. 2019 saw Dave release the Mercury Prize-winning ‘Psychodrama’, remind everyone that Thiago Silva is one of the best defenders in the world and scare the life out of us in Top Boy. Kendrick Lamar Record Of The Year “I Like It” - Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin “The Joke” - Brandi Carlile **“This Is America” - Childish Gambino “God’s Plan” - Drake “Shallow” - Lady Gaga & Brad… Best Moment: Instead of laying into her exes flaws on ‘Thank U, Next’, Ari takes a kinder approach: “One taught me love, one taught me patience, and one taught me pain,” she says. Best bit: That drop, 17 seconds into ‘In Degrees’. Yet it was the perfect ‘Ladbroke Grove’, on which he paid homage to the garage sound he loved as a teenager, that proved AJ Tracey is legendary full-stop. But its status in the band’s catalogue is beyond reproach. With gossamer touch and cinematic scope, it was a three-dimensional, fever-dream portrait that travelled that full gamut of love, loss and grief before concluding: “Peace will come”. It was a poignant conclusion to a triumphant record. Nevertheless, human decency still feels close at hand – not least from the man singing. The best work yet from the London rapper – she was already one of the most technically accomplished MCs in the country, but broadens and popularises her craft here with affecting song forms. 2019 was a relatively quiet year when it came to album releases from the biggest stars in music. Lover paints in complex emotional shades and finds an artist known for her strict adherence to her brand trying lots of new things, from the girl-groupy Paper Rings to Mazzy Star-style reveries on the title track. Dense layers of fluttering gauze ... Amber Bain. Naughty Denzel. On ‘Map Of The Soul: Persona’, they used the psychological theories of Carl Jung to explore ideas of identity (the riff-fuelled rap-rock of ‘Intro: Persona’) and delved into Greek mythology with the swaggering ‘Dionysus’. HM, In a nutshell: Oxford art-rockers find a new wave groove. Music is filled with no shortage of characters proclaiming how “mad, me” they are, so it’s rare and delightful to come across a genuine oddball. BBT Read the full review. Sinister and choral, ‘thousand eyes’ painted a final parting from a lover as hungry anonymous eyes look on. It features contributions from Tim Drummond, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm, Karl T Himmel, Ben Keith, and Robbie Robertson. With appearances from Danielle Haim and Steve Lacy and no musical stone unturned, the band made sure to sidestep expectations. Whether in grunge ballads (Jenni), front-porch blues (Orange) or the ambient indie-folk that sways reed-like throughout, the mood is as melancholy as it is beautiful. The Grammys this year expanded the major categories of album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist from five nominees … Featuring album reviews, ratings, charts, year end lists and more. 3. Or do they say jelly out there? BBT Read the full review. Rhian Daly, NME said: “‘Immunity’ is an album to burrow into and become resident in its songs. 2019 has brought stunning returns, fine debuts, unexpected triumphs, and genre-defying points of inspiration. Super-saturated and drenched in theatrical flourishes, Angel Olsen’s ‘All Mirrors’ skewered heartbreak with brutal precision. Though it used sounds and textures familiar from the 80s, Remind Me Tomorrow didn’t sound like an 80s record. Here, the four-piece till the dirt and Adrianne Lenker sings relentlessly about death and disease, elemental concerns that nevertheless reach some kind of higher plane thanks to the tenacious, cracked songwriting that’s swiftly establishing them as Brooklyn’s answer to Crazy Horse. ‘Morbid Stuff’ was joyous and positive – a handbook to help you get by. Jade Bird - Jade Bird 2. Alexis Petridis Read the full review. Best bit: When, on ‘Are We Still Friends’, he asks, “Are we still friends? All of a sudden, songs about beer and broads seem a little lacking. Whirling a blade around on-stage, the razor-sharp edge whizzing within inches of her body, Twigs was putting on a killer performance. LS Read the full review. K-SW, In a nutshell: New York indie heads go shoegaze. Ammar Kalia Read the full review. With ‘Dogrel’ the band also proved that they’re not just a band of five punks who shout a lot. On his wildly inspired self-titled record, though, he spread his wings. LS Read the full review. By playing the jester, he became the voice of a British generation at the turn of a turbulent decade. Best bit: This line in ‘Roses Are Falling’: “You Know darling, you bring out the worst in me / Sometimes, when I’m around you, I feel like pure evil”. Best bit: The album’s dazzling opening 20-minutes, where four tracks (‘Eve Of Destruction’, ‘Bango’, ‘No Geography’ and ‘Got To Keep On’) go back-to-back without a moment of respite. Ramshackle hip-hop, spoken word, gospel, neo and not-so-neo soul, raunchy funk, spiritual jazz and whatever glorious noise 13th Century Metal is, it’s all given extra heft by Howard’s poignant reflections on love and identity. Can we be friends?” Rarely does an artist rap with their heart on show like modern day Tyler. The best music of 2019. Huge. Impressive and poignant. Long may it last. The best pop of 2019 didn’t try to reach everyone. Here's a full list of those who took home prizes. In these brawny, meandering folk songs, a butcher spouts anti-immigrant bile, an anxious jogger hears of racial violence, and workers in a warehouse flog themselves half to death; at a more intimate level, there are infidelities and loneliness. These albums won’t change the world, but they do offer us a different perspective and help us to stand in someone else’s shoes for little while. There were at least three tracks in here that you’d enjoy and put on a summer playlist, and three you’d skip. Witness André 3000 appearing on the soulful opening track ‘Come Home’ for proof of his pulling power now. The singles that heralded its arrival were spectacular – the crawling menace of You Should See Me in a Crown; Bury a Friend’s warped, unsettling glam stomp; Bad Guy’s cocktail of sharp lyrics and 60s spy thriller theme pastiche – but they aren’t significantly better than the rest of the album. If you don’t have an account, please create one. His musical responses provide yet another fascinating, detailed and perfectly executed musical miscellany. This, her debut, was billed as a break-up album, and in some ways that was true: the music video for ‘Lilo’ co-starred Marika Hackman, her IRL ex, and ‘We Talk All The Time’ was plainly a banger about not having sex. The acoustic, lo-fi balladeering of her early albums soon became a distant memory. It’s a comforter that wraps itself around you when you’re feeling low and a resilient reminder that there are brighter times ahead.”, In a nutshell: Born-out-of-time singer-songwriter laments paving of paradise and putting-up of a parking lot. Humbling beyond measure. Grammys 2019 … The Brooklyn band’s second album of the year is earthier than UFOF, the glowing collection that arrived in spring. This is a strutting, utterly badass glam rock record, shot through with a gimlet-eyed outlaw nihilism – and comes with its own accompanying Kurosawa-inspired anime. From Cardi B’s debut album Invasion of Privacy to Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, the 2019 Grammy Award album of the year nominees include something for everyone’s taste. Manchester’s WH Lung are on hand to provide it, garlanded with airy vocals and endearingly retro sonics. HM, In a nutshell: Colourful rap kiss-offs that turned the ‘Mooo!’ milk sour. These 13 tracks formed a taut, swaggering tone studded with moments of menace. While that warmth glows through Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, Callahan’s understanding of his inherent masculine violence, and his way with lucid profundity, means his domestic treatise was never cloying. When frontman Grian Chatten yelled “Dublin in the rain is mine” to open the album on ‘Big’, you were immediately thrust headfirst into the soggy backstreets of a city that had found its voice again, Chatten wonderfully narrating its ups and downs and twists and turns. It’s full of contemporary ennui as it is, expressed as much in Yanya’s subtly hangdog vocals as in the lyrics. Words: Carl Anka, Jordan Bassett, Rhian Daly, Georgia Evans, El Hunt, Natty Kasambala, Charlotte Krol, Hannah Mylrea, Will Richards, Kyann-Sian Williams, Thomas Smith, Dan Stubbs, Andrew Trendell. Solange’s fourth album was one of the best surprises of 2019. A whip-crack on from ‘Sweetener’, a record about survival and rediscovering joy, ‘thank u, next’ delved deeper into loss, digging into the complexities of going through emotional turmoil with the whole world watching. With his sixth album, the east Londoner cements his status as one of the UK’s greatest ever MCs. LS Read the full review. Yes, Tyler was as loud and creative as he had been before, figuring stuff out in his own multi-talented, multi-faceted way – with loads of interesting collaborators, including. Best bit: The epic choral crescendo on ‘Something To Believe’. Music reviews, ratings, news and more. Yet the darkness of their first three albums is never far from the door, antisemitism and apocalypse snapping a little harder at the heels of a new father and husband who’s realised how much more he has to lose. Since then, he’s laid everything bare, being brave and confessional through film, his website, conversation tours and, yes, on the devastating ‘Ghosteen’. DS, In a nutshell: The closing of .Paak’s myth-making trilogy of albums. There comes a point in young adulthood where you really get deep into figuring out who you are. It was a generous, compassionate and honest album, too. With a bit of luck, he’ll be igniting necessary conversations for years. The Brooklyn band’s second album of the year is earthier than UFOF, the glowing collection that arrived in spring. When drummer Janet Weiss quit Sleater-Kinney prior to the release of their ninth studio album, it cast an unfair pallor on a record mired in suspicion, every new dazzling synth or poppy refrain regarded as the possible straw that broke the camel’s back. It was alive with possibility. Michael Hann Read the full review. This was especially true of the opening track ‘Offence’, on which she reduced her style to drum and buzzing bass, making her outrageous – and brilliant – boasts seem even more blunt than usual: “I’m Jay-Z on a bad day / Shakespeare on my worst days”. Her love for it is infectious. Tyler was back. LS Read the full review. JB, In a nutshell: Jim finds love in a hopeless place. As she put it on ‘Ecstasy’: “Long live Sneaks.” JB, Best bit: The demonic voices that chant the album’s name on the title track. On Boss, she goes in as hard as an aggrieved Wu-Tang member over a raw bluesy beat; on the very next song, Selfish, these spikes are melted into smooth R&B. The album format has been stretched to its limitations, but still it stands, a potent vehicle for fresh expression. Theresa May was gone. CK, In a nutshell: Experimental hip-hop entrenched in internet humour. BBT Read the full review. And luckily there’s absolutely nothing else going on in the news at the moment that might distract you from this list and make it seem in any way trivial. Well, OK, I’m not going to do that, but what I will say is that there’s a lot of hope in this list, be it from the trio of young, politicised acts with stellar debuts in the top 10 – encompassing punk, UK rap and the biggest pop star on the planet who, perched at Number One, exists in her own unique realm – or the diverse array of talent sparkling throughout. The three albums form a sort of loose trilogy, and this record, like all great closing entries, took aspects of its predecessors – lush arrangements and reflections on the good life – and amped them up. BBT Read the full review. There are moments when Cave appears to be slowly coming to terms with what has happened: “Sometimes a little bit of faith can go a long, long way,” he sings. There’s ‘Bury A Friend’, a fear-fuelled tale told from the perspective of the monsters under Billie’s bed, and ‘Xanny’, a response to America’s teenage opioid crisis, on which she admitted that she was the only one at the party “, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’, Read More: Billie Eilish – Album Of The Year: Exclusive Interview. With every twist, Simz is already on top of the beat. The artwork for Vampire Weekend’s fourth album is pure Windows 97 ClipArt, earnest United Colors of Benetton graphics, CD-era prosperity in its prominent positioning of Sony’s label. TS, In a nutshell: The crown prince of British sits down with his therapist. Filled with vengeful lyrics and complemented by visuals filled with snakes, it was a gutsy record that took musical revenge on those that had wronged her. Key track: ‘Can’t Believe the Way We Flow’, Best Moment: “Let’s go home and talk shit about everyone,” he suggests ‘Power On’. 11/12’ presented a jam album that plumbed the depths of desert rock, 1970s psych and gale-force goth, and was a whole heap of fun. As buzz bands go, Black Midi is a weird one, a jagged mulch of math rock, Beefheart restlessness and the 90s Chicago school of alt-jazz, full of the declamatory vocals of Geordie Greep (whose voice you couldn’t make up if you tried). Best bit: When ‘Winners Circle’ samples ‘90s gangster movie A Bronx Tale: “You’re only allowed three great women in your lifetime. Billie Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Best moment: When that sweet slather of distortion hits in ‘Sofia’. JB, In a nutshell: Easy-on-the-ear emotive pop that doesn’t shy away from sharing its struggles. This allowed them to explore the full capabilities of storytelling from a place of humour, comfort and curiosity. Climate change, washed-out love, existentialism and nostalgia for simpler times were some of the record’s resounding themes. Best bit: In the closing track ‘Hollywood’, Cave concludes that no matter how profound grief may seem, “Everybody’s losing someone”. He resembles a heart-eyes emoji at various points, swooning over girlfriend Jameela Jamil on Power On and Can’t Believe the Way We Flow. In early promotional videos he revealed each of his albums to date had represented a season. As with Bowie’s Blackstar and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, David Berman’s long-awaited return to music will forever be overshadowed by his death, as he died by suicide less than a month after its release. If you were left feeling bereft by Nicki Minaj’s announcement that she was planning to retire, Doja Cat’s ‘Hot Pink’ should have provided some consolation. © 2020 NME is a member of the media division of BandLab Technologies. 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