July 2 marks the official half way point of 2019 and that’s honestly terrifying to admit. I realized that I was too excited about all of the amazing music that’s been released this year already to wait until the end of the year to do a round-up post of my favorite releases – so why not share one at the six month mark?
I don’t want to share these in any particular order because it’s definitely going to fluctuate as the months continue. You can follow my “Best of 2019” playlist here.
Albums – in chronological order:
Assume Form – James Blake
Release Date – January 18, 2019
I always enjoyed James’ music in passing but nothing has stuck with me quite as much as this album has. There is something so beautiful in the way he describes loving someone that is unlike anything else I’ve ever heard before. I thought this album may not be my favorite by July of this year – but after revisiting it, it definitely still continues to be one of my favorites.
Key Tracks: “Assume Form,” “Into The Red,” “I’ll Come Too”
Heard It in A Past Life – Maggie Rogers
Release Date – January 18, 2019
We all know how annoying it is to hear someone brag about how long they’ve been a fan of someone…but it’s true! I’ve watched Maggie for almost three years at this point and it was a beautiful journey to see her blossom into the star she is now. There are songs on this album I definitely don’t prefer too much but some of them have brought me to tears. You can listen to an in-depth conversation about this album by myself and a friend here.
Key Tracks: “Overnight,” “Retrograde,” “Back In My Body”
Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center
Release Date – January 24, 2019
I have a hard time believing that this album was released this year because for some reason, it feels like years ago. After Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst announced a surprise collaboration including a full length album, they quickly went on tour and received positive reviews for their work. Every song on this album flows together so beautifully without sounding too similar to each other and is probably going to get my award for the most emotional release of 2019. Only time will tell!
Key Tracks: “Didn’t Know What I Was In For,” “Exception To The Rule,” “My City”
Léon – Léon
Release Date – March 1, 2019
Again with the bragging…but I’ve been following Léon for what it seems like decades at this point and having her debut album released this year was a huge milestone in her career! Her strong vocal ability paired with indie pop songs about love and heartbreak make it a strong contender to be one of my top albums of the year. To me, this album sounds like what Stevie Nicks would sound like if she was born in the 90s.
Key Tracks: “Lost Time,” Hope Is A Heartache,” “You And I”
Bird On The Wing – Shy Girls
Release Date – March 1, 2019
You may be wondering who exactly is Shy Girls, and before I heard this album I had no idea either. Dan Vidmar is the brains behind the operation – a singer/songwriter and producer, his debut 2013 EP, Timeshare, received widespread acclaim across the internet. Shy Girls has toured with artists like HAIM (if you listen closely, you can hear similar harmonies), and Little Dragon and has performed at major festivals across the country. Think of his music as experimental dream R&B – relaxing, inquisitive and genre-bending.
Key Tracks: “Drain,” “Don’t Know When I Will Believe,” “Lazy Boy”
Miss Universe – Nilüfer Yanya
Release Date – March 22, 2019
I discovered Nilüfer around this time last year when I was obsessing over the Pitchfork Music Festival lineup and was intrigued by her unique voice. Since then, the 22-year-old has released her debut album that has received critical acclaim and has been compared to fellow indie rock chick Mitski – though I hate when women in the same genre are compared solely because of their gender – being compared to someone like Mitski is quite the compliment.
Key Tracks: “In Your Head,” “Safety Net,” “Tears”
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish
Release Date – March 29, 2019
The rise of 17-year-old Billie Eilish has been nothing short of exhilarating to watch and even more so knowing that she’s shaping the face of pop music in 2019. Eilish’s debut album arrived in a 14-song long album about death, “The Office” and seducing your dad. While there’s a lot to unpack in this album, especially by someone at such a young age, it’s fascinating to see a work of art that is so massively consumed by virtually every 15-year-old in North America right now (and some 24-year olds like me).
Key Tracks: “Bad Guy,” (Dare I say it’s my favorite song of the year so far?), “ilomilo,” “bury a friend”
Violet Street – Local Natives
Release Date – April 26, 2019
This album is the reason I stopped making snap decisions on albums after listening only one time through. While I wasn’t entirely blown away by it during my first listen, after my second, third and fourth listen, Violet Street quickly skyrocketed to the top of my ongoing list of my favorite albums of 2019. Understated, beautiful and vulnerable, I think we are experiencing Local Natives in their prime with their fourth studio release.
Key Tracks: “Megaton Mile,” “Shy,” “When Am I Gonna Lose You”
Father Of The Bride – Vampire Weekend
Release Date – May 3, 2019
Another album that dropped this year that 1) was highly anticipated and 2) received mix reviews (generally from what I saw from fans, very good reviews from music publications). While FOTB is definitely not my favorite release from the band, it doesn’t really matter. The album is a leap in terms of sound for Vampire Weekend, and while you can hear where former bandmate and producer Rostam’s influence is lacking, it made room for new sounds and styles that have elevated VW’s #brand to even bigger and broader horizons.
Key Tracks: “Harmony Hall,” “Sympathy,” “How Long?”
Young Enough – Charly Bliss
Release Date – May 10, 2019
One more band that was NOT on my radar until this year, but I’m so happy I ended up discovering them! Charly Bliss’ second album is full of bangers and songs that are inherently sad in context but disguised as upbeat and poppy – one of my favorite styles of music. Lots of songs on here that make me more emotional than I’d like to admit – but at least I can cry on the dance floor, right?
Key Tracks: “Blown To Bits,” “Chatroom,” “Young Enough”
Dedicated – Carly Rae Jepsen
Release Date – May 17, 2019
CRJ had a hard job to do by following up her 2015 sleeper hit Emotion – and I think she did as best as she could to create another album that her fans would love ALMOST as much. Some of her best work is on this album and some of it…is not so much her best work. The majority of the album is indeed quite fabulous, reimagined 80s pop music (with the help of Jack Antonoff, of course), and is quite danceable from start to end. Emotion had us engulfed in the idea that love is unattainable, Dedicated shows us otherwise.
Key Tracks: “Want You In My Room,” “For Sure,” “Real Love”
New Songs For Old Problems – Middle Kids
Release Date – May 24, 2019
Although my favorite albums of 2018 list included EPs, I still feel unsure if I want to include them regularly or not – but I think the ones that I love as much as full length releases deserve to be mentioned. I’ve been raving about Middle Kids for literal years at this point and although their debut album, released last year, left me wanting more from them, I got that little something extra with their 2019 EP release. I love every single song on this EP and it’s rare for me to like an album in its entirety from start to finish – no matter how long it is.
Key Tracks: “Real Thing,” “Call Me Snowflake”
Color/Sweat – Calliope Musicals
Release Date – June 14, 2019
I couldn’t even tell you how I stumbled across this band’s single “Fear This Body” from earlier this year, but boy am I thrilled that I did. Once I saw that Calliope Musicals – a band from Austin, Texas, self-described as “a cheerful psychedelic party folk band” who “exudes feel-good vibes that aim to swallow listeners and spit them out as happier versions of their former selves.” Their sound is so unbelievably refreshing, hopeful and powerful without resorting to tropes or gimmicks. Definitely recommend throwing them a listen.
Key Tracks: “Fear This Body,” “Color/Sweat”
Keepsake – Hatchie
Release Date – June 21, 2019
Each song that Hatchie has released as singles has been better than the last. I knew going into listening her debut album that it wouldn’t disappoint for this reason, and I was absolutely correct. Described by Stereogum as “a cosmic concoction of dream-pop and shoegaze,” Hatchie’s music has been compared to artists like the Cocteau Twins and The Cranberries. Hatchie is touring the US this fall – click here for dates.
Key Tracks: “Unwanted Guest,” “Without A Blush”
Late Night Feelings – Mark Ronson
Release Date – June 21, 2019
You may be wondering how Mark Ronson – the name behind Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk appeared on this list – and if you are, you’re in for a big surprise. Not only is Mark Ronson an award-winning collaborator for his work with Adele, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga and more, but he’s also a musician and songwriter and has released multiple albums under his own name during the 2000s. His song with Miley Cyrus, released earlier this year, really got him on my radar. The collaborations on this album range from Camila Cabello, King Princess, newcomer Yebba (a force to be reckoned with) and more. Each song is better than the next. To say this album truly blew me away is an understatement.
Key Tracks: I love every song on this album, but the three I like the most are probably “Truth,” “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” and “Nothing Breaks Like A Broken Heart”
Each artist below with an asterisk* by their name means they have an upcoming show in Chicago.
Favorite Songs (So Far) – in alphabetical order:
“Dirty AF1s” – Alexander 23*
“Don’t Go Changing” – Aly & AJ
“Leaning On Myself” – Anna Of The North
“NASA” – Ariana Grande*
“Find Someone” – A R I Z O N A
“Moral Of The Story” – Ashe*
“Fuckboy” – BAUM
“Didn’t Know What I Was In For” – Better Oblivion Community Center
“Exception To The Rule” – Better Oblivion Community Center
“My City” – Better Oblivion Community Center
“bad guy” – Billie Eilish
“ilomilo” – Billie Eilish
“Fear This Body” – Calliope Musicals*
“For Sure” – Carly Rae Jepsen*
“Real Love” – Carly Rae Jepsen
“Want You In My Room” – Carly Rae Jepsen
“Blown To Bits” – Charly Bliss
“Chat Room” – Charly Bliss
“Young Enough” – Charly Bliss
“Self Explained” – Charry Glazerr
“who knew” – Chloe x Halle
“Bags” – Clairo*
“The King” – Conan Gray*
“Summer Lover” – Cub Sport
“Cellophane” – FKA twigs
“dancing around” – flor*
“Moderation” – Florence & The Machine
“Everything Is Good Now” – Foreign Air
“dead girl in the pool.” – girl in red*
“We Appreciate Power” – Grimes, HANA
“Missed Connection” – The Head And The Heart*
“Unwanted Guest” – Hatchie*
“Without A Blush” – Hatchie
“Would That I” – Hozier*
“It Won’t Always Be Like This” – Inhaler
“Assume Form” – James Blake
“I’ll Come Too” – James Blake
“Into The Red” – James Blake
“Pressure To Party” – Julia Jacklin
“Pussy Is God” – King Princess
“Okay” – Lany ft. Julia Michaels
“Hope Is A Heartache” – Léon
“Tempo” – Lizzo* ft. Missy Elliot
“Pachinko Song” – Lily & Madeleine
“Megaton Mile” – Local Natives
“Shy” – Local Natives
“When Am I Gonna Lose You” – Local Natives
“Back In My Body” – Maggie Rogers*
“Retrograde” – Maggie Rogers
“Overnight” – Maggie Rogers
“Truth” – Mark Ronson, The Last Artful Dodgr, Alicia Keys
“Don’t Leave Me Lonely” – Mark Ronson, YEBBA
“Call Me Snowflake” – Middle Kids
“Mother’s Daughter” – Miley Cyrus
“Superfruit” – Maude Latour
“Go Easy” – Matt Maeson*
“Number One Fan” – MUNA*
“In Your Head” – Nilüfer Yanya*
“Safety Net” – Nilüfer Yanya
“Erase Me” – Quinn Christopherson
“Read Hearse” – Red Hearse
“JFK” – Ryann
“Hypersonic Missles” – Sam Fender*
“The Best” – Self Esteem
“Seventeen” – Sharon Van Etten*
“Don’t Know When I Will Believe” – Shy Girls
“Lazy Boy” – Shy Girls
“Boys In Bands” – Silver Sphere
“Only Child” – Tierra Whack*
“Talk” – Two Door Cinema Club*
“What’s Good” – Tyler The Creator*
“Harmony Hall” – Vampire Weekend
“How Long” – Vampire Weekend
“Sympathy” – Vampire Weekend
“Scrawny” – Wallows
Thank you for reading! Follow the Best of 2019 playlist below: