My Top 19 Albums Of 2019

Well, here we are. Another year has come and gone (wow, I feel old) and another year of great (and not so great) music has been given to us. I had a really hard time working on this list, which came as a surprise, actually. I definitely knew that there were a handful of releases that would compete for the top five slots or so, but actually having to choose between multiple albums to even get a spot in the top 19 was actually incredibly difficult. Since there were so many albums that I thought deserved some sort of a shoutout, I also included the “honorary mentions” at the bottom of this post to round out the entire list to 30 albums. I’ve never felt obligated to include so many in one of these year-end lists, so that must be saying something.

I want to make a point to note that I am not a critic, and I don’t think I have any business in critiquing albums that are “the best,” this list is based on the artists that have released music that has made me feel something, has been there for me, and makes me want to never stop listening or sharing music that I love. There’s a huge difference in what I want to promote vs. what the big publications do. While I think I make that clear, I just thought it needed to be said again.

Behold: my top 19 albums of 2019! Thanks for being patient with me.

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Release Date May 10
Favorite:  “Blown To Bits,” “Chatroom,” “Young Enough”

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?

Seeing Charly Bliss perform live earlier this year also gave these songs a new life and made me fall in love with them all over again. Hearing them again when I was compiling this list did, too. I personally tend to dislike singers who have a tone similar to Eva Hendricks (singer, guitar), but there’s something so special and intense about her voice and the way that she sings that makes me overlook it. I would lie if I said that I love every single song on this album, but the ones I love, I REALLY LOVE. And that’s more than enough reason for it to be included in my list.

Favorite line: Nobody knows you, the weight of your trust, how I crushed and consumed you and loved you too much – “Young Enough”

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Release Date: August 9
Favorites: “ok ok?” “RUNAWAY,” “Pure Gold”

You ever stumble across a band and realize that you’re low-key obsessed with them after just a few songs? That’s exactly how I felt about half alive the first time I heard them earlier this year after I was scrolling through the list of Lincoln Hall and Schubas upcoming performances (yes, I do this) and saw their name as an upcoming performer. It’s (somewhat) rare for me to see a band name on one of those websites that I’m not at least REMOTELY familiar with, so I started to listen and almost instantly, I was hooked.

There are plenty of artists that I enjoy but not many that I can turn on and realize that I like their music at the snap of a finger, but I did with half alive. Reminding me of a combination of Lany, Twenty One Pilots, and Hippocampus, half alive’s music leading up to their August 9 debut release kept me captivated for months on end. Not only are the vocal choices beyond fascinating sonically (the opening song sounds like it could have been performed acapella entirely), but the themes of introspection, religion, and the occasional existential crisis has kept this album in my best-of list since its first listen.

Favorite line: I find that everything I am is everything I should be – “Runaway”

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Release Date: November 22
Favorites: “Fuck Modern Love,” “Live Forever”

This is the only EP that made the list! I was INSTANTLY obsessed with Nasty Cherry after I heard their song “Live Forever” and that obsession only became heightened after I watched their Netflix show, “I’m With The Band” that documents the creation of their band, songwriting process, and living situation after Charli XCX recruited each one of them to start a girl group.

I think watching the creation of their music played a huge role in how I felt about their music, since getting such an up-close, personal view of how it was developed is something I’ve never gotten to see before. It was super refreshing and inspiring to see, and I highly encourage you to check out the show (here) and the EP, of course.

Favorite line: Lovesick songs on the radio, taking me places I don’t even know, telling me that I’m all out of hope today – “Fuck Modern Love”

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Release Date: September 13
Favorites: “Presence,” “In My Head,” “Without You”

Making this list meant I spent a lot of time revisiting albums I noted as standouts throughout the year. When I revisited Joseph’s third album, I remember just how ALMOST perfect of an album it really is. I think it resonated so much with me because it represented a side of the sister trio in a new, very vulnerable way that wasn’t something we have been able to see much of in previous listens. After a fight between the three of them nearly ended their band, they were able to take it as inspiration for their album and created a body of work that encapsulates where the sisters are in their lives and in their relationships with each other. Good Luck, Kid seems like a natural progression on their musical journey, yet still allows them to take risks in their songwriting and production choices.

Some of my favorite moments of Good Luck, Kid stem from what Joseph does best (in my humble opinion). Their near-perfect harmonies, combined with lyrics of heartbreak and betrayal, hit me harder from this album compared to what they’ve divulged in the past, without completely breaking away from the qualities of their music that make them so captivating.

Favorite line: First I’ll be every little thing that you want, then you’ll take a little too long to respond, in the back of my mind, already saying goodbye – “In My Head”

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Release Date: May 3
Favorites: “Sympathy,” “How Long,” “Harmony Hall”

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.

Like I hinted at above, this album isn’t my favorite from the band, and it’s probably not even my second favorite. That absolutely doesn’t mean I dislike it, and I don’t feel any resentment towards them for being innovative with their sound, I’ve just accepted it. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t songs on the album that I LOVE, but there are also songs on it that I’m just “meh” towards. We love having mixed feelings!

Favorite line: Anger wants a voice, voices wanna sing, singers harmonize till they can’t hear anything, I thought that I was free from all that questionin’, but every time a problem ends, another one begins – “Harmony Hall”

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Release Date: December 13
Favorites: “Sunflower Vol. 6,” “Cherry,” “Golden”

Despite how much I LOVE Harry Styles, I am still sort of upset with him for releasing an album so late into the year. The main reason why I waited until this late into the month to share this post is that I KNEW his album would deserve a spot on my list, and I know for a FACT if I had more time to cherish this album like I had with a lot of others on this list, I think it would have ended up higher. Regardless, I made the room to include him in my list after waiting, and I definitely wasn’t let down.

Though Harry’s stint in One Direction absolutely catapulted him into superstardom, I always felt like the people who actually listened to his work post-1D were a small group of people, which has seemingly grown immensely after the release of Fine Line compared to his debut album, even after the album being out only for five days at this point. Harry has made comments on the process of making this album in regards to feeling the most comfortable and accepting of himself and what he wants his sound to be, and it’s incredibly evident in the final product. Harry and the production team somehow managed to create a body of work more cohesive than his debut, but still interesting to break down track by track.

Favorite line: I confess I can tell that you are at your best, I’m selfish so I’m hating it – “Cherry”

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Release Date: August 2
Favorites: “Bags,” “Sofia,” “North”

I can admit with no problem that I’m not entirely thrilled with Clairo’s live performance after seeing her twice this year. However, I LOVE to admit how much I enjoyed her debut album this year. Though it just seemed “okay” to me after the first few listens, it quickly became an album that I listened to from start to end, multiple times a week. There’s something so understated and beautiful about Immunity that sounds like a coming-of-age story for every teenager in America. Whether you think that makes her seem unremarkable or talented for her ability to speak universally, there’s no doubt that Claire Cottrill made a mark on music in 2019.

Favorite line: Never seen a face like yours, I got it together but my breath feels short. I don’t wanna close the door – “North”

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Release Date: October 18 
Favorites: “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” “Look At Me Now,” “Ocean of Tears”

Once I started seeing the name “Caroline Polachek” all over my Twitter feed, I knew something was up. One quick Google search told me that she was once apart of the duo Chairlift (who broke up in 2017) but has been releasing music in some form for over 10 years.

Once Pang came out, I listened to it instantly and was immediately captivated by the sounds in the world that Polachek created. Thanks to her lengthy experience collaborating with fellow producers and songwriters in the studio for various projects, Polachek’s skills in the studio came to life in a dreamy, synthy, ethereal, Imogen-Heap like breathy body of work that I fall in love with even more every time I turn it on.

Favorite line: I’m out at a party, they’re playin’ our song, I cry on the dance floor, it’s so embarrassing – “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”

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Release Date: June 21
Favorites: “Truth,” “Don’t Leave Me Lonely,” “Nothing Breaks Like A Broken Heart”

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.

Favorite line: We live and die by pretty lies – “Nothing Breaks Like A Broken Heart”

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Release Date: March 29
Favorites: “bad guy,” “ilomilo,” “bury a friend”

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).

An album that has my FAVORITE song of the year HAS to be in my top albums list…right? But seriously, this album blew me away when I first heard it. I think that this album would have ended up far higher on my list if there were a few songs on it that I don’t tend to skip when I listen—specifically the last three songs on the album. Billie’s singles that she released leading up to this album were some of her best work, in my opinion, and I think a few of them could have benefitted from being included on the album. But despite all of that, I think this is one of the most impressive debut albums I’ve heard from anyone in a while, let alone a teenager.

Favorite line: Don’t say thank you or please, I do what I want when I’m wanting to – “bad guy”

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Release Date: October 25
Favorites: “good for it,” “think of me,” “body in my bed”

I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a song that Vérité has ever released and that is saying A LOT. I’ve been a fan of her’s for an incredibly long time and it’s amazing to hear such a beautiful, empowering, powerful body of work from an artist that I’ve admired for a very long time. Did I mention that she is an unsigned artist and releases her work independently?

I love this album for many reasons, but my favorite is her ability to balance a “fuck you” attitude with a “I’m sad and vulnerable” one. Her music and lyrics are some of the most introspective I’ve heard this year and love her ability to continuously challenge herself and the art she creates. Four years ago, Eliza Berman wrote about Vérité for Time and the sentiment still rings (even more) true today.

“She writes songs about the human condition: what it’s like to be here, to inhabit your own mind, to try to connect with others. If that sounds incredibly broad, that’s because it is.”

Favorite line: I don’t know why keeping my word, means more than breaking my neck for you, and I don’t know why keeping my word means more than breaking my heart in two – “good for it”

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Release Date: August 23
Favorites: “Cruel Summer,” “Paper Rings,” “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince”

For an album that was almost entirely in my top 20 most streamed songs of the year, it fell on my ranking pretty quickly. I also think it’s funny to admit to myself that I prefer Lover over reputation, though I ranked reputation as my third favorite album of 2017. I think that’s because this one had some STIFF competition this year. There are also songs on this album I skip entirely, more than three, and I think that’s a lot of skips for someone who I consider to be one of my favorite artists of my lifetime. Regardless, it deserves a spot in the top 10 on my list because, of course it does.

It took her a while, but Taylor finally seems like she’s finally back doing what she does best: FOCUSING ON THE SONGWRITING!! Interesting production is nice and I’ll always appreciate the way a song is crafted sonically, but for me, it’s always been about the lyrics and what they make me feel. While I would have hoped for more of an indie, dreamy, ethereal-type sound from Taylor, Lover is the best she’s sounded in a long, long time.

Favorite line: I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you, and I snuck in through the garden gate, every night that summer just to seal my fate, and I screamed for whatever it’s worth “I love you,” ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard? He looks up, grinning like the devil – “Cruel Summer”

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Release Date:
May 17
Favorites:
“Want You In My Room,” “Happy Not Knowing,” “For Sure”

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. 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.

It was a hard choice to put this album over Lover, but after listening to it while I work on this post, I know I made the right decision. While it was always going to be pretty impossible for CRJ to create an album as impressive as EMOTION, this album does a damn good job of getting close. This album would definitely have been ranked higher if it wasn’t for me absolutely, strongly, completely disliking 3 of the 15 tracks (20%), which is a fair amount, considering I’ve still included it in my list of favorites.

Favorite line: I’m like a lighthouse, I’m a reminder of where you’re going – “Want You In My Room”

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Release Date: January 18 
Favorites: “Assume Form,” “Into The Red,” “Where’s The Catch”

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. I can’t quite put a finger on what about it makes me feel some type of way, but every aspect of this album, the songwriting, the production, the piano, it all comes together to create something to beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.

Favorite line: Don’t you know your best side shows when you’re unaware? – “Assume Form”

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Release Date: January 24
Favorites: “Exception To The Rule,” “Didn’t Know What I Was In For,” “Dylan Thomas”

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 earlier this year, 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 I think it’s really difficult to make a cohesive-sounding album without the tracks sounding too similar to each other.

The collaboration between Bridgers and Oberst seems so natural and is such an **AHA!** moment, you wonder why they haven’t been doing this for YEARS. The special thing is, they sound like they have been. Obersts’ knack for the emotional grit, paired with Bridgers’ subtly, yet gut-wrenching lyricism and style of singing is a balance that works in perfect harmony.

Favorite line: I didn’t know what I was in for when I signed up for that run, there’s no way I’m curing cancer, but I’ll sweat it out, I feel so proud now for all the good I’ve done – “Didn’t Know What I Was In For”

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Maggie Rogers_Heard it in a past life

Release Date: January 18
Favorites: “Back In My Body,” “Retrograde,” “Overnight”

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.

I first heard this album during a time in my life where the themes she sings about were incredibly relevant and that’s why it ranks so high for me. Though I cannot relate quite exactly to the experiences Maggie has had, catapulting into fame and the whirlwind of it all, I can certainly relate to the idea of something happening to you where you feel like you need to take a step back in order to not lose yourself. I think that’s pretty relatable to anyone.

Favorite line: I found myself when I was going everywhere – “Back In My Body”

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Release Date: April 26 
Favorites:
“When Am I Gonna Lose You,” “Shy,” “Megaton Mile”

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 the 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.

Local Natives has always been one of those bands who CONSISTENTLY delivers top-notch quality music that is made with such intricacy and attention to deal, you can always find something new and interesting that you may have missed on the first, second, or third listen, and I really appreciate that level of musicianship.

Favorite line: The light that was still slipping through, it was painting your body in stripes. I remember the trees summoned down, like an archangel choir, and the ocean was all we could see, and I knew that I wanted you – “When Am I Gonna Lose You?”

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Release Date: September 6
Favorites: “Pink Light,” “Stayaway,” “Number One Fan,” “Hands Off”

Muna’s debut album, released in 2017, instantly became my favorite release of that year after I heard it for the first time, while their sophomore review took a while to actually resonate with me. It’s weird that music works that way, but I’ve learned to be patient when listening to releases from some of my favorite artists. While I have a love-hate relationship with Pitchfork, I have to admit that their review of SAVES THE WORLD is pretty spot-on.

“You can’t function as an activist if your personal fiascos need attention,” writes Eve Barlow, complimenting Muna’s ability to be introspective while simultaneously commenting on the current state of the world, and how our relationships with ourselves affect how you function with the rest of the world. It’s tough for me to solidify which tracks off the album are my favorite, it tends to change every day, depending on how I’m feeling. However, “Number One Fan” has consistently been my favorite and ended up being my third favorite song of 2019 (my first listen, I hated it). Once I realized that it’s an ode to self-love, hyping yourself up in the mirror and promising to never give up on yourself, I was hooked.

Favorite line: So I let it happen again, I loved someone who’s indifferent – “Pink Light”

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Release Date: August 16 
Favorites: “You Make It Easy,” “Half Love,” “Born To Bleed,” “Everybody Wants You”

If I’ve learned anything about music this year, it’s that it’s nearly impossible for me to fall in love with an album during my first listen. I used to think that it was possible, and really the only way for me to determine whether or not I think an album is worthy, but my opinion on this has immensely changed this year. I definitely liked all of these albums during my first listen, but some of them took 5-10 times to hear for me to comprehend just how much I was in love with them. This is especially the case for Red Hearse’s debut album, a group comprised of songwriter Sam Dew, producer Sounwave, and Jack Antonoff, who is a jack of all trades (pun intended).

When I first saw that Jack was promoting some sort of side project, I didn’t think much of it, and I certainly didn’t expect it to become my favorite album of the year. But once I listened to it for the umpteenth time, I completely fell in love. I’ve always been one for Jack Antonoff’s production style, songwriting and overall demeanor as a human male, but his persona took a new role in this side project. He barely sings on any of the tracks, but you can hear his brand all over the album. Since he’s worked with Sam and Sounwave before, their collaboration is executed nearly perfectly from start to end. This album makes me feel like I am hearing it for the first time whenever I turn it on, and that’s something hard to master.

Favorite line: Everybody’s playin’ it loose, but what if we were real with it? ‘Cause honestly, I’m just too good for that half love – “Half Love”

Honorary Mentions:

Calliope Musicals – Color/Sweat
FKA Twigs – MAGDALENE
From Indian Lakes – Dimly Lit
Hatchie – Keepsake
Hozier – Wasteland, Baby!
Jade Bird – Jade Bird
Léon – Léon
Middle Kids – New Songs For Old Problems
Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe
Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missles
Shy Girls – Bird On The Wing

Thank you so much for reading! Anything surprise you about the list? Anything I left out that you thought you’d see? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

  • Kristin

 

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