I’ll be the first to admit that this Best Albums of 2019 list is far from comprehensive, as I have not been the most attentive to new music this year. Life has been, well, busy. But I’m working on getting back into discovery and consumption on new music.
2019 saw the release of new albums from several favorite artists, including collections of rarities and reissues (those will get a second post).
In fact, these are the 10 albums I felt were worthy of my collection in 2019. I know I’ll add more in the future, and maybe at that time I’ll do an addendum post.
To avoid ranking, as it NEVER stays that way for long, I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.
Belle & Sebastian: Days of the Bagnold Summer
In my recent review of Belle & Sebastian‘s Days of the Bagnold Summer, I noted how, at least at first glance, it seemed to me to be a bit of a return to the days of old for the band. And that is something I love, as many of those early Belle & Sebastian LPs are among my all-time favorite albums.
Days of the Bagnold Summer sees Stuart Murdoch compiling tracks for yet another soundtrack, but unlike Storytellers and God Help the Girl, this one plays more into the natural sound we’re used to from Belle & Sebastian.
Favorites include the re-recorded tracks “Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying” and “I Know Where the Summer Goes”. But new standouts exist as well, from first single “Sister Budha” to the intriguing “Did the Day Go Just Like You Wanted?” and the pleasant “Safety Valve”.
Here’s the video for “Sister Budha”:
Dope Lemon: Smooth Big Cat
Angus Stone of Dope Lemon returned in 2019 with Smooth Big Cat. After a production delay spanning a few months, the LP version finally debuted in late summer/early fall: it’s a psychedelic motion picture disc.
Here’s the video for “Give Me Honey”:
I love this! It features Callum Lawson as the drag queen who kicks off a dance party in an old country dive bar.
And yes, the whole album is like this. In my review, I called it “laid back stoner pop at its true best.” Truly.
Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
As with Dope Lemon, I’m new to the Michael Kiwanuka craze, having been introduced to his music back in January. I was pretty thrilled to hear a new album was coming our way late this year.
In my review of the video for “Hero” (watch it below), I noted “The melody has an element of soulful funk to it. A reverb-laden guitar sets the tone before Kiwanuka chimes in on vocals. Then, a second guitar swirls in packed with fuzz.“
This style and sound continues throughout Kiwanuka. It’s a natural progression forward, cementing him with his own style while also honing in on key influences in soul, funk, R&B, rock, and more.
Kevin Morby: Oh My God
One of my early 2019 most anticipated releases was that of Oh My God by Kevin Morby.
While the album doesn’t entirely live up to the power he packs into that song, as a whole it’s thoroughly enjoyable.
From the melodic opener “Oh My God” with its choral harmonies and mellow saxophone and religious undertones, repeated listens of the album as a whole will give you a glimpse at the intricacies within.
Moon Duo: Stars Are The Light
Stars Are The Light is a bit of a departure for Moon Duo, though one they’ve been hinting at over their past few albums.
Within, they leave behind much of the drone-centric desert rock sounds they’ve created for years in favor of something a bit more electronic. The result works surprisingly well.
Here’s the title track:
I touched on this album in my Crate Digging in Vancouver, BC post from a little over a month ago.
Night Beats: Myth of a Man
Night Beats‘ fifth full length release (they also covered The Sonics’ Boom in its entirety this year), Myth of a Man finds the band injecting some light soul into their heavily fuzzed-out garage psych. Nowhere is that more apparent than in opening track “Her Cold, Cold Heart”:
I’ve been a fan since the band’s second LP, Sonic Bloom, and with each new release I continue to love their music more and more. I’m not surprised this ended up on my best of list.
Here’s “Stand With Me” off Myth of a Man:
Orville Peck: Pony
Psychedelia and shoegaze meet cowboy couture.
Orville Peck is easily one of the year’s most exciting new artists. “Dead of Night” continues to be a favorite off his debut Pony. See the video below:
Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
The critically acclaimed Purple Mountains by Purple Mountains. The final work of the late David Berman of Silver Jews, who passed away earlier this year. Lyrics flow in true Berman form, but given the events that unfolded shortly after the release, many hold a new and quite tragic meaning.
Here’s the lead single, “All My Happiness is Gone”:
The Raconteurs: Help Us Stranger
You cannot deny the power and influence Jack White has had on the music industry over the past two decades. Literally, dating back to the 1999 release of The White Stripes self-titled debut and De Stijl, which followed in 2000.
Since then, he launched Third Man Records and has participated in multiple groups, including The Raconteurs.
Aside from a number of live recordings, we hadn’t really been given anything new by The Raconteurs in about a decade. That all changed with Help Us Stranger. And the wait was worth it.
Here’s “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)”:
Help Us Stranger is easily one of the more powerful albums of the 2019.
Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow
Remind Me Tomorrow is probably Sharon Van Etten‘s most holistically stunning album. That’s saying a lot, as I really loved her 2014 LP Are We There. And select songs, like “Serpents”, off 2012’s Tramp remain among my all time favorites of hers.
But, as a whole, Remind Me Tomorrow takes her music to a new level.
The cohesiveness and songwriting prowess–in lyrics, vocals, and instrumentation–see Van Etten reaching new heights in her career trajectory.
The Missing Many
I know within this list are dozens of albums that should find their way into my collection. There are albums that barely missed making the cut that are in my collection, ones that I haven’t fully devoured yet.
Maybe in time, I’ll revisit with my own Oops list, like I made in 2009. For now, that’s it. My top 10 albums of 2009, in alphabetical order.