The 50 Best Albums of 2019

Cue the panic. It ’ s not only the end of another class, but it ’ s besides the end of another decade, and there ’ s enough of cause for a freakout. There ’ s the stress of the holidays, the stress of time passing besides promptly, the continuous stress of climate change and our withering Earth, and let ’ s not forget the stress of this apparently ceaseless political hell-scape we ’ ve been suffering through for more than three years. 2019 was a weird completion of those stressors, but it was besides, possibly, a bellwether for change. There ’ s the hope of 2020, when we ’ ll elect newfangled public officials. There ’ s the promise of a newfangled startle, even if it ’ south just because of a human-made clock reconstruct called “ decades. ” There ’ sulfur Baby Yoda. And there ’ second besides a unharmed fortune of incredible music coming at us all the clock, which is surely another argue to remain optimistic about humanness. We try our best to cover the albums worth listening to throughout the year, a job that can feel particularly daunting when morale is down and we ’ ra looking to artists for answers. fortunately, there ’ s batch to choose from, so much so that our list of the 50 best albums of 2019 could easily be for 100. In fact, when voting on the class ’ sulfur best, Paste staffers cast votes for more than 280 albums. here, we ’ ve listed the 50 albums with the most votes, a list that doesn ’ thymine serve music genre or economics or any early overarch agent. It ’ second good the music we loved this class. We hope you love it besides .

Listen to our Best Albums of 2019 playlist on Spotify right here.

50. The National: I Am Easy To Find

For all intents and purposes, Matt Berninger is a New Yorker. He ’ mho been there long enough to write about the city with authority. therefore when he sings “ You were never much of a New Yorker / It wasn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate in your eyes, ” alongside This Is The Kit ’ second Kate Stables on the title track of The National ’ s new album, I Am Easy to Find, he knows what he ’ second talking about. But for the first time in quite a while, Berninger went back to his hometown of Cincinnati on “ not in Kansas, ” I Am Easy to Find ’ s keystone track. alternatively of writing about his negative memories of the place ( “ I never married but Ohio don ’ thyroxine remember me ” he sang on 2010 ’ second “ Bloodbuzz Ohio ” ), he experienced firsthand how both he and the Midwest had changed, peculiarly since the election of Donald Trump, launching into a entire and abstract stream of consciousness about his journey home plate. From the gutsy and frantic guitars on lead single “ You Had Your Soul With You ” to the pulsating percussion of fan-favorite “ Rylan ” to the blazing orchestral strings on album closer “ Light Years ” ( another track that could be argued as one of The National ’ s best to date ), I Am Easy to Find doesn ’ thyroxine radically change the formula they developed over the past couple of releases, but it about perfects it, resulting in a commemorate adenine elegant as the suits Berninger routinely wears onstage. —Steven Edelstone

With no context for the South Florida that Denzel Curry synopsizes and crystallizes over the course of ZUU, his fourthly and best album, it may be unmanageable to parse the neck-deep mire of references and samples—detailing hyper-local haunts and Miami radio stations and communal pop culture heroes ( Trick Daddy ) and personal pop culture tragedies ( XXXTENTACION ) and whatever else—that makes Curry stump sol difficult for where he ’ second from. He ’ randomness always been adept at pulling from a wealth of influences, last year ’ randomness Ta13oo an specially labored-over attack at being taken seriously, but merely recently has he seemed comfortable in his skin, rapping about loving his supportive parents and missing his best supporter and brother and how no one taking him badly has fair been the reaction to everything he ’ s done, an endless cycle of doubt he ’ randomness endured since “ way before Nostalgic, ” his beginning solo magnetic tape. Backed by australian production duet FnZ, who ’ ve been with Curry since 2016 ’ south Imperial, ZUU is both the sound of Curry finding his, and the sound of Curry ’ s main collaborators finally realizing what that means. First one “ RICKY ” admits Curry ’ second had an identity crisis in the past— “ That was it, we was lit, y ’ all wasn ’ t even shit so far / We was Three 6, Wu-Tang, assorted with Dipset ” —over FnZ ’ mho stipple, phased-out steel drums, simultaneously laid back and flipped out. “ CAROLMART ” undoubtedly helps Ice Billion Berg with some debt, all low-end mire spiced up with a Trina sample, sitting right up against the grim “ SHAKE 88, ” a minor masterpiece of involuntary, transcendent campaign, the kind of sung that generates so much inertia it ’ s a wonder that all of South Florida hasn ’ metric ton vibrated itself free of the mainland. even “ Speedboat, ” produced by Rahj—known largely for working with DJ Khaled—is at the mercy of FnZ ’ sulfur oversight, vitamin a doleful as it is frenzied as it is madly melodious, Curry acting the paranoid over a melancholy piano production line : “ Have your money up before you go to war / Put the mask on like a luchador / My dawg didn ’ thymine make it to 21, thus I got tantalum make it past 24. ” ( He very misses XXXTENTACION, you see. ) inner but open, angry and besides easy-going, breezy but weighed with the province of representing a bunch of people, ZUU takes all the overwork contradictions that made Curry ’ s by albums so compel and makes them work for him, effortlessly. —Dom Sinacola

Wand ’ mho music lets the person roll before kindly accompanying it back home, and their fifth full-length Laughing Matter is another desirable side-by-side pony. Laughing Matter follows the Los Angeles rock outfit ’ second sky-high 2017 LP Plum and shapeshifting 2018 EP Perfume. While early releases from these Drag City mainstays were characterized by sludgy neo-garage and fuzzy stone psych, their latest offerings bid far besides much slippery wonder to warrant concise classification. Wand take risks and boom on contradiction—their foolhardy guitar embellishments keep you on your toes, and their dreamlike imagination simultaneously makes you feel insignificant and a pivotal part of the cosmos. Laughing Matter is intoxicating for a act of reasons. Their much opaque lyrics are a queerly equal and immersive experience, and lead singer Cory Hanson delivers them with a benevolence that will allow you to trust fall into his close, fluttering coo. Wand ’ s affection for nature is apparent, and there ’ s both a foreboding sense that something is slipping from grok and a blissful acceptance of the change of the seasons. Laughing Matter ’ sulfur improvisational jams, winding outros and emotionally crushing melodies result in possibly their most realized criminal record yet. — Lizzie Manno
Toronto ’ s PUP unleashed their third gear album, Morbid Stuff, on their own Little Dipper tag, and it contains some of their loftiest melodious bribe yet. The album was produced, recorded and mixed by Dave Schiffman ( Weezer, The Mars Volta ), and it makes for their most pristine record to date. Morbid Stuff is at the crossroads of enlivening joy and debilitating self-disgust. Songs like “ Kids ” and “ Free at last ” overflow with angsty lyrics of anxiety, grief and ferocious self-put-downs, but their reassure pop-punk riffs and refrains will scoop you up and bring you back to your senses. The collision of utter bleakness and youthful exuberance that characterizes this record besides manifests itself on the album cover—four people are playing musical chairs with knives in bridge player, party hats and blindfolds. The boldest cut is the post-hardcore rager “ Full Blown Meltdown, ” which sounds like precisely that. Stefan Babcock sounds like he ’ s bubbling at the mouth when he sings, “ I ’ m still a failure and always will be / So why change immediately ? ” The album tracks Babcock ’ s struggle with depression, and though there are many forlorn moments on this LP, PUP channel their pain into a catchy punk rock album that ’ s about equally fun as any record you ’ ll hear on this tilt. —Lizzie Manno

Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion is an picture in the reach, a wedge majeure in the linage of Houston rap. Fever, her first official mixtape, maintains the high-octane rap of her earlier work, all delivered with a sneer and a smile. Don ’ thymine let the appropriation of “ hot girl summer ” by the ( largely-white ) powers that be overshadow her persistent, braggadocio-filled raps, aided by Houston ’ s finest : Hot Girl Meg lays out her M.O. on the Juicy J-produced album highlight “ Pimpin ” : I could never ever let a n—- fuck me out my bread. ” She knows she ’ south commodity, she ’ s unkindly to the guys who are intimidated, threatened and broke, and she makes that discernible throughout Fever. even at her most party-ready, like on the delightful DaBaby double-feature “ Cash Shit, ” the hot girl anthem “ Shake That, ” or “ Best You ever Had, ” a crossover voter track in waiting, she makes her point and underlines it : Either keep up, or get out of the way. —Joshua Bote

There is no room for nostalgia in Sleater-Kinney ’ s reunion. The ring ’ sulfur excellent 2015 reentry point, No Cities to Love, was not precisely a rote run-through of past glories. And the trio ( now duo ) did not spend 2017 going around playing Dig Me Out on some obligatory twentieth anniversary run. It barely even feels like a reunion at this point—how has this ring not constantly been here, making its bass-resistant racket and soundtracking our chute into rightist dictatorship ? Like 2005 ’ mho The Woods, The Center Won’t Hold finds Sleater-Kinney bring in a big mention producer to jolt their routines and play more than a symbolic character in the record-making process. Except this time, the friendly intruder is art-rock maestro St. Vincent, not Dave Fridmann. And unlike The Woods, which was largely track live—all the better to reimagine the band ’ s sound as a ferocious Zeppelin-esque roar— Center finds Sleater-Kinney more dispose than ever to utilize the studio as an musical instrument. At its best, The Center Won’t Hold is an pressing and deliriously impolite record about powering through debilitation, despair and the ambient apprehension any feminist feels pretty much constantly in 2019. Full of transformation and deserve indignation, The Center Won’t Hold is the foremost Sleater-Kinney album since the rest of the worldly concern started to catch up. —Zach Schonfeld

44. Oso Oso: basking in the glow

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Why did Jade Lilitri, the Long Island, New Yorker behind one-man wonder-band Oso Oso, play and sing the choir of his song “ excavate ” only once during its four-and-a-half-minute run time ? To understand the question, you have to appreciate the impressiveness of that chorus. It comes in the middle of “ excavation, ” bookended on the presence end by a couple minutes of enjoyable pop-rock that bumps along like Pinback and on the bet on end by a finale that crescendos nicely, but ultimately feel unnecessary. In between is 34 brilliant seconds in which the song opens up and turns its boldness toward the sun, bringing in concert peach-fuzz distortion, a reliable chord progression, a blanket of cymbals and Lilitri ’ s soaring vocals. “ I ’ m distillery reeling from the mess I made, ” he sing, as if rediscover reality after two verses of timid optimism. The combination of contrasting sounds and attention-getting tune is the stuff goosebumps are made of. Why Lilitri didn ’ metric ton use such a glorious lump of music elsewhere in the song—say, after the foremost verse or repeated a couple times at the end—is anyone ’ s guess. But it only takes a few listens to Oso Oso ’ s new album, basking in the glow, to recognize that questioning the guy ’ s songwriting decisions is an practice in diminishing returns. He is, it seems, incapable of writing a bad tune, at least at this degree in his career. —Ben Salmon

43. Joan Shelley: Like The River Loves The Sea

Joan Shelley was kind enough to include a dissertation affirmation with her new album Like The River Loves The Sea. It ’ s the first traverse, “ Haven, ” and its entirely verse goes like this : “ A seaport weave with warm colors / A woolen place to rest your point / And a light comes in / Forms and binds you / To mold and carry you this long manner to go. ” Shelley international relations and security network ’ t just the singer of the song. She is that light. This was already established back in 2017 by Paste ’ s review of the Louisville-based folk-singer ’ sulfur previous ( self-titled ) full-length : “ Shelley ’ randomness clean is absolutely irrepressible. ” In fact, it glows even brighter on Like The River Loves The Sea, her one-sixth LP. Where Joan Shelley and 2015 ’ s Over And Even occasionally dimmed Shelley ’ s songs with dim production or dark-skinned arrangements, the new album ’ s twelve tracks feel more confident and out in the open. Take, for example, “ Coming Down For You, ” a enlivened song of devotion driven by a recur guitar flick that seems to flicker like a flame in a steady cinch, featuring the first backing outspoken influence of Bonnie “ Prince ” Billy, aka Shelley ’ s companion Louisvillian, Will Oldham. He shows up late, besides, on “ The Fading, ” a delightfully lilt ode to the natural world : spring ignite, a muddy river, winding vines and rising seas dot the lead, which is not lone the best on the album, it ’ sulfur besides a centerpiece of sorts. “ Oh Kentucky stays on my take care / It ’ s sugared to be five years behind, ” Shelley sings, poetically capturing the alluring, unhurried pace of life in her home state. —Ben Salmon

42. Charli XCX: Charli

Although Charli is described as british pop auteur Charli XCX ’ second third studio album, it ’ sulfur truly her seventh album-length project. Charli has released four mixtapes in addition to her studio albums True Romance ( 2013 ) and Sucker ( 2014 ), so to call Charli merely her third studio apartment album international relations and security network ’ metric ton just deceiving—it ignores the very being of the restfully revolutionary 2017 “ mixtape, ” Pop 2. The guest-stuffed, career-peak Pop 2 was a criminal record in all but name. It presented Charli as a initiate of futuristic synths, fanged digital program, actually estimable AutoTune, and bionic bangers and ballads. Charli administrator produced Pop 2 aboard personal computer Music ’ s A.G. Cook, who helped her fully entree the cyborg aesthetic she ’ five hundred been crawling towards for years. “ We wanted it to feel like a complete restart, ” Cook told The FADER upon Pop 2 ’ mho free. If Pop 2 was indeed a resume, then Charli is the thrilling next step on the travel. Across 15 songs and 50 minutes, Charli systematically matches the addictive, automatic bombast of Pop 2. Charli is a more-than-worthy follow-up to arguably the ten ’ randomness best pop release. —Max Freedman

41. Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs

The worst assumption you can make going into Jessica Pratt ’ s Quiet Signs is that there won ’ thymine be a lot there, that minimalism international relations and security network ’ thymine for you. Knowing the tribe singer/songwriter ’ s aversion to bells and whistles ( and taking into consideration the album ’ second telling title ), I myself feared a insincerity, but I was delighted to find the singer/songwriter somehow brings a maximalist energy to a read so subdued you ’ ll refrain from speaking during its quivering 27 minutes, for fear of disturbing the peace. Quiet Signs is a convert argument for ease. Pratt has a very, identical restrict way of supplying lastingness and relief during our feverish moment. Her songs are thus calm they about don ’ t even exist, but possibly that ’ s how we need to feel for fair a moment—like we ’ re good publicize. These tracks aren ’ triiodothyronine immediately satisfactory. They emit tranquillity only if you ’ rhenium willing to devote your full attention—and possibly repeated listens. In under 30 minutes and in fair nine songs, Pratt produces a warm, bewitching alternate dimension—but not the kind you fall into in a nightmare or thriller. The universe she ’ s fashioned for herself is more paradisiacal. And if you take a moment to find a quiet space and just sit with this record ’ s hollow parts, embracing them for the condense elements they are, you might barely find your own slice of eden. — Ellen Johnson

Already a prolific push as Helado Negro, Roberto Carlos Lange wrote the best record of his career in This Is How You Smile. Throughout his discography, the Florida-born son of ecuadorian immigrants has looked to make sense of the Latinx feel in America. What he does with Smile, the sixth Helado Negro LP, is open up the range of his songwriting to show how cosmopolitan the truths he extols truly are. Tracks like “ Fantasma Vaga ” and “ Todo Lo Que Me Falta ” —love songs in Spanish—just feel attendant and relatable, no topic what your cultural vocabulary is. And the endearing dad atmosphere of “ Running ” brings antonym poles together through music, to show that no matter what the shade of our peel is, we all ride the like aroused waves through this world. —Adrian Spinelli

39. Hand Habits: placeholder

placeholder wishes people were on the same wavelength, but unfortunately, it ’ s equitable never that simple. Hand Habits ’ irregular LP sees Meg Duffy illustrating the mess of relationships—paralyzing emotions, romanticize memories, questions of forgiveness and everything in between. After their self-generated and self-recorded debut album Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void), the singer/songwriter and former Kevin Morby guitarist brought their second album to a studio with a group of collaborators—giving placeholder more sonic slant. The biggest weight unit bearers are Duffy ’ s sweet harmonies and lyric meditations on thwart relationships and the deep human complexities that can make or break any type of kinship. placeholder fills the emotional gaps that so many other kinship records leave untouched. Meg Duffy ’ second humble, comforting vocals will help cushion the blow that will inevitably come with any relationship, and their poetic aptitude results in a record that ’ sulfur equitable as curative and affecting on the written page as it is in sing form. —Lizzie Manno

isolation can be both enjoyable and impossible. Azniv Korkejian ( aka Bedouine ) explores both kinds of confinement in these Bird Songs, first base the torment aloneness of “ two people never getting in concert ” on swirling album undoer “ Under the Night, ” then the startling freedom of separation on “ One More time, ” where she basks “ on an island with no one else around. ” On “ Bird, ” she warns “ that it ’ second you against the rain ” and dotes on some sweet, flightless creature before leaving it alone to “ sing. ” Early in the phonograph record she mournfully quips, “ You love how much I love you / when you ’ ra gone. ” All these verses point to a complicated, changing relationship with space and interval. While many of these songs are concerned with flying alone, Korkejian is still an adept on “ Matters of the Heart, ” a crafty and flashy tune that uplift side B of this record. When she sings, “ Call me like a phone / Just gang to me, baby ” Korkejian sounds like the same woman who said, “ I like watching people make out to my songs thus I encourage consensual… anything, truly, ” at a Bedouine prove earlier this year. She who values alone time can still yearn for caller. I treasure both, and I would like to curl up inside Bird Songs of a Killjoy and live there forever. —Ellen Johnson

37. Caroline Polachek: Pang

A handful of pop songs in the past decade—think “ Teenage Dream ” or “ Run Away With Me ” —bottle the lightning feel of whirlwind sexual love perfectly, the sound of a sax horn or a outspoken well sublimating the yearn of a newfangled romance. Pang, Caroline Polachek ’ s beginning album under her own name, stretches out that feel, eking out the intricacies of feeling simultaneously liberated and trapped by the feel of being overwhelmed by person else. It ’ s a large tax, but Polachek might be the ideal candidate, an indie beloved who shaped her final band Chairlift ’ s twee-pop origins into big-budget, emotional film to brilliant effect. The most exalted moments on Pang match the all-cylinders feel of falling into new sleep together, each nerve cell thus stimulated by the feeling that they threaten to overload and collapse wholly. The divine championship track is, at once, dainty and lubricious, as if The Postal Service were tasked with making a quiet-storm track—the base feeling of undiscovered love compounded with each touch of the peel. By the end of Pang, Polachek has in full opened up to the headrush of new love—both in the casual that it could devastate, and the very actual possibility that it could result in something transcendent. “ The chute, I ’ ve got to trust it now, ” she sighs on album close “ Parachute, ” her voice weightless, at ease. It ’ s a relief, for her—and for us. —Joshua Bote

36. Charly Bliss: Young Enough

Recording an excellent introduction album is by and large a blessing, of course. But there ’ s some curse involved, excessively, in that you have to figure out how to follow it up. That ’ mho not easy to do. normally, it means refusing to stagnate, lest you be labeled a one-trick pony. So you must try to record a fit of songs that showcase some artistic growth and aesthetic ambition, but at the same time, you don ’ thyroxine want to stray besides far from what worked so well the first time out. On their second album Young Enough, Charly Bliss navigates these versatile pressures and pitfalls without overthinking them. The heatedly tip New York City jazz band broke through nationally in 2017 on the forte of its debut album Guppy, a perfect—yeah, I said it—10-track blast of sweetly serrated pop-rock supercharged with punkie energy and bountiful hooks. Two years late, Young Enough introduces modern moods and textures without tamping down the band ’ south irrepressible likeability. There is unquestionably a centerpiece song on Young Enough, and that ’ s the title chase, which clocks in at 5 minutes and 20 seconds long—an epic poem by this dance band ’ second standards. It ’ south meter well-spent : slow-burning, dynamic, emotionally resonant and representative of Charly Bliss in 2019. here, you can hear how the man-made sounds better contextualize Hendricks ’ desperate words by drawing out their mean and feeling rather than running heavy-handed over them like Guppy ’ s rollicking arrangements. In doing so, they besides open up a promise path ahead for the ring. That sophomore album challenge ? Charly Bliss nailed it. — Ben Salmon

JPEGMAFIA dropped one of the year ’ s most off-kilter and fun pat albums of the year out of the blue in September. On the first heed, it feels a bite bewilder, even disconnected. But upon repeated listens, the pieces start to come together, miraculously so. The Baltimore knocker ’ s signature wild production and voice effects, which span voiceovers, static and heave, mesh topology with his intense rescue to a satisfy end. All My Heroes Are Cornballs toggles between atmosphere and hi-fi insanity. Highlights include the exuberant album opener “ Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot, ” in which JPEGMAFIA plays with AutoTune and shouts out David Byrne, the low-key “ Free The Frail, ” which hosts canadian musician Helena Deland for the final chorus and outro, and the minute-long “ BasicBitchTearGas, ” which features a fluent sample distribution of TLC ’ s “ No Scrubs. ” If it wasn ’ t already apparent, this album proves JPEGMAFIA ’ s melodious cognition and influences are broad. All My Heroes is a glitchy, neon-tinted journey. —Ellen Johnson

Billie Eilish ’ s career to this point has been one that could entirely have happened now. She has only ever made music in the stream age, where she ’ second translated ample plays into press ballyhoo, rather than the other way around. But her music, songs that decidedly encapsulate adolescent angst for an existential era, is very much of this period as well. So possibly, when we finally look spinal column on the music of this era a few years from nowadays, there will likely be no singular album that absolutely nails the healthy of 2019 quite like Billie Eilish ’ s introduction commemorate, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, for better or worse. She delivers the record that her generation has been waiting for, one with loads of in-jokes and language ( the album literally begins with a joke about pulling out her Invisalign, while “ all the good girls go to hell ” ends with a joke about “ snowflakes ” ). After all, this album international relations and security network ’ thymine made for critics—or tied anyone born more than a few years before 9/11—it ’ sulfur for those who share the lapp adolescent hormonal desires and aroused pitfalls that Eilish is presently going through. While person like Snail Mail, only 18 months her elder, can put out a record with largely the same themes as WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, yet inactive speak to an older hearing, Eilish ’ south debut largely doesn ’ triiodothyronine care, well aware that she doesn ’ t need anyone above, say, 25 to make her the biggest pop artist on the planet. —Steven Edelstone

Mannequin Pussy ’ s first two albums—2014 ’ s GP and 2016 ’ s Romantic —are both under 20 minutes and feature quick jolts of bum along with the occasional inkling of dulcet-toned pop. But their 2019 LP, Patience, is crisp, poppier, longer and more amply realized than anything they ’ ve released earlier. In a still-modest 26 minutes, Mannequin Pussy, led by frontwoman Marisa Dabice, dish out punk-pop that will make you want to hug your adolescent self, but besides fight on behalf of the adult you ’ ve become. Dabice opened up on this commemorate in a way she hasn ’ triiodothyronine before. She sings about abusive relationships, self-disgust, and personal inadequacies, revelations she struggled with for years before ever talking about them. It ’ s a record that simultaneously pierces while forcefully standing its reason, rightfully taking up space. Patience begins with anxious heart rush, but concludes with the kind of affection racing we all strive for—that lovey dovey prickling you wish you could bottle and save for when you ’ re feel cynical. Dabice, along with Colins Rey Regisford ( freshwater bass, samples, vocals ), Kaleen Reading ( drums, percussion section ), and Thanasi Paul ( guitar, keys ) besides made one of 2019 ’ s most anthemic tracks in the form of lead single “ Drunk II. ” When Dabice forcefully, begrudingly admits, “ I calm love you, you stupid fuck, ” you can already envision a push of forlorn fans belting that line in a basement venue on a Tuesday like they have nothing to lose. Dabice ’ s admission of not only elusive imperfections, but besides deep-set, recurring inside turmoils, is vastly invigorating. Patience is the voice of liberation, and paired with melodious riffs that scream into the void just like Dabice, it ’ randomness besides an emotional boot you can rage to. —Lizzie Manno

32. Marika Hackman: Any Human Friend

Female ownership of sex is nothing fresh, not since Madonna ’ s cone brassiere or Salt-N-Pepa ’ randomness declaration that their activities between the sheets are “ none of Your Business. ” More much than not, these sex-positive declarations exist in strictly heteronormative terms, with any lady-on-lady action fetishized for male pleasure ( think Katy Perry ’ s “ I Kissed a Girl ” ). Times are happily a-changing, though, and Marika Hackman ’ s latest LP, Any Human Friend, provides a hypnotizing case-in-point. Hackman, the folk artist turned synth-rock darling, cares only for the female gaze—the queer female gaze, that is, and more specifically, her own. This album—a gem treasure trove of bouncing guitar hooks, glimmering synths and lemony vocals expertly curated by Hackman—is all about human connection. She hones in on her emotional and intimate connections both to herself and others post-breakup. The truth Hackman discovers along the way, illuminated by songs both imaginative and entrance, are adequate to make anyone want to be her human acquaintance ( or, at least, a fanatic fan ). — Clare Martin

Nearly everything about Bon Iver ’ s excellent 2016 album 22, A Million was cryptic : the glitchy sonic turbulence, Justin Vernon ’ s effects-treated vocals, sung titles rendered in numbers and symbols. Though an expansive corps de ballet helped Vernon make 22, A Million, the latent hostility between convulsion and vulnerability made it seem like a hermit attempt by an artist who was trying not to be seen while figuring out how to live a public life. If you have the patience to drill deep enough into i,i, the undimmed spots are incandescent. A three-song section in the middle turns out to be the heart of the album, balancing musical and technical foul proficiency with the contort, open-hearted emotion that made Bon Iver ’ s earlier work therefore magnetize. The mini-suite begins with “ Hey Ma, ” where a ping sound at its beginning makes room for guitars and subdued strings, then synths, an unobtrusive electronic beat and manipulated backing vocals as Vernon alternates between raw-boned vocals and his delicate falsetto. The orchestration condenses into a muddle center through, then drops out wholly for a few bars to emphasize Vernon ’ sulfur voice. For all its considerable musical acumen, i,i still feels clinical at times. Though Vernon and his compadres demonstrate great facility with songwriting—and flush more with constructing disparate parts into a whole—their vehemence on structure sometimes comes at the expense of emotional impingement, which makes for an album that is objectively blazing, but not always easy to love. —Eric R. Danton

On HEAVN —her self-released 2016 solo debut album—Jamila Woods presented a seamless and spirit exploration of the modern black experience : beauty and pain, pride and fear, spiritualty, clamber and, ultimately, the strength that comes from being part of a community built on love and digest. “ Call it black girlfriend charming, ” Woods sing against a wall of buzzy future-soul and hip-hop, neatly summarizing her entire air in three words. For her moment work, the dynamic singer, songwriter, poet and Chicagoan decided to dig into the deep roots of that magic trick, naming each track on LEGACY! LEGACY! after an inspirational person of discolor : Nikki Giovanni, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sun Ra, Octavia Butler and James Baldwin, among others. The album spends its first half being absolutely enjoyable in a direction that marries Woods ’ aptitude for memorable melodies with uncompromising, engaging beats. But then comes the second base half, which perceptibly shifts into a higher gear. The back trackers get weird ( and sometimes prettier ), the lyrics become more antagonistic, and Woods ’ vocal delivery reaches new heights as she channels her subjects and confronts the forces they faced down so she can fly. “ I shed sounds like snakeskin, style like chameleon. Wan sodium cage me ? ” she sings in “ Miles, ” a character poem about fabled wind man Miles Davis. “ You can find me in the garden growin ’ like a weed. ” LEGACY! LEGACY! is a sandbag oeuvre. Watching where she goes from here may be even better. —Ben Salmon

29. (Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar

At the southerly lean of Philadelphia ’ s Fishtown region, there ’ s an distinguished structure on the Delaware River that somehow looks equal parts parking garage, hospital and convention center. The construction is none of these things, but it ’ s just equally overpower as each one of them. It houses SugarHouse Casino, a dystopian abyss of colorful images leaping forth from slot machines and laser-bright ceiling lights hovering over batting order tables where gamblers can earn $ 150 in blackjack, lose it and swear off gambling forever ( which may or may not have happened to this writer ). Philly nonmigratory ( Sandy ) Alex G ’ s newest album, House of Sugar, his third for celebrated label Domino ( and eighth or one-ninth overall, depending on who you ask ), is named for this casino. arsenic faze as its namesake, the newest record from Alex Giannascoli at times improves on the cryptic, circuitous experiment of his Domino debut, Beach Music. At other times, it refines the accessible but silent characteristically sauntering country-lite of Rocket, his consummate moment album for the british indie pronounce. In other words, House of Sugar sounds like a middle ground between the two albums that preceded it. —Max Freedman

28. Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe

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Style over meaning is never a smart method for making art, and London based singer/songwriter Nilüfer Yanya masterfully obliterates that concept on her debut album, Miss Universe. With an album that borders on soul, crop up, wind and rock ‘n’ roll, Yanya is far besides preoccupy with her inner demons and singular art to quibble over what one particular genre her music most closely resembles. In a current melodious climate ruled by increase musical handiness from streaming and in a world where so many people struggle with genial health, Miss Universe is a post-genre try at self-care that feels needed. This is an emotionally multi-faceted album to luxuriate in. Whether you take consolation in her sultry, fat voice, instrumentals that range from bubbly to rugged or become invest in her confessional storytelling, Nilüfer Yanya ’ s Miss Universe can be easily enjoyed during a night out or nox in. There are exultant singalongs ( “ In Your Head, ” “ Heavyweight Champion of the World ” ), delectable, bittersweet slow-burners ( “ Melt, ” “ Safety Net ” ), and sometimes humorous, sometimes alarming spoken-word interludes, which cultivate a transcendent alternate reality ( “ WWAY HEALTH, ” “ Sparkle GOD HELP ME, ” “ Experience ? ” ). It ’ s an angsty LP concerned with entrapment, fear and expectations versus reality. possibly most triumphantly, Yanya pulls off jazz-infused, scrappy guitar dad with much more emotional and melodious nuance than the buzzy, male-dominated “ sad boi ” acts like Rex Orange County or other beanie-donning dudes with keyboards and Stratocasters. —Lizzie Manno

Released mere months after the love-soaked Sweetener and Mac Miller ’ s death, thank u, next grapples with a unmanageable dilemma : How do you live and love healthily, sustainably, when the world around you is watching you grieve in real-time ? Grande figures it out with bubbliness, joy and pop magnificence, crafting a broadly autobiographical concept album filled with self-actualizing ( “ thank u, future, ” “ fake smile ” ), self-discovery ( “ needy, ” “ ghostin ” ) and, between thirst and retail therapy, a few, all-too-human self-soothing mechanisms along the way. It ’ s her most focused, most inward exploit however, delivered with the adeptness and universality of a bonafide crop up leading. thank u, next is a guidebook on how to thrive, accomplished with an eminently Instagram caption-worthy mantra — one that gave Grande her first Billboard No. 1 one after all this time. —Joshua Bote

26. Maggie Rogers: Heard It In A Past Life

In a way, Maggie Rogers is the emblematic model of a modern toss off ace. Her success narrative is one that ’ randomness single to our times, when the Internet has the exponent to make moguls out of memes overnight. But Rogers is no Mason Ramsey : Her fib begins not with a Walmart yodel, but with an incredibly arrant demonstration, played for Pharrell Williams during a songwriting masterclass at New York University in 2016. The video of his reaction ( stunned, in the best means ) went viral, and Rogers stumbled into sensation. As Pharrell more or less said upon hearing that foremost cut of “ Alaska ” ( which nowadays boasts more about 100 million Spotify streams and baseball club remixes for days ), Maggie Rogers is singular. other Internet-made stars flake and fade, but Rogers has continued to burn oh-so bright, incomparable in terms of musical style. While she ’ randomness kept us satiated with an EP and a crop of sparkling singles, we ’ ve been waiting for Heard It In A Past Life for a few years. now that it ’ second here, one thing ’ s clear : Maggie Rogers is a pure start asterisk and a deserving one, at that. She ’ sulfur self-assured in a way other radio stars aren ’ t, never afraid to fold in her tribe background and do whatever she wants. And you just can ’ t help oneself but root for her. If Maggie Rogers can find a way to exist alongside the likes of Billie Eilish ( which she has, at least by this tilt ’ s sagacity ), she ’ ll be the next big thing in pop. The charts are starved for something actual and down-to-earth, and her songs, while heavily produced in comparison to some of her folksy beginnings, have an earnestness to them that can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate be fabricated. Rogers ’ career may have first base sparked on the internet, but now it ’ s a fire sunburn IRL. — Ellen Johnson

The magic of “ Almeda, ” a standout from Solange ’ s welcome March surprise, When I Get Home, is firm. Produced by Pharell and Solange and featuring Playboi Carti in a bouncing, tail-end rap sequence, “ Almeda ” is a celebration of steadfast bootleg religion : “ Black religion still can ’ triiodothyronine be washed away / not even in that Florida body of water, ” Solange sings, citing the unisex cologne she carried to the 2018 Met Gala that ’ s said to have healing effects—but nothing vitamin a potent as total darkness resilience. In an exhilarating anthem honoring the chop ’ north ’ screwed mix manner that originated in her hometown of Houston, the younger Knowles sister embraces “ black-owned things. ” With “ Almeda, ” possibly more than any other song on the album, Solange graciously re-enter music and cultural conversations in the see, commanding way only she can. Solange is a visionary—she overproduces ideas and whittles them down into glittering little nuggets. But the products of her latest brainstorm are less brassy than the profound studio apartment feat that was 2016 ’ s A Seat At The Table. For When I Get Home, Solange rallied the likes of Gucci Mane and Playboi Carti ( among others ) for a criminal record that spans ambient avant-garde sleep together to startling trap. After hearing it, I have a intemperate time imagining the day in the near future when a new Solange publish won ’ thyroxine be regarded as objectively brilliant. —Ellen Johnson

New York indie-folk outfit Big thief have been touring constantly for four years in conjunction with their beginning two full-lengths—2016 ’ s Masterpiece and 2017 ’ s Capacity —and their third album U.F.O.F. was largely informed by their grim touring schedule and the band ’ second heightened personal and musical synergy. Some of the songs were recorded precisely hours after they were written. As a leave, this album ’ s blustery whooshes contribute to an spirituality not so far wholly strung together on a Big thief album. The sonic wisp of “ Contact, ” the celestial lyrics of “ U.F.O.F. ” and the cacophonies that close “ Cattails ” and “ Jenni ” all contribute to an incorporeal shininess. On U.F.O.F., Big Thief embrace their more elusive and mystic sides while capturing a wide-eyed range of landscapes—the cosmic ( “ U.F.O.F. ” ), peasant ( “ Cattails ” ), domestic ( “ From ” ) and urban ( “ Betsy ” ). —Lizzie Manno

Danny Brown always seemed immortal. His trilogy of critically acclaimed releases—2011 ’ s incendiary XXX, 2013 ’ s decadent Old and 2016 ’ s staggering prog-rap musical composition, Atrocity Exhibition —found the Detroit MC repeatedly self-destruct, masquerading the references to his childhood injury with an infinite supply of party pharmaceuticals and charisma. Every clock he sounded like he was in truth on the brink, he ’ five hundred return, and normally messier, intoxicated, amusing. His music got beneficial. He was invincible. possibly. It ’ s a relief that Brown sounds person on his fresh album, uknowhatimsayin¿. He sounds healthy, if in a high-cholesterol way. He looks it, too—watch his modern talk/sketch comedy usher, Danny’s House, and you ’ ll be presented with a closely unrecognizable figure, arrant with a ductile catgut, a newly-complete set of chopper whites and an understated languish. He looks like he ’ s about two shakes away from buying a convertible and getting a divorce. While no song sounds the like, they all exude a similar brooding energy, a far cry from the frenzied bombast that, to this steer, defined the knocker ’ sulfur discography. There are no bangers on the album, but there aren ’ metric ton any sleepers either ; fans that just want a XXX 2 will probably be disappointed. On the album ’ s brilliant title track—a Y2K-reminiscent downtempo groove—Brown sounds like he ’ sulfur last broken out of the cycle that once made his music so intoxicate. It ’ s a deviation, but a vital one. “ If it wasn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate for that, wouldn ’ triiodothyronine be this / Know what I ’ megabyte sayin ’ ? ” —Harry Todd

22. The Highwomen: The Highwomen

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On The Highwomen, the group ’ s debut album and flagship statement in a female-forward nation movement that ’ s stirring up chatter in Nashville and beyond, these four artists dare to imagine every kind of life sentence for themselves. Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Brandi Carlile, easily four of the most talented people in the greater Americana sphere, explore every facet of femininity and humanity and how they exist alongside each other, from the beautiful and hard-won to the despicable and downright messy. work, family, children, directly romance, queer romance, icky men, fallible women—it ’ s all there, made more impactful by the expertly played tinker, drums, electric guitar and the voices of many. These are songs that scream, “ We are hera, and we have something to say, ” but The Highwomen isn ’ metric ton equitable some topical social statement that won ’ t hold up in a few years—this album was not built uniquely for 2019. While it ’ south absolutely and unapologetically meant as an summation to the discourse on inequality and lack of diversity that ’ s been ruling Nashville and country music ( area radio receiver in particular ) for decades now, it ’ randomness besides a country authoritative, no matter which room you spin it. —Ellen Johnson

21. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs

Stella Donnelly references the ’ 90s one moment and 10 seconds into her introduction album, Beware of the Dogs. It ’ s not what you think. She does not quote a Pavement lyric or drop a gnarled riff from a Hole song. Donnelly, who is in her mid-20s and from Perth, Australia, is the rare indie-rocker who alludes to the ’ 90s without a hint of nostalgia. “ This is not ’ 93 / You lost your spot on the team, ” she sings in that opening snub, a deceptively sunny-sounding kiss-off to an abusive man. The song is called “ Old man, ” and it ’ s a finely insertion to Donnelly ’ south songwriting, which is frequently funny story, confrontational, and charged with an awareness that the personal is political. These dry indie-pop songs unfold like abruptly stories populated by assholes and assorted misadventures. They are much breezy and uncomplicated in arrangement, but Donnelly remains a compelling narrator : On Beware of the Dogs, the songwriter roasts an objectionable date ( “ Tricks ” ), takes inventory of the indignities of the touring life ( “ Lunch ” ), stresses about deathrate ( “ Die ), and turns in a drab and knowing protest of rape polish. The resulting album is an imaginative indie-pop chronicle of millennial malaise. passim, Donnelly sings in a thick Perth accent, and her vocals are dotted with audible laugh, theatrical performance flourishes, inspired instances of talk-singing, and early oddities. It ’ second about as though her stories can ’ t quite be contained within the limited space of the songs themselves. —Zach Schonfeld

If such a rule is not already at boastfully, I hereby declare Father of the Bride the official album of summer 2019. If you ’ re placid doubting, barely listen to it outside, possibly while eating a ice lolly. Let Danielle Haim and a choir of children sing you down the aisle on “ Hold You now ; ” let the bendy “ Bambina ” rock you into a summer grogginess. Let it be easy. It ’ s lightly without being besides skittish, thoughtful but not esoteric and chock full of bantam little musical treasures. Peel back what some have perceived to be a lyric catastrophe, and Vampire Weekend ’ s fourth full-length is an album of rewarding moments and fat samples. A commemorate that ’ s roughly five songs excessively hanker and as many choruses besides cheesy may not sound like the most alluring listen, but Ezra Koenig expertly spins even the shabbiest couplets into nuance—and he does it to the tune of pure fair weather. He adopted a love for the Grateful Dead, intensified one for character studies and swapped gravy boat shoes for Birkenstocks, and the resultant role here is the rare album that not only works as picnic music but besides makes for a finely conversation subject. Vampire Weekend proved their talent with a trio of excellent albums in 2008-2013. With this rejoinder, Koenig proves they ’ rhenium not going anywhere. —Ellen Johnson

19. Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell!

From outside her corner, Lana Del Rey has always appeared more aesthetic than artist. She emerged in 2012 as the gray-eyed anti-Katy Perry, a toss off headliner who preferred sensual sleepers over big hooks. Like Perry, Lady Gaga and Carly Rae Jepsen, she acquired leagues of stans—but besides enough of haters. She went on to release five major label LPs that, while possibly curious within pop music, don ’ t truly stand out in the context of her personal catalogue. Del Rey ’ s music was frequently synonymous with sameness, and her personal stigmatize with a tired California cool-girl image. You were more probable to buy Born To Die or Lust For Life at Urban Outfitters than a local indie shop. You can silent buy Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Del Rey ’ s long-awaited sixth studio apartment album, at Urban Outfitters ( in a $ 40 pink vinyl exclusive, no less ). But it ’ second thus much more than an accessory for your Crosley Cruiser. Delivered with her touch craft, this is a record that, while evoking decades of folk music, rock and Americana traditions, feels sol tightly woven into the fabric of today ’ sulfur America that the discussion “ classic ” is an immediately obvious descriptor. You ’ ll know it ’ randomness something special about 15 minutes in—if not sooner—just as rusty acoustic guitars and electronic whirs net with stuttering psychedelia on the stagger nine-minute centerpiece “ Venice Bitch, ” which holds the album ’ sulfur first base great one-liner : “ Fear fun, fear love / Fresh out of fucks, everlastingly. ” NFR! international relations and security network ’ t another piece of flat desert pop—it ’ s a lyric prevail and a masterclass in pop product. —Ellen Johnson

18. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst come from the same musical sphere. One could even argue, the two songwriters—ages 25 and 38 respectively—are like long-lost musical siblings. Though at vastly different points in their careers, both musicians know how to crush and resuscitate listeners with cheer woe, romanticist poignance and their instantaneously recognizable, consoling pipes. The stars aligned barely in prison term for Bridgers and Oberst to write, record and surprise-drop a frequent album together for a brand new project : Better Oblivion Community Center—which truly is their band appoint and not actually the name of a utopian old folks home. Better Oblivion Community Center is an unsurprisingly tender, affecting excursion. Its largely upbeat instrumentation ebb and flows with understate folky strums and scintillating keyboards, and the casual irradiate of buoyant rock ‘ n ’ roll peeks out just when you need some blithe relief from their lyrics. Though many male-female vocal couple list heavy on duets, this pair elected to skirt that norm by singing by and large in unison and in harmony rather than engaging in the sometimes bum name and reception. a lot of the criminal record could distillery loosely fall into the folk music camp, but there are moments that you wouldn ’ t expect from Oberst and Bridgers. The throbbing electro keyboards of “ Exception to the Rule, ” the fuzzed rock soar at the end of “ Big Black Heart ” and the psychedelic guitar swells on “ My City ” all represent a venture into new frontiers. —Lizzie Manno

17. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR

On “ IGOR ’ S THEME, ” the orifice track on Tyler ’ s highly anticipated follow-up to Flower Boy, he shows that even with the heighten expectations, he can calm surprise us. Relying on heavy, ill low synth tones and building complex percussion—a combination that ’ s featured prominently throughout the album—the chiefly instrumental song is a sting of a change-up from his by work, basically combining the best aspects of Cherry Bomb with the emotionality and relative absence of Tyler ’ s rapping presence on Flower Boy to create a hangover criminal record of sorts from the flamboyance of his last record. possibly the Yeezus to Flower Boy ’ sulfur My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he continues to push the themes of loneliness and his inability to be amply loved found on his previous read, only this time largely twisting the knob in a forte and blue commission. Tyler warned us to not “ go into this expecting a rap album, ” but some of the best tracks on IGOR are when he does give into these tendencies. The slowthai-aided “ WHAT ’ S GOOD ” largely follows suit, proving that he can make hard-hitting hip-hop better than about anyone else. —Steven Edelstone

16. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains

For 15 years bookending the turn of the twenty-first century, David Berman was not only the chief creative violence behind indie-folk faves Silver Jews, he was considered by many to be the poet laureate of the underground. Across six solid albums—peaking with 1998 ’ randomness American Water —his songs spilled over with double-take-worthy wisdom and witticisms built from approachable terminology. On his latest and, sadly, last album—self-titled and released under the appoint Purple Mountains—Berman doesn ’ thymine sound like a unlike person than the one that walked away a decade ago. He sounds like himself, an endlessly thoughtful and unnervingly good overcome organizer of words. He sounds rejuvenate, possibly buoyed by his new second band, the Brooklyn psych-folk group Woods. He was merely adenine bummed out as ever on Purple Mountains, and he even makes being bummed out sound better than fair about anyone else. —Ben Salmon

15. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: Ghosteen

Grief transforms you. It rearranges molecules, builds them afresh. Its world power is such that it “ occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe, ” as Nick Cave wrote in a 2018 edition of his e-mail newsletter. “ Within that whirling coil all manner of madnesses exist : ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our pain, will into existence. ” It has undoubtedly transformed Cave. In 2014, the musician ’ south bequest seemed fairly settled : A godfather-of-goth life badge, his mid-career pivot into romantic balladry, the late-career conversion as mustachioed preacher of Grinderman cheapness, his legendary prickliness around critics and fans. Cave ’ s best songs often seemed to occupy distinct characters or guises—the death-row inmate ( “ The Mercy Seat ” ), the sinister anecdotist ( “ Red Right Hand ” ), the blues-slinging incel clown ( “ No Pussy Blues ” ) —yet since the devastate loss of his 15-year-old son, Arthur, in 2015, Cave himself has been stripped bare. He has, to quote a idiom from “ Jubilee Street, ” been transformed. In his music—and his increasing desire to communicate directly with fans, both through the newsletter and his unmoderated Q & A events—the artist conveys the enormity of his grief with surrealist wisdom and brutal fairness. Ghosteen, Cave ’ s devastating newly double album, is the completion of that transformation. —Zach Schonfeld

14. Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel

Fontaines D.C. have been pigeonholed as the british Isles ’ next capital post-punk export à la Shame or Idles, but this irish five-piece deserve more than that reductive frame. Fontaines D.C. are more poetic than the bands they ’ re lumped in with, and their debut album Dogrel is a will to a unlike hardened of concerns. Dogrel takes on the abasement of urban cities as lively cultural hubs and launching pads for people to make something of themselves—or at least put some change in their pockets. Frontman Grian Chatten and his bandmates plowshare a love of literature and poetry ( the Beats, James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, etc. ), and they write songs together in Irish public house, resulting in a audacious, romantic portrayal of Dublin and its huge characters. Two of their biggest calling cards are self-belief and authenticity. The elate lyric themes on the lead track “ Big ” ( “ My childhood was humble / But I ’ megabyte gon na be large ” ) are analogous to “ Rock ‘ n ’ Roll Star, ” the leash track on Oasis ’ Definitely Maybe, though “ Big ” has more brain and spit. If self-awareness is one factor of the renewed sake in post-punk, the intense, charismatic Chatten surely has it as he pokes playfulness at charisma ( “ Charisma is exquisite manipulation ” ). Dogrel is an album of fantastic ardor and intense landscapes, and interspersed with an irish underdog liveliness, Fontaines D.C. are about untouchable. —Lizzie Manno

13. Kevin Morby: Oh My God

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Kevin Morby is not religious. Yet by his own entrance fee, he has made a “ non-religious religious phonograph record. ” Oh My God, the dizzy and antic fifth album from the increasingly fecund folk-rocker, is preoccupied with the lyric of exaltation, from its gospel-choir refrains to its hideous album cover, which depicts Morby, shirtless, posing beneath a celebrated painting of Saint Cecilia playing piano for the angels. Somehow, none of this scans as dry or overtly hokey : When Morby sings lines like “ Dear God, please forgive me ” three times with a children ’ second choir accompanying him on “ Congratulations ” —and then caps that off with a searing guitar alone worthy of a Springsteen climax—it ’ randomness hard to believe he is a disbeliever. Morby ’ s previous work, particularly the back-to-back Singing Saw ( 2016 ) and City Music ( 2017 ), has been frequently compared to the singer-songwriter greats of the 1970s, notably Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Oh My God has a bedraggled energy to it, arsenic well as a distinctly vintage implemental atmosphere, that ’ s probable to encourage such comparisons. The piano crackle ; the organs rumble and groan ( see : “ Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild ” ) ; everything has that fuzzed analogue radiance. Oh My God besides has a certain unabashed exuberance that ’ sulfur uncommon in circa-2019 indie rock. You can hear it in the church-choir back vocals, in how Morby shouts “ Oh ! My ! God ! ” throughout “ Piss River, ” pausing to let each syllable hang in the vent. Some records requirement to be heard with headphones. Oh My God is not one of them. I first heard the album concisely after being laid off from a newsroom job, which meant Morby ’ s music was ringing out loudly in my empty apartment rather of piping into my headphones on an overcrowd underpass. This seemed to suit its messy, god-obsessed exuberance : Let it ring out wherever you can. If any actual believers were within earshot—well, that ’ s fine besides. — Zach Schonfeld

12. Jenny Lewis: On The Line

To witness a shape-shifting musician like Jenny Lewis truly evolve throughout the years—succeed in multiple projects, try on manifold paper musical styles, know pain and loss and outline it all in her songs—and then arrive at a sensational album like On The Line feels monumental. First as the frontwoman of one of the most beloved indie-rock groups of the aughts and then as a realize soloist and supergroup bomber, Lewis has had a bright career, even when things took a become for the rocky in her personal life. The best of her four albums outside of Rilo Kiley, On The Line is absolutely dazzling. It sounds decidedly grown up, mature both lyrically and musically, and it ’ s a dramatic studio attempt. Lewis sings brooding lyrics with a glamorous edge, giving us an album that ’ mho a a lot a rock ‘ n ’ roll relaxer as it is a lyrical bombshell. The On the Line singles are all illustrious earworms, but the album opener, “ Heads Gon na Roll, ” is specially grandiose. As ever, Lewis ’ attention to detail and location is mesmerizing. She makes a boxing reference, namedrop Elliott Smith and the “ sycophants in Marrakesh, ” recalls a quarrel with “ Harlem nuns ” and relaxes with a pack of Marlboros all before proclaim, “ Maybe a little snatch of hooking up is good for the soul. ” In a most delightful way, “ Heads Gon na Roll ” is about everything and nothing. Marking at least the second mention of cocktail ingredients on this album, “ Red Bull & Hennessy ” is a delectable display of desire. On The Line, her best solo solve to date, finds her trade chaos for peace and pain for parties. And West Coast rock combined with piano glam and Lewis ’ lyrics makes for a most celebratory listen, indeed. —Ellen Johnson

11. black midi: Schlagenheim

It may be unvoiced to write about, but Schlagenheim is a criminal record you feel more so than anything else. Case in compass point : First track “ 953 ” features one of the hardest score spark advance guitar riffs in recent memory, an opening salvo that makes you want to drop everything and go run a mile—something I actually did, resulting in my fastest time always. Within bare seconds of hitting play on their debut album, Geordie Greep and Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin make their case as two of our most imaginative contemporary guitarists, all while you try your hardest to keep time with a exhaust that will still elude you after 10 listens. There ’ south a high barrier to submission for Schlagenheim, a record by a ring who refuses to meet you halfway. academic and ostentatious all the way through, Schlagenheim showcases why blacken midi are generationally great instrumentalists despite our inability to follow what they ’ ra doing and why. By the end of “ Ducter ’ s ” anarchic chaos, you won ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate know what hit you, but you ’ ll find yourself cursorily returning to “ 953 ” for another go around of an album that showcases some of the most talented musicians around, coalescing behind an experimental, genre-less and extremely noisy sound to exceptional results. Schlagenheim is beyond weird. Schlagenheim is a legitimate one of a kind record. Schlagenheim is a masterpiece. —Steven Edelstone

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If she prefers to stay inside, then Webster makes music for her own kind : With all its drooping bicycle steel, unhurried funk and a breezy island air out that could sub in for your AC, Atlanta Millionaires Club is the perfect summer album for indoors-y types. Drawing on both her Americana settle and the bendy R & B of artists like Aaliyah ( one of her mention inspirations ), Webster creates a dramaticized recite of amatory shortcomings that sounds like the sunday crying. After her introduction album Run and Tell and high school, Webster did what any draw a bead on songwriter would : moved to Nashville. There, she studied songwriting at Belmont University before trying out graphic design, but when she found herself jonesing for a travel dwelling every other weekend, decided to abandon collegiate life all in all and made plans to return to Atlanta, where she has since stayed put. Since then she ’ mho spend considerable meter photographing versatile ATL stars like Offset and Lil Yachty. Webster released her second, self-titled album after college, which contains her first base Spotify hit, the groovy “ She Won ’ t Go Away, ” a bleary nation pipe dream. But dreamier hush is Webster ’ s third solo LP, Atlanta Millionaires Club, a muggy brush with R & B flourished with lots of twang and retro grooves. It ’ sulfur wyrd and sleepy and full moon of droll one-liners like “ I should get out more, ” the chorus from “ Room Temperature. ” —Ellen Johnson

“ Let yourself go ” has a minus intension to it—doing as such would imply something like cancelling all physical bodily process, restricting your wardrobe to sweatpants and purchasing all your meals from a drive-thru, hair long and unkempt and fingers coated in Cheeto dust. But what if “ letting oneself go ” looked like something else ? What if it meant letting run of self-hate, badly energy and your host of inner demons ? What if it included forgetting about the odds against you and merely loving yourself with an uninhibited pride ? Cuz I Love You looks like that. It ’ s a parade of Lizzo ’ s most disdainful tendencies and a blazing means to experience the triple-threat endowment ( rapper, singer, flutist ) who ’ s presently guiding us in a much-needed confidence craze. On Cuz I Love You, Lizzo ’ s bastioned voice could collapse buildings, her lyrics could bring you to your knees and her unprecedented assurance could inspire you to love yourself just a small morsel more. It ’ south Lizzo ’ s energy solidified—everything you love about her, wrapped up in one twerkable package bursting with bold statements, bad bitches and, possibly most notably, bops. Lizzo preaches dignity by declaring dignity. She opens “ Like A Girl ” with the words, “ Woke up feelin ’ like I precisely might run for President / even if there ain ’ t no precedent, switchin ’ up the messaging / I ’ m about to add a little estrogen ” before later name-dropping some of her female child heroes, like Chaka Kahn, Lauryn Hill and Serena Williams ( “ Willy ” ). Arguing with Lizzo is slippery business—it ’ s unmanageable to disagree with person who has so much confidence in herself, which is why Cuz I Love You is such a winner. Lizzo is impossible to ignore, and with this album, she lets us know she ’ mho here to stay. — Ellen Johnson

8. Julia Jacklin: Crushing

Autonomy can be curse frightening. The realization—the one arrive after a separation, before a solo move, following a graduation, etc.—that you ’ re actually in this thing alone and merely you are in the driver ’ s seat can leave you feeling scared airheaded. Or it can leave you feeling high on independence. Julia Jacklin ’ second Crushing is a strike search for self, a call to upend that which tethers you down. But it ’ s besides rooted, profoundly, in a smell of calm. The Aussie songwriter ’ s ability to process emotion is out-of-this-world sharp, and this album is her best, most pierce solve to date. Crushing can change from melodious balladry to anthemic rock at the drop of a hat. And for its entirety, Jacklin, slowly gaining cred as one of the most underestimate singer/songwriters working, basks in a newfound clearness. Crushing is the audacious narrative of a woman—and an artist —coming into her own. Securing that representation, however, was no walk in the park. Jacklin clearly had to sort through mountains of wreckage to arrive here, but the album ’ s autobiographical nature is what makes it so affecting. Jacklin said, in writing it, she realized “ how not very particular ” she is ( discernible in “ Body, ” as she sings, “ It ’ s merely my body / I guess it ’ s just my life ” ). But in recognizing the non-exclusivity of her experiences, she made something singular. — Ellen Johnson

7. Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated

Since we ’ rhenium living in a post- Emotion global, it ’ mho hard to remember a time when Carly Rae Jepsen wasn ’ metric ton regarded as an accomplished pop icon. But before the sexual torture of “ Emotion, ” the sweetly rush of “ Gimmie Love ” and all those “ Run Away With Me ” sax memes, Carly Rae Jepsen was, to most, “ Call Me Maybe ” and nothing more. 2015 became her moment, and Emotion the pop album to save them all. nowadays in her thirties, going on four years since then, Carly Rae Jepsen is possibly even more the music media darling and dad culture pillar. And while we ’ ve never actually looked to her for lyric reconditeness, she ’ sulfur always been understanding when it comes to pure feelings, making her fourthly LP Dedicated another beacon of emotional intelligence, and Jepsen a straight-A scholar of start history. Dedicated is about relationships, but it ’ mho besides an examination of self. She sashays from one romantic identity ( single, brokenhearted, in love ) to another, but as the criminal record beam on, it becomes clearer they ’ re all one in the same—a three. If the measure for Carly Rae Jepsen—and possibly flush 2010s pop as a whole—is the intellectual pop perfection of Emotion, then Dedicated falls only a little short, landing somewhere between effortless earworm district and curative ecstasy. —Ellen Johnson

6. Brittany Howard: Jaime

On spoken-word breakdown “ thirteenth Century Metal, ” Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard repeats, over and over, “ We are all brothers and sisters. ” This sentiment of union is a screw thread that runs throughout Jaime ’ s 35 minutes, but Howard ’ second debut solo campaign is besides profoundly personal. “ I wrote this record as a process of healing, ” Howard wrote in a personal essay upon the album ’ mho announcement. “ Every song, I confront something within me or beyond me. Things that are hard or impossible to change, words and music to describe what I ’ thousand not good at conveying to those I love, or a identify that hurts to be said : Jaime. ” She ’ south referring there to her baby Jaime, who passed off as a adolescent. But as Howard besides wrote, “ The record is not about her. It ’ randomness about me. ” These are sexual love songs ( possibly written for her wife Jesse Lafser, with whom she recently moved to small-town New Mexico ), spiritual songs, songs about the past, songs about the future and songs that react to and make sense of our present consequence. On Jaime, Howard beautifully reckons with her personal past and shatters soul, rock and blues norms in an album that should go down a one of the most audacious and imaginative of the year, possibly tied the ten. —Ellen Johnson


In the five years since her transformative introduction album, 2014 ’ south LP1, FKA twig has been through a draw. As though having six fibroids removed from her uterus during this period wasn ’ thyroxine anguish enough, she dated and split up with two celebrated actors, to one of whom she was engaged. As she suffered both huge emotional and physical annoyance, she all but rebirthed herself. This metempsychosis narrative is one potential read of the stunning video recording for “ cellophane, ” the beginning song released from MAGDALENE, LP1 ’ s long-awaited album-length follow-up. A annihilating piano elegy that only vaguely includes the howl, clicking and stuttering vocal and synth tricks of LP1, “ cellophane ” arrived alongside a video recording that, like the majority of FKA twigs ’ visuals to date, exists in a not-quite-terrestrial space wide of blunt sex, brooding sci-fi, angular dancing and plain previous horror. The two videos that have followed have been, well, precisely not that, and that contrast lies at the heart of what makes the game-changing genre-less artist ’ s sophomore album so especial. MAGDALENE is the heavy of an artist gluing together the million bantam shards in which she found herself after an explosive separation. If FKA twigs previously sang about her isolating sexual desires, here she details the travel to regain her intensity after she ’ s seen the other side of romantic fulfillment. As expected, the climb is often challenge : On the lope, amorphous “ daybed, ” apparently the only track to survive FKA twigs ’ 2016 sessions with Oneohtrix Point Never, she struggles to tied leave her bed. As she sings lines like “ dirty are my dishes, ” “ friendly are the fruit flies ” and “ possessive is my chaise longue, ” she equates the tousle submit of her home with the tousle state of her heart, and the doctrine of analogy is nothing short-circuit of crushing. —Max Freedman

4. Big Thief: Two Hands

Big Thief has amassed a big and devote fanbase the antique manner : by releasing four amazingly well albums in equitable three-and-a-half years, by touring relentlessly and apparently without respite, by Instagramming a set of photos of themselves grinning and embracing each early in respective arcadian settings. In 2019, much of Big Thief ’ s ethos feels like a atavistic to the LP era : the fecund output ( think Creedence circa 1969-1970 ), the album-stream-as-vinyl-sides, the ring ’ s creative closeness and affinity for recording be with minimal overdubs. Which is appropriate, since this band ’ south razor-sharp songwriting has always felt slightly adrift in time, belonging ampere much to the 1970s or early 2000s as it does to the show. Two Hands does not dramatically depart from the mesmerizing folk-rock fusion of U.F.O.F., but its best moments emphasize the band ’ mho gnarled electric energy, particularly on the career highlight “ Not. ” When an artist releases two studio apartment albums in one class, it ’ randomness customary for critics to grumble about hubris, normally accompanied by the hypnotism that the two separate releases should have been whittled down into one. Often—as with Justin Timberlake ’ mho The 20/20 Experience and its bombastic sequel—this charge is accurate. With big thief, it won ’ t be. Both records stand as great and individual statements from a band manoeuver at some rare creative acme. Both records deserve to exist, and we ’ re fortunate that they do. —Zach Schonfeld

3. Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow

Singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten experienced a lot of change after the release of her last album, 2014 ’ s Are We There, and they ’ re the kind of life-altering shifts—newfound amatory partnership, motherhood, career advancements—that are all but destined to reveal themselves in one ’ sulfur artwork. And here, on her one-fifth studio campaign Remind Me Tomorrow, those evolutions are apparent in a powerful sonic yaw, and in Van Etten ’ south desire to explore both nostalgia and rebirth, and possibly flush how they intertwine. Remind Me Tomorrow was the first bang-up rock album of the year, and it would behoove any and all of Van Etten ’ sulfur fans, even those who staunchly prefer her folk-leaning material, and rock ‘ n ’ roll aficionado of all stripes to open their ears ( and their hearts ) to this beautifully executed pivot. And for all its bold sonic upheavals—the summation of cram machines and electric shred and cavernous synth— Remind Me Tomorrow maintains Van Etten ’ s gothic sensibilities. Sharon Van Etten was already one of the great lyricists of the ’ 10s, but with this breathless project, she ’ s proved an artistic pliancy her contemporaries may not possess. She hit her footstep with Are We There, but hera she ’ s not even on the ground. —Ellen Johnson

2. Angel Olsen: All Mirrors

From her very early recordings, Angel Olsen has mined drama from her relationships with physically present but psychologically absent partners. Across her often-brilliant catalogue, the Asheville singer/songwriter has sung honestly about staying with these partners despite recognizing their atrocious qualities. Her fascination with this insalubrious dynamic, in addition to her apparent, showstopping vibrato, has tied her songs together across multiple genres, from haunting lo-fi tribe ( 2010 ’ s Strange Cacti EP, 2012 ’ s Half Way Home ) to scorching rock ( 2014 ’ south Burn Your Fire For No Witness, 2016 ’ s My Woman ). Olsen hush deals with bad partners on her fourth album, All Mirrors, but this time around, she escapes their destruction and finds not precisely happiness, but catharsis. She narrates her journey alongside a 14-piece orchestra, with string co-arrangement from Ben Babbitt and conductor-arranger Jherek Bischoff ( and co-production from the ever-busy John Congleton, who besides co-produced Burn Your Fire ). Her newfound embrace of violins, violas and cello elevates her shady, frequently synth-infused rock to inordinately goosebump-inducing heights, making All Mirrors her third straight ( and likely best ) masterpiece to date. —Max Freedman

1. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising

Natalie Mering ’ s exercise under the name Weyes Blood feels less like a catalog of music and more like a travel. And each time she releases a full-length album, her address comes a little more into concentrate. That ’ mho particularly true on Titanic Rising, which finds Mering edging her curious psych-folk close than ever to the sound of traditional pop music. For person with a documented preference for idiosyncrasy and experiment, she sounds completely at rest in these songs, and ready for bigger things ahead. Folks who know her debut, 2011 ’ randomness The Outside Room, might be surprised to hear Weyes Blood in 2019, but they shouldn ’ t be shocked. even on that lo-fi package of echo and noise, you could hear Mering ’ s endow for haunting melody and the folk music shape hovering slightly below the surface. Titanic Rising doesn ’ thymine feel blissfully adrift. alternatively, it feels like Mering knows precisely where she ’ s going. You can hear it in the full-bodied drawstring sections of album opener “ A Lot ’ s Gon na Change ” and the sturdy backbone-beat of “ Andromeda ” and the sentiments of “ Wild Time, ” a affected role saunterer with a ’ 70s soft-rock vibration ( including a hint of “ Landslide ” ) and a blunt bridge : “ Everyone ’ s broken immediately, ” Mering sings, “ And no one knows equitable how we could have all gotten sol far from truth. ” — Ben Salmon

Listen to our Best Albums of 2019 playlist on Spotify right here.

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