When I was making my top ten list of last year, I was sort of scrounging to get the Top 10 albums finished. I was pretty uncertain of which albums deserved top spots. Although we got a ton of great singles and my top songs list was a struggle, we just didn’t get a bunch of real solid albums in 2018, thankfully, 2019 is much different though.
We got a real good crop of amazing albums that I think will make a long lasting impact, and a lot were surprises. Chance the Rapper and Kanye, 2 of my favorite artists period, both dropped albums that disappointed me this year (more to come on that in a post I’ll publish in a few days), but Dreamville Records collab album blew me away. We had indie groups I loved in high school, like Bon Iver, the Lumineers, and Vampire Weekend come out with unreal projects. We also had much anticipated follow up projects like Harry Styles’ Fine Line, and Rex Orange County’s Pony, come out and meet those high expectations. Newcomers like Lizzo, Maggie Rogers, and Earthgang all dropped exciting albums as well. Altogether, this list was NOT easy to make. So before we get started with my top ten, I’d like to give a shoutout to the following albums.
Hot Pink -Doja Cat
Free Nationals -Free Nationals
Good at Falling -The Japanese House
III -The Lumineers
Cuz I Love U -Lizzo
Apollo XXI -Steve Lacy
Jaime -Britanny Howard
Alright, here it is. My Top Ten Best Albums of 2019. Please remember when reading this list, it’s absolutely biased and I have zero musical talents besides being above average at Karaoke. I don’t know the terminology or nuances of what makes an album musically intelligent, I just know what sounds I like going into my earholes. That being said, these collections of sounds I shoved into my earholes repeatedly this year. Here we go.
The Top Ten Albums of 2019
10. Ginger -Brockhampton
Brockhampton returned this year with Ginger, and it looks like they’ve entered another phase of coping with the loss of their fellow boy-bandmate Ameer. Last year’s Iridescense I loved and put very high on my top 10 list, and it was filled with cathartic angry songs along with them searching for some sort of closure on the whole situation.
I think this album was them just being really sad? About everything? Including the Ameer situation? And that’s alright! That lent itself to one of the most “Brockhampton” Brockhampton songs ever with “Sugar”. A guitar sample beat featuring unreal verses and singing from several members of the crew. We then get one of my favorite beats of theirs of all time on “Boy Bye” and the flows on top of this beat are FIRE. It worked so well for all of the members niche sounds. Those 2 are absolute gems, then include other songs like “I BEEN BORN AGAIN” sounding evil as hell, “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT” with that dope brass beat, and “St. Percy” bringing that weird sound only Brockhampton can pull off successfully and you’ve got a great album. I hope moving forward they can move on from this sad/angry boy energy and transition into something even more experimental and positive, which would make this album a great “end of an era” project.
9. The Sailor -Rich Brian
This album, at least from what I saw, was heavily slept on this year. Rich Brian started off as a novelty internet rapper and has seamlessly transitioned into a real mature artist. What I loved most about this album is that he’s a new young rapper and was willing to push forward and try new things rather than double down on just being a joke rapper who makes songs that are good for Tik Toks. Rich Brian easily could’ve stayed in the same lane as people like Yung Gravy and Billy Machiafava who have zero talent but are making a ton of money, but he said no.
We see Brian singing on this album, and he’s actually good? Which is surprising giving his deep monotone talking voice. This album also has some absolutely gorgeous production with full orchestras behind a few of the tracks. I think “Kids” off this has one of my favorite beats of the year and is begging for a Rick Ross remix, but then we also get “Drive Safe” a more emotional song sort of like the “Feeling Whitneys” and “Stays” off of Post Malone’s albums. Add some other solid songs with funny-but-charming lines like “Curious”, “Slow Down Turbo”, “Yellow” and “Rapapa” (which features RZA) and you’ve got a great album. Seeing how far Brian’s come since his first real album gets me excited thinking that his next project will be even better.
8. Heard It In A Past Life -Maggie Rogers
Man, I am in love with this album, Maggie Rogers voice, and…ya know, Maggie Rogers. I am so excited by her as an artist. She gives off the same vibes I had listening to Kacey Musgraves first album back in High School like oh…there’s something special here and it’s just the beginning. She has an incredibly unique voice and blends the elements of folk, pop, alternative, rock and more together into a beautiful sound so fitting to her brand and style.
Last year, despite finding it on the late-side, I put “Light On” on my honorable mentions for Top Songs of the Year, and after getting the full album in January I realized she had even more gorgeous tunes to give us. “Give A Little” is one of my favorite songs of the year and is so catchy and fun and carefree. We also got ballads that make you wanna prance around in a meadow like “Burning” and “Retrograde”, showing she can make fun bangers but also songs that sound great with impressive lyrics. The list just keeps going on with “The Knife”, “Overnight”, “Fallingwater” and “Back In My Body” just being better and more unique than the majority of songs this year. She puts on a great concert, she has a great brand going for herself being a progressive and outspoken performer who you can tell has her own personality and mindset that she isn’t changing for anyone. I mean, she got brough on stage to sing with Dead & Co. at Madison Square Garden…if that doesn’t show that she’s ready to take over idk what does. In my opinion she’s the best new artist of this year and I can’t wait to see what she does moving forward.
7. Fine Line -Harry Styles
I’ve gone on and on about Harry Styles on this site and although I feel like I’ve exhausted praising this man, I also think it’s necessary. I was a little nervous in the lead up to Fine Line honestly, just because I had gassed him up so much to people. If his sophomore album was a let down I’d look like a fool. Thank god he came through with the fire single “Lights Up” to ease my worries. And then followed it up with “Watermelon Sugar” (one of my favorite songs of the entire year) and “Adore You” to already make it a good album before it even dropped. Those 3 were good enough to carry a subpar album. Thankfully, a subpar album is not what we got.
Harry stayed in his lane of being influenced by 70’s rock and pop while also adding his own flare and life experiences into his music. Songs like “Cherry” sound gorgeous and touch on a ex who’s moved on, songs like “Canyon Moon” bring the good vibes and awesome harmonies, and “She” shows Harry is wicked talented and features a dope guitar solo. This was the follow up everyone wanted and even though it’s only been out for a few weeks, I can already tell it’s going to be in heavy rotation for a while for a lot of people. If you aren’t already a fan of Mr. Styles you gotta get on it ASAP because he is becoming the world’s biggest rockstar whether you like it or not.
6. Pony -Rex Orange County
I had the highest of expectations of this album after falling in love with Rex’s Apricot Princess, one of my favorite albums of the decade for sure. This also came out the same day as Kanye’s new album, but I listened to this before because Ye didn’t drop till hours later (of course). This honestly got me through the heartbreak of not loving Kanye’s album. 2 artists who I love dropping projects, and Rex came out on top this time. Why? Because this album rules.
Unless ROC did a crazy genre shift into like country or EDM or something, this album was automatically going to be fire. He’s found such an awesome signature sound of jazz/pop/rock/alternative that he’s been developing ever since Bcos U Will Never B Free and I think it reaches new heights in this album. 10/10 as the opening track kicks the album off in a fun way and also lays out the theme, Rex hasn’t been feeling great, but sees hope and is working towards becoming better. I think this is a message everyone can relate to and it’s good to see him getting out of pure “sad boy” mode and offer a message that things can get better. We get the beautiful bop of “Face to Face” which has got an awesome little guitar riff and Rex’s cadence (I think that’s the word?) is so catchy. When he does his little “maybe we grew outward, it’s TrueIKeptTheTruthToMyself now I’m nothing but a coward” it absolutely rules. He then goes on a HEATER and has maybe my favorite stretch of songs on an album this year with the mellow “Stressed Out”, into a song packed with the same fun energy as “Best Friend” and “Sunflower”, “Never Had the Balls” which is super goofy but in the best way, and then into “Pluto Projector” a song you think Frank Ocean could’ve made and just gifted to him. It’s gorgeous. Easily one of my favorites of the year and is a perfect, “lying in your bed at 2am thinking about the meaning of life” song….but it picks up! “It Gets Better” is a really cool and different song for him that leads into the closure of the album, and the outro, “It’s Not The Same Anymore”.
I could go on and on about this song but what an amazing final track. I’ll be honest, I shed several tears the first time I heard it. I think everyone has dealt with big changes in their lives and felt nostalgic sadness about that era being over and thinking, “is it going to get better than that?”. And it’s easy to think that because it’s not the same anymore, it can only get worse, but Rex takes that idea and flips it. The song talks about how much happier he was in the past at the beginning, but as it goes on he gets more hopeful and eventually ends up accepting that he needs help and tries to get better. This horn section that comes in towards the end is so beautiful and really captures a mood and the message of the album without saying words. It’s unreal and wraps up the album in a perfect package. This was the satisfaction fans of ROC were waiting for for so long.
5. Bae 5 -Yung Bae
This is where I really want to emphasize that I am not a music critic by any means. I listen to music like the idiot I am, and if I like something I just like it. This is an album that I really don’t think has any other message than “let’s have fun” and I was perfectly fine with that. I’ve been a fan of Yung Bae’s for a few years now after finding some of his music on Soundcloud. He makes “future funk”, which is basically a perfect mixture of Disco and EDM. I ran through his whole discography all the time and was hype to have another album of his in that rotation and what we got did not disappoint. I listened to this album (only a little longer than a half hour) this summer maybe 500 times. It’s so easy to put on speakers on the beach or in the backyard and just groove to it. The opener track “Pacific Standard” is pure funkiness and leads into the big orchestra 80s workout dream that is “Must Be Love”. The bass on all of the tracks are amazing, as any album paying homage to disco should. These songs get you in the mood to party and lead you into the more upbeat real slappers like “What You Need” and “Up All Night”, the latter of which I was really hoping would see some mainstream popularity. Although this didn’t happen I did my best to promote Yung Bae to anyone who would listen.
If you had a sip of alcohol in the same vicinity as me at all this year you’ve probably heard me play “We Came To Boogie” before. The build up of this song RULES. It’s just screaming in your face “WHEN THIS HITS, WE’RE GOING NUTS”, and I do every time. The chorus of just “we came to party, we came to boogie around” is all I’ve ever wanted in a song. Keep that bass BOOMING, those horns BLASTING, and you’ve got yourself a dance song you’d think was custom made for me. This is followed up with “Fell In Love” a collab with fellow future funk masters Party Pupils, and closed off with another one of my favorites of the year “Welcome to the Disco” which has probably the most purely disco instrumentals on the album (complete with a bongo solo). This is one of my most listened to albums this year and if you haven’t checked out this guy yet do so RIGHT NOW and don’t miss out on all this fun.
4. Igor -Tyler, The Creator
I mean, Tyler just keeps getting better. After Flower Boy I thought he had reached a peak of his career as far as popularity and music goes. He matured a lot, made his most “normal” sounding album, had both critical and fan love, and then…he dropped Igor.
This is why Tyler is going to go down as one of the best artists of our generation. He keeps innovating and building a world around him. This year he collabed with Converse and Lacoste on his fashion, two mega-brands. He released a new album with the concept of going through a breakup that reached #1 on Billboard and had critical acclaim. AND on top of it all he created an entire character to perform on stage as. I think this is one of the first times outside of his unique production, rapping, and fashion that he has thought to bring a whole new character to a stage and perform as someone outside of himself. I just find his concept and the character and everything he does to be so impactful. We get 35 song albums from Quality Control, we get generic bangers from every soundcloud rapper, Dababy tosses a verse on legit anyone’s song who asks, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But I think looking back on cultural moments, Tyler created a movement with this one.
Ok, now about the actual music. “Igor’s Theme” has Tyler’s signature sound but there’s almost a more realness to the instruments in this. Sweet drums and groovy piano, with sample adlibs being played throughout. Zero bars. This lets you know, T is mostly gonna be singing on this one. Which is why “EARFQUAKE” is a perfect follow up song. What a banger. It’s an automatic hit, a catchy chorus with a perfect Playboi Carti feature. This song goes hard and was popular without Tyler really having to change his style at all. Then we find out he was just getting started as “I Think” comes on. FIRE. The drums are sick, the verses are fire, it’s one of, if not the most, danceable Tyler song AND I know he does a sick moonwalk-esque breakdown of this when he performs. It’s so freaking good. Then we just get solid songs that still advance this journey of a breakup, songs like “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” and “NEW MAGIC WAND” show Tyler is still an amazing writer and is flexing how good of a producer he is. Songs like “A Boy Is A Gun” and “Puppet” are just vibes. I know that’s a 17 year old F-boy thing to say but they are. They’re so chill and feel like a warped version of Kanye (which is fitting because Ye makes an appearance on Puppet). It closes beautifully with the closure you’d need from a breakup with “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” and “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” and it again just solidifies itself as experimental and detailed and beautiful fully packaged and thought-out albums to come out of the rap game in a long time. This album will be considered a classic in just a few years and it was great seeing someone who I’ve loved and followed for so long get critical love and chart-topping records like never before.
3. i,i -Bon Iver
Dear lord this album is gorgeous. As the summer came a close and my good vibes were violently sucked out of my body, this was the perfect album to make me emotional and contemplate life and what our purpose is. WHICH IS WHY BON IVER IS SO GOOD. Brought me back to the old days of crying to “Skinny Love” in high school. Sometimes you just gotta let it out. And this album let me do that in the best way.
This might be my favorite album to listen to top to bottom and just not even look at the tracklist. As a whole project this thing is just magnificent. “iMi” has those classic Bon Iver vocals, some horns, the new experimental sounds that he did on his last album but more focused and clean and you instantly know you’re getting into something cool. I think where artists like Bon Iver can fall flat sometimes are getting too experimental and weird. It hurts the album from getting it’s point across. An instance where this works is Frank Ocean’s Blonde and this gives off very similar energy.
This album is full of tear-jerkingly beautiful songs. “Hey, Ma” for example has the lyrics “Full time you talk your money up, while it’s sitting in a coal mine”, asking questions and making statements all in one verse while not beating you over the head with what the song is about. He’s always been a great song writer but this one in particular blows my mind. “U (Man Like)” is another unbelievable ballad. He brings in other vocalists to help with the song and even has a children’s choir back him up at one point. The piano is great, the singing is beautiful, and it just brings the song up to a pedestal where it can just look down on all the other tracks of the year and say “I’m better than you”. From there we get “Naeem” in which Justin Vernon says “I can hear crying” and that’s because I’m sobbing to this. He puts other emotionally eviscerating heaters like “Faith” and “Sh’Diah” before the end to keep you hooked, and then finishes with one of my top 5 songs of the year “RABi”. That really closes this project out and leaves you in tears wanting to listen and sob again. I was surprised at how amazing this album turned out and it just adds to the list of people I liked in high school making great albums several years after I first got into them.
2. Revenge of the Dreamers 3 -Dreamville
If you told me a Dreamville collab album would be the best rap album of the year at the beginning of 2019 I probably would’ve laughed in your face, but here we are. This album is everything you want in a rap album. It’s got awesome features, it’s got bangers, it’s got introspective lyrics, it’s easy to throw on shuffle and chill out to, there’s not much more that you can ask for. I think the story behind this coming together is awesome too. Cole basically just sent an invite to all the people in the game that he likes and they got together for 10 days and just made absolute heaters. It has a very similar vibe to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy where Kanye brought together some of the best minds in music to make a highly collaborative masterpiece. Is this on the level of MBDTF? No. But that albums untouchable.
This album brings together the old, the current, and the new players in rap. Which is why it makes sense J. Cole’s “Middle Child” was the single released before it dropped. You’ve got T.I. on a song with J.I.D. passing verses back and forth like they’ve been friends for years. You’ve got newcomers like Buddy, Guapdad 4000 and Earthgang making the most energetic banger of the year with “Wells Fargo”. And you’ve got Dreamville absolutely flexing that they’re the best rap label in the game right now with songs like “Down Bad”, “Costa Rica”, and “Don’t Hit Me Right Now”. They had so much talent in this camp that people just started rolling through. Kendrick even makes a 10 second cameo to do a 2 bar on the opener “Under the Sun” which also features the most popular new rapper of the year, Dababy. There really isn’t much else to say about this album other than the fact that there are no misses and this collection of songs spans all the best parts of rap right now. I think we’ll be talking about how good this was for a very long time and in a year lacking in high quality rap projects it was a huge lifesaver.
1. Father of the Bride -Vampire Weekend
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t even close. This was far and away going to be the number one album of 2019. What a work of art. Who woulda thought Vampire Weekend, the original hipster indie band every high schooler likes, woulda come out with an immaculate album after not releasing one for 6 whole years. Well, me, because I’ve been a big fan since I was that kid that thought I was cool for liking the most popular indie band at the time. But this blew away all my expectations, which were pretty high when Harmony Hall and Sunflower were released as the singles and they’re easily 2 of the best songs of the year. I thought those would have to be my favorite of the album, until the album came out, and it was just filled with beautiful song after beautiful song.
I’ve talked about this in the previous albums as well but I love it when an artist puts out a project that feels bigger than just a bunch of songs they threw together and packaged as a collection. This album felt bigger than any of the other projects that dropped this year. Ezra Koenig has said he was heavily influenced by the Grateful Dead for this album and he’s clearly a big fan. This album introduced new logos and icons in the band’s culture like the frog, the snake, and the handprint. These mimick the bears and skulls of the Deads and have ended up on a ton of awesome bootleg merch made by fans, another tradition that has spread from Deadhead culture to VW. Ezra frequently talks about the Dead on his Beats1 Radio show Time Crisis, which adds even more to the fan bases’ culture and gives even more insight as to how the album got put together and how their frontman’s mind works (I highly recommend listening to the episode where they listen to the new album and comment on every track). I think through this show and this album you can tell that Ezra has captured the “zeitgeist” of this year and current time. Through the album he makes political statements, he does goofy wordplay, he perfectly blends multiple genres like rock, folk, country and pop perfectly to create a unique sound no one else has right now that has the same energy as the best groups from decades ago like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and of course, the Grateful Dead. Which is also what adds more to the magic of this album, their live performances are brought to a whole other level.
I had the pleasure of seeing these guys back in September and it was easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. They go so hard with all their songs and even get jammy with a lot of their new stuff. Notably, their 8 minute version of “Sunflower” is immaculate. But other songs like “Hold You Now”, “Big Blue”, and “This Life” that sound great on the album are made with performing live versions in mind. It was so perfect that this album dropped just before the summer because all of the tracks are ideal for listening to while driving around with the windows down. It also passes one of the best tests of an all-time album, and that’s having more than half of the songs be your favorite at one point or another. I was in love with Harmony Hall, then Sunflower, then Flower Moon, then Rich Man, then back to Sunflower, then This Life, then Sympathy, and round and round until I just realized I love every song so much. I’ve listened to this bad boy no less than 3 times all the way through since it came out and don’t see that slowing down any time soon. In the same way that Frank Ocean’s Blonde is still in my top 5 most listened to albums this year, I can see this being in my top 5 next year and the year after that too. This is exactly what we needed this year in music, something new and enjoyable and thoughtful and fun that is bringing a whole new culture and world to get sucked into. Can not get enough. If you aren’t a Vampire fan yet GET ON RIGHT NOW, so that when you’re 60 going to a Vampire & Co. show you can talk about how you saw them in their prime.
Well, that’s it folks. My favorite albums of 2019. I’m still working on compiling my Top Ten Songs of the Year and I’m also working on the 2019 Year in Review which involves your responses to this poll. If you haven’t filled it out yet there’s still time! It should be done within the next week or so. Looking forward to breaking down all the hits and misses of the year and what everyone else was feeling. Till then, thanks for reading.