12 Best of Christmas: Best Albums of 2019


Over the course of the last six months, I have listened to a little over 200 albums that were released this year (70% by artists I’d never heard before). Many of these were easily dismissed after a few verses (some of the Metal and Rap I listened to just last night was pretty difficult to get through without thinking of how they could be used for torture). Others had a few good songs, but mostly felt unremarkable. Then, there were ones that stood on the edge of being special, but didn’t quite get there. I can think of dozens of those albums that didn’t quite make the cut. In the end, the albums that made it to the list had something special, unique, or just plain great about them, and they maintained a consistency throughout the album. Again, these music lists are the most subjective of my lists, but I believe these are the finest albums of 2019.

 

12. Big Thief – Two Hands

This band had already released one full length indie rock album earlier this year. Yet, somehow they managed to push out another just a few months after, and it’s even better than the first one. Don’t miss it.

11. Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding

Previous albums have delivered memorable singles surrounded by albums that were searching for greatness. This album manages to flow from one potential single to another and never really falters. While most of the hip hop world (I listened to all the top 20 rap albums of 2019) seem to be settling for the same sound, Malone is reaching for more. This albums almost reaches the hieights he’s shooting for. Bravo!

10. Gary Clark Jr. – This Land

There are a decent variety of rocks sounds flowing through this album, but it’s Clark Jr.’s willingness to vividly tackle a difficult America’s racist history with a bluesy rock ballad that makes this album stand out.

9. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka

R&B music has not been nearly as soulful in years past, but albums like this represent a return to a 70’s style that used to reign supreme in this country. While Kiwanuka may evoke a sound of the past, it’s his phenomenal writing that carries you from one brilliant track to the next. This guy is going places.

8. Thom Yorke – Anima

The Radiohead frontman is easily one of the hardest working artists in music and every album he releases is an experiment. This one took him down roads that were much more electronic than his recent efforts, but just as impactful. This might be an acquired taste for many, but those who acquire it will be well rewarded.

7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

Nick has always been an uncompromisable artist, but coupling his baritone voice with the synthetic and orchestral sounds on display here are nothing short of arresting. Once you get over how different it is, you will be glued to this album.

6. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

The best young artist in the business finally released her first album and it is absolutely fantastic. Whether she is playing the bad guy or delivering soulful love ballads, Billie Eilish is a unique voice in a world of familiar. I hope she keeps it up.

5. Dave – Psychodrama

There is no doubt in my mind that Dave is the best rapper working today. This album is deep stuff from minute one. He digs into being poor, black, British, and in the most personal track he deals directly with women who return to violent men. These tracks are both catchy and often brutally raw. No rapper today, not even Kendrick Lamar, is writing on this level, and certainly not with this level musicality.

4. Bring Me the Horizon – Amo

This band has gone from nonstop screaming death metal to damn near pop music in less than a decade, but never does a single song on this album feel like pandering. Whether they are belting hard rock ballads like Mantra or singing straight pop songs like Mother Tongue, this band makes it all flow together as one.

3. Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

After a few albums with mixed results, one of the most aggressive metal acts of the 21st century returns to form. This album is filled to the brim with memorable hooks and riffs, but it’s also littered with lyrics that attack the very foundation of western civilization. I have not always agreed with every word, but long appreciated Corey Taylor’s questioning of societal norms and institutions. I hope future iterations are half as good as this one.

2. Lana Del Rey – Norman F****** Rockwall

While other female Pop Stars are baring their bodies in music videos , Lana Del Rey is baring her soul. She opens the album vividly describing the pure pleasure of a sexual encounter with a childish man and closes by describing how dangerous hope can be for a woman. Everything else in between is a raw and open depiction of life for a 21st century woman, and it is often a thing of sorrowful beauty, that evokes the best of Janis Joplin or Joni Mitchell. It’s no wonder this album is on more Top Ten Lists then any other this year by a mile.

1. Tool – Fear Inoculum

Tool fans waited 13 years for this album, and not only did they not disappoint, but they truly delivered a magnum opus. This album is so epic that it places metal in the same world as great composers like Hans Zimmer or even Ludwig Von Beethoven. Each track ranges in length from 10 to 15 minutes and rarely is a moment wasted. Outside of a few indulgences, this album is the tightest 85 minutes you will spend doing anything this year. In fact, songs like Pneuma and 7empest are so expertly crafted that they might just leave you wishing they would never end. I’ve heard life long drummers rant about how impossible the riffs in some of these tracks are to replicate. Somehow, the music before us both defies logic and exceeds expectations that have been building for well over a decade. This is one of the finest albums ever made.

Best of the Rest

Brittany Howard – Jaime

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

Ingrid Michaelson – Stranger Songs

Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Korn – The Nothing

Killswitch Engage – Atonement

Caroline Polachek – Pang

The Lumineers – III

Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising

Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima

Coldplay – Everyday Life

Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury

Nathan Ligon

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