This is probably the last year I’m going to publish a list like this. A lot of new music hasn’t held much interest for me, as I’ve been far more into exploring all the great music of the past. So enjoy this eclectic top 10.
10. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Watchmen
Their best score since The Social Network. At times ferocious, melancholy and propulsive, it’s staggering we got this much from them in one year, not to mention their score for Waves, which dropped in December.
9. Various Artists – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
In a way, it’s the best soundtrack for any QT film, at least in the way it’s transporting and not merely a collection of great songs. The interstitials – instead of choice dialogue – are old KHJ drive-time bits and vintage ads, perfect for a drive to reminisce and possibly feel nostalgia for a time and place you were never a part of.
8. Miranda Lambert – Wildcard
An explosive batch of exhilarating country songs, with Lambert delightfully out of fucks to give. With catchy tracks like “White Trash,” “It All Comes Out in the Wash” and “Too Pretty for Prison,” it’s “Pretty Bitchin'” indeed.
7. Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
One of the most stunning evolutions for any artist this decade, the provocative rapper went from immature but impressive to deeply sensitive and evocative. Album closer “Are We Still Friends?” approaches the best songs of his former cohort Frank Ocean.
6. Jenny Lewis – On the Line
You never know when Jenny Lewis will pop up with an album, but you always know it will be a knockout. Her latest is more of what we’ve come to expect: delicious pop-rock melodies with whip-smart lyrics.
5. pronoun – i’ll show you stronger
This year’s best entry in the Ladies Doing Sad Bastard Music sub-genre that’s dominated indie rock for the last few years. The tweak is that her sound harkens back to the era when indie rock could actually sell a million copies on CD. There wasn’t an album more in my wheelhouse in 2019.
4. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
An absolutely brilliant piece of self-deprecation that reads more like a cry for help in light of David Berman’s death. Tracks like “All My Happiness Is Gone,” “Darkness and Cold” and “Maybe I’m the Only One for Me” have even more weight. Berman’s one of the greatest unsung lyricists, and this will serve as a lasting testament.
3. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
While the easy joke was right there with them naming a song “Unbearably White,” this follow-up to Modern Vampires of the City was worth the wait. It dropped at the perfect time too, serving 2019’s best listening option for easy-going summer nights with a drink in hand.
2. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You (Deluxe)
Watching her star rise in almost real time was exciting, as she went from an indie-pop goddess to a full-blown star with a No. 1 hit. Her music (and body positivity) were infectious, delivering the year’s best pop album and the musician most worth rooting for (Twitter missteps aside).
1. Sturgill Simpson – SOUND & FURY
If I still bought CDs, this would be one that would be worn out from play. I listened to the album twice the weekend it came out, watched the accompanying anime, and then bought the vinyl. Simpson zigged once again, delivering an appropriately titled album of rollicking rock songs that feels closer to Queens of the Stone Age than Willie Nelson.
Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
The Hold Steady – Thrashing Thru the Passion
Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
Michael Kiwanuka – KIWANUKA
Local Natives – Violet Street
Caroline Polachek – Pang
Maggie Rogers – Heard It in a Past Life
Joan Shelley – Like the River Loves the Sea
Taylor Swift – Lover
Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
50 More Albums I Enjoyed Listening to Quite a Bit
(Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
American Football – LP3
Battles – Juice B Crypts
Bon Iver – i,i
Broken Social Scene – Let’s Try the After
Bill Callahan – Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
Charly Bliss – Young Enough
The Chemical Brothers – No Geography
clipping. – There Existed an Addiction to Blood
The Comet Is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
Fennesz – Agora
FIDLAR – Almost Free
FKA twigs – MAGDALENE
Floating Points – Crush
Florist – Emily Alone
Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
Friendly Fires – Inflorescent
Josh Gondelman – Dancing on a Weeknight
Marina Hackman – Any Human Friend
Hobo Johnson – The Fall of Hobo Johnson
Brittany Howard – Jaime
Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
Julia Jacklin – Crushing
Sarah Jaffe – SMUT
Khalid – Free Spirit
The Lonely Island – The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience
Stephen Malkmus – Groove Denied
Mannequin Pussy – Patience
The National – I Am Easy to Find
Nivhek – After its own death/Walking in a spiral towards the house
Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Oso Oso – basking in the glow
Anderson .Paak – Ventura
Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs
Prince – Originals
PUP – Morbid Stuff
Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold
Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
Natalie Sweet – Oh by the way, it’s…
Toro y Moi – Outer Peace
Joshua Ray Walker – Wish You Were Here
billy woods – Hiding Places
Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
W.H. Lung – Incidental Music
Wilco – Ode to Joy
Thom Yorke – ANIMA
Original Cast Recording – John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch
Various Artists – Original Cast Album: Co-Op
Various Artists – Kankyo Ongauku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990