Coming up with words for an album like “MAGDALENE” is weird. What are the words to describe an experience so heartbreaking yet so healing, so beautiful yet so uncompromising, so perfect? It’s a record that everyone wanted yet nobody expected the way it turned out. What twigs has kept us waiting for has given us enough time to throw her to the back of our minds, even if just for a moment, and when she came back with “cellophane,” there was an excitement in the music community similar to that of when she first broke out onto the scene. During her time away, she was suffering from six fibroid tumors that had grown in her uterus, which came with agonizing swelling and pain. It was a period of her life plagued by heartbreak and massive attention for her shattering, high-profile engagement. As any good artist would, Tahliah Debrett Barnett didn’t spend this time drowned in sadness—she put it all into her second masterpiece. The result is “MAGDALENE,” the sound of a woman going to the deepest depths of her psyche, her lowest possible emotions, and coming out a different, better person because of it. Each song feels like another step in this journey, another perfect display of raw emotion. And that’s essentially what “MAGDALENE” is: one gut punch followed by another. It’s a reconstruction of an artist and person ripped apart by the world, left to rebuild herself. And that’s exactly what Barnett did, evolving from the dramatically made-up woman on the cover of “LP1” to this massive, orange monster. In her own words, “Mary Magdalene would never let her loved ones down,” and if FKA Twigs is truly channeling Magdalene on this record, she certainly did not let us down.
On “Titanic Rising,” Natalie Mering tackles the world at large with some of the most stunning songs of the past decade. There is something so magical about these 10 tracks, from the vocal harmonies to the instrumentation to the production to the melodies to the lyrics to the effortlessly angelic vocals Mering lays on top. It’s one of those rare records that comes around every once in a while and is truly and honestly so good that at times it’s hard to listen to. I don’t always want to be surrounded with such strong emotion, I don’t always want to be covered in such a warm bed of sound, I don’t always want to be driven to tears from Mering’s songwriting, but there are times where the only thing that can capture the way I’m feeling is simply a song on this record. There is a beauty to “Titanic Rising” that will stick with me for a very, very long time.
Charli XCX could have become your average pop star. She could’ve made a million other “Boom Clap”s and “I Love It”s and “Fancy”s, but her 2016 “Vroom Vroom” EP showed that she had her sights set on another path. It’s been a dramatic yet prolific three years since that EP marked the turn in her career, and the record it has brought us is nothing short of impeccable. As the opening track boldly states, this is “next-level Charli,” the artist she’s been hinting at all decade; it’s the character portrait that will likely continue to define not only her music but pop music’s potential at large. She shows every side of herself through a dynamic set of tracks that weaves through every level of volume there is. She’s a queen with flaws, a romantic who likes to party, a vulnerable badass. “Charli” declares Charli XCX a pop goddess, not just on the level of legends, but a legend herself.
Now that we have “Caligula,” it almost feels like Kristin Hayter, aka Lingua Ignota, has proven herself as a musical genius. While “All Bitches Die” was a feat through its impressive fusions of modern neoclassical darkwave and industrial, “Caligula” is a bigger, more damning monster, an album so dark in its presentation and subject matter that even its lightest moments carry a sense of dread, of impending doom upon the listener and the subject. It truly succeeds in taking you into its dark universe and rarely offers any escape. Records like this and artists like this are rare occurrences, and when they come about, you have to give them credit, no matter how terrifying it may be, no matter how daunting of a listen. It’s not exactly a pleasant listen, but not all great music is meant to be.
Caroline Polachek created a masterpiece with “Pang.” Split into two parts, it’s an immaculate pop record that details the “descent through apathy, longing and fear,” and subsequently the “re-ascent towards revelation, humor and trust.” It not only showcases some of the strongest pop songwriting and production of 2019, but it seems to exist in its own world. As Polachek is climbing a ladder on the cover art, we don’t know where she’s going, how far she’s gone or how much left she has to go, and maybe she doesn’t either—but at least she’s climbing. She’s too far along to turn back, and she’s determined to get to where she’s going. She is in the uncertain ascent from longing to euphoria, and within it lies the beauty of “Pang.”
Easily clipping.’s darkest release, “There Existed an Addiction to Blood” is both sonically and conceptually a nightmare. With its combination of consistently disturbing story-telling, dynamic noise and recurring John Carpenter-esque spooky melodies, it’s a new form of horrorcore presented in the best possible way. What clipping. does so well on this record is they create situations for the listener in such a vivid way that it’s almost hard to not put yourself inside of them, making for many truly frightening moments. While it’s easy to go on forever about the album, it is way too well crafted, well thought out, well performed and well produced for a review to do it any justice at all. It’s an absolutely genius record and is possibly the best goddamn Halloween album ever.
If there’s one person who knows what it’s like to follow up a monumental musical achievement, my God it is Carly Rae Jepsen. First, she had to follow up “Call Me Maybe,” and she did so with what is known as one of the best pop records of this century: the immaculate “Emotion.” With “Dedicated,” she had to do the same thing. Thankfully, she did it fantastically, offering fans a new side of the beloved pop icon on some of her best songs to date in the process. If “Emotion” didn’t convince you enough, “Dedicated” cements her place in the pop history books.
8. Tropical Fuck Storm – BraindropsThis one really took me by surprise, but there is just absolutely no denying how fantastically put together this album is. There really isn’t a single thing about this record that isn’t done fantastically well, and it’s far beyond the impeccable musicianship the band displays as this record is home to some of the most interesting lyrics on any record of 2019, any genre. It’s proof that the idea of rock being stale or simply being dead in today’s generation is the biggest illusion there is.
Combining organic folk rock instrumentation and experimental elements, on “U.F.O.F,” Adrianne Lenker’s gorgeous songs are displayed with a surreal sound pallet. It’s the soundtrack to a tranquil morning covered in dew and masked by fog. It’s a beautiful, mystical, euphoric project that is every bit as comforting as it is creative.
There is hardly a more eclectic voice in folk music than Richard Dawson. While drawing melodic inspiration from a much, much older time, lyrically, “2020” is one of the most cutting explorations into modern struggles of the year, drawing tears, smiles, laughs and frowns in the process.
Not much can be said about “IGOR” that hasn’t been said already. It’s a cutting breakup record that shifts all mirrors into your direction, showing the ugliest sides of the artist’s psyche during his tumultuous, dynamic and emotionally gripping grief.
PUP’s “Morbid Stuff” lives up to the title with its gripping subject matter, yet simultaneously is one of the most fun rock records of the year. With its strong performances and unforgettable songwriting, PUP’s morbid stuff makes “Morbid Stuff” a celebration of pop punk at its finest.
On “Anger Management,” frequent collaborators Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats bring out the best in each other on the hardest hip hop p project of the year. The two pack more punch into the 18-minute tracklist than most rappers and producers can pack into an hour.
Can you really expect anything less from Alex Cameron than a fantastic set of tracks? No, and “Miami Memory” is a fantastically welcome addition to his discography, ripe with smart, apt commentary and sticky, beautiful melodies and hooks. Just more proof that Cameron is one of the best songwriters out there right now, period.
How Lana turned around and make “Norman F*****g Rockwell!” is a mystery to most of us, but I’m just glad it happened because it’s not only Lana’s best record no question, but one of the most beautiful records of the year. It’s some goddamn introspective 77 minutes.
On their debut, Dorian Electra is far more developed than they logically should be, yet every second of “Flamboyant” is more flamboyant than anything I’ve heard in at least the past five years. It’s a pop-twisting, gender-bending, glittery project that is about as fun to listen to as the cover makes it look.
“GREY Area” is an amazing display of not only Little Simz’s talents, but the often underrepresented world of UK hip-hop and how rewarding it can be. Simply some of the best rap you’ll hear coming out of 2019.
Do I even have to explain this placement? Talent? Check. Songwriting? Check. Empowerment? Double check. “Cuz I Love You” is the breakout record of all breakout records in 2019. It’s a loud and proud statement from an artist overlooked for far too long and a reminder of why everyone suddenly turned their heads in her direction.
Don’t let the overhate and overhype fool you, Billie Eilish deserves every bit of recognition for “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP…” that she has received. She and her brother truly did create a unique sound, unique for both the radio and the underground. Creatively produced, artfully written, what’s not to love?
I feel like all I need to say to sell this is that it was made using only materials made from plastic. If that doesn’t pique your curiosity enough, it’s done geniously. Aside from the gimmick, the sounds on here are so intriguing that the 40 minutes seems to just breeze right by.
From its frantic spoken word that makes it sound like a tortured audiobook to its bombastic expressions of free-jazz, Matana Roberts’ latest addition to her ambitious “COIN COIN” project is one of the most harrowingly genius experiences you will have with a 2019 record.
Australian provocateur Kirin J Callinan (fresh off the “Big Enough” meme) bought every instrument on this record at guitar center and returned it all two weeks later. But even more importantly, this covers record is a wonderfully arranged portrait of the personality Callinan has been ever since his debut. Great little collection.
Sigrid’s debut isn’t the most cutting edge or original in its sound palette. What it is is a tight collection of catchy, well-written pop songs set to beautiful production and fantastic performances. It’s a tried and true statement on just how fun and rewarding mainstream pop can be when done so tastefully.
The Comet Is Coming is not only making great experimental jazz, but they’re doing their work to bring jazz into the next decade in a way that promises growth for the genre. This is one of many reasons to follow the current UK jazz scene.
Easily one of the most effective experiences with mental health in music I have heard in a long time. For anyone who wants something dark, depressive and uncompromisingly heavy in its subject matter, give this experimental record a shot…but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also it should come with a trigger warning (no joke).
Slowthai’s debut really put him on the map this year as being one of the UK’s most promising rappers, as “Nothing Great About Britain” is a refreshingly tight, smart and downtrodden selection of rap songs that, aside from giving a grim view of life (especially for someone outside of the UK), gives me a lot to look forward to for an artist so early in his career.
Xiu Xiu is nearly 20 years in, and Jamie Stewart is still pumping out some of the band’s most innovative material.“Girl with Basket of Fruit” is certainly no exception. The noisiest, most bombastic, most inaccessible, most unorthodox record in their catalogue no contest. If you decide to listen to it, just know that it’s not for the faint of heart.
On the best black metal record of 2019, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s progressive arrangements make a stunning return, proof that black metal can continue to be exciting and forward thinking as we move into the 2020s (this was also the soundtrack to my angry walk back from Starbucks after not being able to sign up for half of my second semester classes, so there’s that).
Songwriter David Berman’s final project is a sad, beautiful and witty collection of folk. As great as it was upon release, the context of Berman’s suicide makes listening to it much more devastating. R.I.P David Berman.
Ariana Grande deals with her mental state on a sad, yet ultimately catchy and tasteful pop record. From reflective ballads like “ghostin” and “needy” to idyllic torch songs like “imagine,” to braggadocious bangers like “7 Rings,” every song contributes in some way to its expression of troubled mental health.
On Detroit rapper Quelle Chris’ latest release, his signature low-key, quirky delivery is paired with his most politically charged material to date. It’s arguably his best project yet.
The second Big Thief record of 2019 is almost as good as the first one, only a different, more raw sound pallet for Adrianne Lenker.
Back just one year after 2018’s “TA13OO,” “ZUU” is easily Denzel Curry’s most fun, catchy and hard-hitting project yet.
Sharon Van Etten returns from a five-year hiatus with her most colorful project to date, backing her always quality songwriting with more instrumentation than ever.
On the biggest bruh moment of 2019, electronic music producer Kai Whiston dropped an experimental rock opus.
Another reason to pay attention to the UK jazz scene, the all-female ensemble on trumpet player and composer Yazz Ahmed’s “Polyhymnia” created an adventurous hour of psychedelic jazz with spiritual and Arabic influences.
Indie superstar Angel Olsen’s “All Mirrors” is the most sonically dense project in her ever-consistent discography.
Our emerging St. Louis pop star’s debut is everything the internet and her cult fanbase wanted it to be. Pure, sugar-coated, unapologetic pop.
It took one single in 2013 to define Hannah Diamond’s sound. It took a decade of rare, scattered singles to build up to this release. It’s worth just about all of the wait.
Leave it to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard to make an environmentalist thrash metal record about the destruction of our planet and the rich moving to mars. And leave it to King Gizzard to make it awesome.
Black midi’s debut is one of the most unique rock records in the past decade, from one of the most exciting rock bands to emerge over the past few years.
“Patience” is 25 minutes of passionate power pop, incredibly performed with a vocalist that pulls no punches. For as dramatic as her vocals are, the lyrics are way too genuine to call over the top.
The most delightfully headache-inducing record of 2019, Brian Chippendale and Brian Gibson continue to be the best drummer/bassist noise-rock duo out there. Not that there was much competition, but still.
Tim Hecker’s already proved himself to be a master of ambient music. “Anoyo” is just another example of his genius.
Stella Donnelly’s “Beware of the Dogs” is a cute, smart, unfiltered reflection on what it means to be a woman in the modern age.
Exterior Wrought Iron Railings
This debut from the country supergroup of Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires is all you can ask for from a country record.
Mechanical Parts, Automated Assembly, Mould Parts - DSH,https://www.dshprecision.com/