Top 9 of 2019: Which was the best album?

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2019 was a particularly big year for me musically. This was for no other reason than nearly all of my favorite artists came out with incredible albums. From  hip-hip to indie to pop to alternative, my expectations were blown away by the quality of the albums that reached the shelves this year. So, with 2019 ending so soon, I took a look back at this musically involved year and wondered, “which are the best albums of 2019?” I promptly put in the work to answer that question. I analyzed nearly every record I could get my hands on, read the lyrics in depth and searched for documentaries and interviews to get inside looks on the purpose and production of each album. This allowed me to hand-pick the nine albums that I think stood out among the rest, qualifying them as the best records of the year.

9. Clairo—immunity: Listeners get a close look inside the life of writer Claire Cottrill in her latest album, “immunity.” In this extremely personal album, Clairo is vulnerable as she opens up about her struggle with growing up and finding her identity. Each track has a specific idea, but the overarching themes of loneliness, confusion, and self-acceptance are broad enough for just about anyone to relate to her messages. Adding to her great lyrics, Clairo has a specific type of delivery. Her talking-singing style is unique from most artists, and this really made her stand out.

*favorite track: “Softly”

8. Mac Demarco—here comes the cowboy: In “here comes the cowboy,” Mac Demarco takes his own spin on an indie/rock album. The consistent, gentle percussion throughout the record, while slightly repetitive,  makes the album feel incredibly organic. It’s almost like you’re listening to him right there, in the middle of a grass field. His simplistic style, including the bare minimum of musical instruments, sets a mellow tone throughout the album, producing a record of calm, feel-good songs.

*favorite track: “K”

7. Hozier—Wasteland, baby!: I would define this one as the mid-life crisis of albums, and I mean that in the best way possible. Hozier writes about love, death, hope, despair, creation and destruction cohesively, all in one beautiful, 14-track album. Themes of doom, intimacy, love and societal change are riddled throughout “Wasteland, Baby!,” touching listeners with Hozier’s dance-in-the-eye-of-a-hurricane mentality. If I took one thing away from this album, it’s that tomorrow may bring catastrophe, but we’re alive and here today, so you might as well seize the day while we have it.

*favorite track: “To noise making (sing)”

6. Alexander 23—I’m sorry I love you: This record definitely hits home for me and most likely many teenagers listening. This relatable outpouring of emotions expresses feelings of self-doubt, painful relationships and the elated feeling of young love. Containing soothing vocals and uplifting melodies, every track is short and sweet, making you want to play each song twice. In an interview with Billboard, Alexander 23 claims that his focus was on being “painfully specific,” and he definitely achieved this in “I’m sorry I love you,” making the album even more identifiable for his audience.

*favorite track: “Dirty AF1s”

5. Billie Eilish—when we all fall asleep, where do we go?: At first listen, one may not pick up on how well thought-out this album is. You can see this in her song “xanny,” where Eilish effectively creates an extremely heavy base intended to articulate the thickness of cigarette smoke, setting a mood for the song that nearly makes you feel like you’re in the room. Additionally, the first track,“!!!!!!!” is a noticeably light-hearted start, featuring Eilish laughing and joking, then immediately cuts into dark, more bass-filled melodies. This contrast from the first track makes the rest of the album much more impactful. Also impressive is her ability to create an album containing no storyline or plot yet maintaining a consistent tone and theme throughout, which many pop albums lack.

*favorite track: “xanny”

4. Rex Orange County—pony: “Pony” stood out to me for its genuiness; I found the lack of sugar coating refreshing. Alexander O’Connor, referred to as Rex Orange County in the music industry, writes about being young and in love, growing older but still not being old enough, as well as a long journey with his mental health. The youthful tracks include bubbly synths, electric piano, bells, strings and bird chirps. And despite these fun and lively beats, O’Connor doesn’t hesitate to cut deep into his battles with his mental health. This theme of facing the fact that you’re not OK, and being satisfied with that, is a unique idea that was impressively well-executed.

*favorite track: “face to face”

3. Flume—hi this is flume: This album is such a roller coaster from start to end. It’s one of those albums that’s better to just listen through, with its constant hairpin turns and whiplash stop-starts. It contains frequent jump cuts from dismantled clubby beats to goosebump-inducing, drops-in-thick beats, all the while generally keeping Flume’s consistent emotive melodies in the foreground. “Hi this is flume” truly contains something for everyone, and its fragment-like style is something I’ve never heard in any other album.

*favorite track: “Jewel”

2. Tyler the Creator—IGOR: The narrative style of “IGOR” is really what made it one of my favorites. Tyler pours his heart out in this 12-track album, telling a three-part story: falling for someone, being consumed by a lack of closure, and finally, moving on. His overture, “IGOR’S THEME,” contains beats and lyrics present in other tracks on the album, which makes this track resemble painting, Tyler showing the palette of everything that will be going on throughout the album.  The cohesive nature of this record is what makes it stand out to me because it almost feels much more like a 12-part journey than a series of songs.

*favorite track: “I THINK”

1. Dreamville, J Cole, Bas—Revenge of the Dreamers III: This record made No. 1 on my list for so many reasons. For starters, this collaboration album of 34 artists was recorded in merely 10 days, which is impressive in itself. I almost didn’t believe it once I listened to it and got a grasp on how amazingly crafted it was. Each track in this album contains a different sound and different storyline yet flows effortlessly from song to song. From ‘90s rap to modern trap, catchy verses and stick-with-you lyrics are consistent throughout the album. If you haven’t listened to “Revenge of the Dreamers III” yet, you are truly missing out on the album of the year.

*favorite track: tie between “Self Love” and “Under the Sun”

 

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