top 10 albums 2019

Big Thief: U.F.O.F. Singing his sorrow so nakedly, with so little reserve, Cave asks the world to bear witness to the love he’s shared and his cavernous, neverending loss. On the title track, she declares, “Shapes live forever,” and they do here: Harding’s songs create jagged, impressionistic outlines that allow listeners to climb inside, yet they are unmistakably her own. Salinger for both inspiration and scorn. It’s a moment of fragility, but one that’s undercut by what has come before it – FKA twigs has proved that she is more than enough, someone who can sing, write, produce and pole-dance, all of it brilliantly. –Jonah Bromwich, Listen/Buy: Rough Trade | Apple Music | Tidal, On Atlanta Millionaires Club, 22-year-old singer-songwriter Faye Webster taps into a wide variety of her Southern hometown’s natural reserves, powering her homebody daydreams with drowsy folk-country, bold R&B, and filigreed soul. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies.

Some of the best—like on “Stay Flo,” “Almeda,” “Sound of Rain”—take elements from various touchpoints, from Stevie Wonder to Pharrell to Sun Ra, but are wholly original. Then there’s Harding’s voice itself, an androgynous instrument that glides from deep-chested husk to nasal yowl, often within the same song.

“This shit is for us,” Solange announced on her previous album, handing her music to the black diaspora. We’re used to confronting a work of crushing sadness after the artist who made it has reached a better place. In these brawny, meandering folk songs, a butcher spouts anti-immigrant bile, an anxious jogger hears of racial violence, and workers in a warehouse flog themselves half to death; at a more intimate level, there are infidelities and loneliness. Pang details a rebirth – the end of a marriage, a new start, a new creative partnership with producer Danny L Harle – and its avant-garde mix of airy synthesis and human tactility glistens with wonder. It’s goofy and utopian, an idealism that blows through Father of the Bride with its Edenic genre inclusivity, jam-band brightness and Ezra Koenig’s odes to love and marriage. An absentee father, a sibling in prison (his brother Christopher is serving a life sentence for his involvement in the killing of Sofyen Belamouadden), a burgeoning, pressurised music career – it all gets mixed into an urban opera that plays out intensely, and internally. Her layers of guitars, synths, saxes, and more make Reward feel lavish but never overstuffed. Years ago, the idea of Tyler making music this intimate and reflective seemed like a stretch, but on IGOR, he gives in to the grown-up uncertainty that eventually comes for us all. BBT Read the full review. A woman’s time to embrace she must put herself first.” Love matters, but survival—as women throughout history have learned—is inevitably a solo endeavor. Expertly sequenced and absent of fluff, the album deploys only a choice few guest appearances designed for maximum impact: a rare Spanish verse from Drake, dirty bass programming by Diplo, and a romantic harmony courtesy of Ricky Martin. On its follow up, she continues to wrap herself in its lore. Their ranting live shows gathered hype like a crowd round a bullhorn, and this debut album delivers – and then some. And with a few simple instrumental parts and muted vocal phrases repeated over and over, Solange conjures immersive trance states that become habitats for meditating, dancing and dreaming. All rights reserved. And of course, when the surface dressings fall away, Ezra Koenig is writing as searchingly as ever about lasting happiness, low-grade fear, and the certainty that if bad times are here, worse times are on the way.

The warped, intricate death metal of the Colorado quartet’s sophomore album takes influence from legendary bands like Death and Morbid Angel, while its all-analog recording and illustrated sci-fi cover art feel further rooted in the past. For all the clever syntheses in MAGDALENE’s production—polyphonic vocals wisping over bass shudders; operatic trills distorted into grisly yelps—twigs is desperately clear in her words.

Lover paints in complex emotional shades and finds an artist known for her strict adherence to her brand trying lots of new things, from the girl-groupy Paper Rings to Mazzy Star-style reveries on the title track. But Shepherd, like the rest of us, has comparatively little control over his input, and the chaos of the past three years—Brexit, Trump—shook something loose inside him. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated 1/1/20) and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement (updated 1/1/20) and Your California Privacy Rights. The album is a wonderful scenario for an artist a decade into their career: a rewarding balance of consistency and growth, with subtle experimentation instead of the common midcareer misstep of transparently grabbing for radio play. It’s a moment representative of this warm, humble, and remarkably graceful album: a celebration of the act of creation that reaches its peak when there’s nothing left to say. These solitary songs about unrequited love are full of intimate moments and gestures: hanging on the dead air between her and the silent recipient of a love letter; sleeping in an ex’s shirt to keep the memories fresh; begging an old flame to come back into town and renew their spark. (All releases featured here are independently selected by our editors. Among all the record’s big themes—the brush with death recounted on the album’s opener, the closing letter to her child—it’s the little details that stick out, like a line of dialogue that gives “Comeback Kid” the feel of a finely turned short story.

But Spawn isn’t a computer simulation made to appear human, like other recent CGI novelties. The slow, meditative sound echoes the album’s themes of acceptance; relative calm after the angry, anguished Skeleton Tree. Fresh hells rear their ugly heads every day, and Helado Negro reminds us that we can care for our communities as we seek to improve a world determined to beat us down. Over the course of the album’s nine songs, she broadens, deepens and intensifies her story and her musical palette, testing and creatively blending the waters of hip-hop, R&B, industrial and avant-garde music. Del Rey’s melodies also find their ideal setting in producer Jack Antonoff’s airy Laurel Canyon psych-folk, where she follows in the lineage of Joni Mitchell and Carole King.

Yet she’s not constricted by either genre or self-definition, instead finding moments to flirt with production styles and sounds that echo her willingness to break from tradition. Until this year, rapper Dave was a singles artist – he managed 11 before his debut album was released – but Black marked a sea change: serious, reflective and grown-up. Miss Universe doesn’t really need the concept-album framework, with its satirical interstitial muzak from the supposedly caring corporation Wway Health. She is silly and silky and occasionally swaggering, not in spite of her tumultuous recent past but because of it.


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