25. “Wasteland, Baby” — Hozier
Hozier just loves making songs that hurt our hearts. Maybe it’s his crooning, powerfully raw voice that swoops through his tracks, or maybe it’s his bittersweetly beautiful lyrics painting vivid pictures, but Hozier’s overall tone of his music trends downward and introspectively. On “Wasteland, Baby,” Hozier shines bright by celebrating music and the power of emotion, but the follow up to his debut “Hozier” seems to fall slightly short.
24. “DIE FOR MY BITCH” — Baby Keem
You may not recognize the name Baby Keem now, but with this new project, the Vegas-based rapper is sure to be a household name in no time. Keem’s distinct voice and fun lyrics stick like glue to both the intense trappy beats and lighter, more SoundCloud rapper tracks on this album. This album is a perfect encapsulation of the state of hip-hop in 2019.
23. “Lover” — Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift closes her 20s with another magnificently written, vulnerable pop album. The first to be released on a major label, “Lover” sees Swift embraces all the aspects of her journey in music so far. You can hear her country roots, the lyrical wit of “Red,” the blockbuster pop of “1989” and even that slick confidence from “Reputation.” It is a great close to one chapter and the dawning of the next.
22. “All Mirrors” — Angel Olson
Though written as stripped-down, guitar-centric songs, Olson’s “All Mirrors” was released as lush tracks backed by 12-piece string arrangements. The album takes a step back to ask questions about identity, not only as an artist but as a person trying to connect with themself again. It is a bold and angry statement piece that takes the time to be playful and introspective.
21. “When I Get Home” — Solange
This experimental album from the younger Knowles sister is a love letter to their hometown, Houston. The songs go beyond traditional structure and grounded themes, instead opting to focus on the ephemeral feeling of “home.” This album’s meaning is truly in the hands — and ears — of the listener to decide.
20. “Dedicated” — Carly Rae Jepsen
“Dedicated” may not be the perfect pop record that “Emotion” was, but it is still one of the strongest of the past decade. The record is heavily influenced by the ’80s, calling specifically on the spirit of Cyndi Lauper. The melodies are infectious and the story-telling feels distinctly more personal.
19. “TURN OFF THE LIGHT” — Kim Petras
Kim Petras released two projects this year. While both were stellar, there’s something about the electronic rave elements and twisted lyrics on her Halloween project “TURN OFF THE LIGHT” that elevate it as a the better of the two.
18. “Bandana” — Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib have garnered a widely known and respected reputation on the hip-hop scene. Gibbs’ intense and badass lyrics flow smoothly over Madlib’s sample-laden classic hip-hop style beats. This album is a feat that old school rap fans will no doubt enjoy but also offers some interesting beats and production for the younger crowd as well.
17. “Singular: Act II” — Sabrina Carpenter
Last year, Sabrina Carpenter release part one of her “Singular” project. It was full of perfectly written pop earworms, and this year’s offering is no different. “Singular: Act II” is a great mash-up of R&B and bubblegum pop sonics with many different iterations. Carpenter shows off her range as a vocalist and an artist, proving to be one of the most impressive young pop stars.
16. “Saves the World” — MUNA
On their new record, MUNA pull from ‘90s alt-rock touchstones to create their offering of pop tunes. The record showcases a keen sense of self-awareness that not many have. The lead songwriter, Katie Gavin, sinks her teeth into heavy topics like addiction, cheating and suicidal tendencies. Yet the record holds a sense of optimism. She has made it through the journey and found the light at the tunnel’s end. In saving yourself, you can save the world.
15. “Social Cues” — Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant returned this year with another rock album. The band did not gain as much public attention for this album as they did with past releases, but each song is still very strong. “Social Cues” takes on a harsher tone than their other albums with gritty lyrics that don’t resemble the lyrical style of past work (which resembled rock songs from the 1970s). This album is an example of a band currently experimenting with a new style as they continue to change from a mid-2000s rock group into a famous 2019 band.
14. “Homecoming: The Live Album” — Beyonce
The Netflix film of her landmark performance at Coachella in 2018 has a soundtrack that allows you to take a Beyonce concert with you wherever you go. The reconceptualization of her most popular songs into big band anthems is stunningly captured with expert mixing and engineering. While the visuals of the performance in the documentary are striking, listening to the soundtrack alone reminds you that under all the outfits, choreography and pyrotechnics, Beyonce is a f–king talented vocalist.
13. “Magdalene” — FKA twigs
In a character study of the biblical Mary Magdalene, FKA twigs explores conservative sexism in a rich and experimental sonic palette. The album raw with emotion of taking on not just the plight of Magdalene but also the backlash twigs herself has faced in the public eye. Each song is a visceral narrative slinking over trap-adjacent beats. It seeks to establish both a modern vision of womanhood and genre-defying music.
12. “III” — Banks
Banks carved out a unique space for herself in the musical landscape with her first two albums. Her dark, brooding and primal sonic palette accompanied by her aching, unconventional lyricism reverberated with many fans. On her third album “III,” Banks expands her vision and incorporates new elements into her music. She also reveals a new sense of empowerment and optimism that she has grown into. This album contains some of the strongest vocal performances and experimental productions of the year.
11. “IGOR” — Tyler, the Creator
Following up his first real mainstream success with “Flower Boy,” Tyler dropped “IGOR” this year. The album features a more scattered and harsh production than its predecessor with a lot more of Tyler singing than on any of his previous work. That being said, its an extremely unique and interesting body of music that has its slower, more tender moments but also its moments of heavy bass and high energy.
10. “All My Heroes are Cornballs” — JPEGMAFIA
JPEGMAFIA can sing! And he’s coming for anyone who doubted him. On his third full-length project, Peggy has opted to ground his music a bit more and it works in his favor. Though this album may not have a sample of a police officer being shot, it does have varied totally unique production, clever lyrics and catchy hooks that make it one of the best hip-hop albums of the year.
9. “Charli” — Charli XCX
Charli XCX doesn’t get the mainstream recognition she deserves. Her 2019 album “Charli” is top to bottom bops, from the catchy hooks to bouncy verses. Charli is making pure, unfiltered pop music in its most modern sense. The album blends some PC production into its more electronic moments and contains features from the likes of Lizzo, HAIM, Kim Petras and many more.
8. “Father of the Bride” — Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend returned this year with their fourth full album after a six-year hiatus. “Father of the Bride” provides a new sound for the band that is more upbeat than past albums but still recognizable with Ezra Koenig’s distinct vocals. This album featured several guest musicians and gained critical acclaim for its unconventional indie-pop sound. “Father of the Bride” pushed Vampire Weekend to new musical limits, redefining the band’s mastery of the indie-rock genre.
7. “Ginger” — Brockhampton
Brockhampton is sad. Not “iridescence” sad, but the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest boy band” is still working through a lot. And it shows on their new project, “Ginger,” that serves as a reflection on the group’s rocky past year and does so over interesting production and with dynamic lyrics and flows. It doesn’t seem like the group is returning to their “Saturation” vibes any time soon, and if this is what we get instead, maybe it’s for the best.
6. “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” — Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish gets a lot of flack, but the music she puts out consistently proves that she doesn’t deserve it. With her debut studio album releasing this year, it’s incredible the amount of talent and creativity that she and her co-writer/producer brother, Finneas, have at such a young age. Her talent shines throughout this album despite its dark tones and production. This album is a milestone in what is sure to be the next wave of pop music and a promising start for a young talent.
5. “thank u, next” — Ariana Grande
It was an album that launched a thousand memes and Instagram captions, but it was also full of vulnerable, reflective and relatable material. Made in the middle of severe heartbreak and grief that was fervently documented by the media, Grande found refuge in the studio and made an optimistic and experimental body of work with her best friends. It debuted with the biggest recorded streaming week for any pop album and took over the top three spots of the Billboard Hot 100 — an accomplishment previously only achieved by The Beatles. Grande and “thank u, next” are sure to shape pop music for years to come.
4. “Heard It In A Past Life” — Maggie Rogers
Look folks, Maggie Rogers is a gem. After her breakthrough single “Alaska” graced virality through Pharell Williams and an NYU Masterclass, Maggie Rogers followed up her EP with her profound debut album “Heard It In A Past Life,” released Jan. Her powerful, heartfelt voice coupled with her personal experiences coursing through each track make this album worth listening to several times. Rogers breaks down the grips of fame; she shows how to be genuine in the age of technology and she is a steward for how to truly love yourself.
3. “Sucker Punch” — Sigrid
If you aren’t listening to Sigrid, you’re making a grave mistake. The Norwegian pop-singer served up a piping hot serving of bops on her debut album “Sucker Punch” this year. Between her interstellar voice and range, cute persona and occasionally emotionally devastating lyrics about losing love, Sigrid will no doubt be blowing up here soon in the way she has across the pond. Do yourself a favor and get in on the ground floor.
2. “Cuz I Love You” — Lizzo
Lizzo’s major label debut album “Cuz I Love You” feels like a complete portrait of her. Though the Minnesota rapper’s biggest songs this year have come from past releases, this album is full of energetic songs that prove she continues to push the envelope. She gives you different emotions; she sings, she raps and she busts out her famous flute. Most importantly, she shows you how joyous it can be to love yourself and invites you to do the same.
1. “Assume Form” — James Blake
“Assume Form” may be James Blake’s most accessible album, but he did not sacrifice any of his distinct voice, style or quality to make it so. If anything, this project may be Blake’s best to date. Yet again, Blake strikes gold with his soft vocals and heartfelt, happy lyrics harmonizing over spacy, graceful production. The album also contains a litany of features from the likes of Andre 3000, Travis Scott, Moses Sumney and Rosalia, all of whom fit perfectly into Blake’s style. It’s a masterpiece of genre-blending beauty.