Ok, we have our own preferences but what have the UK music journalists, bloggers and other made their albums of the year in 2019?
Here’s a summary of the the top 20 in various publications.
The Guardian – top 20 albums 2019
2 Dave – Psychodrama
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. And from album opener Psycho onwards, where he’s positioned as a patient telling all to a therapist, we meet a rapper as agitated as he is angry. 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. Lanre Bakare Read the full review.
3 Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
The singles that heralded its arrival were spectacular – the crawling menace of You Should See Me in a Crown; Bury a Friend’s warped, unsettling glam stomp; Bad Guy’s cocktail of sharp lyrics and 60s spy thriller theme pastiche – but they aren’t significantly better than the rest of the album. It’s adventurous, beautifully crafted, devoid of filler, packed not just with hooks but finely wrought sonic details. Alexis Petridis Read the full review.
4 Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
Though it used sounds and textures familiar from the 80s, Remind Me Tomorrow didn’t sound like an 80s record. Michael Hann Read the full review.
5 Tyler, the Creator – Igor
Performing concerts in support of the album while dressed in a Warhol wig, shades and dazzling neon suits, Tyler cavorted all over the stage celebrating an even greater breadth to his music. Ammar Kalia Read the full review.
6 Angel Olsen – All MirrorsA breakup record that muses on the nature of relationships without romanticising them, All Mirrors sees Olsen drill down into the damaging power-play of past loves, interrogating how they have made her feel less-than, as well as the self-knowledge and peace their endings have occasioned. Rachel Aroesti Read the full review.
7 FKA twigs – Magdalene
“They’re waiting and hoping I’m not enough,” she sings on Cellophane in the album’s final moments, contemplating the fallout from the end of her relationship. 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. Some breakup albums wallow, but this one carries itself with the strength and tenacity of its namesake. Ben Beaumont-Thomas Read the full review.
8 Nick Cave – Ghosteen
There are spectral strings and synths, bells, electronics, a smattering of piano notes. The slow, meditative sound echoes the album’s themes of acceptance; relative calm after the angry, anguished Skeleton Tree. There are moments when Cave appears to be slowly coming to terms with what has happened: “Sometimes a little bit of faith can go a long, long way,” he sings. Kathryn Bromwich Read the full review.
9 Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
Slowthai wryly evokes the forgotten parts of the country through snapshots of working-class life: tea and biscuits, hiding drugs, fallouts with a stepfather, EastEnders’ Phil Mitchell. By playing the jester, he became the voice of a British generation at the turn of a turbulent decade. Hannah Ewens Read the full review.
10 Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
As slow and stately as a tanker turning, and as waterlogged as its title implies, Titanic Rising was a curio in 2019. Unburdened by modish musical trends – no guests, no genre crossovers – it was a feat of immersive beauty, the kind of record you might put on an old-fashioned stereo, dim the lights and sit through in one indulgent sitting, the better to appreciate its three-dimensional production washing over your skin like a gong bath. Kitty Empire Read the full review.
11 Caroline Polachek – Pang
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. Polachek explores and is often overcome by this new reality, reflecting her sense of discovery in choruses that loop like Escher staircases (Door) and vocal runs so startling (Ocean of Tears) they seem to suggest the invention of entirely new emotions. LS Read the full review.
12 Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
Too many artists stick unnecessary interludes between album tracks this year; Kiwanuka is a rare exception, a properly immersive album that offers space for reflection between Michael Kiwanuka’s close considerations of where hope might live among love, immigration and civil rights. LS Read the full review.
13 Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
The artwork for Vampire Weekend’s fourth album is pure Windows 97 ClipArt, earnest United Colors of Benetton graphics, CD-era prosperity in its prominent positioning of Sony’s label. 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. LS Read the full review.
14 Little Simz – Grey Area
The best work yet from the London rapper – she was already one of the most technically accomplished MCs in the country, but broadens and popularises her craft here with affecting song forms. On Boss, she goes in as hard as an aggrieved Wu-Tang member over a raw bluesy beat; on the very next song, Selfish, these spikes are melted into smooth R&B. With every twist, Simz is already on top of the beat. Ben Beaumont-Thomas Read the full review.
15 Richard Dawson – 2020
2019’s not been great – in fact, things haven’t been great for a while – and Richard Dawson’s album suggests it’s not going to get any better in 2020. 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. Nevertheless, human decency still feels close at hand – not least from the man singing. BBT Read the full review.
16 Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next
Pop in 2019 has been all about spontaneity, whether that’s the off-the-cuff language that’s crept into the biggest pop hits or the intensifying feedback loop between pop and TikTok. But nobody perfected the approach like Ariana Grande, whose second album in six months (following 2018’s Sweetener) vibrates with immediacy. After Manchester, the death of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and a called-off engagement with Pete Davidson, Grande gracefully considers how life could have been and how it turned out, tangling sweet melodies with embattled production. LS Read the full review.
17 Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy
The title, the new age font, the tie-dye colours of the album artwork – they all indicate that Hot Chip are getting in on the very 2019 taste for rave culture. While Hungry Child puts an offbeat spin on the sounds you might have heard pulsing from a motorway underpass 30 years ago, the vibe on A Bath Full of Ecstasy is less about revisiting the hedonism of some lost youth than its tender idealism, creating a bright, tender, often ballady idyll in a wretched age. LS Read the full review.
18 Cate Le Bon – Reward
Cate Le Bon wrote Reward during a year spent living in the Lake District and learning how to make furniture. Without resembling anything so cliched as a “getting it together in the country” record, her fifth solo album runs on that solitary, spartan existence: sad and lovely piano-led songwriting unfolds in its own unruffled time, but then a post-punk scribble like Mother’s Mother’s Magazines upsets Le Bon’s calm, like a momentary wigout at her dislocation from society. LS Read the full review.
19 Solange – When I Get Home
“This shit is for us,” Solange announced on her previous album, handing her music to the black diaspora. On its follow up, she continues to wrap herself in its lore. Seemingly stumbling with Gucci Mane through a haze of chronic on My Skin My Logo, glorying in laidback “CP time” on Binz, the beautiful little nest of references that is “black molasses, blackberry the masses”, this is an understated and poetic celebration of a culture. Her love for it is infectious. BBT Read the full review.
20 Clairo – Immunity
After Clairo’s lo-fi, bedroom-pop hit Pretty Girl went viral, there was the risk that her ascent to pop proper would obliterate the intimacy that made her appeal in the first place. LS Read the full review.
NME top 10 albums 2019
Click here for NME’s The 50 best albums of 2019.
1 Billie Eilish, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ (Darkroom)
2 Tyler, The Creator, ‘Igor’ (A Boy Is A Gun)
3 Lana Del Rey, ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ (Polydor)
4 Slowthai, ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ (Method Records)
5 Little Simz, ‘Grey Area’ (Age 101 Music)
6 FKA Twigs, ‘MAGDALENE’ (Young Turks)
7 Fontaines DC, ‘Dogrel’ (Partisan)
8 Michael Kiwanuka, ‘KIWANUKA’ (Polydor)
9 Weyes Blood, ‘Titanic Rising’ (Sub Pop)
10 Clairo, ‘Immunity’ (Fader Label)
Pitchfork website top 15 albums 2019
Here are Pitchfork’s top 10 albums of 2019.
1. Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell!
2. FKA twigs: MAGDALENE
3. Big Thief: U.F.O.F.
4. Angel Olsen: All Mirrors
5. Solange: When I Get Home
6. Bad Bunny: X 100PRE
7. Helado Negro: This Is How You Smile
8. Fennesz: Agora
9. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
10. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
11. Jamila Woods: LEGACY! LEGACY!
12. Brittany Howard: Jaime
13. Big Thief: Two Hands
14. Beyoncé: Homecoming: The Live Album
15. Bill Callahan: Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
Louder than war – best albums of 2019
1. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (Bad Seed Ltd)
Ghosteen draws you into its own world. The vocals are rich and gorgeous. He has never sung better and the vocals are intimate and emotional. You can hear the cracks in his voice and glimpse into his charred soul and feel the moments of beauty or religious sensitivity in its mournful creaks. (John Robb – full review)
2. John – Out Here On The Fringes (Pets Care records)
For those who don’t know, John are a two-piece blast of punk from Crystal Palace. They’re both called John. By day, one is a chef, the other is a decorator. By night they make a huge incendiary racket and this release is powerful as fuck. They make Royal Blood and Slaves sound like fuckin’ Abba. said Wayne Carey Full LTW review
3. Girl Band – The Talkies (Rough Trade)
The Talkies is a concrete slab of horror and humour. It is an album that is grimy and majestic. Beautiful in its ugliness. It seems haunted by demons yet also also a sense gallows humour. Listening to The Talkies is a life-affirming experience as it not only allows you to get that vital sense of someone understanding the noise within your own head it also tells you that it is ok to feel this way as long as you channel it properly and use it for positive ends. (Simon Tucker – Full LTW review)
4. Fontaines DC – Dogrel (Partisan Recordings)
They don’t declaim angrily, pushing buttons to ignite fury; they don’t mouth platitudes to earn fist-pumping salutes from the easily pleased: these songs, rooted in the romance of the Irish experience – misery and melancholia, resilience and resistance – create an impressionist portrait of their hometown. Fontaines could not come from anywhere except Dublin, even without the accent. They’re the musical equivalent of a perfect pint of Guinness, their songs drawn, like all great art, from the world around them, enhanced by the imagination of the people creating them. Authenticity is the key. (Tim Cooper – full LTW review)
5. Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something – Oh Really, What’s that Then? ( Trapped Animal)
Maybe the (comparison) is only superficial; androgyny, alienation and the intro to Hard Times… Freeman has the potential to be a Bowie like figure for the future, as they evolve and make records even better than this, and given access to a bigger budget, they will. For now, this is an album which anyone who values mere pop music as a life-affirming art-form and a salve for the soul needs to hear. Between thought and expression lies a lifetime. (Ged Babey) Interview and LTW Review
6. Sunn O))) – Life Metal (Southern Lord)
Life Metal is gorgeous. It is playful and destructive. Light of touch but heavy with intent. Life Metal is the sound of a refreshed band opening up new avenues for themselves and for their sound. Life Metal sings to the gods whilst getting cosy with demons. Life Metal is threatening yet inclusive and is a pitch perfect display of how a band can walk a tightrope of duality within their art. (Simon Tucker – Full LTW review )
7. Membranes – What Nature Gives… Nature takes Away
“This is the pinnacle of our long and strange journey. This album is steeped in the powerful forces of nature and an underlying emotional undertow that is dark and brooding bass driven postpunk with the epic swirl of the choir and a diversity of sounds that takes you on a trip. I put my life into this album musically, lyrically and emotionally,” says John Robb (taken from here) A great review in the Quietus here.
8: Girls In Synthesis – Pre/Post
“This isn’t rock’n’roll, it’s a matter of life and death. This isn’t music, it’s a constructive alternative to suicide. This isn’t entertainment it’s exorcism. Of course it’s fucking political.” review
9: The Specials – Encore
“…embrace the effort these guys have made to make a brilliant album that keeps them grounded yet retaining what they aimed to do in the first place. Give us a message through music…” review
10: Slowthai : Nothing Great About Britain
“A unique take on modern hip hop and grime that takes it to the next level.” Wayne Carrey’s review
11. The National : I Am Easy To Find
Shit, We don’t appear to have reviewed this album….
12. Miss June: Bad Luck Party
“Whatever they are putting in the water in the Southern Hemisphere is working. Yet another Antipodean band comes up with the goods as New Zealand punks Miss June unleash their defiant debut album, Bad Luck Party, on the unsuspecting masses.” (LTW Review)
13: Blue Orchids: The Magical Record Of Blue Orchids (Tiny Global)
“As the world crumbles around us in 2019 it’s a welcome journey into inner space, a retreat into the self, the centre of your mind… via the Third Eye….” review
14: Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow
“proof that good things really do happen to those who wait” LTW review
15: Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) Conducted By Krzysztof Penderecki
“Beth Gibbons delivers the performance of her career to date.” Simon Tucker’s review
See also these websites for albums of the year 2019