This year’s music reflected more than ever the world around it. Changing political and social landscapes were reflected by the diversity of popular sounds and artists- and brought more and more small artists into the cultural zeitgeist. The best of 2019 offers commentary on our shared reality and often an escape from it. These are the best albums of 2019.
The self-proclaimed hip-hop boyband collective Brockhampton faced a series of challenges leading up to the release of their 2018 record “Iridescence.” They ejected one of the group’s lead members after allegations of sexual assault surfaced. They left their California home and moved across the county, struggling to keep together and stay focused on the music. “Ginger” describes the aftermath of the group’s tumultuous year, exploring pain, loss, suffering and, eventually, redemption and growth. The raw emotion carried on the record allows each of the group’s 13 members and the rare guest featured to shine.
Maggie Rogers- Heard it in a Past Life
Rising alternative pop singer Maggie Rogers’ debut record, “Heard it in a Past Life,” provides a much-needed escape from reality. Blissful and unapologetic, each track finds Rogers blazing her own trail through a life fraught with fame, love and life at its simplest. “Alaska,” the fourth track on the album, follows Rogers as she trailblazes through the Alaskan wilderness in search of personal freedom. “Heard it in a Past Life” is a joyful, individualistic take on indie pop and electronica, and offers an irresistible listening experience time and time again.
Weyes Blood- Titanic Rising
“Titanic Rising,” singer/songwriter Natalie Merring’s fourth outing as Weyes Blood, is a transcendent musical experience. Floating, orchestral instrumentation forms a full and enveloping sound across each track on the album. Merring’s vision and propensity for atmosphere shines through spectacularly on the album’s title cut resulting in one of the most spectacular listens of the year.
Tyler, the Creator- IGOR
After his 2017 master work “Flower Boy,” Tyler, the Creator branches in a new direction for his 2019 breakup record “IGOR.” The album follows the layers of a relationship, beginning at the earliest stages of romance and travels through the bounds of transgressions and love lost, arriving at a hopeful conclusion for Tyler. The record’s experimental vocal manipulation, unique R&B instrumentals and heartbreaking storyline make “IGOR” one of the best breakup records of the decade, let alone the year.
Richard Dawson- 2020
Industrial-experimentalist Richard Dawson has always told us Britain is in trouble. But now he’s shifted his focus from historical and mythical accounts of England to a modern critical analysis of society on the brink. Dawson’s criticisms now come in the form of disjointed stories from some of society’s fringe members, including a jogger struggling with anxiety, a pub owner whose bar just flooded and a man obsessed with finding a UFO. Dawson’s intensely experimental vocals and instrumentation are fun, accessible to experimental newcomers and explore the dire straits of modern society.