We’re officially in year-end list season! Today I’m sharing with you my top 10 albums of 2019, exciting stuff. This was such a hard list to put together, there has been so many strong releases this year so before I jump straight into the main list here’s a selection of honourable mentions.
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?- BILLIE EILISH
An album that took a little while to grow on me here, one of pops youngest and most boundary-breaking artists Billie Eilish is kicking off the list landing the number 10 spot.
‘Where We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?’ truly secures Billie as an artist that’s going nowhere anytime soon and certainly shows she’s not an industry puppet as is evident by a quick look at the personnel on the album which is, for the most part, her and her brother Finneas on both writing and producing duties. While I don’t feel myself connecting to this record in every sense, the edgy kinda vibe Billie is trying to deliver on this album feels a little forced in spots for me but that’s balanced out by some phenomenal moments.
She is undeniably a fresh energy on the scene and we hear her taking a bit of a risky approach on ‘Xanny’ obviously the topic of drug use is usually left well away from 17-year-olds pop albums but on here we hear a lot of heart, hurt and sincerity bleeding through as she expresses her refusal to take popular drug Xanax. Acting as a contract to the drug culture encouraged by the current wave of rappers where Xanax is widely used and condoned. She doesn’t want any more of her friends to die and there is hope that she can inspire change, her platform is massive so while a slightly taboo topic it definitely has her down as a positive role model. Aside from the lyrism the ASMR moments on this are spectacular, if you’ve never listened to this track with headphones, grab some and do it.
Billie possesses one of the most distinctive and mature voices in pop, her level of effortless control shines through on moments where she harmonises with herself for example ‘When The Party’s Over’ pulling together a tight dreamy texture.
Her dark and in the best way slightly miserable visual aesthetic and style carries perfectly into the music, ‘Bury A Friend’ is a personal highlight featuring hollow male backing vocals to pull in an eerie dynamic. We also get that on ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’ striking open with a knife-edge, another moment that’ll have shiverers running down your spine with earphones in.
A soft mashup of all the albums tracks ties the record up on ‘Goodbye’. Such an interestingly stunning and innovative conclusion that works perfectly and truly encapsulates the beauty of the record in every sense.
It’s a mellow release that moves perfectly at its own pace, she sounds in total control, there are darker moments alongside playful tracks like ‘Bad Guy’ and The Office sampling ‘My Strange Addiction’. So much respect for such a young artist absolutely killing it and breaking the mould.
FAVOURITE SONGS- XANNY, YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN
THE BOOK OF TRAPS AND LESSONS- KATE TEMPEST
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’m a massive Kate Tempest fan, I’ve got a tattoo dedicated to her album ‘Let The Eat Chaos’ so obviously I was buzzing to hear she’d be releasing a new record.
‘The Books Of Traps And Lessons’ is a wider and in spots more personal expansion on topics covered on ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ which if you didn’t know was a concept album following the lives of people living on a street and what they’re doing at 4:18am one morning.
‘Thirsty’ unlocks the record with it’s woozy atmospheric instrumental before transitioning into a slightly more sinister eerie sound shifting into ‘Keep moving’. Social commentary is what Kate does best ‘7.4 billion humans, 7.5 billion humans, 7.6 billion humans’ instils a rather overwhelming sense of the scale of the human race and our own insignificance. ‘Brown Eyed Man’ explores the personal and individual effects of racism and deportation in today’s civilization, the wider hierarchy of modern society is addressed in one of the most poignant lines ‘Our leaders aren’t even pretending not to be demons’
‘The Book Of Traps And Lessons’ sits beautifully simplistic Instrumentally and even eradicated on ‘All Humans Too Late’ where free reign is left to Kate and her vocals reciting her commentary on the toxicity of social media, technology and the disconnect of human interaction and its results in relationship breakdowns. Expressed best ‘Our partners don’t know us, our families out strangers,ourt friends make us nervous’
As I mentioned earlier this album does feature some more personal cuts than ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’.‘Firesmoke’ explores the simplicity of love over a beautifully minimalistic yet hugely atmospheric and warm soundscape, this along with ‘I Trap You’ with it’s giddy instrumental possesses this ability to transport and fully immerse you into her thoughts which makes for an extremely personal vibe. ‘Hold Your Own’ also pulls through the warm lyricism touching on commitment and taking your guard down to cherish relationships and ultimately stop trying to be something you’re not with the intention of impressing others
Wrapping up the album with ‘Peoples Faces’ which delicately unravels that despite the misery of the mundane, the issues of every day life and the exhaustion of work that ‘There is so much peace to be found in peoples faces’ and how we have the ability to encourage and enrich each other while appreciating human connection and interaction instead of materialistic goals.
The albums closes on the line ‘ I Love Peoples Faces’ leaving on a positive note in spite of the heavy topics touched on throughout. Same energy as ‘Let The Eat Chaos’ ending with ‘Wake Up And Love More’ which is the lyric I have tattooed. Even though the worlds fucked up we all have the ability to make it a little less fucked for each other through love and compassion.
FAVOURITE SONGS- PEOPLES FACES, FIRESMOKE
SCHLAGENHEIM -BLACK MIDI
This may be the shortest review/explanation of this list purely down to the fact that I don’t feel I have the vocabulary to talk about this style of experimental/math rock genre as I’m extremely new to it, so apologies for my shitty deconstruction of this record.
I first became familiar with London formed outfit Black Midi when I saw them perform their track ‘bmbmbm’ at the mercury prize ceremony, I was so captivated, I didn’t know exactly what it was but I knew I liked it, a lot!
Schlagenheim is a chaotic noise drenched distortion-heavy record that’ll have you both unnerved and disorientated. Kicking off with ‘953’ a track that opens on a heavy note before luring you into an acoustic passage where we’re introduced to vocalist Geordie Greep’s strikingly unique delivery style for the first time.
We get this contrasting structure on other cuts such as ‘Near DT, MI’ a track that highlights the records odd in spots lyricism, the track is seemingly on the topic of local government changed to city’s water supply from Lake Michigan to a new supply which was contaminated with harmful chemicals. We’ve also got ‘Speedway’ of which a Genius user explained as ‘depicting a sense of discontent with society. While new cities may be built, they’re all the same and still have the same flaws it’s likely a metaphor for the music industry – new music comes out all the time, but nothing is really “new” or exciting.’
‘Bmbmbm’ is my favourite track on ‘Schlagenheim’ it’s rather simplistic and repetitive in its instrumentation hitting with layers upon layers of pure deranged noise and guitar feedback, paired with background screaming, futuristic electro hits and of course Geordies scattered rant style vocals before pulling to a close and calming the pace.
They are serving up an excitingly fresh sound here which is even more impressive when you discover all 4 members are aged 19-20! I have found this record to be a little bit like Marmite I’ve recommended this album to quite a few people and I either get them coming back to me head over heels in love with it or asking ‘what the fuck was that?’ which I think is the vibe Black Midi were going for.
If you’re into something slightly odd, heavy in guitar feedback and a shit tonne of noise explosions definitely give this a listen. I’d 100% recommend checking out some videos of their live performances, that’s how they won me over.
FAVOURITE SONGS- BMBMBM, NEAR DT, MI
FUTURE DUST- THE AMAZONS
February saw the guys release the lead single ‘Mother’ and it definitely did its job of getting everyone fired up with its statement catchy guitar licks keeping it fresh and sleek while serving up some grittier tones to satisfy the ears of both radio listeners and fans. Such a powerful kick of an opener. Carrying over much of that energy into the track ‘Fuzzy Tree’ one that just seeps classic rock ‘n roll attitude, without sounding like a bit of a loser about it, this track is one of those that just makes you feel like a total boss and puts that little swagger into your step. Just when you think it’s finished it comes back for another guitar-fueled strike feeding your appetite for more. This track is undoubtedly a favourite of mine.
’25’ was another we got before the album and one that really hones in on the catchy chant-ability that’s to be expected from The Amazons, towards the track’s climax we just hear frontman Matt whaling the line ‘There’s this song’ repeatedly serving up some of that passion that we heard on the likes of ‘Little something’ on the self-titled. I’m very glad we get more of that raw emotion here on ‘Future Dust’. This track actually makes two appearances on this album one in the form of a Reprise, stripping back all the heaviness and leaving us with an acoustic guitar and Matts vocals along with some textures built up with a mandolin and a pump organ. It’s a strong number lyrically and you really get to recognise and appreciate that on the reprise.
I am a sucker for a good interlude, particularly as I’m someone who listens to albums in their entirety in order so when I saw there was a track coming in at just short of 40 seconds it was safe to say I was excited. ‘The Mire’ follows three very big and built numbers and just gives you a bit of a breather, helps you regain your thoughts but then also has this alluring sense of suspense for what’s to come.Blending flawlessly into ‘Doubt it’ a track that features a call and response vocal throughout, adding a light and even slightly playful dynamic.
Aside from ’25 (reprise)’ ‘All Over Town’ is the lightest track on the album, I’m thinking kind of like how ‘Palace’ sat on the first album. A slow moving number that lets frontman Matt lead the way with his vocals while still maintaining the richness in the instrumentals.
We are served up another 2 back to back deafening riff drenched bangers in the form of ‘End Of Wonder’ and ‘Dark Visions’. Both such bold and snappy numbers, ‘Dark Visions’ opens with some layered vocals, I genuinely restarted the track about 4 times on my first listen to rehear it. I can see it working really well live, I feel crowds will just roar it out, working really well as a pre-encore track to leave em chanting.
A big sound on this album, if you’re looking for a fresh rock kick then this is for you!
FAVOURITE SONGS- END OF WONDER, MOTHER
DON’T WAIT ‘TIL TOMORROW– YONAKA
YONAKA’s debut release ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ up next, a band I’ve been following closely since 2016, watching them grow through the release of their 3 EP’s has been special and it’s so great to finally have a full-length LP!
I’ve been lucky enough to have caught them live on a few occasions, their onstage energy is next level and I’m so glad it was translated flawlessly onto this record particularly on opening number hands in the air clap inducing ‘Bad Company’ and striking bassline starring ‘Punch Bag’.
‘I just wanna be a rockstar baby’ is the hook on, you guessed it…‘Rockstar’ a dream that’s already playing out nicely for these guys, frontwoman Thresa’s character shines throughout but particularly here on ‘Rockstar’ while a bit of a fun number her ambition to succeed is exciting and inspiring.
As I shared on my top 10 albums of the year list title track ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is my absolute favourite from this project standing out for its timeless lyrical poignancy about mental health Theresa sings ‘It could never be too late to call me up and come my way, I would love to see your face, don’t wait till tomorrow’. It’s clear cut, straight to the point yet touches on a topic which in my opinion isn’t covered nearly as much as it should be in the rock genre, it’s refreshing.
There’s not a track on here that I’ve found myself skipping, it’s a perfectly flowing album hitting you with back to back earth-shattering riff drenched bangers that’s worryingly catchy, one listen to this and you’ll be humming ‘Creature’ for a week!
Their sound and ambition are arena-ready, 2020 is gonna be the year of YONAKA world domination, I can feel it!
FAVOURITE SONGS- DON’T WAIT ‘TIL TOMORROW, ROCKSTAR
THANK U NEXT- ARIANA GRANDE
Spotify named Ariana Grande my artist of the decade and well, I can’t really argue with that! ‘Thank U Next’ is her fifth studio album and one that came following a tough period in her life that saw the death of her ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller along with the breakdown of her relationship with SNL host Pete Davidson of who she was engaged to. Her previous studio album ‘Sweetener’ sat a little impersonal in spots for me personally aside a couple of tracks such as ‘Breathin’, ‘Get Well Soon’ and lead single ‘No Tears Left To Cry’. I feel we got a much more natural and organic release here with ‘Thank U Next’ there wasn’t a huge promotional campaign surrounding it’s release instead the music spoke for itself.
Thank U Next simply oozes vulnerability, it’s as if we’re taking a step into her life and mind. ‘Needy’ hears her acknowledging her flaws when it comes to forming relationships and on ‘Fake Smile’ we get her reaction to the media and how she’s exhausted acting okay when shes not but also her appreciation and gratitude for the life she leads.
I couldn’t express my love for this album without mentioning ‘Ghostin’ which is undeniably her most personal track not only on this album but within her entire discography. Truly wearing her heart on her sleeves with this one she recounts the time following Mac Millers passing and the guilt she felt grieving for him while being together with Pete, it’s a track that I feel was written with no intent for release but it’s so hauntingly raw and beautiful that shows an extraordinary human side that we’re extremely privileged to have.
While the album holds a lot of weight it definitely wouldn’t be an Ari album with some fun less substance soaked tracks! We got Bad Idea sporting a very playful edge to it, we also get that kind of vibe carried over into ‘Bloodline’, ‘Make Up’ and closing number ‘Break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored’ whereas the title suggests she’s not playing hard to get.
Name dropping 4 of her ex’s on title track ‘Thank U Next’ which is undeniably one of the biggest pop hits of all time, acting as her public acknowledgement of her breakup with Pete! It’s a monumental self-love anthem.
I think at its core my love for ‘Thank U Next’ comes down to its authentic human influence, Ariana is arguably the best vocalist of our generation, she has this effortless ability to get the listener right in the palm of her hand and that’s demonstrated perfectly here. And of course, it’s deep in spots but it’s also laced with fucking BOPS!
FAVOURITE SONGS- GHOSTIN, IMAGINE
A HEARTBREAKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY- BANG BANG ROMEO
Up next is a band I’ve been championing for a while now Bang Bang Romeo have become a notable name within the indie circuit over the past couple of years and their highly anticipated debut record ‘A heartbreakers guide to the galaxy’ is finally here and it’s everything I wanted + a shed load more!
From sticky floor, dimly lit 100 cap venues to taking to the stage performing in front of hundreds of thousands on tour with pop icon Pink this summer, 2019 has taken this Doncaster trio to stratospheric heights.
Opening an album with an intro is something I crave more, these guys smashed it with their softly atmospheric one minute instrumental before hitting with the colossal ‘Cemetery’. Without a doubt my favourite track on here If you’ve read my top 100 tracks of 2019 you’ll know I named it as the ‘Ultimate sing-along anthem’ sparkling keys give it a very shiny feel-good edge.
Previously released as a single back in 2018 ‘Shame On You’ is wonderfully partnered up with ‘Bag Of Bones’ both rich in attitude confidence drenched empowerment anthems. Stars’ confidence and massive vocal ability hits you like a tonne of bricks. From ‘Bag Of bones’ we are slowly transitioned into ‘Chemical’ a slightly slower paced number very lighters in the air, sway inducing. Even the more laid back cuts like ‘Adore me’ are laced with pure Bang Bang Romeo spirit, everything they release is so distinctively them.
From adore me we’re catapulted straight into a string of back to back slightly grittier numbers in the form of ‘You & I’, ‘Invitation’ and ‘You scared the love out of me’ while all sporting heavy guitar riffs and energetic drum moments all possess an alluring edge.
I mentioned Pink earlier but their no strangers to working with some of pops most iconic names shown perfectly on ‘Love Yourself’ featuring their pal Example, this track will have you feeling like you’re sitting on a cloud, pulling warm strings into play cushioning the heartwarmingly down to earth lyrics.
I feel a huge sense of pride for these guys, I saw them play to a pretty empty Tunbridge Wells forum back in 2017 so to see where they are now it massive.
FAVOURITE SONGS- CEMETERY, LOVE YOURSELF
LOVER- TAYLOR SWIFT
Taylor Swift is back with a bang and landing a spot here on my 2019 top 10! ‘Lover’ is the American Pop sensations 7th studio album. Marking a new era following the release of her 2017 record ‘Reputation’ that saw the release of a build-up of emotion and anger following her very public feuds with the likes of Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Katy perry alongside the fallout of her breakup from British actor Tom Hiddleston. ‘Lover’ is a far stretch from cuts such as ‘I did something bad’, ‘End Game and of course the lead single ‘Look what you made me do’ that we got on reputation and restores Taylors very charismatic fun pop sound.
The ‘Lover’ gates open on ‘I forgot that you existed’ marking the birth of a new era with its rhythmic bouncy attitude, asserting the vibe for the album and ultimately not taking itself too seriously. That lighthearted upbeat sound carried over into cuts such as ‘I think he knows’ and the country essence drenched ‘Paper Rings’.Of course, I could not forget ‘London Boy’ where Taylor voices her love for Brixton, Soho and Hackney, I don’t know about you but I can’t picture Taylor ‘in the pub, watching rugby’ anyway I digress.
While it is a record that does showcase a fun side to her as both an instrumentalist and lyricist there are some more delicate cuts in the form of ‘The Archer’, ‘It’s nice to have a friend’ and possibly one of Taylor’s most personal songs to date ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ where she writes about her mother Andreas battle with cancer, the discrete Dixie Chicks feature adds another dainty layer of vulnerability making it a truly heart-wrenching track. Title track ‘Lover’ is just made for first dances the encompassment of the drums, strings and piano cushioning the heartfelt warm lyricism, we do get the sense that Taylor is finally secure and content in a relationship which does have the album straying away from the breakup tracks we’ve come to expect from her previous records.
Social commentary reigns through on ‘The Man’ and ‘You need to calm down’ I can’t say that both of them feel truly natural and sincere in every sense but there is good intent behind them, they’re both fun catchy sing-along numbers. She did receive a bit of backlash and branded as exploiting the LGBTQ+ community on YNTCD I’m not part of that community so I guess I can’t have an opinion of the trivialization of such topics in this context but I personally interpret it as more of a commentary on the internet and cancel culture.
YNTCD along with ‘ME’ and of course the title track were all released as singles prior to the albums drop, the Brando Urie feature was strong even if the track felt like it was straight out of a Disney film with its bubblegum pop sound, I’m so bloody glad they took the ‘Spelling is fun’ line out on the album version because that was possibly one of my least favourite music moments ever.
‘Lover’ is a wonderfully playful and imperceptibly enchanting record that I can’t stop coming back to
FAVOURITE SONGS- I FORGOT YOU EXISTED, FALSE GOD
GOOD AT FALLING- THE JAPANESE HOUSE
Debut studio album up next from indie-pop artist Amber Baine, better known by her stage name The Japanese house, ‘Good At falling’ has been a much-anticipated release following 4 EP’s since she burst onto the scene back in 2015, but boy was the wait worth it!
In recent times I’ve found that a lot of albums are lacking in continuity, with streaming somewhat killing the format we often just get a 40-minute collection of back to back singles.’ Good At Falling’ works as such a well thought out and delicately put together album piece, the transitions are breathtakingly stunning, the use of ‘Want to meet her’ as an opener works perfectly, setting the pace and the vibe for the rest of the record.
Electro synthy moments and the use of vocal distortion serves up a slightly futuristic vibe in spots for example on ‘Wild’ that nicely ties up the A-side interviewed with some weightier guitar kicks.
‘We talk all the time’ spots a super-rich baseline that I simply can’t get enough of! You all know that I hate to compare bands to one another, however, there are undoubtedly essences of label mates The 1975’s distinctly polished indie sound here on ‘Good At Falling’, was to be expected with 75’s very own George Daniel sitting on the production team alongside Amber herself and BJ Burton.
The Sax coming on ‘Follow My Girl’ has to be my standout moment of the whole record, it’s silky and the effortless weaving of organic instrumentation is paired perfectly with the electro tones which is the best representation of the albums easy and relaxing listenability yet unforgettably unique and fresh sound.
Very few albums hit me with goosebumps and shivers down my spine the second I hit play for not only the first listen but everyone since. That’s why It’s landed my number 2 spot.
FAVOURITE SONGS- YOU SEEMED SO HAPPY, WE TALK ALL THE TIME
WABI-SABI – CHILDCARE
‘Lay My Body Down Try To Sleep’ strikes as the opening line of first full-length track ‘Omega Grey’, with it’s lightly flowing sleek fresh psych tones and frontman Ed’s effortlessly natural vocal delivery. That’s something I’ve always found so intriguing about their live performances, you never feel like they are trying too hard, everything they give seems as if it comes so naturally and I’m so thrilled that comes through on the album.
The topic of male mental health and toxic masculinity is tackled lightheartedly in ‘Man Down’, starring beats from a metronomic drum machine in place of typical live style works perfectly in forming an extremely warm tone infused with dynamic enhancing female vocals courtesy of bassist Emma, who makes multiple vocal appearances scattered throughout the album, taking the lead on dreamy ‘Bamboo’ and pace-setting interlude ‘It’s terribly overdone’. I am an absolute sucker for male/female vocal dynamics and this album is drenched in them, really well-crafted blends.
As I mentioned at the start of this post ‘Big Man ‘ featured as my second favourite track in my year-end list in 2018 and is one that I have just keep coming back to. A mellow number than hones in on current political turmoil and the divides created as a result. One of the darker almost mysterious cuts here, definitely still a front runner for my favourite from the project, Acoustic guitars crop up on a few occasions here, pulling the energetic psych laden ‘Magazines’ to an organic close and on ‘My Psychotherapist’ offering a minimalist instrumentation paired with quiet humming, pulling in that meditation and free spirit element.
Pulling the album to a close we have ‘Cooking in each other’s juices’ a feel good, beachy summer number that builds to this wonderful sing-along climax with the repetition of the line ‘It’s nice to fall in love’. I tend to say this with a lot of albums but this one does feel like a journey, it is structured perfectly with its interludes and the pace works flawlessly.
Overall such a smooth easy listening project that fuses indie, psych, pop and a multitude of other styles intricately crafted to deliver a stunning masterpiece. I love the theme, it was so well thought out with the well being and self-care vibe yet it never felt gimmicky. That’s why it’s landed my number one spot, massive stuff to come from these guys, they’re truly one in a million!
FAVOURITE SONGS-BIG MAN, MAN DOWN