Albums of the year 2019: Chosen by our favourite acts of the year
- Arusa Qureshi
- 23 December 2019
Clockwise from left: Callum Easter (credit: John Mackie), S-Type (credit: Martyn Flyn), Siobhan Wilson (credit: Gemma Dagger), Kapil Seshasayee, Sean Shibe (credit: Kaupo Kikkas), SHEARS (credit: Trisha Ward)
Featuring selections by S-Type, Siobhan Wilson, SHEARS and more
As we arrive at the end of another year, it's the ideal time to look back at all the brilliant releases that have blessed our airwaves over the past 12 months. With everyone's end-of-year round-ups coming in thick and fast, we thought we'd check in with some of the musicians we've been listening to most this year to get their very own recommendations. Here's what our favourites have chosen as their top releases of 2019.
My favourite album of the year was In Plain Sight by the Scottish band/singer Honeyblood. The lyrics across the whole album are really unique and they draw me in. Stina has her own musical style and keeps evolving; she's an amazing songwriter whose melodies and lyrics speak to me massively. My favourite track is 'Harmless'.
Released on Fri 24 May via Marathon Artists.
Tyler The Creator – IGOR: It's been inspiring to watch Tyler's progression as an artist, musician and composer over the years. There is so much depth to his music – conceptual lyrics, beautiful chord progressions, infectious melodies. I particularly love the way he uses features from huge stars like Lil Uzi Vert, Solange and Kanye throughout the record in little pockets, almost as instruments to help tell the story, rather than a starring role. Tyler doesn't have the best singing voice, but there's something so honest and unapologetic about it. The fact that he wrote and produced IGOR entirely by himself, makes the album all the more special.
Released on Fri 17 May via Columbia Records.
This year I'd say PZ1 by Pozi (Released on Fri 5 Apr via Prah Recordings) is my favourite album. It's off-kilter catchy, love the tension in it. I've had Revision Ballads by Savage Mansion (Fri 15 Feb, Lost Map) on a good bit too. Love the sound of it, takes me somewhere else. Also acquired copies of Mums' Revenge by Vic Godard (Sun 31 Mar, Gnu Inc). Carbon Compound by Sanna (Fri 17 May, KWAM YC) and Melancholitronica by Blue Tiles (Fri 1 Nov, Errant Media). I'd recommend them all. Cate le Bon's album Reward (Fri 24 May, Mexican Summer) got more than a few spins too.
I pick Karine Polwart's Scottish Songbook. It's banger after banger of reworked tunes – sometimes charming, sometimes devastating – but so convincingly executed that you'd believe she wrote them herself. Released on Fri 2 Aug via Hegri Music.
The album I've listened to most is Brighde Chaimbeul's The Reeling. It's a classy, convincing, understated collection of tunes. When I hear the pipes preparing on the first track, I always grin in anticipation of their entrance. I can't wait to hear what comes next. Released on Fri 18 Jan via River Lea Recordings.
Elder Ones – From Untruth: I had the pleasure of interviewing composer Amirtha Kidambi for Desifuturism.com not long after she'd dropped this incredibly ambitious protest record for the ensemble she leads – drawing on everything from avant jazz to Indian classical music. Released Fri 29 Mar via Northern Spy Records.
FKA Twigs – Magdalene: Ostensibly a 'breakup record', this takes everything that made M3ll155x so engrossing and takes it to new heights. A deeper narrative focus with the ambitious sonics honed across previous releases working with producers like Arca – I find new layers every time I listen to this. Released Fri 8 Nov via Young Turks.
Kindness – Something Like A War: Named for a documentary on a family planning programme in India and its adverse effects on women – Grammy Award winning producer Adam Bainbridge balances barbed social rhetoric with succinct pop writing here. Released Fri 6 Sep via Female Energy.
Half Formed Things – To Live In The Flicker: Wonderful debut from Edinburgh chamber-pop four-piece, funnelling the avant-orchestral flourishes of Julia Holter through the influence of eccentric chanteuse Kate Bush and Amnesiac-era Radiohead. Released on Fri 25 May.
Damn Teeth – Real Men: This year's 'danciest nightmare' for me – Damn Teeth really refined their sound on this follow-up to their 2015 debut. Serrated guitar work reminiscent of bands like Arab on Radar over the kind of rhythms you'd hear from artists on labels like DFA – This formula in lesser hands would be a mess but the sheer strength of the writing makes it. Released Fri 12 Jul via Buzzhowl Records.
Banks – III: Standout tracks are 'Contaminated', 'Stroke' and 'Godless'. This is very specific, but the second pre-chorus where the live bass kicks in on 'Stroke' is one of my favourite musical moments of 2019. A great album and a great performer, I saw her live at SWG3 in November and it was her best show yet.
Released on Fri 12 Jul via Harvest.
For highlights from releases across genres, check out our regularly updated playLIST. Here's what we've been listening to throughout 2019: