My top 15 albums of 2019

I’ve always listened to a fair amount of new music, but Spotify has probably just amplified that in recent years. Every new album in the world, give or take, is there, tantalisingly at your fingertips.

The old problem with streaming is the lack of connection to any of these records.

Albums have to work a lot harder to fight off all of this competition to lodge themselves into your ears, heart, brain, guts or whatever human body part it is that deals with music response.

I’m not sure if I have a point to make here. I’ve listened to a lot of new albums, but there are countless others I missed, or discarded too quickly to move on to the next one.

But for me that’s why I still like drawing up these stupid end-of-year lists, and reading other people’s. So if you have your own on the internet somewhere, please let me know.

Here we go, ladies and gentlemen…

15. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

“No it’s ok, I’m just chopping onions.” Probably the rawest, most soul-searching, grief-stricken record of the year.

14. The Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All the Time

A welcome return from one of my favourite bands, and their recent Usher Hall show was such a huge moment in their steadily rising career.

13. Beirut – Gallipoli

This one nearly passed me by, but every Beirut record is worth coming back to, and this is no exception.

12. James Blake – Assume Form

The experimental hip hop producer at his most sonically inventive.

11. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

A huge, sprawling country-pop mess, but enough nuggets to remind you of Ezra Koenig’s ridiculous songwriting talent. I listened to it a lot over the summer.

10. Foals – Part 1 Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost

I’m not a huge fan of the stodgy stadium rock version of Foals, but there was still enough of that youthful bounce in Part 1 that meant this stood up to repeat listens.

9. Meursault – Crow Hill

Another of my favourite Scottish bands, who seemed to fly under the radar with this excellent album, which is a real shame as it’s so good.

8. Michael Kiwanuka – KIWANUKA

A properly good retro soul record, full of properly good songs. Just what you need in these cold, dark times.

7. Metronomy – Metronomy Forever

A brilliant ‘return to form’ for a band I’d almost written off. Joseph Mount knows his way around a pop song.

6. Andrew Wasylyk – The Paralian

A late arrival to the list after reading a tip-off from Piccadilly Records’ top 100 list – calming instrumental music inspired by Arbroath, what’s not to like?

5. Richard Dawson – 2020

Not an album I’ve worn out because it’s not that kind of album – but one that packs an emotional punch, and is so adventurous in its portrayal of Britain in all its current shiteness.

4. Thom Yorke – ANIMA

You know what to expect from Thom these days, but he does it so well, serving up another fine slab of angst-laden electronica.

3. These New Puritans – Inside the Rose

It’s good to have this band back. Their endlessly experimental post-punk evokes The Fall but is so original in its own right, and this album is their best yet.

2. Cate le Bon – Reward

A real oddball of record, but one that worms its way into your soul after just a few listens – the first half is incredible so it inevitably tails off a bit after. But still.

1. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

The record that barely left my earphones all year, and ‘Seventeen’ is surely the best rock song of 2019 too. I mean, come on? She was also incredible when I saw her live in Edinburgh in August.

Other new albums I have enjoyed this year but didn’t have the energy to put in a daft ranked list:

  • Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
  • Fat White Family – Serf’s Up!
  • Idles – Joy As An Act of Resistance
  • White Lies – FIVE
  • Bon Iver – i,i
  • Beck – Hyperspace
  • Battles – Juice B Crypts
  • Nils Frahm – All Encores
  • Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
  • Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!!!
  • Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
  • Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
  • Anderson Paak – Ventura
  • The Chemical Brothers – No Geography

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