album of the year 2019

It’s been a helluva year for the London rapper, who starred in the Drake-backed return of poignant drama Top Boy and released his sixth album, on which he offered sage advice to troubled young folks in his hometown. He asked himself – and the listener – honest questions about gender and sexuality. Jack Barnett’s vocals, conversational yet epic, add their own particular drama. Opening track ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’ best tethered those ideas together: “A lot of this record is about how you get to an age where you feel confident in yourself and comfortable in your own skin,”, Where his folky 2012 debut ‘Home Again’ often erred on side of caution, with more emphasis on pleasant tunes than weighty subject matter, this one was jammed with heavy stuff treated with a lightness of touch. After Igor’s release, he tweeted that he’d recorded nine different versions of the bridge for ‘I THINK’ (a song that sounds like it was plucked from the mind of 1980s Quincy Jones), an indication of his commitment to this project. Instead, we saw a more tender approach, as her stunningly stripped-back vocals shone through as she exclaimed: “Fuck it, I love you.”. With razor-sharp commentary that touched on everything from romance to success, exposed empty nationalism and even got nostalgic about the 99p Flake, ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ showcased the breadth of Slowthai’s focus and his ability to interweave humour and personality with the bleak and sometimes tragic. “Now, I’m so amazing.” EH, In a nutshell: Van Etten goes widescreen with surprise heartland rock epic. Best Moment: When those lush orchestral arrangements fully unfurl on the magical ‘Tonight’. And he had a new album called ‘IGOR’ – and what an album. Michael Hann Read the full review. Saves the World is an unsparing emotional confrontation that drags you right into the bedroom bathed in pink light, the dorm room with the blunt scissors, not to mention singer Katie Gavin’s torrid self-examinations. NK, In a nutshell: Reformed Sheffield deathcore lads go alt-pop. He’s clearly an old soul at heart: there’s a whiff of, Sam Fender, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ (Polydor), He may have been billed as guitar music’s great next hope, but, Map Of The Soul: Persona’ (Big Hit Entertainment), In a year that saw BTS go from stars to superstars, the Korean seven-piece proved that they had the substance to back up the stats. Those who assumed that Sharon Van Etten would be forever consigned to the “confessional singer-songwriter” category were proven wrong on her widescreen fifth album. He asked himself – and the listener – honest questions about gender and sexuality. The acoustic, lo-fi balladeering of her early albums soon became a distant memory. There was less of the braggadocio that peppered her previous work. She expressed resentment towards her ‘man child’ boyfriend on the title track, but also acknowledged – with a nod to Leonard Cohen – that she was willing to stand by him, declaring on ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ that “I’m your man”. BBT Read the full review. Releasing a debut solo album at 66 is impressive enough; that it’s one of the most skilful records of an already iconic career is even more so. Billie Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Ben Beaumont-Thomas Read the full review. RD, In a nutshell: Viral star goes the distance. Where its predecessor ‘Still In Wonderland’ was a knotty, complex concept album, here she stripped everything back. LS Read the full review. Much as Kacey Musgraves broke open country songwriting in 2018 with the love-bombing body high of Golden Hour, Sturgill Simpson casts himself as the genre’s outlier in 2019. 1. BBT Read the full review. Best bit: That opening line, obviously. 2019 has brought stunning returns, fine debuts, unexpected triumphs, and genre-defying points of inspiration. Will Richards, NME said: “The Irish troubadours come good on a debut album that offers both a storyteller’s narrative voice and a snarling new vision of youthful disillusionment.”, In a nutshell: Heartbreak, as you’ve never heard it before. Best bit: When, on ‘Are We Still Friends’, he asks, “Are we still friends? Jon Pareles. Whirling a blade around on-stage, the razor-sharp edge whizzing within inches of her body, Twigs was putting on a killer performance. 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. As with ‘Offence’, the wilfully primitive basslines on ‘Boss’ or ‘Therapy’ put her strong, independent tone front-and-centre. Here's a full list of those who took home prizes. They come along like the great fighters, every 10 years.” JB, In a nutshell: T-Swiz sacks off the snakes and smashes the heart emoji instead. The latter’s title alluded to the hymn that the Titanic’s house band supposedly played as the ship sank. 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. But it summoned to mind that strain of 80s pop when older musicians would reach the top end of the charts with sophisticated, modern records that used production techniques from records for teenagers, and applied them to songs unmistakably written about adult life. Lewis fully leans in to her best west coast troubadour mode on her fourth solo album, spinning endlessly captivating yarns of estranged lovers and lost hopes. Best bit: This line in ‘Roses Are Falling’: “You Know darling, you bring out the worst in me / Sometimes, when I’m around you, I feel like pure evil”. It was conceived in divided, aggressive times, and The Chemical Brothers sought to unite people with their awe-inspiring ninth studio album. The result was a strikingly cinematic conclusion, evoking a Joni Mitchell-like quality as she opened up to declare herself “a modern day woman with a weak constitution”. AT, In a nutshell: North Carolina singer-songwriter turns up the colour filters. Eilish and her older brother Finneas O’Connell made the record in their bedroom-studio, so there’s little surprise that ‘When We All Fall Asleep…’ acts as diary entries from an anxious generation. Best bit: The echoing, undulating refrain that runs through ‘Stay Flo’. Log-in to your MyReggaeville account to enable the VOTE buttons. Climate change, washed-out love, existentialism and nostalgia for simpler times were some of the record’s resounding themes. Or do they say jelly out there? And luckily there’s absolutely nothing else going on in the news at the moment that might distract you from this list and make it seem in any way trivial. She’d been away for four years trying her hand at acting (in the brilliant, sadly cancelled The OA), studying and motherhood. See the list of GRAMMY Awards Winners & Nominees for the Album Of The Year. FKA Twigs’ second record tellingly borrowed its name from the Biblical figure Mary Magdalene. Whether in grunge ballads (Jenni), front-porch blues (Orange) or the ambient indie-folk that sways reed-like throughout, the mood is as melancholy as it is beautiful. Calvin Harris and The 1975 led the field with two wins each at the 2019 Brit Awards. Yes, Tyler was as loud and creative as he had been before, figuring stuff out in his own multi-talented, multi-faceted way – with loads of interesting collaborators, including Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert – but on this album, Tyler was… sincere. BBT Read the full review. Despite the departure of bassist Walter Gervers in the making of this record, Old dudes in masks don’t age – they just get better. Combining elements of mid-noughties emo with breathtakingly honest lyrics about drug addiction and mental health, this is a compelling, clearly realised record. Best bit: ‘Screwface Capital’ saw Dave at his imperious best: “Just  know I put both the Ps in opp / At the same time a put the “pay” in paigon.” If there’s a vowel sound in there, Dave will find a way to toy with it. The Brooklyn band’s second album of the year is earthier than UFOF, the glowing collection that arrived in spring. ‘Morbid Stuff’ was joyous and positive – a handbook to help you get by. The Brooklyn band’s second album of the year is earthier than UFOF, the glowing collection that arrived in spring. If anger is an energy, reading this list should be like chugging a can of Monster with your finger stuck in a plug socket. See the list of GRAMMY Awards Winners & Nominees for the Album Of The Year. DS, In a nutshell: Ezra takes control and proves two heads aren’t always better than one. Taylor was angry on sixth album ‘Reputation’. AT, In a nutshell: The coolest Knowles sister pens a love letter to her hometown. With a wicked sense of humour, she picked out her own flaws, as well as those of the men in her life (“Why wait for the best when I could have you?” she also purrs on that title track). This was especially true of the opening track ‘Offence’, on which she reduced her style to drum and buzzing bass, making her outrageous – and brilliant – boasts seem even more blunt than usual: “I’m Jay-Z on a bad day / Shakespeare on my worst days”. End-of-year stuff is always a big deal for us here at NME, so it’s extremely exciting to unveil our pick of the best albums of 2019, as voted for by NME staff and critics. Best bit: When she snaps, “You was meant to be in my Grammy speech – your entire loss”, on ‘Sherbet Sunset’. Humbling beyond measure. On ‘Map Of The Soul: Persona’, they used the psychological theories of Carl Jung to explore ideas of identity (the riff-fuelled rap-rock of ‘Intro: Persona’) and delved into Greek mythology with the swaggering ‘Dionysus’. The rollicking ‘Hero’ lamented brutality against black citizens and on the muted, elegiac ‘Solid Ground’ he insisted: “, “As with each of his albums to date, Kiwanuka navigates the past and the present, skilfully making sounds and subjects appear both classic and contemporary at once.”. Here was a rapper unafraid of tackling the hard stuff, of speaking out against the status quo, of being vulnerable in a musical space that doesn’t always allow for emotional candour. With ambition and intent that should shame many of their peers, These New Puritans have crafted another suite of post-punk symphonies. The Practice of Love is Jenny Hval’s most ambient album, an eerie, euphoric spell sustained by new-age aura and trance beats. LS Read the full review. © 2020 NME is a member of the media division of BandLab Technologies. With appearances from Danielle Haim and Steve Lacy and no musical stone unturned, the band made sure to sidestep expectations. For posterity: “Goddamn, man-child / You fucked me so good that I almost said ‘I love you.” Oof. Best bit: ‘Gakked On Anger’ will chime with cash-strapped, boomer-hating millennials in particular: “I don’t have a house, I can’t pay the rent / I’m sleeping on the floor, in a car, in a tent.” DS, In a nutshell: Dancefloor dads throw down the gauntlet. There comes a point in young adulthood where you really get deep into figuring out who you are. AJ Tracey started out making grime and, in February, told NME: “I’m a legendary grime MC”. Can we be friends?” Rarely does an artist rap with their heart on show like modern day Tyler. 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. While that warmth glows through Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, Callahan’s understanding of his inherent masculine violence, and his way with lucid profundity, means his domestic treatise was never cloying. But the sheer zest for life in these bombastic, ultra-quotable self-empowerment tracks – as well as the pure-pop hooks – gives them intensity even on record. From the future first-dance favourite that was the title track to the tongue-in-cheek ode to IRL boyfriend Joe Alwyn ‘London Boy’, it was a gorgeous collection of shimmering pop tunes. In the five years since his previous album, Bill Callahan got married, became a father and attained a level of beatific perspective that could probably settle international conflicts. This, her debut, was billed as a break-up album, and in some ways that was true: the music video for ‘Lilo’ co-starred, she realised on ‘Maybe You’re The Reason’, “, Fans had been waiting five years for a new, The death of the album is predicted with alarming regularity, but with the likes of, With the pop culture swing-o-meter lunging towards, The closing of .Paak’s myth-making trilogy of albums, The Cali rap-crooner’s fourth continued in the vein of previous records ‘Malibu’ and, T-Swiz sacks off the snakes and smashes the heart emoji instead, A queer singing cowboy who obscures his identity with a fringed leather face mask, it’d be easy to write Canadian singer-songwriter Peck off as a novelty were his music not so utterly sublime and delivered with such sincerity. It was a poignant conclusion to a triumphant record. It makes Legacy! With the pop culture swing-o-meter lunging towards Coldplay’s home turf of environmental responsibility, globally-minded politics and spirituality, Chris Martin and co. finally delivered the album they’ve been threatening to make for years – one with tunes, toothsome lyrics and – gasp – swearing! When frontman Grian Chatten yelled “Dublin in the rain is mine” to open the album on ‘Big’, you were immediately thrust headfirst into the soggy backstreets of a city that had found its voice again, Chatten wonderfully narrating its ups and downs and twists and turns. “I’m looking for something else,” she realised on ‘Maybe You’re The Reason’, “I found myself – I’m someone else.”, Best moment: That video for ‘Lilo’ is a complete tear-jerker, and the song itself has inspired several fans to lug actual lilos along to her gigs. A whip-crack on from ‘Sweetener’, a record about survival and rediscovering joy, ‘thank u, next’ delved deeper into loss, digging into the complexities of going through emotional turmoil with the whole world watching. Grinding synths jostled for space with spiralling strings on a record that’s towering in scope and ambition. Bucking the trend for metal bands of a certain vintage to “go pop”, soften or – heaven forbid – mature, Vampire Weekend, ‘Father of the Bride’ (Columbia), After a six-year hiatus – and now Ezra Koenig’s own ship to steer – New York ensemble. Best Alternative Music Album: ‘Boys In The Better Land’ and ‘Too Real’ were chaotic punk anthems, no doubt, but it was on the twisting melancholia of ‘Television Screens’ and unashamedly old-school closer ‘Dublin City Sky’ that they really showed their colours. RD, In a nutshell: Techno’s next superstar has arrived (see Number 18). Hannah Ewens Read the full review. But, backed by a new troupe of musicians (including, Sharon Van Etten, ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ (Jagjaguwar), ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ (EQT Recordings), The statesman of grime puts an arm around the youth, It’s been a helluva year for the London rapper, who starred in the. Music reviews, ratings, news and more. WR, In a nutshell: Jungian K-pop with an intellect as big as the hooks. North London through and through, Little Simz became this year’s comeback kid when she blew us away with ‘GREY Area’, her stellar second third album, which she used to explore new sounds. The three albums form a sort of loose trilogy, and this record, like all great closing entries, took aspects of its predecessors – lush arrangements and reflections on the good life – and amped them up. At least the music this year was good!!! All of a sudden, songs about beer and broads seem a little lacking. ‘IGOR’ found Tyler at his most honest and most evolved state. With a bit of luck, he’ll be igniting necessary conversations for years. LS Read the full review. Tracks either abruptly snap off like an unfinished thought or dissolve into the silent distance. Best moment: When she rapped over the riff from Blink-182’s ‘Adam’s Song’ on ‘Bottom Bitch’. These Melbourne punks are best enjoyed from just out of gobbing-range of the stage, but their debut album proper was ludicrously good fun nonetheless, a collection of unreasonably great songs that – at just 29 minutes total – rush by like a strawpedo-ed tinny. In a nutshell: The lad from Ladbroke Grove tackles grime, dancehall, trap – and country?! Best bit: In the closing track ‘Hollywood’, Cave concludes that no matter how profound grief may seem, “Everybody’s losing someone”. ‘The Colour In Anything’, released in 2016, was a bleak listen, a glitching watercolour of bleeding greys and blues. Best bit: The opening, a capella vocal gymnastics of title track. There are spectral strings and synths, bells, electronics, a smattering of piano notes. Sinister and choral, ‘thousand eyes’ painted a final parting from a lover as hungry anonymous eyes look on. His musical responses provide yet another fascinating, detailed and perfectly executed musical miscellany. Like Sons of Kemet’s Your Queen Is a Reptile, each track on poet/activist/songwriter Jamila Woods’s second album is named for a pivotal artist of colour, whose legacies she explores as models of how to live life to the fullest. The Triumph of the Weird. WR, In a nutshell: Rock’s shadow man lays his heart on the line. It was a deeply personal moment being simultaneously digested. With the release of ‘i, i’, he announced, “it might be autumn”. Alabama Shakes hardly cleaved to one genre, but frontwoman Brittany Howard shows just how astonishingly broad and instinctive her talent is here. But nobody perfected the approach like Ariana Grande, whose second album in six months (following 2018’s Sweetener) vibrates with immediacy. Curry’s triumphant second studio album reminded us of the greatness within his home state of Florida – especially on the booming ‘CAROLMART’. The chief grotbags of the British indie scene return, retaining a genuinely reptilian edge to their lounge lizard music. They don’t make ‘em like Michael Kiwanuka any more: the north London singer-songwriter makes lush, politicised soul that harks back to genre’s ‘70s golden era. He resembles a heart-eyes emoji at various points, swooning over girlfriend Jameela Jamil on Power On and Can’t Believe the Way We Flow. ‘Immunity’ might have been created in the last years of Cottrill’s life as a teenager, but its songs were soothing balms for any periods of life characterised by transition or upheaval. 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. But with ‘MAGDALENE’, her message was this: fuck with me at your peril. TS, In a nutshell: A genre-hopping collection from trap’s divisive court jester. It’s Dave’s world; we’re all just living in it. Best bit: The cinematic, Steve Lacy-featuring tracks ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Flower Moon’. The airy production left space around her inspired lyrics. On 18 May 2019, music fans in the UK took a look at Twitter and promptly lost their shit. Not everyone loves Post Malone, but everyone loves at least one Post Malone track. The album felt like a finale, combining elements of Bon Iver’s entire back catalogue and fusing them together: the whirring electronics of ‘22, A Million’, the folk strums of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ and the baroque pop of ‘Bon Iver’. The Grammys this year expanded the major categories of album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist from five nominees … These albums won’t change the world, but they do offer us a different perspective and help us to stand in someone else’s shoes for little while. ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ was JPEGMAFIA’s most personal album to date, combining his own brand of punk-infused rap with darkly comical lyricism, offbeat ad-libs and video game snippets. ‘Heavy Is The Head’ delves into the Croydon rapper’s experiences with fame and the responsibility that comes as part of the package, a multi-textured musical package that shows vaulting ambition. He’s clearly an old soul at heart: there’s a whiff of Roy Orbison in his heartworn balladeering. Get involved and join the conversation with #bnqtAOTY19. There’s ‘Bury A Friend’, a fear-fuelled tale told from the perspective of the monsters under Billie’s bed, and ‘Xanny’, a response to America’s teenage opioid crisis, on which she admitted that she was the only one at the party “, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’, Read More: Billie Eilish – Album Of The Year: Exclusive Interview. LS Read the full review. British album of the year Best bit: The emotional gut-punch created when Smith wails, on the chorus of ‘Horsehead’, that he wants to “breathe in / And never breathe back out”. Top 20 Jazz Albums of 2019 Mike Flynn Thursday, November 21, 2019 The ultimate guide to the year's best new jazz albums as voted for by Jazzwise's peerless panel of reviewers – including the complete original Jazzwise reviews Best bit: When, on the impossibly moving ‘Trouble’, he insists: “Any beef can be squashed if hands could be shaken.” JB, In a nutshell: Toronto punks exorcise depression with life-affirming singalongs. Best bit: The beat-switch in ‘Bad Guy’s final third, where a monstrous bassline rips through the song. Opening track ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’ best tethered those ideas together: “Go back to a time when I was just a girl,” she crooned, “When I had the whole world”. If you were left feeling bereft by Nicki Minaj’s announcement that she was planning to retire, Doja Cat’s ‘Hot Pink’ should have provided some consolation. Best bit: The brilliant synthesised vocals that open ‘Shake It’. On her best album in years, Madonna returned under the guise of ‘Madame X’, an alter-ego that encompassed roles of a mother, child, teacher, spy, nun, saint, and more. Where his folky 2012 debut ‘Home Again’ often erred on side of caution, with more emphasis on pleasant tunes than weighty subject matter, this one was jammed with heavy stuff treated with a lightness of touch. LS Read the full review. Through 10 tracks that traversed orchestral grandeur, twisted country, psych-folk and old-timey piano pop, Mering welded together hope and despair. The fourth Bon Iver album brought Justin Vernon full circle. Painfully. LS Read the full review. A 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. If this woman could go through these things and make something so beautiful out of them, there was hope for you too. Our pick of the year’s finest albums brings American dreaming, teenage dynamism, heartbreak, barbed rap, impetuous indie and beautiful soundscapes, First published on Tue 3 Dec 2019 06.00 GMT. 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. – and in our world of lies and gaslighting, we need that north-star constant more than ever. Despite the departure of bassist Walter Gervers in the making of this record, Foals enhanced the rhythm as they explored new sounds and textures on the first and best of their 2019 duology. Clairo’s debut album ‘Immunity’ was written in those moments and presented a quiet but close read on the experience of becoming who you are. ’ milk sour a point in young adulthood where you really get deep into figuring out who are. 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