(Pop)Tara’s Pick of the Best Albums of 2019

2019

Girls! It is officially the end of 2019! Now that we have reached the end of another year, you know what that means: a yearly wrap up of the best albums released in 2019.

Before we get into the top 25 countdown, here are some honorable mentions that came close to making the cut:

Titanic Rising - Weyes Blood, Unfortunately, Terror Jr - Terror Jr,  Late Night Feelings - Mark Ronson, Friends - Omar Apollo, and, Hi, It's Me - Ashnikko

Top 25 Albums of 2019:

25.) Anger Management – Rico Nasty

Top Tracks: Big Titties / Cheat Code / Hatin

Reckless, commanding, and temperamental is Rico Nasty’s Anger Management. Produced by Kenny Beats, the two teamed up to create a 18 minute long album that is quick but effective. The young rapper hits on the things that irritate her while providing bangers for her listeners.

24.) Remind Me Tomorrow – Sharon Van Etten

Top Tracks: Seventeen / Malibu / Jupiter 4

Sharon Van Etten gives us lonesome folk meets Motown soul on her album, Remind Me Tomorrow. The album is filled with fine little details (especially within her writing technique) making it a perfectly polished album.

23.) Nothing Great About Britain – slowthai

Top Tracks: Doorman / Nothing Great About Britain / Missing

Punk rapper, slowthai, raps about nationalism and poverty on his album, Nothing Great About Britain. The tracks are rebellious and all have a point to them while also providing witty jokes that allows for listeners to understand who slowthai really is.

22.) ARIZONA BABY – Kevin Abstract 

Top Tracks: Georgia / Peach / Crumble

Kevin Abstract of the boy-band, Brockhampton, released his second solo project, ARIZONA BABY, with a powerful tone. The lyrical content feels personal and intimate to Abstract. Using his musical career as a platform to express his identity and sexuality, Abstract mixes humor and defiance to create the well-rounded album that is ARIZONA BABY.

21.) Slayyyter – Slayyyter

Top Tracks: Mine / Daddy AF / BFF

Slayyyter is a playful popstar on the rise. Her debut self-titled album, Slayyyter, is raunchy and sultry. The production feels like one for the clubs while her vocals contain a clear Britney Spears influence to them.

20.) Turn Off the Light – Kim Petras

Top Tracks: Death By Sex / There Will Be Blood / Wrong Turn

Kim Petras severs sexy emo realness with her Halloween club album, Turn Off The Light (TOTL). The woo-ah popstar released volume one of this spooky album in 2018, and on October 1 of 2019, Petras completed the album making it gorier and hotter than ever before.

19.) All Mirrors – Angel Olsen

Top Tracks: Lark / All Mirrors / New Love Cassette

Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors is dark and dramatic. The indie-goth meets dreamy pop album brings listeners to an existential place and a leathery world to get lost in.

18.) Saves The World – MUNA 

Top Tracks: Number One Fan / Stayaway / It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby

Alt-pop group, MUNA (often compared to being the “gay version of HAIM”), gave us a relatable and transformative sophomore album, Saves The World. Using 80s style synths, MUNA sings about sex, drugs, a quarter-life crisis, and everything else amongst those lines. The songs have a groovy-esque feel to them that brings you to the dance floor but also brings you into your feels.

17.) Hot Pink – Doja Cat 

Top Tracks: Cyber Sex / Rules / Juicy

Doja Cat is an artist you are going to want to keep an eye on. The rapper is full of endless excitement and personality that bleeds into her music as well. On her sophomore album, Hot Pink, Doja’s attitude ranges from peppy to commanding while the majority of the lyrical content remains raunchy. Her flow is unmatchable and her sarcastic characteristics makes it impossible not to fall in love with the artist.

16.) thank u, next – Ariana Grande

Top Tracks: 7 rings / in my head / fake smile

One of Ariana Grande’s most authentic projects is her fifth studio album, thank u, next (TUN). With no tracks feeling out of place, the trap inspired album showed a different and darker side to Grande as she strayed away from her typical poppy sound. The lyrical content was the most open and personal Grande has ever been on any of her albums, singing songs about her failed engagement, grief over Mac Miller, and mental health. Grande also showed off her vocal range on TUN — all the way up to her whistle tones.

15.) ERYS – Jaden

Top Tracks: Summertime In Paris / Fire Dept / Pain

Jaden Smith tells part two of the story of Syre on his sophomore album, EYRS. The album features the help from some of the other MSFTS crew such as, Lido, Willow, Teo, and Harry Hudson, while also including features from other artists like Kid Cudi and A$AP Rocky. Listening to SYRE and EYRS back to back, it’s clear that Jaden has a unique and precise vision and a gift for storytelling. Besides the boundless creative energy, EYRS also stands out from other rap albums by being one of the few that strays away from the common trope of dehumanizing women and flashing money.

14.) All My Heroes Are Cornballs – JPEGMAFIA

Top Tracks: Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot / Papi I Missed U / Free The Frail

The experimental rapper, JPEGMAFIA, remains fiery and feisty as ever on his album, All My Heroes Are Cornballs (AMHAC). Paying homage to several different aspects of pop culture with a splash of politics, JPEG effortlessly raps through the album as a vigorous vocalist. The manic energy from AMHAC keeps listeners drawn in and excited throughout all 18 tracks.

13.) Pony – Orville Peck

Top Tracks: Dead of Night / Roses Are Falling / Kansas (Remembers Me Now)

Sounding like a modern day gay Canadian Elvis Presley, Orville Peck created Pony, an album that sounds like absolutely nothing else released in 2019. His vocals are menacing and melodramatic, the production gives off major lone ranger vibes, and the lyrical content is promising. Overall, it’s a sexy album.

12.) 1000 gecs – 100 gecs, Dylan Brady, Laura Les

Top Tracks: money machine / ringtone / stupid horse

Dumb, absurd, nonsense — a few words that might pop into your mind when first diving into 1000 gecs by 100 gecs. These three words are pretty accurate to summarize this album, and that is exactly why it is so fun to listen to. Giving a cyber-punk sound with harsh production and goofy lyrics, Dylan Brady and Laura Les prove that musicians do not always have to take themselves so seriously when making fresh and good music.

11.) Fine Line – Harry Styles

Top Tracks: Fine Line / She / Sunflower Vol. 6

Harry Style’s sophomore album, Fine Line, plays on 60s psychedelic funk and folk-rock as he sings about his ex romance and possible current love. While half of the album lives as feel-good anthems (Canyon Moon, Watermelon Sugar, Sunflower Vol. 6), the rest of the album hits you right in the feels (Cherry, Falling, Fine Line), making this an album that has something for everyone. This sub-genre of pop is one I personally would like to see more of in mainstream music.

10.) Pony – Rex Orange County

Top Tracks: 10/10 / It Gets Better / Never Had The Balls

Electric pianos, bells, and bubbly synths is Rex Orange County’s junior album, Pony. Reflecting on his personal growth and long-term relationships from a juvenile perspective, Rex created a bedroom soul album that allows listeners an intimate look to the inside of his world.

9.) Charli – Charli XCX

Top Tracks: Next Level Charli / Gone / Click

Charli XCX has been pioneering a new wave of futuristic pop music throughout her career and her fifth project, Charli, truly brought this movement to light. The adventurous robotic production gave us the club anthems we wanted with some tracks offering playful lyrics while others offer more tender and love-filled lyrics. At moments her vocals are distorted and manipulated to give off that glossy PC feeling that XCX typically aims for. Charli is an album that is meant to be played loud and is also a pop album that lives in its entirely own category.

8.) Immunity – Clairo

Top Tracks: Bags / Sofia / I Wouldn’t Ask You

Soft, thoughtful, and honest is bedroom pop singer, Clairo’s, debut album, Immunity. Immunity feels extraordinary relatable for anybody coming into their young adult self. On this album, Clairo revisits her struggles with mental and physical health, the fear of never getting her life together, and young love. Clairo also uses Immunity as a platform to come out as bisexual and features songs such as Bags and Sofia that hits on the harder parts of being a bisexual woman. Overall, Immunity feels less like an album and more like a friend.

7.) Willow – Willow

Top Tracks: Overthinking IT / Time Machine / PrettyGirlz

Willow Smith provided ethereal summer vibes with her junior album, Willow. Produced and co-written by Tyler Cole, the two teamed up to create a psychedelic soul album about the philosophical sense of love, anxieties, and a search for deeper meanings. Willow also highlights the star child’s vocal range and abilities while also maintaining her brand of nonconformity.

6.) When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish

Top Tracks: xanny / i love you / bad guy

There is no question that Billie Eilish completely owned 2019. Starting off the year, Eilish was as an up-and-coming artist playing small venues with capacities of around 500 people. Ending the year, the teenage singer became one of the most known pop stars globally, selling out arenas with capacities of around 24,000 people. The growth. Eilish’s debut album, When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? (WWAFAWDWG?) was seen everywhere in 2019 with its eerie pop-goth vibe. In her whisper-like tone, Eilish sang us songs about the difficulties of loving herself, the harm of drug culture, and taking pride in being rebellious. The unique distortion of the album’s production makes it stand out from any other album released this year (shoutout to her brother Finneas for producing and co-writing the entire album), and the dark lyrical content put Eilish in her entirely own lane.

5.) Reward – Cate le Bon

Top Tracks: The Light / Daylight Matters / Home To You

Cate le Bon sounds more lavish than ever before on her fifth studio album, Reward. The album is lush and warm and plays on layers of synths, saxes, and weightless arrangements. The lyrics are well written with a dose of elegance to them making it the perfect album to play over a glass of wine (or two) or on a crisp Sunday morning. The lonely romantic tone of Reward slides so smoothly into listener’s hearts, making it one of the most fabulous albums of the year.

4.) Pang – Caroline Polachek

Top Tracks: Hit Me Where It Hurts / Door / So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings

With the help of PC Music’s Danny L Harle, Caroline Polachek’s debut album, Pang, marked itself as one of the most refreshing pieces of work in 2019. Euphoric, dreamy, and symphonic production matched with unique vocals creates an album that is hard to get out of your head (Door and Insomnia being the best examples of this). On Pang, Polachek focuses on love and breakups and the rush of freedom and excitement that follows after the grieving period. Polachek’s background in classical vocal training is also defined throughout this album with operatic vocalizations, perfected staccato, and controlled vocal leaps. Given that this is only Polachek’s debut, the artist clearly has a bright future ahead of her.

3.) IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

Top Tracks: NEW MAGIC WAND / A BOY IS A GUN* / ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?

Tyler, The Creator took a creative risk with the making of his fifth studio album, Igor. Entirely produced by only Tyler himself, the rapper goes into a groovy story about one-sided love. The 12 tracks contain untouched and imperfect vocals to highlight the authenticity of Tyler’s words —something most artists would be too afraid to do. The release of an album as personal and intimate as Igor at the end of the decade truly showcases the growth Tyler, The Creator has implemented in his work throughout the years, and we are so proud to see it.

2.) Magdalene – FKA twigs

Top Tracks: cellophane / home with you / mary magdalene

After going through a painful public breakup, physical illness, tumors, surgery, and more, FKA twigs made the come back of the year with her sophomore album, Magdalene. The album takes its name after the Biblical icon, Mary Magdalene, marking her as a representation for under appreciated women who have selflessly sacrificed too much for the people that they love. Magdalene pulls listeners into an alien meets the renaissance era like world, spiraling into melancholic tales of heartbreak, otherness, and understanding womanhood. The desperation and vulnerability twigs felt during the making of this album is clearly defined in the vocal delivery of her writing, especially in tracks such as cellophane and home with you, where twigs gorgeously wails and cries in a way that makes it impossible not to empathize with her. The clever production mixed with the honestness and rawness of twigs makes Magdalene one of the best and one of the most emotional albums of 2019.

1.) Norman F***ing Rockwell! – Lana Del Rey

Top Tracks: The greatest / happiness is a butterfly / Cinnamon Girl

Landing as the best album of the 2019 is Lana Del Rey’s 6th studio album, Norman F***ing Rockwell! (NFR!). Co-written and produced by the iconic Jack Antonoff, Del Rey sings about love, heartbreak, climate change, hopelessness, Kanye West, and everything in between. Mirroring a 70s aesthetic with brilliant piano melodies, acoustic guitars, and angst, Del Rey somehow managed to create an album that feels larger than life. With painful ballads that instantly brings you to tears such as, Love Song, California, and Happiness is a Butterfly, a groovy Sublime cover of Doin’ Time, and attitude-filled anthems that are a reminder that men ain’t sh*t, like the album titled track, Norman F***ing RockwellNFR! presents itself as a flexible yet cohesive album. Throughout her artistic career, Del Rey has shown time and time again that she is a brilliant songwriter and story-teller, and NFR! truly solidified her a spot as not only one of the best song writers of the year but also of all time.

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My name is Tara and I put out articles for UIC Radio on whatever day I can. I’m a media communication and professional writing major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I host a pop music show, PopTara, on UIC Radio every Wednesday from 8:30pm-10:30pm. If you want to keep up with my manic life you can follow me here:

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