Search

25 ALBUMS FROM 2019 I PLAYED AND PLAYED (AND PLAYED)


A personal selection. A list of those albums which excited or moved or got me moving. A set drawn from the music I wrote about or reviewed – oh, let’s not mess about, a collection of fantastic music released this year.

Best? Who is to say? There are probably another 25 albums I didn’t get to hear or review which would make an equally strong list. Doesn’t really matter. These are the ones I’d be recommending you buy – yes, buy, not just stream – for yourself or someone you love.

Want to know more? Click through to the review for each album (or the story behind it).

Want to hear more? The reviews have their own links to the albums as well as filmclips but here is an Albums Of The Year playlist featuring a track from each of these stellar records – save the Charles Jenkins and Harmony James albums which aren’t available on streaming.

And if you haven’t already seen, there are two additional playlists with 50 of the most enjoyed/most enjoyable songs of the year. Such a feast!

Songs Of The Year part 1

Songs Of The Year part 2

So here, in no particular order, 2019’s most enjoyed.

LIZZO – Cuz I Love You

Cuz I Love You actually should be called Cuz I Love Me – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Self-confidence and a certain amount of self-glorification underpins the Texan-born Melissa Jefferson, allowing her to sing (pretty damn well), rap (pretty damn well), play and write (yep, pretty damn well – that’s her on flute here incidentally), but also to assume, rather than having to seek, respect.”READ THE REVIEW

PATTY GRIFFIN – Patty Griffin

“As wonderful as her singing is, as comforting and intimate and timeless as it is, just as importantly, after 10 albums Griffin’s songwriting is both at ease with form and restless for exploration. Which may even be analogous to some of the lives described. In any case, as one of the modern greats of songwriting, she writes with precision in whatever style it lands, the stories given room.” READ THE REVIEW

SHARON VAN ETTEN – Remind Me Tomorrow

“The Bowie-in-Berlin-esque (or maybe more relevantly, given she has moved to New York, the LCD Soundsystem-ish) Seventeen has a febrile, somewhat dark energy, like walking the streets of an unknown city, hemmed in by the buildings. But there’s also wonder and excitement, like walking the streets of an unknown city gazing up at the buildings. The dichotomy of mood is believable and real.” READ THE REVIEW

BIG THIEF – U.F.O.F.

“It is acoustic and electric, with the latter mostly in undertones and atmospheres, creating an ambience which leans to blurry, the backgrounds less about distinction than mood. Likewise, the tempos are more likely to sway than to push, energised to swirl in the sun in From, maybe, almost jaunty in Strange, but mostly you would call it courtly.” READ THE REVIEW

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – Ghosteen

“It is a sadly beautiful record of intense intimacy whose sonic palette is severely limited (the Bad Seeds are such a minimal or subliminal factor you wonder at their sublimation of ego) but whose emotional palette is broad. And its message, like its lyrics, is as simple and as profound as we don’t have to do this alone; he isn’t doing this alone.” READ THE REVIEW

ALDOUS HARDING – Designer

“If Weight Of The Planets balances between open window (the optimistic bass, the practically buoyant piano) and closing door (the tense glance of the strings, the hushing direction of the voice), the husky air of Heaven Is Empty has the song hovering between a widening pit seeking your surrender and a space in the distance calling your name. READ THE REVIEW

TINY RUINS – Olympic Girls

“On Olympic Girls, Fullbrook - now with Tiny Ruins credited as a band for what used to be her solo project – has many colours, not just black and grey; many sounds, not just acoustic guitar; and many images of life springing up through the footpath cracks, of trust blossoming, of emotional terrain complex and variable.” READ THE REVIEW

MICHAEL KIWANUKA – Kiwanuka

“This is a reflection of his time and place, sure, but also our time and place with police violence, immigration, exclusion generally explored in its lyrics. It is an album where you can look as far in as you want and be confronted, but you can also ride on the incredibly attractive textures alone and find your comfort. Best of all, you can do both.” READ THE REVIEW

UNDERWORLD – Drift Series 1 box

“Too many things seem to be hidden and wasting, things I saw and skills and ideas that were always getting pushed back. We were not getting at these things I thought could really be exciting. So there was a goal in that, to release things, but not really knowing what would happen.” READ THE INTERVIEW

TAYLOR SWIFT – Lover

“Like a government given a bit of a scare at the polls – in this case the reduced success of 2017’s paranoia-and-revenge -soaked Reputation, and some surprising new fronts of criticism on social and regular media - this is an album less concerned with trying out the new, and all about reclaiming lost ground by being as many T Swifts to as many people as necessary.” READ THE REVIEW

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Western Stars

“Makes sense in part because Springsteen, the lover of Orbison’s tremulous melodramas, the investigator of the border country’s lives, the imbiber of American myths (its lies, its facts, and its compromised truths), and a man who has read both Cormac McCarthy and Zane Grey, is in his element here.” READ THE REVIEW

THELMA PLUM – Better In Blak

“The harder part, but one she pulls off easily, is in giving not just that voice to others but that message that they’ve been seen and they’ve been heard. How familiar is this line from the album’s title track: “Do you know what it feels like, to get calls in the middle of the night/Saying you’re not worth it, you deserve it”?” READ THE REVIEW

BILL CALLAHAN – Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest

“Instead, Callahan now muses from a place of connection and need. That is, of being needed and wanting to be needed, because the responsibility feels right and not just heavy. Having others look to him for value and not just performance is both frightening in some ways and richly rewarding.” READ THE REVIEW

CARLY RAE JEPSEN – Dedicated

“There’s a sexiness to it but is a sweetened version that is rising on joy rather than pumped up on urgent need: that is, the hips glide on this groove rather than thrust. And yet somehow, she doesn’t sound like a young avatar for some creepy need in either a Swedish factory songwriter or slobbering dirty mac-wearing listener. She may sound young but she’s not going to be your starter pack.” READ THE REVIEW

CHARLES JENKINS – When I Was On The Moon

“Charles Jenkins’ newest album – one man, one guitar, one microphone, one bedroom - is just delightful. Sometimes sadly beautiful. Sometimes lightly rising beautiful. Sometimes just straight out beautiful.” READ THE REVIEW

LANKUM – The Livelong Day

“In Katie Cruel, Peat’s voice has both the close-to-the-skin tone and the needle-point cut of a violin, her invocation of resignation, pain and defiance masterful, all while there’s a rising tide of what might in another context be the low skimming helicopters of any Vietnam movie. It doesn’t end in peace but in abandonment.” READ THE REVIEW

THE NATIONAL – I Am Easy To Find

“While we are here though, how fortunate the band, and we, are to have the use of voices such as Gail Ann Dorsey, Mina Tindle, Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten, Kate Stables, Eve Owen, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Different in tone and delivery, they serve to flesh out the stories beyond Berninger’s romantically wearied expression, and the imperfect men he describes, in shades of need and suppression, loss and strength.” READ THE REVIEW

JULIA JACKLIN – Crushing

“But Crushing would more accurately be called a state of play in interpersonal dynamics, a report from the field of shit that happens when people in 2019 meet, fall, fight, fade, and fall away.” READ THE REVIEW

SAMPA THE GREAT – The Return

“However, The Return, officially the first Sampa The Great album, is so thoroughly satisfying for adventure, potent lyrics, imagination, and depth, that it makes that mix tape feel like a starter pack. That was potential; this is realisation, this is, as she declares in the early ‘70s righteous funk and black power salute that kicks off the second half of the album, the Final Form.” READ THE REVIEW

BAD//DREEMS – Doomsday Ballet

“Those characters are trying to make sense of relationships and white privilege, living in changing cities and swerving away from police truncheons, reacting to American hegemony and identity politics, and recognising why putting The Triffids on the radio instead of the ramblings of your boss could be the choice of sanity over aggravation.” READ THE REVIEW

LEONARD COHEN – Thank You For The Dance

“Or how the brief The Goal takes on a blend of elegance and emptiness within its 72 seconds, while The Hills balances between the hint of a harsh modernity in the implacable electric bass and its sister feeling of disquiet in the bowed acoustic bass, and the holy elevation of the female voices promising, as ever, sanctuary and tender judgement.” READ THE REVIEW

JENNY LEWIS – On The Line

“Some songs are as woozy as a mid-morning drinker (the sprawled across an unmade bed Heads Gonna Roll), others lightly dance around the room like a late evening return home on a pill night (the loose limbed Red Bull & Hennessy). Some are slumped on a sun lounge willing the sun to bake this feeling away (the tender submission of Dogwood, the weary beauty of Hollywood Lawn), others are soaking up that same sun as a comfort (Rabbit Hole’s unlikely mix of Stevie Nicks and Steve Miller). READ THE REVIEW

JESS RIBEIRO – Love Hate

“The kick along comes in songs such as Stranger, Chair Stare and Love Is The Score Of Nothing, which fair throb with a kind of coiled energy that’s equal parts desire and momentum. Along with the album’s ultra brief closing track, Crawling Back To You, Love Is The Score Of Nothing comes out of hiding as a genuine pop turn possibly cast off from The Velvet Underground’s sweet-centred Loaded.” READ THE REVIEW

THOM YORKE – ANIMA

“Less paranoid than The Eraser, more subdued than Amok, this is an album where Impossible Knots suggests interaction, with its mobile rhythm and momentum, but doesn’t actually seek it out; where Dawn Chorus peers over the rim of a deep pit of low keyboards and repeated patterns which feel like hummed notes, but drops a slowly tumbling feather, in the form of his muted singing, that never reaches the bottom, rather than throwing in a pebble to emphasise the starkness. READ THE REVIEW

CHEMICAL BROTHERS – No Geography

“This 1-2-3 punch makes the Soul Train disco of Got To Keep On feel like a chance to catch your breath, though in truth it just moves you in different ways, turning your day-glo shirt into glowing white jackets, your sneakers into chunky leather pumps. The bassline here is a suspension bridge over a killer ravine, the whoops, bells and variegated guitars swinging you, the punishing industrial sounds about three minutes in dislocating you, the chanted vocals reconnecting you for the final minute of the journey.” READ THE REVIEW

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

And because love is all around this time of year, here are 12 more which could easily have made the list, and maybe on another day would.

AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS – AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS

READ THE REVIEW

HARMONY JAMES – Resignation

READ THE REVIEW

BRITTANY HOWARD – Jaime

READ THE REVIEW

JAMES BLAKE – Assume Form

READ THE REVIEW

FAYE WEBSTER – Atlanta Millionaires Club

READ THE REVIEW

EMMA RUSSACK – Winter Blues

READ THE REVIEW

HARRY STYLES – Fine Line

READ THE REVIEW

ALEX LAHEY – The Best Of Luck Club

READ THE REVIEW

FKA twigs – MAGDALENE

READ THE REVIEW

WEYES BLOOD – Titanic Rising

READ THE REVIEW

ARIANA GRANDE – Thank U, Next

READ THE REVIEW

STELLA DONNELLY – Beware Of The Dogs

READ THE REVIEW


This website and its content is subject to copyright - © Bernard Zuel 2020. All rights reserved. Except as permitted by the copyright law applicable to you, you may not reproduce or communicate any of the content on this website without the permission of the copyright owner.