Music

Best of 2019: Albums

By the

Published December 6, 2019


Design by Cade Shore

1. Cuz I Love You – Lizzo

On her third studio album, singer/rapper Lizzo finally got her big break—and wow, was it worth the wait. She raps about confidence and female empowerment on “Like A Girl,” “Water Me,” and “Soulmate,” scorns inadequate lovers on “Crybaby” and “Jerome,” and celebrates satisfactory ones on “Cuz I Love You” and “Better in Color.” Lizzo’s 14 poetic tracks give us all the heaping, infectious dose of radical self-love we need in a world that constantly demands we be thinner, prettier, and richer. Cuz I Love You is Lizzo’s love. letter to herself, and we’re all just privileged enough to read it over her shoulder. – Katherine Randolph

2. IGOR – Tyler, The Creator 

On IGOR, we meet a version of Tyler, The Creator who has assumed his place as one of the decade’s most prolific, provocative, and talented artists. IGOR maintains the more mature, thoughtful perspective of Tyler’s Flower Boy (2017) while allowing his off-kilter production to take center stage. The songs are dynamic, bursting with delightfully weird instrumental and structural choices. Buzzing synths and compressed drums come together to create a deceptively pretty soundscape that backs masterful features and precise, focused lyricism. IGOR makes no compromises for the sake of easy consumability, yet is decidedly magnetic. – Timmy Sutton

3. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? – Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish’s debut album revolutionized music in 2019 by refusing to display the characteristics of any single specific genre. In WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, Eilish creates her own sound, one which has significantly influenced the music of other artists. The production of the album has an avant-garde aura, combining heavy bass, quiet vocals, and snippets of commonplace, non-musical noises, such as an airplane announcement on the song “i love you.” The complex and layered production, combined with Eilish’s heartfelt and emotional vocals, shows pop music can be vulnerable, experimental, and still a lot of fun. At only 17, Eilish made a debut that shook music, garnered tremendous success, and is slowly becoming everybody’s “strange addiction.” – Rachelle Bonja

4. thank u, next – Ariana Grande

A mere six months after the release of her Grammy-award winning Sweetener (2018), Ariana Grande burst back onto the music scene to encapsulate the mayhem of her personal life—in another full-length album. The singer’s vulnerability glimmers throughout thank u, next, and her music is a guiding star. Among the effusive highs of “7 Rings” and “bloodline” appear the skillfully-crafted lows of “ghostin,” “in my head,” and “needy.” Grande finds herself in the only entirely solo album of her discography, and it speaks volumes. thank u, next offers an abundance of the themes that connect humanity: love, loss, growth, hope, friendship, and liberation. – Emma Chuck

5. Norman Fucking Rockwell! – Lana Del Rey

Anyone listening to Lana Del Rey’s sixth album will recognize the artist’s sound immediately. She maintains her signature deadpan, sultry style while expanding her songwriting horizons in Norman Fucking Rockwell!, an album that contains her most explicit and jarring lyrics yet. With references to the LP’s titular American painter and to Sylvia Plath, a famous American writer, Del Rey creates a darkly romantic vision for the whole country, not just the Southern California locations she mentions. The album’s third track,“Venice Bitch,” makes this connection effortlessly and other tracks, like “Cinnamon Girl,” discuss a dark side of relationships. On Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Del Rey brings both haunting emotionality and her A game. – Olivia Martin

6. Wasteland, Baby! – Hozier

Arriving five years after the release of his debut album, Hozier’s Wasteland, Baby! is comfortably familiar yet refreshingly unlike his previous work. Where before the singer lingered in a standard blues-rock sound, he now conjures the style and subject matter of 1960s protest music to fantastic effect. It’s loud, it’s aware, and it’s defiant. This rebellious feeling, coupled with catchy drum lines and Hozier’s signature soulful vocals, creates an album with clear vision and authentic theming. The album’s opener in particular embodies this spirit—titled “Nina Cried Power,” it is a testament to all activist music icons who came before him. If you need some energy, don’t let this release pass you by. – John Woolley

7. Father of the Bride – Vampire Weekend

In Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend masters their now-signature upbeat, folk-pop vulnerability. Ezra Koenig’s clever lyrics have evolved from playful abstraction into meticulously scripted narratives, which resolve neatly without sacrificing integrity. Although bordering on overly-repetitive, the outward simplicity of each song preserves the emotional rawness that has been the core of Vampire Weekend since their self-titled 2008 debut. The tracks’ varied styles link classic country to modern mixing, and merge modern anxieties with timeless sentimentality. What line could more accurately summarize Millennial tension than “Harmony Hall”’s hit reframe, “I don’t wanna live like this / but I don’t wanna die”? – Emily Jaster

8. HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM – Beyoncé

HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM is not a Beyoncé’s greatest hits album. Consisting of the entirety of her historic 2018 headline Coachella performance, it is Beyoncé at the peak of her ambition, creativity, and versatility. Amidst the marching band’s pulsating brass fanfare, Beyoncé breathes new life into old bops like “Crazy in Love” and new hits like “Formation,” sampling artists from Nina Simone to Kendrick Lamar in a two-hour-long celebration of black excellence. Perhaps her most defining statement as an artist, HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM cements Beyoncé’s status as the 21st century’s single greatest entertainer. Bow down. – Jason Cuomo

9. Lover – Taylor Swift

Lover is the pinnacle of Taylor Swift’s sound—the pop sensation’s long-awaited seventh album cements her full transition to adulthood. A refreshing lightheartedness underlies the emotional tracks on this album. As in all of Swift’s records, there is a nod to her infamous enemies with “I Forgot that You Existed,” an upbeat tune about moving on. Singles like “ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)” and “You Need to Calm Down” provide some levity for an album full of heavier songs like “Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks),” which reveals Swift’s mother’s battle with cancer. Other tracks, such as “Lover” and “Cornelia Street,” vividly chronicle the bittersweet process of falling in love. Listeners will be enamored with Lover. – Olivia Martin

10. When I Get Home – Solange

Solange hones her unique sonic style in her fifth studio album, When I Get Home, which features contributions from R&B heavyweights like The-Dream and renowned producers like Pharrell. An exploration into funk psychedelia, the ethereal record lilts from track to track, blending the line between song and speech. Solange uses a combination of ambient synths and airy vocals to create a cyclical, rhythmic flow throughout. The record culminates in “Almeda,” and the song’s dreamy soundscape clashes with lucid lyrics about taking pride in the resilience of the black community. From “Stay Flo” to “Binz,” the album reflects Solange’s cohesive vision, bending genre and musical texture expertly to her will. – Skyler Coffey

 

 



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