2019 was filled with many amazing albums, and as the last year of the 2010s it managed to leave a mark as a wonderfully innovative year that will definitely have an impact in the 2020s. With that in mind, here are my 15 best albums of 2019:
PROTO – Holly Hendron
Holly Hendron’s PROTO is an intriguing look into the future of technology in music. On PROTO Hendron uses a unique AI known as Spawn that reads and processes music to add to what it hears, in a sense creating its own music. The record masterfully combines these could mechanical aesthetics with beautiful lush sounds, showing the different sides of electronic music masterfully. All of this is also combined with the vocals of not only Herndon herself but also an entire choral ensemble. This album serves as an important step into the future of the way music can be created and shows that experimentation truly can pay off.
Favorite track: Eternal
Bandana – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Over the course of the 2010s Freddie Gibbs and Madlib have become what is quite possibly the greatest hip-hop duo of the past decade. Bandana only continues to prove that the praise the duo has gotten is definitely deserved. Combining Freddie Gibbs’ amazing gangsta rap flows with Madlib’s iconic soulful and sample based production, the music produced by this duo manages to flow extremely well and both members of the duo feel like they are complementing each other in the best ways possible. The raps on this album range from topics like Gibbs’ experiences and hardships he faced as a criminal as well as the political issues America is facing in the modern day. All of these verses are complemented by Freddie’s wonderful flows that allow him to ride perfectly over rich hip-hop production that is among some of the best work that Madlib has ever done, even if all of the beats were made on an iPad. In the end this record serves as a testament to the fact that anybody that believes hip-hop is dead is not only wrong, but also missing out on some of the most exciting hip-hop music ever recorded.
Favorite track: Fake Names
Dorkcore 101 – Kevin and the Bikes
Dorkcore 101 is one of the most intriguing concepts in music ever, despite the fact that it sounds extremely idiotic on paper. The album is a 101 song entirely focused on the cartoon Ed, Edd, n Eddy and it is filled with the same kind of humor that the original show had. Even with this off-the-wall and seemingly annoying concept though the record keeps itself interesting by constantly experimenting with the sounds of genres like noise and post-rock to create a collage of different sounds that all manage to work very well together. The album also remains self-aware through out it’s runtime and in the end it becomes more of a statement about a group of peoples’ devotion to something, and how your love for it can play into you becoming more mature as you grow up. Because of this, a record that sounds extremely stupid ends up becoming one of the most emotionally impactful albums of 2019 due to it’s unique sonic departures and the personal connection it manages to create.
Favorite track: Kevin Moves Out of Peach Creek
A Day In Bel Bruit – Lilien Roasarian
A Day In Bel Bruit is one of the most unique ambient albums to have came out in the past year. It creates a beautiful balance between the beauty of nature and the technology of man by combining nature field recordings with intriguing radio broadcasts. It is one of those records where it feels like the sounds really evoke the imagery of the album cover. It feels like you are walking through an overgrown city as a satellite slowly broadcasts the beautiful sounds of the record. It is one of the best ambient releases of 2019, and it presents one of the best sonic atmospheres of the decade as a whole. This project provides a fresh and beautiful take on the ambient genre ad stays very consistent in its beautiful textures.
Favorite track: dead flowers still seem to smile
Air Ni Ni – Hakusi Hasegawa
Air Ni Ni is a wonderfully eclectic and insane project. Itr combines the off-the wall energy of breakcore and the denseness of jazz and ties the two together wonderfully with beautiful pop melodies. It is overflowing with uncommon time signatures, electronic elements, and many different subgenres of jazz. Despite the beautifully layered and complex sounds the vocals still manage to fit onto the record perfectly and help add to the craziness of the sound. It is a great representation of the future of jazz music through its skill in combining genres in a near perfect way.
Favorite track: Stamens, Pistels, Parties
So Much Fun – Young Thug
During the 2010s Young Thug managed to gain notoriety as one of the most unique and influential artists within the trap genre due to his eccentric vocal delivery and large catalogue of solid projects. His 2019 release, So Much Fun only adds to his already wonderful discography and proves that Thugger is just as relevant as he was when he first blew up. Even if Thug’s rapping isn’t as crazy as it once was he still possesses the same energy that allowed him to blow up in the first place. This energy is what allows Thug to produce chart toppers like The London and Hot that showcase his wonderful personality that makes him so lovable. So Much Fun truly lives up to its title in the sense that it never fails to deliver a fun atmosphere throughout its tracklist, and it proves that Young Thug’s career is far from over.
Favorite track: Hot
2/23/19 – BBY KODIE
In the modern trap scene BBY KODIE is one of the most talented artists, and he manages to stand out not only due to his hard-hitting style of southern rapping but also because of his unique and at times even experimental choices of beats. 2/23/19 is filled with personality and KODIE leaves an impression through his flows and wordplay that are perfectly complemented by wonderful production. The beats on this record are all hard-hitting and unique from one another, and they really shine on unique moments like the use of text-to-speech in the instrumental of Satisfaction. It’s moments like this that work extremely well with KODIE’s comedic tone, and help to make the record one of the most replayable of 2019.
Favorite track: I’m Throwed Freestyle
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Rare RCB hexD.mp3 – Reptilian Club Boyz
Reptilian Club Boyz are quite possibly the most unique group to gain notoriety on Soundcloud in recent years due to their unique contributions to the cloud rap and tread genres. The album flows more like a DJ Mix in some senses, being a compilation of various songs released by the group, however the songs are heavily affected by a lo-fi digital affect called bit-crushing which adds a lot of distortions to the music. This effect in combination with typical cloud-rap and tread aesthetics creates a uniquely ethereal effect that works very well with member Hi-C’s amazing production. The rapping, although not lyrically dense in any way, perfectly matches the aesthetic through fast flows and auto-tuned vocals that blend into the production unique way. The aesthetics of this record almost make it sound like it is being played through a flip-phone, which is an interesting juxtaposition to the futuristic production that sucks you into the sounds of internet era rap.
Favorite track: [untitled]
All Together Now – Chance de la Soul
All Together Now! perfectly combines the genres of future funk and plunderphonics, two of the most renowned genres that are known for their unique use of sampling. Chance pay homage to classic releases in these genres like Since I Left You by the Avalanches by sharing the same fun aesthetic and masterfully using samples to keep a smile on your face throughout it’s short but sweet 23 minute runtime. The album is consistently entertaining and never has a dip in quality, consistently delivering an extremely entertaining blend of samples and future funk instrumentation that is infectiously happy, but far from being surface level with its heavily layered sampling.
Favorite track: Handsomeboy Technicality
XieXie – Celer
Xie Xie is not only the best ambient release of 2019 but also among the greatest ambient releases in the 2010s. The album creates an unparallelled atmosphere through its combination of long, sprawling ambient pieces with beautiful field recordings. The field recordings serve as interludes in a sense providing a breath of fresh air through scenic and immersive recordings of Japan that evoke the scenery presented through the sound, these tracks are placed between wonderfully soft ambient recordings that are predominantly loop-based. It presents an interesting contrast between bustling cityscapes and beautiful countrysides and it manages to show the true beauty of life’s sometimes cluttered nature by looking at it through the lens of a relaxing and inventive piece of ambient music.
Favorite track: Rains Lit By Neon
All My Heroes Are Cornballs – JPEGMAFIA
All My Heroes Are Cornballs is a great commentary on the social sphere of the internet and the way we act online. JPEGMAFIA is an amazing producer and his beats are filled with interesting and off the wall choices like frequent beat switches, changes in volume, and cut-offs that are a great representation of the quick and at times hard to grasp aspects of internet culture. These beats create a sound-collage esque aesthetic that works very well with the records themes. JPEG is an amazing rapper that covers topics like internet politics, and the social interactions that he has had as a popular figure online. His verses are almost always hard-hitting and filled with personality. JPEG also puts vocal effects on his voice frequently that add to the aesthetics presented by the beats. The most intriguing part of this record is how much it really feels like a sonic representation of the internet, lyrically it is filled with powerful opinionated verses that carry the same ironic undertones frequently seen on platforms like Twitter, yet it still remains equally as critical of those platforms and the people on them, in a sense showing that despite the fact that we are so quick to criticize others we at times act exactly the same. In the end the record is a confusing mess of genre-pushing hip-hop instrumentals and confusingly relatable and honest raps that blend perfectly together with humorous and ironic internet tones.
Favorite track: Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot
Ashview Heights Legend – SpaceGhoztPurrp
SpaceGhoztPurrp was quite possibly the most innovative yet underappreciated rappers of the 2010s. Despite frequent drama and an at times negative public image, Purrp remains one of the most genre defining figures in underground rap. Ashview Heights Legend only further proves Purrp’s ability as an innovator, combining elements of production from southern rap, memphis rap, experimental hip-hop, cloud-rap, trap, and much more into his extremely unique production. Aside from the amazing production, this record also remains unique vocally by using Quasimoto-esque pitched up effects all throughout the record that make for an odd combination with Purrp’s hard hitting raps. This record calls back to some of the earliest experimentation in hip-hop, channeling influence from old school Memphis rap perfectly with its unforgiving boastful lyrics. This record shows the kind of innovation that caused Purrp to in many ways birth the modern rap scene, and shows just how underlooked he remains despite his huge contributions to what we see hip-hop as today.
Favorite track: T.R.I.L.L.
Late – Mixed Matches
On Late, Mixed Matches masters his aesthetic through his beautiful rendition of the cloud rap genre. The whole album has an ethereal, almost dream-like aesthetic surrounding it, created through layered vocals and lo-fi trap beats. The album immediately hooks you in with the wonderful opener Peroxide, and through a maintained aesthetic it manages to keep you interested all the way through. It’s overall a great introduction into the cloud rap genre, being more subtle and less “rough around the edges” than most of its releases, but it also remains unique to albums within the genre through it’s intriguing take on many forms of pop music. Late is in many ways a love letter to the troubles and beauty of love itself, and it presents these themes beautifully through its lush sonic palette. Mixed Matches definitely has reached a creative height with his music, yet his career is still young, and it will be interesting to see how he will continue to innovate on his sound in the future.
Favorite track: Peroxide
Girl With Basket of Fruit – Xiu Xiu
Xiu Xiu is one of the most acclaimed and polarizing groups in the world of experimental music, and they have managed to reach another creative height with Girl With Basket of Fruit. This album stands out in the world of music due to its ability to create a terrifying atmosphere. It perfectly blends genres like industrial, experimental, electronic, and Xiu Xiu’s unique art pop sound. The aesthetic of the record is uniquely scary due to it’s hard to define sound and its combination of terrifying spoken word performances and childish lyricism. The sound of the record is polarizing unique and it shows that experimentation can pay off when done right.
Favorite track: Normal Love
A Quiet Farewell, 2016-2018 – Slauson Malone
Hip-Hop and sound collage producer Slauson Malone creates a beautiful, thought-provoking, and genre-pushing project filled with apocalyptic and melancholic atmosphere. The album manages to flow so smoothly despite taking so many bold left turns is truly something to phone home about. It is records like this that are likely to shape the sound of the 2020s, and many more decades to come. I can see this album in many ways becoming as influential as some of the most praised records of all time, our generation’s Black Saint and Sinner Lady or Freak Out! In some senses. However even without considering what influence it may have the album still a phenomenal listening experience that is essential to anybody trying to expand their musical tastes.
Favorite track: Smile 4
In terms of school opinions, here is a student favorite. “My favorite album from 2019 was Ginger by Brockhampton,” says 8th grader Maiya Mejia.
Considering the outstanding quality of these albums, it’s easy to see that 2019 was an exceptional year for music. In a decade filled with a lot of wonderful albums, 2019 manages to stand out as a great farewell to the 2010s. One can only look forward to the amazing music that the 2020s could have.