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Top 100 Albums of 2019

Albums 1-10: Five sentence description Albums 11-20: Three sentence description Albums 21-25: One sentence description
101Stuck Out Here
Until We're Each Someone Else

Correction, because I'm an idiot: This should fall around number 11, right before Tallest Man On Earth. Somehow I missed an album that almost broke into my top ten. Anyway, here are it's three sentences:
Stuck Out Here has potentially the most honest lyrics of the year, which is saying something for a year that was so strong in both punk and country (this being the former). While it's full of Americana-Pop Punk anthems a la The Menzingers, it is the midtempo "Saint and Sinners Wine" that is not only an album highlight, but a highlight for the decade. For honest punk, you can't do better than Stuck Out Here.
Angels on the Slope
99Cat Clyde
Hunters Trance
9855 Deltic
You Could Own An American Home
97Weyes Blood
Titanic Rising
96Sufjan Stevens & Timo Andres
The Decalogue
95The Western Den
A Light Left On
94Horse Jumper of Love
So Divine
93Meg and Dia
92Oso Oso
Basking in the glow
91The Japanese House
Good At Falling
90Joshua Ray Walker
Wish You Were Here
89Jessica Pratt
Quiet Signs
Closer to Grey
87Big Thief
Two Hands
86Noah Gundersen
85Dream State
Primrose Path
84Future Teens
Breakup Season
83Tiny Moving Parts
82Kings Kaleidoscope
80Frank Turner
No Man's Land
79Emily Jane White
Immanent Fire
78Better Oblivion Community Center
Better Oblivion Community Center
77The Gloaming
The Gloaming 3
76From Indian Lakes
Dimly Lit
Serotonin II
74Mike Mains and The Branches
When We Were In Love
73Rex Orange County
72Tyler, the Creator
71Kim Petras
70Two People
First Body
69Local Natives
Violet Street
68(Sandy) Alex G
House Of Sugar
67Sharon Van Etten
Remind Me Tomorrow
66Yes We Mystic
Ten Seated Figures
65Ian Noe
Between The Country
64The National
I Am Easy to Find
63Taylor Swift
62Bent Knee
You Know What They Mean
61Prince Daddy and The Hyena
Cosmic Thrill Seekers
60Big Thief
59Thank You Scientist
Hard Pop
57Origami Angel
Somewhere City
56glass beach
The First Glass Beach Album
55Bad Books
54Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle
Stranger in the Alps
52Chelsea Wolfe
Birth of Violence
51The Appleseed Cast
The Fleeting Light of Impermanence
50William Tyler
Goes West
49Billie Eilish
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Failed Gods
46Laura Stevenson
The Big Freeze
Morbid Stuff
44Penny and Sparrow
43Tyler Childers
Country Squire
42Sarah McCoy
Blood Siren
Walk Through Fire
40American Football
American Football (LP3)
39Sturgill Simpson
Sound and Fury
38The Dangerous Summer
Mother Nature
37The Maine
You Are OK
36Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
35Angel Olsen
All Mirrors
Count Bateman
33Mike Adams at His Honest Weight
There Is No Feeling Better
32In Her Own Words
Steady Glow
31Jimmy Eat World
30Stella Donnelly
Beware Of The Dogs
Get Fixed
27Kayak Jones
You Swear It's Getting Better Every Day
26The Menzingers
Hello Exile
25The Highwomen
The Highwomen

The spirit of outlaw country is alive and thriving.
24Glen Hansard
This Wild Willing

An evolution in sound for a folk artist that has been with me through all ages of my music taste.
23Great Grandpa
Four of Arrows

I never thought I’d be so nostalgic for lives that weren’t my own.
22State Faults

Screamo so beautiful that even those who don’t like screamo can like it.
21Blood Cultures
Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs

This is an album created for someone to be able to jam to, and it’s pretty damn jammable.
20Keaton Henson
Six Lethargies

A number of artists on this album broke away from their typical styling in a way that disappointed me and that I then eventually found fulfilling. Keaton Henson definitely took a risk, but the result was never disappointing. He created six neoclassical orchestral suites that are immediate in their beauty.
19Kishi Bashi

While I was initially very disappointed that Kishi Bashi had moved away from even further his fun and eclectic pop sound, sometimes a concept cannot be denied. Kishi Bashi talks about internment camps in our country in a beautiful and blunt way, and a way that reminds us that we cannot ignore our past, even though we desperately try to. The intimacy of the album works in its favor and makes these concepts hit even harder.
18Common Holly
When I say to you Black Lightning

Common Holly takes a genre that is all too familiar (hushed singer-songwriter folk) and makes it unfamiliar. Her lyrics are dark, but not the typical dark, her guitar work is glittery, but not the typical glittery, and her other instruments are weird, but not typical weird. She really should be typical, but is anything but.
17Jenny Hval
The Practice of Love

I still have no idea how to describe ‘The Practice of Love’. It’s weird fairy-robot sounding pop music with some poetry intervals or something. But I do know it captivates me upon every listen.

‘Interrobang’ is no fluff, straight rock music with the heart of pop punk. Every song has a singable and unforgettable chorus. It makes you want to headbang and sing along, and sometimes that’s really all you need.
15La Dispute

As expected, La Dispute delivers another album of emotional and intense reality. Lyrically they have fallen somewhere in between the vast expanse of other people’s stories featured in ‘Wildlife” and the intimacy of the topics in ‘Rooms of the House’. Taking on a more lush soundscape, Panorama sees that band hit the sweet spots in all of their formulas.
14Bon Iver

‘i,i’ realizes Bon Iver’s full growth from a folk artist to an art collective. This is a full departure from the sound that catapulted him to folk-lore and sometimes a departure from music that could be called a fully realized song. But in his transformation to the sonic embodiment of a california hippie compound has been fully realized.
13Fire! Orchestra

Expansive experimental post jazz is the best basic descriptor I can give of ‘Arrival’. This horribly undersells the album while also overselling. It somehow manages to be beautiful, unique, strange, but also incredibly accessible and listenable to those who have no idea what it really is (such as myself).
12Air Review
How We Got By

The loss of a child being put to music is not necessarily a new concept, but the loss of a foster child due to bureaucratic mistakes is a new take. Air Review recruits the use of synth pop to tell this all to telling story. The result is a sound of childlike innocence with the dark subtext creating a moving record.
11The Tallest Man on Earth
I Love You. It's a Fever Dream.

The best vocals Kristian Mattson has ever recorded, mixed with some of his most moving lyrics. For an album that is all about real depiction of loneliness, it is also the most successful he’s ever been in filling out his sound. Combine all of these facts and you have the best album out of an extremely consistent artist.
10Craig Finn
I Need A New War

There are a lot of people of people that are alive right now. ‘I Need a New War’ tells stories of about twenty of them, give or take a few. All of them are people we know, if we don’t know the exact people that Craig Finn knows and is talking about them. Each story on the album is detailed, unique, and specific. Yet, despite all of this, their universal and, more than anything, they feel like home.
9Her Name Is Calla
Animal Choir

Convention is something that Her Name is Calla paid absolutely no attention to with ‘Animal Choir’. Sprawling and epic post-rock, they created a behemoth of an album that never feels overwhelming. The seventy-eight minutes is filled with breathtaking moment after breathtaking moment, with not a second feeling out of place. They created an epic that is able to both hit hard and hold back punches, all while never encroaching on territory that they previously covered. ‘Animal Choir’ is an absolute masterclass in how to create a double album that feels worthy of being a double album.
8Lana Del Rey
Norman Fucking Rockwell!

‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ offered an American Commentary that I normally don’t appreciate in music. It’s apolitical, privileged, and tries to say a whole lot while really saying nothing. Enough listens, as well as Jack Antonoff’s production, have made me realize that’s maybe the point. Whether or not the criticism on disconnect is something I’ve created or not, there’s no doubting that this is the most consistent and coherent Lana has ever sounded. The largely piano-focused atmosphere blends brilliantly with her haunted vocals, creating a pop album that will define a new direction that the genre has been taking in recent years, largely due to Lana’s work. It’s a style that she popularized and now perfected with ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’.
7Darrin Bradbury
Talking Dogs and Atom Bombs

Darrin Bradbury doesn’t know what’s going on right now, but he’s doing his damndest just to figure out. Like many albums on this list, Bradbury has a lot of commentary on the political landscape of America in 2019. I think in ten, twenty, thirty years, we ‘Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs’ is an album that we’ll be able to look back on in order to remember how we felt as regular, everyday people during anything-but-regular times. Even though he never gave me answers, Bradbury did something that is also very important - Made me laugh and made me recognize my world in context. As someone with goals of entering a turbulent political field, context is something I want to make sure to never lose sight of.
6Emily Scott Robinson
Traveling Mercies

Along with Craig Finn and Darrin Bradbury, Emily Scott Robinson has the best grasp on the stories of Middle America that I think I’ve heard in music this year, or many other years. Unlike Finn, her stories are entirely her own. Every song is fairly barebones, creating the imagery of Emily Scott Robinson travelling the country with her guitar, figuring out things as she goes. ‘Traveling Mercies’ is her attempt at trying to put to music what she found out about both herself and the world around her. Sometimes revelatory, sometimes fun, almost always vulnerable, the album is an accessible masterpiece in Americana-pop.
5FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs has an ability for creating unique song structures in pop songs that you never knew you wanted until you hear them. There’s always a danger for pop albums that focus on production that other aspects can be laid to the side to perfect the production. ‘MAGDALENE’ does not have this issue. Outside of Tahliah Barnett’s perfectly handled vocals, the religious allegories throughout the album are just as provocative as the sound surrounding them. ‘MAGDALENE’ is somehow both accessible and addictingly complex in all of the right ways.
4Orville Peck

‘Pony’, a non-heteronormative, theatrical, and experimental album, is Orville Peck’s first attempt at making country a more inclusive genre for all. That being said, while his aesthetic may be country, it would be disingenuous to describe his music so simply. “Dead of Night” certainly has more in common with Lana Del Ray than it does with Johnny Cash (vocals aside), but the spirit of outlaw country does not have a better representation in 2019 than Orville Peck. But do not mistake his identity as a gimmick, nor is his music. It is without a best album you’ll hear this year by a Masked-Queer-Indie-Pop-Country-Artist-With-Shoegaze-Tendencies.
3Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties
Routine Maintenance

My love for musical theatre and musical storytelling makes Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties a side project specifically made for me. Combine Americana with Dan Campbell’s dominant brand of pop punk, add a fleshed out character and storyline, add some horns and a bit of hope, and you have what is perhaps Campbell’s defining album. The story of Aaron West, while nothing necessarily unique, is one full of heart. ‘Routine Maintenance’ created the best possible sound that creates enough heart to match it’s subject material. Melodramatic beyond belief, but what person hasn’t seen their own life in that way at some point?
2Courtney Swain
Between Blood and Ocean

Courtney Swain has a lot to share and the talent required to share it. ‘Between Blood and Ocean’ bounces between sweet piano pop, progressive rock, gothic folk, and everything in between, all guided by Swain’s transcendent voice. No matter what idea she decides to tackle, the sound remains undoubtedly one of Swain’s own brilliant making Evoking both the harshness of winter yet the beauty that comes from the gleam of the sun on snow, Swain creates a tonally consistent album full of genre inconsistency. No album in 2019 manages to excite me and give me the goosebumps that ‘Between Blood and Ocean’ does each and every listen.

Somehow ‘Blushing’ manages to be both fear and celebration of love wrapped up in a hazy dream of an album. Without a doubt, it dances the fine line of overdramatic melancholy, a border that I have never come close to. Indeed, much of Aaron Marsh’s crooning and lyrics can make me wonder why I adore it so, as I have never come close even to the apex of emotions that he describes. When combined with the beautiful production of the album, however, it doesn’t matter that I haven’t experienced what he describes. ‘Blushing’ invites me into a truly new and beautiful human experience.
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