Top 10 albums of 2019
1. Lana Del Rey, 'Norman F------ Rockwell'
Even when she was singing Sublime, 2019 was the year that Lana finally reached Nirvana. This album walks our hero right up to that same angry edge, but instead of screaming into a world where every song has already been written, she whispers lullabies to a vanishing empire. “The culture is lit,” she sings, “and if this is it, I had a ball.”
2. Angel Bat Dawid, 'The Oracle'
This Chicago composer uses the clarinet, the piano and her own pleading voice to map out a new zone of the jazz cosmos — all in a way that feels profoundly personal and impossibly intimate. Somehow, she recorded this thing on her iPhone.
3. Bill Callahan, 'Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest'
The record’s centerpiece, “Released,” stands as the greatest song written about our deranged American moment. Everywhere else, Callahan describes his newfound domestic bliss with signature enigma-vibes, generating fresh beauty and strangeness.
4. Kelela, 'Aquaphoria'
Vocalizing delicately over a steady ambient current, Kelela evokes oceanic waterworlds instead of atmospheric poofs. She knows what she’s doing. This music should give you the sense that you’re floating in something unfathomably deep.
5. Jessica Pratt, 'Quiet Signs'
Pratt’s ballads feel more like memories than songs, and her voice sounds more like science fiction than singing. This might be folk music, but it’s definitely more than that.
6. Beyoncé, 'Homecoming'
Here’s a nonstop, near-perfect live album — recorded at Coachella in 2018 — that invites us to imagine a utopia in which a marching band follows Beyoncé everywhere she goes.
7. Goonew, 'Back From Hell'
Of all the young dudes rhyming ahead of the beat, this fastidious Maryland rapper is the one whose time-smudging feels the most like spiritual practice.
8. Teejayx6, 'The Swipe Lessons'
Teejayx6’s exuberant rap tunes about digital scam artistry are so easy to fall for, you might end up sending him your mother’s maiden name, your high school mascot and your three-digit CVC.
9. Galcher Lustwerk, 'Information'
Thirty years ago, whenever someone rapped over the oomph-oomph of a house track, they called it “hip-house.” Does Galcher Lustwerk belong to that bloodline? Or is he talking his way across the dance floor in an entirely new way?
10. Mizmor, 'Cairn'
Liam Neighbors of Mizmor has described this dense, questing metal album as “a very positive affirmation of life, even though it sounds very grim.” See if it changes yours.
Top 10 songs of 2019
1. Young Thug, 'Just How It Is'
He’s the rapper of the decade, hands down, and here’s a little more proof. All the wild joy and blurred grief that animates Young Thug’s extraordinary discography resides quietly inside this song — a sober ballad about diamonds, kangaroos, life and death.
2. Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society, 'Finite'
At first spin, this patient jazz jam feels like it’s going around in circles. Keep listening. You might catch yourself spiraling upward in the direction of enlightenment.
3. Theo Parrish, Maurissa Rose, 'This Is for You'
Parrish continues to tamper with the symmetry of a dance floor beat, as if to remind us that the rhythms of life remain irregular and relentless. The words Rose sings — about compassion and perseverance — offer a balm against that tough truth.
4. Diplo, Cam, 'So Long'
The only way to make peace with the hideous fact that the year’s best country song was produced by Diplo is to remind yourself that it was sung by Cam, a golden voice who sounds every karat as fine as Tammy Wynette did on the KLF’s “Justified and Ancient.”
5. Billie Eilish, 'Xanny'
When her friends decide to get zonked on pills, the great teen singer of 2019 retreats to the cabaret in the back of her brain to show the world precisely what she’s made of.
6. Xanman, 'Foulin the Plug'
Did anyone have bigger fun in rap this year than Xanman? The young Maryland loudmouth specializes in inventive puns, uppercut punchlines, playful fake-outs and ecstatic freakouts. “Foulin the Plug” has all of the above.
7. Burna Boy, Zlatan, 'Killin Dem'
On his summer album, “African Giant,” Burna Boy seemed to be blasting his polyglot aesthetic toward the planet’s far corners. But this dank, menacing tune moved in a different direction, seeping into the earth like rain. Or blood.
8. Nicola Cruz, 'Señor de las Piedras'
Hidden deep in the tracklist of the Ecuadoran DJ-producer’s latest album, this tune awaits you like a shimmering secret. It’s all ceremonial mystery drums, glitching Andean panpipes, exoplanetary ocean surf-guitars and mesmerizing synthesizer technology of unknown provenance.
9. Megan Thee Stallion, Juicy J, 'Simon Says'
With #HotGirlSummer already cooling in our collective cultural memory, this woozy ode to bouncing backsides shall remain forever scorching. Viva Megan!
10. Blueface, 'Bleed It'
Man, viva Blueface, too! If this brave Angeleno’s heroic insurrection against metered rhyme ends up going down in rap history as a mere flash, may we never forget how glaringly bright it felt.