A year when very good records by Wilco, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Bill Callahan, Aldous Harding, Neil Young, Bon Iver, Metronomy or again Elbow are not in my Top 25 must be quite something, right? Well, be your own judge by discovering the list below. Listen to them all and give feedback! What was your record of the year?
#1 Iggy Pop – “Free”. Released in: September 2019 – . It may not look very cool to choose one of my old heroes as album of the year but as every year, my main question was to find out which artist and record gave me the highest emotion. The answer was pretty clear as I found this album overwhelming either through the quality of the musical partners who helped Iggy this time or through his voice which sounds more amazing than ever. Having Iggy Pop at such a level of excellence for the second time in three years (after the gorgeous and completely different ‘Post Pop Depression‘ in 2016) is close to a miracle actually when one thinks about the quite poor albums he did in the previous ten years (hello bad French covers). I guess all the greats still got the sparkle when we are in need of a fire… I recently saw him live on the beautiful stage of the Barbican in London in what was supposed to be a jazz festival…but which ended with Iggy singing apocalyptic Stooges numbers as if he were in his twenties. The man is incredible and we are lucky to have him. RECORD OF THE YEAR!
#2 Little Simz – “Grey Area”. Released in: March 2019. You will not find a more inventive urban album than Little Simz’s 2019 effort. In a year which confirmed the creativity of plenty of young British artists in different fields such as indie rock, jazz or again urban music in all its diversity, this young woman was above her colleagues. An extreme sense of melody could be found in this record while keeping a sense of adventure. I often told people that I found similarities with Prince in this record, not in terms of sounds but in attitude. To be discovered at any cost. For those Netflix aficionados, you may also have recognized her acting in ‘Top Boy’.
#3 The Young Gods – “Data Mirage Tangram”. Released in: February 2019. Switzerland’s greatest ever band were back in 2019 with probably one of the best albums in a already extraordinary career. Their music is closer now to sound structures than real melodies and to what a sculptor could do while still keeping their industrial touch here and there. I must confess that every time I played this record, I immediately had a sense of well being so I hope you will feel the same!
#4 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Ghosteen”. Released in: October 2019. I have been following Nick Cave since 1985 and I recently found home his 1990 book ‘And The Ass Saw The Angel‘ signed by the great man after meeting him in a bookstore in Covent Garden. I do report this anecdote just to mention I would never thought at the time that he would still be with us today and in such a prolific way. I was lucky to attend the Q&A night he did at the Barbican and I realised how hard-working he was…also there must be something of a genius mind as well. A very calm and moving record done with his usual Bad Seeds and in particular the great Warren Ellis.
#5 Sharon Van Etten – “Remind Me Tomorrow”. Released in: January 2019. Similarly to Little Simz, Sharon Van Etten is a very talented woman as she also appeared in a great Netflix series (‘The OA’). The similarities stop there as her music is quite unique and not easy to categorize. To make it short, she comes originally from a songwriter-with-acoustic background but her music has evolved a lot in the past five years. This album is probably her most ambitious yet but also the easiest one to have access to with a bunch of fantastic songs and melodies.
#6 black midi – “Schlagenheim”. Released in: June 2019. These young British lads come from one of the most prestigious music schools in the UK. However, rather than putting their extremely gifted skills in a specific kind of music, they went to the ‘let’s try and experiment as much as we can whilst keeping the structure of a song’. I know this is a lazy approach but to me they are the Public Image Ltd. of our times. Probably the best gig I have seen at the End of the Road Festival 2019 edition as well…
#7 Big Thief – “Two Hands”. Released in: October 2019. 2019 was the year when I finally understood what Big Thief were about and the beauty & mystery of their music. To thank me for this, they released two awesome records (‘UFOF‘ and then ‘Two Hands‘). These two records could easily have been part of my best of but I chose ‘Two Hands‘ for the simple reason it contains the song of the year with ‘Not’. A bit like when Jimi Hendix played live The Beatles‘ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band‘ a couple of days after its release, The National covered ‘Not‘ on stage less than a week after the record was out.
#8 Thom Yorke – “Anima”. Released in: June 2019. All the record with which Radiohead members are associated are of interest…but sometimes I must confess my interest was relative and not very long over time. Thom Yorke’s solo records have always been challenging and adventurous but with ‘Anima’, he found the magic formula, i.e. he used his usual weird electro sounds but this time not only for the sake of it. You will not find a more relaxed and simultaneously worrying music than on this record, reflecting the troubled times we live in…
#9 Cass McCombs – “Tip of the Sphere”. Released in: February 2019. Cass McCombs is a regular fellow in this blog and one can easily recommend all his records. ‘Tip of the Sphere’ was above what he has been doing in the last ten years as one could feel a sense of urgency which had disappeared from his latest releases. Another great gig at the 2019 End of the Road Festival by the way.
#10 Lana Del Rey – “Norman Fucking Rockwell!”. Out in: August 2019. ..and here she is, well positioned in our Top 10! I had difficulties to feel anything more than a polite listening to Lana Del Rey’s earliest records as to me they were lacking authenticity and emotion. To put it differently, I thought she was playing the David Lynch style without understanding the dark side behind it. However, I must recognize that each of her records has been better than the previous one and the latter is extraordinary, especially as far as the words are concerned. I may be cynical but to me this is perfect music for our times, i.e. we are doomed but let’s face it with a smile and nice melodies.
- 11. Strand of Oaks – “Eraserland”
- 12. Ride – “This is not a Safe Place”
- 13. Mikal Cronin – “Seeker”
- 14. Michael Kiwanuka – “Kiwanuka”
- 15. Nérija – “Blume”
- 16. Loyle Carner – “Not Waving, but Drowning”
- 17. Lloyd Cole – “Guesswork”
- 18. Drugdealer – “Raw Honey”
- 19. Steve Gunn – “The Unseen in Between”
- 20. Purple Mountains – “Purple Mountains”
- 21. Marika Hackman – “Any Human Friend”
- 22. Sunn O))) – “Life Metal”
- 23. FKA Twigs – “Magdalene”
- 24. Fontaines D.C. – “Dogrel”
- 25. The National – “I am Easy to Find”
Other voices’ (websites, magazines, records stores, etc…) Top 10.
You will find below a selection of other lists but there are so many of them that you may also want to go to the albumoftheyear.org website to get an aggregation of them all.
- Mojo (UK music mag): 1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Ghosteen 2. Bill Callahan Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest 3. Bruce Springsteen Western Stars 4. The Comet Is Coming Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery 5. Aldous Harding Designer 6. Fontaines D.C. Dogrel 7. Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! 8. black midi Schlagenheim 9. Purple Mountains Purple Mountains 10. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Rainford
- Uncut (UK music mag): 1. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising 2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Ghosteen 3. Purple Mountains Purple Mountains 4. The Comet Is Coming Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery 5. Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! 6. Joan Shelley Like the River Loves the Sea 7. Bruce Springsteen Western Stars 8. Bill Callahan Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest 9. Big Thief UFOF 10. Wilco Ode to Joy
- NME (UK website): 1. Billie Eilish When we all Fall Asleep, where do we Go? 2. Tyler, The Creator Igor 3. Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! 4. Slowthai Nothing Great about Britain 5. Little Simz Grey Area 6. FKA Twigs Magdalene 7. Fontaines D.C. Dogrel 8. Michael Kiwanuka Kiwanuka 9. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising 10. Clairo Immunity
- Rough Trade (London, Nottingham, Bristol and Brooklyn stores): 1. Fontaines D.C. Dogrel 2. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising 3. Angel Olsen All Mirrors 4. Little Simz Grey Area 5. black midi Schlagenheim 6. Sleaford Mods Eton Alive 7. Cate Le Bon Reward 8. Vanishing Twin The Age of Immunology 9. Ex:Re Ex:Re 10. The Comet Is Coming Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
- Fopp (UK stores): 1. Sharon Van Etten Remind me Tomorrow 2. Bill Callahan Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest 3. FKA Twigs Magdalene 4. Big Thief Two Hands 5. Aldous Harding Designer 6. Joan Shelley Like the River Loves the Sea 7. black midi Schlagenheim 8. Angel Olsen All Mirrors 9. Bill Callahan Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest 10. Dave Psychodrama
- Greg Kot (Sound Opinions radio DJ #1): 1. Jamila Woods Legacy! Legacy! 2. Raphael Saadiq Jimmy Lee 3. Bill Callahan Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest 4. Michael Kiwanuka Kiwanuka 5. Sharon Van Etten Remind me Tomorrow 6. Billy Woods and Kenny Segal Hiding Places 7. Sturgill Simpson Sound & Fury 8. Kills Birds Kills Birds 9. Mugen Blakrok Anima Mysterium 10. Shana Cleveland Night of the Worm Moon
- Jim Derogatis (Sound Opinions radio DJ #2): 1. Lizzo Cuz I Love You 2. Sturgill Simpson Sound & Fury 3. Tacocat This Mess is a Place 4. Grlwood I Sold my Soul to the Devil when I was 12 5. Kills Birds Kills Birds 6. Ex Hex It’s Real 7. The Regrettes How do you Love? 8. Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! 9. Sharon Van Etten Remind me Tomorrow 10. Michael Kiwanuka Kiwanuka
- Pitchfork (US music website): 1. Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! 2. FKA Twigs Magdalene 3. Big Thief UFOF 4. Angel Olsen All Mirrors 5. Solange When I Get Home 6. Bad Bunny X 100PRE 7. Helado Negro This Is How You Smile 8. Fennesz Agora 9. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising 10. Purple Mountains Purple Mountains
- Paste (US music website): 1. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising 2. Angel Olsen All Mirrors 3. Sharon Van Etten Remind me Tomorrow 4. Big Thief Two Hands 5. FKA Twigs Magdalene 6. Britanny Howard Jaime 7. Carly Rae Jepsen Dedicated 8. Julia Jacklin Crushing 9. Lizzo Cuz I Love You 10. Faye Webster Atlanta Millionaires Club
- Les Inrocks (French mag): 1. Tyler, The Creator Igor 2. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising 3. Fat White Family Serfs Up! 4. James Blake Assume Form 5. Fontaines D.C. Dogrel 6. Philippe Katerine Confessions 7. Denzel Curry ZUU 8. Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! 9. Alex Cameron Miami Memory 10. Hubert Lenoir Darlene
- The Guardian (UK daily newspaper) : 1. Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! 2. Dave Psychodrama 3. Billie Eilish When we all Fall Asleep, where do we Go? 4. Sharon Van Etten Remind me Tomorrow 5. Tyler, The Creator Igor 6. Angel Olsen All Mirrors 7. FKA Twigs Magdalene 8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Ghosteen 9. Slowthai Nothing Great About Britain 10. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising
- The Independent (UK website) : 1. Aldous Harding Designer 2. Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! 3. Little Simz Grey Area 4. Bruce Springsteen Western Stars 5. Big Thief Two Hands 6. Tyler, The Creator Igor 7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Ghosteen 8. James Blake Assume Form 9. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising 10. Dave Psychodrama
- Magic rpm (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Weyes Blood Titanic Rising 2. Big Thief UFOF 3. Shannon Wright Providence 4. Aldous Harding Designer 5. Tyler, The Creator Igor 6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Ghosteen 7. JPEGMafia All My Heroes Are Cornballs 8. Big Thief Two Hands 9. Bertrand Belin Persona 10. Altin Gün Gece
- Noise Magazine (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Health Vol. 4:Slaves of Fear 2. Brutus Nest 3. Cave In Final Transmission 4. Tool Fear Inoculum 5. The Young Gods Data Mirage Tangram 6. Ventura Ad Matres 7. Cult Of Luna A Dawn to Fear 8. Lingua Ignota Caligula 9. Refused War Music 10. Boy Harsher Careful