Tom Burrows: Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
In my opinion, the album is an art form that requires an investment of time. Repeated listens. Consideration, immersion. (I think that’s enough pretentiousness?) In theory, the instant availability of music in our current times should mean a golden age of music discovery, but instead, I’ve found that 2019’s constant recommendations have divided my attention rather than focusing it.
So that’s a long-winded way of saying that very little has blown me away this year. I’ve enjoyed records from Jamila Woods, Thom Yorke, Danny Brown, JPEGMAFIA, Lana Del Rey and FKA twigs among others, but the one that comes out on top is Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood (aka Natalie Mering). Maybe this is because it harks back to an earlier era, a time where I’d buy the album and enjoy getting to know its serene soft rock sonic palette and Mering’s beautiful voice that emotes personal lyrics while touching on wider, global concerns. From the gentle, tender opener “A Lot’s Gonna Change”, to the soaring monologue of “Movies”, right up to the moving closer “Picture Me Better”, it’s a near-flawless piece of work and a worthy album of the year.
My brother and I saw Weyes Blood at Manchester’s Club Academy in October. We walked in, sceptical that Mering and her band’s sound would carry in those surroundings. Then she came on stage and sang, “if I could go back to a time before now…” We were mesmerised.
Lisa Whiteman: The Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All The Time
… is my album of the year. Released in January to critical acclaim, it topped the Scottish album chart, vinyl and indie charts as well as infiltrating the UK album chart at 17 – a ridiculous achievement for the small band from a small town with a monumental sound.
IWBLTATT is a perfect journey. You can barely catch your breath from opener ’10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs’ to the winding down of ‘Videograms’; only ‘Sunday Day 13’ offering a short respite from the gorgeous cacophony this record is.
Live, they are a different gravy. This already sentient beast grows and grows until you emotionally collapse in front of them, wondering what the fuck just happened but knowing you want more.
Congratulations The Twilight Sad – you smashed 2019. See you at the Ballroom.
Check out Sarah Moses’s review of Twilight Sad’s gig at The Barrowlands in March 2019.
James Spearing: Bat for Lashes – Lost Girls
Surprise, surprise, my choice for Album of the Year 2019 is Lost Girls by Bat for Lashes. I mean, I already told you it was.
It may seem an odd thing for me to say but it isn’t the best album of the year. It is, however, my favourite. Who said we had to be objective? Also nobody else will mention it if I don’t, and the other Bastards will enjoy moaning at me for writing about it. Again.
So what else is there to say about this album? ‘Desert Man’ has grown and grown on me. I want more than ever to watch the low production value TV cop drama that exists only in my head that ‘Vampires’ is the theme tune to. ‘The Hunger’ has one of the basslines of the year. The 80s nostalgia and images of Californian sunsets are alluring as ever.
As if I didn’t like it enough already, I listened to it a lot on an excellent holiday back in September. So for me it will be forever attached to those great feelings and memories. It’s not just my favourite album of the year, it’s also a massive part of my year.
In Bat for Lashes’s canon, this album will probably stand up as her most accessible. It’s the ideal starting point for someone who has never listened to her music before. If you haven’t, I suggest you do.
Check out James’s full review of the album.
Fran Slater: Self Esteem – Compliments Please
For me, it has been the best year for music in as long as I can remember. With stunning albums from favourites like The National, The Twilight Sad, Bon Iver, The Tallest Man on Earth, Big Thief (twice), and Aldous Harding it would’ve been remarkably easy for me to be predictable. And with other wonderful outputs from Fontaines DC, Little Simz, Loyle Carner, The Murder Capital, and more, I had so many options I almost had a meltdown.
But, in the end, the top spot was stolen by a surprising discovery which grew on me throughout the year. And a bloody POP record, too.
Self Esteem played Green Man and I had got into the album while preparing for the festival, but nothing prepared me for the way it sucked me in after seeing their live performance. A collection of empowering, powerful songs that come to life on stage – I ended my year of gigs watching them in Manchester, and there could not have been a better finale.
What makes this album all the more remarkable is lead singer Rebecca Taylor’s evolution from a singer in Slow Club with little control over her output, to a downright diva performing the music she loves. This has been the year of Self Esteem. Some genuine cheer in the darkest of times.
Check out Fran’s review of the Self Esteem show at Huddersfield Library.
Pete Wild: The National – I Am Easy to Find
I’m going to be as predictable as I can be and go for The National’s I Am Easy To Find. I loved it when it was released and despite being distracted by a good half dozen other records since then I keep coming back and coming back. It’s a solace, it’s a warm hug of a record, it’s purty as can be and it is their best album to date (I fink).
Check out Pete’s full review of the album.
Sam Atkins: Little Simz – Grey Area
I have mentioned Little Simz as an album of the year contender here over and over and over again. This truly is the career defining moment for an artist who feels like they’ve always been on the verge of greatness.
Across the likes of ‘Boss’, ‘Offence’, and ‘Venom’ her bars are fierier than ever, but it’s on moments like ‘Flowers’, ‘Selfish’ and ‘Wounds’ that her musicality truly shines. Everyone involved in this album seems to bring out the best in each other, the verse from Little Dragon on ‘Pressure’ is especially enjoyable. No album this year is as consistently brilliant and consistently involving musically. There’s not much better than seeing an artist who you have been rooting for for so long create a piece of work that is untouchable and undeniable in its quality. 2019 was Little Simz’s year with GREY Area.
Check out Tom’s full review of the album.
Nick Parker: Clipping – There Existed an Addiction to Blood
I really agonised about this year’s AOTY, given all the truly great music that’s appeared in it. In the end Clipping takes the crown, but it’s perhaps not going to be clear why, to the casual listener of this album. That’s because Clipping evidently don’t like casual listeners. This album is at many points arduous, consciously uneven in almost every way, literally painful to hear at times, and exhausting on the ear and the mind.
Please keep at it though. Don’t give up! If you take some time, you’ll be rewarded. There Existed… is an ambitious, fresh, riveting listen, with turns you can’t predict, the fastest and slickest flow, the most radical themes, and the most unhinged production of the year. Just don’t tell them you’re enjoying it.
Check out Nick’s full review of the album.
Fat Roland: Plaid – Polymer
Print out the rest of this website and mince it through a shredder. But cut out this paragraph first, because this is the only album you need to know about in 2019.
Plaid’s Polymer is a spiky, snarling piece of electronic fury that’s both exquisitely beautiful and akin to being punched in the face by a grizzly bear. Its organic geometrics, often arranged in complicated patterns, trip over themselves and burst into strange synthetic shapes. This techno is post-Aphex, post-Orbital, post-Burial, post-everything: although Plaid have been knocking out IDM tunes for donkey’s years, the duo’s tenth album truly sounds like something new.
At its emotional heart is some natty guitarwork by Benet ‘The Bee’ Walsh who has partnered with the Plaid since the beginning of time. He adds a sheen to the misery, like squirting Fairy Liquid on a burnt orphanage. It’s wonderful stuff and, given a few plays, surprisingly listenable. I bang on about Polymer a lot more in my own website’s best-of-2019: you can go there if you want – or get some sellotape and piece together what remains of the Picky Bastards website.
I must go: I’m being punched in the face by a grizzly bear. Worst. Year. Ever.
Yasmin Duggal: Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
A working class debut by name with all the angst and revolutionary spirit you could want from the literary excellence of five poetic Dubliners. Fontaines stood a cut above this year with a compelling body of work. It’s captivating in every one of its Irish narratives, with scenes soaked in Dublin’s heritage, the band’s experience, and the cultural anxieties of a generation plagued by gentrification.
From the agitated ‘ready steady violence’ of opener ‘Big’ to the melancholy romanticism of ‘some old bar in Chinatown’ in ‘Dublin City Sky’, for 39 minutes we live and breathe Fontaines’ Dublin. Grian Chatten’s lead is beautifully unrefined, quintessentially local in the record’s pockets of softer material, and exemplary in its true post-punk fashion throughout heavier singles.
In a year when punk has taken centre stage through alternative mediums, Fontaines must be highly commended for their ability to capture the anguish of a nation and translate it into not only a digestible compilation but an album unlike any other seen in 2019. Alongside the band’s astounding live disposition, there’s no doubt they’ve made a phenomenal breakthrough and are poised for a cracking 2020, with Dogrel rightly celebrated for its poignancy at the end of a decade.
Kimberley Fernley: Ladytron – Ladytron
To be honest, 2019 hasn’t been my year for new music. So I was pleasantly surprised that choosing my favourite album of the year was actually an easy task. I was slow on the uptake with Ladytron’s self-titled album (released in February), but as soon as I heard it I fell in love and it’s had its fair share of plays since.
It’s typical Ladytron: dark, urgent, and insanely catchy. Every song has its place on the album, and the more I hear it, the more layers I unpeel. The highlights are ‘Until The Fire’ and ‘Run’. I’m looking forward to the album spilling into 2020 when I get to hear it in all its live glory!
Matt Paul: Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
There’s been so much good stuff this year, but this album came out of nowhere and took over the latter half of the year for me. Fun at times. Despairing at others. Authentic throughout and rammed with irresistible hooks. Eilish has made an album you don’t have to work for. It just delivers on first listen regardless of your mood. This is chart conquering pop music that also feels honest and personal. A line which only a few artists successfully walk.