By: All Staff
The end of the decade is here, and it's been one filled with amazing music. As for 2019, there have definitely been some fantastic album drops. In no particular order, check out the top albums of 2019 curated by The Soundtrack team.
Fear Inoculum - Tool
By: Ryley Chorowiec
After 13 years of patiently waiting, TOOL fans were finally greeted with the band’s follow up record to their 2006 release, 10000 Days. The record debuted at number 1 on the Billboard rock charts and spans a whopping 86 minutes. Many of the songs, over ten minutes long, take the listener on a polarizing and meditative journey, while still maintaining the heaviest of grooves throughout the record. While the whole band is impeccable on this release, Danny Carrey seems to be the highlight of this record- taking absolutely no prisoners on tracks like “Chocolate Trip Chip” and “Invincible.” After 13 years, I would say this was definitely worth the wait.
Anima - Thom Yorke
By: Gemma Mastroianni
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke put out his third solo album this year titled, Anima. This eclectic collection of songs had me listening all year long. It contains elements of techno, alternative rock, pop, ambient, and psychedelic vibes. Each track falls into one another perfectly, and it is very much an experience. The detail and sounds on these records are mixed so beautifully and have me impressed even more after each listen. Additionally, the overall theme is about sleep and dreams, which is so fitting when you put that together with the tracks.
THE OCTOBER ALBUM - Ever
Over the last few years I've found mainstream hip-hop to be stale and repetitive, so I’m constantly trying to find new underground music. This piece of work by 17-year-old Ever emphasizes the progression of the young star. Touching on subjects such as his love life, constant weed-smoking, feeling lost with himself, the changes of moving into a new town, battling depression and the struggles of growing up; Ever gives the listeners a raw look into his emotions. Ever uses the album to prove how broad his sound is. His melodic rap may remind some of Joji and Lil Peep, in songs such as “EVERY NIGHT COVERED IN SMOKE”, “LINGO”, and “GLOWING CHERRY”. Other tracks on the album like “building burning sights’ and “FINDING MY HEART” have a strong alternative sound which contrasts nicely together when listening to the album in full. Ever’s relatable lyrics, a variation of sound, and the choice of beats create a great freshman album. I'm excited to see where Ever goes in the future, and I hope you guys give it a listen.
Orville Peck - Pony
By: Dakota Arsenault
Listening to Orville Peck is like trying to remember hearing an Elvis Presley or Hank Williams song. You know the chord progressions and the twang of their vocals, but everything else is kind of hazy and out of sight. When you put it all together in your head, you have this psychedelic country music that is like nothing you've heard before, but exactly how you remembered it too. Peck burst onto the music scene this year with a slight gimmick. We don’t know his real name and he only performs wearing a long fringed Lone Ranger style mask covering most of his face. He is the quintessential cowboy that we need and he has become a queer icon in the process. Songs like "Turn to Hate" and "Queen of the Rodeo" are songs that hit you right in that country nostalgia sweet spot, while tracks like "Kansas (Remembers Me Now)" and "Big Sky" make you think your radio has gone out of tune, that is, of course, until you remember that you are playing the album on Spotify and the trippiness is all a part of the aesthetic. We know Peck is Canadian and has been involved in the music scene in other forms before, but to what extent is still up in the air. Pony was longlisted for the Polaris Music Prize but was shockingly not included in the final ten. It’s is the best Canadian album of the year and for my money the best overall regardless of genre or country of origin.
Bank on the Funeral - Matt Maeson
By: Valentina Caballero
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed playing an album on repeat as much I’ve loved listening to Bank on the Funeral. I first heard of Matt Maeson back in 2017 when he released “Cringe” and let me tell you, his music has only gotten better since. Both emotional and laden with intensity, this 12-song debut album hits you with some beautiful prose and extremely rhythmic drum beats that are followed by ballad-like guitar riffs. Though not part of the actual tracklist, the other lovely component of Bank on the Funeral were acoustic, “stripped down” covers that were progressively released throughout 2019 after the original album made its debut back in April. These raw versions of the original songs give listeners the opportunity to take in the lyrics that make these songs so poetic and introspective.
This album was released at a time when I really needed it– this year has been a weird mixture of both chaotic good and evil and this album has been provided a constant, reassuring soundtrack throughout all of it. If you’re into Barns Courtney, grandson, MISSIO or just want to listen to some electro-acoustic music with lyrics that bring you on a small emotional journey, give Matt Maeson a listen.
Assume Form- James Blake
By: Alyssa Keighan
January 2019 seems like just a faint whisper now, but it is worth the revisit as this is when my favourite album of the year was released: the industry’s notoriously melancholic sad boy, James Blake’s fourth album Assume Form. With features from André 3000, Rosalía, Moses Sumney, and rap powerhouse Travis Scott, the album has since been nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, taking place this upcoming January 2020. I’ve read some critiques on this album that discuss the album’s slight hodgepodge feel – the reason being that many hip-hop production elements should belong on a different cut of the album – but in my opinion, "Mile High" and other songs on this album that are undoubtedly hip-hop-influenced just speak to the versatility of Blake as an artist. Trap beats and heavy bass evaporate into the soft piano melodies and his unmistakeable falsetto at multiple points throughout the album, and it truly is such a sonic journey, especially upon the first listen. It all works together. Perhaps the reason why this album has earned my top pick of the year is because of the shift in outlook and emotion from his first album to this present one. Honesty has always been unapologetically at the heart of James Blake’s work, which is what might have earned him the title of “sad boy”. The vulnerability and candidness are still present on this album, but the emotions are instead lending themselves to love and a new relationship. This album symbolizes growth both in Blakes's personal life, and as an artist. When that growth ‘assumes form’ through sleek minimalist beats and a haunting falsetto that I have literally thought about for the past 11 months, then that is something I can get behind.
A Different Shade of Blue By Knocked Loose By: Tye Hardy
The Kentucky Hardcore outfit’s sophomore release is hard-hitting, aggressive, and full of energy. With slow, heavy breakdowns, groovy riffs, and harsh, but coherent and clear vocals. there’s nothing on this album you can’t love. Featuring guests Emma Boster from Dying Wish on A Serpent’s Touch, and Keith Buckley from Every Time I Die on Forget Your Name, it adds dynamics to the already diverse and unique sound. The first single, Mistakes Like Fractures, introduced me to the band. Previously I had heard of Knocked Loose, mainly from friends within the hardcore scene, but never really gave them a listen. The single instantly caught my attention with its heavy guitars and incredibly catchy chorus. The breakdown towards the end sealed the deal for me. After this introduction, I did nothing but listen to their debut album, Laugh Tracks on repeat. There is a reason why Knocked Loose is beating the odds by becoming more known outside of the scene than other hardcore bands. This album was unbeaten by any other release of 2019, and it only gets me excited for eventual new material from them.
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? - Billie Eilish
By: Nes Aliu
Very few recent musical upstarts have been able to capture the world’s attention,
provoke a handful of religious skeptics, and break several records within a year as gracefully as Gen Z’s Billie Eilish. It goes without saying that her well-crafted and pensive debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? deserves the amount of hype accumulated, earning the accolades of the industry’s top dogs and humbly sweeping the charts since its release. The general consensus is that it’s a great album, and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased and would precisely take a bullet in my teeth for this girl— it’s a genuinely authentic depiction of Eilish’s colorful imagination and all the torment and desolation and yearning and euphoria of youth. In spite of all the naysayers and concerned parents, brother-sister duo Billie and Finneas O’Connell have finally pieced together their most cohesive collection of songs that has already left a massive mark on the music world and grew her following exponentially, and they ought to be proud of themselves. The sweet, at times gritty and sub-heavy production has been often compared to fellow synesthete Kanye’s Yeezus era, songs like ‘xanny’ or ‘bury a friend’ going from delicate synth ballads to bass wobbles that will shake your car if played loud enough. And that one song you probably know, ‘bad guy’; similarities are drawn to a teenage Fiona Apple singing about seducing naive men over an incredibly infectious bass riff. Her soft whispered laments on songs like ‘i love you’ and ‘listen before i go’ could have easily been mistaken for Elliott Smith covers, as she touches on more depressing subject matter like unrequited love and suicide. Nominated for six Grammy’s and got her a $25 million documentary deal with Apple, there’s no denying that this bedroom-produced LP is going to shape a generation. As for why this may be the best album of 2019— that’s up to the rest of the world to set their differences aside and give it a little listen.
Eve - Rapsody
By: Amanda McMillan
Every single song off of this album is intricate, quick-witted, and political. The entire album is a celebration of iconic and powerful women of colour who have inspired Rapsody, including Nina Simone, Aliyahh, Tyra Banks, Michelle Obama, Whoppi Goldberg, and Ibtihaj Muhammad. Every note, beat, lyric and rhyme hit like a ton of bricks! She is poetic in her flow, paired with the swagger of Missy Elliot. The album features notable guests like GZA, D'Angelo, SiR, Queen Latifah, and J. Cole; it's absolutely stacked. I am shocked that this album hasn't absolutely blown up, and I wonder if it's because, in the eyes of the music business, it has three fatal flaws: it's political, it's hip hop, and it's made by a woman. Plus, she doesn't fit the mold of Nicki and Cardi, which is somehow more palatable due to their antics and leanings toward pop. This is a massive oversight on the part of the music industry in particular and pop culture in general. Rapsody is special. I don't always like to compare male and female artists, but if I had to I would say that Rapsody is the female Kendrick Lamar, and may I remind you that Kung foo Kenny won a Pulitzer. It is my strong opinion that Rapsody, and this album, deserve the same respect. If you've slept on this album or never heard about it, think for a second why that is - what has kept this from entering your radar? Then listen to it, watch the music videos, and look the songs up on Genius. Prepare to have your mind blown.
Violet Street – Local Natives
By: Tressa Mastroianni
My music taste is intensely diverse—from hip-hop, to indie, to European techno and so on. I experience many ‘seasons of listening’ throughout the year, typically saturated with one or two of these genres at a time. I have to say as the year has progressed and my ‘seasons of listening’ changed from one to the next, I, for the most part, was unable to find an album I was happy with altogether. A top album of the year for me is one that is whole in its ability to tell a really good story, a story that is rooted by a couple of strong central feelings. Whether these specific feelings are provoked by instrumental storytelling or a lyrical one or maybe one that combines the two, it’s something that is very important to me in making a top album determination. By this definition, I felt that Local Natives’ Violet Street gave me what I was looking for. Violet Street is transitioned nicely from beginning to end and there are great combinations of moderately upbeat and catchy choruses with well-timed bridges. This album never has me feeling bored with the instrumentals or the lyrics and the contrast between songs is never so jarring as to put me off from the central feelings I have while listening. Top to bottom, I feel complete by this listening experience in its ability to invoke strong senses of desire and longing throughout. Violet Street puts together lyrics, rhythm, and melody in a crisp and thoughtful manner in order to achieve this. A great narration by Local Natives.
EDDYEVVY - EDDYEVVY
By: Michael Del Vecchio
EDDYEVVY birthed a heart that beats with energy and emotion, weaving through rock, grunge, shoegaze, pop, and noise. For their first album, the band takes familiar genres and gives them a new spin through experimentation and a blend of vulnerability and resilience. I discovered the album back in January and since then, the songs remain staples in my playlists throughout the year, never having lost the initial spark from the first listen. Four musicians made ten tracks, none of which are slackers. Certain songs build too loud, abrasive, almost grating sections that could easily destroy your speakers, only to be followed by moments of quiet and calm - gentle strums, thoughtful vocals and lyrics that paint in your
imagination. For an album that makes heavy use of noise and distortion, the production value is no slouch. Every strum, snare drum hit, and everything that hits your ears is designed to wrap you up in a big blanket of sound. For the moments on the album when the instruments lose each other in the mix, it’s during the album’s noisiest, most emotional crescendos, and the breakdown in clarity feels earned because of the pacing the band takes to reach those moments. It’s a 36-minute experience I would recommend to anybody interested in new-and-upcoming music.
Father Of The Bride- Vampire Weekend
By: Olivia Mokryzcki
It took me until 2019 to dive into the interesting world of Vampire Weekend. Now, looking at my results for most played music of the year, the band reigns at #1. Father Of The Bride really opened a new set of ears for me. The record’s brilliant collaborations made it unique from multiple angles. 18 songs, filling just under one absolutely divine hour. Tons of catchy little riffs stayed ringing gloriously through me since I first heard them. The album is a perfect collection of songs including fun and feel good parts, instrumentally dramatic sections, somber moments, and sweet duets. It is simply one of the most beautiful, interesting and modern things I’ve ever heard.
XYZ - Iglooghost, Kai Whiston, BABii
By: Kevin Brown
A beautifully pure and collaborative album from Britain's GLOO collective that places each artists' eclectic and established sounds on full display. Containing what feels like an infinite amount of sounds, this 30 minute fast and chaotic record almost defies definition because there simply is nothing else like it. Each track expands at exponential rates, becoming denser and rich with each sample and just when you think the song is about to lose momentum, you're immediately hurled into the next track and a whole other world. If you're looking for a disorienting, frantic, bass-heavy album, check this one out!
i,i - Bon Iver
By: Robyn Bond
With each release, it becomes increasingly hard to imagine how Bon Iver will manage to improve upon their impressive library. Each full length thus far has been audible gold in my opinion, and I was excited but scared by the coming of i’i. I was unsure if it would bring the same heart-pulling melodies and nostalgic feeling as For Emma, Forever Ago , Bon Iver, and even the most recent release 22, A Million from 2016. Although all albums have some very stark differences in terms of instrumental usage, production, and structure, the feeling remains constant, hence Bon Iver’s incredible success. “Hey Ma” and “U (Man Like)”, the singles released as a first peak at the album allayed much fear, both carrying stunningly beautiful melodies, and Justin Vernon’s signature smooth falsetto. After that, I abstained from listening until the full album was released to be able to truly soak it in. It seemed right away to be a culmination of the strengths of each previous LP without a hint of recycled material. The project pushes hard on the walls of indie and what mainstream music can be and, as usual, showcases new ways to combine classic melodic elements with modern ideas. From a nod to hip hop on the feel of the collaborative song “iMi” and the low lulls of “We”, to the soft folk feel of “Marion”, to hints of jazz on the horn-heavy masterpiece “Jelmore”, it is near impossible to corner exactly what Bon Iver headed for on this release which is part of what makes it so objectively incredible. Shortly after the release of i’i my family and I travelled to New York to see Bon Iver’s sold-out performance at the Barclays Centre as they toured promoting i’i. I have never and potentially will never again see such an incredible performance. Both sound and lighting were done in such a way it was as though the members of the group, all restricted in their own triangular neon risers, had an angelic presence that filled the entire arena. Nearly all of i’i was performed that night, along with classics Holocene, Perth, 33 GOD, Blood Bank, and more. Seeing the majority of the album performed alongside the group’s older songs shows how this music ages like wine. This new album will be a gift that gives new ideas and inspiration for years to come. Bon Iver proves again and again that whatever they try, however they experiment, they can pull it off. The songs are just that good. It is the pure raw emotion and completely fearless creativity that allows them, time and time again to release collections of songs that strike directly to the heart of the listener - if you open yourself up to it, that is.
The Search - NF
By: Josiah Botting
The album follows Nate as he explains how his life was flipped upside down after the Christian Hip-Hop artist got a taste of mainstream fame in early 2018. On the second track “Leave Me Alone,” Nate gives us a look at the new following he gained as well as how it affected his emotions. The song features raw emotion and shares how even with millions of listeners hearing his message of hope, he still felt hopeless and empty inside. The Search features hard-hitting bass and raw emotion similar to the style of Eminem. Nate talks about real issues and labels his work as “Real Music” that talks about depression and shows us the other side of fame, and how it isn’t all that the media makes it out to be.
Djesse - Jacob Collier
By: John Mendoza
While this Grammy award-winning artist worked alone for his very first album, Jacob Collier’s four-volume project titled Djesse has been highly collaborative and unrestricted in its creativity. The wild mix of playful, experimental sounds in this second volume surpasses the first volume in scope and variety. While the first volume was more orchestral and slow-paced, this album is bursting with fresh creative ideas and sounds. From the funky “It Don’t Matter” ft JoJo (yes, that mid-2000s pop singer JoJo) to the hypnotic, groovy goodness of “Nebaluyo” ft. Malian singer Oumou Sangare, this volume blends cultural styles and musical ideas into a much more fluid album than its predecessor. His signature harmonic sound and genre-bending instrumentals have caught the eye of musicians all over the world. Nothing explains this best than his cover of “Moon River”. In his interpretation of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s ballad, he layers hundreds of recordings to create cascading waves of vocal harmonies microtonal inflections. The song opens with a massive chord consisting of recordings from all one hundred and forty-four Djesse collaborators and uses it to build one of the most interesting introductions to a song in 2019. Some of the voices included in this opening include Daniel Caesar, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Herbie Hancock, Ty Dolla $ign, Kehlani, Tom Misch and many more. The collaborations continue from there, with Jacob Collier being featured on Daniel Caesar’s “Case Study 01” and Coldplay’s latest album. Djesse Vol 2 is riveting, ambitious and sets up the bar high for Vol 3. With the next volume around the corner, I can’t wait for what he has in store for the future.