I don’t know if there was just something in the water than made 2019 a particularly inspiring year for music, or if it was my ears pricking up more than usual, but it was a very good year for music. I certainly went out of my way to hear more, and as a result, I’ve had to pick more favorites. From old geezers doing what they do best, to new-establishment favorites, to newly-discovered talents holding their own; from huge stars to obscure imports; in every genre and all over the map – it’s just been a really good year for music.
Androgyne – Gyasi
Full disclosure: Gyasi is my brother. But even if he wasn’t, this would still be one of the best records of the year. Because nobody plays glam rock like they really mean it anymore.
Morrissey keep on being a bad person, and I keep telling myself to stop putting him at the top of all my playlists, but then he keeps making records that I love, and I loved every weird minute of this weird record. So Morrissey stays.
Electro-swing is one of those technologically enabled hybrid genres that don’t get much love or publicity, but Caravan Palace has always shown that putting together the best parts of disparate genres like jazz and EDM actually makes the world a better place.
I discovered this Texas-based dreampop group based entirely on their sexy name, and guess what, they’re the new Rhye. As in, a homely guy with the voice of an angel, singing pantie-dropping songs of ambient sadness.
Lizzo was, hands down, the biggest breakout star of the year, and not just because she takes up space (though that’s part of her appeal too.) It’s just that she’s everything we want and need in a pop star, and her album couldn’t be more perfect.
Representing the Scandinavian faction is Aurora. With her appropriately icy vocals and cryptic imagery, she’s an aesthetic package, and her record is highly conceptualized, ambitions, grandly orchestrated.
Rapsody is the antidote to every hoodrat female rapper who talks about stripping, hustling and beefing with rivals. With each track named for a legendary Black woman, from Nina Simone to Afeni Shakur, Eve is a collection of poetry about the embattled lives and deep strength of Black women.
Iggy Pop is already rock’n’roll’s most unexpected survivor, but even more unexpected, he’s one who still loves what he does and fearlessly jumps in entirely new directions. For the Godfather of Punk, a new direction might mean a horn section or a reading of Dylan Thomas, but then, he’s always been deeper than his antics led us to believe.
If there was one phenomenon that nearly everyone could agree on in 2019, it was Lizzo. She is the sensation we’ve all been in need of in these dark times. Wildly gifted, gorgeous, goofy, glamorous, and most of all, bursting with positivity, she’s the literal antidote to depression. In short, it’s very hard not to love Lizzo, and if you can’t find something about her to connect to, no joke there has to be something wrong with you. The only people who had anything bad to say about Lizzo were the sort of fun-hating cave trolls who take personal offense at the idea of a big black woman being unapologetically herself, having fun, supporting other women and being lauded for it. For the rest of us, she offers a great message wrapped in great tunes, and unlike so much so-called ‘positivity culture’, hers is not pap. She’s not just spouting off platitudes; it’s the hard-won lessons of someone who got tired of being shamed by the world for existing in a shape and color that wasn’t just exactly the correct shape and color designated to earn ‘approval’, and decided that the whole concept of waiting and striving and forcing yourself to somehow become worthy of some nebulous hypothetical approval was bunk, and the only approval a girl needs is her own and that of her familiars, and that without the boulder of self-loathing that women are brainwashed into carrying around life is %10,000 better. It’s not something you learn from an Instagram post. It’s wisdom you learn by living it. The spread of self-love and self-empowerment wisdom might just be the only thing worth celebrating right now.