The Best of 2019 (Part 2)

Here is part two (out of four) of the best records of 2019. As I said before, it’s been an unusually good year, and it’s an unusually long and diverse list. There are new works from old favorites and new favorites from new discoveries. I tried to cover as many bases as I could

1. Ghosteen – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

A painting of a wild forest with various animals, including white horses, lions, lambs, leopards, monkeys, swans, flamingos, parrots and butterflies. Sun rays are visible through the trees and a rainbow is visible on the mountainside. Uppercase white text on top reads "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds"; larger uppercase white text in the centre reads "Ghosteen".

Nick Cave continues to explore an emotional landscape of grief and hope, grappling with the death of his son and how, in the aftermath of a life-changing tragedy, to move forward as an artist. It is both depressing and as bracing as a dive into frozen water.

Spinning Song

Bright Horses

Ghosteen Speaks

2. Heard It In a Past Life – Maggie Rogers

HIIAPL Maggie Rogers.jpg

There’s a huge amount of competition when it comes to bright electropop, but Maggie Rogers made a strong impression with her debut. Featuring catchy hooks, smart writing and the singer’s image of earthy glamour, it’s a record that feels very now.

Alaska

On and Off

Light On

3. Help Us Stranger – The Raconteurs

The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger.png

Like a lot of fans, I’d just about given up hope that Jack White would bring The Raconteurs back together. But here they are, and it sounds like no time has passed. Except for being, of course, a little bit older and wiser, it’s the same folksy roots rock than we expect from a Third Man product.

Sunday Driver

Help Me Stranger

Now That You’re Gone

4. I Am Easy To Find – The National

The National - I Am Easy to Find.png

The National has become a go-to for emotionally fraught ballads about love and bruised feelings. This is another perfect album for crying and contemplating the futility of life.

I Am Easy to Find

Hey Rosey

Hairpin Turns

5. Ilana (The Creator) – Mdou Moctar

Image result for ilana (the creator)

Every year, thousands of records are released by artists all over the world that never connect with audiences outside their own local niche. But every once in a while an artist emerges who transcends genre. Mdou Moctar, of Niger, combines Taureg and Berber musical traditions with psychedelic rock reminiscent of Hendrix and Santana, making a melting-pot of an album with global appeal.

Kamane Tarhanin

Tarhatazed

Anna

6. In the End – The Cranberries

A rock band made up of children performing in front of a pile of junk

The Cranberries were one of the definitive alternative rock bands of the 90’s, but in the decades since, they had largely been forgotten. It took the death of singer Dolores O’Riordan to get them back in the spotlight, and this posthumous album is a reminder of why they should, by all rights, have stayed popular.

All Over Now

Wake Me When It’s Over

The Pressure

7. The Lion King: The Gift – Beyonce

The Lion King The Gift.png

The Lion King remake may have been an exercise in gratuitous CGI, but bringing Beyonce on board was the best decision the Disney studio ever made. Bey’s companion album couldn’t be further away from the schlocky show tunes Elton John and Tim Rice cooked up in 1994. Leaning on uptempo Afropop, it showcases messages of positivity, courage and empowerment that are accessible enough for kiddos who loved the movie and sophisticated enough for adults who love Beyonce.

Brown Skin Girl

Spirit

Bigger

8. Love + Fear – Marina

A greyscale photograph of Marina gazing into the camera. Above her, the album's title and her name are placed in black lettering.

After a short hiatus, Marina Diamandis dropped the “Diamonds” from her stage name, and moved in new, more intimate direction. Ditching the high-fructose pop she became famous for, Marina focuses on the songwriting chops she never got enough credit for. This record may not be uptempo enough for Froot lovers, but fans will recognize a more mature version of the vulnerable/witty singer, and will luxuriate in her amazing vocals.

Handmade Heaven

To Be Human

Superstar

9. LSD – Labrinth, Sia & Diplo

Labrinth, Sia and Diplo Present... LSD.png

I love it when huge pop stars follow up their huge successes with something totally unexpected. Sia had a very great couple of years, and she followed up her string of hits by forming a supergroup with Labrinth and Diplo. Like the best supergroups it brings out the best in the supers. It’s the irreverent, fun, one-off album that keeps superstars from taking themselves too seriously.

Genius

Audio

Thunderclouds

10. No Treasure But Hope – Tindersticks

Image result for no treasure but hope

I have never listened to Tindersticks before and have now idea who they are or what they’ve been doing, though they’ve apparently been doing it since 1991. But I stumbled across this record in my research, and loved its eccentricity and romanticism.

Pinky in the Daylight

The Amputees

For the Beauty