Was 2019 a good year? That question is harder to answer than it seems. Some amazing music came out (see below), some great movies, and even some great TV shows. But history shows that when the world’s creative output is high (and more importantly, good), the world itself is in a sad state of affairs. In 2019, the formula seems to stand true. But anyways, the music. Was it a good year for music? Yes! In fact, we’ve compiled a list of the ten best releases from the last year, and have conveniently written about them and even linked to them down below. Check out all our choices and drop a comment with your personal picks! Happy Holidays from everyone here at WRBB. <3
10. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
Genre Rap · Label ESGN Records · Released June 28, 2019
“A follow-up to 2014’s Piñata, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib have teamed up for a second time, resulting in an album filled with immaculate wordplay, production, and some of the hardest rap of the decade. Freddie’s deep cadence and bars flow incredibly over Madlib’s mind bending and obscure samples.
Standouts from the album include “Giannis,” a more soulful track with a feature by Anderson .Paak, and “Palmolive” featuring Pusha T and Killer Mike. Another highlight comes in the form of the brutal switchup in “Half Manne Half Cocaine”. There is something beautiful to be found in the match up of the two seemingly opposite artists, the gritty Gibbs and off-kilter Madlib. It’s a good thing the duo have a third album named Montana in the works because Bandana provides an amazing listening experience that leaves you wanting so much more.”
– Kyle Janko
9. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Genre Alternative/Indie · Label Sub Pop · Released April 5, 2019
“Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering is one of the few artists who can sing about contemporary woes weighing upon our collective consciousness and still leave listeners feeling wistfully nostalgic. As a whole, Titanic Rising is an album full of millennial musings with an affectation that’s much before its time. The album opens with “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” which sets the tone for the next 42 minutes; Mering sings of love, loss, spirituality, and everything else that falls within the murky depths of the subconscious. Lead single “Andromeda” uses the vastness of a galaxy far away to convey the relationship between the great unknown and the signs the universe sends us anyways.
Though upbeat and reminiscent of bubbly 1970s psychedelic pop, “Everyday” details the trials and tribulations of modern dating. The album takes a dive into the existential subconscious halfway through, where listeners will find the third single, “Movies.” Though Mering desperately longs for life to be simple and succinct like a film, Titanic Rising in its entirety reveals that life is nothing but. As Mering puts it, we are all “…born in a century lost to memories.” Weyes Blood’s music reflects the zeitgeist and leaves us all longing for more. Titanic Rising is a triumph of our generation; we don’t know where we came from, we don’t know where we’re going, but we’re going to make incredible art along the way. ”
– Niah Tobarri
8. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
Genre Alternative/Indie · Label Polydor/Interscope · Released August 30, 2019
“Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell is a major milestone in her career. The critically-acclaimed album serves as a culmination of everything her previous records tried to be wrapped up in her most mature and thoughtful work yet. It’s aptly named after artist and author Normal Rockwell, who is known for his largely idealistic portrayals of American culture. On NFR, Del Rey jokes about the chaos the so-called American dream has become. She still sings of love, heartbreak, and sadness, but now adds more depth to her disillusionment. The album opens with one of her most iconic lines yet, “God damn, man child / You f*cked me so good that I almost said I love you.”
She maintains a biting attitude throughout the album as she breaks down ideas of toxic masculinity and builds herself up as a woman who is capable of feeling a range of emotions and shouldn’t be diminished to just her sadness. The music is melancholic and sometimes winding, like in the 10-minute track “Venice Bitch,” complementing her lyrics about her inner turmoil and desires. She’s still the same Lana with the same dream of stargazing on a California beach with someone she loves, but doesn’t want to be reduced to a dreamy sad girl. This album is her way of letting the world know she’s as tired and disillusioned as the rest of us. As Del Rey puts it in “The greatest,” “The culture is lit, and if this is it, I had a ball / I guess that I’m burned out after all.”
– Ingrid Angulo
7. Dreamville & J. Cole –
Revenge of the Dreamers III
Genre Hip-Hop/Rap · Label Dreamville/Interscope · Released July 5, 2019
“American hip-hop has continued to thrive in 2019 – particularly thanks to projects like Revenge of the Dreamers III, the latest to come from artist J.Cole and his Dreamville record label. J. Cole’s intention with the compilation album – which cohesively combines rap, R&B, soul, and pop – was to create an energetic and playful sound that highlights the young talent of his passionate Dreamville hive. Over the course of 18 tracks and more than one hour of music, fans will see appearances from Bas, Cozz, Omen, Lute, Ari Lennox, Earthgang, and J.I.D with features from talented veterans and fresh faces alike, including DaBaby, T.I, Young Nudy, Buddy, Reason, Maxo Kream, Mez, Vince Staples, Ty Dolla Sign, Dreezy, Smino, Saba, and Guapdad 4000.
The album is focused on maintaining an open, collaborative energy with moments of introspection, conversation, and comradery sprinkled throughout. The beats are strong and the bars hit hard. It’s a perfect display of the positive community that hip-hop can foster. The album’s status as number one on the Billboard 200, with four tracks charting on the US Billboard Hot 100 barely highlights the widespread appeal and traction these Dreamville artists are getting. I expect nothing but the best to come out of their future and their upcoming North Carolina music festival.”
– Victoria Specht
6. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Genre Pop · Label Nice Life/Atlantic · Released April 19, 2019
“On her major-label debut Cuz I Love You, Lizzo proves she can do it all. When her song “Truth Hurts” blew up on TikTok and was featured in a Netflix movie earlier this year, many believed it (and she) would be the talk of the town for only a brief moment, and that the internet would inevitably move on to something new. They couldn’t have been more wrong. With several other viral hits such as “Boys,” “Good as Hell,” and “Juice” (to name a few), Lizzo dominated 2019 and made sure everyone would remember her name.
She’s a lot more than just a mainstream hit machine, though. Cuz I Love You opens boisterously on its title track, showcasing the absolute powerhouse that Lizzo is. She continues to show off both her musical and vocal ranges by packing positive, upbeat tracks “Like a Girl” and “Better in Color,” rap-like jams “Tempo” featuring Missy Elliot and “Exactly How I Feel” featuring Gucci Mane, and slower, more emotional songs “Jerome” and “Lingerie” all into one album. But she makes it work by linking them all together with one thing: her strong, soulful voice.
If you somehow managed to make it through this entire year without hearing at least one Lizzo song, congratulations – you officially live under a rock. But also, you should definitely listen to Cuz I Love You right now. You won’t regret it. Unless you hate fun and have no soul.”
– Rachel Feinberg
5. Billie Eilish- WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
Genre Electropop · Label Darkroom/Interscope · Released March 29, 2019
“This year has been a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But if there’s one thing most people can agree on, it’s that for the last 365 days, the compass of pop culture has been pointing at the magnetic energy coming off of LA’s Billie Eilish. In that small amount of time, the 17-year-old lyricist topped the charts with hit after hit and a debut album unlike any other.
“WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP…” is a testament to young creatives that are blazing bold trails with their content. Eilish’s sound is refreshingly unique and MASSIVELY appealing, a feat that is much harder to accomplish than she makes it look. Let’s not forget the crucial ingredient to her formula of success though – her brother Finneas. One of this record’s highlights is the pristine and crispy production behind every single song, all produced by her older brother. Billie Eilish’s success also carries the potential for early burnout, so let’s hope 2020 brings only more good music from this young and talented artist.”
– Chris Triunfo
4. FKA Twigs- Magdalene
Genre Art Pop · Label Young Turks · Released November 8, 2019
“After five years, FKA Twigs’ long awaited followup to LP1 exceeded expectations. Positing raw, tender confessions in the wake of heartbreak with lush, haunting soundscapes, periodic orchestral swells, and biblical allusions, MAGDALENE is a re-imagination of tradition. The real Mary Magdalene was a close friend and confidant of Jesus Christ, yet was nonetheless overlooked or even subject to sexist projections not based in fact. Twigs’ project offers an expression of womanhood disparate from such expectations of what a woman “should” be, and perceptions of those that divulge from that norm. Harmonizing with herself at myriad points throughout the album, and portrayed on the cover with dimensions just unusual enough to draw attention, it’s as if Twigs is performing her own religion; breaking free from convention to sing her own heart’s hymns and shirk the male gaze.
And with Future as the album’s only feature, it begs the question: is he Jesus Christ? Or just a good ally?”
– Devon Regan
3. JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Genre Hip-Hop/Rap · Label EQT Recordings, LLC · Released September 13, 2019
“With his third album, JPEGMAFIA pushes the boundaries of his idiosyncratic blend of musical styles even further. On All My Heroes Are Cornballs, listeners will recognize Peggy’s signature experimental hip-hop sound that he refined on his previous works. However now, many of the relentless bangers are replaced with softer, more melodic tracks that feature Peggy’s autotune singing and vaporwave-esque synths. He executes this surprising change in style flawlessly on tracks like “Grimy Waifu,” one of my favorites. The R&B influences are definitely more prevalent on Cornballs than any of his previous projects, there’s even a cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs” towards the end of the album.
This softer side of Peggy can also be seen in the lyrics of songs like “Free the Frail,” as well as in the cover art, where we see the rapper dressed in “your grandma’s hand-me-downs.” But don’t let this fool you, Peggy still flaunts his abrasive side throughout most of the album’s lyrics and many of it’s instrumentals. On tracks like “Kenan Vs. Kel” and “Beta Male Strategies,” he completely derails the beat in the middle of the song and replaces it with a glitchy, distorted guitar passage. A certifiably challenging listen, All My Heroes Are Cornballs gives us a glimpse into the future of alternative music and makes it clear that JPEGMAFIA is still at the top of his game.”
– Spencer LaChance
2. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
Genre Alternative/Indie · Label Columbia Records · Released May 3, 2019
“The boys from Columbia break into their dad’s record collection on Father of the Bride. A departure from the gloomy, preppy realism of 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, FOTB provides a more upbeat reflection of life and love that takes influences from the folk music of the ’60s and ’70s. There has also been a change in line-up for the Cape Codders, Rostam is no longer a member (however still contributes to a few tracks) and Brian Robert Jones is added on guitar. The double album provides multiple incredible tracks such as the stunning “Harmony Hall”, summery “This Life”, and funky Steve-Lacy filled “Sunflower” and “Flower Moon”. Thematically, this album tackles everything from growing up, love and loss, and the current political climate in a double album of summertime anthems. A masterpiece is formed from the boys hanging up the Vineyard Vines and rocking some tie dye and Patagonia.” – Kyle Janko
1. Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
Genre Hip-Hop/Rap · Label Columbia Records · Released May 17, 2019
“After four albums and nearly a decade of controversial music, shocking public statements, and overall trolling, Tyler, the Creator manages to surprise audiences yet again with his vulnerable album IGOR. A departure from his earlier work and reputation, IGOR shows a different side of Tyler. The album’s heartbreaking narrative, in which he falls in love with a man and gets his heart broken, is told through Tyler’s alter ego “Igor”, who dons a look that has already become iconic: a platinum blonde bowl cut and unicolor pastel suit. IGOR features guests like Solange, Playboi Carti, Jerrod Carmichael, and Kanye West (among others), and is compelling from start to finish.
In addition to earnest lyrics and spoken interludes, the genius also lies in the instrumentals, which evolve throughout the album to match Igor’s emotions. From “EARFQUAKE” to “NEW MAGIC WAND” to “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?,” the album contains a wide array of feelings, resonating with audiences so much that it debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. IGOR speaks to the versatility and talent of Tyler as an artist and performer, embodying 2019’s musical standard of excellence.”
– Laura Shrago
100 Gecs – 1000 Gecs
Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Solange – When I Get Home
WRBB’s WORST ALBUMS OF 2019
Chance The Rapper – The Big Day
Genre Pop-rap · Label Self-released · Released July 26, 2019
“One question now surrounds all of Chance the Rapper’s future releases – can he do the impossible and get even cornier than this? Honestly, this album was a mess, so I’ll let Chance do the talking. Let’s just hope this isn’t the arsenic cherry on top of the sundae that is his career. Here are the low-lights…
“Life is short as a midget, but mine’s a little LeBron.”
“Shh, I don’t wanna hear a peep / Tryna catch some sleep / Tryna count some sheep.”
“Saucing on the workers at McDonald’s.”
“My baby mama stopped me in a meeting / Just to AirDrop me some nudes.”
and my favorite…
“Well, I got an extendo with a long nose like Phineas.”
Should I go on?”
– Chris Triunfo
Weezer – Weezer (Teal Album)
Genre Pop-rock · Label Crush Music/Atlantic · Released January 24, 2019
“No one ever asks for a cover album. They’re largely irrelevant to a band’s discography, require little effort to make, and unless there’s a significant change to the tracks, then do very little for the field of music overall. Despite this, I love covers. Julia Jacklin’s recent cover of “Someday” by The Strokes is a perfect example of the best of both worlds coming together, with the songwriting and music of The Strokes and the crescendo and tension of Jacklin’s voice. The Teal Album is not that, not by a long shot.
Weezer are a band of dorks and nothing is dorkier than repeating the same joke that was funny once, maybe twice. Weezer’s “Africa” cover was a humorous surprise and their biggest hit in years, but we didn’t need that 9 more times. Cuomo does not even try to pay tribute to the flow of TLC’s “No Scrubs” or to the vibrant bounce on “Sweet Dreams”. There’s no creativity or imagination. Maybe it’s out of respect, trying not to warp the artist’s original intent, but if that’s the case, then why bother? What could have been a fun experiment unfortunately turned into a cash grab capitalizing on their recent rare relevance, or maybe it always was.”
– Ian Dobbins