There are musicians who do not rely on past tried-and-tested formulas just to hook listeners. Thus, 2019 has been an exciting year in the rhythmic soundscape. From an 18-year-old who brought goth-pop into mainstream consciousness to recognising lo-fi's delicacy, these artists injected freshness on the veteran-favoured playing field.
In addition, heartbreak always draws out one's best despite the necessary pain. So appreciate this year's groundbreaking masterpieces by adding them to your music playlists.
10. Immunity — Clairo
Twenty-year-old Massachusetts-born singer-songwriter Claire Cottrill could’ve hopped on the viral success of the bedroom-produced ‘Pretty Girl’. Instead, she reintroduces herself with a lush lo-fi debut LP that’ll easily unwind strained souls.
Elements of bedroom-pop can still be detected, but assistance from prodigy producer Rostam Batmanglij and drum whiz Danielle Haim elevate Clairo’s raw DIY-pop fantasias into neat psychedelic snaps. Don’t be fooled by the serene opener ‘Alewife’ as bops like ‘Sofia’ and ‘Bags’ await.
9. Father Of The Bride — Vampire Weekend
Beyond the questionable album art, this long-awaited sixth studio (and double!) record from the American indie-rock band successfully portrays the sincerities of love and life, albeit with some angst. It’s not head-banging, but you can certainly bop your head to the upbeat hook-heavy productions, courtesy of frontman Ezra Koenig and guest producer Ariel Rechtshaid.
8. Heard It In A Past Life — Maggie Rogers
Perseverance does pay off; just ask Rogers. After dipping her toes into a couple of self-released independent albums, the singer-songwriter has now made a splash on the charts (peaked at #2 on Billboard 200) with a major record label. Rogers’ pop-folktronica output captivates, as publicly praised by Pharrell Williams.
7. Inflorescent — Friendly Fires
So, what kept this Mercury prize-nominated London indie dance-rock band from putting out new material after dropping their acclaimed sophomore album, Pala, eight years ago? It remains a mystery, but we’re glad to surround ourselves in their upbeat dynamics again.
Early singles like the Disclosure collab ‘Heaven Let Me In‘, ‘Love Like Waves’ and ‘Silhouettes’ prove that they still have it. Psst, try logging off from the hook of ‘Offline’, it’s nearly impossible!
6. When We All Fall Asleep, When Do We Do — Billie Eilish
Talk about taking the road less travelled. Eilish made an abrupt detour towards Goth-pop from the bold yet morbid EP, dont smile at me. At 17, brooding thoughts manifest constantly into the former choir singer’s head.
Don’t worry, it’s safe to embrace this hauntingly self-deprecating album without incurring the wrath of conservatives and local censors.
5. Late Night Feelings — Mark Ronson
Sorrow is not exclusive to ballads. Ronson has properly crafted ‘sad bangers’ with an album entirely fronted by female vocalists who co-wrote their own featured track. While familiar names like Camila Cabello and Alicia Keys lend their star power, indie darlings such as Lykke Li, Yebba and Diana Gordon (formerly known as Wynter Gordon) shine through with killer hooks too.
4. Ugh, those feels again! — Snoh Aalegra
A befitting album title indeed—the vicious cycle of falling in and out of love (as reflected on Side A and Side B respectively). As the sequel to her 2007 debut Feels, LA-based Iranian Swedish singer Aalegra never felt so relaxed yet confident. Now you know why the late Prince chose to mentor her.
From the haunting and honest ‘You’ to the come-hither of ‘Situationship’ and upbeat light rap on ‘Nothing to Me’, Aalegra shows off her versatility with ease.
3. Hypersonic Missiles — Sam Fender
Fender is grittier and a pragmatist compared to his peers. Rather than charming and impressing his listeners, the North Shields singer-songwriter touches on weighty topics such as toxic masculinity and suicide with ‘Dead Boys’. Kudos to that.
Also, his brave anthemic Brit-rock tunes remind us of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. Better watch your back, Harry Styles.
2. Magdalene — FKA Twigs
It could’ve been LP2. Instead, twigs bared her soul and documented her love life (both happiness and sorrow) by referencing the enigmatic Mary Magdalene. Only an artist who has experienced pain and heartbreak can produce a masterpiece.
On the emotional and vulnerable ‘sad day’, heavyweight co-producers Nicolas Jaar, Skrillex, Noah Goldstein, Benny Blanco respect twigs and build their strengths on her wistful lyrics. Utterly sublime.
1. Norman F***ing Rockwell — Lana Del Rey
When ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ went public, the bar was raised sky high for Del Rey’s highly anticipated fifth major-label LP. And she certainly delivered. Although alternatively stylised as NFR! to appease censors, there’s nothing repressive about this piano-heavy psych-rock tour de force.
Primary producer Jack Antonoff worked his magic as always and distilled Del Rey’s musical strengths into aural art. Paired with poetic lyrics, she has truly cemented herself as one of the greatest music contemporaries in current times.