Welcome back to the countdown. My list of 20 favorite albums from 2019 continues with the top 10, along with excerpts from the original reviews.
10. Clairo — ‘Immunity’
Singer/songwriter Claire Cottrill (Clairo) progresses (already) on her debut full-length album. There’s a quiet calm and even an innocence to this whole affair. The record blurs the lines between DIY and adult contemporary polish. Clairo creates a record that should appeal to a few disparate audiences.
9. Weyes Blood — ‘Titanic Rising’
Singer/songwriter Natalie Mering turns 30, switches labels to Sub Pop and gives us a dreamy yet confident fourth. ‘Titanic’ finds the writer looking back on her formative years while gazing out upon an uncertain future. The melodies are accomplished, the lyrics poignant.
8. Karen O and Danger Mouse — ‘Lux Prima’
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s frontwoman Karen O collaborates with super-producer Danger Mouse, and the end results are pure bliss. “Lux Prima” is completely its own thing with a unique vibe throwing together elements of ’60s psychedelics, ’70s soul and ’90s trip-hop.
7. Ex Hex — ‘It’s Real’
This outfit has more in common with early Aerosmith and the Go-Go’s than anything Mary Timony ever did a couple of decades ago. Doesn’t matter. This heavy garage trash is just as powerful as her old stuff. It’s simply a different aesthetic, one Timony is perfectly comfortable delivering.
6. Panda Bear — ‘Buoys’
Animal Collective member Panda Bear (singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Noah Lennox) comes back with an intimate sixth solo record. The new album strips away many of the electronics and psychedelic atmospherics of past works and shows the singer in a much different light.
5. Bleached — ‘Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough’
Sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin return with their third collection of instantly fetching pop/punk/garage. Bleached brings together the rawness of fellow female rockers such as the Coathangers and Ex Hex while reaching back for the Go-Go’s pop polish.
4. FKA Twigs — ‘Magdelene’
British singer/songwriter/producer Tahliah Barnett (known professionally as FKA Twigs) delivers her sophomore full-length album. As usual, the music defies categorization. Is this R&B? Electronic? Underground dance? Pop? Trip-hop? It’s ALL of those.
3. Big Thief — ‘U.F.O.F.’
When all the pieces fall into place, Big Thief recalls sparse Kristin Hersh solo records, Marissa Nadler’s forest jams and the Innocence Mission (if you crossed that with just a hint of vintage shoegaze). The whole concoction ends up a gorgeously fragile set of songs in which you can’t help but get completely lost.
2. Vampire Weekend — ‘Father of the Bride’
“Father of the Bride” is a sprawling effort. As usual, the guys bring in musical elements from all over the proverbial map and somehow make it work. Baroque melodies bounce off direct rhythms. String sections cozy up next to funky guitars. Songs flirt with everything from Celtic reels to Latin jazz.
1. Ladytron — ‘Ladytron’
British electronic outfit Ladytron returns with a pessimistic sixth album. Ladytron has never been particularly optimistic anyway, so this outlook isn’t exactly new territory. And for those who simply want to focus on the band’s slick vibe and melodies, you won’t be disappointed.