What can we say about 2019 that hasn’t been said before, often by us. We’re happy it’s behind us but we’re also happy with enormous amount of great music it brought us; this year was especially hard to narrow down, especially with so many genres at play, but without further ado we present BrooklynVegan’s collective favorite albums of 2019 (feel free to roast us in the comments)...

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    Blanck Mass - Animated Violence Mild (Sacred Bones)

    Animated Violence Mild is one of the harshest sounding albums on this list, with noise/industrial tendencies and harsher shrieks than some of the metal bands on here, but it's also one of the flat-out catchiest. Blanck Mass (aka Benjamin John Power of Fuck Buttons) works in blissful melodies that remind me at various times of ABBA, '90s Eurodance, and Max Martin, yet the bubblegumminess never softens the blow of the record, it only intensifies it. [Andrew Sacher]

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    Great Grandpa - Four of Arrows (Big Scary Monsters)

    Seattle indie rockers Great Grandpa seriously leveled up this year, going from the relatively straightforward grunge-pop of their 2017 debut to their ambitious, pristine-sounding sophomore album Four of Arrows. Guitarist Dylan Hanwright says the new sound is "less of an evolution than it was a real representation of our interests," and Four of Arrows is proof that very good things can happen when you go with your gut. The album can recall anything from '90s alt-rock like Third Eye Blind and Alanis to early 2000s indie like Death Cab and Rilo Kiley to current stuff like Phoebe Bridgers, and fans of any or all of those artists should find something to like about Four of Arrows. [A.S.]

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    SeeYouSpaceCowboy - The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds (Pure Noise)

    On their first proper full-length album, the leaders of the "sasscore" revival defy easy pigeonholing and transcend revivalism. The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds still has plenty of signifiers of the white belt era -- sometimes to the point where I can't believe new music like this exists in 2019 -- but SeeYouSpaceCowboy have figured out how to repurpose these nostalgic elements into something that sounds like the future. Amongst a sea of bands that sound content to position themselves within a pre-existing genre, SYSC are the opposite. They dabble in hardcore, metalcore, screamo, emo, post-rock, and beyond, and they sound like they're ready to take over the world. I have a feeling that we're only just beginning to see this band's potential, and I think we're all in for a wild ride. [A.S.]

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    Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race (Dark Descent)

    Hidden History of the Human Race, the follow up to the relatively acclaimed and beloved Starspawn by Denver death metal outfit Blood Incantation, arrived to breathless hype, already declared the metal album of the year by sundry high-profile publications. It was hard not to feel a little wary—how good could this thing be, really? We’re already in the middle of something of a mini death metal revival (what with Gatecreeper, Vastum, and Tomb Mold also putting out killer records this year). It would take a lot to stand out from that crowd, and thankfully Hidden History of the Human Race is a lot. In 4 tracks, Blood Incantation give us the kind of workout that only great death metal can provide. It’s as limber as it is bludgeoning, able to turn on a dime between spaced-out excesses to old fashioned guttural howls (one of which is provided by Demilch vocalist Antti Boman.) They provide the specific thrill of a band that, having achieved true heaviness, does not settle for that heaviness, instead turning their gaze skyward, towards spectral or interplanetary domination. It has a special quality that only a few bands of this ilk achieve, a perfect balance of crushing and tuneful and musically far-out that, for lack of a more articulate way to put it, you know when you see it. Like with Remission-era Mastodon, or recent work by Horrendous, as soon as you hear it, all the hype makes sense—it’s the most exhilarating metal record of the year. [Rob Sperry-Fromm]

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    Vanishing Twin - The Age Of Immunology (Fire)

    The Age of Immunology, the second album from London-based group Vanishing Twin, opens with a wave of wah-wah’d guitar, followed by congas, chiming piano, sweeping strings and the chirping of birds. It’s like being washed ashore on an inviting but mysterious tropical island where the rules of time and space do not apply. That track, “Krk (at Home in a Strange Place)” actually was recorded on an island (Krk, part of Croatia) and the rest of the album was also made in unusual locations, including an abandoned mill in the English countryside. This and the band’s multicultural lineup -- members hail from Belgium, Japan, Italy, France and America -- all add to their magical otherness, that pulls from krautrock, baroque psych, tropicalia, R&B and ‘60/’70s film soundtracks. (Having a dedicated flautist in the band adds a lot, too.) It’s a bit like Broadcast and Stereolab joining forces at Serge Gainsbourg’s beach house in Fiji, but Vanishing Twin inhabit a world that is entirely their own. [Bill Pearis]

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    The Comet Is Coming - Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery (Impulse!)

    Shabaka Hutchings has become one of the key leaders of the thriving UK jazz renaissance thanks to his work in Sons of Kemet, Shabaka and the Ancestors, and The Comet Is Coming. With The Comet Is Coming, Shabaka -- along with keyboardist Dan Leavers and drummer Max Hallett -- expands his modernized jazz sound into space rock and electronic music, coming out with something that's trippy, funky, and like little else happening at the moment. The album's only vocals come from the great Kate Tempest on the eight-minute "Blood of the Past," and her appearance is a very big sell, but even on the instrumental songs, The Comet Is Coming keep you at the edge of your seat the whole time. [A.S.]

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    Cult of Luna - A Dawn To Fear (Metal Blade)

    I didn't expect this from Cult of Luna. Once they decided to slow things down career-wise a few years ago, it seemed like they were ready to settle into old age as a band and admit that their glory days were behind them. Then came the collaborative album with Julie Christmas, which was one of my favorites of 2016, but which saw Johannes Persson handing the spotlight over to an outside collaborator, so it still suggested "Cult of Luna is moving on" more than "Cult of Luna is back." Well, on A Dawn to Fear, Cult of Luna is back. This album is classic Cult of Luna, but it feels very of the moment and not at all like a retread. And they sound totally revitalized. Post-metal remains a crowded genre, but this album nailed the middle ground between heavy, atmospheric, and beautiful more effectively than anything else I heard in 2019. [A.S.]

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    Jessica Pratt - Quiet Signs (Mexican Summer)

    When it comes to modern-day artists carrying the torch for late '60s / early '70s psychedelic folk, there might not be anyone doing justice to that era as consistently as Jessica Pratt. A handful of Jessica's peers have used the music of that era as a starting point and then went off into exploring other, more modern sounds, but Jessica remains faithful. Like its two still-excellent predecessors, Quiet Signs is a rare modern-day album that truly sounds like a lost gem from half a century ago. Its serenity and patience is in direct opposition to today's chaotic, fast-paced world, but when you put Quiet Signs on, the album allows you to drift away into a world of its own. [A.S.]

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    Snapped Ankles - Remote Luxury (The Leaf Label)

    A group known for dressing as trees (and, if you believe their press releases, living in them too) and frenzy-enducinging live shows, UK band Snapped Ankles were able to bottle the onstage lighting for their second album, Stunning Luxury. A loose concept album about encroaching real estate development and gentrification, the record works almost entirely by groove. There is a mania to Snapped Ankles, from the relentless percussion -- often played on logs, or logs turned into synth triggers -- to the unsettling keyboards riffs and the effects frontman Austin uses on his voice. But it’s a highly addictive mania and irresistable cuts like “Rechargable,” “Delivery Van” and “Letter from Hampi Mountain” recall the early-’00s NYC punk-funk heyday of LCD Soundsystem, Liars and Out Hud, but filtered through our current dystopian climate and their own arborous energy. [B.P.]

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    Kelsey Lu - Blood (Columbia)

    For too long, cellist/singer/songwriter Kelsey Lu was better known for working with high-profile artists like Solange, Florence + the Machine, Blood Orange, Kelela, and Sampha than for her own music, but with an album as good as Blood, that's bound to change and it's already starting to. It's hard to classify this album. Is it electronic? Experimental? Chamber pop? R&B? It touches on all of those things but never really fits neatly into any of them, and Kelsey's knack for seamless genre hopping is matched by her knack for subtle hooks that lodge their way into your brain and stay there. [A.S.]

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    Bad Bunny - X 100PRE (Rimas Entertainment)

    One of Latin trap's biggest and best singles artists proved with X 100PRE that he could also make the genre's first instant-classic crossover album too. The album came out just days before 2018 ended, and it became perhaps the most inescapable rap album of 2019. I feel like almost anywhere I went this year, I heard Bad Bunny's immediately distinct voice resonating out of a car window or a bar. I can't think of another artist who dominated hip hop on that level this year, and the immense popularity is deserved. Bad Bunny is innovative, no one sounds like him, and no matter how many times you hear these songs -- even the extremely overplayed Drake-featuring "MIA" -- you never tire of them. [A.S.]

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    Denzel Curry - ZUU (Loma Vista)

    Denzel Curry's excellent, genre-defying, three-part 2018 album TA13OO remains a modern classic and perhaps the single-best full-length album with ties to Soundcloud rap, and this year's ZUU feels like a victory lap. TA13OO had sort of a slow rise, and by the time it caught on, he was already ready to drop this breezier, harder, more immediate followup. It's not as ambitious as TA13OO, but in its own way, it's just as satisfying, and it's obvious that Denzel is only getting better as a rapper. The first half of the album finds Denzel at his most accessible, and by the end, he shows off the kind of punk-inspired fury he harnessed this year with his killer Bad Brains and Rage Against the Machine covers. [A.S.]

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    Control Top - Covert Contracts (Get Better)

    There's a quote from Control Top guitarist Al Creedon (who also played in Bleeding Rainbow and recorded and mixed Control Top's debut album with Jeff Zeigler) that pretty much hasn't left my mind all year. "I’ve seen so many bands that have two guitars and a bass essentially playing the same thing. It’s a missed opportunity," he says. "I try to think about the guitar and bass as one 10-string instrument when I write." That concept is a big part of what made Control Top's Covert Contracts stand out from other punk records this year. They mix hardcore, post-punk, and noise rock in a way that's thrilling but not unheard of, but their approach of making literally every string count is a big part of what makes this trio sound grander and more interesting than a lot of bands with twice as many members. Add cathartic aggression and hooky melodies to this already-fascinating equation, and you've got one of the finest punk debuts of the year. [A.S.]

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    Floating Points - Crush (Ninja Tune)

    After going in a full-band jazz direction on his first full-length album, 2015's Elaenia, Floating Points returned to the dancefloor for this year's Crush. He melds gorgeous, psychedelic melodies with hard-hitting beatwork, and he also sometimes takes Crush into Eno-esque ambient territory. It's a more simplistic album than Elaenia on the surface, but it's executed just as masterfully. [A.S.]

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    Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin? (Warp)

    Danny Brown is completely singular and incredibly versatile, an unapologetic weirdo who’s able to swing between classicism, modern party-rap, and genuine experimentation with seeming ease. I’d argue that he’s one of the very best and most consistent rappers of the decade, never quite as popular as Kendrick or Drake or Young Thug but sharing the kind of distinctive sensibility and fully developed identity that makes those artists great. uknowhatimsayin? finds him mostly working in classicist mode, although it’s never quite that simple. Executive produced by Q-Tip, there’s a warmth here that wasn’t present on Atrocity Exhibition, but it’s still woozy and off-kilter. He’s also fully in punchline mode, backing off some of the gnarlier, uglier self-reflection/flagellation that characterizes earlier work at times. But it’s still distinctly, pleasurably, a Danny Brown album, with all the musicality that entails. There are real earworms here: “Dirty Laundry” is an instant classic in his catalogue, gutturally funny and driven by tunefully stuttering production. “Best Life” is the most Tribe-sounding track here, but Danny takes a what should be sunny orchestral production and still makes it sound queasy. It feels like a mature, mid-career album (which it is), by an artist capable of delivering the goods with a deceptive veneer of ease. [R.S.F.]

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    Mannequin Pussy - Patience (Epitaph)

    Philadelphia punks Mannequin Pussy made their best album yet with Patience, their third full length and first for Epitaph. Clocking in at just under half an hour, it wastes no time sinking its infectious hooks in your ears; not only is first single "Drunk II" an instant stunner, its lyrics evoke alcohol-fueled bravado with heartbreaking fluency. As listenable as the songs on Patience are, it's their honest lyrics that elevate them to truly memorable. Mannequin Pussy have been known for their wild, stirring live show for a while, and they really infused that energy and power into this album. Combined with the immediacy of its melodies, infused with just a touch of pop sensibility, it's fully deserving of a future classic status. [Amanda Hatfield]

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    Fennesz - Agora (TOUCH)

    One of the most consistently great ambient artists since the '90s, Fennesz returned in 2019 with his first proper album in five years that was more than worth the wait. On an end-of-year list like this that doesn't represent much of this year's great ambient music, it's hard to choose just one or two albums in that genre, but this one successfully transported us out of our bodies on many occasions in a way that just feels too special not to recognize. His use of treated guitar to create lush, ethereal soundscapes remains breathtaking, and Agora is a gorgeous listen. [Dave]

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    Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana (RCA)

    Freddie Gibbs is kind of an unexpected success story. He signed to Interscope in '06 but was dropped before he was ever able to release the debut album he recorded for the label. He ended up releasing a lot of the songs intended for that album on a free internet mixtape in '09, and as the explosion of free internet mixtapes created a new rap underground, Gibbs was able to pick up some buzz in that community as a devotee of early 2000s gangsta rap. He seemed like he'd always be a niche guy, too out of step with trends to make much of a widespread impact. But then he teamed up with legendary underground producer Madlib for a few EPs and eventually the 2014 full-length Piñata, and it turned out the pair had a chemistry so strong that the album became a favorite even outside of niche, revivalist rap circles. Piñata remains a cult classic, but when MadGibbs came together again five years later for a followup, they were even stronger. This time around, they were more familiar with each other's style and process, they knew what worked and what didn't, and it enabled them to knock it out of the park. Bandana has some of the very best songs of Gibbs' lengthy career, and it solidified MadGibbs not just as a successful experiment but as one of the most crucial rapper/producer duos of the decade. [A.S.]

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    Holly Herndon - PROTO (4AD)

    On Holly Herndon's last album (2015's great Platform), she gained a lot of comparisons to Laurie Anderson, and that makes sense, as both artists know how to create deeply innovative, experimental music that pulls off the unlikely feat of sounding accessible to fans of pop music. But at this point, comparing Holly Herndon to anyone is a disservice. PROTO is such a different record than most of what's happening within experimental music and within pop music, and it's even drastically different from Herndon's own previous work. It's impossible to compare PROTO to Platform, as they feel like they're from entirely different universes. PROTO was made using a mix of AI and a choir of human voices, and it blurs the line between the artificial and the very organic. Something like this probably seemed inevitable, I just didn't know it'd happen so soon and sound so good. [A.S.]

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    Earl Sweatshirt - Feet of Clay (Tan Cressida)

    It took Earl Sweatshirt over three and a half years to follow 2015's great I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside with the more psychedelic, more experimental Some Rap Songs, but less than a year to follow that one with Feet of Clay, which confirmed the more far-out sound of Some Rap Songs was no fluke. On Feet of Clay, Earl continues to push himself forward as an innovative, outré rapper and producer. His rhymes feel a little more grounded on this one than they were on Some Rap Songs, but it's still a dizzying, out-there project that pays little attention to traditional rap trends and song structures. And as ever, Earl knows how to write music that's as brainy and thought-provoking as it is fun to listen to. [A.S.]

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    Knocked Loose - A Different Shade of Blue (Pure Noise)

    Music is cyclical, and since it's been about 20 years since metalcore started to infiltrate the mainstream, it makes sense that the genre is now in the midst of a resurgence. And as with most once-underground genres that got a taste of mainstream success, some of the new bands are acting as a corrective of sorts, tapping in to the best parts of classic metalcore and working to leave behind the cheesy elements it acquired as it grew. Enter Knocked Loose, whose sophomore album A Different Shade of Blue is the first masterpiece of the metalcore resurgence. Unlike the mallcore bands who dominated the genre in the early 2000s, Knocked Loose sound legitimately fucking scary. Like the popular 2000s metalcore bands, Knocked Loose know that good production and scream-along one-liners can go a long way, and like the earlier '90s metalcore bands, Knocked Loose pledge their allegiance to Slayer riffs. There's an atmosphere and a darkness to A Different Shade of Blue that make Knocked Loose sound more menacing than a lot of their peers, and they also know how to sound accessible without sacrificing their sheer force. With high-pitched lead screamer Bryan Garris and low-pitched backup growler Isaac Hale handling the bulk of the vocals, the closest thing to "clean" is when Every Time I Die's Keith Buckley shows up to shout Hot Damn! style on "Forget Your Name." Still, A Different Shade of Blue is full of parts that can nearly be described as "catchy." And Knocked Loose do more than keep the flame burning for a long-established genre; they bring something new to the table as well. As we saw happen this decade with Power Trip's Nightmare Logic for thrash, or Pallbearer's Foundations of Burden for doom, I can see A Different Shade of Blue being talked about right alongside the albums that influenced it. [A.S.]

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    Megan Thee Stallion - Fever (300 Entertainment)

    Megan Thee Stallion's 2018 sleeper hit "Big Ole Freak" got her foot in the door, but her 2019 album Fever blew the house down. It's only been about a year, but the time when Megan had just one signature song already feels like ancient history. She murdered just about every feature she did in 2019, and she released a whole slew of future classics on her own album, Fever. The album's got a handful of beats and one guest verse by Three 6 Mafia's Juicy J, and two Three 6 samples, and it's sort of a passing-of-the-torch moment for Megan, who's obviously influenced by Three 6 Mafia and other '90s/early '00s rap but who couldn't be more of the moment. She's got the charisma, the bars, the hooks, and Fever so clearly defined the 2019 rap landscape. The only other 2019 rap newcomer on Megan's level is the very likeminded DaBaby, and he has the only other guest verse on Fever. He's on "Cash Shit," which, in some ways, feels like THE rap song of 2019. It's Megan and DaBaby in one place, doing what they do best, and it captures the essence of where rap is right now, just as the new decade approaches. [A.S.]

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    Sleater-Kinney - The Center Won’t Hold (Mom + Pop)

    The news that St. Vincent was producing Sleater-Kinney's new album, The Center Won't Hold, had fans giddy with excitement -- until, that is, Janet Weiss announced her departure from the band (Janet did still drum on the album, but she said it was “made sort of without me.“) It was a move that made the album divisive before it was even released, and not without good reason; while she wasn't Sleater-Kinney's original drummer, Janet filled that role the longest, and her contributions helped them dominate as one of the greatest modern American rock bands. Still, I hope some people who dismissed it outright are able to return to The Center Won't Hold after a period of mourning for the band as it was. Not only does it sound urgent, impassioned, and entirely vital from beginning to end, sonically it's like nothing they've done before, mixing synthy goth-pop and industrial menace with Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker's guitar heroics and the insistent yelp of their vocals. St. Vincent's production influence is evident in boldly major-key turns like "Can I Go On," but balancing it out are tracks like "Broken," a powerfully spare lament that honors Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in a way that only long-standing pioneers of addressing sexual assault pre-#MeToo like Sleater-Kinney could have done. Like their 2015 reunion album No Cities to Love, The Center Won't Hold sounds like an album that demanded to be made, and the satisfying and glorious bookend of an era. [A.H.]

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    slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain (Method)

    With the grime renaissance in full swing, it feels like there are more great new grime records to check out than ever, and if you're not yet fully immersed in the genre, all the new music can feel a little overwhelming. But one new artist was able to cut through all the noise and release a masterful debut album that doesn't really sound like anything else happening right now, and that artist is slowthai. He's as punk as he is hip hop (the album includes references to the Sex Pistols and Dizzee Rascal and should appeal to fans of both), and that's even more evident at his mosh and circle pit-filled live shows. His sneering voice is unmistakable, and he applies all that attitude to Nothing Great About Britain, a concept album inspired by slowthai's disgust for his home country, which hits especially hard during these rough political times in the UK. And, since we're experiencing similar things over here, maybe that's part of why this album continues to take off in the US too. [A.S.]

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    Brutus - Nest (Sargent House)

    All three members of Brutus had been playing in the Belgian music scene for over a decade before forming this band, but Brutus has quickly become the best and most ambitious project any of them have been in. Drummer/vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts has said in interviews that they went into Brutus with the intent of starting a more complex band (she and guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden had previously played stripped-down garage punk in Starfucker), and after making their ambitions clear on their 2017 debut album Burst, they fully perfected their sound on their 2019 sophomore album Nest. It's got musical ingredients from all over the place -- whiplash-inducing punk, expansive post-hardcore, atmospheric post-metal, glossy pop, and more -- and Brutus bring it all together with addictive songwriting and breathtaking musicianship. Every member of this band is a total pro. Stefanie's bone-rattling drumming is matched by her soaring voice, Stijn shreds without overtaking the song, and he and bassist Peter Mulders create widescreen soundscapes with just their two instruments. On a technical level, the album is as impressive as great technical death metal, but the choruses make Brutus as accessible as anything on rock radio. They toured in 2018 with Thrice, and Nest scratches a similar itch for me that Thrice scratched around the time of 2003's The Artist In The Ambulance. That album allowed them to fit in with the emo-pop boom of the time, but their adventurous songwriting and technical proficiency allowed them to far outlast the bulk of their peers. And that type of melodic yet heavy post-hardcore lives on through Nest. [A.S.]

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    Cate Le Bon - Reward (Mexican Summer)

    Cate Le Bon can say more with an “ahh” than most can with a perfect verbal SAT score and a rhyming dictionary. Her emotive sighs color many of the songs on Reward, an album unlike any she has made before. She spent a year by herself in Cumbria in the Northwest of England, learning woodworking — making tables and stools and chairs — by day and writing songs on piano at night. Though she then went to record those songs in Joshua Tree with a group of regular collaborators (Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, Stephen “Sweet Baboo” Black, H. Hawkline and Josh Klinghoffer), piano remains at the heart of it, giving most of the record a much more introspective, deeply melancholic air. Even when she sings “I love you, I love you, I love you” on the great “Daylight Matters,” it’s in the loneliest way, even before adding “but you’re not here.” It’s rarely that clear cut, though, with Le Bon conveying Reward’s lonely mood through low, bleating saxophones or droning keyboard lines. And those ahhs. [B.P.]

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    Dead To A Dying World - Elegy (Profound Lore)

    Niche music is necessary, but truly great bands know how to take influence from various niches and spit them back out in a way that transcends genre. For example, we know that Sonic Youth were into hardcore punk as much as they were into Glenn Branca's avant-garde compositions, and their ability to channel those two things (and lots of other stuff) at once is a big part of what made them such a transcendent band. Dallas collective Dead To A Dying World are that kind of band. Their third album Elegy takes tornadic black metal, roaring sludge metal, string-laden Godspeed You! Black Emperor-esque post-rock climaxes, Swans-like dark folk, and more, and combines it all in a way that feels overwhelmingly natural. (And it features Swans contributors Jarboe and Thor Harris, as well as a host of other guest musicians.) Elegy is like the Swiss Army knife of modern heavy/dark music; it's like, why do just one thing when I could serve all kinds of purposes and be just as convenient? And DTADW aren't just jacks of all trades; they've got the songs too. Elegy has some of the most beautiful, memorable melodies I've heard on any album this year, in any genre. It's heady, cerebral music and fun to listen to. It's really something special. [A.S.]

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    Aldous Harding - Designer (4AD)

    The video for “Fixture Picture,” the opening song on Aldous Harding’s Designer, was inspired by the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and like his films (El Topo, The Holy Mountain), the album is dazzling in its imagery while remaining enigmatic. Explanations would only dispel the magic of wonderful and weird songs like “Treasure” (“a rock in my hand / a living mirror”), “Zoo Eyes” (“purple and fur / all sound is bees”) and “The Barrel” (“the water’s a shell and we are the nut”). Lines like that stick with you even if, like as Aldous wonders in “Zoo Eyes,” you have no idea what she’s doing in Dubai. Yet the songs are deep with feeling, thanks to captivating arrangements, perfect production from John Parish, and Harding’s ever expressive, ever elastic voice. Designer is a wondrous, transfixing mystery that doesn’t need to be solved. [B.P.]

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    Rapsody - Eve (Jamla/Roc Nation)

    On a pure skill level, Rapsody has been one of the best in the game for a while. But even as various factors prevent her from achieving the widespread recognition she deserves ("dressed too tomboy, rap too lyrical"), she keeps pushing herself to get better and better. Just about every project she's released has been even more breathtaking than the last, which makes Eve her clear winner for the decade. Her delivery and lyrical content are as showstopping as they were on previous albums (like 2017's Laila's Wisdom, which appears slightly lower down on this list), but Ever has a clearer concept than any other Rapsody album. Each song is named after a different iconic, powerful woman, and the theme of black, female excellence runs throughout the consistently strong album. Even when Rapsody isn't discussing powerful women directly, she's proving herself as one of modern hip hop's most powerful women as she cruises through her carefully penned lines and leaves the listener hanging on every word. [A.S.]

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    Solange - When I Get Home (Columbia)

    Solange's A Seat At The Table is one of those canon-altering albums that used the already-adventurous R&B landscape of the early/mid 2010s as a launchpad and pushed the genre forward in even more exciting directions, while also tastefully hearkening back to the lively psychedelic soul of the 1970s and providing incisive social/political commentary that resonated even more strongly after Trump was elected a month later. Where do you go from an album like that? For Solange, you go weirder, more experimental, more abstract. Both the music and the lyricism are vague, trippy, and more about mood and imagery this time around. It's a less approachable album than its predecessor, but once it sucks you into its world, it stuns in an entirely different way. Once again, Solange -- along with likeminded peers like Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, both of whom contributed to this album -- has shifted the landscape of R&B, hip hop, and music in general. And judging by her past triumphs, I suspect we still haven't seen the full impact of When I Get Home. [A.S.]

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    PUP - Morbid Stuff (Rise)

    PUP had already been one of the leading voices in 2010s indie-pop-punk thanks to their first two albums, but Morbid Stuff came out in April 2019 and blew both of its predecessors out of the water upon arrival. It delivers pretty much the same kind of fist-raising punk anthems as those two albums, just in a way that's bigger, better, tighter, and smarter. PUP don't really try to be the most startlingly original band in the world, but they put enough of their own spin on tried-and-true pop punk formulas that they end up sounding like no one else. And they're one of those bands who create a sound and keep honing it from album to album, getting exponentially better each time. If they keep going at this rate, they'll top Morbid Stuff eventually too, but right now, they're about as close to the top as it gets. The 2010s have given us a lot of good punk records, and Morbid Stuff can already go power chord for power chord with the best of them. [A.S.]

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    Alcest - Spiritual Instinct (Nuclear Blast)

    Neige took his unique blend of black metal and shoegaze to a logical conclusion by 2010's Écailles de lune, and as he watched Deafheaven and a bunch of other bands further popularize his formula throughout the past decade, his own material never quite managed to hit those same heights. So it is no minor accomplishment that, at the tail-end of the decade, he returned with the best Alcest album since Écailles de lune. Even on Alcest's classic albums, the shoegaze and black metal elements blended like oil and vinegar, always needing to be shaken back up, but on Spiritual Instinct, they dissolve right into each other. On one end of the album's musical spectrum, there's "Sapphire," possibly the most immediate Alcest song to date but one that still carries the weight of metal, and on the other, there's "Protection," one of the most straight-up heavy Alcest songs to date but still melodic and angelic. And then the rest of Spiritual Instinct occupies a very appealing middle ground. It took Alcest some time to get there, but this is how you take a sound you yourself pioneered and push it forward yet again. [A.S.]

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    Jamila Woods - LEGACY! LEGACY! (Jagjaguwar)

    It feels like there's at least one new classic coming out of the thriving Chicago hip hop scene every year lately, and this year that title belongs to Jamila Woods' LEGACY! LEGACY! Miles ahead of her already-great 2016 debut Heavn, LEGACY! LEGACY! is a semi-concept album celebrating the legacy of black art, with the songs named after multiple generations of black and brown icons, including Sun Ra, Muddy Waters, Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Octavia E. Butler, Betty Davis, Miles Davis, and more. It's also already itself an iconic piece of black art, with lyricism that's as bold as the work of the artists Jamila is paying homage to, and a seamlessly genre-defying sound that pulls from '70s soul, modern indie pop, hip hop, dance music, and more. Nitty Scott and Saba show up to rap showstealing guest verses, but the spotlight is almost always occupied by Jamila, who has quickly turned into one of the most commanding artists around in any genre. [A.S.]

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    Thom Yorke - ANIMA (XL)

    For the first time in Thom Yorke's (often excellent) solo career, it feels like he has landed on a sound that feels definitively his own. The Eraser feels a lot like a Radiohead album, and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes feels like a conscious attempt to not make a Radiohead album. Anima, for all its technological flourishes and frosty Nigel Godrich production, feels warm and human, strangely organic. Thom’s voice flits in and out of these soundscapes with confidence, feels absolutely in sync with them, another instrument. The songs are smartly built around the particular character of his voice. “Not the News” is gorgeous, a disorienting fever dream of a song, driven by pinging synths and buttressed by lilting strings. “Impossible Knots,” with a distinctly Colin Greenwood-ish bass line, has a jittery kraut-rock feel. And given the general strength of the album, you wouldn’t think that “Dawn Chorus” would be such a blatant standout. But it is, immediately taking its place in the pantheon of Thom’s compositions. It’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack” 20 years later, a song that captures modern disorientation and romance and regret as vividly and specifically as anything he’s ever written. [R.S.F.]

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    American Football - LP3 (Polyvinyl)

    When American Football reunited with their second self-titled album in 2016, nearly two decades after releasing their highly-influential debut LP, it saw the band experimenting with mellower, more mature songwriting styles, while also building upon their initial legacy in a way that felt both refreshing and necessary. With LP3, American Football finally sound like they're ready to leave their initial legacy behind and fully move forward. American Football have previously lent themselves to post-rock comparisons in the past, but LP3 is perhaps the first time they’ve truly committed to the genre, with many of the album’s more atmospheric tracks, including the seven-minute centerpiece “Doom In Full Bloom,” or the children’s choir-laden “Heir Apparent,” sounding more like The Mercury Program and Explosions in the Sky than anything they’ve attempted before. The band also brought aboard some guest vocalists on the record, including Paramore’s Hayley Williams on “Uncomfortably Numb,” Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell on “I Can’t Feel You,” and Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell on “Every Wave to Ever Rise.” Each guest seamlessly fits into their respective songs like puzzle pieces, necessary to the songs’ moods, rather than feeling tacked on. But perhaps the most remarkable quality about the record lies within its lyrics; frontman Mike Kinsella is in top-notch lyrical form across the album, with many of the album’s best tracks painting vivid, heartbreaking pictures of personal regret, emotional isolation, and past trauma. On “Uncomfortably Numb,” Kinsella croons, “I blamed my father in my youth/now as a father, I blame the booze.” It’s a line that’s straightforward, yet packed with emotional significance. On the surface, it's a far cry from the "teenage feelings" that Kinsella sang about on LP1, but the emotional core remains the same. There's no better illustration of that than when Kinsella sings, at the end of the album’s closer, “Life Support,” “I’ve cried for you, for me, for strangers/I’ve cried in every room/When will it end, relentless adolescence?” [Jeremy Nifras]

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    Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center (Dead Oceans)

    Phoebe Bridgers followed her acclaimed 2017 debut Stranger in the Alps with a blockbuster collaboration with likeminded songwriters Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, boygenius, in 2018. Just a few months later she was rolling out another all-star collaborative event, complete with mysterious ads, brochures, and a hotline number to call, this time with Conor Oberst. The pair have a history, with their habit of appearing onstage at each other's shows, and Conor singing Stranger in the Alps track "Would You Rather." There's also the indelible influence Conor's music has had on Phoebe's, with her as a sort of torchbearer for the existential sadness he stood at the forefront of during Bright Eyes' late '90s to mid '00s discography. Combined, they could be a monument to multiple generations of melancholy, but Better Oblivion Community Center is much more than an exercise in hero worship or plumbing the depths. Rich with character studies and infused with an overarching sense of place, it channels the peculiarity of big sky Midwestern claustrophobia captured so earnestly in Bright Eyes' Lifted of The Story Is In the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, and applies it to Los Angeles. There are other echoes of Lifted, too, from the political-made-personal passages of that album’s "Let's Not Shit Ourselves" suggested in BOCC album opener "Didn't Know What I Was in For," to Bright Eyes’ "Waste of Paint's" tender portraits glimpsed in so many details, especially on BOCC’s "Forest Lawn," with its vision of closeness as being buried next to someone. BOCC succeeds not just for recalling Conor Oberst’s most classic era, but also for being the third great project in as many years from the very promising newcomer Phoebe Bridgers. BOCC is greater than the sum of its parts, and we hope this band continues, especially after witnessing joyous live shows the pair played to support the album, complete with canny covers (and, once, a particularly showstopping version of Lady Gaga from Phoebe). [A.H.]

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    DaBaby - Baby On Baby / KIRK (Interscope)

    "Straight off the rip, you know I don't wait for the drop," DaBaby raps on "Off The Rip" off his second album of 2019, KIRK, and right there, DaBaby pretty much defined the whole style he perfected just a few months earlier on his breakthrough album Baby On Baby. He takes a beat, usually something with bare but forceful drums, a booming, rubbery bassline, and not much else, and he starts rapping before the song even fully kicks in. (On paper, he's kinda like a punk band.) The Charlotte, NC rapper fits in with current South giants Migos (Offset is on Baby On Baby, and all of Migos are on KIRK), but he's got a fast-rapping style that's more Trap Muzik than trap music, recalling brash, early 2000s rappers like T.I. and Ludacris in a way that works within current mainstream rap. Baby On Baby and KIRK haven't even been out for a year, and they both already feel like a greatest hits. Baby On Baby has his initial breakthrough song "Walker Texas Ranger," the song that made him a star "Suge," and a slew of other tracks ("Taking It Out," "Goin Baby," "Baby Sitter") that hit just as heavily. KIRK continues his reign of could-be hits and actual hits, and also introduces a more sentimental side that suits Baby surprisingly well (parts of KIRK are about DaBaby's father passing away just as he started getting famous). Both albums feel too hastily put together to suggest DaBaby was trying to write a Classic Album, but sometimes this much pure fun and sheer talent hitting you all at once is how classics are made. [A.S.]

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    Lingua Ignota - Caligula (Profound Lore)

    This taxing, emotionally devastating album is not something I was able to listen to often, but every time I expose myself to its brilliance and power, I'm floored. Blood-curling screams, noise/industrial soundscapes, theatricality, and brutally honest lyricism come together on Caligula to create a work of art so unflinching and confrontational, it makes some of the year's best black and death metal albums sound downright feeble in comparison. Metal is often obsessed with horror and fantasy, but Caligula -- which serves as a vicious takedown of sexual abuse -- reminds you that real life is scarier than anything they come up with in the movies. [A.S.]

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    Little Simz - GREY Area (Age 101)

    Over the course of her masterful third album GREY Area, UK rapper Little Simz shows off a vast musical spectrum and a lyrical depth that leaves even many of the most popular rappers in the dust. Beginning with "Offence" and "Boss," the album starts out as raw and urgent as Civil Rights era psychedelic soul and as cutthroat as '90s New York rap. From there, Simz explores glossy neo-soul ("Selfish"), Eastern-tinged hip hop ("101 FM"), introspective rap balladry ("Sherbet Sunset"), and lush jazz rap (the Michael Kiwanuka-featuring "Flowers"), all without losing her focus or mincing her words. She still hasn't caught on in the US as much as she has in her home country, but when I saw her playing a packed Music Hall of Williamsburg show in Brooklyn earlier this year, you could tell that everyone in the room knew they were witnessing something truly next level. If there's any justice in the next decade, Simz will skyrocket to the top off the strength of her pure talent alone. [A.S.]

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    Big Thief - UFOF / Two Hands (4AD)

    What a monumental year 2019 has been for Big Thief. They signed to the legendary 4AD, and they quickly went from new kids on the block to having their music covered by one of their most popular labelmates. They released not one but two new albums, and both of them rank among the year's best for very different reasons. U.F.O.F. takes Big Thief's usual folk-rock and turns it into something more ethereal and cerebral, sounding closer to Radiohead than to Neil Young. Meanwhile, Two Hands rocks hard enough to make a case for Big Thief as this generation's Crazy Horse (who also released an album this year). Stylistic comparisons aside, what really makes Big Thief stand out is Adrianne Lenker's compelling words/melodies and the band's expressive instrumentation, and on these two albums, they've written some of their strongest songs yet. [A.S.]

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    Angel Olsen - All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar)

    Given the general popularity and accessibility of My Woman, the way her name seemed to be creeping up those festival posters, it seemed like Angel Olsen was poised for a mainstream breakthrough. It’s to her credit that All Mirrors shows no interest in such a thing, instead demonstrating an increased proclivity for the kind of understated, slow-burning, languid songwriting that really started to flower on the B-side of that earlier record. It makes for a fascinating contrast with the production, which has gotten bigger and more technicolor. While her melodic cues are more Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison than ever, sonically this record seems to alternate between Radiohead and Swans. “New Love Cassette” is driven by a synth bass line and big old Sergeant Pepper strings. “Spring” is a major highlight, armed a melody so classic-sounding it sounds like it might be plagiarized. Opener “Lark” and mid-album centerpiece “Impasse” are gigantic, slow-burn washes of sound and fury that utilize her always-stunning voice to effectively shrieking ends. The album as a whole presents a consistently compelling contrast, between simplicity and classicism in songwriting on one hand and between maximalism and bombast of production on the other. It’s a fascinating album from an artist who doesn’t seem at all content to rehash her successes. [R.S.F.]

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    FKA twigs - Magdalene (Young Turks)

    FKA twigs’ debut record LP1 released in 2014, contained a unique fusion of experimental pop, R&B, and electronic music which felt ahead of its time, and led to many critics and music fans alike to deem her as one of the most forward-thinking artists of the decade. Apart from dropping the just-as-great M3LL155X EP shortly afterwards, twigs faced many setbacks, including serious health issues, which forced her to take a five-year break between albums. Thankfully, she eventually rekindled her creative spirit in 2019 with her second LP Magdalene, which doesn’t fall into the “sophomore slump” trope by any margin, and instead shows twigs pushing her already-unique sonic vision even further than ever before. Across the album’s nine tracks, twigs often toes the line between deeply experimental, otherworldly alt-R&B and electronic sounds, like on the beautifully-layered “Mary Magdalene,” as well as more mainstream-leaning material, especially on album highlight “Holy Terrain,” whose Future guest spot ventures slightly into more commercial territory without compromising twigs’ usual aesthetic. The record also showcases a more tender side to twigs’ sonic landscape, with ballads like “Cellophane,” complete with a stunning vocal performance, easily ranking among her most sparse, emotionally-vulnerable tracks to date. Especially in the current landscape of indie music, where over-saturation of new albums and artists can dilute hype after a certain amount of time, it’s remarkable how after a multi-year absence, Magdalene not only repositioned twigs as one of the leading innovators in the experimental pop genre, but also proved her longevity as an untouchable creative force. [J.N.]

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    Tool - Fear Inoculum (RCA)

    After a very long 13-year wait, Tool finally returned this year with an album that isn't just a good comeback, but that rivals just about any of their classics. Fear Inoculum is unmistakably a Tool album, yet it sounds like no other album in their discography. It focuses a lot more on their psychedelic and progressive rock sides than their metal side, and Tool had been heading in that direction for a while but they didn't fully commit until this album. It feels like an album they might have always wanted to make but couldn't during the height of their fame and the height of alternative metal's fame, and 2019 felt like a perfect time to release it. In a time where atmospheric sounds dominate the alternative music landscape, Fear Inoculum feels as relevant to 2019 as Ænima felt to 1996. [A.S.]

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    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Ghosteen (Bad Seed Ltd)

    Nearly twenty albums and four decades into his career, it’s remarkable how Nick Cave managed to release one of the greatest albums of his lifetime, Ghosteen, in the year 2019. The album concludes a trilogy of releases -- which started with 2013’s Push The Sky Away and 2016’s Skeleton Tree -- and by all accounts, it’s a near-perfect, emotionally-complex conclusion to an excellent run of albums. Although Skeleton Tree was released shortly after the passing of Nick’s son Arthur, the material on that record was actually mostly written beforehand. Ghosteen, however, was the first to be written entirely after the fact, and while the topic of death and grief are ever-present on the record, it’s actually a far more transcendent and uplifting album than one might have expected. Despite the album’s runtime clocking in at over an hour, Ghosteen never manages to overstay its welcome, with Nick’s unmistakably sinister, chilling vocal performances demanding the listener’s attention at every turn. He dramatically describes spiritual, heavenly scenes of beauty (as seen on the album’s incredible cover art), and also tragically sings lyrics of mourning. Ghosteen is never more tragic than on the breathtaking 14-minute closer "Hollywood," where he recalls the Buddhist story of Kisa Gotami, a mother faced with the death of her baby, while dipping into a heart-stopping falsetto. The entire album is drenched in atmosphere from beginning to end, and there’s nothing really close to a conventional song structure to be found on Ghosteen, yet it remains compelling from start to finish. Experiencing Ghosteen, which was divided into two halves, feels like a slow, gradual rise to a rewarding non-spatiotemporal location beyond words. Perhaps that’s in line with Nick’s official description of the album before its release, where he described the record as “a migrating spirit.” At its best moments, the album feels like a continuous transition towards a place other than what we know, as well as being a reminder of how powerful music can be. [J.N.]

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    Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride (Columbia)

    On the surface, Father of the Bride is perhaps the most feel-good rock album of 2019 -- at least for people who think music that sounds like Paul Simon and the Grateful Dead is "feel-good" -- but further listens reveal much more than what immediately meets the eye. At the forefront, these are perfect pop songs. When you dig a little deeper, you'll find contemplative, sometimes depressing lyricism, and a knack for layering, arrangements, and production that's damn near genius. FOTB casually defies genre, incorporating elements of country music and jam bands while also enlisting the help of hip hop artists like Drake/Kendrick Lamar producer DJ Dahi and The Internet's Steve Lacy. It not only never sounds awkward, it sounds unmistakably like the work of Vampire Weekend, who have spent their entire career crafting a sound that remains unique even when they're wearing their influences on their sleeves. It's hard to say if Father of the Bride is currently Vampire Weekend's best album (I understand why a lot of people will give that title to its darker predecessor Modern Vampires of the City), but it's the most accessible, the most consistently rewarding, and the most refined. It felt like a classic I'd known all my life by the second or third listen, and countless listens later, that hasn't changed one bit. [A.S.]

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    Tyler, the Creator - IGOR (Columbia)

    When Tyler, the Creator started this decade off as a member of the rowdy skate-rap crew Odd Future and the brains behind the dark, shock-rap mixtape Bastard, who would've thought he'd end it with the gorgeous, lovelorn, experimental soul song cycle IGOR? It's hard to say what Tyler's best album is, especially when Bastard and Goblin are definitely his most influential, and maybe it's recency bias to pick IGOR, but IGOR deserves the title just because he took such a gigantic leap and stuck the landing. It's full of huge guests like Solange, Kanye West, and Santigold, but no one -- not even Tyler -- really ever takes the spotlight. Everyone's voices swirl into one big melting pot of sounds along with Tyler's inventive production, and the whole thing almost acts more as a mood piece than a rap album. That said, further listens reveal storylines and lyrical depth and traces of the unique personality that Tyler won the world over with a decade ago. It sounds absolutely nothing like his breakthrough works, yet it's unmistakably the work of no other artist, and that's no small feat. [A.S.]

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    Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains (Drag City)

    Songs like “All My Happiness is Gone,” “Nights That Won’t Happen,” and “Darkness and Cold” from David Berman’s amazing Purple Mountains were already heavy listens, but since his suicide in August, for some they may be too much to bear. Yet, they are imbued with his humanity and humor, where even in the darkest hour he could reveal a glimpse of pure beauty, or lighten the mood just a bit with a perfect zinger or absurdist imagery. Purple Mountains is David Berman at his most plainspoken (but still poetic as only he could be), but also his most relatable. All sorts of extra emotions may now be bundled with this album, but in the end maybe Purple Mountains should just be looked at as a gift, ten great new Berman songs that a year ago we weren’t expecting at all. Like he sings on “Snow is Falling in Manhattan,” the album’s most deeply affecting number, “Songs build little rooms in time, and housed within the song’s design / is the ghost the host has left behind / to greet and sweep the guest inside.” It’s there in these songs, and others, where he’ll always be with us. [B.P.]

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    Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar)

    After the fruitful first half of Sharon Van Etten's career that produced four great albums in five years, I never would've guessed that her best album yet would come after a five-year break. After gradually transitioning from a folk singer to an indie rocker, Sharon made another change for Remind Me Tomorrow and started embracing synths, but unlike a lot of her indie-rock-gone-synthpop peers, the core of Sharon's songwriting has remained the same, even as the choice of instrumentation has changed. Sometimes I forget when listening to Remind Me Tomorrow that it's technically so different than its predecessors, because the quality of Sharon's voice and the essence of her songwriting remain so familiar. If anything, the biggest change is just that the Remind Me Tomorrow songs are even stronger and more memorable than anything she had done prior. Tracks like "Comeback Kid," "Jupiter 4," "Seventeen," and "You Shadow" already feel as classic as any of the best songs on past Sharon Van Etten records. Remind Me Tomorrow is the kind of album that happens when an artist who already seemed like they reached their full potential aspires to be even greater and succeeds. [A.S.]

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    Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Interscope)

    Every time a new Lana Del Rey album comes out, I say to myself "this is it, the apex, she'll never top this." And then of course she always, always does. The incremental improvements and refinements that have taken place throughout her already-impressive career seem to come to complete fruition on Norman Fucking Rockwell, a frighteningly well-realized album that feels like a true and complete encapsulation of Lana's unique talent as an artist. She's always had a skill for anachronism, and here the bridging of Laurel Canyon folk and gender relations in the age of Tinder works wonders. This is hardly a ground-breaking statement, but it's amazing how much of an L.A., right now album this is. The juxtaposition of "Dennis's last stop before Kokomo" and "the culture is lit" capture the character of a certain part of the city and a certain type of person who lives there with a bizarre clarity of gesture (I will not be getting more specific than this). And the main thing is, these are by far the best songs of her career, full of sticky melodies and ineffable moments of grace. The whispered Neil Young invocation on "Mariners Apartment Complex" sends absolute chills down my spine, as does the layering of melodies on "Fuck It I Love You," or the hushed intimacies of "in the car I'm a star and I'm burning through you" on "Love Song." She'll likely release an even better album in a couple of years and continue to make me look like a fool, but I'll say it again right now: this is it, the apex, she'll never top this. [R.S.F.]

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    Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)

    In 1976, Karen Carpenter called Occupants of Interplanetary Craft. In 2019, Natalie Mering called back. An album of otherworldly beauty, Weyes Blood's Titanic Rising is like a '70s classic that has been dislodged from the constructs of time and space, and the single album that everybody at BrooklynVegan could agree on in 2019. "I try to be futuristic and ancient at once, which is a difficult alchemy," Mering said when the album was announced. "It’s taken a lot of different tries to get it right.” Originally planned for 2018, we didn't actually get her first record for Sub Pop till April 2019 but Titanic Rising was worth the wait. Working with co-producer Jonathan Rado (who knows his way around classic Laurel Canyon folk-pop sounds) and musicians like Blake Mills, The Lemon Twigs' Brian & Michael D'Addario, Chris Cohen and others, Mering got it all right, casting an even wider sonic net than on Front Row Seat to Earth. The magic is a mix of swoony strings and slide guitar that, with Mering's shiver-inducing voice, lowers the gravity in any room the album is played. Songs like "Something to Believe," "Andromeda," and "Mirror Forever" absolutely soar.

    It's not pure aural nostalgia, though; the arrangements throw in curveballs that The Carpenters or Joni Mitchell would never include. Opener "A Lot's Gonna Change" drops perfectly clunky robot noises into the song's orchestral crescendo, and the strings on "Andromeda" are degraded like a cassette tape left on the dashboard of a car in the middle of July. For all the surreal futurism in the production (and on the album's amazing underwater artwork), however, Mering's lyrics remain relatable to most earthlings, poetic and poignant but as crystal clear as her voice. She sings of feeling lost and alone, realizing love never works like it does in the movies, and the search for meaning and hope in a world that doesn't seem to have any. "Looking up to the sky for something I may never find," she sings on showstopper "Andromeda," and we too are lost in the stars. [B.P.]

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