The Best Albums of 2019 (So Far)
Keeping abreast of the best new music should be a fun task, yet faced with a pile of new releases each month it can be difficult to know where to begin. Still, it's worth refreshing your collection, if only to avoid freezing the next time someone passes you an aux cable, and we're here to help with a round-up of the very best.
2019 thus far has seen a glut of great albums, including long-awaited debuts from Chance the Rapper and Jai Paul, electric rap from MIIKE and Young Thug and pop so good it's not even a guilty pleasure via Taylor Swift.
Whether you're looking for something to soundtrack your living room dancing or contemplative Tuesday morning commute, here are our favorite releases of the year so far.
Raphael Saadiq - Jimmy Lee
A contemporary of D'Angelo, A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla, Raphael Saadiq's soulful R&B has seen him release four solo studio albums as well as producing for the likes of Solange and John Legend. On Jimmy Lee, the first album from the Californian artist in eight years, he turns inward, confronting addiction, loss, and spirituality, like in the reverent 'Belongs to God', or the downcast jazz of 'This World is Drunk', where he laments, 'His mind is so stressed out / Tryin' to be a king / When everyone around him / Sees the clown and / They're laughing at him'.
Skip to: 'I'm Feeling Love' - A velvety groove runs through this neo-soul track where the refrain reverberates and the line 'I'm feeling love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love' fades away slowly.
Devendra Banhart - Ma
Houston-born Venezuelan-American artist Devendra Banhart came to prominence in the early-aughts with stripped-back folksy tracks like 'Little Yellow Spider', and a similarly whimsical sound to singer Joanna Newsom. His tenth album is less sparse, with tracks feeling more fully formed than previous music. Here the theme of maternal love, something he explores with sorrow as he contemplates the fact he likely won't have children, makes for a mature feel to the release.
Skip to: 'My boyfriend's in the band' - Sung in parts in softly-muttered Spanish, there's a lullaby quality to this track which is interspersed with a striking brass melody. The Spanish lines ('The first / I saw you / A blue sky / It opened in me') feel even more beautiful hidden in another language.
Tove Lo - Sunshine Kitty
Tove Lo isn't quite what you might imagine a blonde Swedish singer to be, creating dark and transgressive pop music which has a Robyn-like quality to the way it hides sucker-punch lines in dance floor anthems, and a Fleabag way to its mixture of dark and light themes.
Skip to: 'Bad as the boys' - A frantic beat builds as she opens the track 'I run my fingers through her hair / Crushing my hope that this could go anywhere / I'm just a memory of good times, she's not mine' as though the thoughts are running through her mind.
Jenny Hval - The Practice of Love
With illustrations of a third eye and snake drawn onto the cover art, the seventh album from Norwegian artist Jenny Hval is obviously marketed as being spiritually lifting, but here the music lives up to the promise. Though 'Ashes to Ashes' has a transcendent euphoria to it, elsewhere there are livelier moments, like the rapid electronic bass on 'High Alice' which ensures nobody could label this just a yoga soundtrack.
Skip to: 'Accident' - Bizarre references to stretch mark cream, dried figs and crying nipples are littered throughout this disconcerting track, where these images are contrasted to the otherworldly and ecstatic swelling of electronic sounds.
Metronomy - Metronomy Forever
Though moments on the English electronic group's sixth album suggest its title alludes to a continuation of their same sound ad infinitum, there are twists and turns to it, as well as plenty of the familiar sound that has kept them going for 20 years. 'Salted Caramel Ice Cream' is a saccharine cocktail of Hot Chip-esque groovy electronica, while 'Lying Low' shimmers with synth and vocals warped with autotune.
Skip to: 'The Light' - One of the more low-key moments on the album is one where front-man Joseph Mount's voice is more restrained and enjoyable. On a release featuring absurd lyrics about sex emojis, this is an enjoyably plainly spoken moment where he sings,
'Cause I understand / That I hold you back / But I'm just a man / A bad one at that'.
Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!
The Queen of Americana heartbreak anthems filled with evocative imagery about fireworks, flags and forlorn endings, Lana Del Rey's fifth album is her most brilliant yet. The stilted piano notes and swelling sadness of 'Mariners Apartment Complex'; the drawn-out melancholy in her voice during 'Cinnamon Girl'; and the anthemic resplendence of 'The greatest', which really does feel like a misty-eyed drive through a glowing desert scene, nearly every track strikes the perfect note.
Skip to: 'Happiness is a butterfly' - The imagery of trying to catch the winged creature in her hands is as dark and fragile as the later line, 'If he's a serial killer, then what's the worst / That could happen to a girl who's already hurt?'
Whitney - Forever Turned Around
Following on from the excellent Light Upon the Lake, the Chicago indie band's second album is a little more challenging, rather than it feeling like being submerged in their glowing guitar melodies, which occasionally blended together. 'Used to be Lonely' has a quiet sadness which shifts toward a crescendo of strings, and 'Rhododendron' is a jazzy fusion of loose riffs and noodling brass melodies.
Skip to: 'Giving Up' - A glowing track which meanders gently around a folksy guitars and moves along withthe buoyant refrain of 'My love'.
Bon Iver - i, i
Twelve years after seminal album For Emma, Forever Ago, Wisconsin singer Justin Vernon and his extended band find new ways to break your heart with their unusual indie-folk music. As on 22, A Million, follow-up i, i is filled with noodling jazz riffs, auto-tuned vocals and glitchy electronic samples. There's also more stripped-back sounds, like the piano ballad 'U (Man Like)' and the slow strings of 'Hey, Ma'. Though the track names are as strange and impenetrable as ever, the album has the same feelings of bliss and melancholy that give each track an emotional clarity.
Skip to: 'Salem' - A patter of soft bleeping notes layer over each other and lift into a euphoric chorus which cries 'So I won't lead no lie / With our hearts the only matter why'.
BROCKHAMPTON - GINGER
The second album in as many years from the 14-member music collective from Texas follows the trio of releases from the band in 2017. Formed after Kevin Abstract asked a Kanye West fan forum if anyone wanted to start a band, BROCKHAMPTON's lively hip-hop translates to energetic and wild stage performances from the group. With GINGER they slow things down, evidenced in the disjointed but beautiful titular track, and the soulful R&B of 'SUGAR'.
Skip to: 'BOY BYE' - The sample of 70's track 'Ejazeh' gives a soulful overtone to the clicking percussion and plucked strings which wind over the melody.
Taylor Swift - Lover
Two years after Taylor Swift's Reputation was released to mixed reviews, the singer has returned to the pop music which made her a global phenomenon. After disappointing first single 'ME!', Lover offers many brilliant moments, from the Lana Del Rey-esque melancholy of 'Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince', to the bubblegum pop of 'You Need To Calm Down'. There's plenty of emotions too, including a Dixie Chicks appearance on a track about her mother's cancer relapse, and a moment of closure as she rises above her feud with Kanye in 'I Forgot That You Existed'.
Skip to: 'False God' - An unusually leisured sound for Swift is lifted by muted saxophone melody in the distance as she sings: 'But we might just get away with it / Religion's in your lips / Even if it's a false god / We'd still worship.'
Young Thug - So Much Fun
Atlanta-born Jeffrey Williams aka Young Thug signed to Gucci Mane's record label in 2013 after releasing a string of mixtapes. He went on to see major success by appearing on Camilla Cabello's single 'Havana', contributing to the writing of Donald Glover's 'This Is America' and releasing numerous collections. His debut studio album So Much Fun cements his impressive and growing talent. There's a roster of rap's finest alongside him too, from J. Cole and Travis Scott on hit single 'The London', to Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Uzi Vert, and Future on other tracks.
Skip to: 'Bad Bad Bad (feat. Lil Baby)' - Young Thug's Atlanta protégé Lil Baby—whom there's a song on So Much Fun named in honor of—excels in this short sharp track where he spits about watches and whips.
Chance the Rapper - The Big Day
Three years after Colouring Book, the EP which introduced Chancelor Jonathan Bennett AKA Chance the Rapper to the world, the musician has finally released his debut album. The Big Day is a reference to his wedding, but with so many years of expectation on this album, there's perhaps a double meaning there. Luckily the 22 track release delivers, roaming through experimental autotune in a track with Death Cab for Cutie, murky trap in 'Handsome' and 'Big Fish' with Gucci Mane, and plenty of his signature uplifting and gospel-infused hip-hop.
Skip to: 'Town On The Hill' - The soft refrain of 'Thank you, Father, Father', and stripped-back instruments make for a quiet moment of reflection which ends with a blissed-out crescendo.
Florist - Emily Alone
Usually a trio, the third album from folk-indie outfit Florist is, as the title suggests, Emily Sprague flying solo. It's the same mournfully beautiful music as before, but drawing more on the natural world, with tracks such as 'Moon Begins' and 'Rain Song', and the changing light of the day explored in 'Shadow Bloom' and 'Time is a Dark Feeling'.
Skip to: 'As Alone' - The isolation of the album here becomes a lullaby to Emily herself, as she softly sings, 'And Emily, just know that you're not as alone / As you feel in the dark, as you feel in the dark.'
MIKE - Tears of Joy
A protégé of Earl Sweatshirt, 20-year-old New York rapper Michael Jordan Bonema's spaced-out and trippy rap music is reminiscent of King Krule or J Dilla. Tears of Joy has a sad strangeness to it, the disconcertingly wonky bars of 'Scarred Lungs, Vol. 1 & 2' and 'Take Crowns' stopping and starting constantly, but still maintaining an oozing flow to them.
Skip to: 'Memorial' - Samples of a hard conversation between friends and faltering notes play as MIKE sings mournfully, 'Why you always see me high, it's hard to come down' in this stirring track.
Blood Orange - Angel's Pulse
Almost a year after his fourth studio album, Negro Swan, Dev Hynes returns with an atmospheric collection of tracks which have a hazy, end of summer feel to them. Angel's Pulse is given extra weight by collaborations with names such as Tinashe, Toro y Moi and Justine Skye, but the most joyful moments come from Hynes' vocals floating ethereally over the music.
Skip to: 'I Wanna C U' - Drifting and low-key, here Hynes' soothingly sings 'I wanna see you' in this short refrain with barely-there guitar strings.
Yuna - Rouge
Malaysian-born Yunalis Zara’ai's fourth album has a more soulful and mature feel than her daintier previous releases. She says the title of the album signifying the color most associated with "love, spirit and strength", but there's darkness too, with 'Forget About You' and 'Does She' traversing through heartbreak. Elsewhere 'Likes' discusses the tightrope she walks as a Muslim woman in America, with chorus, 'Oh, she doesn't smoke / She doesn't show her skin / I heard she doesn't drink / Who does she think she is?'
Skip to: 'Blank Marquee' - Of all the collaborations on Rouge, joining up with G Eazy achieves the best results, with a Prince-esque pop track where the jaunty chorus repeats: 'Who are you without me? (Yeah) / You're just a blank marquee'.
Thom Yorke - ANIMA
The Radiohead frontman has had a steady but disparate solo career since 2006, made up of small releases, remixes and more recently the evocative soundtrack to Luca Guadagnino's horror film Suspiria. His latest release is about, in his own words, "a sense of anxiety … expressed through a dystopian environment", and is accompanied by a Netflix short film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. ANIMA is politically charged at times with Yorke wailing, "Who are these people? / In black treacle / You're starting violence / And say nothing" in blippy track 'Not The News', and unsettlingly dark 'The Axe' which asks 'Why don't you speak to me? / One day I am gonna take an axe to you'.
Skip to: 'Last I Heard (He Was Circling Down the Drain)' - York's delicate vocals hover over a wobbling melody and the unnerving noise of what sounds like helicopters circling overhead but never arriving.
Hot Chip - A Bath Full of Ecstasy
The British electro-pop outfit's seventh album is filled with the sort of blissful dance-floor tracks that you'd expect from the musicians behind crowdpleasers like 'Ready for the Floor'. While you can hear their exuberant and technicolor sound in tracks like 'Melody of Love' and 'Positive', they tread new ground in the weirdness of numbers like the 'Clear Blue Skies' and 'Why Does My Mind', which toe the line between joy and melancholy.
Skip to: 'Spell' - The monotonous and synthesized opening has echoes of the spinning start to 'Over and Over' but their chanting of 'like a spell you were under' blossoms into a chorus that feels just like a bath full of ecstasy.
Bill Callahan - Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
The Maryland singer-songwriter has been releasing lo-fi country rock music since the nineties, first as Smog and since 2007 under his own name since. Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest sounds like a collection of tales from life on the road, from the softly sung 'The Ballad of the Hulk' to the anguished sound of 'Shepherd's Welcome'.
Skip to: '747' - A smoothly drifting guitar melody pairs with vivid lyrics where Callahan sings, 'I woke up on a 747 / Flying through some stock footage of heaven'.
Jai Paul - Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)
There's more than a little mystery to British singer-songwriter Jai Paul. His 2012 single 'Jasmine' spread across the internet to become a track that everyone seemed to know without knowing exactly where it had come from. To his dismay, a forthcoming album was leaked online in 2013 and it's taken six years for that release to see the light of day. Released alongside two excellent new singles, the 16-track release features many tracks tagged as 'Unfinished' and littered with enjoyably lo-fi sampling, like Jennifer Paige's Nineties classic 'Crush' and K-Ci & Jojo's 'All My Life'.
Skip to: 'All Night' - A warped almost underwater-sounding melody sways with echoes and soft reverberations in this track which has strange echoes of Beyoncé's song of the same name.
Steve Lacy - Apollo XXI
The Internet had one of the best albums of 2018 with Hive Mind. Now the band's guitarist—who says he learned the instrument from playing Guitar Hero—has released his debut solo album. A soulful blend of R&B, pop, and hip-hop, Apollo XXI is the perfect accompaniment to lazy summer afternoons, like the slow-jam of 'N Side', and the long evenings that follow them, as in the dance-floor groove in 'Playground'.
Skip to: 'Hate CD' - Bass guitar thrums beneath a soft drum pattern and vocals which sing 'You're my addiction / I can't find the diction to what I feel / Your touch is a trip / And I hate coming down, coming down'.
Cate Le Bon - Reward
The Welsh singer's fifth album drifts through different states, a dazed reverie in 'Miami' which sounds darker than the sunshine city, or a hollow ballad in 'Sad Nudes' which dolefully reminds us 'The more you feel / the more you have to lose'. Her music has the same mixture of paradoxes as the likes of St Vincent, John Grant, and Perfume Genius, both delicate and rough, human and otherworldly, and always keeping you guessing.
Skip to: 'Home To You' - Soft chimes that sound childlike in their melody build around wonderfully spare and poetic lyrics such as, 'Home to you / Is a neighborhood in the night kitchen / Home to you / Is atrocity in the town'.
Flying Lotus - Flamagra
Though many have since replicated his sound, the arrival of the sixth album from Flying Lotus aka FlyLo aka Steven Ellison is a reminder of quite how influential and genre-shaping his early work proved to be in the experimental/hip-hop/jazz/rap scene. At 27 tracks it's hard to draw a line through the trippy maze that is Flamagra, but the same daring spirit remains in a release that features prestige names such as Little Dragon, Solange, Thundercat, and even David Lynch.
Skip to: 'More' - Fellow Californian Anderson .Paak lends some gravelly vocals in track which evolves from a mad symphony of instruments playing at once to a downcast rap track.
slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain
Traces of the UK's identity crisis are cropping up in music more and more, from IDLES' sermon on multiculturalism 'Danny Nedelko', to tracks from Ghostpoet's recent album like 'Immigrant Boogie'. The debut album from experimental English rapper Tyron Kaymone Frampton is charged with a similar uncertainty and angst. From 'Northampton's Child' which spits 'Northampton General, 1994 / Mixed race baby born / Christmas well a week before / Mum's 16, family's poor / Family's all she needs', to the het-up bars and frantic strings of 'Drug Dealer'.
Skip to: 'Missing' - The stirring and slowed chorus sings 'Falling, thinking I've been missing / No one's calling, no one ever listens / Only falling away, I'm missing' over distant wails.
Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride
Despite being a long old time in the making, the latest work of Ezra Koenig is another masterpiece that proves the talent and lasting power of the NYC-hailing band. Some of the highlights include three duets with Danielle Haim which have a fun repartee to them and show off his gift for tricksy lyricism (We go together like give and take / Pains and aches, real and fake / We go together, don't be opaque / It's clear we go together)
Skip to: 'Unbearably White' - Though the title is Koenig making a dig about infighting about race, this is one of the more mellow and less off-kilter moments musically. Reminiscent of earlier tracks like 'I Think Ur A Contra' and with the same colorful melody as 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa', it's this kind of thoughtful indie rock that Vampire Weekend band do best.
Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
There's an eerie and celestial quality to the fifth record from American downcast rock musician Natalie Mering. On Titanic Rising, tracks like 'A Lot's Gonna Change' and 'Something to Believe' are awash with a melancholy, mirrored by the supernaturally strange album cover which shows a girl stood in a bedroom which, when you look closer, is submerged in water.
Skip to: 'Andromeda' - Opening with guitars that distort as they rise, Mering's voice is at its most haunting and effecting here, warbling 'Stop calling / It's time to let me be / If you think you can save me / I'd dare you to try.'
Anderson .Paak - Ventura
The title of his latest release continues his journey up the Californian coast after last year's Oxnard, with Malibu and Venice preceding that. This record is smoother than the last, packed with warm and swaggering melodies that sound like the soundtrack to a rooftop down drive down a palm tree-lined road. Collaborations come from the likes of Motown legend Smokey Robinson, and throwback names such as Brandy and Nate Dogg.
Skip to: 'Come Home (ft André 3000)' - Contrasting a chorus reverently singing 'Somewhere in a place over water / My love my love' with the fun and bounding rap of André, this exalted track washes over you blissfully.
The Tallest Man on Earth - I Love You. It's a Fever Dream
Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson untangled his divorce in his last album Dark Bird Is Home. Four years later his music grapples with solitary life on the road, sparse folk guitar strings and his voice ringing out in soul-stirring tracks that are reminiscent of heartbreak albums like Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago. More upbeat moments lurk here too, like the twinkling strings of 'What I've Been Kicking Around'.
Skip to: 'Hotel Bar' - The mournful idea of the lonely hotel bar here becomes a powerful image, with stirring lyrics such as: 'A tug of lonely in your heart / That little beast that keeps it ripped apart / Will there be people in the bar? / I wonder'.
The Chemical Brothers - No Geography
Twenty four years—and eight studio albums—after their first release, The Chemical Brothers still occupy a space on the electronic music scene, and in the hearts of anyone who used to lose it to 'Galvanise' at student nights. No Geography is the British duo at their best—warped synths, soaring melodies and blissfully strange lyrics, plenty of new hits for the dance-floor too
Skip to: 'Got To Keep On' - The refrain of 'Gotta keep on making me high' loops endlessly in this winding groove which marches on with the sound of bells chiming and rapid-fire drums.
Solange - When I Get Home
Since her heralded 2016 album A Seat at the Table, Solange has no longer needed the caveat explainer of being Beyoncé's younger sister. Building on the transgressive nature of her previous release, When I Get Home is an eclectic patchwork of sounds from sparse jazz in 'Dreams' to the 'interlude' and 'intermission' tracks which sample speech and street noises to make the album feel like a journey through a city.
Skip to: 'Almeda' - In an album casually littered with star collaborations and appearances, this track is the most interesting result, with Playboi Carti and Metro Boomin's vocals floating over rattling drums and loose piano notes.
Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe
The debut album from London-hailing 22-year-old Nilüfer Yanya feels wise beyond its years, yet has a joyful abandon about it that sounds intrinsically young. Miss Universe is a pop-rock album that has a warm sense of nostalgia, twinning euphoria and reflection in tracks like 'Paralysed' and 'Paradise', and peppering the album with eccentric samples of her operating an automated 'hotline for wellness'. It's a sublime debut, and one that cements her as a rising talent to watch.
Skip to: 'In Your Head' - Perhaps named for its ear-worm qualities, this jubilant track's chorus catchily rattles off: 'When it hurts just to touch / but you can't dull the pain / Cause it's telling you things, that make you sound insane'.
Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1
A Foals album is always an eagerly awaited event in the music world and their fifth is the first of a two-part release, the second coming in September this year. While the psychedelic rock wave has seen the rise of bands like Tame Impala, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 is a reminder of the merits of a more swaggering and less synthesized kind of guitar rock.
Skip to: 'Exits' - Opening with off-kilter piano keys and rapid-fire drums, this stadium ready single follows the Foals hit template, but is no less pleasing for its predictable patterns.
Jenny Lewis - On The Line
Refining her smooth Americana sound and telling stirring stories with her lyrics, California indie rock singer Jenny Lewis' fourth album is her best yet. Lurking in the lighter tracks are moments of reckoning, like in 'Wasted Youth', where memories of family addiction, heartbreak and estrangement are masked by breathy vocals.
Skip to: 'Heads Gonna Roll' - Here Lewis' world weary vocals croons over spare guitar chords, soaring strings and drums courtesy of Ringo Starr. It's a heartbreak anthem with a sweeping romance about it that will appeal to fans of Lana Del Ray or First Aid Kit.
Ry x - Unfurl
Australian singer-songwriter Ry Cuming's 2012 track 'Howling' was a runaway success that played out across the world's nightclubs, its haunting sound sending a shiver across the dance-floor. His third studio album hasn't looked to replicate this same stripped-back guitar sound, but has instead evolved. You can hear it in the muffled piano chords of 'Body Sun' or the peal of percussion chiming in the background of 'To Know'.
Skip to: 'Foreign Tides' - One of the more energetic tracks, Cuming's vocals croon 'Give it up, my love / Let your world unravel' implying the same sense of opening up as the album's title.
Tourist - Everyday
As well as co-writing Sam Smith's Grammy-winning track 'Stay With Me', British musician William Phillips makes his own (very good) electronic music. His second album Everyday is filled with dizzyingly beautiful electronic track like 'Hearts', which combines hymnal piano music with surging electronic riffs, similar to the sounds of Four Tet or Burial.
Skip to: 'Someone Else' - A four-minute echoing hallucination which washes over you. Even if there are meant to be lyrics you can't make out what these hushed voices are saying, as though they're above the surface of a dream.
Giggs - Big Bad ...
Giggs' music output is relentless. Since his 2016 album Landlord peaked at number two in 2016 he's released a 13 track mixtape featuring the likes of Popcaan and Young Thug, and collaborated on Lily Allen's album, Shame, last year. Big Bad... has more impressive names peppered throughout, showing the pull he has in the rap and grime scenes. As he boasts with French Montana in 'Hold Up': 'Yeah, nowadays when n***as mention Giggs / Most the time they talkin' 'bout the rapper'.
Skip to: 'Talk About It' - Another strong collaboration, this time with Theophilus London. A sparse and spaced-out number in which a hummed melody floats in the ether, while the refrain repeats, 'Let 'em talk about it / let 'em talk-talk'.
Julia Jacklin - Crushing
Jacklin's debut album Don't Let The Kids Win was one of the standout releases of 2016. Her follow-up has a more cynical eye, swapping tracks such as 'Pool Party' and 'Coming of Age' for songs about relationships in turmoil and body image, imploring: 'I don't want to be touched all the time/ I raised my body up to be mine'. Crushing is a seamless blend of indie rock and alternative country, and one that puts Jacklin alongside the likes of Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten.
Skip to: 'Good Guy' - A track where the dual meaning of the title hangs as heavily as the crushing weight of a lost relationship, inspiring the lyrics: 'I don't care for the truth when I'm lonely / I don't care if you lie / Come on, breathe in, breathe out / You're still a good guy'.
Girlpool - What Chaos is Imaginary
Los Angeles duo Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad's debut album arrived at a milestone in their life, while the pair were still in high school. Their third comes at another, after Tucker came out as trans and started taking hormone replacement therapy, now singing an octave lower. Still with the same downcast shoegaze sound of their earlier work, their songs in What Chaos is Imaginary have added drum machines, strings, and synthesizers. It sounds bigger in scale, and the ideas the lyrics grapple with are larger too.
Skip to: 'Hire' - Steering through the idea of becoming a new person and the 'purgatory' that exists in between, 'Hire' is steeped in nostalgic references, such as the opening line: 'Will I make the matinee? / With my newest life'.
Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
New Jersey-born singer and songwriter Sharon Van Etten's music has a languid and soulful quality to it that is at its best in her fifth album. From 'Seventeen' to 'No One's Easy To Love', Remind Me Tomorrow is filled with vast soundscapes that have the emotional impact of watching a scene unfold in front of you.
Skip to: 'Malibu' - A winding and downcast track in dispute of title, where she sings: 'In the little red car that don't belong to you / Yeah, that little red number / Driving down the road'.
James Blake - Assume Form
Unfairly termed the 'sad boy' of British music, James Blake's first release since 2013 album The Colour in Anything is surprisingly hopeful. Tracks like 'Don't Miss It' features his signature auto-tuned warble which has inspired the likes of Frank Ocean and Kanye West, while collaborations with André 3000 and Moses Sumney show his ear for finding talents that turn his sound into something fresh.
Skip to: 'Mile High ft Travis Scott, Metro Boomin' - Here the trio's vocals are gravelly and unhurried with a trap-feel that cuts through the slow tempo that Blake's songs often feel submerged in.
Deerhunter - Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
Eighteen years after forming, the Atlanta rock band has undergone various changes in composition and hiatuses. Their 2019 release never lands firmly in one genre, teetering from strange lo-fi to garage rock to psychedelic pop. There's darkness hiding in many of the tracks, like the nursery rhyme sound of 'Element' with lyrics 'Cancer words / Laid out in lines / The road was wide / The road was silent', or the refrain of another track which asks 'What happens to people? / Their lives up in arms / What happens to people? / They quit holding on.'
Skip to: 'Greenpoint Gothic' - A weird and wonderful two-minute interlude without lyrics is filled with squelching synths and space-age samples. On an album recorded in the desert of Marfa, Texas, this moment feels like a fleeting mirage.
Toro y Moi - Outer Peace
One of the proponents of the growing chillwave genre alongside the likes of Memory Tapes and Ariel Pink, Chazwick Bradley Bundick aka Chaz Bear aka Toro y Moi is prolific, this year releasing his eighth studio album despite being just 32. His most recent thrums with energy, from the squelchy disco grooves in 'Ordinary Pleasure' to the roiling bass-line of 'Monte Carlo' and feverish synths of 'Who Am I'.
Skip to: 'Miss Me ft ABRA' - The ethereal vocals of synth-pop singer ABRA and muffled dripping sound effects give this track a glacial and spaced out quality.
Future - Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD
After dropping two albums simultaneously in February 2017, Atlanta rapper Future returns with the final album in his ten year deal with Epic Records. Taking on a new alias as 'The Wizrd' he strays into dark and mystical territory at times, like the refrain in one track of 'I'm on that purp like a unicorn after I came from The Dungeon', or the voiceover sample in 'Call The Coroner' which talks about 'the largest drug kingpin out there'.
Skip to: 'Crushed Up ' - Opening with twinkling notes like a lullaby which wind in the background against lyrics bouncing through references to Hublot and Chanel. The first single from the album takes something bright and beautiful and magnifies it crassly, as the refrain goes: "Diamonds in the face crushed up, I can see it".
Maggie Rogers - Heard It In a Past Life
Three years after a video of Pharrell losing his mind at hearing Maggie Rogers went viral, the Maryland singer finally releases her long-awaited album. 'Alaska', which Rogers wrote in 15 minutes, sounds unchanged from the version she impressed him with and moves from folksy guitar chords to build into a pop track with waterfalls of echoing layers.
Skip to: 'Fallingwater' - Kicking off with spirited percussion Rogers voice powerfully breaks through the charged din as she cries, "I never loved you fully in the way I could / I fought the current running just the way you would".
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.