2019 was a strong finish to a great decade of music — here are my 50 favorite releases of 2019. Thanks for reading, as always.
It’s easy for end-of-decade years to become an afterthought in terms of the music they produce. Most music publications dropped their “best albums of the decade” features in early October. At Chorus.fm, we held off until December 9th. Still, when you spend months of the year reflecting on past years, and on the albums you loved from throughout a whole decade, the music from the year you’re currently living in can get overlooked, forgotten, or short-changed on listening time.
I suppose we were guilty of that sin ourselves, as our “albums of the decade” list ultimately lacked a single entry from 2019. Call it anti-recency bias, or maybe just an occupational hazard of having to start planning and compiling these lists months before any readers actually lay eyes on them. But therein lies the beauty of still being able to revert to old routines: to end the year with a proper tribute to everything it had to offer on its own.
And 2019 certainly had plenty of riches to offer, from old favorite bands delivering some of their sturdiest albums in years, to one of the strongest slates of debut talent I can remember getting in a single 365-day timeframe. Taking in the scope of a decade and all the music it gave us is a fulfilling experience; it’s certainly something I invested a lot of time in this year. But there’s also something wonderful about being past that now, and about being able to take things day by day again: week by week, release day by release day, album by album. Making lists is fun, but listening and discovering will always be the greatest parts of being a music fan. Here’s to the 25 albums that we discovered, listened to, and loved most in 2019. [CM]
I’ll always remember 2019 as the year I got married; however, it ended up being a pretty incredible year for music and entertainment as well. As we finish up this decade, I reflect back on just how many of these lists I’ve made. It’s a yearly tradition that I enjoy because it allows me to no only reflect on the past year and reevaluate everything I listened to and consumed, but it creates a little snapshot in time that I can re-visit in the future and remember what I was enjoying and listening to during that moment in time. I thought it was a good year personally, wrapped around a tough year globally. Thank you to everyone that reads this website on a daily basis; I hope you enjoy my list and maybe find something new to love.
The staff compiled best of 2019 list can be found here.
I wrote a lot of album blurbs in 2019. If you’re reading this post, you probably already know that 1) I’m an insane person, and 2) my big writing project this year was a rundown of my 200 favorite albums of the 2010s. I concluded that project in mid-December, around the same time that everyone else in the music criticism world was sharing their “Best of 2019” lists. For a few days, I debated not even writing up a list this year. I was so emotionally exhausted after pouring so much of myself and my life into that end-of-decade piece that I just couldn’t see myself sitting down to do it all over again—albeit, on a much smaller scale. But then I started delving back into my favorite 2019 albums, albums that I maybe hadn’t spent enough time with in my race to relive a full 10 years of music. And then I started making late-year discoveries, new albums I’d overlooked that excited me greatly. Ultimately, I decided I couldn’t let a year end without the big-list ritual that I have followed every year since 2011.
I did give myself some extra leeway this time, though. Instead of going to 40 albums, as I have for the last several years, I stuck to 30. I also opened the door for late additions (and for the corresponding deletions they would require). The resulting list is not at all what I expected it would look like even two months ago. It’s a list loaded with exciting new talent and with albums that I can’t wait to spend more time with, brushing up against records I’ve already listened to hundreds of times, from artists I’ve loved for many years. I can’t say it’s my favorite end-of-the-year list that I’ve ever made, but it might be the most unexpected. I could feel my music tastes yearning to shift and grow in new directions while compiling this collection of 30 albums, which is frankly a very exciting place to start a brand-new decade. So bring on the 2020s! But first, here are my 30 favorite albums of 2019.
What a year. It feels like at least one Friday a month I was rambling around the site about another incredible release day we were being treated to. When I sat down to make this list, the number of albums I’d listened to this year that I enjoyed wound up at about 270. And sure, there are some obvious factors to this that I think a lot of us share — the way this decade has sculpted how we consume music, for one. The 2010’s made discovering new music one of the single easiest things a person can do, and one of the most entertaining activities with ten bucks in your pocket and an internet connection.
But I think the ease and passion for discovery are only the cause for a bigger reason why this was such a remarkable year in music. Because naturally with more music will come more open mindedness, more inspiration, and more tools for artists to create a unique price of art. With each year, that tool belt grows, and we see artists framing their vision of certain sounds differently than we could have ever imagined — blending influences from all directions and being encouraged to tell their stories. In the passing of time, it becomes more difficult to not fall in love with an astonishing amount of music.
2019 was a year that gave us outstanding debut records, tremendous follow-ups from several established bands, as well as some surprise albums that I never would have thought to make my list at the beginning of the year. My list and listening taste are as eclectic as it’s ever been and I’m perfectly happy with that. Here are 30 albums I felt are worthy of your attention and ears delight.
What a year. At times, it seemed as though I’d never had enough music to listen to. Then, at the busiest times of the year, I felt like I had fallen dreadfully behind and wouldn’t find my way back to consuming new music the way I did at the beginning of 2019. It’s also a year that found me diving into discographies of artists I should have devoted myself to much sooner: from Portishead to R.E.M. to mewithoutYou. It’s been another delightful year for music.
After much thought and almost giving up on creating my End of 2019 list, I have finally chosen my favourite music from the past year. Some albums have landed as honourable mentions, particularly if they were released too late (sorry, Harry Styles!), or I just couldn’t move these albums around again. To be honest, I simply don’t watch enough movies to warrant a favourite list of films. Same case with television (although, I’m marginally better there). I hope you find some music that connects with you the way it has with me. Without further ado, here are my top 30 albums of 2019. Plus, some equally special honourable mentions!
2020? Are you sure?
It seems like just yesterday that I was combing through the AbsolutePunk.net boards, reading the 2009 end-of-the-year lists that crowned records like Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything to Nothing and Thrice’s Beggars among the finest releases of the year. A lot has changed since then—in music, in our lives, and with the state of the world—but here we are again 10 years later, taking stock of another ending.
There have been a lot of endings over the past decade. Bands we loved have called it quits. Staff members who gave countless hours of their time writing for this website have moved on to other things. AbsolutePunk had its own sunset in 2016, relaunching as Chorus.fm that spring. And yet, a lot of things have lived on, too. Our love for music, certainly, is alive and well. The vibrancy of this community as a place to talk about bands and share things you love with like-minded souls has persisted, too. And some of us have been here for a very long time, watching the state of the music scene and the world at large shift from behind our keyboards, the headphones in our ears playing us the latest thing that might get our hearts racing like our old favorite records always have.
I don’t have a neat little bow to tie around the 2010s to commemorate their impending conclusion. It’s been a chaotic decade in a lot of ways. It’s certainly been the most chaotic music era on record. The way we listen to music has changed. Entire formats have shifted. Trends have sprung up and others have died. Artists have reshaped the way that music is written, recorded, packaged, released, shared, and marketed. And perhaps most importantly, there’s just been more: more music making its way into the world on a weekly basis; more ways to hear it all; more ways to discover; more ways to think about what art can do, both in our personal day-to-day lives and to the world that we live in.
Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that our list of favorite records from the 2010s is a bit chaotic in its own right. It’s a smorgasbord of genres; a kaleidoscope of emotions; a place where massive pop superstars can coexist with the bands that really feel like they are ours, the ones that have been so foundational to this community and its unique musical identity. The list is also a testament to how much opinions on music can change over time. Some of our former Album of the Year winners are missing entirely; other albums have grown in our estimation, swimming to the forefront as, we think, the foremost artistic achievements of the past decade. Ask us again in two months and we might see things differently. For now, it’s time to put our pencils down and close the book on this chapter.
To everyone who is reading, or to anyone who has played a part in the AbsolutePunk/Chorus.fm story over the past decade, we say thank you. What a long, strange trip it’s been. Here’s to another 10 years of music mending broken hearts. [CM]
I don’t know how to sum up 2018. At the end of most years, it’s possible to look back and see certain themes or narratives or big ideas coming through in the music from the past 12 months. 2018 was not one of those years. Most of the industry’s biggest stars sat the year out, and music critics couldn’t agree on a consensus album of the year pick. Instead, 2018 as a music year was chaotic. It was a dozen jukeboxes playing in the same bar at the same time, one blasting a starry-eyed country album about love, the next broadcasting a rock ‘n’ roll anthem about how it would be great if the human race didn’t fuck up the chance we’ve been given to, you know, exist.
But music years like this are thrilling for their seeming lack of structure or narrative. They are chances for underdogs to fight their way to the top, or for new superstars to be born in place of the old ones. 2018 was that kind of year for music, and it was dazzling to behold. The only option was to dive headfirst into the chaos and embrace the many disparate triumphs that came along the way. This list, of our 30 favorite albums of the year, is symbolic of that leap of faith, a wildly dynamic set of records that includes callbacks to this community’s roots, monuments to how we have grown over the years, and signposts to where we are going. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of this site for another year, and to see the way we all share the music we love with one another. This list was made in that spirit, of discovery and shared passion, and I can’t think of a better way to sum up such a chaotic year.
I’m never sure what to write at the outset of this post. How do you sum up an entire year in a few paragraphs? It was a big year in my life, marked by a move back to my childhood hometown and a few big leaps forward in my professional life. I was busier, which left less time for discovering new music and less time for writing about it. Still, 22 of the 40 artists on the list below have never featured on a year-end list of mine in the past, and two of my top three albums are debuts. I always like knowing that there is new talent on the horizon, artists that might morph from big surprises this year to favorite artists a few years down the line. 2018 was a wonderful year for that kind of discovery.
In terms of my favorite music, I was all over the map in 2018. I leaned a little less on country than I have for the past few years, though there are still plenty of country and Americana artists on this list. Mostly, I was looking for songwriting that spoke to where I am at this current moment in my life. A lot of what resonated spoke of nostalgia and the past, a fitting theme given that I’ve been out of high school for almost 10 years now. I thought a lot about growing older in 2018, and about the shifting chapters of my life. The music, from Andrew McMahon’s “House in the Trees” to Lori McKenna’s “People Get Old” to Donovan Woods’ “Next Year,” told me that I wasn’t alone in feeling what I was feeling. As I get further from high school, I’m constantly wondering if I’ll get to a point where I’ll stop relating to music in the fiercely personal, autobiographical way that I always have. It’s a comfort to know that hearing the right song at the right time still feels as potent and poignant as it did when I was 17.
I’m rambling, as I always do at the start of these posts. So, I think I’ll stop now and let the 40 albums listed below speak for themselves.
When I look back on the year of music that was 2018, I can’t help but marvel at the great mix of variety and strength of material that came out of it. From polished singer-songwriter material to stadium ready anthems, this year had it all. Here is my list of the 30 albums that had the biggest impact on me:
Another year is in the books, and I must say, this was one of my favorite years for music in a long while. I felt like I was discovering new music, or a new album to fall in love with, on a regular basis. And then the albums that ended up connecting with me, really hit me. It’s comforting to know that even when the rest of the world can feel like a mess, music still can find a way to cut through and make things feel a little better, if only for the duration of a great song.
After much deliberation, I’ve put together my favorite music, movies, tv shows, books, and apps from the past year. I’ve included playlists where appropriate, and I hope you’ll find something that will connect with you the way it has me.
2017 was a frustrating, infuriating, and often heartbreaking year. From the politics to the abuses and scandals that trickled all the way down to our little music scene, it felt like every day had some scrap of bad news to serve up. It was a year where we really needed something to lean on and keep us resilient and resolute, and the artists featured on this list responded to that call of duty admirably.
The 25 records featured below are eclectic and far-reaching. Some are achingly personal reckonings with personal demons and mental illness. Others are scathing indictments of the political status quo. Some explore the cycle of getting older and losing your youth, while others revel in the excitement and confusion of being young. Some are pop records, while others are hip-hop or folk, country or post-hardcore, emo or classic-tinged rock ‘n’ roll. They are all distinctly different, but they all had at least one thing in common: for 30 or 40 or 50 minutes at a time, they all made 2017 feel a little more bearable.
So, without further ado, I give you Chorus.fm’s Top 25 Albums of 2017. In the words of one of the artists featured below, I hope you find something to love.
Well, 2017 happened. I think that’s about the best thing I can say for the entire damn year: it happened. While I’ll look back at 2017 as a bullshit year full of bullshit people doing bullshit things at a rate that can only be described as a national emergency, I’ll also remember the year for its pretty impressive musical output. I hope, in time, my love for the music that came from 2017 and my relationship with it, will be what I remember most. Below I cataloged my favorite albums from 2017, some of the albums I enjoyed but couldn’t really find a place in my top thirty, and some movies, TV shows, books, and apps that discovered for the first time this year.
Thank you to everyone that visited the website this year, everyone that supports us, and for another extremely successful year of Chorus.fm. We’ll be extremely lucky if 2018 brings us even a fraction of what 2017 did music-wise. I wouldn’t mind a whole lot less of chaotic hellscape on a daily basis, but that’s just me.
This year I didn’t have time to write much about my album picks besides the 3 writeups I did for my staff list. If you want some of my thoughts on what music was really important to me this year, read these two posts with my top 50 songs list:
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a music year quite like 2017. In terms of personal classics, it didn’t stack up to my favorite music years on record, like 2004 or 2015. But for maybe the first time ever, I would have been comfortable putting just about any album from my top 30 in my top 10. Indeed, every record up to about 19 or 20 was ranked in my top 10 for at least one draft of this list. Clearly, the breadth of good music from this year was stunning, and I feel fortunate to have been able to experience it.
Above all, this year was one of huge discovery for me. Of the 40 artists featured below, only 18 have made year-end lists of mine in the past. A few of the remaining 22 were artists I’ve known for awhile who realized their considerable potential in 2017. Most, though, were completely new finds for me, and a fair handful released debuts. Looking at those numbers, I can’t wait to see what new things will grace my ears in 2018. For now, though, I’m bidding farewell to 2017 by recounting the music that played as my life soundtrack during it. Here’s hoping my discoveries can become yours.
It’s been discussed ad nauseam in nearly every year-end review: 2017 was the pits. And those sentiments aren’t wrong! 2017 sucked! We elected the worst president in this country’s history and we have a government trying to rob its citizens of basic rights. The world is melting around us while California burns to the ground. Things are bad! And outside of my wife, family, and friends, very little this year helped take things out of the shit. The major thing that helped get me (and I’m sure countless others) was the musical output of 2017 — there was an overwhelming amount of incredible stuff released over the course of 12 months and almost impossible to notate all. So instead of boring you with a list of my 100 favorite albums, I cut it down to the 10 that most impacted my life in 2017. Enjoy this list, feel free to share and discuss with me, and hope for better in November.
For all the shit that 2017 put us through, it also gifted us with some truly incredible moments. Here’s to the albums that (in my opinion) made the bad a little more bearable, and gave us reason to reason to believe that better days are still possible. Thank you for inspiring us.
Kevin Abstract is the ringleader of predominantly queer, self-described “All-American Boy Band” BROCKHAMPTON, who broke into the mainstream this year with a show on Viceland, numerous music videos and three studio albums, each one more killer than the last. He also can’t drive. To most, this detail is unimportant, but to me, someone who has struggled with driving anxiety and the shame surrounding it as I approach the age of 23, it means the world. It means that my flaws do not define me and that I also have the capability to work hard and utilize the resources around me to create something artistically satisfying.
If that seems heavy, well, 2017 was a heavy year – heavier than 2016 and with 2018 showing no signs of lightening up. Ironically enough, 2017 was a year of accomplishment for myself; I graduated from college, moved away from my hometown and worked on two studio albums, one of them being my own dream-pop debut and another being a friend’s hip-hop project. But BROCKHAMPTON has inspired me to push even further. I’ve recently taken to writing in a notebook, detailing the things I want to create (a podcast, a film script, the next Flower Crown LP) and the steps I need to take to get there.
Kyle Huntington’s top albums of 2017 can be found below.