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You wrote in about your favourite albums of 2019, and told us about what made them so great.
Published: 10/01/2020   Author: Various
Rather than turning to Metacritic and compiling yet another list of what the harshest critics established as objectively the ‘best’ by means of percentile ratings - we looked a little more emotively. Turning to Twitter, we asked 10 people from far and wide what their favourite albums of 2019 were, and why they stood out from the thousands of others released last year.

Cuz I Love You - Lizzo

“So if you fight like a girl, cry like a girl, do your thing, run the whole damn world”

The above lyric is one of my favourites from the song ‘Like a Girl’, just a snippet of an influential message of feminism, empowerment and self-love – themes that run throughout Lizzo’s ‘Cuz I Love You’. Society has long imposed gender roles, and social media places increasing pressure on young women to look, act, and behave a certain way. For instance, words such as “bossy” and “emotional” are often associated with women, whilst their male counterparts are referred to as “ambitious” and “confident”. As frustrating as this is, Lizzo’s ‘Cuz I Love You’ is a breath of fresh air and a big unapologetic middle finger to society’s scrutiny and stereotypes.

A favourite, yet underrated song, is ‘Soulmate’: a song about self-love and being independent. It’s an encouragement to put yourself first, and enjoy being in a place where you are the best version of yourself. It is true that confidence is something you do not magically attain at the snap of your fingers. As Lizzo has previously stated, confidence is something you grow to possess, and it is a journey.

Lizzo encourages me to embrace my identity and to love myself. She gives me the confidence to smash the glass ceiling in a patriarchal society. Put it this way: I am not a morning person, but sleepily rapping along to ‘Truth Hurts’ in the mirror at 7am is the only thing that gets pumped. It gives me the belief that I can achieve anything and everything I put my mind to. That is the beauty of music, and the beauty of this very special album. - Yvonne Hoang

Magdalene - FKA Twigs

Magdalene channels sheer resilience in the face of heartbreak and struggle. The songs embody feelings of isolation, self-doubt, and pure desperation to recover whilst upholding a powerful confidence that is invigorating. The artistry stitched into every second of this album is impossible not to be moved by.

Highlights include “home with you”, a stunning ballad with the foreboding lyric “I didn’t know that you were lonely, If you had just told me I’d be running down the hills to be with you” hitting home. It encourages us to retain a little vulnerability and open up to our loved ones, as more often than not they will do anything to love and support us. “holy terrain” is an empowering banger about owning your strength and being unapologetically bigger than life, the pounding bass and ticking beats flickering with vigour. “cellophane” is easily one of the most heart-wrenching and soul-strickening melancholic songs of all time as Twigs lays down such impactful, raw emotion.

The art of her talent is in how she channels tragedy into mystifying art. She took the rubble of the tragedy she went through and warped it into her own complex, multi-layered sonic universe. She retains her wondrous out of this world production whilst including nuggets of grounding wisdom for listeners to carry into their own life. It is admirable how comfortable she feels opening up and it has resulted in creating an album that is sure to be impactful and influential for years to come.
- Kieran Raza

Heard It In A Past Life - Maggie Rogers

I discovered Maggie Rogers through Twitter, in those tweets people would post of a screenshot of what they’re listening to (I do this a lot.) I didn’t listen to her for a while though, and part of me wants to kick myself for it, because once I caught her newest single ‘Love You For A Long Time’ on the 21st of November, I was immediately compelled to listen to her first full length studio album, titled ‘Heard It In A Past Life’.

One word to describe the album: Phenomenal. I was completely taken aback by the lyrics, the production, and the vocals throughout every song, something about the album just spoke to me in a way that no other album in 2019 managed to. Usually I like to define an album’s quality by how many songs I save to my playlist, and with ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ I found myself saving song after song, coming to a complete 12/12! From the beautiful lyrics of ‘Fallingwater’ to her captivating vocals in ‘Retrograde’, the album managed to evoke the emotions of every song perfectly. I smiled, I cried, and I read every single lyric on Genius. The relatability of the lyrics is what makes this album so appealing to me, it’s as if every song, mixed with the vocals and production was made to reflect my 2019.

The song that captured me in particular was ‘Back In My Body’, the song made me feel exactly as the title said, after a rough year of financial complications, relationship issues, skin problems, and not feeling like myself, it was exactly what I needed. Thanks to Maggie I think I can feel like myself again going in to 2020, you could say because of this album, I’m “back in my body.” - Matthew Sackfield

Future Dust - The Amazons

From the first few seconds of echoing drumbeats, you can feel the heat of a match being struck in The Amazons’ sophomore album. Before you know it, they’re alight with anthemic guitar solos that sweep you off your feet and carry you into a world of rock and roll.

It’s my favourite album of 2019 for a million reasons, but first and foremost you can tell how much passion was involved. The blood and tears are burning through each crashing symbol and fiery riff.

During the making of ‘Future Dust’, the guitarist injured his finger – kind of a vital thing needed when playing – but for a band like The Amazons, this doesn’t put out the fire. In fact, it only seems to ignite it further. To play riffs like that without a huge bandage in the way is talented enough, so knowing this piece of trivia made me admire the execution so much more.

My favourite tracks are ‘Dark Visions’ and ‘Warning Sign’, both flaunting The Amazons’ newfound swagger. Angst flickers fiercely, presenting blazing choruses that were just made to scream in mosh pits.

Amongst all the roar, there’s a soft glow in ’25 (reprise)’ - 25’s gloomier older brother, that even includes a mandolin and an organ (I mean seriously, how cool is that? Who else is doing it like them?) - and ‘All Over Town’, a personal favourite. The passion still shines through every note, but is more reminiscent of sitting in front of the fireplace on a freezing winter night. It’s almost cinematic, with verses of heartbreak that build up to a pleading “Got to find you, ‘cause I need a friend”.

Wrapped up in darkness and desperation, with glimmers of hope, ‘Future Dust’ is everything I needed in the chaos of 2019, and that is why it’s my album of the year. — Caitlin Taff

Everyday Life - Coldplay

From jazz solos to gospel choirs, country blues to church hymns, Everyday Life is nothing short of experimental and adventurous. In it, Coldplay tackle conversations on war, racism, gun control, and a struggle to find hope and love amidst the chaos in the world.

This is perhaps Coldplay’s most daring record ever; it doesn’t hold back in the controversial social issues it addresses and the unconventional cultural and musical influences it takes. The album elevates international talent - Norah Shaqur’s stunning vocals, untranslated Arabic and Farsi poetry, and Arabesque collaborators Le Trio Joubran and Femi Kuti.

Most hauntingly, a clip of police brutality is included in Trouble in Town, driving in the horrifying reality of systemic racism interwoven with an emotionally charged musical crescendo, and Martin choosing not to speak afterwards. Choices like this raw portrayal of brutality and partnering with international musical guests serve to de-centre the band’s whiteness and privilege from the record, lending their words and platform for authentic cultural voices to shine through.

One of my favourites from this album is the lyrically heart-wrenching Orphans, singing of the human life, loss and yearning in the context of conflict - specifically the Syrian war. By singing about the very core of Syrian civilians’ emotions and experiences, they shatter the political label of ‘the Other’ as a barrier separating refugees from us, allowing understanding and empathy to emerge.

Ultimately, Everyday Life feels like an album made for Coldplay themselves than anyone else. Every song is special, deeply personal and passionate. It celebrates and explores the music they love, art they admire, and cultural inspirations in their lives. And it champions the causes they care about, hoping to bring a bit more empathy and unity in a world that only seems to become crueller each day. — Angie Tjahjadi

To Myself - Baby Rose

In a place in time where music has evolved far from the likes of Nina Simone and Tina Turner, who's music focused heavily on their voices and real instruments, it is certainly refreshing to hear a singer like Baby Rose. The Atlanta artist knits together anything from classic soul and gospel elements to modern R&B, on her debut album "To Myself". Despite being critically acclaimed, she is relatively unknown.

What first draws your attention when you hear her is Rose's unconventional tone, which many describe to be Nina Simone-esque. However, she doesn't just rely on her vocal talents, she also writes the songs, co-produces, and oversees the final mix.

On the album, Rose tackles subjects like feeling lost after a break up. Baby Rose writes most of her songs based on a specific emotion rather than details and situations. The theme running throughout the album is desperation, and the inability to move on.

The feelings are conveyed to the listener through the immaculate production. Every track has a distinctive sound and interesting choices taken production wise. The instrumentation choices are well thought out on every song. Multiple songs actually don't have a drum beat, but they never sound incomplete.

Stand out tracks from the album are “Artifacts”, and the title track "To Myself". "Artifacts" has the best production out of all the songs, and the effect on Rose's voice and background choir create a truly unique, timeless sound. On the minimalistic title track, "To Myself”, Baby Rose is left with only a piano, an organ and a bass. The listener gets to focus on Rose's emotional delivery of the all-too-relatable lyrics. The tone of her voice and the instrumentation make the ballad one of the best I've heard.

Overall, ”To Myself" is a great album with interesting production, a unique sound and impressive singing. I highly suggest that everyone unfamiliar with Baby Rose gives it a listen. — Oliver Heikkinen

2020 - Richard Dawson

Rarely does an album fit its title as well as singer-songwriter Richard Dawson’s sixth effort, 2020. Each track tells its own story of modern British life - from the inhumane working conditions at Amazon, to dealing with a flood in your hometown, by way of a five-a-side football game - with Dawson’s thick Geordie accent always lending a certain sense of warmth to proceedings.

The vision of turn-of-the-decade Britain presented here is certainly a bleak one, but it’s not without a sense of humour. On ‘Civil Servant’, Dawson cries “I don’t want to go into work this morning / I just want to lie here and play the new Call of Duty”. It's a hilariously honest expression of an all too relatable feeling for the countless workers beaten down by the daily grind. It's through this sense of empathy that the record truly shines.

The emotions rendered through Dawson’s lyrics are so raw and powerful that it’s difficult not to feel for the album’s cast of characters and their struggles. To focus solely on lyrics would be to do a disservice to the album’s fantastic instrumentation, however. Explosive, distorted guitars lend a sense of urgency and modernism to Dawson’s folk songwriting, while robotic vocal effects on ‘Fulfilment Centre’ and ‘Jogging’ emphasise the feelings of dehumanisation and anxiety that thoughts of the near future can bring. 2020, then, is an album with the sonic capacity to do justice to its ambitious title. As an album to define British life as we enter the new decade, I can think of nothing better. — Harry Featherston

LP3 - American Football

Thank God for the Vibraphone.

On American Football's third full length offering, the band refines its sound without sacrificing its hallmarks (dense polyphony, somber trumpet, and truly exquisite vibraphone). This is the band at its most musically ambitious and uninhibited. The layered guitars and driving percussion, the monastic hums and droning bass all skilfully invoke the expanse photographed in the cover art - as intended. And yet, LP3 finds the band as cold and distant as the same horizon.

This is the third album, released twenty years after the debut.  Expectedly, the experience may recall a friend with whom you may share fond memories but much less in common later in life. But this separation is augmented by Mike Kinsella's highly specific introspective lyrics which subvert the musical expanse into a cover for something intensely personal. Gone are the lovable sing-a-long vagaries of teenage feelings ("We're just two human beings, individually," or "But that's life! It's so social.") Kinsella has burrowed inward with chilling directness and replaced such mantras with "Heir apparent to the throne, the king of all alone," on 'Heir Apparent' and the wilting eponymous harmonies of standout 'Doom in Full Bloom.'

Such a rift need not be negative, though. Rather, LP3 presents both sides of growth - the beauty in being boundless and the isolation that often accompanies it. It serves to remind longtime listeners that growing up can be at once rewarding and uncomfortable*, but that's life!

*See also track 3, Uncomfortably Numb, featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore. Yes. — Evan Carson of florid

Don't Wait ‘Til Tomorrow - Yonaka

Yonaka are a musical force. They released released their debut album, 'Don't Wait Til Tomorrow', on 31st May. Every single song on this album is honest, vibrant and punchy - undeniably a rock album from a rock band. The artwork resembles an 18 rated content symbol, reflecting the heavy content inside.

All the songs are strong, but ‘Punchbag’ is a song close to my heart, as I interpret it to be about control and abuse. Yonaka seem to have been through a lot, but emphasise that the other side is beautiful. “You cut your teeth on the weak, made my life a living hell'' and ''Let's have a moment of silence to remember the violent, all the seekers and the hiders and the one's that could never find us''.

‘Fired Up’ is absolutely banging - the drums hit hard throughout the track. My favourite lyric is ''lost our minds, and our patience, stay with me, I've done some changing”. I interpret this song as adapting to what life throws at you, and learning from it.

‘Awake’ is a rollercoaster. It starts eerily quiet, with Theresa's deep tones then explodes into the song - she has a way of singing beautifully, but with a twang of rap. I had only heard of Yonaka in 2019, when I first heard ‘Ignorance’ on a So-Far Sounds session, which is gorgeous. I also got a photo pass to photograph and video them at Leadmill, Sheffleld. Ignorance is not bliss to me! - Kaylee Logan

Dimly Lit - From Indian Lakes

Joey Vannucchi, the main man behind From Indian Lakes, keeps pushing his own boundaries with each release. A far cry from FIL's early heavy guitar days, there are so many lovely moments where you're just left wandering in the midst of dreamy synths and long sighs. A good amount of these songs go over four minutes because of some pretty outros that envelope you in blissful sounds and at a 16-song tracklist, running 59 minutes, Joey definitely jumps at the opportunity to show you what he's made of.

Some of my new favorite FIL moments are on this album, but I have to say the record did not click with me at first. The same thing happened with Everything Feels Better Now, the previous album, but as with most records for me nowadays, I have to let it marinate. Once I did, this album is a mood. I started listening to it, front to back, at least once day for a while. It's magical, it's calming, it's serene.

The band is five albums into their career now, and the first four are tied as each being my favorite. I can't pick! Now with the fifth record out, I'm not sure if it will get to the top with the others, but I can definitely appreciate this album for what it is and it's only added to my love and appreciation for From Indian Lakes. Seeing the musical progression of their discography when you step back is mesmerizing and Dimly Lit fits right in. I can't wait to see what's next. - Ramiro Restrepo



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