50 Best Albums of 2019: 50-40

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By Epigram Music

In what has been a harrowing and turbulent year in many ways, music has thankfully delivered us some kind of salvation. 2019 has been another fantastic year full of some outstanding albums - so strap in as we begin breaking down our top records of the past 12 months.

50. Ariana Grande - Thank U, Next

By Lucy Collins, Second Year Maths

2019 began with the title song from the forthcoming Thank u, Next ending its run of six weeks at number one in the UK charts. Her first number one hit was soon followed by a second, ‘7 rings’, and the album’s third single ‘break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored’ knocked it off the top spot. thank u, next feels more cohesive, and so, polished than Sweetener despite following it less than 6 months later. Although, this very focus could be due to writing and recording it all in such a short time.  Her proven musical versatility (including Broadway vocals and rap) lent itself to the authentic expression of these intense few months. Encompassing: living life for your friends and Fenty beauty kit, carefree or spiralling breakups, hard times and loss. The deployment of voice clips, samples and instrumental breaks all make this album really exciting to listen to; with highlights of this production spanning both the racing ‘bad idea’, and fragile, exposed ‘ghostin’. Ariana was already a star, but the past two years have made her stratospheric - she said it best herself, ‘it’s like I’m the universe and you’re the NASA’.

49. Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin¿

By Bethany Marris, Deputy Digital Editor

Goofy and unapologetically infantile, the unique personal image that Brown has conjured over the years has enabled the rapper to rotate within in his own realm. In an industry saturated with intimidating demeanours and unflinching facades, Brown’s success through his wacky yet eerie brand of alternative hip-hop has garnered him a loyal following of critics and fans alike.  Where 2016's Atrocity Exhibition is a concoction of glistening percussion on tracks such as ‘Really Doe’, rhythmic sirens on ‘Ain’t it Funny’ and dark, plodding baselines on ‘White Lines’, U Know What I’m Saying? feels significantly more collected, symphonic and orchestral. Furthermore, Q-Tip’s role in executive producing the record maintains apparent throughout. Whether through The Abstract’s influence or not, Brown’s bombastic bars, in parts, have given way to a calm, more calculated flow. At almost 40 years old, Brown unmistakably remains in the prime of his career, instrumentally and lyrically evolving with every new release.

48. Stella Donnelly - Beware of the Dogs

By Joe Boyd, Digital Music Editor

Stella Donnelly blends hard hitting subject matter with a gentle delivery that leaves you with a sharp image of the realities of sexual abuse on tracks like 'Boys Will Be Boys' and 'Old Man'. The album embodies the ethos of #MeToo. Donnelly's debut studio album has instantly established her as an incredible vocalist and songwriter with a masterful use of metaphors and clever lyricism - the project seems incredibly well oiled and necessary in today's society. The stripped back instrumentals only serve to highlight this, and it comes as no surprise the record has received widespread critical acclaim.

47. The Japanese House - Good at Falling

By Cheryl Ong, First Year Law

Good At Falling journeys through an array of authentic feelings - teleporting listeners to an ethereal world. A raw sense of brooding darkness underpins the album as Amber Bain (the solo artist behind The Japanese House moniker) lays herself bare by sharing profoundly personal elements of her past, from grievance to healing. Bain's emotive ghostly vocal is complemented by a soothing background beat and ambience - a futuristic indie soundscape reminiscent of The 1975 and Bon Iver. Bain's vast musical creativity is apparent; from galloping drum rhythms to stripped back strumming. The album opens intriguingly before flowing into an abundance of infectious zestful indie melodies. 'Maybe You’re the Reason' depicts a magnetic sense of honesty while 'We Talk all the Time' gradually builds into a cathartic chorus accompanied by growling guitars. Melancholy tracks like 'f a r a w a y' pierce through, blurring vocals and synths together in a delicately mournful way. Bain’s utmost vulnerability unleashes in the final track as a tribute to her late love, leaving the album with a lingering aftertaste.

46. Nerija - Blume

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

Female dominated septet Nerija are something of a hidden gem within London’s dazzling modern jazz scene. Set alongside the chaotic jazz urgency of Sons of Kemet and the ominous space soundscapes of The Comet is Coming – Nerija present a loose, danceable blend of jazz to lose yourself in, tap your foot and smile. Debut album Blume was jam-packed with creative flair, killer left field turns and dulcet saxophone ripples. An album that bounces with a remarkable spring its step. A bright off-kilter youthful take on the classic form.

45. Cate Le Bon - Reward

By Jasmin Robinson, Third Year History

After hibernating in the Lake District to complete a course in chair-making, Cate Le Bon emerged from the solitude having curated a stunning new record - Reward. Its ethereality coupled with its fluidity celebrates Le Bon in a fresh light. ‘Reward’ shimmers with sentimentality; ‘Daylight Matters’ and ‘Home To You’ are intimate mosaics of time spent thinking alone. Start to finish, Reward is Cate Le Bon’s submission to introspection compared with her more brash earlier material. Reward is a delicate composition, with interesting glimpses of coarseness, especially with ‘Magnificent Gestures’. The album was nominated for the 2019 Mercury Prize, and when placed alongside the likes of Dave, slowthai, and black midi, Cate Le Bon shone through with her fresh, floaty, and intricate long-player.

44. Jay Som - Anak Ko

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

Jay Som’s sophomore record, Anak Ko offers a sumptuous slice of sugar-coated lo-fi indie. An album that swirls and sparkles its way into a lush dream scope. From the lo-fi guitar melodies and kaleidoscopic pop sensibility of album centrepiece ‘Devotion’ to the gracious psychedelic folk strum of ‘Nighttime Drive’ – Jay Som explores new and pristine musical territory. It may not be an album that immediately grabs you by the scruff of the neck, but it’s blend of indie rock guitars and picture-perfect dream pop production is nevertheless infectious. Anak Ko is an album that tenderly glistens, displaying a seamless array of subtle but textually rich songs that neatly unfurl over time.

43. Anderson .Paak - Ventura

By Bethany Marris, Deputy Digital Editor

Towards the end of last year, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Andersoon Paak, dropped his third solo record, Oxnard. A project brimming with character and political fervour, Oxnard followed 2016’s sunny release Malibu, with a plethora of features from contemporary Hip-Hop greats such as Pusha T, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, in turn marking a distinct shift from his earlier work.  That said, for those who weren’t utterly satisfied with Cheeky Andy’s offering, the artist returned just half a year later with Ventura. While continuing to pay homage to G-Funk, Ventura sidelines hard rap in favour of distinct grooves, jazzy baselines and sax-solos in abundance. Moreover, although not totally void of verses from the likes of Andre 3000 and Nate Dogg, the record is both driven and infused by soul. Carried by features from Lalah Hathaway and Sonyae Elsie, the record stylistically nods back to tracks such as Starlite and Kadijah on 2016’s Yes Lawd!.   .    Considering the pace at which the artist’s discography has expanded over the last four years, it's safe to say that Anderson Paak had affirmed his reputation as a sonic jack-of-all-trades. Ventura's slick sound contrasted with Oxnard's fierce grit has only served to bolster this reputation of consistency alongside garnering anticipation for his future work.

42. Vagabon - Vagabon

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

A transformative sophomore album from lo-fi indie songwriter – Vagabon (Laetitia Tamko). Chugging ferocious guitars are swapped for luscious synth trickles and ethereal vocal tones in an utterly spellbinding concoction of indie sensibility, pop song writing and experimental soundscapes. A bold album in which Tamko pushes her sound to a sparkling new realm. As a result, she’s produced her best album to date. A tender, genre pushing and evolving record that magnifies the artistry behind the Vagabon moniker.

41. Kano - Hoodies All Summer

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

A mature and majestic comeback from one of grime’s founding fathers. As soulful grooves meet gospel choirs and melancholy classical strings meet machine gun samples – Kano’s Hoodies All Summer is an ambitious and pertinent listen. Blistering no-holds barred adrenaline and inner-city chaos are swapped for angelic vocals and tender calls for community on an album that burrows deep into grime’s cultural heritage. An album that more than confirms Kano’s status as one of the genre’s most creative and thoughtful minds.

40. Clairo - Immunity

By Francesca Frankis, Music Editor

Bedroom Pop’s poster child Clairo first made waves with single ‘Pretty Girl’ in 2017, a DIY GarageBand track that went viral on youtube. Since then, and the release of a string of similar ‘homemade’ singles, Clairo has refined her sound and made use of professional studio production for the first time, whilst letting her roots in bedroom pop still shine through. Without holding back, Clairo sorts her way through the highs and lows of teenage life; on opener ‘Alewife’ she explores the value in friendship, whilst ‘impossible’ attempts some kind of closure on a past romance. Clairo’s sound shows how it’s blossomed perhaps best on ‘Bags’, it’s crammed with crunchy guitar riffs and fleshed out with distorted piano samples. The record’s loose ends are tied up on slow burner and final track ‘I wouldn't ask you’; split into two parts, the latter offers up a far more hopeful vision of the future than the rest of the album hints at. Immunity is a watershed moment in Clairo’s career and promises more great things to come.

Featured Image: Francesca Frankis, Epigram

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