50 Best Albums of 2019: 39-30

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By Epigram Music

Epigram Music break down another instalment of their 50 Best Albums of the year.

39. James Blake - Assume Form

By Bethany Marris, Deputy Digital Editor

Almost a year has passed since James Blake dropped his fourth studio album, Assume Form. That said, the record has held up as one of 2019’s stand-out projects. On the surface, while the album isn’t congested with features, Assume Form is an assertion of the respect Blake’s high-status within contemporary music. Enlisting Andre 3000s timeless flow on ‘where’s the catch?’, borrowing bars from trap-king Travis Scott on ‘Mile High’ and seamlessly harmonising with Rosalia on ‘Into the red’, Blake has picked premium artists from each genre he chooses to dabble in.

Thematically, Assume Form delivers all the introspection and heady romance that has become somewhat characteristic of Blake’s work. Where 2015’s ‘The Colour in Anything’ and its delightful Quentin Blake artwork brought a little light to the artist’s sombre discography, through jarring lyricism and innovative production, Assume Form allows the listener to revisit the bleakness of Overgrown through tracks such as ‘Lullaby for my insomniac’ and ‘Into the Red’.

38. Sleaford Mods - Eton Alive

By Lucas Arthur, First Year Geography

Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn describe their music as “electronic munt minimalist punk-hop rants for the working class.” Indeed, as Williamson barks about “Looking for jobs, shit wages” in an East-Midlands accent over Fearn’s post-punk basslines, it’s not difficult to see why. The duo have been making music together since 2012, charting the decline of British society through a tight combination of witty, antagonistic lyrics and stripped-back beats.

On Eton Alive, this winning formula is further refined: From vaping (“That blowup doll’s for hipsters, mate”) to phone plans (“And free calls to the promised land?”), no enclave of pop culture escapes their distain. But in amongst the humour, the album paints a desolate picture of middle England: ‘Top it Up’ involves pints, lines and suicide, hammered home with a bitter refrain of “Take me away from it; I don’t wanna go near it” – A far cry from the kazoo solo at the end of ‘O.B.C.T’, two tracks previously. Combined with menacing synths and funky, elastic bass-lines, Eton Alive is riotous fun.

37. Chastity Belt - Chastity Belt

By Francesca Frankis, Music Editor

Chastity Belt’s self titled fourth studio album reaches inside and lays everything out bare. Lead Julia Shapiro doesn't hold back in working her way through an entirely introspective work, and Chastity Belt carves out a whole new chapter in the group’s sound, with a record that is far more thoughtful, moody and gloomy than their previous releases. Heavy reverb, crunchy layered guitars and dark harmonies all feature on the album. Coupled with slow but soothing culminations of melancholy subject matters. Whilst the record is a shift from their typically witty and lighthearted version of indie rock, Chastity Belt isn't lacking in style or substance.

36. Blood Orange - Angel's Pulse

By Francesca Frankis, Music Editor

Blood Orange’s Angel Pulse sounds like it’s been lifted straight from the echo chamber of a coming of age film soundtrack. Hynes fifth album is seamless, sparkly and satisfying to listen to. Featuring collaboration from the likes of JOBA, BennY RevivaL, and Tinashe, Angel’s Pulse reflects over swelling synthesisers and poignant interludes. Most tracks stay under three minutes, offering up something far more digestible and less slow burning than some of Hynes' other work. Angel’s Pulse effortlessly draws you in and keeps you there for the entirety of the record.

35. (Sandy) Alex G - House of Sugar

By Jasmin Robinson, Third Year History

After the success of his 2017 record Rocket, the condition for (Sandy) Alex G’s next release was going to have to be pretty spectacular. Alex G’s earlier works such as ‘Trick’ and ‘DSU’, his experimentally odd bedroom music tampered with a lot of themes that sometimes became overcrowded. However, since releasing 2017’s wholly spectacular record Rocket, House of Sugar is a welcome fitting and complete composition.

House of Sugar still harbours the down-and-out essence of Alex Giannascoli’s music. The album’s first single ‘Gretel’ harked back to Alex G’s experimental, heavy influences, yet the release of ‘Hope’ and ‘Southern Sky’ saw him pay homage to more folky interests. ‘Southern Sky’, for example, wouldn’t be out of place playing out of a jukebox in an old saloon bar. On the whole, the record delves introspectively into Alex G’s experimentalism and experiences. ‘Near’ is an archetypal (Sandy) Alex G track, and the whole of House of Sugar is filled with them. The record is a welcome progression for the Philadelphia singer whose been at it since he was 11 years old; it is a superb genre-bending release worthy of all its praise.

34. Loyle Carner - Not Waving, But Drowning

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

For second album Not Waving, But Drowning, Carner treads similar ground. Crackled hip-hop beats still rattle, the angelic voice of Tom Misch still dazzles and Carner still embraces family and community in amongst his poignant trademark verse. Carner doesn’t bother with pretentious experimentalism, but instead focuses on authenticity – laying his soul bear, connecting with his family and exploring his Caribbean roots. It culminates in an album that’s endearing and beautifully soothing. A love letter to those who’ve supported him, jam-packed with hope and kindness as well as special guests from Sampha to Jorja Smith. Carner may just be nicest guy in hip-hop and Not Waving, But Drowning is a pertinent reflection of that.

33. Orville Peck - Pony

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

Orville Peck is no ordinary country musician. Equipped with a black tasselled veil and pointed cowboy hat – Peck is mysterious, brooding and queer. His alternative country anthems wrestle with themes such as sexuality and masculinity amongst an ominous and dusty mid-western sky. Peck’s combination of atmospheric slide guitars, rattling outlaw riffs and a magnetic baritone make for a tantalising yet inherently dark listen. This masked vigilante cowboy has released what is possibly 2019’s best alternative country album but if that wasn’t enough – he also offered a fresh and menacingly memorable queer perspective.

32. Aldous Harding - Designer

By Jessica Li, Second Year Economics and Politics

Aldous Harding has produced a stunner this year. Discovered busking in a small Kiwi town of Geraldine in New Zealand, Hannah Sian Topp- professionally ascribing to the pseudonym 'Aldous Harding'- has evolved, to say the least. In the past two years, her mesmerising voice has transcended to a global level with her most recent album, Designer. 'Fixture Picture' and 'Designer' are brave, lacking a tone of fear in their lyrics; whereas the slow movement into 'Treasure' and 'The Barrel' highlights feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty that reveals a tender heart and deep cut wounds that are healing within her gothic indie (slightly folk-y) singles.

The composition of two voices harmonising within most of Harding's songs enhances the sentiment of a story being told throughout the album. Her theatrical performance style is spellbinding, equipped with a darting lingering gaze to match her spinning absurdist lyrics. The range of pitches used throughout the songs underlines Harding's talented abilities and her ability to convey stark emotions leave us feeling overwhelmed and fulfilled with compassion.

31. Thom Yorke - ANIMA

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

Thom Yorke transcends genre. Outside of Radiohead, he has pushed forth his experimental vision to entirely new realms. His third solo album, ANIMA, is yet another superb and tantalising release. Yorke shape shifts between electronic trickles, whirling vibrations, and dystopian techno beats. A futuristic wired tapestry of boundary pushing electronica, laced with Yorke’s trademark ethereal voice. Album focal point, 'Dawn Chorus', is as spellbinding as anything penned by Radiohead. With its gentle and melancholy synth pulse, Yorke offers an utterly stirring spiral of solitude. A song to shut your eyes to - one that transcends both space and time.

30. Billie Eilish - When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

By Francesca Frankis, Music Editor

Gen Z’s very own pop star Billie Eilish earned her stripes with the release of debut album When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go earlier this year. Constantly subverting and reimagining her genre, Eilish paints out a nightmarish picture of adolescence over epic baselines and distorted vocals; it’s clearly a winning formula. There are moments of quiet thrown into the mix too, creating space for Eilish to display her vocal prowess as she croons over slow mournful ballad-esque arrangements. When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go pays true testament to what it means to be an 18 year old pop star in 2019.

Featured Image: Francesca Frankis/Epigram

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