50 Best Albums of 2019: 29 to 21


By Epigram Music

As the year continues to draw to a close, Epigram Music follow up with another instalment from their top albums of the year.

29. Holly Herndon - PROTO

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

Avant-garde experimentalism finds a new lease of life on PROTO - an ambitious, mind boggling and frightening record that's hard to sum up in a matter of words. Among cascades of disorientating digital soundscapes and nightmarish choral vocals, PROTO is an album of inter-galactic futuristic proportions. Herndon created her very own form of AI entitled Spawn to create an earth shuddering cosmic effect. The AI listened to her musical compositions and arrangements, ingesting them before finally spitting them out in a whirlwind of tormented electronic mania. Think of the chest bursting scene in the film Alien - but in a visceral and hellish Bjork-esque musical form. A captivating album that transcends just about everything.  

28. Ezra Collective  - You Can't Steal My Joy

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

The clues in the title with this one – an expansive 50-minute jazz treat that dives from adrenaline fuelled drum beats to chilled saxophone led soundscapes in a whirlwind of joyous self-expression. An untamed sense of belief and downright delightfulness. Escapist perhaps – but Ezra Collective’s You Can’t Steal My Joy presents a binding sense of spirt, community and unity at its core. With arms whole-heartedly open and saxophones held aloft – the band welcome you into their joyful musical palace. So, head on in, smile and have a bloody good time!

27. Bill Callahan - Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

It seems adulthood has only just caught up with Bill Callahan. After the death of his mother, a marriage and even the arrival of a baby son – Callahan has settled down and nestled neatly within the conformity of the family unit. You could say that everything has got oh so normal for the cult American songwriter. Yet within this new-found responsibility and banality – Callahan sketches some of his best material. A sweet wistful ode to life’s subtle ageing. With its sparse acoustic arrangements and poetic lyricism Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest neatly curls into a magnificently profound masterpiece.

26. Injury Reserve - Injury Reserve

By Joe Boyd, Digital Music Editor

The Arizona trio have always developed clearly distinct project and their self-titled debut is no exception. The album is sprinkled with features from big names like Freddie Gibbs to Rico Nasty and JPEGMAFIA. ‘Jawbreaker’ talks about hype beast culture by addressing the sheeply following fashion trends with ridiculously high price tags. The subject matter of the track is almost a modern take on ‘All Falls Down’ by Kanye West with a narrower scope, easily one of the better tracks from the album with Rico Nasty’s verse being particularly strong compared to some of the other features.One of the albums biggest strength is its range, with everything from jazzier to more industrial beats, to tracks like ‘Best Spot in the House’ talking about imposter syndrome to ‘Rap Song Tutorial’ deconstructing their own music. The one thing the album doesn’t lack is creativity, even in places where it falls short on tracks like ‘GTFU’ which feels like it is trying too hard to be edgy an easily could have made better use of JPEGMAFIA’s talent, it still provides an interesting listening experience.Despite this Injury Reserve are one of the most original and exciting artists in hip-hop at the minute who are pushing the boat out with their creative beats and surgical lyricism.

25. Brittany Howard - Jaime

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

A phenomenal solo debut album from Alabama Shakes star Brittany Howard – soulful, sonic and utterly flawless in every measure. Ever since the visceral retro roots rock of Alabama Shakes’ debut album Boy and Girls in 2012, Howard has journeyed far to the future in search of space age soundscapes and luminescent soul. Jaime is her most fluid, diverse and inquisitive offering yet – mixing fresh musical pallets with gritty vocal. An album that traces displacement, soul-searching and the death of her sister aged just 13 with a sparkling sense of compassion in between pulsing intricate neo-soul rhythms. A once in a generation artist.

24. Marika Hackman - Any Human Friend

By Francesca Frankis, Music Editor

On Any Human Friend Marika Hackman rummages through emotional baggage, and croons about being young and selfish over glitzy guitar riffs in her most ‘pop’ record yet. Hackman’s third studio album offers up resolution to the questions I’m Not Your Man couldn’t answer, painting a landscape of life as some kind of tragicomedy. ‘I’m not where you are’ is an anthem for the emotionally unavailable - ’Cause lately I've been trying to find the point in human contact’ she cries out on top of fuzzy guitar. Whilst ‘hold on’ explores unprecedented horizons in her sound as Hackman sighs over bleak sparkly synths, without a guitar in sight. Any Human Friend is striking, bold and unapologetic.

23. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

Van Etten burst into 2019 a brand-new woman equipped with her most striking and bold album to date, Remind Me Tomorrow. The album showcases her at the peak of powers wielding a newfound embrace for surging electronic synths and roaring crescendos. A defiant listen, marked by boisterous and throbbing alt-pop bangers, but also laced with atmospheric heartache and a blistering sense of emotive release. Van Etten is confident but seething, powerful but utterly arresting all at the same time.

22. The National - I Am Easy To Find

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

A poignant cascade of emotional maturity and complex musical arrangements served with a dazzling yet subdued sense of companionship. The National's 8th studio album, I Am Easy To Find is perhaps their most expansive. A heavily layered tapestry of alternative melancholia - an album to gently shut your eyes, drifting away amongst a measurable dose of contemplation and introspective reflection. From the bolstering urgency of 'The Pull of You' to the anthemic insularity of 'Rylan' - Matt Berninger's trademark drawl meets the angelic vocal tones of a smattering of female guest singers such as Kate Stables from This Is The Kit and Sharon Van Etten. A musical venture that neatly bubbles underneath the surface, a quiet and understated triumph. A life affirming listen from a band glacially proving themselves as one of the century's finest.

21. Charli XCX - Charli

By Lucy Collins, Second Year Maths

Earlier this year Charli XCX had said that this was her most personal work yet and so, came the title Charli. A whole seven of the fifteen tracks were released prior to the album, all with new collaborators. Among them were the throwback synth piano jam ‘1999’, defiant ‘Cross You Out’, explosive ‘Gone’, and chart friendly Track 10 reboot ‘Blame It On Your Love’. Despite this more than preview, Charli was still surprising. The first five tracks are flawless, (and densely packed with the first three of these new collaborations); highlighting her experimental prowess and providing a tick list of trademark “it’s Charli baby” and drawn out “XCX”.  Further into the album we find a run of new solo songs that more obviously deliver the promised maturity and a glimpse into her vulnerabilities and anxieties, ‘Thoughts’ being the standout of these. The welcome pensive moments are still distinguishably Charli, and showcase that she does not create a single type of electronic, dance, pop, or a mix you can consistently describe. Charli XCX could only be releasing Charli in 2019, and moreover an album like this could only come from Charli XCX.

Featured Image: Francesca Frankis/Epigram

What are your top albums of 2019?