Our rundown of the best albums of 2019 is an eclectic one as always. From sparse enigmatic country to blasting eighties-inspired synths, these albums have evoked all the emotions imaginable from devastating heartache to euphoric joy. We’ve not ranked them in any particular order, with each album in an undeniable class of its own.
Yola – Walk Through Fire
Release: February 22 2019
Yola found success as the lead singer of Phantom Limb, an English country-soul act that disbanded in 2013. Her first full solo LP, Walk Through Fire, was released this year and was a strikingly assured debut. Yola’s voice contains lifetimes worth of soul and passion, with the album wearing its classic country-soul influences on its sleeve. Walk Through Fire feels like a lost seventies classic – something heightened in its re-release which contained a heartfelt cover of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. However, the real standouts are the original tracks such as Ride Out in the Country and Faraway Look.
Leonard Cohen – Thanks for the Dance
Release: November 22 2019
This stark, poetic posthumous release from the late Leonard Cohen is a challenging, introspective release. Thematically similar to his 2016 release You Want It Darker, Cohen tackles themes of ageing and humanities’ flaws in these tracks recorded shortly before he passed.
Bananarama – In Stereo
Release: 19 April 2019
The British pop duo’s eleventh studio album (ten years after previous studio album, 2009’s Viva) was one of their strongest in recent memory. Packed with upbeat dance tracks like the title track Love in Stereo, and singles Stuff Like That and Dance Music, Bananrama delivered stunning vocals, uplifting pop hooks and stellar synths. Without a dud track on the LP, producer Ian Masterson and chanteuses Sara and Keren delivered an out and out triumph that compels us to hit the dancefloor. We hope it’s not another ten year wait for the follow-up.
Orville Peck – Pony
Release: 22 March 2019
This masked country star fascinated us with his stunning debut album Pony, released this year. Vocally reminiscent of Roy Orbison but with the glamour of Dolly Parton and the earthy country roots sound of Cash, Kristofferson and Nelson, Peck is a breath of fresh air in the 2019 country landscape. His crafting of sparse, isolated country locales with tales of broken hearts, lonely outcasts and queer thematics, makes for an unparalleled combination.
WURST – Truth Over Magnitude
Release: 25 October 2019
Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, dropped the Conchita persona for third studio album Truth Over Magnitude. Going by WURST, the performer sought to deliver a more authentic representation of themselves as an artist – something that proved to be an tremendous success. Combining glamour and sex appeal with a variety of subtle electronic pop tracks – many packing an industrial European feel – results in a tracklist containing standouts such as Forward, To the Beat, Under the Gun and Hit Me.
Måns Zelmerlöw – Time
Release: 18 October 2019
Not deviating too much from the musical ground of his previous releases Chameleon and Perfectly Damaged, Zelmerlöw’s eighth album Time, is an impressive piece of adult-contemporary pop that sees him reflect on his life as a father on tracks like Grow Up to Be You. Time is a slick set with anthemic pop anthems and gentle ballads that showcase an alternative side to the Swedish pop star.
Chromatics – Closer To Grey
Release: 2 October 2019
Genre: Electronic Pop
Electronic music outfit Chromatics surprise released this album lead by a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. Pairing enigmatic electronic arrangements with lead singer Ruth Radelet’s restrained vocals creates an intoxicating blend that transports us to the familiar eerie Los Angeles setting of Chromatics work, almost playing like the soundtrack to a new David Lynch film.
Slayyyter – Slayyyter
Release: 22 September 2019
With an unparalleled love for pop music, fantastic pink kitsch, and the shimmering cult of celebrity, Slayyyter throws these influences into the melting pot pop spectacular that is her mixtape. Blending Max Martin inspired pop hooks and Blackout inspired Britney Spears, Slayyyter’s mixtape shines through the likes of Mine, Celebrity and bff.
Charli XCX – Charli
Release: 13 September 2019
Charli XCX gathers some of the most exciting figures in contemporary pop for her third album. Christine and the Queens, Troye Sivan, Lizzo, Haim and Sky Ferreira make appearances on a variety of pop anthems that deliver hooks with an all guns blazing approach. These blistering bops are edgy, cool and slickly produced resulting in an all star blockbuster of an album.
Gemini Rising – Best Case Life
Release: 8 August 2019
Fiora Cutler, Lester Mendez and Marco Niemerski form the trio Gemini Rising, with Best Case Life serving as their debut studio album. Showcasing a love for eighties synthpop, Best Case Life, is a stellar release packed with gorgeous pop hooks, rippling icy synths, and pristine vocals. The title track is an atmospheric anthem laden with an immaculate eighties nostalgia, whilst other songs such as Speed of Sound and After the Rain are contemporary classics.
The Highwomen – The Highwomen
Release: 6 September 2019
Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires make up supergroup The Highwomen who released their debut album this year. The stunning set shines thanks to an adapted gender-swapped cover of 1985 track The Highwaymen. Yet original tracks Redesigning Women, Crowded Table and The Wheels of Laredo (which also appears on Tanya Tucker’s album below) are powerful country pieces which showcase their collective might as a supergroup and intelligent songwriting with a powerful feminist slant to boot.
Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Release: 30 August 2019
Genre: Singer Songwriter
Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey’s sixth studio album, sees her blend classic trip-hop with psychedelic soft rock in this poignant, melancholic set. This a beguiling collection that plays with Del Rey’s themes of kitsch patriotism and woozy sun-baked Americana aesthetics on future classic tracks: Norman Fucking Rockwell, The Next Best American Record, Love Song and Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – but I Have It.
Tanya Tucker – While I’m Livin’
Release: 23 August 2019
Tanya Tucker ended a ten year hiatus from the recording studio with While I’m Livin’ her twenty-fifth studio album. Produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, the set takes Tucker back to basics in a way that could be compared to Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. Tucker channels her wealth of experiences into this gutsy roots album continuing to power her outlaw experiences into this emotive set. Standouts include: The Wheels of Laredo, Bring My Flowers Now and Mustang Ridge.
Pet Shop Boys and Francis Barber – MUSIK (Original Cast Recording)
Release: 6 August 2019
We’re cheating a bit here as this is more of an extended play from the Pet Shop Boys and actress Francis Barber. The soundtrack to their Closer to Heaven follow-up, Musik, which centres on supporting character Billie Trix sees Barber star as the glam rock star delivering a musical monologue about her life. Ich bin Musik is a eurodisco classic in the making, Mongrel a rock-tinged ballad, and gorgeous synth track For Every Moment shine.
Berlin – Transcendance
Release: 2 August 2019
Genre: Electronic Pop
This danceable New Wave album from 80s pop icons, Berlin, shines as the band’s finest work to date. Lead singer Terri Nunn soars against a backdrop of icy synths and sharp pop hooks on songs such as I Want You, Show Me Tonight and Lust. Each track is crafted with slick contemporary production from Andy and Thom Mak which brings the classic Berlin sound of Take My Breath Away and Sex (I’m A) into the 2010s.
Madonna – Madame X
Release: 14 June 2019
Of course refusing to be pigeon-holed by one genre, Madonna continues to experiment with her sound with fascinating results as expected. She teams up with Maluma on lead-single Medellin which saw the pop icon embark on a Latin-influenced sound. It is a colourful experimental record – as best showcased on Tchaikovsky sampling Dark Ballet or the politically resonant God Control.
Jonas Brothers – Happiness Begins
Release: 7 June 2019
Talk about a glow-up, The Jonas Brothers reunited with a shining pop tour de force, Happiness Begins. The soulful vocals of Nick paired with Joe’s refined pop vocals is heaven on songs such as the smash hit Sucker, the well, cool Cool, and slick Only Human. This is a punchy set which actually managed to surpass the trio’s original musical output – suggesting that their heyday is still on the horizon.
Olivier Dion – Exposed
Release: 24 May 2019
French-Canadian singer Olivier Dion released the predominantly English-language pop album Exposed back in May and it has proven itself as an LP that we have continually revisited since its release. Dion’s charisma and range as a vocalist is shining on tracks like the heartfelt Kinda Love, the atmospheric Cold Winter, and upbeat pop of Lift Me Up.
Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
Release: 17 May 2019
Following her 2015 pop masterpiece EMOTION was surely a challenge, but one that Carly Rae Jepsen was up for when she recorded Dedicated. Whilst not as immediate as EMOTION, Dedicated proved to be an impressive and immaculately produced set of pop anthems which teamed Jepsen with a range of eclectic producers. Highlights include the joyous Want You In My Room, slick Now That I Found You, and delightful ska-tinged I’ll Be Your Girl.
Marina – Love + Fear
Release: 26 April 2019
Marina’s sixteen song set was divided into two clear sections, Love and Fear, with the songs reflecting these core emotions. With gorgeous pop productions like the breezy Orange Trees, grandiose Handmade Heaven, and brimming positivity of Enjoy Your Life making up some of the highlights of the first half. The subsequent side impresses with the likes of Soft to Be Strong, Karma and Life Is Strange. The project is Marina’s most ambitious to date and the concept is one that hits all the right notes.
Reba McEntire – Stronger Than The Truth
Release: 5 April 2019
Another release from a country icon gains a spot on the list, with this original studio album from Reba McEntire (her 33rd overall) shining. Teaming up with co-producer Buddy Cannon, Reba unveiled a set of traditional country tracks tackling themes of heartbreak, loneliness, and falling in love. Highlights include Storm in a Shot Glass, No U in Oklahoma and the stunning title track.
Alphabeat – Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore
Release: 1 November 2019
This punchy nine track album from Danish pop icons Alphabeat helped us fall in love with the band all over again. Shadows was an unabashed euphoric pop hit, whilst other standouts include Now You Know and I Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore. It’s brutally honest, fun and immaculately produced pop.
Celine Dion – Courage
Release: 15 November 2019
Courage is a set filled with soaring ballads with an uplifting themes of strength at its heart. Tracks such as Lying Down feels like a traditionally emotive Céline ballad (written by David Guetta, Giorgio Tuinfort and Sia) with Sia’s backing vocals bolstering the song further. The title number is devastatingly powerful track – an anthemic call for strength – one of the singer’s most personal releases to date. Courage is a delight from start to finish and quintessential Celine.