FEATURE: On Top of the Vinyl Box: My Ten Favourite Albums of 2019 (So Far)




On Top of the Vinyl Box

IN THIS PHOTO: Little Simz/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

My Ten Favourite Albums of 2019 (So Far)


WE are almost in June…


 IN THIS PHOTO: Fontaines D.C./PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

and it is sort of the mid-way point of 2019 - where we look forward to albums ahead but look back at the best of the year so far. It has been a fantastic year for music and I think, personally, women have been ruling – general more compelling and varied than the boys! From all over the musical map, we have seen some revelatory and wonderful albums arrive and, right here, I have collected together what are, in my opinion, the ten best albums of the year to date. It is still early days and there is a lot of great music ahead, mind. Everyone will have their own top-ten list - and it will be interesting to see whether you agree with any of my selections. You might be new to some of the albums on this list so, if you have the time, sit back and experience records that have made this year…

 IN THIS PHOTO: Julia Jacklin/PHOTO CREDIT: Gem Harris

AMONG the finest in recent memory.



Billie MartenFeeding Seahorses by Hand

Release Date: 26th April, 2019

Producer: Ethan John

Label: RCA

Key Cuts: Cartoon People/Blood Is Blue/Boxes

Standout Track: Toulouse


This collection of softly sung songs forms nothing short of a gentle and reserved masterpiece. It would have been easy for Marten to have made this record with the same restricted tool set she used on her debut, however she opted for a riskier route that has certainly paid off. Throughout the album Marten refuses to place restrictions on herself, but manages to never go too far, and add more to a track than it needs.

On Feeding Seahorses, Marten has managed to skilfully navigate a true artistic tightrope by developing and building on the sounds of her minimalistic debut, without losing any of its original essence. Nothing is lost, only gained” – The Line of Best Fit

Little Simz GREY AREA

Release Date: 1st March, 2019

Producers: Inflo/Sigurd/Astronote

Label: Age 101

Key Cuts: Offence/Selfish/101 FM

Standout Track: Venom


Grey Area would feel one-note, if Simz’s only mode was conviction: elsewhere, she contemplates her demons, admonishes her ambitions (“People are dying / Who gives a fuck about making hits?”) and grapples with the concept of seeing a therapist. Yet even as she’s mining her doubts, her bold delivery and precise, revelled-in flow underpin her growing self-belief. The features – Michael Kiwanuka, Cleo Sol singing the tender refrain of Selfish, among others – are sweet embellishments that complement Simz’s harder tones, as does the production from her old friend Inflo, who pairs fuzzy guitars and orchestral flourishes with pared-back, boom-bap soul. At once soft and hard, fiery and vulnerable, Grey Area finds Little Simz thriving in her multi-facetedness” – The Guardian


Release Date: 8th March, 2019

Producers: Various

Label: Neighbourhood Recordings

Key Cuts: Streatham/Screwface Capital/Voices

Standout Track: Black


It is a microcosm of Psychodrama’s refusal to contain itself as a work of art, instead reaching for emotional intimacy and therapeutic resonance. By its end, “Lesley” becomes a passionate call-to-action; as Dave puts it, “a message to a woman with a toxic man” who he is “begging… to get support if you’re lost or trapped.” In a world craving artists who use their influence for good, Dave offers a road map for inspired musicians and inquisitive listeners alike.

“Lesley” closes on the disembodied voice of Dave’s fictional therapist, who expresses relief as his client nears the end of the album’s psychodramatic course. “I’m just happy you’re at a place now where you feel you understand your emotions, and are in control,” he says. A different kind of hero’s journey through the musical mind, Psychodrama feels less like a platform for clout than a starting point for self-help and paradigmatic change” – Pitchfork

Julia Jacklin Crushing


Release Date: 22nd February, 2019

Producer: Burke Reid

Labels: Polyvinyl/Transgressive/Liberation

Key Cuts: Head Alone/Good Guy/Turn Me Down

Standout Track: Pressure to Party


Crushing is riveting right from the spare, noir-tinged opening track, "Body," which remembers the moment Jacklin decided to leave the relationship after her partner got them thrown off a flight. The humiliating scene is punctuated by her wondering if he might use a nude photograph he once took of her against her; she describes the aftermath as "heading to the city to get my body back." The album is full of similarly soft-spoken, candid, and seemingly timely narratives involving female autonomy ("I don't want to be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine"). Fragile, acoustic solo songs like "When the Family Flies In" and "Convention" are contrasted by full-band arrangements, including the defiant, alt-country-tinged "You Were Right" and the rollicking but highly stressed "Pressure to Party."

The final song, "Comfort," is a solo acoustic guitar tune that has Jacklin's quivering voice delivering a stream of affirmations beginning with "You'll be okay/You'll be all right/You'll get well soon/Sleep through the night…" before she reassures herself that her ex will be okay, too. It's this type of devastating emotional honesty -- one that admits both strength and weakness -- that, along with the performances, sets this record apart from others in its heavy-hearted category” – AllMusic



Release Date: 29th March, 2019

Producer: Finneas

Labels: Darkroom/Interscope

Key Cuts: bad guy/when the party’s over/bury a friend

Standout Track: all the good girls go to hell


There’s little to plausibly fault on the record. Previous singles are included sparingly (2018’s ‘When The Party’s Over’ and ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’), and there’s a real level of intrigue waiting on every song, partly as only two new songs (‘Bury A Friend’, ‘Wish You Were Gay’) got a pre-release. It’s an album that moves with purpose and knows when to hold the listener tight, or grab them by the scruff of the neck and drag them into her world. That said, one nitpick is the pacing towards the end, with the final three songs – ‘Listen Before I Go’, ‘I Love You’ and ‘Goodbye’ – providing an melancholy end close to an otherwise thrilling album” – NME

Lizzo Cuz I Love You

Release Date: 19th April, 2019

Producers: Various

Labels: Nice Life/Atlantic

Key Cuts: Juice/Crybaby/Heaven Help Me

Standout Track: Cuz I Love You


Lizzo whoops and chortles through these beats with unnatural ease. Keeping up is like beating back the wind, like Jon Snow getting whipped through stony Winterfell peaks trying to ride a dragon. Gucci Mane can barely keep up on “Exactly How I Feel.” Lizzo is a joy, and Cuz I Love You is an impressive portfolio, showcasing the chops of a singer who nails all the notes, a rapper with alchemical control over words, and a songwriter holding nothing back. She can make lounging around in underwear sound revelatory. She can make masturbation seem like a political act. If you’re having a rough week watching the rule of law crumble, let Cuz I Love You rebuild your mettle” – VULTURE

Fontaines D.C. Dogrel


Release Date: 12th April, 2019

Producer: Dan Carey

Label: Partisan

Key Cuts: Big/Too Real/Chequeless Reckless

Standout Track: Boys in the Better Land


Whether on the softer, plaintive lament of ‘Roy’s Tune’ or the excitable, grinding riff of ‘Chequeless Reckless’, Fontaines DC are masters of when to pull back and when to let go. If it sounds like a basic comment to suggest that the music perfectly serves the words - building up the intensity and then cutting back to let Grian’s lyrics land with their fullest force - then trust us, it isn’t. In many ways, like a lot of good punk music, these are tracks that are fairly simple - a few notes, a lot of repetition - but there’s nothing plug-in-and-play about this lot, they’ve simply stripped things back for maximum impact. ‘Sha Sha Sha’ shuffles along like a pissed-off ‘Lovecats’ on the dole; ‘Liberty Belle’ is like the smartest, sharpest football chant in town, while old favourite ‘Boys In The Better Land’ still barrels along with the same excitement it did on first listen” – DIY

Jamila Woods LEGACY! LEGACY!

Release Date: 10th May, 2019                            

Producers: Various

Label: Jagjaguwar


Standout Track: ZORA


In his landmark 1903 essay “The Talented Tenth,” W.E.B. DuBois argued that the liberation of all black people would come from cultivating a handful of exceptional blacks through higher education. Over a century later, black artists and activists, poets and politicians continue to thrive across a spectrum of different mediums. Almost every predecessor conjured in and in-between Woods’ lyrics balanced their craft alongside an unending fight for total equality, whether they wanted to or not: “All the women in me are tired” becomes a running motif throughout the album. With LEGACY! LEGACY!, Jamila Woods positions herself to join the battle, bridging the gap, once and for all, between our unresolved past and the promise that awaits us all on the horizon” – Pitchfork

Loyle Carner Not Waving, But Drowning


Release Date: 19th April, 2019

Producers: Various

Label: AMF/Virgin EMI

Key Cuts: Angel/Ottolenghi/Dear Ben

Standout Track: Loose Ends


Carner is intrinsically aware of his personal paradoxes, and also those of the country in which he lives. On “Looking Back” he thinks about his two fathers – a black man who shares his DNA but to whom he feels little connection, and his late step-father, a white man – and how “my great grandfather could’ve owned my other one…Above all, he is conscious of what family means to him, and so bookends the album with a poem from him to his mother Jean, and one from his mother to him. Carner would be the first to admit that he might not be completely “there” yet – wherever that is. However, Not Waving, But Drowning has an emotional intelligence that shows just how strong Carner is when he’s at his most vulnerable” – The Independent

Weyes Blood Titanic Rising

Release Date: 5th April, 2019

Producers: Natalie Mering/Jonathan Rado

Label: Sub Pop

Key Cuts: Something to Believe/Titanic Rising/Picture Me Better

Standout Track: Andromeda


Co-production from Foxygen member Jonathan Rado might explain the brightly blooming chamber pop arrangements, merging Mering's soaring vocals with orchestral strings and drum fills borrowed directly from the Beatles. This optimistic throwback arrangement is in full force on the infectiously bubbly "Everyday," with lyrics inspecting a confusing relationship over a track as bouncy as a rubber ball. Mering effortlessly switches gears throughout the album, slipping between the synthy melodrama of "Movies" and the cold coffee blues piano ballad "Something to Believe," as well as making space for acoustic folk numbers, ambient interludes, and chamber pop diversions.

Easily her most clear-headed set of songs to date, there's a directness here that sometimes got lost in the layers of earlier albums. She sounds driven and confident, asserting an intense control of the emotional flow of her songs without ever rushing things or letting some of the anxiety she sings about seep into the feel of the album. While all of Weyes Blood's albums leading up to Titanic Rising were good, even great, there's something that sets this one apart. Fantastic songs, meticulously detailed production, and a certain, hard-to-name spark of connection all gel into the near-perfect statement that every part of Mering's strange journey before this led up to” – AllMusic