Music makes the world go round. These are the best albums of the last year, so good that sometimes a single isn’t enough.
This last year has seen a magnificent wave of amazing albums, so hot our airpods are almost melting. As we skip into this new decade, we can take a moment to look back and reminisce about our most beloved albums of 2019.
BY TYLER, THE CREATOR
2019 was a renaissance year for Tyler, the Creator. His hit single EARFQUAKE was an anthem and nobody can forget his pastel blue suit and THAT blonde wig. Each track lends its own magic - the intro alone, a long 22-seconds of sustained synth-bass noise, is a real ‘WTF’ moment when first heard, but when the beat kicks in that you can’t help but strut with smugness when walking with it playing in your headphones. For those that are encountering the anxiety of a first date or first day of work scenario, this is the soundtrack that will help you slay.
BY LITTLE SIMZ
2019 was a big year for Little Simz’. Not only did she grace the digital cover of BURO. on our launch day, she also dropped her third album which explores the “grey area” of lingering at an age in your mid-20s. Standout tracks are Selfish, 101FM and Venom, the latter of which appeared on the hit Netflix series Top Boy. Born Simbi Ajikawo, Simz has toured with Nas and Lauryn Hill, garnered a place on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, and let’s not forget that she was recording herself rapping at age 9. But it’s this coming-of-age album that will give her the deserved accolades that other London Grime artists such as Stormzy and Skepta have received in the past.
Given the current political climate, slowthai’s angst-fuelled album Nothing Great About Britain, is every bit the visceral, honest and at times aggressive album you’d expect from a British rapper in 2019. His lyrics are sharp, funny and smart, although perhaps at times a little swear-y and NSFW. His politically-driven performance at the Mercury Prize Awards where he held a fake severed head of Boris Johnson cemented him as a voice for the young British working class.
BY FKA TWIGS
Emotionally-charged Magdalene is the long-awaited second studio album from FKA twigs. Littered with religious references and eery robotic echoes, it’s 39 minutes of pure heartache packaged beautifully in the enigmatic soul that is FKA twigs. Sad Day is the one you’ll have heard on the radio but Cellophane is the pièce de résistance.
BY WEYES BLOOD
Grand, romantic and dream-like are just some of the words you’d use to describe Weyes Blood’s fourth album, Titanic Rising. Listening to it is an almost cinematic experience, it has a real psychedelic 1970s nostalgia, but also a modern synthy electronica that builds from start to finish. It’s sad yet happy, soft but strong, a contradiction that works well with the transcendent serenity of her voice.
Winner of the prestigious Mercury Prize award, on his debut album Psychodrama Dave isn’t ashamed to bare all. Listening to it lends a lesson in what it is to be a young black person in London, especially memorable songs such as Black and Location, which was recorded with Nigerian rapper, Burna Boy.
Blending jazz, R&B, hip hop and rap - this soulful album from Solange dropped in March and was an instant success. On it she explores her hometown Houston, Texas, and has a series of notable contributions from the likes of Tyler, the Creator, Sampha and Gucci Mane.
BY TORO Y MOI
Toro y Moi’s Outer Peace may have come out at the beginning of the year, but to us it’s the sound of summer. Fast beats, synthy layers and several (dare I say) catchy tunes in Freelance, Fading and Ordinary Pleasure, it’s brimming with easy-listening singalongs that when played in the car make your mates say ‘who's this again?’ Recording music since 2001, this is the album that defines Chaz Bear as Calvin Harris for the cool kids.
BY BURNA BOY
Fusing sounds from Afrobeat, Reggae and R&B, African Giant is the fourth album from Nigerian artist Burna Boy. His collaborations with Stormzy, Dave and Jorja Smith (who appears on the album’s Gum Body) this year, along with his Coachella performance, has put Nigerian pop on the music map in 2019. Oozing with tales of colonialism sometimes referenced in his mother tongue, African Giant is as much as an awakening history lesson as it is a great album.
BY BILLIE EILLISH
Responsible for knocking off Lil’ Nas X from the No.1 spot with Bad Guy, Billie Eilish is the popstar with a dark side. Her 2019 album, When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? is gothic-pop at its finest. Xanny, another hit from the album, has a video directed by the artist herself, making her accomplished even for a Gen Z-er.
A role model to many, Lizzo has had a major impact on us all this year. A major advocate for body positivity and feminism, when hearing her songs it’s impossible to not feel good. Her album Cuz’ I Love You is soul and sass put into 11 tracks, including her anthem Juice.
BY NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
The first album since the death of his son in 2015, Nick Cave’s Ghosteen is full of memories and mourning. As you’d perhaps expect, it’s mainly an ambient and electronic album - with a little piano and sweet harmonies.
BY HARRY STYLES
The journey of Harry Styles from boy in a band to international singer, actor and fashion mogul has been one of the decade’s most defining transitions. Fine Line was a late release for 2019, and yet it’s already proved to be his best yet. He explores his heartbreak through catchy country-esque ballads made modern with an overlay of synthy sounds.
It’s been an epic year for Stormzy - he’s collaborated with Ed Sheeran, Burna Boy, Aitch and Yebba, not to mention his unmissable Glastonbury headline performance. Ending it with an album release was the cherry on top. Top singles include Vossi Bop, Wiley Flow and Own It, and the album artwork, featuring himself on the cover with a crown and the Union Jack-adorned bulletproof vest he wore at Glastonbury, was designed by Banksy.
BY LANA DEL RAY
Lana Del Ray, with her ethereal lullabies and love stories, is the essence of modern American pop. Talking about money, glory, heartache and Hollywood, Del Ray is known for discussing and dissecting the American Dream in her albums, but it’s this one, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, that is her finest hour for songwriting. Deeply entrenched in American culture references, as the album’s title suggests, it’s tracks like Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like me to Have - But I Have it that demonstrate she’s more than a popstar.
BY GOLD LINK
Afrobeats, dancehall and street rap come together in GoldLink’s official debut album. He described it as “a carefully curated journey through sound touching many corners of the world” in an interview with Apple Music.
BY JAMES BLAKE
A romantic album about his relationship with Jameela Jamil, Assume Form is a masterpiece of modern love. Blake reveals how he moved from London to Los Angeles to be with his girlfriend, and each song reflects on different difficulties - whether this be anxiety, immaturity or merely location. Collaborations include Rosalía and André 3000. Need we say more?
BY SNOH AALEGRA
Humorously named Urgh, Those Feelings Again, Snoh Aalegra explores the ups and downs of love - dramatic highs and manic lows - and normalises them with honest lyrics and soulful sounds. Standout tracks include I Want You Around and Love Like That.
BY ANGEL OLSEN
Angel Olsen’s enigmatic All Mirrors is split in two. On the one hand you have the guitar-centric sounds of a singer-songwriter from North Carolina, and then on the other there’s grand orchestral sounds and a lush fullness that’s very Scott Walker meets Beach Boys. Yes please.