Best Albums Of 2019 (So Far)

Jun 25, 2019
Originally published on June 27, 2019 12:00 pm

We asked our panel of public radio writers one question: What is your favorite album of 2019 so far? There were so many ways to answer: we've heard albums that feel germane to our time, that allowed us to escape, that reconfigured a beloved artist's roots or that signaled the next wave of sound. But ultimately, what we have here are the No. 1s as picked by some of the biggest ears in the country, the albums that we just can't stop listening to, even when time, algorithms and unending news cycles demand otherwise.

So you won't find a ranked list, or any reason to wonder about behind-the-scenes jostling for higher spots — there will be plenty of time for spirited debate in December. In the meantime, it's time to find your new favorite album.

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2019 (SO FAR): A-H / J-N / O-Y

THE BEST SONGS OF 2019 (SO FAR):
A-K / L-Z


Jade Bird
Jade Bird

This is easily one of the most remarkable debut records of 2019. Jade Bird sings with strength, passion, anger and irony. In the song "Lottery," Bird guts out the refrain, "You're betting on me." And yep, that's exactly what we're doing. —David Brower, WUNC

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


James Blake
Assume Form

James Blake captures the heart-flutters of new love with Assume Form, an album that shows the gloomy synth wiz blossoming into a hopeless romantic. Features from Moses Sumney, Travis Scott and Andre 3000 add contemplative counterpoints, but Blake shines in moments of sentimental reverie. —Nastia Voynovskaya, KQED

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Jamila Woods
Legacy! Legacy!

On Jamila Woods' second album, she expresses her admiration for proud people of color – Miles Davis, James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Eartha Kitt – through anger, sharp messaging and her own ancestors. Embedded with hope and humor, and wrapped in enduring melodies, Woods mines the past in a way that feels futuristic. –Jeff McCord, KUTX

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Jenny Lewis
On The Line

Neil Leifer's iconic shot of the triumphant Muhammed Ali lording it over Sonny Liston personifies boxing superfan Jenny Lewis' On the Line as her very own declaration of independence: making peace with her roots while casting an artful wink at the angels and demons cheering her on in the corner. —Gini Mascorro, KXT

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Joey DeFrancesco
In the Key of the Universe

We hold this truth to be self-evident: All organists are not created equal, for Joey DeFrancesco is the best Hammond organist on the planet — strike that, in the universe. In the Key of the Universe honors pioneering forefathers of free jazz — saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders appears on three tunes — while saying something new about this music of spiritual transcendence. —Matt Silver, WRTI

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Josh Ritter
Fever Breaks

Always pushing himself to build upon his sound and excellent songwriting, Josh Ritter teamed up with Jason Isbell to produce Fever Breaks. Recorded with the 400 Unit, Ritter soaks up the rock to reshape his penetrating songs. —Bruce Warren, WXPN

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Karen O and Danger Mouse
Lux Prima

Each instrument and vocal line sync together beautifully in the sonic jigsaw puzzle that is Lux Prima, the extraordinary collaboration between Karen O and Danger Mouse. —David Hadel and Malayna Joy, NV89

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / AMAZON


Kayhan Kalhor & Rembrandt Frerichs Trio
It's Still Autumn

This gorgeous and evocative album will be perhaps best savored after the fall equinox, but it's just too beautiful to hold off on sharing. Iranian composer and kamancheh (spike lute) virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor teams up with pianist and composer Rebrandt Frerichs, bassist Tony Overwater, and drummer Vinsent Planjer for a magical two-part outing: "Dawn" and "Dusk." —Anastasia Tsioulcas

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Kehlani
While We Wait

When Kehlani sings, "Here's to being honest," at the outset of While We Wait, she sets a roadmap for the R&B mixtape. Characteristically vulnerable and starkly introspective even in its playfulness, the 24-year-old's fourth project showcases some of her softest work ("Footsteps") alongside some of her most biting ("Nunya"). —Rosalind Faulkner

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Little Simz
GREY Area

GREY Area starts with the boom bap of "Offense," ends on some of the dreamiest sounds in "Flowers" and, in just over a half an hour, you're left wondering, "How did I get here, and why was the ride so enjoyable?" Little Simz' new album is from a woman who knows exactly what she wants and god help you if you get in her way. —Jill Hopkins, Vocalo Radio

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Lizzo
Cuz I Love You

Lizzo is smart. Lizzo is funny. Lizzo is beautiful. Lizzo is a star. Lizzo writes bangers. She knows it. You know it. Let's just say it. Cuz I Love You is the gas-up album we need in the world. —Justin Barney, Radio Milwaukee

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Megan Thee Stallion
Fever

Megan Thee Stallion is the most energizing force in rap right now. After years of cyphers in her native Houston and growing her fanbase online, the MC has reached mass appeal with Fever. Pick any track and listen as Meg's bars fuse together nerdcore, meme-mining, braggadocio and slick sex appeal to subvert misogyny with an almost-dizzying delivery. —Sidney Madden

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Melissa Aldana
Visions

Melissa Aldana, a Chilean-born tenor saxophonist, has the elusive ability to balance technical achievement against a rich emotional palette. Visions, her finest album, was inspired by the inner life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; it's a brilliant showcase for a band that includes this year's breakout star, Joel Ross, on vibraphone. —Nate Chinen, WBGO

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Middle Kids
New Songs for Old Problems

When your soul needs to sing, who cares about album cycles? This new EP comes less than a year after the Australian band's debut. "Real Thing," in particular, takes in the joyous wailing of a group constantly gobsmacked by the tiny wonders of a bus ride. —Phil Jones, WERS

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


The National
I Am Easy to Find

The National has spent decades in self-reflection, questioning connection and seeking answers. Eight albums later, she responds. Women take the wheel in I Am Easy to Find, driving the band's narrative to undiscovered territories. The effort is direct, yet complex, unfolding a messy universe that is becoming wiser with perspective. —Stacy Buchanan, WGBH

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


Nilüfer Yanya
Miss Universe

"We worry about your health, so you don't have to." In addition to crafting a fully-realized debut album, Nilüfer Yanya imagines an entire conceptual world built around a menacing self-care program. Pressing play on Miss Universe will entertain the listener with an eclectic mix of bulletproof pop-rock songs, so they won't have to entertain themselves. —Beau Brady, KOSU's The Spy

♬: APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON


THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2019 (SO FAR): A-H / J-N / O-Y

THE BEST SONGS OF 2019 (SO FAR):
A-K / L-Z
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