Welcome to my first post of the year, and it’s time to share my top 30 albums of 2019!

I’m pretty happy with my consistency with the music roundup series last year, and thanks to that 2019 had been yet another taste-expanding year of music for me – it’s been really fun talking about them in the roundups and I hope I keep on doing them in 2020 as well.

Initially, I had a shortlist of 40 albums but I was having anxiety while I was trying to cut off 15 from the list, so I settled for 30. I love them all, just in slightly varying degrees. Another thing to note is that some albums grew on me, and some grew off (sadly) – but that’s how year-end lists go. Okay, I think that’s enough of a preamble, let’s get started with this.

#30 3776 – Saijiki

3776 saijiki

A dense concept pop album where it’s thematic elements are layered as thickly as the sonic elements going into it – every track corresponds to a month of the year and brings forth natural and festival sounds related to that month, and track-by-track playback gives off the smoothness of a well-curated DJ mix. The freshness of the mix doesn’t wear off easily.

#29 Weatherday – Come In

weatherday come in album art

It was a gut-punching listen the first few listens around, and although that effect wore off over the months – it’s undeniable how much heart this record carries under the envelope of its rough lo-fi aesthetic. The bright guitar passages and the unfiltered vocals still sound warm and full of life.

#28 Haruomi Hosono – Hochono House

haruomi hosono hochono house

Although it’s a “rework” of Hosono’s 1973 tropical pop-rock classic Hosono House, the record sounds like a brand new one. By no means is this a lazy “rework”. Hosono’s vocals sound reserved, and the coffee-lounge aesthetic of the versatile instrumentation made it a really great comfort album – an album that I found myself returning to more often than I expected throughout the year.

#27 Brockhampton – Ginger

brockhampton ginger

Ginger sits significantly at a lower level in terms of “creatively unstable energy” in the boyband’s discography but it’s packed with some of the most centered and depressing content the boys’ have put out. There are tracks here that are some of the best songs they’ve come out with so far, and they hit differently.

#26 Chai – Punk

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This neo-kawaii pop-punk outfit’s 2019 was really great in terms of their popularity outside of Japan, and it couldn’t have come along with a better record release. Punk‘s instrumentation is catchy yet textured like its energy is barely in control, the bass riffs are great, and their choruses are heartful and anthemic – it’s clear that Chai has got a solid command over their brand of sound by now.

#25 Rainbow Chan – Oblivion

rainbow chan pillar

Just a sleek, alien-sounding art-pop record that still sounds alluring and haunting at the same time. Chan’s vocals mostly feel distant in the textured mist of the mutated production but when they come to focus – my ears start to melt. Oblivion was certainly an album that stood out for me in terms of listening experiences in 2019.

#24 James Blake – Assume Form

james blake assume form

Gorgeous, gorgeous vocals are complemented with flowery electronic textures on this melancholic LP. The aesthetic of the record feels like an even split between hip-hop and ballad but Blake manages to bring them together thanks to some solid features and a soulful vision in his songwriting.

#23 Lightning Bolt – Sonic Citadel

lightning bolt sonic citadel

Although this might be the noise-rock duo’s most accessible album, it features some of the wildest cuts in their discography. The energy of the drums and bass is infectious, and the record’s cacophonous noise textures pack more melody than their previous ones. I  don’t need to be in a certain mood to listen to this album – it brings in the mood.

#22 Hina Ohta – Between the Sheets

hina ohta between the sheets

Nocturnal and lush are two words that would describe the production on this album. And Ohta’s controlled vocals only help with the ebb and flow of the album. There are versatility and dynamism in the electronic textures – definitely a beautiful record I would not forget to include in my favorites list.

#21 Lingua Ignota – Caligula

lingua ignota caligula

Nearly traumatic, but completely cathartic – Hayter’s brand of neo-classical darkwave sounds chilling. The lyrics are cursed and pained, the vocals bite and the production cleanses in a strange way. Listening to this album needs some mental bracing beforehand.

#20 Thom Yorke – Anima

thom yorke anima album art

On initial listens, Anima seemed to a collection of bustling, rich IDM cuts but Yorke’s floating and barely-present vocals soon reveals the restless anxiety that the synths are alluding to. The abstract hypnotic mix of the instrumentation sometimes transports me to these eerie dreamscapes, it’s weirdly meditative but kind of itchy as well.

#19 ・・・・・・・・・(Dots) – Points

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The shoegaze idol group’s final album gives off the feeling of timeless nostalgia – with a versatile range of stylistic influences incorporated in a way that sounds polished and not novel at all. The technopop cuts sandwiched between the swirling dreamy ones make for quite an engaging listen.

#18 Caroline Polachek – Pang

caroline polachek pang

Pang‘s real allure lies in the sonic welding of Caroline’s saccharine vocals and the rich, cerebral production. It has certainly made for some of the most uniquely sweet musical experiences last year.

#17 Moka Sato – merry go round

moka sato merry go round

Sweet, cute, comfy wintertime pop tunes with seamless RnB integration make up the bulk of merry go round but they rarely got stale through the months I’ve listened through this because the production is that pristine, and Sato’s vocals are gorgeous on almost every track.

#16 Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿

danny brown uknowhatimsayin

Danny has cleaned up his image but his music is yet to disappoint. Although this record isn’t as feverish and out-there as Atrocity Exhibition, his music still remains psychedelic and explorative in terms of production and his nasal flow remains fresh. The features here are solid.

#15 Pup –  Morbid Stuff

pup morbid stuff

Pup’s third full length features some of the catchiest pop-punk anthems of the year. While the lyrics aren’t super witty (they are often self-aware, though), the unabashed earnest energy they are performed with makes the listening experience all the more relatable and sort of cathartic.

#14 Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains

purple mountains album art

The album sounds all the more crushing after Berman’s passing. There’s something deeply resonating with how Berman often combines his wallowing depressing songwriting in an uplifting instrumental casing. It’s not a novel aesthetic since it’s apparent that he wanted to lighten the weight with it. An essential singer-songwriter album of 2019.

#13 Otoboke Beaver – Itekoma Hits

otoboke beaver itekoma hits

Just brimmed with catchy, melodic and gritty punk cuts – Itekoma Hits is nearly pure ear candy. It’s not just the riot-grrrl aesthetic that drives the impact of the record, the instrumentals have space and are playful, the vocal performances have power and the chemistry between the members is noticeably good. If there’s a Japanese punk album you should check out – this is it.

#12 Tropical Fuck Storm – Braindrops

tropical fuck storm braindrops

Like a stroll through a sandstorm on psychedelics – listening to Braindrops is in equal parts disorientating and resonant. The instrumentation and vocals are alien yet human with its rough edges. It’s definitely a punk album that displayed the most warmth and bared the band’s unkempt emotions most rivetingly.

#11 Hakushi Hasegawa – Air Ni Ni

hakushi hasegawa air ni ni

Hasegawa displays that he has a solid command on rhythm manipulation on Air Ni Ni – and the versatile, jittery jazz-breakcore cuts still have an unmistakable pop appeal in the midst of all the chaos – and there’s rarely anything more impressive than a producer having full control of whimsical chaos. I have grown to like Hasegawa’s breezy vocals on this quite a bit as well. The whole record is a treat.

#10 Uboa – The Origin of My Depression

uboa the origin of my depression

My first listening experience of this album was nearly scarring. It’s unfiltered and definitely not for the squeamish because Xandra unloads it in such a distressing way so that the listener gets an inkling of an idea of her traumatic experiences through this atmospheric noise project.

#9 never young beach – Story

never young beach story

A nearly perfect record to put on a chill Sunday afternoon. Story is actually one of the more energetically subdued releases from the Japanese surf outfit but the guitar passages are some of the most memorable ones from last year. Personally, this is an album that made me cope with homesickness when I moved out for college – because the tone of the album sounded nostalgic.

#8 Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising

weyes blood titanic rising

An emotionally riveting chamber pop album. Natalie’s vocals are mellifluous – it’s the glue that melds together the production and songwriting. The production gives this timeless aesthetic to the sound of the record. The instrumentation in each of the tracks seems to have their own lives – their own distinct personality – and it couldn’t be more apparent that a lot of care is put behind their arrangements.

#7 100 gecs – 1000 gecs

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This 23-minute album grew on me like a pleasant tumor (as if that exists) throughout 2019 – and I think this my second most played record of the last year. I even grew fond of the two sound collage/DJ-mix-like tracks that I couldn’t stand on initial listens. The rest of the record features tracks which are essentially what I hope are the prototypes of bubblegum-bass-centric pop music to come.

#6 Dorian Electra – Flamboyant

dorian electra flamboyant

2019 is thankful for Dorian’s genre-blending and gender-bending brand of flamboyant pop. Their lyrical and aesthetic vision feels so refreshing right off their debut. The production on here is so sticky, it’s truly a meeting of the some of the best producers in the game. While it’s a fun pop album on the surface, Dorian lays down some relevant social commentary pertaining to gender politics and turns some of them into anthemic pop bangers.

#5 Satoko Shibata – Ganbare! Melody

satoko shibata ganbare melody

There are few other singer-songwriter albums I heard in 2019 that feature songs that exhibit a catchy sense of melody. There are tracks on this I still hum to this day, and they haven’t gone stale in the slightest. The backing band behind the production is lively and Shibata’s voice is sweet. I don’t think there’s a better album I could point to that came out last year that encapsulated the warm and hearty folk aesthetic as compellingly as this record.

#4 black midi – Schlagenheim

black midi schlagenheim album artwork

Undoubtedly the most creative rock album of 2019 – Schalgenheim feels polished despite Greep and the crew cramming so many sonic textures pulling from various underground genres of rock, and arranging them in such a satisfying way. The songwriting here seems absurd on the surface, but reading into them reveals their cryptic meta shining through the snippet-like point-of-view narratives. What a versatile debut – and I have no idea what the band’s going to do next, and that’s exciting.

#3 Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

angel olsen all mirrors

This album (as Endless Jess would say) unzipped me emotionally. I never got as close to bawling my eyes out listening to an album like this one. The orchestra-backed half and pop-ish parts of the production are in equal parts intimate and flooring. Angel’s vocals are nearly on the verge of drowning in the titanic production, but they still don’t lose their soul-baring allure. Her presence is ghostly and haunting, and that’s something that makes the album sound so timeless and unforgettable.

#2. Chiaki Mayumura – Gisshiri Haguki/ Meja Meja Monja

Yeah I know I am cheating by putting two albums on the same rank but I really couldn’t pick the better one from the two – both records appeal to me in equally compelling yet different ways. Gishhiri Haguki (released in January) is supposed to be Chiaki’s debut commercial release but the double album feels like a “best of” collection with the versatility and stylistic range Chiaki displays here. That album instantly made her one of the most refreshing voices in J-pop for me in 2019. Meja Meja Monja (released in May) only built-up in terms of production quality, and it’s an album I would point to for new fans because it’s tracklisting is shorter. Chiaki’s brand of singer-songwriter pop radiates charisma, and I love how willing she is in pushing the stylistic envelope for pop music and still keep it fun.

#1 The Comet is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery

the comet is coming trust in the lifeforce of the deep mystery

Cosmic jazz-fusion has never sounded more ear-melting, brain wobbling, and heartwarming than on the latest the Comet is Coming album. It’s just 9 tracks but listening through it feels like a journey through the birth and death (and rebirth) of an entire civilization – I love how the sonically the album loops. The saxophone arrangements are as dynamic as they probably can get on this record – they sometimes sound apocalyptic and gargantuan on some tracks, and intimate and warm on others. Kate Tempest bites in the only vocal passage on the album, and it’s great. The electronic incorporation is just enough – the synths have color. This record truly makes for one of the most intense musical experiences I had last year. So there you go, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery – it’s my album of the year.

Whew. That’s a lot of albums to write about again. I hope you try some of them. See you soon.