The Number One
I had three top albums this year. I couldn’t make up my mind between them. It depends a lot on my mood. They are very different from one another. But all have superlative songwriting with great lyrics, highly imaginative scoring, and kickass vocal delivery. It’s great to hear popular singers using the full range and colors of the female voice just like opera singers do.
But if I had to choose just one album, the 2019 award would go to:
FKA Twigs Magdalene
It’s all for the lovers tryna fuck away the pain. The future of music in the UK (unlike everything else) seems to be in very capable hands.
The Number Twos
Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell
I’ve been tearing around in my fucking nightgown/ 24-7 Sylvia Plath
Taylor Swift Lover
‘Cause if I was a man/ Then I’d be the man. (No apologies. I loved Abba too.)
The rest of the top ten
in alphabetical order
The Comet Is Coming Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
Another incarnation of the great Shabaka Hutchings, on Coltrane’s old Impulse label.
Theon Cross Fyah
Yes, that’s a fucking tuba. With Moses Boyd on drums and Nubya Garcia on tenor sax. Inimitable 21st-century jazz, courtesy of the London diaspora.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram Kingfish
Straight outta Clarksdale, Mississippi, channeling the ghost of Robert Johnson. Wow.
Joshua Redman Quartet Come What May
Shouldn’t like this (I generally prefer full-on honk-squeak sax) but I do. Saw this quartet in Calgary this year, masters of their craft. Cerebral, yes, not a note out of place but there are times it’s just so pleasurable to put this on the turntable and relax. Great cover too.
Caroline Shaw/Attaca Quartet Orange
Sublime. We have “Mozart in the Jungle” to thank for introducing us to Caroline Shaw.
Kate Tempest The Book of Traps and Lessons
A voice poor benighted Britain badly needs today. And not just Britain. Maybe y’all should listen.
North Mississippi All Stars Up and Rolling
Jim Dickinson’s boys Luther and Cody have been great in various iterations of this band for 20 years. In this version they are joined by Sharisse Norman and Shardé Thomas on vocals for some down and dirty Mississippi country blues. If there was an award for quality of sleevenotes, the beautiful booklet in here would win hands down too.
Best previously recorded albums first released in 2019
(the OK boomer section)
Leonard Cohen Thanks for the Dance
Spare, sexy, graceful. What a way to bow out. Thank you too, Mr Cohen.
John Coltrane Blue World
The great quartet, a little before they recorded A Love Supreme.
Bob Dylan The Rolling Thunder Revue: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14 Live 1975
And a very good time was had by all. Performances for the ages.
Bob Dylan (feat. Johnny Cash) Travelin’ Thru: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15, 1967-1969
I suspect of greater historical than musical value, but some fun rockabilly and boom-chicka-boom from Bobby and Johnny back in the day.
Townes Van Zandt Sky Blue
Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that (Steve Earle).
a handful of excellent albums
that in other years would likely have made it into my top ten but didn’t because this year’s top ten were so damn good
Ezra Collective You Can’t Steal My Joy
Michael Kiwanuka Kiwanuka
Kokoroko Kokoroko (EP)
Sturgill Simpson Sound and Fury
Sharon Van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow
“Seventeen” is my song of the year.
And no, I’m afraid I haven’t yet listened to the 2019 albums by Nick Cave, Solange, or Brittany Howard. I should. Maybe next year.