Much as Kacey Musgraves broke open country songwriting in 2018 with the love-bombing body high of Golden Hour, Sturgill Simpson casts himself as the genre’s outlier in 2019. In these brawny, meandering folk songs, a butcher spouts anti-immigrant bile, an anxious jogger hears of racial violence, and workers in a warehouse flog themselves half to death; at a more intimate level, there are infidelities and loneliness. LS Read the full review.

Some breakup albums wallow, but this one carries itself with the strength and tenacity of its namesake.

Cate Le Bon wrote Reward during a year spent living in the Lake District and learning how to make furniture.

Alabama Shakes hardly cleaved to one genre, but frontwoman Brittany Howard shows just how astonishingly broad and instinctive her talent is here.

Our pick of the year’s finest albums brings American dreaming, teenage dynamism, heartbreak, barbed rap, impetuous indie and beautiful soundscapes, Fri 20 Dec 2019 04.41 EST Producers Danger Mouse and Inflo make his retro soul sharp enough to strike a match on, giving it an edge to match Brittany Howard’s equally expansive Jaime (see No 32 below). These one-time music students create a perfect simulacrum of 60s and 70s soul, but lit with the lamps of a jazz club rather than the sterile striplighting of a lab.

With ambition and intent that should shame many of their peers, These New Puritans have crafted another suite of post-punk symphonies.

20 December 2019.

Legacy!

CN Entertainment. BBT Read the full review. LS Read the full review. Unburdened by modish musical trends – no guests, no genre crossovers – it was a feat of immersive beauty, the kind of record you might put on an old-fashioned stereo, dim the lights and sit through in one indulgent sitting, the better to appreciate its three-dimensional production washing over your skin like a gong bath.

Ben Beaumont-Thomas Read the full review.

But the sheer zest for life in these bombastic, ultra-quotable self-empowerment tracks – as well as the pure-pop hooks – gives them intensity even on record.

With St Vincent as producer, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker break new ground as songwriters – high camp on Bad Dance, trading intimacy and vaulting catharsis on The Dog/The Body – while mining affectingly desperate and ugly emotional depths. Jack Barnett’s vocals, conversational yet epic, add their own particular drama. In the five years since his previous album, Bill Callahan got married, became a father and attained a level of beatific perspective that could probably settle international conflicts. Here, the four-piece till the dirt and Adrianne Lenker sings relentlessly about death and disease, elemental concerns that nevertheless reach some kind of higher plane thanks to the tenacious, cracked songwriting that’s swiftly establishing them as Brooklyn’s answer to Crazy Horse. The Best Music of 2019: Pitchfork Readers’ Poll Results.
The band’s picture of Dublin is as vivid and impetuous as the Joycean visions they clearly admire, all rough beauty and “ready-steady violence”; the pint-chucking songs have the blithe, amused swagger of someone who enjoys a fight, but the ballads (Roy’s Tune, Television Screens) are equally good, with a bleating, pub-piano sadness to them.


The 50 best albums of 2019: the full list. Pitchfork is the most trusted voice in music. The quavering, circuitous voice of British jazz-dub songwriter James Blake is still a beautiful instrument, and his arrangements are as atmospheric as ever here. BBT Read the full review. LS Read the full review. It makes Legacy! “This shit is for us,” Solange announced on her previous album, handing her music to the black diaspora. Elegiac and rickety, it’s a lasting testament to his mordant and philosophical poetry, but also to his pain: “The end of all wanting is all I’ve been wanting,” he sings on That’s Just the Way That I Feel. LS Read the full review. When drummer Janet Weiss quit Sleater-Kinney prior to the release of their ninth studio album, it cast an unfair pallor on a record mired in suspicion, every new dazzling synth or poppy refrain regarded as the possible straw that broke the camel’s back. Those sounds are more than just another layer of Americana cosplay: her obsession with American archetypes, once dismissed as superficial, has matured into an acute understanding of how they are created and frustration at what they conceal.

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