As we bring in the new year and before we kick start 2020, we here at MXDWN UK would like to reflect on all the music that 2019 had to offer. As part of our reflection we’ve rounded up some of our favourite albums from the past year, from Billie Eilish’s huge breakthrough to Lewis Capaldi’s triumphant debut, 2019 was a huge success in the music industry.
1. ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?’ – Billie Eilish
Among the debut albums from breakout artists this year, ‘WWAFA, WDWG?’ by 17-year-old Billie Eilish, stood out as the most impressive and innovative record, and there’s no denying that.
The LP is well thought out and is an honest narrative of an individual from Generation Z, with lyrics about being depressed yet ironically and ridiculously dauntless.
Sonic-wise, Eilish and her brother Finneas also managed to turn trivial noises like breaking glass and a dentist’s drill in “bury a friend” or people booing and clapping in ‘Wish You Were Gay’, representing their generation’s quirkiness. From now on, many emerging—and yes, existing—artists are likely to make an effort to replicate what, ‘WWAFA, WDWG?’ has achieved.
– Jay Arpiwach
2. ‘Music To Listen To’ – Bring Me The Horizon
The second entry in the top ten of this list is from Sheffield heavy metallers, Bring Me The Horizon. From the very long title to the surreally named track listing, ‘Music To Listen To’ deviates drastically from Bring Me The Horizon’s earlier works. That being said, this album is by far one of the best 2019 has to offer.
It stirs to memory sounds of deadmau5’s more recent discography, a fusion of electronic beats with the harsh grunginess of Tool’s latest album, ‘Fear Inocolum’.
Highlights of the album: The brass at around three minutes into ‘Steal Something’. An eerie, unsettling looped vocal sample playing for eighteen, yes, eighteen minutes as Oli Sykes delivers a haunting and reflective monologue on life over it.
The villainous ‘A Devastating Liberation’, (an instrumental reworking of ‘why you gotta kick me when I’m down?’, from ‘Amo’), and lastly, ‘Dead Dolphins’, are magnificent.
– Matthew Bailey
3. ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’ – Lewis Capaldi
The Glaswegian born singer-songwriter and all round funny guy released his debut album in 2019 to huge acclaim. The production values feel like warm caramel to the ears. If that’s possible…
‘Someone You Loved’ is the piano led ballad that is instantly recognizable. Capaldi’s vocal performance is much more controlled and restrained and it’s only in the chorus that his voice captures that unique husky sound that appears throughout the album.
Tracks like ‘One’, ‘Headspace’ and ‘Bruises’ illustrate Capaldi’s abilities as a songwriter and vocalist. However, it’s in ‘Hold Me While You Wait’, another piano impressive ballad, that his true vocal abilities are seen, as he builds from soft husky tonnes to a burning crescendo. Ultimately, these songs are highlights of an album that had to make the cut.
– Matthew Bailey and Caitlyn Hart
4. ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ – Slowthai
‘Nothing Great About Britain’ is the affirmation of intent from self-titled ‘Northampton’s Child’, Slowthai. The Northampton-born rapper’s debut offers a combination of punk and grime, that was released with a bang and came as a fresh of breath air.
Slowthai is a rapper that wasn’t scared to tackle issues of gravity in his debut offering, he showed no fear in speaking out against “the norm” and revealing his tender side.
The self-proclaimed “Brexit Bandit’s” debut album tackles the UK’s most important issues such as the looming withdrawal of Britain from the European Union, class inequality, and poverty. But, in a time when the British public were being bombarded with politics, Slowthai approached these heavy subjects in a light-hearted and fun way.
Tracks like ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Peace Of Mind’ tell the story of his life before his career in music and the struggles he faced growing up in poverty. The album also sees Slowthai collaborate with fellow rappers Skepta on ‘Grow Up’, Mura Masa on ‘Doorman’, and Jaykae on ‘Grow Up’. With the British grime scene experiencing one of its best years, in 2019, its no surprise that this debut offering from Slowthai hit all the right notes, not only securing him a place on our top ten, but the coveted price of BBC Music Sound of 2019.
– Caitlyn Hart
5. ‘No. 6′ Collaborations Project’ – Ed Sheeran
Sheeran’s contribution, ‘No. 6′ Collaborations Project’, speaks for itself! It’s a statement of Sheeran’s unarguable success in the charts right now, and it features the biggest of the biggest names in the industry.
From Eminem and 50 Cent to Justin Bieber and Stormzy, Meek Mill and Skrillex, it’s frankly incredible to remember where he started with his ‘+’ album in 2011.
‘Remember The Name’, with 50 Cent and Eminem, the Skrillex collab, ‘Way To Break Your Heart’, ‘I Don’t Care’, with Justin Bieber, and his team up with Stormzy, ‘Take Me Back To London’ are stand out features on this record.
– Matthew Bailey
6. ‘Amo’ – Bring Me The Horizon
Bring Me The Horizon’s first entry at number three. Listening to ‘Mantra’, the first glimpse into their fifth album, it felt reminiscent of ‘Can You Feel My Heart?’ from ‘Sempiternal’. It’s a heavy, mainstream, well-executed track, but pales slightly in comparison to others.
‘Nihilist Blues’, for instance, is an example of their effortless ability to transition between EDM beats and heavy rock influences. The album’s finale, ‘I Don’t Know What To Say’, opens with elegant, swaying strings, before delivering a chorus at two minutes remarkably similar to Rammstein’s epic ‘Mein Herz Brennt’.
For the fans of Bring Me The Horrizon’s earlier work, this record will take some of them in a direction they may not favour. However, if a band failed to develop musically, they’d be at risk of being left behind in the past. Bring Me The Horizon have then excelled at maturing into a group to be taken seriously.
– Matthew Bailey
7. ‘Grey Area’ – Little Simz
North London born, Little Simz made her triumphant return in 2019 with ‘Grey Area’ and has been regarded as the “UK’s most overlooked rapper who dares you not to stare this time.”
‘Grey Area’ is Little Simz’ third album which she said she used to experiment and explore new sounds, and reflects the “grey area” in her mid-20’s. The album sees her trying to navigate through, this “grey area”, and out the other side.
Tracks like ‘Offence’, ‘Boss’ or ‘Therapy’ have been described as seeing Simz put on a “strong, independent tone”. With the establishment of this new sound, one might think all tracks sound alike, but no two songs are the same, on “Grey Area”. Meanwhile, on the track ‘Sherbet Sunset’, Simz lays all her cards on the table by laying out her struggle, which sees her leaving herself open and vulnerable.
Simz concludes the album with a reflective track, ‘Flowers’, which features the soulful vocals of Michael Kiwanuka. The track sees Simz close, a hugely successful return, with an impassioned rap about the artists that have sadly left us – such as Amy Winehouse – with whom she said she shares a kindred spirt. It can only be described as touching conclusion to a victorious return.
– Caitlyn Hart
8. ‘Sucker Punch’ – Sigrid
Another remarkable debut record of 2019 belongs to Norwegian synthpop star Sigrid. As suggested in the title, ‘Sucker Punch’, the LP is filled with killer hooks and thunderous sounds thrown out of Sigrid’s wide-ranging voice.
Similar to Billie Eilish, whom she beat on BBC Sound of 2018, Sigrid successfully crafted a story of a modern-day teenager who experiences doubt, delight, and desperation in life and falling in and out of love.
– Jay Arpiwach
9. ‘Pony’ – Rex Orange County
Alexander O’Connor is no stranger when it comes to talking about feelings and deep thoughts. In ‘Pony’, O’Connor keeps extending his soft-boy persona, using his sharp skills of lyricism to explore what it feels like to be a man in the 21st century.
While many songs on the album are devoted to his genuine affection for his girlfriend, Thea Morgan-Murrell, he still manages to slip his criticism of fame and the idea of masculinity in. The record, therefore, is not only like a hot soothing tea to the ears but also a hard-to-swallow pill – like the truth you are afraid to hear.
– Jay Arpiwach
10. ‘Hyperspace’ – Beck
Pop music, to many, is somehow considered a less cool genre to listen to, but the king of alternative music’s fourteenth studio album, ‘Hyperspace’, has proved that pop music can be cool after all.
‘Hyperspace’ is a follow-up to Beck’s 2017 initial venture into pop music, ‘Colours’. It seems like he can’t shake the fun to make pop album so much that he asked pop monster producers Pharrell Williams and Greg Kurstin to help him craft one more gigantic pop record.
The result is the synth-heavy album that balances the pop elements with alternative lyricism. These 11 tracks offer such perfect sonic coherency and heart-warming voice of Beck that bring us to the space of hyperexcitement.
– Jay Arpiwach