2018 was truly a singles dominated year for music with only a select few albums standing out within their canvases. But in 2019 that reflection changed with a year full of super strong albums that continually blew listeners away with their candid reflections and empowering sentiments.
From exciting newcomers impressing with their lifetime in the making debuts to well established artists making their new suite of honest admissions stand out so boldly, there was honestly something for everyone within these releases. And 15 particular records stood out to ThomasBleach.com over the year, but the real question is; did your favourite album of 2019 make the list?
15. Georgia Maq – Pleaser
Georgia Maq’s surprise solo debut album might be a late addition to the 2019 countdown but that doesn’t make it any less impactful. ‘Pleaser’ is a short collection of indie-pop tracks that show the Camp Cope lead singer in a whole different light.
Her vocal delivery oozes confidence as she takes a step back from screaming her problems and her feelings to stripping it back to hearing the candid emotion through the lyrics. Her tone is so captivating and at times her vocals remind me of Missy Higgins with her pronunciation of words and her lyrical flow. And this whole collection of tracks turns into a huge supercut of emotions and anthemic singalong’s that you cant help but feel so connected to the record.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘You’ll Be Singing My Name’, ‘Away From Love’, ‘Big Embarrassing Heart’
14. SIX60 – SIX60 (3)
SIX60 are New Zealand’s biggest band, and there is no denying that. From selling out their first ever stadium show at the start of 2019, the band has gone on to release their third studio album and announced a even bigger homecoming headlining tour for the start of 2020.
Their third studio album is an anthemic collection of tracks that hears them honing their sound and creating an aesthetic that is quite reminiscent of Imagine Dragons, which their live show also backs up.
This record hears them embracing their heritage by using traditional Maori instruments in every song and has seen them be able to layer them with polished new production to modernise their potential. It’s a very vibey listen from start to finish with a lot of reflective emotions and feel good singalong’s.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Never Enough’, ‘The Greatest’, ‘Long Gone’
13. K.FLAY – Solutions
On her third studio album ‘Solutions’, K.FLAY is introducing a whole new side to her artistry. Within the dark confessions of her past heartache and family revelations, there is a bright hope shining through her new material. It’s a big contrast to her last record ‘Every Where Is Some Where’ which was dark and gritty at it’s roots. But this record sits in a very bright and hopefully place which further explores her experimental layers.
Diving deep into the relatable feelings, she speaks her truth in a very honest and vulnerable way but still manages to layer it with big production and a gritty attitude that ignites within her acclaimed live show. There are some very heavy, romantic and great quotable lyrics within this collection that has seen fans spreading them all over the internet and some even tattooing them to their skin.
K.FLAY has proved herself again to be an artist to not underestimate.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Good News’, ‘DNA’, ‘I Like Myself Most Of The Time’
12. Inspired By True Events – Tori Kelly
Earlier in the year, the singer-songwriter won two Grammy Awards with her gospel EP ‘Hiding Place’ and any smart marketing strategy would’ve kept her in that sound space for another year to keep the hype up. But Tori Kelly never wants to play it safe, and instead she finally rolled out her highly anticipated second pop record.
‘Inspired By True Events’ is unapologetically her in the most sincere and raw way. What her gospel side-project allowed her to do was find a passion deep inside of her that redirected her storytelling to be even more honest than she has been in the past. And now she’s back to her pop roots and giving you sweet harmonies and catchy melodies that interpolate her raw personal history and her strong songwriting that made her debut album ‘Unbreakable Smile’ a memorable piece of work.
This whole album tells unique stories from her life and sees her looking from the outside into other peoples lives as she reflects on situations. There are some many candid and beautiful moments that will have you wanting to push replay over and over again.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Coffee’, ‘Pretty Fades’, ‘2 Places’
11. About Us – G FLIP
With the up-beat playfulness of her big singles and their anthemic hooks like ‘Killing My Time’, and ‘Drink Too Much’, they don’t really highlight the intimate side of G-FLIP that the rest of her debut album ‘About Us’ holds.
It’s an honest, raw and real telling of emotions that reflect on the ups and downs of a relationship in a highly candid form and gives you a clear outlook on the good and bad. There are moments of euphoric singalong’s and there are moments of tear soaked melodies that will break your heart and then slowly put it back together again.
It’s an honest record from start to finish and it’s also a highly captivating one.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Lover’, ‘Stupid’, ‘Morning’
10. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go – Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish is one of the biggest names in music right now. The seventeen year old singer-songwriter has gone from being the “must watch act” to becoming the act everyone is talking about and the one everyone wants to be.
Her debut album ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ is a dark and captivating collection of tracks that provide an interesting insight to the mind of a teenager in the current social media climate. Addressing anxieties, depression, growing up, falling in love, and falling out love, this album really does cover it all in a very honest and interesting way.
It’s a type of honesty that we haven’t come across from an artist this young and mature in a very long time. I would go as far to say that it’s just as good as Lorde’s ‘Pure Heroine’ which is one of the strongest debut albums in a decade.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘When The Party’s Over’, ‘Xanny’, ‘My Strange Addiction’
9. Hilda – Jessica Mauboy
In 2019, Jessica Mauboy has entered a whole new era of her career. Her fourth studio album ‘Hilda’ hears her reacquainting herself with her RNB roots and resurfacing as an honest storyteller.
Opening up about her family, relationships and struggle with love, this is the most personal we have heard Mauboy. Sonically it feels like the mature sister to her debut album ‘Been Waiting’ with it’s heavy RNB-pop focus and disco injected sensibility. However there’s a lot of maturity and growth that has occurred and has seen her evolve into the artist she is now. And it’s simply breathtaking.
While there are big pop numbers that will have you bopping away, the biggest takeaway from this record is her growth as an artist. She’s not only a talented singer but she’s also a talented songwriter and storyteller, and on ‘Hilda’ she dives deep into her artistry and opens a piece of her heart to her listeners. And what she’s created is her boldest and strongest record yet.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Tough Love’, ‘Jealous’, ‘Butterfly’
8. Better In Blak – Thelma Plum
Rising to the platform that she’s worked hard for, Thelma Plum perfected her debut album ‘Better In Blak’ to make sure it was a collection of hard-hitting and thought invoking moments. The proud Aboriginal singer-songwriter sees this moment as a full circle dream that was inspired by the likes of Shakaya and Jessica Mauboy who waved the Aboriginal flag in pop music before her.
This twelve track record explores growing up in a country where she didn’t feel represented in the media. The record is quite raw in it’s roots but she’s polished it up with an indie-pop and folk influenced production.
While singles like ‘Clumsy Love’, ‘Not Angry Anymore’ and ‘Better In Blak’ created the singalong, radio-friendly moments, this record dives deeper and gives you some emotionally raw and politically charged moments that will have your brain running on high capacity.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Woke Blokes’, ‘Nick Cave’, ‘Don’t Let A Good Girl Down’
7. Sucker Punch – Sigrid
Sigrid is a newcomer that I’ve been proclaiming will be the next big thing in pop for over two years now. And she’s rightfully claiming her spot in the UK, Europe and America and an Australian domination will soon follow.
Bursting onto the scene with her infectious debut single ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’, she continued to prove herself with a bright and bold collection of pop tracks that showcased her strong songwriting and evolution as an artist. And her debut album ‘Sucker Punch’ backed up this evolution with it’s varied depths.
From festival ready anthems to 80’s soaked synths driving the pulsating production to moody and emotionally charged ballads, she managed to capture so many different sides to who she is as an artist. And overtime I listen to this record I cant stop smiling and feeling everything she unravels in this brief 12 track duration.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Mine Right Now’, ‘Never Mine’, ‘Dynamite’
6. Portraits – Greyson Chance
2019 saw Greyson Chance reintroducing himself to the world as a mature man. His long awaited sophomore studio album ‘portraits’ was a bold, emotional and honest collection of tracks that dived head first into the last year of heartbreak and confusion that haunted his mind.
From start to finish he brings you into this lyrical and musical world that is simply beautiful, reflective, honest and is packed with great vocals and melodies that will have you singing, dancing and crying along.
He’s matured a lot since when we were first introduced to him in 2010 as a kid singing ‘Poker Face’ on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and has really become an artist you need to re-discover because there is truly a song for everyone on this stunning record.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Yours’, ‘White Roses’, ‘Black On Black’
5. Cuz I Love You – Lizzo
Lizzo is the queen of 2019. She truly made 2019 her year and it all started with the infectious intrusion of ‘Juice’ on the third day of the year that made you go “she has a lot of points to make”.
Her major label debut album is full of sass and empowering vibes and she doesn’t hold back from making sure you know your worth. But while she does this in a playful and commanding way, she also experiments with her sound by layering unique ideas together. From the pure sass of ‘Soulmate’ to the crooning nature of title track ‘Cuz I Love You’ she immediately proves her versatility and her raw talent that rules her out as a potential “one hit wonder”.
Lizzo is the real deal and god damn, this record is good and will have you absolutely obsessed with her if you aren’t already.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Soulmate’, ‘Like A Girl, ‘Cuz I Love You’
4. Thank U, Next – Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande pulled the unexpected off at the start of the year and released a brand new album only months after releasing her fourth studio record ‘Sweetner’, and it was possibly one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
‘Thank U, Next’ is a cohesive collection of tracks that further experiments with the heavy RNB sound she’s adapted while still holding onto her pop accessibility. The hooks are strong, the emotions are high and the relatable counterparts are in tact with her lyrical serves.
From being super vulnerable on ‘Needy’ to reflecting about the stress of social media with ‘Fake Smile’ to the super sassy ‘Break up With Your Girlfriend’, she ticks all the categories and makes some huge bangers in the process.
It’s a very cohesive collection of tracks which hears her making the album that ‘Sweetner’ should’ve been. It’s sounds more confident and bold within her lyrical stances, and hears her strengthening her production to a whole new level.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘NASA’, ‘Fake Smile’, ‘Bad Idea’
3. Harry Styles – Fine Line
Harry Styles may be a late contender to the album of the year category, but he’s ultimately a very important one.
This riveting 46 minute listen hears you immersing yourself into twelve reflective tracks that embody a heavy emotional presence and breaks barriers for Styles himself. Behind all of the glitzy rock n roll production that transports you back to the 70’s and 80’s, he’s truly captured just how heartbroken and sad he’s been with some deep lyrical reflections.
‘Fine Line’ takes the listener on a very emotional journey of drastic highs and lows as he opens his heart and allows everyone into the dark revelations that are unfolding inside his head. And while he’s doing that he’s also created a record full of highly memorable moments that will come to life in his live show.
It’s nostalgic rock n roll at it’s finest, done in a way that isn’t cliche, predictable or disappointing.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘To Be So Lonely’, ‘Golden’, ‘Falling’
2. Heard It In A Past Life – Maggie Rogers
From the start to the finish of ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ I couldn’t help but be fully captivated by Maggie Rogers magical vocals, soothing harmonies and groovy production. It was a record that was intended to be experienced live and was one that had a lot of layers to be unravelled emotionally and sonically.
Some critics may say it wasn’t edgy enough, but I say it was a near perfect indie-pop record that captured a honest and vulnerable heart in it’s most euphoric and reflective moments.
This is the sort of album you want to listen to while on a long drive or while you are in transit and have a lot of genuine feels on your mind. It’s a genuine coming of age record that purely captures the emotions we all experience and has the potential to connect with everyone on some sort of level.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘The Knife’, ‘Back In My Body’, ‘Overnight’
1. Cub Sport – Cub Sport
The term “album of the year” holds a lot of weight and in 2019 Cub Sport truly deserved to receive that title with their self-titled third studio album.
When I was coming to terms with my sexuality I wish I had an album like this to console within and to help normalise my thoughts and make me feel as proud about my identity as it does now. From start to finish it is truly a celebratory affair that hears lead singer Tim Nelson telling his coming out and love story in the most intimate and euphoric way.
From the opening bars of the acapella ode ‘Unwinding Myself’, he reflects on finding that inner sanctuary within himself where he feels free and comfortable. From there the record dives into a glittery and polished synth experimentation that is the most bold and direct route into the pop realm they have ever gone before. While also experimenting with some more refined moments that are soothing and left field, they create pure magic in musical form.
This whole collection is a very strong and visual journey of love, self belief and self discovery and has become a very important album to a lot of people who need the reminder that it’s more than okay to be themselves.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Butterfly’, ‘Summer Lover’, ‘Video’