Clash Albums Of The Year 2019

Clash Albums Of The Year 2019

40 LPs that made a difference this year...

Christmas is a natural time to pause, and to reflect.

As has become tradition, it’s a time to take stock, to look back on the past 12 months and marvel at its achievements, and shake our heads at the transgressions and failings.

It’s been – by any standards – a stellar year for new music. The splintering of genre lines is affording new space for artists to exploit, with British music in particular grappling with that ‘Wot Do U Call It?’ atmosphere on a daily basis.

The album format has been stretched to its limitations, but still it stands, a potent vehicle for fresh expression. 2019 has brought stunning returns, fine debuts, unexpected triumphs, and genre-defying points of inspiration.

Across the past few weeks Clash staff and writers have been debating the year’s finest achievements – here’s our list of 2019’s best albums.

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40. Ariana Grande - thank u, next // LIVE REPORT

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39. Brittany Howard - Jaime // REVIEW

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38. Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe // REVIEW 

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37. FKA Twigs - Magdalene // REVIEW

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36  JPEGMAFIA - All My Heroes Are Cornballs // REVIEW

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35. Rapsody - Eve // INTERVIEW

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34. Ari Lennox - Shea Butter Baby // REVIEW

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33. Rex Orange County - Pony // REVIEW

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32. Pivot Gang - You Can't Sit With Us // REVIEW

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31. Moor Mother - Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Holes // REVIEW 

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30. Aldous Harding - Designer // REVIEW

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29. Nérija - Blume // REVIEW

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28. JME - Grime MC // REVIEW 

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27. Denzel Curry - ZUU // REVIEW

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26. Floating Points - Crush // REVIEW

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25. Angel Olsen - All Mirrors // REVIEW

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24. Freddie Gibbs And Madlib - Bandana // REVIEW

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23. Swindle - No More Normal // REVIEW

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22. Lana Del Ray - Norman Fucking Rockwell! // REVIEW
 
 
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21. AJ Tracey - AJ Tracey // REVIEW
 
 
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20. Stormzy - Heavy Is The Head // REVIEW
 

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19. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen // REVIEW

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18. James Blake - Assume Form // REVIEW

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17. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow // REVIEW

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16. Skepta - Ignorance Is Bliss // REVIEW

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15. Danny Brown -  uknowwhatimsayin? // REVIEW

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14. Solange -  When I Get Home // REVIEW

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13. Sam Fender -  Hypersonic Missiles // REVIEW

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12. slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain // REVIEW

slowthai marked his industry arrival with the brilliantly outspoken, politically driven debut. The MC toys with his flow across this album – in places displaying an unorthodox delivery – but throughout he’s totally magnetic, commanding listeners’ full attention.

As a whole, ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ is ambitious and laced in artistic expression – songs such as ‘Missing’ combine slower drum 'n' bass soundscapes with British hip-hop – while the likes of Skepta and Jaykae offer up premium contributions: many have called ‘Inglorious’ Skepta’s best collaboration of the year.

Elsewhere, homage to grimes pioneers can be found on both ‘Drug Dealer’ and the album’s opener – where slowthai references ‘Boy In Da Corner’.

Maybe this is a knowing hint that his project is another UK icon in the making. Nicolas-Tyrell

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11. Ezra Collective - You Can't Steal My Joy // REVIEW


This year Ezra Collective broke through from the UK jazz scene into the mainstream with their brilliantly confident ‘You Can’t Steal My Joy’.

It blend sounds from the Caribbean and African diaspora into a London melting pot, making for an addictive sound. ‘Red Whine’, in particular, embodies a fresh, new take on jazz – with its ska-reggae stylings – while ‘Quest For Coin’ folds in UK funk, Afrobeat, and almost-hip-hop. As if that wasn’t enough multiplicity ‘Sao Paolo’ brings a Latin-tinged vibe, and the record is punctuated with collaborations from fellow young Brit luminaries Jorja Smith and Loyle Carner

This album marks the point where Ezra Collective – not just content with UK jazz fans – started causing major waves across the nation, and the world. Narzra Ahmed

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10. Orville Peck - Pony // INTERVIEW 

“Country music is the only major genre that hasn’t yet embraced… alternative lifestyles. Mainstream country, by which I mean to say ‘Nashville’ country, is just misogynistic pop music

But Wit, wordplay, even a bit of camp, are all part of the Southern country I grew up with. My favourite artists all did it, just in different ways. Dolly Parton – always tongue-in-cheek, always willing to make fun of herself. Jonny Cash himself talks about personal, sentimental things, but they’re obviously pretty tall tales, you can tell they’ve been embellished. He just created this character of being an outlaw and going to prison, how true it is doesn’t matter, you connect anyway because he’s convincing. And funny.” Orville Peck

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9. Michael Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka // REVIEW 

‘Kiwanuka’ is an inspired, groundbreaking piece of work, seeing British-Ugandan artist Michael Kiwanuka exploring and embracing who he is – a journey of both self-discovery and self-acceptance. The project’s full of soul-drenched songs, some with a funk element, powered by production from Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton and British hip-hop producer Inflo, this making for an expanse of different sounds to match Kiwanuka’s wide-ranging lyrical inspirations.

This is undoubtedly a timeless album, one made with impressive confidence. Narzra Ahmed

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8. Sudan Archives - Athena // REVIEW

‘Athena’ isn’t just an album to be listened to, it’s to be experienced. While this is arguably true of all music, this album is filled with deeply textured soundscapes that feel contemporary but also from the not-too-distant future. The beats are crisp and reference R&B/beat culture, but are backed by gossamer strings and elegant synths.

Then over this Sudan Archives' vocals either float gracefully in like an apparition, or come at you like a banshee. Her ability to incorporate avant-garde motifs and textures is brave, as the songs could be overloaded with too many ideas, but her deft vision means they are totally balanced and invigorating to listen to.  

When Sudan was a little girl she thought she could rule the world. Given the strength of ‘Athena’ it probably won’t be long before she is. Nick Roseblade

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7. Dave - Psychodrama // LISTEN

'Psychodrama' is a tour de force, bookended by those titular tracks: opening cut 'Psycho' and finale 'Drama'.

Guests include a potent verse from J Hus, while the album as a whole underlines just how versatile Dave can be, while allowing for immersive lyrical threads to run from track to track. Robin Murray 

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6. Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel // REVIEW  

“A sell-out is someone who becomes a hypocrite in the name of money," insists Grian Chatten on ‘Checkless Reckless’. Seeing the world through Dublin’s finest exports Fontaines D.C. is a raw, gritty and aesthetic experience – ‘Dogrel’ mirrors the climate in Ireland by depicting beauty in a harsh reality.

From the shouty opening on ‘Big’ and drunken poetry of ‘Dublin City Sky’, to the Joy Division-like atmosphere on ‘The Lotts’ and the brisk New Order-like ‘Television Screens’, much ground is covered. The compulsive nature of the lyrics is undeniable, but ‘Dogrel’ is political, and this album presents authenticity in the truest sense.  Susan Hansen

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5. black midi - Schlagenheim // REVIEW

black midi’s reputation goes before them. A stunning, seismic live force, their intensely improvisatory approach and supreme technical musicianship allows them to meld together post-punk, speed metal, avant jazz, and more, into the molten shards of metallic sound.

An arresting, astonishing experience, ‘Schlagenheim’ is a vital, stunning, puzzling album, one that demands to be heard. Robin Murray

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4. Billie Eilish - WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? // REVIEW

When an album begins with someone audibly removing their Invisalign, you know you’re in for an experience and that’s exactly what we got with Billie Eilish’s full length debut.

With tracks such as chart hit ‘bad guy’ exhibiting her distinctive way of combining darkness, angst and a carefree nature, whilst also receiving the ultimate accolade of our time, being ‘meme-ified’, Eilish has cemented her position as pop music’s latest heavyweight talent. Jumi Akinfenwa

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3. Little Simz - Grey Area // REVIEW 

“Committed” is the word that immediately springs to mind when describing Little Simz’s ‘Grey Area’ - every line is delivered with clarity, conviction and with full commitment to its meaning and sentiment.

It explores racism, empowerment, love, hate, power and self-doubt expertly, sealing Simz as among the best lyricists operating right now. She also shows herself to be a feminist icon for the modern ages, with ‘Grey Area’ as her statement of intent. Start with ‘Venom’ or ‘101FM’. Very loud. Chris Spring

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2. Tyler, The Creator - IGOR // REVIEW

‘Igor’ sees Tyler, The Creator in a more reflective and, dare we say, mellow mood . The trademark visceral beats, scathing lyrics and the general feeling of anger and aggression that peppered his previous albums have been replaced with slower beats and irresistible soul hooks. Ultimately ‘Igor’ shows a maturity that his previous albums have been accused of missing.

Tyler has grown up a lot over the past decade, mostly in public, and this is on display on ‘Igor’. At times this feels like the definitive breakup album. But given Tyler’s almost schizophrenic ability to talk to, and about, himself - is he breaking up with his past? Nick Roseblade

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1. Kano - Hoodies All Summer // REVIEW

 

Three years after his MOBO-winning album ‘Made In The Manor’, Kano is back with his most important piece of work to date: ‘Hoodies All Summer’. His sound and message evolve with each release, this one being less personal and more communal with its tone. Even saying so himself; “[Made In The Manor] was about me, this album is about ‘us’.”

It serves as a record that gives a voice to inner-city communities. Whilst the lyrics are direct and in your face, the production is just as precise and thought out, flowing with Kano’s quick pace and ability to rapidly switch up the heat, or dial down the mood.

Kano is someone who succeeds in consistently creating full-bodied pieces of art, and with this project he has surpassed himself. Joe Hale

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