2019 was another great year for music lovers. Vinyl is expected to outsell CDs for the first time in decades, proving there's still a market for the old-school appreciation of analog, even in an era where streaming dominates how consumers listen. If the year had a theme, it was female singer-songwriters of all ages from Los Angeles. Seventeen-year-old Billie Eilish's first full-length record emerged from her bedroom and took over every nook and cranny of pop culture. Thirty-four-year-old Lana Del Rey made her best music yet. And forty-three-year-old Jenny Lewis created timeless classic rock with the help of timeless classic rockers Ringo Starr and Benmont Tench.
Here are my ten favorite releases of 2019 in alpha order:
Big Thief--Two Hands Big Thief released two great albums in the space of five months; May's UFOF was impressive, but October's Two Hands was a tad more rocking and beguiling
Billie Eilish--When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Eilish's debut LP was an unforgettable alt-pop hybrid that deservedly catapulted her into the mainstream consciousness.
Lana Del Rey--Norman F***ing Rockwell With the help of producer Jack Antonoff, Del Rey elevated her game. "Venice Bitch" was the most chill nine-minute track ever, a musical ocean breeze that blew by seemingly in an instant.
Brittany Howard--Jaime The Alabama Shakes leader took a bold step toward psychedelic funk on her first solo album, a deeply personal story of the racism she faced as a biracial child in the South and the loss of her influential thirteen-year-old older sister to cancer when she was eight.
Michael Kiwanuka--KIWANUKA Evoking the political activism and musical craftmanship of Marvin Gaye, Kiwanuka's third album was his most accessible work to date.
Jenny Lewis--On The Line Lewis adds unforgettable melodies to stories that make each song a mini-novella. My favorite album of the year.
Cass McCombs--Tip of the Sphere McCombs creates modern Americana music that evokes the Garcia-Hunter Grateful Dead songbook.
The Specials--Encore The decades may have slowed the rhythm a little, but The Specials haven't lost any of their trademark political cynicism or brutal honesty.
Sharon Van Etten--Remind Me Tomorrow Van Etten's fifth record deservedly found her new fans; "Seventeen" and "Comeback Kid" were Bowie-esque glam-pop, and "Hands" was one of the most haunting songs of the year.
Vampire Weekend--Father of the Bride Through twenty tracks, Father of the Bride delivered highly infectious pop-rock that mined their usual global rhythms while still allowing Ezra Koenig to expand his musical horizons.
The next five: Better Oblivion Community Center -- Better Oblivion Community Center; Big Thief -- UFOF; The National -- I Am Easy to Find; The Raconteurs -- Help Us Stranger; Wilco -- Ode to Joy