People love “Best Of” lists. Well so do we, and that’s why we’ve compiled a list of our favourite albums of 2019. While there are so many releases that fit within so many genres and sub-genres and sub-sub genres that it’s too hard to keep up with every single one of them, we do about as well as anyone could in discovering not only mainstream talents but also indie bands. While we don’t know everything, and we’re all entitled to our opinions, we surveyed our increbiel team of writers from across the globe to currate this list; our top albums of 2019.
2019 had a lot of fantastic music. Like any year, while it had its forgettable, disposable releases, it also contained a lot of gems, some of them hidden, some not. Part of the intention of this list is for you, the reader, to reflect on your own musical experiences this year, and contemplate what really touched you as a fan of music. It’s well worth your time and will only lead you to other music that you never knew you would love so much. So for you, the dedicated reader and lover of music, here goes...
Alcest - Spiritual Instinct (October 25 via Nuclear Blast)
- This is not only the most melodically beautiful album released this year, but it’s also the heaviest in the Alcest discography: the riffs and the subject matter all laden with the kind of emotional heft only Alcest can deliver. As the last notes die away, leaving pure catharsis in their wake, the soul of the listener is left feeling wonderfully refreshed, even as their ears remain desperate for more. Spiritual Instinct is practically perfect. It is the purest essence of Alcest distilled. Not a moment is wasted. Neige has bared his soul to listeners through some of the most beautiful melodies composed this year. (Nick Dunn)
Check out Alcest's music video for “Sapphire:”
Amyl and the Sniffers - Amyl and the Sniffers (May 24 via Rough Trade Records)
- It’s been a minute (for me, at least) when the hype of a band has exceeded expectations. With Amyl and the Sniffers, it started with the discovery of the Big Attraction EP and steamrolled from there. I kept expecting there’s some sort of catch to the four that would warrant a turn off with the how much publicity they were receiving before this album dropped. Nah, the mullets, hard-charging riffs, a tour with Cosmic Psychos, and a frontwoman who isn’t afraid to kamikaze herself into the front row was enough for me to warrant a “this band’s legit” statement. The media firestorm around them is justified; they’re that good, and this debut LP only solidifies that notion. (Matthew Hutchison)
Angel Du$t - Pretty Buff (March 15 via Roadrunner Records)
- Three albums in, this supergroup featuring members of Turnstile and Trapped Under Ice have proven they are more than a “side project.” Moving towards a polished sound in the vein of ’90s rock bands like The Lemonheads and New Radicals, rather than the punk sound that they started off with, Angel Du$t have perfected an uplifting sound the world hasn’t been getting enough of. (Matthew Burditt)
Badflower - OK, I’m Sick (February 22 via Big Machine)
- Residing stylistically between the fictional Stillwater and the functional Blue October, LA’s Badflower dropped a doozie in 2019. Jack White-meets-David Gilmour at a family therapy session. A brilliant record that doesn’t try too hard.
Bird And The Bee - Volume 2 (August 2 via No Expectations/Release Me Records)
- A proper follow-up to Volume 1, which was a tribute to Hall & Oates, Volume 2 is a look into the greatest hits of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. Singer Inara George brings both vocal mastery and humour, while multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, a GRAMMY-winning songwriter outside of this band, adds some interesting jazz chords and production to VH gems. Expect to be surprised at the first listen, then to be singing along and smiling on further listening. (Darren Paltrowitz)
Get acquainted with the “Slave Species of the Gods,” the latest music video to come from Blood Incantation:
Blood Incantation - Hidden History Of The Human Race (November 22 via Dark Descent Records)
- Denver’s Blood Incantation had already made a name for themselves with their astonishing debut album, Starspawn, in 2016, a modern death metal album that broke barriers, achieved major hype, and blew the underground away. Fans were eager to see how they could possibly live up to it with the follow-up, but somehow Hidden History Of The Human Race surpasses its predecessor with class and innovation. Everything from the ’70s sci-fi pulpy artwork to the proggy, cavernous depths of the cacophony within show that this band are no flash in the pan or one-hit-wonder. This is meticulously written, passionately executed, and easily a modern classic of the ghastly genre. For fans of any area within the death metal realm, this record will amaze and drop jaws. (John Philip James Morrow)
Cattle Decapitation - Death Atlas (November 29th via Metal Blade Records)
- Cattle Decapitation has burst through the metal ranks in recent years, and their striking change in sound is a direct result. The band has been known for pushing themselves out of the box since Monolith of Inhumanity, however, this feels like an entirely new level. Travis Ryan’s vocals evolved, with more melodic sections than ever and even what can be called “clean” vocals in “Time’s Cruel Curtain,” which bring an entirely new dimension, and many new possibilities, for Cattle Decapitation. Death Atlas is an amalgamation of everything the Californian grind outfit has become best known for, and then some. Standout tracks include “The Genocide,” “Bring Back The Plague,” and “Time’s Cruel Curtain,” the latter of which will give you goosebumps. (Jordan Mcevoy)
Dawn Ray’d - Behold Sedition Plainsong (October 25 via Prosthetic Records)
- With their third release, the Liverpool trio have further honed and layered their unique sound; raw, urgent black metal rendered hauntingly beautiful by a folk violin that brings a sense of medievalism to these very modern protest songs. Proudly, explicitly antifascist and anarchist, Dawn Ray’d’s well-researched poetic lyrics go beyond sloganism, and leave you in no doubt as to their message. There has never been a more important time for a band like this. (Catherine Fearns)
Dinosaur Pile Up have one dirty-awesome “Back Foot” on which to stand:
Dinosaur Pile-Up - Celebrity Mansions (June 7 via Parlophone)
- An album that clocks in at just over half an hour in length, Celebrity Mansions bestows upon us ten energetic and utterly fun rock anthems. Celebrity Mansions is album number four from Dinosaur Pile-Up, and it's an album that fits in quite well with its three predecessors, Eleven Eleven, Nature Nurture, and Growing Pains. It’s an album chock full of everything that made the alternative music of the 1990s onwards so beautiful. Think of bands like Nirvana, Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins as you play Celebrity Mansions, and it’s so undeniable where Matt Bigland, Mike Sheils and Jim Cratchley’s heads were all at in high school as they found their voices in these bands that they admire. By Bigland’s admission, Celebrity Mansions is an album he wrote more naturally, letting the songs simply come out of him, rather than sitting down and trying to write them. The result is a mixture of songs with moments of eclectic time changes, esoteric scat-rapped vocals, and blistering guitar riffs. Not only is Celebrity Mansions an addictively fun album, but it is also one of the best rock records of 2019. (Mike Bax)
Dirty Honey - Dirty Honey (March 22 via Independent)
- Crafting true blue, American-made rock n’ roll, this LA-based band has been creating an enormous buzz since the release of their self-titled debut EP earlier this year. Dirty Honey prove to certainly be the real deal, oozing the authentic spirit of rock n’ roll with the greatest of ease. Produced by Nick DiDia (Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam), this sizzlin’ six-songer has best been described stylistically (by me) as uniquely unpretentious and gloriously unapologetic. (Christopher Long)
Doll Skin - Love is Dead and We Killed Her (June 28 via Hopeless Records)
- The crunchy combo from Scottsdale hit the ground running this year with their third nut-buster. Screaming street cred, this fat-free, 11-song set delivers some of the band’s strongest tracks to date, including “Don’t Cross My Path,” “Outta My Mind” and “Homesick.” (Christopher Long)
“Rolling 7s” has been a massive success for Dirty Honey. Watch the official music video:
Dream Theater - Distance Over Time (February 22 via Inside Out )
- Dream Theater have taken strain to retain their fanbase since the departure of beloved drummer and band visionary Mike Portnoy in 2010, the three albums released since that time strong and competent (and with 2016’s The Astonishing, uber-progressive and boldly epic) but lacking the personality that Portnoy brought to the table. With Distance Over Time, we see the modern version of the band truly coming out of their shell and allowing themselves to let their talent and song-writing happen naturally without trying to please or impress anyone but themselves. It’s an absolute return to form that is both exciting and impressively Dream Theater as we know and love them, and it kicks ass from beginning to end. (John Philip James Morrow)
Fastball - The Help Machine (October 18 via 33 1/3 Records)
The latest from Fastball finds the time-tested Texas trio in fine form, still doing what they do best, producing consistent Revolver-caliber pop, rock songs that’ll zing ya ’til next Tuesday. An infectious effort, one of the year's best. (Christopher Long)
Gary Clark Jr. - This Land (February 22 via Warner Records)
- The February released This Land has everything an excellent album should have. Never comfortable sticking within one specific genre, the record blends multiple styles, maintaining your interest throughout. The album excels through Clark’s firm grasp on not only his roots and influences but his progressive approach to blending them with a current sound and political and social mood that makes a blues/soul/rock/hip hop record sound so current in the year 2019. Clark’s guitar playing prowess has been well documented, but what This Land proves is that Clark is also a splendid songwriter, creating accessible bluesy rock tunes that are pleasing to the core.
Clark truly immerses himself in his tremendous songwriting capabilities through all of the record’s fifteen tracks, and it’s not so much in his superb guitar playing where he excels the most, but in his smooth as butter, diverse and versatile vocals. Not many artists are capable of seamlessly transitioning between hip hop, hard rock, and classic soul and R&B sounding vocal stylings from song to song or even verse to verse, but Clark is not like most other artists. Ultimately, This Land proves that Clark is as close as our generation is going to get to Jimi Hendrix, Chuck D and Marvin Gaye all wrapped into one very talented young man. (Aaron Willschick)
Let's change things up with some blues alternative rock from Gary Clark Jr. and the music video for “This Land:”
Gastir - Ghosts Invited (May 31 via Season of Mist)
- Ghosts Invited, the first all-original album from Gaahls Wyrd, is more than just black metal album of the year for me: it quite easily stands out as being the potential album of the decade. Not only does it celebrate the genre-defying, experimental and often controversial musical approaches of traditional black metal, but it also supersedes these in ways that redefine what post-black metal actually means today. This record goes far beyond mere atmospheric or shoegaze elements, completely surpasses symphonic orchestrations and challenges prior conceptions of multiple vocal stylings. The album runs the emotional gamut from uplifting to enraging, from haunting to outright frightening. Even if Gaahls Wyrd never record another album, the material on Gastir, Ghosts Invited is engaging, exciting and innovative enough to offset the vast disappointment that unlikely scenario would inspire. On top of this, its vast musical range allows for a wider audience than just another tremolo-picked and blastbeaten offering could reach. (David van der Merwe)
Longwave - If We Ever Live Forever (October 25 via Bodan Kuma Recordings)
- Longwave was signed to RCA Records in the early 2000s, a product of New York City’s then-burgeoning Lower East Side scene. The band made two great albums with Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, OK Go) before disbanding around 2010. In turn, If We Ever Live Forever is the first Longwave album in more than a decade and it absolutely delivers. Expect guitar pedal heaven, emotive yet sing-along choruses, and reflective lyrics. (Darren Paltrowitz)
Mgla - Age of Excuse (September 3 via No Solace)
- This fourth full-length release, from what was supposed to be a studio project, has grown in popularity so fast that they are not able keep up with demand as far as new music is concerned. Age of Excuse has lived up to the pre-release hype and then some. Even though Behemoth is currently the usurper of Polish black metal, Mgla is now sniping at the crown for best black metal band for not only their shared homeland but for all of Europe. (Nikos Michas)
Are we living in the “Age of Excuse II”? Mgła think so:
Necropanther - The Doomed City (November 15, Self-Released)
- Colorado’s Necropanther play an exhilarating blend of sci-fi-inspired melodic death and blackened thrash, and with The Doomed City they have yet again stepped up their game. The follow-up to 2018’s brilliant Dune-based Eyes Of Blue Light is another concept album, inspired this time by Logan’s Run. The songwriting is more experimental yet still just as tight; the sound more complex, doomy and layered, yet losing nothing of Necropanther’s thrashy spirit and element of fun. Fully deserving of its rave reviews, this album should take them into the big league. (Catherine Fearns)
Opeth - In Cauda Venenum (September 27 via Nuclear Blast)
- Thirty years into a remarkable career of making definitive metal albums, Opeth knock it out of the park with their thirteenth studio effort. In Cauda Venenum is their fourth studio album over the past decade hell-bent on redefining modern prog music (much to the chagrin of some of their early adaptors). In Cauda Venenum lays it all on the line, doubling down on the incredible material found on 2016’s excellent Sorceress LP. The album begins with “Garden of Earthly Delights,” an electronic pulsing instrumental track akin to something John Carpenter might have done in the 1980s. “Earthly Delights” leads directly into “Dignity,” which is as stunning an opening song as anything on Opeth's previous twelve albums.
In Cauda Venenum progresses with songs like “Heart in Hand,” “Next of Kin,” “The Garroter,” and “All Things Will Pass,” all amongst the very best tracks the band has ever attempted. Sweeping vocals and intricately layered guitar moments captivate both mind and emotion every step of the way. The members of the band have outdone themselves in every way on In Cauda Venenum. They’ve even delivered the album sung in both Swedish and English languages. Truly one of the best albums to grace 2019, In Cauda Venenum should be required listening for any music fan. (Mike Bax)
Opeth speak a “Universal Truth” with their latest music video:
Possessed Revelations Of Oblivion (May 10 via Nuclear Blast)
- I’ve inherited a lot of different sounds and I would rather listen to bluegrass and blues over Bathory or Belphegor... BUT! The one band that still makes my head swivel exorcist style running to the record store with a crisp twenty-dollar bill is Possessed. Thirty-two years after the last gorgonian release of The Eyes Of Horror, Jeff Becerra storms God’s gates again with the unholy blasphemy which is Revelations of Oblivion. I want to shout out to Gary Clark Jr’s This Land, Duff McKagan'sTenderness and Gatecreeper'sSonoran Depravation as contenders to the eternal flame but Lucifer once again takes the devil's cake with Possessed's Revelations of Oblivion. (Micha Kite)
PUP - Morbid Stuff (April 5 via Rise/Little Dipper)
- PUP proves that they’ve mastered the art of brutal honesty, this time revealing an all-too-familiar generational depression, bridging a gap of relatability. Morbid Stuff slaps hard, but now, on their third LP, PUP has created something more approachable, seemingly taking the intimidation out of punk. In a world that fixates on a picture-perfect existence, PUP’s brevity is their magic power, and it’s a comfort that I never ever want to end; “just ‘cause you’re sad again, it doesn’t make you special at all.” (Danica Bansie)
Rival Sons - Feral Roots (January 25 via Low Country Sound/Atlantic)
- Rival Sons sixth studio album, Feral Roots is a close to perfection as you can get. Mixing hard rock with a touch of blues flawlessly creating a cocktail of sound utilizing the best elements that both genres have to offer. In the band’s ten-year career they have continually sharpened their craft which has garnered them new fans whilst long-time fans are rewarded for their dedication to the group. The cherry on top here is also the albums incredible artwork, it is so stunning that a physical copy of this record must be owned! (Damian FitzGerald)
Watch the video for Rival Sons' “Too Bad:”
Sirsy - Like a Drum (April 9th, Independent)
- Based out of Upstate New York, Sirsy has been building a well-earned rep as one of the hardest-working acts on the U.S. indie rock scene since the dynamic duo first packed up the ol’ stretch van and hit the open road back in the early 2000s. Heart-stopping songs written and performed by two crazy kids sent by God to make the world a more beautiful place.
Skillet - Victorious (August 2 via Atlantic)
- Dropping one beefy metallic anthem after another, Victorious sounds so big, it’s almost overwhelming, like an urgent soundtrack to a blood sport championship, a match-up where the good guy is destined to win, despite getting beat to shit along the way. Victorious hits hard and sounds fresh, proving to be yet another musical “victory” for a veteran band that clearly has plenty of tread, cred and facial hair to spare.
Sofy Major - Total Dump (March 31 via Deadlight)
- There’s a question that rarely, if ever, gets asked. If it has, it has gone on unanswered, until now. The question in question is, what do you get when the scuzzy, Lower East Side noise rock of Unsane drives Total Destruction’s blood-splattered Caddy into the heart of early ‘80s Van Halen before doing anti-power steering donuts all over prime Seattle grunge? 2019 saw France’s Sofy Major not only taking on that head-scratcher but delivering an authoritative answer with the start-to-finish brilliance of their fourth album. (Kevin Stewart-Panko)
Stray From The Path – Internal Atomics (November 1 via UNFD)
- The world is an angry place right now so, while Rage Against The Machine get their shit together, now is the perfect time for a band like Stray From The Path. Internal Atomics rages from the offset with each track a tense, seething slice of metallic hardcore. Turn on the news at any point or listen to any of the garbage spouted by almost every politician and you’ll just want to scream. There could be no better soundtrack to help you vent than Internal Atomics. (Graham Finney)
Get ready for some scorching intensity from Stray From The Path and their music video for “Actions Not Words:"
Tom Keifer - Rise (September 13 via Cleopatra)
- After six years of relentless touring and brand rebuilding, Tom Keifer returned in 2019 with a solid sophomore set. With Rise, Keifer succeeds in proving (once again) to be an artist who knows no creative boundaries and who remains in a league of his own.
The Fantastic Plastics - Malfunction (October 4, Independent)
- Described by The Plastics themselves as oozing “spastic analog synths, frantic guitar hooks, and paranoid vocals,” Malfunction is guaranteed to wake the B-52s-loving, Gary Numan-craving spirit animal that sleeps within all good, God-fearing folks. By preaching from a pulpit in pop’s past, The Fantastic Plastics succeed (once again) in creating a fun record that reaches far into the future.
Thy Art Is Murder - Human Target (July 26 via Nuclear Blast)
- The Aussie metal scene is simply bursting with quality bands and, sitting nicely at the top of the underground pack is death metal ragers Thy Art Is Murder. Crushing from start to finish, this modern death metal masterpiece has it all CJ’s vocals, as expected, are absolute filth, there is mosh parts, there is groove parts, there is aggression, there is outright brutality and every song on here leaves your head feeling like it has been pummelled by a sledgehammer. (Graham Finney)
Tool - Fear Inoculum (August 30 via Volcano/RCA)
- After starving their audience for over thirteen years, Tool dropped an album in 2019 that is almost 90 minutes long; was released in super-expensive special edition CD-only format; and managed to kick Taylor Swift out of the number one position on the Billboard Top 200 charts its first week of release. And the kicker is Fear Inoculum remains undeniably Tool-esque. The band didn’t really attempt anything overtly different on their newest release. They all simply made another excellent Tool album. What’s even more curious is that Fear Inoculum is essentially six songs (that all run past the ten-minute mark) with an assortment of musical prompts that stem them together. “Fear Inoculum,” “Pneuma,” “Invincible,” “Descending,” “Culling Voices,” and “7empest” formulate the key meat on Fear Inoculum, and they are six utterly graceful movements of music. In this current musical climate of music that requires very little by way of musical talent to ’make it,’ Tool have delivered an ALBUM. An album that will both mystify and exhilarate the most jaded of music fans out there. Celebrate 2019 with this gem of a rock album, easily one of the best of the year. (Mike Bax)
Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride (May 3 via Spring Snow/Columbia)
- And just like that, it’s 2007. I have an urge to wear Sperry Top-Siders and eat falafel in Washington Square Park. Vampire Weekend returned this year with the album Father of the Bride, sounding like openers for the Grateful Dead’s ’66 tour. This is VW’s most impressive record yet. The group has tapped into a sweet spot that gleams hope within highlighted intricacies. The flavouring on “Bombina,” makes it impossible to sit still, a soulful honesty on “Unbearably White” is infectious. Combined with collaborations, Danielle Haim on “Hold You Now” and “Married in a Gold Rush”, and Steve Lacy on “Sunflower” and “Flower Moon” where he contributes eargasm ‘70s groove guitar, Vampire Weekend, lead by Ezra Koenig, provides a feeling of nostalgia within thoughtfulness, exactly at the right time. (Danica Bansie)
Enough of this hard stuff for a moment. Check out the music video for Vampire Weekend's “This Life:”
White Reaper - You Deserve Love (October 18 via Elektra)
- You Deserve Love marks White Reaper’s major-label debut, and the songs on the album continue down the path forged on The World’s Best American Band (2017), and White Reaper Does It Again (2015). There is a natural progression into tighter and poppier songs on You Deserve Love, yet the band somehow still manages to hold it all together by pulling in elements of the garage punk kinetics that oozed through the majority of the songs on Does It Again. “Saturday,” “1F,” “Might Be Right,” and “You Deserve Love” are some of the very best songs the band has written to date. White Reaper has always blended an element of lawlessness and partying to their craft. At any given time, you might hear moments of Cheap Trick, The Cars, or The Ramones on their tracks, and that’s about as good as it can get. You truly deserve to listen to You Deserve Love, an album that will go down as one of the best of the calendar year 2019. (Mike Bax)
White Ward - Love Exchange Failure (September 20 via Debemur Morti Productions)
- Building upon their highly-lauded 2017 debut full-length Futility Report, Ukrainian experimental black metal quintet White Ward have outdone themselves with follow-up Love Exchange Failure, an album that punishes and caresses equally, the latter being delivered via the wonderfully noir tones of saxophonist Dima Dudko, whose presence turns a great post-black metal album into a genre-defying masterpiece. The build-ups combine with the ever-present atmospherics and black metal melancholia throughout to create a breathtaking set of songs that are both masterfully crafted and a joy to experience. (Jim Parry)
Wild Side - Who The Hell Is Wild Side? (May 7 via Triple-B Records)
- This Niagara hardcore group has been grinding for years now and their work is finally paying off. Easily the best hardcore album of the year, the band’s debut is littered with riffs, solos and more two-step parts than any sane human being needs. From the “Supercharged” intro to the abrasive but dancy closer “Past, Present, Future,” Wild Side has put on display why they are “the baddest band on the planet.” (Matthew Burditt)
Yak - Pursuit of Momentary Happiness (February 8 via RAK Records)
- The sophomore album from the Wolverhampton-hailing band Yak took many creative turns from their debut, Alas Salvation. After spending both time (and much of the album’s budget) in Australia, Yak frontman Oli Burslem was burnt out in many aspects of his life; but creativity was not one of them. Living out of his car back in the UK during the recording sessions, all the pieces of Pursuit of Momentary Happiness came together. Signed on by Jack White’sThird Man Records and produced by Spiritualized’sJason Pierce, Yak created an album that combines the best of both of those worlds. Stuffed with heavy riffs, blaring horns, and airy melodies, this album shows a wide range of Burslem’s songwriting talent. Bringing together garage rock with ’90s British space rock sounds, Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is a must listen to fans of Jack White, Spiritualized (Pierce even has featured vocals on the closing track), or just good music in general. While there have been many great albums in 2019, this Yak record takes the cake, icing, and whole damn serving tray. (Josh White)
YYNOT - Resonance (September 19, Independent)
- This mighty American alliance perhaps can be described best as “the classic Rush you get (and crave) when you no longer can get classic Rush.” A gorgeous slab of solid rock. A truly extraordinary band with truly extraordinary songs. Frontchick, Rocky Kuner, is an angel sent by God and the track, “Wildest Dreams” can cure cancer.