The 30 Best Albums of 2019 (So Far)

Treble staff
Best albums of 2019 so far

In six months, we’ve listened to a few hundred albums, written about nearly as many, and already have a way-too-long list of things we need to catch up on in the coming months. But for now, let’s take stock of everything that was already great. Here are the 30 Best Album of 2019, so far.


best albums of 2019 so far BaronessBaroness – Gold & Grey

(Abraxan Hymns)

Gold and gray are contrasting hues, one glimmering and brilliant, the other muted and drab. And by and large, Baroness’ fifth album is mostly the former—it’s by far their most psychedelic and expansive, delving into territory that previous albums only hinted at, and quite a bit that they never even suggested (strings! pianos! blast beats!). But ultimately, this just-long-enough-to-warrant-a-second-LP album is all about balance, about juxtaposing the driving riffs of “Front Toward Enemy” with the moody dirge of “Pale Sun,” about the explosive climax of “Seasons” against the haunting stillness of “Emmet Radiating Light.” Baroness continue to evolve and redefine themselves as a band, looking well beyond the confines of a tried-and-true post-metal lexicon in their pursuit of art-rock triumph. – Jeff Terich


Big Brave A Gaze Among Them review Album of the WeekBig|Brave – A Gaze Among Them

(Southern Lord)

Big|Brave is the rare band whose music is founded on a mission statement of sorts: To make the richest sonic world they can in just one chord. It’s perhaps an oversimplification of their approach, but it’s also not inaccurate. The five tracks on A Gaze Among Them are minimalism made maximalist, the drones at the center of their compositions merely foundations for bigger and grander ideas, which in this case adds up to their strongest compositions to date. From the opening anthem “Muted Shifting of Space” to the gradual and explosive climax of “Holding Pattern” on up to the dystopian drone of “Sibling,” Big|Brave have achieved a new artistic peak. – Jeff Terich


Black To Comm seven horses for seven kings reviewBlack To Comm – Seven Horses for Seven Kings

(Thrill Jockey)

Like any noise artist worth his salt, March Richter’s been putting out dark and abrasive sounds for much longer than most of us realize, his debut dating as far back as 2006. But the German electronic composer reached a new level of sonic terror with Seven Horses for Seven Kings, a breathtaking symphony of screeches and thumps, a veritable horror movie in sound. The level of suspense almost never chills, though there are moments of brief respite, and the intensity level is pretty much always in the red. But within that framework of static, distortion, jump-scares and existential fear is a stunningly crafted sonic design that rewards close listens, even if it means knowing the slasher’s about to emerge any moment. – Jeff Terich


Brutus Nest review Album of the WeekBrutus – Nest

(Sargent House)

Belgian trio Brutus’ debut album Burst was released in 2017 to a fairly humble reception, though it’s not because greater celebration wasn’t warranted. But that’s OK—the band was building up to something, and that something was the dynamic, emotional post-hardcore of Nest, an album that takes stylistic detours through punk, shoegaze, post-metal and a handful of other styles in its 11 climactic anthems. Tracks like “War,” “Fire” and “Cemetery” are some of the most alternately visceral and graceful moments in heavy music this year. I don’t expect this is a band who will be playing small stages for much longer. – Jeff Terich


best albums of 2019 so far Chemical BrothersChemical Brothers – No Geography

(Astralwerks)

For a techno outfit long given to flights of psychedelic fancy, No Geography might be Chemical Brothers’ tightest album since their Exit Planet Dust debut helped define big beat. They stomp hard with “Bango,” skate ’til dawn with “Got To Keep On,” groove and coo with “The Universe Sent Me,” and promote yet another winning sampled hook in “Mad as Hell.” It’s an LP that never stays in one place for too long (like a compilation) yet manages to expertly tie together what might otherwise be the loosest of threads (like a continuous mix). – Adam Blyweiss


best albums of 2019 so far Cherry GlazerrCherry Glazerr – Stuffed and Ready

(Secretly Canadian)

One of the reasons why grunge made such a splash in the ’90s was that it hit the sweet spot between pissed-off and extremely fun. Listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” again (not that you need to—you’ve memorized it) and you can almost glaze over the so-called angst in favor of what’s essentially a really loud, really good pop song. Cherry Glazerr fill entire albums full of such things—all 10 tracks on Stuffed and Ready are an absolute blast, but make no mistake, singer Clementine Creevy is very pissed off. Lines like “Who should I fuck Daddi? Is it you?” are dripping with venom, and rightfully so, given the band’s own documented sexism on the road and the fact that toxic masculinity is as rampant a disease as ever. But Stuffed and Ready is the kind of catharsis that cuts two ways—it’s pointed and unapologetic, but feels really, really good. – Jeff Terich


best albums of 2019 so far Cinematic OrchestraThe Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe

(Ninja Tune)

Under the veteran leadership of Jason Swinscoe and with string arrangements by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, To Believe reinforces TCO’s status as a go-to source for cool music. They haven’t just found the sweet spot between big-band jazz and synthesized atmosphere, they are the sweet spot. Assisted by brassy, soulful guest vocalists on soft-focus songs of love and loss, the album’s password is “lush”—thick and comforting like a healthy lawn, a warm quilt, a resort with all the amenities. Five studio albums in 20 years may not feel like enough, but The Cinematic Orchestra are a case study in quality over quantity. – Adam Blyweiss


The Comet Is Coming Trust in the Lifeforce reviewThe Comet Is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery

(Impulse!)

At this stage it’s a pretty safe bet that London saxophonist is going to have some involvement in at least one of the best albums of the year for the foreseeable future. After delivering back-to-back masterpieces with his spiritual jazz outfit Shabaka and the Ancestors and a much funkier, Mercury Prize-nominated affair with the Afro-Carribean protest jazz of Sons of Kemet, Hutchings took to outer space with his more electronics-heavy outfit, The Comet Is Coming. Still jazz, still fluid and organic, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery shows what happens when boundaries are removed and the only roadmap worth following is the groove. – Jeff Terich


Denzel Curry Zuu review Album of the WeekDenzel Curry – ZUU

(Loma Vista)

Geography and biography go hand-in-hand in hip-hop, from NWA’s South Central and Wu-Tang’s Shaolin to the ATLiens invasion and Millidelphia. Where such roadmaps have often been drawn across full albums and even entire careers, on ZUU Denzel Curry needs barely 30 minutes to pay thorough homage to the Miami neighborhood that sparked his come-up with Raider Klan and inspired 2018’s troubled magnum opus TA13OO. His is a thrilling reminder of how rap thrives on performers’ pride of place, even when the love is tough love or from a measured, tempered distance. – Adam Blyweiss


Devil Master Satan Spits review Album of the WeekDevil Master – Satan Spits on Children of Light

(Relapse)

Metal’s a genre whose history is rich in camp, but which doesn’t often enough embrace it. Devil Master are the rare exception that seem to have far too much fun doing what they’re doing to care about whether or not their music should be taken seriously. It should, but not because it speaks to some profound greater truth—it’s simply some of the best heavy metal being made right now, swirled with an evil blend of hardcore and deathrock to make it standout that much more. There are more technically proficient metal bands, and there are more conceptually compelling metal bands, but I can scarcely think of any that’ll be on repeat as often this summer as Devil Master’s latest. – Jeff Terich


Diat Positive Disintegration review Album of the WeekDiät – Positive Disintegration

(Iron Lung)

Mostly Australian, Berlin-based post-punk group Diät don’t do that much press and aren’t booking regular world tours, which seems to only add to the dark mystique of their music. Their aesthetic is one of varying shades of gray, of a kind of perpetual Cold War austerity—like The Cure’s Faith, but louder and angrier. Throughout the eight tracks on Positive Disintegration, Diät pick apart the toxicity of nationalism, apathy and various other problems that the earth seems to continuously vomit up every news cycle, and they do so with some of the most urgent, agitated post-punk since before Killing Joke decided to go full industrial metal. It’s at once vital and peculiar, the kind of album worth revisiting not just because it sounds great, but because you’re pretty sure you might have missed something. – Jeff Terich


best albums of 2019 so farStella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs

(Secretly Canadian)

Rarely has a debut album felt so independent, strong and necessary. On Beware of the Dogs, Australian by way of Wales singer songwriter Stella Donnelly grapples with Australian politics, abortion, and dirty old men. As important as it is for her to touch upon these topics, though, Donnelly proves herself musically, whether it be her ability to belt us all into goosebumps (“Beware of the Dogs”) or using a cheeky guitar lick to call out her former employer (“U Owe Me”). With her witty jabs at society and ability to persevere, Donnelly’s future is sure to be full of even greater albums. – Virginia Croft


best albums of 2019 so far Inter ArmaInter Arma – Sulphur English

(Relapse)

Anyone who might have called Inter Arma either the best contemporary black metal or sludge metal band wouldn’t necessarily have been wrong but they wouldn’t have exactly been right, either. With their fourth album, Sulphur English, they only complicate the distinction, delving into death metal, psychedelic folk and various other corners of heavy music, all showcasing the best songwriting of their career. A band like Inter Arma aren’t here to cater to anyone strictly in it for the riffs—they’re creating some of the most emotionally gripping, melodically powerful heavy music today, and it both feels and sounds like nothing else. – Jeff Terich


best albums of 2019 so far LomeldaLomelda – M For Empathy

(Double Double Whammy)

The new Lomelda record is very good. It’s only 16 minutes and you should put it on. M for Empathy is a collection of fleeting vignettes about empathy and intimacy, but are “mostly things said or shoulda said, heard or shoulda.” It’s “too long” to be an EP and “too short” to be an album, but it just gets right up there and says “I don’t care” and then it hits you with an apologetic gut punch, profusely apologizing mid-swing. There are standout tracks but it’s pretty much one song and that one song is absolutely beautiful. M for Empathy will be fondly looked back on, a potentially overlooked gem I know I’ll revisit years from now. – Patrick Pilch


Aesop Rock Tobacco new album Malibu KenMalibu Ken – Malibu Ken

(Rhymesayers)

Hip-hop has long past graduated from the era of mandatory “realness,” despite how often oldheads might be on some back-in-my-day shit. Though never let it be said that Aesop Rock doesn’t keep it real—real weird. Ian Mathias Bavitz has always been on his own hazy wavelength, one that his Malibu Ken collaborator Tobacco is likewise tuned into. The fruits of their beat-laden acid trip is a half-hour of woozy, wobbly and utterly compelling psychedelic hip-hop that shines a light on the personal (the mushroom-as-depression metaphor in “Tuesday”), the grotesque (a true-life account of eagles eating a cat on a livestream in “Churro”), and the macabre (teenage killer Ricky Kasso’s tale retold in “Acid King”). Dropping the needle on this is a guaranteed trip through some kind of looking glass, but there are no dormice or white rabbits, other than the ones being devoured live on a 24-hour cam. – Jeff Terich

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View Comments (9)
  • I’d like to start off by acknowledging the amazing job you guys are putting up of covering music from all around the globe. about the list, I know it’s not an easy task to round a whole half ass year – even if in the mainstream, this year was kinda of a let down. e.g., Deerhunter,Ex Hex,Vampire Weekend and (Eventually) Sleater-kinney(?) – to just 30 defining statements. luckily, You guys are not that type of website that concentrate all its efforts on exposed materials, but more the one that also delive into the unknown and pay homage to the obscure. Although, I find the list a bit conservative this time, but gladly will try to catch with Faye and Tr/st’s records.

    When it Comes to the picks, There were no surprises of not giving a spot to Fountain D.C. (After all, Their style never was a one for you). But what shocked me the most is not even (remotely) mentioning the brilliance of Fat White Family or Finlay Shakespeare’s Lps in one of your monthly roundups. (unlike, Big Thief and Sharon Van Etten, who – In my opinion – deserve to be on the list, but again, they’ve been shown some love previously.)

    Won’t lie, there’s one super pick that irritate me much, which is… Beware Of The Dogs. Not that it isn’t a decent record. In fact, Stella is a fine Singer/Songwriter who managed, for better (or worse), to showcase her talent in this album through the 13 tracks, and whom likely would get some recognition through other websites/publications (npr,Spin,Stereogum,…). yet I still believe the centerpiece of the record “Boys Will Be Boys” failed miserably to get some sense out of the message she was trying to reach to the listeners and got trapped in some trendy social loop, and when you compare it to other albums that evokes the same style but on a much better level whether It is musically, lyrically or thematically, be it… Crushing, Placeholder or Compliments Please, the comparison seems a stale one and the record appears and does lacks on every department.

    (could flag the same disapproval towards Brutus, but I do appreciate the aggression and brutality they contain within their punching music, also someone could actually root for a band that blinds both White lung and Halestorm in a cool way (hope I’m not alone on that); but they do need to step up their lyrical content).

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