After celebrating the best music, film, and television of the decade in November, we now turn to celebrating 2019. We start today with our Top 50 Albums of 2019.
I still believe in albums.
After nearly a decade of being told albums, as a format, are dead, dying, or rapidly circling the drain, they’re still here. That’s not to say that the industry hasn’t changed. Sure, bands can’t bank on album sales anymore to sustain a living, and a person wearing buds on the train is more likely to be skipping through a playlist than to be immersed in an album proper.
I get all that. I also understand that the album has shrunk over the past two decades to account for economic realities. And, yes, we’ve also seen records bloat the last couple of years as artists, usually rappers, try to game the system by throwing an extra dozen tracks (or “units”) on an album to be downloaded. All’s fair in love and charts.
It might not be the golden age of the album anymore. I’ll admit that. But 2019 assured us that the album is a far, confident cry from deceased. Billie Eilish and Lizzo showed us multiple ways to cram banger after banger onto a disc while aspiring to something greater than a mere collection of singles. Tyler, the Creator and Angel Olsen, long celebrated by our staff, took their studio recordings to staggering new levels this year. We got to see Sharon Van Etten reinvent herself on an album that hasn’t dulled an iota all year long, and Jamila Woods put out one of the most thoughtful and creative “concept” albums of this, or any, decade.
How audiences buy and consume music will always change. But as long as artists, like the ones mentioned above, turn to the industry’s traditional long-form format to express themselves, expand their sounds, and reflect on the world around them, consider us ready to sit down and listen front to back.
And, as always: no skipping.