How does one even begin to summarize an entire year in music? It’s certainly not easy to digest, and we can’t cover it all, but we gave it our best shot. This week, we counted down our favorite albums and songs of 2019, an all-over-the-map year for music that was beautiful and exciting nonetheless. Be sure to stay tuned for all our end-of-the-year coverage as the month goes on, but don’t forget about the new music, too. This week, we received an early Christmas present in Georgia Maq’s surprise-released solo debut, plus we heard some delightful new singles courtesy of Hinds, Porridge Radio and our favorite new Texas collaboration, Leon Bridges and Khruangbin. We’re also continuing our “No Album Left Behind” series in which our critics share overlooked albums from throughout 2019. Read on for all the best new music from this week, plus our best albums and songs from November and from the whole year.
Georgia Maq: Pleaser
Camp Cope singer and guitarist Georgia Maq (nee Georgia McDonald) delivered a very pleasant surprise this Thursday morning: Her debut solo record Pleaser, now streaming everywhere and available for physical preorder via Run For Cover Records. Maq, Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and Sarah Thompson released their sophomore studio album How to Socialise and Make Friends in 2018, earning a spot on Paste’s list of the year’s best records. Unlike the Melbourne trio’s politically charged, garage-friendly indie rock, Pleaser finds Maq expanding into synth-based indie-pop territory, crooning hypnotically about matters of the heart over thumping drum machines and electronic soundscapes, with nary a guitar to be found except on the album’s opener, “Away From Love.” Pleaser is “a love album”, Maq explains: “I think the main theme is love, obviously, all kinds of love. Love that you walked away from so you could love yourself, unrequited love, forgiving love, love with no point to it.”—Scott Russell
Hinds: “Riding Solo”
The “Riding Solo” video (dir. Keane Pearce Shaw) finds Carlotta Cosials, Ana Perrote, Amber Grimbergen and Ade Martin having an extremely stylish get-together in the middle of nowhere, posing, strutting, snuggling, dancing and joy-riding their way through the unforgiving wilderness while Cosials and Perrote trade vocals dripping with swagger and attitude. It all culminates in a fiery, cathartic climax as Hinds cut loose, their four voices becoming one. They may be “Riding Solo,” but they’re doing it together, loneliness and boredom be damned. —Scott Russell
Leon Bridges & Khruangbin: “Texas Sun”
Leon Bridges and Khruangbin first crossed paths as the result of a joint tour in 2018, and discovered they had a similar laid-back musical ethos. Texas Sun was the instrumental trio’s first foray into writing with a vocalist, and results on the title track are cozy and seamless. “We try not to have too much of an intention, because it gets in the way of what the music wants to do,” says Khruangbin bassist Laura Lee. “If you just let the music do what it’s supposed to do, it will reveal itself. We tried to take that same approach with Leon. For us, it was opening up our world to have another person in it. But all of it feels like Texas to me.” —Amanda Gersten
Porridge Radio: “Lilac”
“Lilac” is a surrender to the uncertainty of love, and a reaffirmation that its messy realities are worth trying to parse. Against warbled guitars, ascendant strings and marching drums, Dana Margolin screams into the void, “I can never seem to find it,” with the kind of passionate exhaustion that sounds like she’s ready to throw herself into the sea. Despite feeling stuck, she ultimately reaches the conclusion that if kindness and love aren’t noble causes, then nothing is noble. “I don’t want to get bitter, I want us to get better,” Margoli sings as she sides with humans’ better nature and delivers one of the most intense vocal performances of the year. The strings and guitars cry out and match Margoli’s existential urgency, resulting in a late song of the year contender. —Lizzie Manno
THE PASTE PODCAST
The Paste Podcast #34: The Best Albums of 2019, Blind Boys of Alabama
The Paste Podcast is hosted by Paste co-founder and editor-in-chief Josh Jackson. The weekly podcast covers music, movies, TV and everything else you can find at PasteMagazine.com.
This week, Paste music staffers Lizzie Manno and Ellen Johnson discuss the 10 best albums of 2019, from Faye Webster to Weyes Blood.
And the Blind Boys of Alabama drop by the Paste Studio in Atlanta to play “God Knows Everything,” as well as to sing back up on a Kristen Englenz track from her upcoming 2020 album, ingenue.
Listen below, or better yet, download on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify or the new app from our podcast partner Himalaya, and subscribe!
Pedal steel pro and Grammy-nominated guitarist Robert Randolph stopped by the Paste Studio in New York this week for a fortified jam session. The impressive player treated us to a few songs from his 2019 album Brighter Days, including “Baptise Me” and “Strange Train.”
Pop-rockers Colony House are gearing up to release their third LP, Leave What’s Lost Behind, on Jan. 24. The full four-piece stopped by our NYC studio this week to play two songs from the record, “Original Material” and “Looking For Some Light,” plus a cut from their 2017 album Only The Lonely, “You Know It.”
The 50 Best Albums of 2019
Cue the panic. It’s not only the end of another year, but it’s also the end of another decade, and there’s plenty of cause for a freakout. There’s the stress of the holidays, the stress of time passing too quickly, the continuous stress of climate change and our withering Earth, and let’s not forget the stress of this seemingly never-ending political hell-scape we’ve been suffering through for more than three years. 2019 was a weird culmination of those stressors, but it was also, maybe, a bellwether for change. There’s the hope of 2020, when we’ll elect new public officials. There’s the hope of a new start, even if it’s just because of a human-made time construct called “decades.” There’s Baby Yoda. And there’s also a whole lot of incredible music coming at us all the time, which is certainly another reason to remain optimistic about humanity. We try our best to cover the albums worth listening to throughout the year, a task that can feel especially daunting when morale is down and we’re looking to artists for answers. Luckily, there’s plenty to choose from, so much so that our list of the 50 best albums of 2019 could easily be for 100. In fact, when voting on the year’s best, Paste staffers casted votes for more than 280 albums. Here, we’ve listed the 50 albums with the most votes, a list that doesn’t serve genre or economics or any other overarching factor. It’s just the music we loved this year. We hope you love it too. —Paste Staff
The 50 Best Songs of 2019
Ranking albums is one thing—there are only so many LPs to choose from. But songs? The options are truly limitless. Who’s to say that these are really the 50 best songs of 2019? Maybe the actual golden herd is hidden in some dark corner of Bandcamp, still unheard by those of us who are often caught up in the frenzy of album cycles and press releases and Spotify recommendations. But as there’s no possible way to hear every single original song created by humans in a year, we’re left with the task of sorting through the ones that did catch our ears. Many of the tunes you’ll find here appear in albums on our companion best of the year list; many do not. And that’s the beauty of singles. Some of these songs will eventually find a home within a forthcoming LP, while many are destined to remain orphans forever. But we love them all the same. In yet another stressful year where we felt constantly strained and controlled by content coming at us from all directions at all times of the day and night, these are the 50 songs that stuck out from the noise, as voted by the Paste staff. May they bring you some peace, comfort, laughter or whatever it is you need going into the next decade. —Paste Staff
Why Was Pop Music So Obsessed With Mercury in Retrograde This Year?
What was maybe a few decades ago considered a kooky fad is now a full-blown millennial lifestyle. Whether you take the stars seriously (like one Phoebe Bridgers) or you’re just curious (like me), you probably flirt with a horoscope every now and then. The internet makes it virtually impossible not to—just about every lifestyle brand on Instagram cashes in on astrology memes (not to mention the accounts that are solely dedicated to the cause), while Twitter is positively aflutter with sign jokes. Astrology in music is not necessarily anything new, but why did Sturgill Simpson, Maggie Rogers, Tacocat and Jenny Lewis all reference Mercury’s retrograde specifically in their songs this year? Do they know something we don’t? Is Mercury’s backwards slide actually indicative of a larger impending disaster? Is there life on Mercury, and is that lifeform Baby Yoda (unlikely)?! Or did this Godforsaken year just feel like one long, never-ending Mercury-in-retrograde (very likely)??! Your guess is as good as mine. But if there’s an option to blame my problems on a planet as opposed to a person, as there will be again when Mercury slips back into retrograde on Feb. 17, I’ll probably take it. Or you could just be like Bridgers’ fellow boygenius member Lucy Dacus, who isn’t concerned in the least about some tiny gray planet. As she sings on “Fool’s Gold,” she’s content to just blame unfortunate happenings on “the full moon.” To each their own! —Ellen Johnson
The 10 Best Albums of November 2019
We know you’re probably exhausted after combing through all the best of the decade and best of the year lists, but we wholeheartedly promise that this best of the month list is worth your time. November is essentially the last gasp for air in the album release schedule, apart from the few December LPs, Christmas records or perhaps a surprise-released bombshell. Several of these November albums were among our favorites of the year, especially Lucy Dacus’ timely 2019 EP and FKA twigs’ fascinating art-pop masterwork MAGDALENE. Check here for Paste’s final monthly albums list of 2019 and this decade. —Paste Staff
The 15 Best Songs of November 2019
Last week, we counted down the best Christmas albums of all time, because holiday music can very often be horrible and we are trying to help you out. Last month also brought some new holiday music our way, and great news: It’s not awful! Kacey Musgraves recorded a new Christmas classic, “Glittery,” as part of her Amazon special, and the melody has been twinkling in our heads so much we included it here among all the regular old non-holiday songs. Among those is a daring new song from Soccer Mommy, HAIM’s display of their folksier side, Pillow Queens’ message of fraternal devotion and Moses Sumney’s study of nature and the body. Hear all those and more here. —Paste Staff