Secat’s Top 40 Albums of 2019

2019 was one of the years in music of this decade. Here are my 40 favorite albums of the year, ranked:

((author’s note: Each album brings its own unique strength to the table that I feel urgently justifies your listen: this is the “X factor” point.))

 

40. Body Meat – Truck Music

X Factor: simultaneously glossy and rough; the sensation of looking directly at the sun, or sticking your hand into a tank full of underfed eels

Favorite Tracks: “Combo,” “Metal Gear,” “Nairobi Flex”

 

 39. Joyero – Release the Dogs

X Factor: the loneliest reaches of lushness; a torn paper bag trying desperately to fill itself with air (read more)

Favorite Tracks: “Alight,” “Steepest Stairs,” “Salt Mine”

 

 38. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

X Factor: the world’s most appropriate soundtrack for standing on a mountaintop whilst wrapped in a duvet; able to make the dullest of moments feel like a Cinematic Event; my dad’s personal favorite of ’19 (love u dad)

Favorite Tracks: “Lark,” “All Mirrors,” “New Love Cassette”

 

 37. MIKE – Tears of Joy

X Factor: low-fidelity isolation; relentless creative energy that strains to breathe beyond the walls it has erected around itself

Favorite Tracks: “Goin’ Truuu,” “It’s Like Basketball,” “Stargazer, Pt. 3”

 

 36. Caroline Polachek – Pang

X Factor: somehow makes cheesy slide guitar-core glissando twang sound cool as SHIT; some of the best vocal performances of the year

Favorite Tracks: “Pang,” “Ocean of Tears,” “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” “Door”

 

 35. Mavi – Let the Sun Talk

X Factor: thrillingly dense and poetic; contains multitudes; never fails to be rewarding on relistens

Favorite Tracks: “Daylight Savings,” “Self Love,” “Sense”

 

34. Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe

X Factor: charmingly useless skits; the very poppiest and rockiest pop-rock you ever did hear

Favorite Tracks: “In Your Head,” “Angels,” “Baby Blu”

 

 33. Duster – Duster

duster

LP + Digital download available through Mudd Guts

X Factor: the true buzzer-beater record of 2019; deliciously fuzzed and distressed slowcore; a thousand times better than a post-19-year-hiatus project has any right to be

Favorite Tracks: “Chocolate and Mint,” “Damaged,” “Ghost World”

 

32. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.

X Factor: the distilled essence of a light breeze; startling, potent lyricism

Favorite Tracks: “Contact,” “Orange,” “Terminal Paradise”

 

31. Jesca Hoop – Stonechild

X Factor: simultaneous discomfiting blends of nurturing and haunting; some of the most beautifully and tastefully restrained production choices of the year

Favorite Tracks: “Footfall to the Path,” “All Time Low”

 

30. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar

X Factor: Real Tender Folk Banger Hours; a swell soundtrack for crushing autumn leaves beneath the heel of your boot (read more)

Favorite Tracks: “Hope,” “Southern Sky,” “Gretel”

 

29. DJ Haram – Grace

X Factor: inspiringly sparse; quietly revolutionary

Favorite Tracks: “Interlude,” “Body Count”

 

28. Aleksi Perälä – Sunshine 3

sunshine3

LP + Digital download available via Bleep

X Factor: inventive microtonality; impossible-to-remember track names; somehow made me care about IDM again

Favorite Tracks: “NI-L56-18-07447,” “NI-L56-18-07450”

 

27. Ayankoko — Kia Sao ກ້ຽວສາວ

X Factor: pleasantly off-the-wall; consistently surprising; above-average quantity of BWOMP sounds

Favorite Tracks: “Pambuko Reakt,” “Downsides”

 

26. Topdown Dialectic – Vol. 2

X Factor: improves & expands upon the ideas of its predecessor to frequently awe-inspiring effect; the future soundtrack of How It’s Made, Cyberpunk Edition

Favorite Tracks: “A1,” “B4”

 

25. Aldous Harding – Designer

X Factor: wait did she just sing about making out with a stork

Favorite Tracks: “The Barrel,” “Weight of the Planets”

 

24. Empath – Active Listening: Night on Earth

X Factor: summons forth inexplicable urge to rent out a barn in the countryside, kick the shit out of some haybales, and flop around in the mud

Favorite Tracks: “Pure Intent,” “Roses That Cry”

 

23. Vanishing Twin – The Age of Immunology

X Factor: psychedelic swirly-whirly loveliness transmissions from Planet Stereolab-Adjacent

Favorite Tracks: “You Are Not an Island,” “Magician’s Success,” “Backstroke”

 

22. Joni Void – Mise en Abyme

X Factor: threadbare digital scrapbooks collaged from dial tones and loose analog matter; possibly the best text-to-speech monologue ever recorded

Favorite Tracks: “Safe House,” “Deep Impression”

 

21. Dax Pierson – Live From Oakland

X Factor: intensely chilly idiosyncratic genre-blends; pleasingly warped and abstract, yet deeply personal

Favorite Tracks: “Macrobid,” “Treading Water”

 

20. Special Request – Vortex

X Factor: ballbusting throwback club tracks; pounds and throbs like violent hearts; stays crunchy in milk

Favorite Tracks: “Sp4nn3r3d,” “Fahrenheit 451”

 

19. Sudan Archives – Athena

X Factor: malleable, ductile, symphonic; springs back when pressed down (read more)

Favorite Tracks: “Confessions,” “Black Vivaldi Sonata,” “Iceland Moss,” “House of Open Tuning II”

 

18. Cherushii & Maria Minerva – Cherushii & Maria Minerva

X Factor: bubbly, unhurried exuberance; makes me feel like a waifish young ingenue dancing through the dawn at a European nightclub

Favorite Tracks: “This Must Be the Place,” “Nobody’s Fool [Vocal Version]”

 

17. Sault – 5

X Factor: deftly straddles line between “hip, soulful funktronica” and “iPhone commercial music”

Favorite Tracks: “Up All Night,” “Masterpiece”

 

16. Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿

uknow

Multiformat purchase available through Warp Records

X Factor: has forced hundreds of English-speaking music journalists to hunt through the Microsoft Word Symbols tab for the upside-down question mark; 1hr30min Comedy Central standup special successfully condensed into a cool half-hour of confident, easygoing verse

Favorite Tracks: “Dirty Laundry,” “Belly of the Beast (feat. Obongjayar),” “Best Life,” “Negro Spiritual (feat. JPEGMAFIA),” “Combat”

 

15. Carla dal Forno – Look Up Sharp

X Factor: essence of quiet post-teatime nap under shady tree with bluish tint

Favorite Tracks: “I’m Conscious,” “Took a Long Time,” “Push On”

 

14. Kilo Kish – Redux

kilokish

Available through all streaming services

X Factor: freakpop for bank heists, cliff diving and fist fights

Favorite Tracks: “Bite Me,” “Spark”

 

13. Tony Njoku – Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama

X Factor: disorienting, kaleidoscopic aural haze; prismatic roller-coasters of tumult, beauty and light

Favorite Tracks: “Disconnected,” “Furious”

 

12. Nivhek – After Its Own Death / Walking in a Spiral Towards the House

X Factor: enough reverb to drown a man; noises that warp and stretch themselves in your ears according to your mood; willowlike, bending but not breaking; cute doggy on album cover

Favorite Track: “After its own death: Side B”

 

11. ODAE – Ataraxic

X Factor: heartrending, interstitial, and sharply textural; journeys without destination; rivers that toss tumbling shards of gravel from mountain top to ocean’s edge; made by my partner, ODAE, whom I love more than anything in the world.

Favorite Tracks: “Patienec,” “Cascade,” “Passion”

 

10. Dorian Electra – Flamboyant

X Factor: LGBTQ+ empowerment; whip sound effects; the singular pleasure of singing along to the lyrics on a Saturday night alone in your bedroom and having a very good time being every part of yourself

Favorite Tracks: “Daddy Like,” “Emasculate,” “Man to Man,” “Flamboyant”

 

9. Xuxa Santamaria – Chancletas D’Oro

X Factor: glittery, ebullient club abandon x deep, rewarding lyrical concepts; danceable, huggable, lovable, washable (read more)

Favorite Tracks: “White Pine,” “Color Of The Dark,” “River Neva”

 

8. Telefon Tel Aviv – Dreams Are Not Enough

X Factor: crystallized dream-states; laden with feeling; drips like honey onto the ears; pleasant track-titles-as-poetry gimmick

Favorite Tracks: “i dream of it often:,” “a younger version of myself,,” “arms aloft,”

 

7. Boreal Massif – We All Have an Impact

X Factor: dark, monumental; trip-hop odysseys through climatological wastelands

Favorite Tracks: “Low Forties,” “Angel of Dub,” “The Brink of Extinction”

 

6. Loraine James – For You and I

X Factor: sprawling and chaotic, yet not overthought

Favorite Tracks: “London Ting // Dark as F**k,” “So Scared,” “My Future”

 

5. Yakui – Imni

X Factor: inimitability; idiosyncrasy; life-source; like licking old sparkplugs or chewing on aluminum foil (read more)

Favorite Tracks: “Esky,” “Radial Hardcore,” “Beltgate,” “Interface”

 

4. Girl Band – The Talkies

Girl_Band_The_Talkies_1290_1290

Multiformat purchase available through Rough Trade Records

X Factor: will yell at you loudly enough to leave you devoid of all feeling; excellent background noise for staring at the wall and being upset about something

Favorite Tracks: “Going Norway,” “Laggard”

 

3. Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love

X Factor: breathing in residual clouds of ground-up, arpeggiated stars; love is not the only answer, but it is the final answer (read more)

Favorite Tracks: “Lions (feat. Vivian Wang),” “The Practice of Love,” “Ashes to Ashes”

 

2. Kim Gordon – No Home Record

nohomerecord

Multiformat purchase available through Matador Records

X Factor: audacity; variety; strength (read more)

Favorite Tracks: “Paprika Pony,” “Cookie Butter,” “Hungry Baby”

 

1. default genders – main pop girl 2019

X Factor: painfully evocative nostalgia; feeling, breathing, thinking, saying; buoyancy; self-sustaining rave-pop ecosystems; the redemptive, enduring power of kitsch

Favorite Tracks: “when it’s over [ft. no rome],” “pharmacoma (for ben dietz),” “black pill skyline,” “heart emoji xo,” “sophie (emphasis mine) [ft. beth sawlts]”

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Jayda G – Significant Changes

Girlpool – What Chaos is Imaginary

Nonlocal Forecast – Bubble Universe!

ENA – Baroque

Sofia Kourtesis – Sofia Kourtesis

Sneaks – Highway Hypnosis

PTU – Am I Who I Am

Anthony Naples – Fog FM

33EMYBW – Arthropods

Xosar – The Possessor Possesses Nothing

Robag Wruhme – Venq Tolep

 

See ya in the new year, goobers!

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