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30 Albums From 2019 You Should Hear

Madeleine King

There was a lot of good music that came out in 2019. If you're like us and anxiously awaiting the new Tame Impala album which is forthcoming in early 2020, here are the best records to listen to between now and then. 

Our Studio One hosts Cece Mitchell, Tony Dehner and Mark Simmet joined Charity Nebbe on our show Talk of Iowa to talk about these albums. Find the podcast of that show here.

Tony Dehner's Top Albums Of 2019

Jenny Lewis – On The Line
Jenny Lewis’ music gets better and more personal (yet relatable) with every album. Every song on this album is an instant classic, and she’s backed by an impressive array of musicians including Beck, Don Was, and the one and only Ringo Starr.
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Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center
The first (and hopefully not last) album by songwriters Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers lived up to its high expectations. It’s fun and life-affirming music, and their friendship comes through.
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Shovels & Rope - By Blood
The husband-and-wife duo of Michael Trent and Carrie Ann Hearst have made another great, foot stompin’, backyard sing-along album, with lyrics and themes that are a little weightier than the band has gotten into in the past.
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Wilco - Ode To Joy
One of America’s most essential bands is back with their most compelling album in years. In trying times, Wilco choose to see the hope that we find in each other.
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Citizen Cope - Heroin and Helicopters
Clarence Greenwood, aka Citizen Cope, combines alternative rock and soul with his unique voice to create a record full of anthems. The album’s title comes from a piece of advice given to him by Carlos Santana: “stay away from the two H's – heroin and helicopters.”
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Orville Peck - Pony
This is a debut album from the openly gay, masked singer who performs under the pseudonym Orville Peck. On it, he shows off his country-influenced sound and his powerful, Roy Orbison-style vocals.
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The National - I Am Easy To Find
The long-running band The National teamed up with a roster of talented female vocalists, including Gail Ann Dorsey, to record this hauntingly beautiful record. It was released in May, but it’s perfect listening for cold, rainy days.
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Yola - Walk Through Fire
This British singer grew up poor in a house where music wasn’t allowed. Nonetheless, she's made a living as a backing vocalist and released her debut album this year on Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label. After one listen, you’ll find it hard to believe these songs haven’t been around forever.
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The Highwomen - The Highwomen
The country supergroup of Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby and Maren Morris was formed in response to male-dominated country radio. The album touches on this, and it explores all kinds of themes. There are incredible vocals throughout the record. 
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Adia Victoria - Silences
Victoria’s swampy, gothic blues sound is drenched in chugging electric guitars that show off alternative rock influences as well. Her lyrics are sharp and incisive which is a nod to her other passion - writing poetry.
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Mark Simmet's Top Albums Of 2019

Van Morrison - Three Chords And The Truth       
On the world’s musical radar for over fifty years and possessing one of the all-time great rock voices, Van Morrison has nothing to prove.  Yet he continues to write and record quality songs in his own soulful Celtic rhythm and blues style, still in fine voice at age 74.
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Various Artists - If You’re Going To The City:  A Tribute To Mose Allison    
A jazz songwriter, vocalist and pianist with a strong foundation in the blues, Mose Allison left us a wonderful catalog of songs.  The artists on this tribute album respect the intelligence and wit of the songwriter in a fine selection of his songs.
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David Huckfelt - Stranger Angels        
David Huckfelt, who is an Iowa native and member of the currently Minneapolis-based band The Pines, wrote the songs on this album while living in solitude on Isle Royale.  It’s a midwesterner’s heartfelt meditation on spirit and nature.
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Toro Y Moi - Outer Peace 
Toro Y Moi (born Chaz Bundick, recently legally changed to Chaz Bear) has something to say about the search for identity.  He also DJs under the name Les Sins and has something to say about the exploration of new sounds in dance music.
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!!!  - Wallop         
The band !!! justifies their confusing and awkward band name which is pronounced "chk chk chk" with an album’s worth of smart danceable synth-pop songs.
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The New Pornographers - In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights           
“Dreamlike and on the rush” is an apt description of the state often evoked in the listener by this talented Canadian band.  Frontman Carl Newman’s songs are like dreams propelled into soundscapes by the collective members.
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Beck - Hyperspace        
A more mature Beck Hansen no longer exhibits the madcap energy of his classic work in the 1990s, but the man retains the ability to create impressive musical productions.  He’s so confident that he can deliberately utilize outdated and “cheesy” synths on some of these songs, and we can only marvel at his cutting edge coolness.
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Jade Bird - Jade Bird           
This is the debut album from this intelligent songwriter and powerful vocalist from England.  Jade Bird does Americana like a Brit who loves the form. Some Iowans might remember her from her performance at Hinterland this year. 
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Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen           
This is a prime example of a record that needs to be listened to in its entirety to be really felt.  Written some time after the death of his son, Cave channels his grief into a meditative search for meaning in life and death.
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Thom Yorke - Anima            
While it’s not Radiohead, Yorke has come up with a solo album that can stand alongside the work of that venerated band.  Key to this is the participation of longtime Thom Yorke and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich.
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Cece Mitchell's Top Albums Of 2019

Brittany Howard – Jaime
The debut solo album from Alabama Shakes’ frontwoman Brittany Howard is a smooth and soulful reflection on childhood, race and self-identity. It combines funky, sometimes experimental instrumentals with beautiful vocal performance from Howard. This record is reminiscent of Howard’s releases with Alabama Shakes but is put together in a way that is fully her own. 
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Kishi Bashi – Omoiyari
Kishi Bashi’s fourth studio album "Omoiyari" delivers the grandiose composition yet light-hearted indie sound we’ve come to know and love from the composer/multi-instrumentalist. In it, lyrical statements about current affairs in America are made through observation of the past. Ishibashi traveled around the country to various Japanese internment camps in preparation for this album and created a songfilm out of the experience. 
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Tyler, the Creator - IGOR 
Tyler, the Creator’s fourth studio album is genre-defying, combining elements of neo-soul, funk, R&B, and more to create a rap album far from formulaic. This brilliantly produced record features star-studded guests like Playboi Carti and Kanye West alongside a gritty, candid style. Listeners get a more intimate view of the rapper on this album. 
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Anemone - Beat My Distance
Montreal dreampop quintet Anemone’s third release features poppy lyrics in both French and English, irresistible dance tunes, and distinct disco influence. I love the dreamy quality of Chloé Soldevila’s vocals backed by psychedelic, repetitive synth and keyboard tracks throughout this album. 
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Lizzo - Cuz I Love You (Deluxe)
Minneapolis singer/rapper/instrumentalist Lizzo took the music world by storm in 2019. Her sleeper viral hit “Truth Hurts” was at the top of Billboard's Hot 100 for seven non-consecutive weeks. Her third studio album, "Cuz I Love You," is full of infectious sing-along lyrics about love, self-love and empowerment. This record is a brilliant mix of rap, pop, and R&B sounds. Lizzo excels in both her soulful vocals and catchy rapping, as well as her precise performance on flute.
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Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
British singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka’s third release combines neo-soul and psychedelic influences into an intelligent and entertaining composition. The album has a distinctly informed modern vintage sound filled with memorable, musical moments. This album's thoughtful production quality is impressive. What seems like a fun and laid-back record at first listen, however, contains  troubled yet powerful lyrics. 
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Crumb – Jinx
"Jinx," the debut full-length from Boston psych rock band Crumb, pulls listeners into a trance. Their low-fi sound is not only hypnotic but also musically interesting as the band incorporating jazz influence throughout the short record. Lila Ramani’s casual vocals paired with the easy-listening instrumentals elevates "Jinx" to the ranks of an instant stoner/slacker rock hit. This is an irresistibly chill album.
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Wallows - Nothing Happens
Wallows’ debut album combines essential elements of both college rock and indie pop to create an energetic and catchy record. Some members of the band have acting chops in addition to being musicians (notably guitarist/vocalist Dylan Minnette, known for his role as Clay on 13 Reasons Why), yet Wallows doesn’t sound like a commercial byproduct of the entertainment industry. Nothing Happens achieves entertaining musicianship and definitive hipster cred through its infectious, what I would consider “classic indie” (hello, early 2010’s) sound. 
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Tijuana Panthers - Carpet Denim
The surf rock outfit Tijuana Panthers’ seventh release delivers a more retro, imaginative approach with this album than their earlier work. The sound varies from track to track. Some songs are more poppy and others more garage rock, yet all maintain a laid-back, surf vibe. 
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Peach Pyramid - Bright Blue
Under-the-radar Canadian indie outfit Peach Pyramid delivered summery sweetness with their 2019 EP, "Bright Blue." These six psychedelic dreampop tracks juxtapose melancholy melodies alongside fun pop-inspired ones. Co-produced by  The New Pornographers’ Kathryn Calder, Bright Blue is irresistibly cool.
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What were your favorite albums of 2019? Tell us what we left off this list! Tweet @IowaPublicRadio #iprmusic.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.