2019 was a huge year for music (let’s be real every year is). Artists were redefining their sound, exploring new concepts through their lyrics, and adding superior visual content to match. From the most independent DIY acts to emerging artists releasing their first label backed work to mainstream stars breaking the status quo. Week after week (not always consistently) we updated our New Impressions feature and playlist with some of our favorites. Now it’s time to narrow all of those lists down to some of the best and brightest, including some that never made it on to our playlist, but are worth mentioning. Here’s our list of favorite releases for 2019, in no particular order.
Jade Bird – Jade Bird
The UK singer/songwriter’s full length debut is one for the ages. Her unique emotional Americana sound filled the stages of many festivals this year. She supported Hozier on the spring leg of his Wasteland, Baby! Tour and toured with Father John Misty and Jason Isbell soon after. Her gritty sound has earned comparisons to top artists like Alanis Morrisette and Brandi Carlile.
The Band CAMINO – tryhard
The Band CAMINO took over this year. Their record deal with Elektra Records and their largest headlining tour to date were just some of the highlights. Their tryhard EP was a notable one for the band. Even though it featured a lot previously released singles, it also included some new fan favorites like “Haunted” and “What I Want”. This year also they became a crowd favorite across festival stages.
Maggie Rogers – Heard It In A Past Life
Maggie Rogers has had one of music’s best success stories in recent years. From being a humble NYU student to completely tearing it up on stages around the world. Her keen ear for production and songwriting made Heard It In A Past Life a dynamic and awe-inspiring record from start to finish. Her ability to make listeners feel carefree while also tapping in to deeply personal sentiment is one of a kind.
Far Caspian – The Heights
Far Caspian have grown as songwriters since their first release Between Days. Their release this year The Heights highlighted a new side of the band as they produced new lo-fi tinged tunes. The band actively incorporated more electronic elements into their songs. The songs feel graceful and delicate while still carrying some weight to them. This feeling stays true to the underlying theme of the record which is embracing your twenties and everything that comes with it, the good and the bad. The heights and the lows. Far Caspian are succeeding on streaming services, but 2020 will surely be a huge year in terms of growing their audience. As for right now, they are still the UK’s best kept secret.
The Maine – You Are OK
The Maine are experts at rebranding with each record and offering fans a fresh glimpse into their current state of being. Their 2019 release You Are OK touches on messages of hope, loss, and self-acceptance while still blazing through with the band’s anthemic sound and gritty tones. They continued their domination of the independent sphere by hosting their own festival, Sad Summer Festival, venturing out on several headliners, and offering fans countless free meet and greets. The Maine continues to hold true to their personal value of treating their fans as more than just consumers. You Are OK is the kind of pivotal album that is guaranteed to change lives well-beyond its release date.
Beabadoobee – Loveworm
Bedroom pop’s saving grace, Beabadoobee, deserves every bit of recognition she received this year. Her soothing vocals add a delicate touch to her gentle and honest songs. She’s only been playing guitar since she was 17, but her natural ear for music comes through in her well developed songwriting which reaches a new level with each new release. She opened for Clairo on her North American Immunity tour and released several other projects including Loveworm (Bedroom Sessions) and a set of Spotify singles. She’ll be supporting The 1975 on the UK leg of their tour in February 2020.
Harry Styles – Fine Line
Harry Styles swooped in just a few weeks shy of the end of the year and released one of the best albums of the year. His eclectic style has been a focal point on this record. As he continues to grow into his own and promote his message of self-acceptance and treating others with kindness, the music strongly reflects his personal struggles and views of the world. Harry Styles is a boy band success story and the perfect example of what magic can exist when nurturing your own creativity and vision.
Juice – You Are Simply Magnificent
Juice released their first EP since their 2018 Workin’ On Lovin’ release. Their latest endeavor You Are Simply Magnificent received rave reviews and was supported by an endless string of tour dates in the summer and well into the fall. The EP perfectly displayed the band’s vulnerable side as it tackled loneliness, love and self-acceptance while still highlighting their tremendous musical talent.
Maisie Peters – It’s Your Bed Babe, It’s Your Funeral
Easily one of the best electro-pop records of 2019. Her down to earth songwriting coupled with synth laden pop melodies creates of whirlwind of high energy tunes. Her record is an easy sing along that will also have you feeling confident and ready to move on from any heartbreak. A very underrated pop act of the year and sure to be an emerging artist in the US in 2020.
Wallows – Nothing Happens
Wallows have spent most of the past year on tour and hitting the festival circuit. Their quirky indie style makes them a hit with younger listeners, but still relatable to older listeners with an interest in lo-fi cuts. The band has been together for nearly a decade despite having performed under different names. The record is loaded with infectious energy and witty lyrics. The title of the record in particular takes an intriguing philosophical spin. In an interview once Braeden Lemasters described it as the way everything feels like the end of the world to you, but then nothing happens. That’s a great perspective to reflect on as you listen to this record.
Lowen – Only In My Dreams
After some soul-searching and re-branding, Lowen emerged as a promising up and coming artist. Her Only In My Dreams EP was a harrowing tale of grief, love, and finding yourself through life’s twist and turns. Her standout songwriting made her an impressive artist and talking to her about everything that led up to the creation of the record was even more impressive. This EP was an easy pick for our albums of the year. Learn more about Lowen from our interview.
Stay Here – Grow
Stay Here left their dedicated listeners waiting months for this release after teasing new music during their live shows. They finally released their full length record Grow earlier this month. The record features the lead single “Sunlight” feat. Briana Koser and previously released tracks such as “Piedmont” and “Waleska”. Grow also shows a new side of the band that emphasizes they are more than just a DIY pop-punk band. Their versatility leaps out on songs like “Family” and “Found”. Catch Stay Here playing new songs off of Grow at the second annual Big Gig in Atlanta, GA at the Masquerade. More details here.
Lewis Capaldi – Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent
Lewis Capaldi completely took over this year. While breaking records overseas in the UK and breaking out in the US as “America’s Sweetheart”, his powerhouse vocals with heart wrenching, painfully honest lyrics made him a one of a kind act of the year. His self-deprecating, but wholesome humor on and off stage made him a personable artist earning the devotion of many adoring fans. He’ll be hitting the road with Niall Horan in 2020.
Emarosa – Peach Club
Emarosa did a completely 180 with their Peach Club release. The record stood out as a transitional moment for the band. The release impacted their live show and visual content just as much. The band fearlessly took on the alt-pop sphere with a seamless and dynamic record that truly put a spotlight on Bradley Walden’s insane vocals. The band traveled around the U.S. for their nearly entirely sold out Peach Club Tour this fall. 2019 is a strong indicator of big things for Emarosa in 2020.
Lostboycrow – Santa Fe (Live)
Lostboycrow had a year of growth and new adventures. From his full length release Santa Fe to massive tours. While Santa Fe itself was an impressive release, the re-imagined live versions of select tracks highlighted a new side of Lostboycrow. Learn more about the record and who Lostboycrow is as an artist from our interview here.
Twin XL – How To Talk To Strangers
Twin XL were another big breakout act of the year. They toured for the first this time year with huge bands like The Mowgli’s, Jukebox The Ghost, and The Maine. Their synth infused indie-pop tunes were instantly addicting for hundreds of new fans. They even managed to hit multiple cities for sold-out headlining dates. Their How To Talk To Strangers EP was just a taste of what the band can offer. After announcing their signing to Sony RED and confirming a massive 2020 winter tour, we’re excited to hear a full length release from Twin XL hopefully in the springtime.
You would need to devote an entire day to listen to all of these albums if you haven’t yet. We made it easier for you! Listen to our Year End Impressions 2019 playlist featuring some of the best off of these records. Let us know what your favorites are! Tweet us @ImpressionsZine.