Undoubtedly their most experimental release to date, ‘I Am Easy to Find’ is a dense and explorative record that pushes The National’s sound in enticing new directions with collaboration and community at its very heart. More mellow and cerebral than the records which came before it, it sees Berninger share vocal duties with a cast of female vocalists such as Gail Ann Dorsey, Sharon Van Etten, Kate Stables and more who have clearly invigorated the band’s creative process. Without losing any of the bite and richly melodic textures that attracted us to them in the first place, they’ve somehow made their sound even more widescreen; enhanced by soaring orchestral arrangements and the arrival of new voices. An album more about mood and emotional intensity than it is about big hooks, it’s a compelling return from the band that finds them at their most self-assured.
Julia Jacklin’s ‘Crushing’ is a masterclass in narrative songwriting. Unpacking the emotional aftermath of a complex break-up, the singer’s voice sounds clearer than ever as she turns her gaze inwards and offers up a concise exploration of minds, bodies and break-ups without fuss or fanfare. Lushly woven melodies reveal vintage Americana influences as Jacklin wears heart on her sleeve against delicate guitars and piano balladry. Quietly defiant and cathartic, it’s a strikingly candid return from the singer which reveals vast emotional depths and incredible lyrical prowess.
Dermot Kennedy’s debut release ‘Without Fear’ landed like a rocket earlier this year. Nobody seen it coming. Cutting his teeth as a busker, the Dublin singer-songwriter is at his best on ‘Outnumbered’- a song of pure beauty. His tone and vocals throughout the record are harrowing, emotional and filled with pain at times. He’s mastered the production, with a spirit bursting out of every tune showcasing the path Kennedy has taken to get to this monumental point. ‘Without Fear’ is a true work of class.
Three years after ‘Songs for Our Mothers’, Fat White Family remain an unstoppable force on their third album ‘Serfs Up!’. Sucking us even further into their nihilistic world, persistence is rewarding when it comes to their latest effort as they explore a large amount of tonal variety – prowling disco, swampy, hallucinatory jazz, rollicking glam and more clatter out of the speakers across 11 cryptic tracks. And despite being touted as the album to push the band’s sound outward, blowing away the dankness and decay of their previous records, their music still makes your shoulders tense while their lyrical bite continues to resonate beneath lush strings and sax flourishes. It’s a surprising yet compelling return from one of the UK’s most notorious outfits.
Her fifth album, Angel Olsen creates some of her best work in ‘All Mirrors’, redefining recognisable genres and styles and making them her own. She makes them fresh. She makes them new. Olsen is an artist who has been on the musical horizon for many years now, and with this 2019 release we’re taken on a new path – one very different from her biggest “hit” ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’ which has a cool 25 million streams on Spotify. ‘All Mirrors’ can be intense and uncomfortable at times but it’s vital listening, do yourself a favour and take the time to divulge.
In what was their second record of the year, Big Thief’s is simply an essential listen that must be commended for its purity, intimacy, emotional and spirit. With emotion the heartbeat of the ten track masterpiece, ‘Two Hands’ is a perfectly gentle and quaint, yet important and immediate assault of the senses – all at the same time. Vocals sound tear-filled and yet contained, the lyrics and tone of ‘Forgotten Eyes’ is so beautiful it stays with you for the rest of the record, even as the rest of the songs play on. We’re hungry for the next one already.
One of the most highly-regarded songwriters and producers of the 21st century, Mark Ronson returned in 2019 with his first studio album since 2015’s ‘Uptown Special’. Building on his work from that record, and 2010’s The Business Intl. on ‘Record Collection’, an incredible lineup was assembled for this year’s ‘Late Night Feelings’. The record’s lead single, ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’, went on to be one of the biggest tunes of the year. Ronson teamed up with Miley Cyrus on this country-tinged dance track, which managed to marry classic country scepticism, lyrics and intricate guitar, with orchestral strings and pounding dance percussion. One of the standout moments of this album is a trio of tracks featuring American singer-songwriter YEBBA. The soulful, gospel vocals and jazz stylings of this artists are perfectly mirrored in Ronson’s production, drifting through the hip-hop, urban sound of ‘Knock Knock Knock’, through the dance-pop ‘Don’t Leave Me Lonely’ and ‘When U Want Away’, which sees Ronson and YEBBA round off her contribution to the record with a jazz-inspired ballad, that places the singer’s soulful sound above all else. For the producer that has brought us a career of genre-bending tracks, Ronson once again demonstrated his unshakable diversity and drive for innovation on ‘Late Night Feelings’.
Three years ago Maggie Rogers enjoyed a spell of viral success after her song Alaska found its way into the hands of Pharrell Williams at a masterclass at NYU on recorded music. The culmination of the ensuing years of hype and media attention is her debut album ‘Heard It In A Past Life’, which amply shows her skill as a songwriter and producer. So much so that her album debuted at number two in the US Billboard 200 Charts. The album fits neatly in the current zeitgeist of synth/dream-pop but has nods to ‘80s and ‘90s influences.
Dave picked up the coveted Mercury Prize this year for ‘Psychodrama’. A fearless and incisive exploration of race, prison and abusive relationships, this moving, quasi-concept album is presented in the form of a conversation with a therapist and inspired by conversations he’s had with his incarcerated brother, handling complex topics of loss, grief, struggle and balancing newfound fame with aplomb. Delivered against a sparse, sullen backdrop of robust beats, moody piano riffs and ghostly warped vocals, Dave’s words are affecting and thought-provoking throughout; designed to investigate and interrogate rather than shock. Emotionally intense and overwhelmingly powerful, it’s a masterpiece of an album that must be given full attention with lessons that will live long in the memory.
A simply sublime record produced forty years into the career of the treasured artist that is Nick Cave, ‘Ghosteen’ is a beautiful capture of Cave’s living nightmare since the tragic loss of his adored son in 2015. Fleeting between faith and confusion, despair and the search for hope, the record is a tragic trip into Cave’s heart and soul as you latch onto every buttery word whispered and crooned in a way that Cave only can.
“I never thought heartbreak could be so all-encompassing. I never thought that my body could stop working to the point that I couldn’t express myself physically in the ways that I have always loved and found so much solace in,” a big statement from FKA twigs ahead of the release of her incredible second album ‘Magdalene’ defines what was produced through pain. Eerie melodies crash into classic love songs with whispering, quaint and obtuse vocals string together a technically-outstanding record. Her voice becomes haunting on the likes of ‘mary magdalene’ and sensational on ‘mirrored heart’. Album number 3, we’re ready.
Under a full calendar year on from 2018’s ‘Oxnard’, the news that Anderson .Paak was set to deliver another project led to speculation around what it was entail. Armed with an undeterrable work ethic and one of the most charismatic vocal styles this side of the 70’s, the Californian artist took the more hip-hop oriented, feature heavy sound of his previous project and placed it on the back-burner in favour of a record that invoked his soulful side. As magnetic an R&B album as you’re liable to hear this decade or the following, Ventura is what happens when Dr Dre renounces his well-documented micromanagement and lets an artist such as Anderson head off into whatever tangential space he desires. One of only two men to coax a verse out of Andre 3000 this year on “Come Home”, the record takes everything from the idealised soul ballads of the Motown hit factory of the 70’s to the slickness of modern-day jazz funk to deliver a record that’s as insatiable as his presence on-stage. The final chapter of .Paak’s Californian odyssey, cruising through his version of the sun-kissed state never fails to deliver and Ventura is one of the strongest instalments to date.
One of the pioneering electronic acts of the ‘90s, The Chemical Brothers, returned this year with their ninth studio album, No Geography. The Chemical Brothers have always been well known for their genre-spanning sound with songs and albums that have forayed into indie, rock and pop, but it ‘No Geography’ feels like a return to roots with a prevailing acid house feel to most of the album. Despite this, however, the album has some surprising moments of tenderness, such as ‘Catch’ me I’m falling taking a more reflective tone than other tracks. This album will be loved by fans of The Chemical Brothers’ definitive sound as it nods to the sound that made them the giants they are today.
Whenyoung’s hotly-anticipated debut album ‘Reasons To Dream’ opens with a remastered version of fan favourite track ‘Pretty Pure’, letting us know from the off that we should expect a fresh, revitalised Whenyoung. Fourth track, ‘A Labour Love’, demonstrates their breadth of songwriting ability, as well as singer Aoife Power’s incredible singing prowess as they meander from perhaps the more prominent uplifting feel of the album into more pensive territories. The swirling vocal harmonies and anthemic instrumentation throughout this album make it gripping from the first track to the last. This is about as accomplished a debut album as you can expect from a band.
Alternative-folk singer-songwriter Marika Hackman added to her discography in 2019 with her critically album record, ‘Any Human Friend’. Known for a dark style of songwriting, the English artist further strengthened this aspect of our sound on this album from the outset, with the stunning opening track ‘wanderlust’. With distant-sounding guitar and lo-fi vocals, this tune sets the tone for the album and sets a scene within itself, one of distant longing and remote reminisce expressed perfectly. The final stage of this 11-song journey through lust, sex, longing and self-exploration could not be a further removed from it’s distant beginning. A crescendo of instrumentation brings this album to a resounding close.
An artist who was born to write music and produce albums, Stina of Honeyblood released her third studio album this year, the follow-up to the hugely successful ‘Babes Never Die’ which was met by critical acclaim. Documenting a huge chapter in her life, ‘In Plain Sight’ is full of anthems in full gloom mode recorded over Halloween. The likes of ‘Touch’ sees a bubbling rage on the surface as Stina sings ‘I can’t help myself, I’m under your spell’. Honeyblood are a brilliant band in the studio and on stage, ‘In Plain Sight’ is proof of that.
Nilufer Yanya’s debut album is aptly named ‘Miss Universe’ as she spans across multiple genres and styles, such as rock, indie, soul and pop. The seventeen track album is laden with the anxieties of modern living, such as the specious ideals of wellbeing; the track Experience? mimics an ad campaign that asks what you’ll find in “paradise” only for the following song, Paradise, to dispel the myths advertised. The album masterfully captures the mood of a world that manufactures these anxieties and Yanya does well to scrutinise them throughout. Fans of King Krule or Jay Som will find a lot to love about this album, which is musically and thematically interesting in equal measure.
Having co-produced a Grammy-nominated album while still at high school, and collaborated with J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator and Vampire Weekend, it comes as no surprise that the singer-songwriter and producer Steve Lacy’s 2019 debut solo album, Apollo XXI, is drenched with R&B songwriting cleverness and innovation in equal measure. An album within an album, the 9-minute masterpiece ‘Like Me’, featuring DAISY, is a genre-bending trippy journey that goes from R ‘n’ B through to a resounding in a dream-like state of soulfulness. The instrumental track ‘Amandla’s Interlude’ is the perfect testimony to Lacy’s creativity and musicianship, trading synths for guitar and pounding percussion for strings in a folk-style tune that could easily be the soundtrack to the opening sequence of Charlie Chaplin silent movie.
With a career that is embedded and founded in classical music, including a spell as the Composer in Residence for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Album of the Year winning artist Anna Meredith has turned her ear for theatric instrumentation into incredibly innovative projects including composition for PRADA, sleep-pods in Singapore and an MRI scanner. 2019’s record ‘FIBS’ finds Meredith once again drawing on this experience and drive for innovation to produce a stunning diverse collection of songs. Pulling together synths that are both aggressive and dream-like, this entire record is one of contrasts, like a futuristic film soundtrack that drifts from one dramatic scene to another. One of the undoubted finest moments in this album comes in ‘Limpet’, a tune so distinctly different to those around it. With fuzzy guitars, trudging through in a Vaselines-style manner before drifting and bending like something from The Jesus and Mary Chain, this tune could not be more different from the synth-heavy sound of this album and if anything is testament to Anna Merdith’s reluctance to be bound by a certain sound.
Australian singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly marked her 2019 by dropping her ferocious debut album ‘Beware of the Dogs’. Not the sort of artists to shy away from confrontation or be at all introverted, the singer tackles issues with a mix of cleverness and honesty. This is perhaps most evident in the album’s opening track ‘Old Man’, which takes aim at a creepy character within the tune with a cheeky tone to striking lyrics. “Oh are you scared of me old man or are you scared of what I’ll do? You grabbed me with an open hand. The world is grabbing back at you.” Evident from the outset of this track, and the entire record, is Stella taking on the role of talking openly about issues, and where something needs to be said, saying it, without fear of interference. Speaking about this honest and personal tone of the record, particularly prevalent in the tracks ‘Boys Will be Boys’ and ‘U Owe Me’, Stella Donnelly said “This album made me feel like I was back in the driver’s seat. it was really liberating and ground to realise than no can fuck this except me.” This freedom is the driving behind this record, which uses sharp lyrics to create a collection of songs that are all about what is right and sticking up for yourself in the face of adversity. Honest, charming and stunning.
One of the biggest artists and albums of 2019, the debut record from 17-year-old Billie Eilish topped the charts in the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia and many more, with the singer selling out arenas on all four corners of the globe. The eccentric songwriter has developed a sound that takes pop catchiness and effortlessly blends it with a dark edge to create a truly unique sound among her contemporaries. Racking up nearly 1 billion streams on Spotify, the second track on the record ‘bad guy’ is one of the biggest tunes of the year, which finds Billie using an almost cartoon style of songwriting, mirrored in the music video, with clever lyrics married perfectly to equally catchy instrumentation. A true hero of our time, the path is long and gold for Billie Eilish.
The debut album from Dublin five-piece The Murder Capital, is a showreel of horrific beauty. A dark, twisted journey through clever songwriting and brutal beauty in a post-punk setting. One of the standout moments of this record comes in the haunting lament that is ‘Green & Blue’. When percussion becomes melody as the the almost-tribal drums form part of the droning undertone that lies below this entire track. It is here that the singer James McGovern’s brutally beautiful vocals come into full glory, a tone that is both crushing and choral in equal measure. In the heart of this record is the pair of tracks, ‘Slowdance I’ and ‘Slowdance II’, which feels like the soundtrack to descent, a minimalist and trudging sound that feels like a musical mirror of walking through mud on a chaotic journey. Linking their songwriting to personal tragedy, the suicide of a close friend, and art, notably the work of Francesca Woodman, this band draws on incredibly personal emotions, which is possibly the biggest contributing factor the harsh reality of this record. “Every single one of those lyrics relates back in some way to his death.”
Hailing from Islington, Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Ajikawo- better known as the dynamic Little Simz- is a living, breathing, refutal of any shortsighted rhetoric that the flare-waving crowd may have about hip-hop’s artistic validity. Progressing in leaps and bounds with every project, her third album ‘Grey Area’ takes her penchant for luscious instrumentation and matter-of-fact delivery to its apex. Declaring herself to be “Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst day”, Simz adominishes power structures, prejudices and the innate injustices that have blighted society for years over a sonic template that veers from jazzy to imposing throughout. Aided by esteemed collaborators such as Chronixx and Little Dragon, this is a definitive document of our time from the perspective of an artist that has watched community’s torn apart and no shortage of adversity to circumvent on the road to success. Across a whirlwind 35 minutes, Little Simz stakes her claim to having not just one of the most gripping flows in not just the UK, but the world at large.
Renowned for his earnest approach to a genre that has often been plagued by pomposity, Loyle Carner is not only a student of hip-hop but possesses a scholary understanding of life and where it can go awry. Fresh from his Mercury Prize-nominated debut ‘Yesterday’s Gone’, ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ takes inspiration from the premise of Stevie Smith’s poem of the same name in order to allow Loyle detail his own battle to keep his head above water. Charting personal strife and triumph through no shortage of emotive beats and everyday profundities in his lyricism, collaborations with Jorja Smith and Sampha only serve to sweeten the deal on an album that emphatically avoids the dreaded sophomore slump and demonstrates that Loyle has every intention of becoming a staple in our musical lives for years to come.
An album that’s had so many plaudits thrown its way that you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s some grand conspiracy at work, the reality is that Michael Kiwanuka’s third, partially self-titled LP is simply that gripping. Where previous projects have harboured undeniable potential that seems to have been hampered by erring on the side of caution, his latest project sees him cast all reticence aside in favour of delivering a definitive statement. Doused in the sound of ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’-era Stevie Wonder, Kiwanuka takes cues from all sides of the musical spectrum in order to deliver a robust and fascinating journey. Helmed by Dangermouse and Inflo, its production has a transcendent quality that flits from the tentative origins of blues to synth-laden psychedelia at the drop of a hat. All anchored by those resonant and imposing vocals of hi Kiwanuka is the sound of a prospect becoming a self-assured artist and can only be indicative of further wonders around the corner.
From the moment they first came together in 2014, The Vegan Leather have been casually redefining the parameters of their music with unbridled creativity and a refreshing eccentricity and it all comes to fruition on their meticulously crafted debut album ‘Poor Girls/Broken Boys’. The album is as much a heady dose of escapism as it is a reflection on the tumultuous times we live in. With themes of social anxiety and female struggle at the heart of many songs, the band explore a number of dualities – light and dark, love and lies, anxiety and euphoria – pitching their dark, often introspective lyrical themes against a swirl of vibrant, upbeat art-pop. Recorded with Paul Savage at the revered Chem19 Studios in Blantyre (The Twilight Sad, Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand), it’s a case of music and words working seamlessly together with the producer giving their playful and poppy arrangements a revitalised energy, all while retaining the relentless infectiousness that brought them onto our radar in the first place.
Sometimes, an artist comes along and completely captures the time, embodying the spirit of now without even consciously trying to do.. In one of those sublime moments of serendipity that makes music the cultural force that is, it turns out that exactly what this fragmented United Kingdom needed to articulate their own feelings was the story of a young man from Northampton. Bellicose, uncompromising and thoroughly captivating from bell-to-bell, Slowthai’s ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ prises at the fabric of the country in order to shed light on the infestation of inequality that resides at its heart. Rendered in the fast-rising star’s provoking lyrical delivery, it’d seem premature to compare this to other seminal UK hip-hop debuts such as ‘Boy In Da Corner’ and ‘Original Pirate Material’ if it wasn’t abundantly clear that it’ll be held in the same stature in years to come. If you haven’t heard this yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Larger than life rapper, singer and producer Tyler, The Creator has torn apart the aesthetic of his days with Odd Future as he takes on a new persona on his 2019 album IGOR. No longer concerned with Golf Wang Hooligans, Tyler shifts his focus to artistry, soulfulness and concept over ferocity. Writing, arranging and producing the entire album himself, Tyler takes on the role of orchestral conductor in the opening track ‘IGOR’S THEME’, when a deafening, deep synth lifts the track into an intergalactic landscape. The album’s lead track ‘EARFQUAKE’ is a standout moment of this record, a love letter which is both desperately romantic and emotion in equal parts. ‘I THINK’ finds Tyler, The Creator channelling the sound of 20th-century hip hop, with record static, RUN D.M.C-style drums and synth sounds reminiscent of The Beastie Boy’s Hello Nasty. This tune is a no-holds-barred journey that has everything from pounding drums, to soulful vocals, impeccable verses and an incredible use of synths to take the track from a bare bones look at hip hop to a whole other level.
“8 years of touring, giving out free tix to my undersold shows, sleepless nights in my car, losing my dad & giving up on music, playing shows for free beer & food w/ -32$ in my bank account, constantly writing songs, hearing ‘no’ but always saying ‘yes’. Glad I never gave up”. Espoused by the singer/songwriter, rapper and accomplished flautist Lizzo on Twitter just days ago, this recounting of her journey is one that dispels the narrative that the success Lizzo’s now enjoying was somehow handed to her on a platter. Instead, the Texas-born artist kept her nose to the grindstone and deservedly struck gold in more ways than one on ‘Cuz I Love You’. Launched into the stratosphere by the infectious funk romp of ‘Juice”, the track acted as a galvanising call-to-arms that soon had everyone singing her praises. A monument to self-belief, self-acceptance and empowerment, Lizzo bucks every societal expectation with a smile on her face and an insatiable strut to her every step. The sound of an unencumbered artist that is excelling at doing them, ‘Cuz I Love You’ is one of the most unrelentingly fun listening experiences we’ve had all year and one that demands repeated listens.
Throughout their storied career, Foals have always strove to take the preexisting components of their sound and push them to the next level, yielding everything from stadium caliber anthems to slow-burning odysseys along the way. On the first half of their loose concept album around an impending ecological disaster, Foals uphold this reputation and then some by producing one of the most vital mainstream rock albums of not just the year, but the decade.
At a time where many bands of their era are either in a period of stasis, rehashing their past or otherwise experiencing a low ebb, the band that was once the toast of their local Oxford house parties to become critical darlings the world over. From raring out of the gate with ‘Exits’, ‘White Onions’ and the transcendent dance grooves of ‘In Degrees’ through to the euphoric calm before the storm that is ‘Sunday’, Yannis and co have once again reaffirmed why they’ve only grown in acclaim as the years have progressed.
Opening with one of the finest lines we’ve heard in some time (“Goddamn manchild/You fucked me so good that I almost said ‘I love you’”), ‘Normal Fucking Rockwell’ marked a stunning return from one of the world’s most enigmatic figures. An album of emotional ups and downs, it may not be a surprising listen but it’s a beautiful one; gently ushering her into the territory marked “timeless” over 14 lush, expansive tracks. Like the album that came before it, the record is full of classic rock references and harnessed by Jack Antonoff’s roomy, broad production. In fact, the producer hardly makes his presence known as the album is so distinctive in its aesthetic. Rooted in nostalgia and a web of Americana influences, no one in this day and age can evoke American life with the same uncanny precision as this outstanding artist. There’s only one Lana Del Rey and she’s come in strong in our end of year reviews, bagging the number 10 spot.
An internet darling since the dying embers of his adolescence, Rex Orange County has always been uniquely adept at traversing matters of the heart and mind with equivalent skill. On what is his debut on a major label, the immensely talented singer/songwriter has delivered a project that not only emphatically puts his best foot forward but constitutes a personal journey that had once threatened to derail him. Poised between what seemed like an insurmountable low ebb and a period where everything in his professional life was on an upswing, Pony is entrenched in Rex’s mental health journey; all the while giving him ample space to demonstrate his talents as a writer and arranger. Dabbling in everything from plaintive, Randy Newman-inspired ballads to pulsing R&B, highlights include ‘Always’, ‘Never Had The Balls’, its sprawling closer “It’s Not The Same Anymore’ and of course, the orchestrally flesh-out ode to his longtime partner Thea that is ‘Pluto Projector’. For any further insight, check out TTV’s own Robert Blair having discussing the album at length here.
The Twilight Sad kicked off 2019 with a new label, a new band member and new album, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME. The album doesn’t depart in any great way from previous offerings in terms of tone, style or mood, but that shouldn’t be held against what has been almost universally received as a triumph for the Kilsyth band. In an album that focuses lyrically on insecurities and inadequacy, singer James Graham singles out the third track VTr’s line “there’s no love to small” as especially poignant in an increasingly bleak world. A theme of hopefulness runs through this musically and thematically layered album, making it all the more rewarding for those who take the time to enjoy it in its entirety. Making it’s way onto the Scottish Album of the Year Longlist in 2019, we’re delighted to feature The Twilight Sad’s most exciting work to date in our top 10.
Six years after the release of their last album, Vampire Weekend brought out the long-awaited successor to ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ this year to widespread acclaim. The band rewarded fans for all their patience by delivering a generous 18-track double album ‘Father of the Bride’, a fun and familiar return that simultaneously pushes them into bold new territory. Like a scrap-book of crossings-out and wild ideas, there’s the youthful breeziness and high life guitar motifs of their 2008 debut but there’s also elements of country music, psychedelic pop and stoner rock thrown in. The patchwork vibes of the album have been informed by Ezra Koenig’s collaborative spirit – Danielle Haim makes significant vocal contributions throughout while Steve Lacy from The Internet adds funky guitar licks and vocals to album highlight ‘Sunflower’. Without feeling meticulously planned or overwrought, ‘Father of the Bride’ marks a mature evolution. Offering a mix of angst and optimism, it’s a vibrant world dominated by thoughts of environmental destruction, religion, and heartbreak.
When Lewis Capaldi topped the UK Charts for the very first time with ‘Someone You Loved’ back in March, it sparked a phenomenal sequence of events that just a few years ago would have been unimaginable to the Scottish singer-songwriter. His long-awaited debut album ‘Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent’ quickly followed in May, peaking at Number 1 in the UK Charts and becoming the fastest-selling album of 2019. Certified gold just a week after its release, it also became the best-selling album by a British artist in 8 years. Featuring hugely popular singles like ‘Grace, ‘Hold Me While You Wait’ and ‘Bruises’, Capaldi’s distinctively rugged tones sit front and centre of the record while his knack for producing heart-wrenching ballads and relatable ruminations on love and heartbreak have seized the hearts and minds of millions all over the world. Also known for his distinctly Scottish sense of humour and massive social media presence, 2019 has also featured some of the biggest shows of his career at TRNSMT, Summer Sessions, Glastonbury and more. And he shows no signs of slowing down with the news that he recently achieved his first Number 1 in the USA. Already confirmed to headline TRNSMT next year, just three years after appearing on the King Tut’s Stage, 2019 has undoubtedly been Capaldi’s year.
‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ deals in gorgeous, timeless melodies, lyrical introspection and raw, plaintive vocals as Sharon Van Etten wields her considerable talents with more confidence and conviction than ever before. Edging away from her trademark guitar in favour of piano and vintage synths, it’s the most immediate piece of work she has ever laid her hands on, giving her sound a pop gloss sheen and unabashedly gothic feel. Arriving after a period of personal upheaval, she is unafraid to plunge into personal quandaries, often delivering her introspective yet assertive lyrics against haunting, expansive soundscapes. It’s an interesting reinvention from an artist who is at the top of her game.
After years of toil and unwavering self-belief, Brits Critics Choice winner Sam Fender managed to surpass even the loftiest of expectations with the release of his debut album ‘Hypersonic Missiles’. Known for his soulful brogue and gritty, gloriously anthemic indie tunes, 2019 has seen the Geordie singer-songwriter emerge as one of the most important songwriters of his generation. Tackling difficult subjects such as toxic masculinity, mental health, violence, sexism and social media, his debut album is euphoric and melancholic; untethered and intimate; self-deprecating and righteous. And while the influence of Bruce Springsteen looms large in both sound and his small-town lyrical myth-making, Sam Fender poses all the right questions. Bringing a new edge to landscape of mainstream rock, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ is the loud announcement of striking talent who is sure to mature and develop in the coming years. Sam Fender has played our very own TENEMENT TRAIL twice over the years, both outstanding showcases of what a talent he is. We’re delighted to tip Sam Fender in our top 5 in 2019’s list.
Not adverse to playing by their own rules, The Ninth Wave’s bold and audacious decision to drop their debut album ‘Infancy’ in two halves kicked into action earlier this year with the release of ‘Part 1’ in April before an additional six tracks on ‘Part 2’ brought the record to a triumphant conclusion in November. If the first half laid out the band’s crystal clear vision, then the arrival of the second has solidified it, confirming everything we already knew – that The Ninth Wave are one of Scotland’s rare gems. We’ve been there from the start and the growth in this band is simply sublime to see. Brave The Ninth Wave, keep doing you.
Band of the moment Fontaines D.C. took the world by storm with the release of their Mercury Prize nominated debut album ‘Dogrel’ earlier this year. Offering a boisterous, insightful and poetic documentation of life in Dublin, the band’s hometown is rooted in their DNA and if there is any justice in the world, ‘Dogrel’ will enter the canon of classic depictions of the city in the same way as James Joyce or Yeats. Brimming with references to specific areas, pubs and landmarks, plus a fantastic cast of characters, Fontaines D.C. marry a traditional Irish musicality with a very much in-vogue post-punk style. Shunning all clichés and stereotypes that are obscuring the culture they love in favour of raw, unadulterated authenticity, it’s rough and ready production, menacing punk licks and Chatten’s rugged, snarling and distinctively Irish narration lend a distinct vitality to their unvarnished yet romantic worldview. We have not stopped obsessing over this incredible body of work and it’s number 2 spot in our top list is more than well deserved.
Brimming with punk attitude and indie anthems, Welsh with the help of his formidable band The Decadent West uses his debut album ‘Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold’ to dig deep into relatable issues such as the mundanities of city life, austerity and friendship with sincerity, humour and at times more than a little bit of anger. There’s plenty of biting guitar riffs, singalong choruses and a hint of funk thrown in too but it’s still the frontman’s penchant for weaving strong lyrical narratives that stand out on this accomplished debut. An artist who is politically important, dedicated to churning the wheels of change and responsible for one of the hottest local artist headline shows we’ve seen in a very long time, TENEMENT TV are thrilled to reveal Declan Welsh & The Decadent West as this year’s TTV TOP RECORD OF 2019. People let you down, but not in this scene.