The 10 Best Albums of 2019 so far
With the year more than halfway over, now's as good a time as ever to look back on what the first part of 2019 brought to us in terms of music.
There have been some great albums, some not-so-good albums and plenty of why-the-hell-did-they-bother albums released since January – but for the purposes of this list, we're going to focus on the former.
Below, you'll find what we reckon are the ten best albums released so far in 2019...
BILLIE EILISH – 'When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?'
Can you remember what you had achieved by the time you were 17? We bet you hadn't released an album that went to number one in 16 countries. The Los Angeles teenager's debut album was a heady mix of art-pop and electronica, and its ubiquitous lead single 'Bad Guy' proved just what the uber-talented Billie Eilish O'Connell is capable of.
ALDOUS HARDING – 'Designer'
It's difficult to draw comparisons between this Cardiff-based New Zealander and any other artist. Hannah 'Aldous' Harding is a unique force in music right now, and her delicate, beautifully-played and brilliantly-written third album pays testament to her idiosyncrasies. These folk-pop tunes are ones to both swoon and croon to.
LIZZO – 'Cuz I Love You'
The fallout from the ticket furore regarding Lizzo's forthcoming Irish debut is ongoing, but it also proves just how popular the Detroit-born rapper has become. This, her third album, is an exhibition of both her fierceness and her versatility, blending hip-hop with elements of pop, funk and rock. Most importantly, as 'Juice' demonstrated, it's a lot of fun.
VAMPIRE WEEKEND – 'Father of the Bride'
They've been away for six years and have lost a founding member during that time – so Vampire Weekend's fourth album could easily have been a disappointment. So when Ezra Koenig and co. returned with an 18-track record featuring Danielle Haim on backing vocals and singles like 'This Life' and 'Sunflower', it proved a huge relief for fans. It's a huge grower, but has become our album of the summer.
FONTAINES DC – 'Dogrel'
As is the norm with buzz bands, a lot has been written about Fontaines DC and their supposed reinvention of the Irish rock scene. What a lot of being are missing – and perhaps even dismissing in the process – is just how good this album is, particularly for a debut. The brash confidence, the poise and the sheer brilliance of this collection – from the bristling 'Big' to the provocative 'Boys in the Better Land' – will undoubtedly see it on end-of-year lists come December.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – 'Western Stars'
Whether you're a fan of The Boss or not, you can't help but be drawn in by this beautiful album. Springsteen's solo stint on Broadway may have pushed him towards his first solo affair since 2005's 'Devils and Dust', but this album is the culmination of a lifetime of songwriting and playing experience, and one that we've gone back to continually.
JUNIOR BROTHER – 'Pull the Right Rope'
First things first: there's no doubt that Junior Brother is not to everyone's taste. Young Kerryman Ronan Kealy operates within the folk sphere, but there is an unpredictable wildness to his sound that takes it from an almost sean-nos style through to modern folk. With commanding vocals and gorgeous acoustic guitar, there is a real sense of Kealy continuing the Irish storytelling tradition on this remarkable debut.
THE RACONTEURS – 'Help Us, Stranger'
Since they released their last album 'Consolers of the Lonely', Jack White has become a solo star in his own right and The Raconteurs were subsequently forgotten about. For those of us who regard their first two records fondly, it was a relief that White and Brendan Benson's songwriting magic was easily rekindled. Beefy rock riffs and bags of melody and charm made for an indie-rock album that was simply hugely enjoyable.
ARIANA GRANDE – 'Thank U, Next'
It's something of an understatement to say that a lot has gone on in Ariana Grande's life over the past two years. Tragedy in the form of the terrorist attack at her Manchester concert in 2017 and the death of her former boyfriend Mac Miller, and heartbreak at the end of her high-profile relationship with comedian Pete Davison. So to drop an album like this, just six months after the release of 'Sweetener', was quite a statement. Bristling with defiance and some fantastic tunes like 'Bloodline' and 'NASA', it redefined Grande as more than a sweet bubblegum pop artist in many peoples' eyes.
THE DIVINE COMEDY – 'Office Politics'
Most people will already have formed an opinion on Neil Hannon; to many, he's either one of the greatest songwriters on the planet, or 'that guy who did 'My Lovely Horse'. So The Divine Comedy's 12th record, a concept album of-sorts that ties together pop, indie, rock, orchestral music and - gasp! - electropop, surprised pretty much everyone. There aren't many artists who can rope together such an eclectic medley of genres and package it with humour and panache, but Hannon is indubitably one of them.