Top Albums of 2019
23 December 2019 | By Hannah Mussey
Ones to watch
2019 has been an amazing year for music. Amid devastating breakups, long-awaited reunions, and a dearth of new sounds in between, there are plenty of artists who should be celebrating their successes this year. Take a look at some of UMusic Ireland’s top picks for 2019!
1. Lewis Capaldi - Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent
One of the top breakout artists of 2019, Lewis Capaldi has come to be known as a man of contrasts. On social media and in interviews, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter from Scotland is brash, sarcastic, and self-deprecating. His music, however, is soulful and raw, and, as The Guardian holds, sounds as if he’s “singing every dolorous ballad as if wrapped in a duvet on the sofa.” Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, Capaldi’s first full-length album, peaked at Number One in Ireland and the UK and quickly became the fastest-selling album of the year.
2. Billie Eilish - When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Recorded in her brother’s bedroom studio in Los Angeles, California, Billie Eilish’s When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? took the airwaves and charts by storm when it was released in March. It debuted at the top of the US and UK charts and was widely praised for its intelligent subject matter, vocal prowess, and poignant songwriting. The album took home plenty of accolades as well, including Apple Music’s Album of the Year Award with Grammy nominations pending.
3. Ariana Grande - thank u, next
Released just a few months after her highly-anticipated Sweetener, Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next came in the midst of a tumultuous time for the American popstar. Embroiled in personal tragedies and breakups, Grande recorded the 12-track album in just two months, which produced immediate hits like “Thank U, Next” (song), “7 Rings,” and “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored.” The album takes a pop, r&b, and trap note, with influences of hip hop in the rhythm and beat, and has been nominated for two Grammy Awards.
4. Sam Fender - Hypersonic Missiles
Winner of the 2019 Brit Choice Awards–an award which honoured artists like Adele and Sam Smith in years past–Sam Fender has recently taken the British music scene by storm. Hypersonic Missiles is Fender’s debut album and has spoken to listeners from all walks of life, drawing comparisons to a variety of rock greats like Jeff Buckley, Bruce Springsteen, and The Killers. It debuted at the top of the UK album charts in September and already has sold over 100,000 units.
5. Westlife - Spectrum
Who would have thought that we’d see another Westlife album topping charts in 2019? In late 2018, the Irish foursome announced a long-awaited reunion and dropped their first album since 2019 in November. In the month since its release, Spectrum has won the title of Ireland’s fastest-selling album of the year, enchanting fans old and new with a sound that feels both novel and nostalgic.
6. Dermot Kennedy - Without Fear
Since dropping in early October of this year, Dermot Kennedy’s Without Fear has topped charts in Ireland and the UK and peaked in the top 20 in several other countries. The Rathcoole-born 28-year-old has become known for his raw, powerful sound and has been gathering international attention and acclaim for several years. He’s played at SxSW and Coachella in the US, and has toured Europe and Australia to sold-out audiences, becoming an instant hit among all who listen to his sound.
7. Picture This - MDRN LV
MDRN LV is the second full-length album from Picture This, and it takes on a much different feel to its 2017 predecessor. After its release in February of 2019, it topped Irish charts, enchanting Picture This fans with a new taste. Of the differences, band member Ryan Hennessey said, “Lyrically, it’s still very conversational and colloquial. But I’ve grown up a lot since the first album. The first album was me – 18-20 years old, living in Athy, all the relationships and friendships back there – whereas now, I’ve been all over the world, I’ve experienced crazy things and met incredible people, so I’ve changed. That’s what this is about.”
8. Hozier - Wasteland, Baby!
Wasteland, Baby! Is the second full-length studio album from Wicklow-born Hozier and came after a highly-acclaimed EP in late 2018. It debuted at the top of the US and Ireland album charts and is Hozier’s first Number One album in the US. Critics showered the 14-track album in positive reviews, praising it for its blend of haunting vocals, tasteful instrumentals, and powerful subject matter.
9. Lana del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell
Released in August of this year, Norman Fucking Rockwell is Lana del Rey’s sixth studio album of her career and the most critically-acclaimed one yet. The music and lyrics nod to several classic rock greats from the 1970s, including Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles. “The album is sultry and soporific,” wrote Alexandra Pollard of The Independent, “sitting somewhere between the minimalist trip-hop of Del Rey’s early days, and the scuzzy desert rock she has toyed with over the years." It debuted at number three on Billboard 200 and is a contender for two Grammy Awards.
10. Taylor Swift - Lover
In collaboration with artists like the Dixie Chicks and Brendan Urie from Panic! At the Disco, Taylor Swift released her highly-anticipated Lover in August. Swift’s seventh studio album is a pop, pop-rock, electropop and synth-pop record that contains influences of country, dream pop, bubblegum pop, funk, pop-punk, R&B, and indie pop, a fusion of styles and genres that convey maturity and honesty. Her "frequently dazzling" melodies, and the "loved-up lyrics are ultimately quite touching," and has racked up Grammy nomination as well.