The 60 Best Records of 2019 So Far

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Art by Julia Carbone

July has begun, and that means we’re officially halfway through 2019. What a year it’s been. In music and in life, 2019 has been action packed. There has been so much great music, that 50 records just wasn’t enough, so instead we wrote about our 60 favorite releases of the year so far. The artists are listed alphabetically, and every artist’s name links to their music for easy access. If lists aren’t your thing, but Spotify playlists are, skip right to our playlist featuring 1 track from all 60 artists on the list (linked here and at the end of Page 3).

Also wanted to say that the first 6 months of 2019 have been our most successful ever as a site, and we have so many big plans (including a fest this Fall in Pittsburgh). Even still, it is a constant struggle to survive as an independent site these days while all of our “competition” closes or moves away from music coverage. If you believe in what we are trying to do, and you like the artists that we recommend, please tell your friends about us, and if you are able consider supporting us on Patreon or buying a tee shirt. Every dollar goes to promoting even more music. We are desperately trying to keep this going.

Without further ado, here are the 60 best records of 2019 so far:


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Aaron West – Routine Maintenance

Asbury Park, New Jersey. The salt air carries the smell of taffy and popcorn, the boardwalk cracks under bike wheels, someone whispers about hurricane season while reading the newspaper. This is where meet back up with Aaron West – smiling for the first time this year – on a break from painting houses to get by. Routine Maintenance is an extraordinarily humanizing yet poetic narrative of a man who seems overly acquainted with loss. Just 2 tracks in he begs “I can’t keep my hands steady but I press my pen down too / Come on, just sign the papers” – desperate for new beginnings. Hope feels like a risk. You almost can’t help but empathize with Aaron or maybe you just want to see him win, see him reach the light. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties expertly create a musical landscape on each song with everything from harmonicas to horns and banjos so you get to experience their world while you hear about it from the man who lives it all. – Hannah

Amyl and The Sniffers – Amyl and The Sniffers

These Australian based rockers are the definition of punk. Their self-titled LP Amyl and The Sniffers pays homage to the 70’s and 80’s punk that constructed the genre’s sound and attitude that we know today. The instrumentals are simple but heavy. Distorted guitars above grungy bass and snaring drums make each track a banger. Tracks like “Gacked on Anger” and “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” are prime examples of how well this band understands their genre. The attitude and anger shine through with every track to make for one hell of a record that whizzes through with ease from track to track. – Sarah

Angel Du$t – Pretty Buff

Angel Dust has expanded their world. Pretty Buff sees the band embrace acoustic guitars, saxophones and a new found love for experimentation. For a band that was more than familiar with the hardcore sound formula, Pretty Buff is as much a surprise as it is a fun-as-fuck record. The mad scientists’ experiment paid off and I’m enjoying the result.  – Steven

Bad Books – III

While Kevin Devine, Andy Hull, and Robert McDowell have been respectively busy with their individual careers and personal lives (Manchester Orchestra, Devinyl, Gobotron, e.t.c), Bad Books finally broke their six year hiatus with their third studio album, III. Self described as, “Simon and Garfunkel in space”, the release marks a new approach from the group as far as songwriting and orchestrating goes. Each have their own distinct style when it comes to telling a story, but with III they break down the necessity of language. They invoke narratives based on specific moments and feelings and unravel them down to basic human emotions and needs that we all experience. Focusing on what needs to be said, and creating flourishing story arcs from there, is what makes this release different than anything they’ve done in the past. – Emily

Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

After dropping their debut self-titled album early this year, Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst continue to prove they will never quite fall off the music industry’s radar. While it was no surprise to fans that the two were working together, the album definitely sent shock waves with its sudden release. A super-group nonetheless, the duo makes songwriting seem effortless. They teeter off each other harmonies and storylines so naturally, the album marks a pivotal point in both their careers, and is arguably their best so far. Striking a unique balance, the album highlights each of their respective talents. Tracks like, “Exception to the Rule” show off Oberst’s past work with more experimental sounds i.e. Digital Ash era of Bright Eyes. While, on the other hand, Bridgers’ inserts herself and her unique narrative storytelling in songs like, “My City”. As a whole, the album is a brilliant showcase of what both prolific artists have to offer. – Emily

Big Thief – U.F.O.F.

U.F.O.F. is the first album Big Thief has made as a full unit, and it shows in even the smallest of details. Adrianne Lenker’s voice is still as powerful and haunting as ever, Buck Meek’s guitar still shakes and rattles like it’s quietly screaming at you, and James Krivchenia’s drums are still as crisp and purposeful as any other component that makes up their music. I like to think of U.F.O.F. as a gigantic tower of Jenga blocks, this carefully constructed thing where if you remove one wrong piece, the whole thing would just crumble before your eyes. Listening to Big Thief is an ephemeral experience, the kind that reminds you of the ways in which music can challenge your perceptions and allow you to live inside the world it creates. – Michael

Bigger Better Sun – Comfort Foods

While the world waits for the Oso Oso followup to yunahon mixtape coming out later this summer, former members of Long Island’s Haverford and long time friends of Jade from Oso, crafted their own version of the South Beach (NY) sound. Lucky for us, their concoction is a nice and refreshing development. The calming sounds of Bigger Better Sun’s guitars makes for a delicate nap on the grass on a warm summer day. There must be something in the water, because Long Island has been producing great tunes for a while. Now that the world is getting warmer, I’m glad they’re cooking up beach emo for us to enjoy. – Henderson

Billy Woods and Kenny Segal – Hiding Places

Kenny Segal’s beats sound alive on Hiding Places. Living, breathing compositions that side-step between crashing acoustic drums and click-clacking digital claps that crackle like a record coated in dust. Billy Woods’ rapping patterns are fluid and amorphous, crawling atop Segal’s instrumentals without ever slipping or losing grip. Hiding Places genuinely sounds like the shadowy corners of an old house; the musty crawl space, the nook behind the dresser that light’s never touched, the deepest depths of a closet that hasn’t been emptied in decades. Their commitment to that aesthetic results in one of the most distinct and forward-thinking hip-hop albums in recent memory, a masterclass in the rapper/producer relationship. – Eli

Chai – Punk

Japanese band CHAI, made up of Mana, Kana, Yuuki, and Yuna, has been steadily increasing in prominence stateside since Burger Records’ re-release of their stunning debut last year, Pink.  Earlier this year, they released its follow-up, Punk, which takes their post-punky J-pop sound and presents a collection of songs that are well-refined while sounding as striking as ever. Songs like “Great Job” and “This is Chai” are anchored by pounding synths and drums that create dance-floor rave-ups with an attitude that is simultaneously playful and pushy, urging you with a smile to get moving. Songs like “I’m Me” depict CHAI’s penchant for effective songs on self-positivity, be it with one’s body or personality, and the lead single “Fashionista” creates a sound that is so undeniably theirs. CHAI is a band I’m grateful to have stumbled upon, as their music creates a joyful vibe of positivity that can be sugary, but never too sweet. I cannot recommend them enough. -Dave

Charly Bliss – Young Enough

When Brooklyn-based alt-rock group Charly Bliss released their predominantly pop-driven sophomore record, Young Enough, a few eyebrows were raised, and heads cocked. It was a risk to dive head-first into the pop spectrum after their debut record, Guppy, was drenched in the 90’s grunge that the band was known for. And, yet, it’s the tricky transition of a strictly-rock record to one of 80’s new wave flare that Charley Bliss so seamlessly pulled off that gives Young Enough the staying power it deserves. It’s difficult not to praise Eva Hendrick’s bubble-gum sweet vocals for packing the punch into this record, as most of the synths ride off the waves of her voice. The record, almost, crafts itself around her alluringly squeaky sound only cranking Young Enough to the heights of being a solid pop record. It’s the resilience and tenacity of Charly Bliss to expand their sound beyond the four-corners Guppy could’ve pigeon-holed them into that should keep Young Enough at the forefronts of everyone’s minds. Because it is the determination to create a pop record in a world that is so disposable of pop music that Charly Bliss took on to highlight their potential and presence as a fresher-faced band that should be praised. And, Young Enough proves that and kills it. Every time. – Hope

Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed And Ready

From the first 15 seconds of the first track, I knew that Stuffed and Ready was going to my shit. Clementine Creevy’s vocals float over shredding guitars and then dissolve into an entrancing bass line. The track (“Ohio”), recalls some of my favorite aspects of Metric, and when I’m comparing something to Metric you know I love it. But this album is more than a 1 track wonder, the entire album draws from elements of indie pop, electro rock, and shredding garage guitars. Sometimes it’s dancey, sometimes it’s thoughtful, it’s always interesting. – Henderson

Crumb – Jinx

This is an album that starts with an organ and some twirling hazy guitars. Samuel Jackson said it best, “Smoke em if you got em”. Sure, Math Rock has grabbed ahold of a niche in our internet music culture, but true Jazz Rock / Jazz Fusion has been mostly dead for a bit. Thankfully they’re returning, and the new school bands like Crumb aren’t afraid to use their jazzy elements to venture into psychedelic and experiment in a somewhat similar way to site favorite, The Spirit of the Beehive. This band is proudly independent, and even more proudly doing things that no one else is. Jinx is an album that is better enjoyed as a solid listening experience than a series of tracks, but even still, when the band gets in a true groove and the hooks come flying in, there are some incredible standout moments. Go listen to “Ghostride”, and tell me you aren’t ready for more of what Crumb is bringing to the game. “The phone rings and reminds me that I’m alive and I’m feeling kinda high.” Hopefully things will never be the same. – Henderson

DaBaby – Baby On Baby 

As far as rap is concerned in 2019, DaBaby is practically an enigma. In his music videos, which bring to mind the peculiarity of a Missy Elliott video, he’s friendly and inviting. In his personal life, he’s everything you’d expect from a gangster rapper – a couple months back he beat somebody up at a Louis Vuitton store and he was recently charged in connection with a 2018 shooting that could have ended his career before it even started. It isn’t necessary to view Baby On Baby through this prism to enjoy tracks like “Suge” and “Goin Baby”, both incessantly catchy songs that will be inescapable for the rest of the year, but that dichotomy makes him one of the most exciting rappers to come out in a long time. – Michael

Denzel Curry – ZUU

ZUU, the fourth and best album from Denzel Curry, is an almost thirty minute onslaught of grim rhymes and murky production, far removed from the lavish imagery of a Rick Ross verse. Above everything else, ZUU is through and through a celebration of South Florida—the album features guest verses from Rick Ross and Ice Billion Berg, both of whom are from Curry’s hometown of Carol City. On “CAROLMART” he shouts out Florida rappers Trina, Rick Ross, Plies, and Trick Daddy going as far as to interpolate the latter on the album opener “ZUU”. Songs like “AUTOMATIC” and the strip-club anthem “SHAKE 88” are among the most radio friendly tracks in his entire discography, potentially forging a new path forward for the young and versatile MC. – Michael

Diva Sweetly – In the Living Room

Although Diva Sweetly is mostly composed of members of the (wonderful) math rock group Pictures of Vernon, plus vocalist/keyboardist Karly Hartzman, it’d sell the band short to call it a side project. Their debut In the Living Room is a fully-formed, totally realized LP with a personality all its own. From the jaunty groove of “Detox Island” to the borderline Dischord Records tribute of “Dark Horse Lane,” the album is one of the most unique and diverse the genre’s produced in a long time. All those sounds are synthesized in closer “Green Walls,” which begins a catchy slice of throwback power pop and ends with the record’s best lyrics: “I’m not alone / I’m not complete / I’m somewhere in between.” Whatever Hartzman might sing, In the Living Room is absolutely a complete album statement, and easily one of the year’s most exciting debuts. – Zac

Downhaul – Before You Fall Asleep

With their debut LP, Downhaul solidified the fact that they’re onto something special. After three EPs, each better than the last, it was just felt right to essentially double the number of tracks in their discography. Blending a variety of sounds across the emo and indie spectrum, vocalist Gordon Philips has a croon-y twang that causes the band to truly stand out among their peers. Mental health, self-reflection, and the importance of family and friends are all important pieces of the reoccurring messages throughout the album, which ultimately ends in the triumphant closer, “Ring Out”. – Scott

Evan Greer –  She/Her/They/Them

As one of the purveyors of meaningful protest folk punk, Evan Greer has long set the tone for dance-able and impactful songs. Greer balances thoughtful and playful throughout the record, whether you’re bouncing and shouting along with “Assimilation” or clutching your heart to “Liberty is a Statue.” She/Her/They/Them is as much a rich collection of her personal experiences as it is a call to arms for marginalized voices. – Amanda

Field Medic – fade into the dawn

I’m not big on folksy acoustic guitar rock. It’s usually overly poetic and unrelatable in a way I can’t quite connect with. This just goes to show that my love for this Field Medic record is something special. Field Medic is the project of busking vet, Kevin Sullivan. As other artists have told me, his music is soft but he’s the most punk person here. On fade into the dawn songwriting encounters the difficulties of life as an artist on the road, “I’m on the road with no one I love in sight / I swore that I quit but I need a drink tonight”, but also life in general, especially struggles with drinking. Field Medic is making something you’ve heard 1000 times but quite never like this. Make sure not to let it pass you by. – Henderson


The Irish post-punkers give it their all on Dogrel. The album is seamless and blends well from track to track with grit. Although including many previously released singles such as “Too Real” and “Big”, the band does a great job in writing catchy, witty lyrics to accompany their unique post-rock sound. There’s no doubt that their Irish pride shows through in Dogrel with tracks like “Dublin City Sky”. However, the band does a fantastic job at incorporating cultural criticism into their lyrics backed with catchy and original instrumentals. – Sarah

Forests – Spending Eternity in a Japanese Convenience Store

Forests, tragically, have followed the most direct path into the emo hall of fame, cementing their status as legends that will only continue to grow (and drive up the price of their vinyl): they have announced an indefinite hiatus. They built a small but dedicated following through a handful of demos and EPs, and had a real breakout with this year’s album Spending Eternity in a Japanese Convenience Store. The band took their mathy emo and distilled it to the catchiest parts; tracks like “This Town Needs Fun” stack interlocking bass and guitar riffs only to break it all down into a huge sing-along chorus. The live videos of their recent Japan tour make it clear that no one in emo has more fun than Forests, and just like all of the best twinkly bands: we’re losing them far too soon. – Keegan


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