We've reached the halfway point of 2019 and have had a significant amount of fantastic albums release in these past few six months. We'd like to take a look at the best of the best (so far) and count them down. Of course, this list will be controversial, so we'd love to hear your opinions as well!
15. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride - Father of the Bride was no doubt the most anticipated album of 2019, by far. It had been so long since we had heard from Vampire Weekend that the general public waited with bated breath for something, anything regarding the new album. Vampire Weekend began the marketing ploy of releasing the tracks on the album two at a time. The analysis and critiquing was furious upon each release. Upon the final release of the album on May 3, 2019, you had something that achieved great radio play but had mixed reactions critically. Especially when compared to it's predecessors. At Alt Revue we gave FoTB a 3/5. After having an opportunity to sit with it more, we would probably adjust that score a little higher as there are songs that have stuck with us. However, for all the hype that preceded it. We certainly can understand why it failed to live up to expectations for some.
14. Stef Chura - Midnight - The Detroit native Stef Chura is back and rocking more than ever with her most recent release Midnight. Led by her single "Scream", which features a fantastic video for it, it's great to see Chura looking like she's having an absolute blast with this album. It's also pushed her to new heights, as she was recently interviewed by Rolling Stone about the album. A veteran of our Artist Spotlight, it's great to see her putting out such fantastic stuff. Midnight is a little alt-rock, indie, a bit punk, and a bit garage rock. If you remotely like any of those genre's you're going to dig Chura's newest effort. She absolutely is kicking ass and taking names with it.
13. Sigrid - Suckerpunch - Sigrid perhaps represents alt pop at it's finest. High rising hooks, dance worthy beats, and dynamic vocals. She has all the stuff to achieve massive radio play in the alternative world, but crossover success into mainstream radio as well (as I will say about a couple of others on this list as well). The 22 year old Norwegian's album achieved commercial success that she had not seen before, debuting Number 1 on the charts in Norway and Number 4 in England. One thing I know for sure, her sound is infectious, as we were able to convert Greg on the Alt Revue Podcast into a fan of hers after one listen of "Sucker Punch". For a metal guy to be into Sigrid, that's saying something.
12. MISSIO - The Darker The Weather // The Better The Man - MISSIO fearlessly blends genres unlike any other act on this list, or perhaps still in alt music today. They effortlessly take elements of electronic music, hip-hop, alternative, and indie music and bend them to their will. On The Darker The Weather // The Better The Man, MISSIO takes collaboration to a new level, featuring collaborations with Paul Wall, Kota the Friend, Blackillac, and The Wind and The Wave. Their sound is so versatile, as they can put out songs that are perfect for dancing in clubs like "Temple Priest" or songs that are more like ballads "I See You". "I See You" has spent seven weeks thus far at number one on the Alt Nation Charts. The Austin, TX natives take every bit of their success humbly. As veterans of our Artist Spotlight Feature, we're glad to see them earn every bit of it.
11. Big Thief - U.F.O.F. - Big Thief dropped their most recent album U.F.O.F. on May 3, 2019. It was immediately hailed by critics (including this one) and the public alike. This album had a little bit of everything, featuring songs that leaned heavily folk, while others steered more Americana, and yet there were still some that felt a bit abstract. The album features some fantastic guitar work as well. The real star throughout however, are Adrianne Lenker's vocals. She absolutely crushes it on this album, I believe I called her a "tour de force of vocal ability" in my review. Songwriting and the use of metaphor, particularly not obvious metaphors are a strong suit of this album. Big Thief put out a fantastic album here.
10. Jenny Lewis - On the Line - The former frontwoman of Rilo Kiley continued to put out great work this year with her release of On the Line, which dropped on March 22, 2019. It was spearheaded by her single "Heads Gonna Roll" (which was probably my least favorite track from the album). I have been much more partial to "Red Bull & Hennessy" which has seen some radio play as of late, particularly on Sirius. There's just something so vintage about Jenny Lewis' sound that evokes memories of an earlier time. Her music sounds fuller/warmer. It's like the difference between a solid state amp and a tube amp, her sound has a golden hue that others can't seem to match that jumps off the record at you.
9. Girlpool - What Chaos is Imaginary - Los Angeles-based Girlpool continued their ongoing sonic evolution with their release of What Chaos is Imaginary, which dropped on February 1, 2019. The album featured fantastic vocals from band mates Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, in an array of musical styles that ranged from lo-fi indie, dream pop, to surf light. The melodies and sounds the duo are able to achieve are almost atmospheric in nature. They encapsulate the listener both vocally and musically in a wall of sound. The shifting sounds in the album never feel forced, but rather feel like natural transitions, almost like a wave in the ocean. Put this album on and you can absolutely lose yourself in it.
8. Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising - Blending traditional indie and modern psychedelia, Weyes Blood's Titanic Rising is a musical achievement. Natalie Mering is able to achieve a sound with this album that makes you almost feel like you're sonically under water. It's tonally beautiful, but also atmospheric. Mering experiments a bit with sound, infusing elements of alt-country, classic easy listening, and others to make something altogether different. What stands above all that Mering is able to achieve sonically is her vocals. She shows off a dynamic vocal register on the album that captivates the listener, refusing to let go.
7. Julia Jacklin - Crushing - When I first heard Crushing, I absolutely knew that Julia Jacklin was destined for big things. Her sophomore release, this album is arguably one that vaulted it's maker's standings more than perhaps any other. Jacklin is regularly getting booked now in more prominent positions at festivals and as an opener (such as Austin City Limits and opening for Shakey Graves/Lord Huron) and just finished a headlining U.S. Tour with Black Belt Eagle Scout serving as her support. Back to Crushing! It's musically rich, complex thematically, and triumphant vocally. Jacklin absolutely nails it with Crushing, I for one am excited to see what the future holds.
6. Stella Donnelly - Beware of the Dogs - Stella Donnelly is arguably among the most gifted lyricists in alt music today. That's a bold statement to make for someone who just released their debut album, but it's undeniably true. Donnelly writes about critical issues such as sexual assault, sexism, the #MeToo Movement, and more with biting wit and truth. She's brutally honest through her lyrics and many times her lyrics juxtapose the merry melodies she sings to. That's what makes Donnelly great, she recognizes the issues and isn't afraid to call them out on their face. But at the same time she does it with fantastic rhythm and melody.
5. The National - I am Easy to Find - First, this album is a monster. Coming in at a whopping sixteen songs, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of music we got on the album. In what I believe may be their most well-rounded album in some time, The National dropped I am Easy to Find on May 17, 2019. Matt Berninger shows off some nice range with his vocals on the album that he hadn't displayed in the past. He's great when he says in his low register, but when he pushes himself to a higher level, it's great as well. I don't know that there's a particularly weak song in the bunch. I also enjoyed the collaboration with Sharon Van Etten on "The Pull of You".
4. Billie Eilish - WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? - Another of the year's most anticipated albums, Billie Eilish's WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? was an absolute smash upon it's release on March 29, 2019. The debut album of Eilish solidified her as a star of crossover proportions, as she has achieved mainstream success to be parodied by Melissa McCarthy and an make appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. On Spotify, the average stream for her songs is several hundred million. Oh, and did we mention she's one of the headliners for Austin City Limits joining the likes of The Cure, Guns N' Roses, Tame Impala, and Childish Gambino. You're probably thinking "we get it, the album was successful", but it also was critically great as well. Eilish is an absolute one of a kind when it comes to her use of bass and sampling. On top of that she has one of the most underrated voices out there.
3. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow - Released clear back on January 18, 2019 Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow (and our next entry) encompass the definition of staying power. Here we are in June and I'm still talking about this fantastic album! Lead by the ripping single "Comeback Kid", Van Etten's newest album absolutely crashed 2019 with a bang. Much like the artist that made it, Remind Me Tomorrow, this album can do everything, featuring indie tracks like "No One's Easy to Love", bangers like "Seventeen" and "Comeback Kid", and slower tracks like "Stay". The album has been immensely commercially and critically successful and the singer/songwriter continues to tour globally and nationally in support of it.
2. Maggie Rogers - Heard it in A Past Life - Another album that was released way back in January, on January 18, 2019 to be specific this album has also had significant staying power as well. It has vaulted Maggie Rogers to crossover stardom as well, as she was able to appear on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest. As far as Heard it in A Past Life is concerned, it's alt-pop at it's finest. Rogers a gifted singer/songwriter overachieved on massive expectations that were set for her with singles "Alaska" and "Light On". She delivered a well-rounded album that delivers dynamic vocals, tight melodies, and thematically complex music. When this one dropped, I didn't think there would be one to outdo it all year. However...
1. Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center - It might not be fair to pick an album by such a dynamic supergroup. However, this is my list so, sorry about it! Phoebe Bridgers and Coner Oberst came seemingly out of nowhere to form Better Oblivion Community Center and released their self-titled album on January 24, 2019. The day before the release of the album, the band played "Dylan Thomas" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and like that the album was out the next day! It was a commercial and critical success upon it's release. "Dylan Thomas" was the hit out of the gate. Bridgers and Oberst made a fantastic video for the track, directed by Michelle Zauner a.k.a. Japanese Breakfast. This album is tight, it doesn't have a clunker on it. Bridgers and Oberst share vocal duties so well throughout and their haromonies are absolutely stellar.
It doesn't get any better than Better Oblivion Community Center's brand of alt-folk thus far this year. We'll see what the rest of the year holds (there are some big ones we are looking forward to). We want to hear what your favorite thus far are!