Earlier this month, I stopped by the library like I’ve done plenty of times before. I find solace in the library’s stillness. I don’t spend a bulk of my free time there or anything. At least once a week, however, I find myself there. Either checking out a book, renewing one to maintain a literary adventure or just because it’s on the walk to the grocery store. On this night, I sat and read by the newer book section. Almost immediately a name I hadn’t seen in years jumped into my peripheral.
During my freshman year of high school in 2007, I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the first time. I’ve read it at least 10 times since, and I’ve watched the movie which author Stephen Chbosky directed in 2012. It’s the last time, however, I heard from Chbosky. It’s why I had to immediately text my sister about it, who introduced him to me a dozen years ago. Only the large print edition was available, but that didn’t stop me from checking it out. His second ever book. This one about a younger boy named Christopher. Titled Imaginary Friend.
I share that brief antidote, while citing my favorite albums of 2019 because it’s impossible to think about The Perks of Being a Wallflower without thinking of music. Seeing Chbosky’s name settled on the wooden shelf before 8 p.m. on a Wednesday brought back memories.
Music has this way of transforming our minds to the past. As much as it is entertainment, it can be a sense of motivation and calmness. Chbosky uses music heavily in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s a springboard for the friendships Charlie creates with Sam and Patrick. Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” is the song Charlie and his new friends hear as they drive through Pittsburgh, making them feel infinite. It’s a feeling everybody has experienced, usually during our teenage years. A killer song on a fall evening with a beautiful setting to give you many goosebumps. Windows down without a care in the world. “Seventeen,” by Sharon Van Etten, is the song from 2019 that most relates to that feeling. A feeling that returns no matter how many times you listen.
Each of these albums left some imprint. It’s why they’re on this list. They’re the albums I’ll remember most from 2019.
In a Mike Arena voice, they’re BANGERS. (Check out his sweet movie review website while you’re at it).
There’s no rhyme or reason to this list. There’s no order. Just enjoy the music. All the music.
SANDY (Alex G) — House of Sugar
Havertown PA’s finest delivered another sensational project. His third album might be his most complete to date. Listen to “Hope” when you have a moment.
Charli XCX — Charli
Charli XCX’s Charli has star-studded features from HAIM, Lizzo and Clairo. She’s one of the best things in pop, and this record proves it. So many head bopping and eccentric numbers like “White Mercedes”, “Gone” and “Blame It on Your Love.”
Sharon Van Etten — Remind Me Tomorrow
The aforementioned “Seventeen” is a song I’ll never forget. It’s a melancholy yet hopeful ode to youth that packs a tantalizing punch.
Toro y Moi — Outer Peace
An earlier 2019 release, Toro y Moi’s Outer Peace stayed in my rotation all year long. It’s the perfect album to listen to while settling into a workday. Good vibes only.
FKA twigs — MAGDALENE
FKA twigs made her big screen debut in Honey Boy (more on that movie and the best movies of 2019 later this month). Before the release of Shia LaBeouf’s biopic, FKA twigs gave us a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Better Oblivion Community Center — Better Oblivion Community Center
It makes sense Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst collaborated. These two poignant and savvy songwriters at different ends of their career. Bridgers the newish indie savant, while Oberst has been one of the best songwriters for a couple decades. Better Oblivion Community Center brings out the best in each of them with their sincere storytelling, amusing wit and words that matter on a number of levels.
Kehlani — While We Wait
Her lyrics hit home. Her voice is majestic. Listen to “Nights Like This” and “RPG”.
Weyes Blood — Titanic Rising
Weyes Blood recently appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. It’s well worth your time.
Blood Orange — Angel’s Pulse
Dev Hynes, under the name Blood Orange, has been a revelation. One of my favorite songs of the decade has to be his 2016 triumph “Best to You.” An equally impressive song is this year’s “Dark & Handsome,” featuring Toro y Moi. Give it a go.
Lana Del Rey — Norman Fucking Rockwell
It’s possible no album had more anticipation than NFR. It exceeded it all.
Purple Mountains — Purple Mountains
Back in July, my friends and I played Fort Nite for a fortnight. (Seriously, our experiment lasted about two weeks consider how crappy I am at video games.) I’ll never be a skilled video game player, but my roommate has a PS4 and most of my friends live 200+ miles away. So, it made sense to interact online and make some jokes while I registered zero kills. One night, my friend Matt recommended Purple Mountain’s self-titled debut album from the legend David Berman. David Berman was familiar to me, but not in any tangible way. I took Matt’s advice without hesitation, because Matt’s musical taste is one to trust.
I couldn’t get enough of Purple Mountains. The brilliant and heartfelt lyrics. The raw emotion with each dampening line. Nobody wrote sad and gloomy better than Berman.
Shortly after the release of the record, Berman committed suicide. He gave this world so much with his gift of music and storytelling. His farewell album features many bleakly depressing songs like “All My Happiness is Gone,” “That’s Just the Way I Feel” and “Maybe I’m the Only One For Me.”
His music will live on forever. And there’s something tragically beautiful about it.
Bon Iver — i,i
Anytime your favorite artist of all time releases an album it goes last. Justin Vernon brought along plenty of friends to complete his fourth album. I don’t think an album will reach Bon Iver’s 2016 22, A Million, but i,i gave a valiant effort. “Naeem” is the song of the record.