The 25 Best Music Projects Of 2019

I honestly suck at keeping up on new music. Sure, I’m shoving out another mostly negative Review Explosion every three weeks when some artist past their prime pushes out another hour of dreck (or when Earl releases a stupidly annoying, half-baked 15 minute “album”) but I still don’t feel that I spend enough time covering what actually matters. As in, what’s actually good and worth talking about. Unfortunately, one music critic with their own taste and near-daily spins of IGOR can only do so much; no matter how hard I work, there are always a dozen supposedly great albums that I’ve fallen behind on even hearing.

From what I did listen to this year (by most people’s standards, a lot of music; by my high standards, not nearly enough), not everything I loved was a full album. Frank Ocean (arguably the greatest musical artist alive) and Jai Paul (who recently re-emerged after six silent years) both released stellar singles, and the highlight from SHADI’s debut album You Can’t Hear Me is its lead single “Lord Mohamad.” With this list, I breaking music critic tradition and name the year’s best music projects of the year (eliminating the length factor). Most of these are still full albums, but for acknowledging 2019’s great music this new format offers far more flexibility. (Note: if the same artist releases two singles close together with a uniform design aesthetic and/or musical style, I count it as one entry.) Further, the three honorable mentions are represented in the actual playlists because three songs isn’t enough for a separate honorable mentions playlist. Enough of my stupid self-absorbed ramblings, here’s the list and its associated playlists (note 1 - Tyler Holmes’ “The Promise” is mislabeled as “Basic Beach” due to a digital distribution error; note 2 - Tyler, The Creator’s “BEST INTEREST”/“GROUP B” isn’t on “real” streaming services):

Honorable Mentions:

Nothing Great About Britain - slowthai
Devil - Tyler Holmes
Night Owl - Olivia Jean

Main List:

25) Dos City - Dos Monos
24) “Harmony Hall” - Vampire Weekend
23) There Existed An Addiction To Blood - clipping.
22) KingMaker - Joel Ross
20) Injury Reserve - Injury Reserve
19) Everyday Life - Coldplay
18) “Do You Love Her Now?”/“He” - Jai Paul
17) ANIMA - Thom Yorke
16) Girl With Basket Of Fruit - Xiu Xiu
14) “All My Happiness Is Gone” - Purple Mountains
13) “Lord Mohamad” - Shadi
12) “Baby Boy” - Kevin Abstract
11) Help Us Stranger - The Raconteurs
10) 1000 gecs - 100 gecs
9) “BEST INTEREST”/“GROUP B” - Tyler, The Creator
8) GREY Area - Little Simz
7) “DHL”/“In My Room” - Frank Ocean
6) Norman Fucking Rockwell! - Lana Del Rey
5) Charli - Charli XCX
4) All My Heroes Are Cornballs - JPEGMAFIA
3) Titanic Rising - Weyes Blood
2) All Mirrors - Angel Olsen
1) IGOR - Tyler, The Creator

(Malachi Lui is the hardest working young music critic in the world. Follow his record shopping adventures on twitter: @Malachi Lui.)

GAAudioLVR's picture

I own exactly one on this list, Joel Ross - KingMaker and I was actually considering The Raconteurs. Thanks for the list.

MalachiLui's picture

check out all the other records/songs too!

Anton D's picture

I did not know this until recently, Finneas is Billie Eillish's big brother, co-writer, contributor, and producer...and his solo work is good. (He's a bit Justin Timberlake-y, who I am good with.)

I agree about TTC, Frank Ocean, Brockhampton, CharliXCX, JPEGMAFIA, etc!!

Thanks for reminding audiophiles there is new music made each year.


Frank Ocean is playing Coachella. I can't go, but hoping he plays Outside Lands. Live Frank Ocean is a rare event!

MalachiLui's picture

he is probably the only artist alive who i'd fly somewhere to see live. i would literally spend all my money to see him anywhere in the US... EXCEPT coachella.

i really hope he plays "super rich kids" at coachella bc i'll be watching the livestream to see how the audience would react lol

Chemguy's picture

...none of these all digital recordings reviewed here on AnalogPlanet.

MalachiLui's picture

"help us stranger" was recorded TO TAPE (select overdubs done thru new burl a/d converters), dumped to protools at 96/24, then mixed down back to TAPE mostly with analog outboard gear. it sounds amazing, and Bill Skibbe cut the LP from the master tape (he and Jack White both told me this, so my information is obviously accurate). "norman fucking rockwell" was probably recorded digital but it almost sounds like tape. and ignoring digitally recorded albums is purely idiotic. "norman fucking rockwell," "IGOR," "charli," and "help us stranger" are all audiophile level recordings, even though the first 3 were all digital. especially "charli," which is a modern day audiophile essential (y'know, the records you buy more for the exceptional sound quality than the great music) on double 45 clear vinyl. analogplanet's focus is mostly on reviewing albums on vinyl, including digital files tastefully cut to lacquer.

Chemguy's picture

...none of these all digital recordings reviewed here on AnalogPlanet.

Glotz's picture

'What a drag it is getting old.. "

TK's picture

I was surprised to see no Black Pumas on this list or Karen O/Lux Prima.

MalachiLui's picture

didn't listen to those artists' records. didn't see the most coverage of some of them either.

Trekmaster's picture

Malachi your language and review style are not what I come here for just saying. You repeatedly trash artists you do not like and generally have a negative attitude. I guess I don't have to read any of your reviews so the fact that I'm writing this means I have read them in the hopes that what I saw in you when Michael first introduced you to us was genuine brilliance. Sadly not what I was expecting so carry on I just will keep my reading to Michael's open honest and unbiased opinions on everything analog good luck.

Anton D's picture

Can you quote some 'negativity' or where he trashed artists on this list?

I read through it again and can't find it.

For my part, I found a few things I hadn't heard before and enjoyed seeing where my appreciation overlapped with Malachi's.

tcinoz's picture

I for one am grateful to have a contributor to an audiophile forum whose listening isn't limited to mediocre tea-room jazz female vocalists regurgitating the 'American songbook' cannon for the umpteenth time or yet another reissue of a 'classic' album that I've already heard enough times to last two lifetimes.

Keep doing what you're doing, Malachi; I enjoy your style and intend to check out every one of the titles on your list that I haven't yet heard.

DigitalIsDead's picture

Starting a dialog with a claim that a particular artist, and rapper at that, is the greatest living anything I guess is the calamity of being young. The greatest popular artist, IMHO, Frank Zappa has been dead a while and in his stead we've been treated to the decline of western civ. There are a number of artists like Eno, Jack White, Beck, and Jeff Beck who continue to assert that music is both timeless and is certainly more than beat machines and stream of consciousness memes.

Anton D's picture

The guy has an enthusiasm for an artist, and as you mewl at him for saying that, you think you prove him wrong by saying, "Frank Zappa."

There is not exactly an objective standard, likely most of us would name different people as their 'greatest living artist.'

Seriously, that comment triggers you to the point where you feel compelled to shit on the list because of a second paragraph mention of Frank being his favorite artist? That's some fine snowflaking, right there, I tell ya what.

Do you write angry letters to Rolling Stone if they don't give your favorite artist enough stars in their reviews?

MalachiLui's picture

the fact that you claim that frank ocean is a "rapper" shows that you really don't know what you're talking about and need to do extensive research (aka, actually listening).

PeterPani's picture

Nothing better can happen to you than half the reader complaining and the other half appreciating your reviews. It shows that your reviews are contemporary and relevant when people are discussing your reviews on both sides.
I like your work and I am a hardcore audiophile (from laserdisc - the best analog carrier ever, to reel to reel). I have been to Dublin in summer 2019 to see Lana del Rey and she was sensational and the audience was unforgettable cool in a positive sense. To increase your musical sense I would recommend to listen or go for some modern opera, by the way. You will be surprised how singer / composer like IGOR can resonance the same strings in our souls. Since I own already a lot of copies of the best record ever made (in my humble opinion) I share now something special with you and the analogplanet community: the best record ever done - and you have to find a original copy of 1955 and forget any later reissue - is Mozart‘s Sonata 331 by Kathryn Deguire played on the Siena Pianoforte (you can buy the original piano for $ 2.000.000 on ebay in Israel at the moment) on Esoteric Records. Mozart has the bad luck that he can be played by the stupidest artists, but not many can play Mozart in the depth of the humanity, the longing and the joy of being alive that brings you to tears. Deguire was able to do it. Listen to this record once and you know what you want from live. Besides, it will lead your way into the sound you want to hear from your hifi-rack (idler wheel turntable and tubes and output transformers). When this record sounds right anything else will, too. Keep up your good work. And don‘t push yourself. You still have a lot of lifetime to enjoy!

Glotz's picture

It's positive and wise and simply insightful.

And this hobby and passion for music brings the entire world closer together. That Dublin show sounds fantastic!

Ken K's picture

Nothing I like more than when someone introduces me to new music and it's actually good. Really good. Sometimes you don't realize how stale the air in your listening room is until someone comes along and opens up a window. Thanks for challenging my ears! Wish you were my next-door neighbor!

Michael Fremer's picture
Me too!
Vinyl On Tubes's picture

I think it was fine to list records that aren't worth our time. But multiple lists consecutively isn't helpful if we're to follow this site on regular basis. I'm glad we are getting a list of Mr. Liu with actually recommendations. I will state that I own quite a few of the records on the list, and I agree that those are some of the better records I purchased last year. I've thought about picking up a few others off the list. I'll probably pursue those records. For a lot reasons, mostly I just forget they were released and bought something else. It's good to read year end lists as a reminder of records that get forgotten about as the year passes. It give the reader a chance to pick them up before they could possible go out of press.

dbowker3d's picture

Greatest living musician... Look, I have been loving and collecting music for over 25 years and I'd NEVER deem to say there is just "one" Greatest, even of any particular genre! And anyone else who can claim their is in fact a "greatest" is either fooling themselves or doesn't really listen to much. Maybe I'd put together of my favorite top 10 musicians of each genre (rock, jazz, folk, classical, vocalist, experimental and so on) but even then... Better to say "one of favorites" and leave the hyperbole at the door.

But your List: I get that it's hard to keep up with what's really new or innovative, but this list makes me think that it was literally thrown together at the end of the year just to satisfy a deadline. Be honest if you haven't had (or made) the time to truly explore the cutting edge. And then for this year, find some friends who do. A good record store will always have their finger on what's new and great! You'll have fun doing it too.

Go see a couple music festivals that are know to have what "next" like the Newport Folk Festival, which is less "folk" than indie/rock/singer-songwriter focused and has the deserved rep. of being the first place to see what "will" be huge the next year or so later. Or South by Southwest... or whatever. The point is, there is actually a LOT going on and the last couple of years have been GREAT for new and interesting music!

To those of us who've been a round awhile and still really love music for all it's continuous innovation, no "Best of the Year" list should have more than about 5% of who you'd see at the Grammy's. If your list DOES more than that it's a sign that you need to get out more and expand your listening horizons. The Grammy's are nothing more than a celebration of the Business of music, and rarely about what's truly great (or lasting) and even more rarely about what's new.

MalachiLui's picture

1. i listen to many genres and i think that frank ocean is simply the greatest living musical artist. not the greatest of all time (that would be david bowie), but the greatest currently living in terms of overall skill and artistry. sure, different artists excel at different aspects of music, but frank ocean is extremely versatile and has NEVER put out a bad record (which is more than i can say for bowie, kanye, beatles, velvet underground, radiohead, etc). blond has literally everything i look for in music, all in one emotional potent 61-minute album. so yes, i can declare someone the greatest at something. you might not like it, but you don't control my opinion.

2. i've heard about 70-80% of important new releases this year. and no, this list wasn't just quickly thrown together to satisfy a deadline. i thought for 5 months about what my top 5 of the year was.

3. do you actually think i can afford to fly and buy tickets for newport folk fest or sxsw? in the internet age, we can easily find the next big thing from anywhere.

4. IGOR is nominated for grammy best rap album (even tho it's barely a rap album) at the grammys. "harmony hall" has a few nominations, ANIMA has best alternative album nom, lana del rey has a few nominations, billie eilish has many nominations, but nothing else on my list has grammy nominations. what do the grammys have to do with this? i have my own music taste, sometimes several ppl/groups of ppl have similar opinions, sometimes not. but literally everyone knows that the grammys mess things up EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

stream of actually sensible thoughts over.

analogdw's picture

IMHO, is Tool’s Fear Inoculum. Check it out if you like prog rock. You won’t be disappointed!

MalachiLui's picture

i have nothing necessarily against prog rock, but fear inoculum was kinda "meh" for me.

analogdw's picture

I had read your review. Shame you didn’t get a chance to give it a deeper listen. What’s your favorite Tool album?

MalachiLui's picture

haven't listened to all of them that much but i find lateralus to be the most interesting. should listen to aenima more, but i'm not big enough a tool fan to dedicate hours on end listening to them. i did listen to fear inoculum 5-6 times tho.

analogdw's picture

Lateralus also my favorite. I find Tool best listened late at night on headphones with alcoholic beverage in hand for “mood enhancement”. You should try it in a few years!

gmeese34's picture

Many of your top 10 also made mine. GREY Area is an awesome record, most underrated of the year as far as I'm concerned. I mentioned this in another thread but I hope you give FKA Twigs' Magdalene another chance and check out Caroline Polacheck's Pang.

bdp24's picture

The greatest musical artist of all time? I've never heard or read anyone say that before. That's quite a statement, and I myself can't imagine why anyone would feel that way about him. But that's taste for ya!

Rumblestrip's picture

bdp24 I don’t think he considers him the best ever but Henry Rollins talks about Bowie with reverence. IIRC I believe Henry thinks the first Joy Division album is his favorite of all time. Henry might be the only person with a vinyl collection close to Michael’s.

xtcfan80's picture


If you have not heard or read anyone say they believe Bowie is the greatest, perhaps expanding your social/musical circle would be an eye opener. MANY musicians and music lovers of all stripes favor Bowie over all others.

swimming1's picture

great discussion here,but Bob Dylan is the greatest living artist

PeterPani's picture

In popular music I would say, of all time (up to now). Since 2004 I go to a Dylan concert every year. And every year it is a highlight. I always wonder, how people cannot go to a Dylan concert, whenever it is possible.