Top 10 Albums 2019

December 27, 2019

Happy 10 Year Anniversary to my top 10 list being hosted here at mangosquash.com. It’s been a journey. Maybe I’ll write a thing about my decade of musical consumption but for now it’s all I can do to get this top 10 list out the door for the 5 people who read it, and also for myself.

Last year’s list was very strong in the top 5, many/all of which would make my top 25 releases of the decade probably. This year’s list is much less strong in the top 5. I don’t think any of them would make a decade top 25, but it was very difficult for me to cut the list down to 10.

According to my poorly kept “2019 Albums I’ve Listened To” playlist, I listened to over 40 new releases this year. Trends in things listened to:

  • Still lots of women
  • more punk-leaning rock than in the recent past
  • less rap
  • A couple big disappointments from reliable top 10 appearers (New Pornographers, Chance the Rapper).
  • My most anticipated release of the year was not quite everything I was hoping it would be, but it still ended up I think still narrowly being my favorite release of the year.

But let’s take it from 10 and work our way down:

10. The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

Listen on Spotify

This album came with its own podcast, and both were enjoyable. In fact, if it were not for the podcast, I probably would have ignored this album even more than I did. Thank you, John Darnielle, for your work. Come to St. Louis more so the Becker Family doesn’t have to plan our family vacations around Mountain Goats concerts.

9. Pup – Morbid Stuff

Listen on Spotify

I don’t know much about this band that apparently has been making music for awhile. I started listening to them because I bought tickets to go see the Illuminati Hotties open for them at Delmar Hall. And then I got really into it. Maybe the hardest thing to happen to this list in ever, or at least since the last Japandroids album came out.

8. Oso Oso – basking in the glow

Listen on Spotify

Like Pup, Oso Oso scratches a lot of nostalgic rock itches. This one is more early Weezer/Ozma vibes.

7. Jenny Lewis – On The Line

Listen on Spotify

“I wanna listen to Jenny Lewis” is something my 2-year old says a lot. I try to talk to her about what we’re listening to in the car or in the home, and I don’t know if the name “Jenny Lewis” stuck in her head, or if she has a genuine preference for her, but I’m proud of her none the less.

This isn’t my favorite Jenny Lewis solo project (#TeamVoyager) but it’s got a lot of great tracks on it and I like it more every time I listen. Go see this lady in concert. Her voice will destroy you.

6. Big Thief – Two Hands

Listen on Spotify

Sometime in 2018 Spotify started playing Big Thief’s “Masterpiece” really heavily in all my playlists. And I loved it. What an amazing song. I kept trying to get into Big Thief albums and generally coming up short. Fortunately they released two albums this year! I liked the first one a lot, but Two Hands really hit hard for me.

So here it is. This is Big Thief’s 4th album in as many years, which is pretty wild.

5. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

Listen on Spotify

Phoebe Bridgers was robbed from a top 5 appearance on my 2018 top 10 list when I found out her brilliant debut album Stranger in the Alps cam out in 2017. Tough break. But here she in 2019 with longtime favorite Conor Oberst with a strong collaborative effort.

If you like Conor Oberst, and you like Phoebe Bridgers, you’ll probably like this. I love both, and while this is neither of their best work, it feels like it was made just for me… so, thanks!

4. Bon Iver, i,i

Listen on Spotify

Bon Iver’s prior release, 22, A Million hit #6 on my 2016 list, but I think that was a bit generous. 3 years later, I don’t think I ever really got that deeply into it. i,i is profoundly difficult to type but otherwise better in every way. It does a good job combining the more interesting sonic ideas in 22, A Million with the more conventional songwriting of his first two albums.

3. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience – The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

Listen on Spotify

Baseball is my favorite sport. The Lonely Island are my favorite rap comedy group. Mark McGuire defined my baseball fandom in my childhood. A Lemonade-style concept album/movie by the Lonely Island about Mark McGuire & Jose Canseco’s steroid-fueled 1989 season with the Oakland Athletics is more than I could have ever asked for.

The concept delivers in every imaginable way, both visually and as a stand-alone album. All of these jokes feel like they are written just for me. I also have learned a lot about the earlier parts of Mark McGuire’s career, which I hadn’t previously delved into. Everything from here below was a legitimate contender for #1

2. Rosie Tucker – Never Not Never Not Never Not

Listen on Spotify

Heartfelt jams, clever lyrics, chill vibes, great guitars. Rosie Tucker’s debut hit me hard when it came out early in 2019 and it’s stuck with me the rest of the year through. It’s warm and welcoming and delightful.

1. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

Listen on Spotify

Just some things that happened in the Vampire Weekend Universe between 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City and 2019’s Father of the Bride: Rostam Batmanglij left the band, Bassist Chris Baio released 2 solo albums, lead singer Ezra Koenig started hosting a show on Beats 1 and released 2 seasons of an Anime TV show called Neo Yokio on Netflix. Also he had a kid with Rashida Jones. And during most of these events, the Vampire Weekend album was perpetually almost done.

Modern Vampires of the City remains my favorite Vampire Weekend album by a long shot, and Father of the Bride may be my least favorite. But the album reflects the time & the diverse interests pursued in that time. It’s the most varied and least cohesive album of their catalog, but still holds together alright. Lead single, Harmony Hall is one of the most joyous songs this joyous band has ever released. It was also great to see them live in St. Louis while the Blues were winning the Stanley Cup. That was a joyous evening.

Thanks for reading. Maybe I’ll be back with a decade retrospective or something.

In the meantime, here’s my two 2019 Spotify Playlists:

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