2019 delivered albums early on that will undoubtedly make end of year lists. By mid-January, we already had Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow — one of her most dynamic releases to date.
Both local artists and genre-leaders made this list. The first six months of this year have us recognizing fifth LPs and second LPs all the same. From ballads to alt-rock to tracks you can only listen to with the window rolled down, it was easy to pick our favorites. Many of these albums will not only likely make reappearances on EOY lists, but also on our own playlists for years to come.
Sharon Van Etten / Remind Me Tomorrow (Jan. 18)
On her fifth album, Remind Me Tomorrow, Sharon Van Etten explores her most soothing, yet agonizing, songwriting to date. The world might have been led to believe Etten was done with music for a time, but as her latest and long-awaited release exhibits, an unyielding creative process is only conquered through the most wild forms of enlightenment. Remind Me Tomorrow is filled with cataclysmic euphoria — faithfully drifting through synth rhythms and reimagined themes of chaos and bliss. Emotionally piercing tracks, like “Seventeen,” remind us all how far growth can take an individual: “I see you so uncomfortably alone / I wish I could show you how much you've grown.” Etten has gifted fans with exhilarated storytelling, crafted with a variety of textured sounds, making Remind Me Tomorrow one of the most visionary and mesmerizingly soulful albums to come out at the start of 2019. — Katie Lipsiner
King of Summer (EP) / How Cool (April 12)
Armed with a devout love for pop music, Atlanta’s King of Summer explores the genre’s feel-good expanse with their 2019 EP, How Cool. The pop-punk hometown heroes have found solace in music, while feeling alone, and had fun while doing it. “I think in the three years that we’ve been doing this band, we’ve unintentionally done a really good job of organically setting the tone where we can be really silly,” explains lead vocalist and guitarist Tim Sterritt. “We got to be a little goofier with this EP than the ones before it, while still pushing forward with what we think are great, serious songs.” How Cool explores the relationship between pop anthems and sonic reverence, producing emotional songs without being weighed down by earnestness. — KL
Kevin Morby / Oh My God (April 26)
Kevin Morby is impressively prolific. He releases an album almost every two years, and they never feel thrown together; each is its own developed piece. His music is always quintessentially him. You can tell that it’s Kevin Morby the second he opens his mouth to sing in the sloping, assertive way that he does, or when the dark strums of his minor-key folk begin. It takes just seconds. His latest release, Oh My God is no different in that way. It does, however, have a structure unlike most of his last releases. This album revolves around motifs; many of the hooks or lyrics recur throughout the album. “Oh My God” is not just an album name, or a title track, but rather an entire feeling that Morby has molded himself around. This LPpresents the seasoned musician in a solemn light, as he laments and muses on the modern world and where it’s headed. He repeats the phrases “Oh My God, Oh My Lord” and “Carry Me Home” across multiple tracks, and you can feel a sense of simultaneous exhaustion and urgency in his voice. — Erin Patrick
Big Thief / UFOF (May 3)
The third full-length album from Big Thief is both iron-fisted and delicate. Frontperson Adrienne Lenker’s unmistakable vocal timbre proves itself yet again on UFOF, as she effortlessly controls the lowest and highest ends of her range. Much of UFOF sounds nearer to the solo albums of Lenker and bandmate Buck Meek, than it does to Capacity or Masterpiece. Songs like “Cattails” and “Orange” sway toward folk, and further away from the indie rock that we’ve come to know the group for. Folk has always been in Big Thief’s roots, but their third LP shows that they thrive in the genre; it perfectly accommodates their frequent musings on nature and the passing of time. The folk sound that they produce is far from typical, though. This album especially is more unconventional than those before it — every track has layers, emotionally and in regards to production. The Brooklyn-based quartet creates an entire world within each album they release, and it’s safe to say that UFOF’s world is one of mystical, hopeful sadness. — EP
Faye Webster / Atlanta Millionaires Club (May 24)
A master of yo-yo tricks, Atlanta Braves stats and, most importantly, honeyed ballads, Faye Webster’s latest LP, Atlanta Millionaires Club, is an ode to The A. With each album Webster releases, her songwriting becomes increasingly mature and complex. Pedal steel wanders in and out of each track, eliding one song to the next, and bridging the gap between Georgia and the tropics. Webster’s vocals are simultaneously meticulous and carefree, paralleling the speak-singing intimacy of fellow pop-soul artist Natalie Prass. Songs like “Pigeon” and “Jonny” expertly stack harmonies and add brass instrumentation to the mix. Atlanta Millionaires Club is Faye Webster’s personal invitation to her hometown, and listeners would be remiss to decline the adept singer-songwriter’s offer. — Kristy Guilbault
The Glow / Am I (May 24)
Mike Caridi. You may think this name is unfamiliar, but don’t kid yourself. If you’ve ever listened to LVL UP, or any band on Double Double Whammy’s roster, then you’ve listened to Caridi in some capacity. After the dissolvement of LVL UP, in 2018, Caridi set out to make his solo debut, under the moniker The Glow. Hazy guitar and amorphous vocals linger from LVL UP’s sound, and the album’s lo-fi production aligns with DDW’s family, but Am I contains an aural terrain all its own. The Glow’s debut full-length is more dewy-eyed and nostalgic, and far more polished, than his previous project’s releases. And while similar sonic ground is mined throughout Am I, the album’s final track, “Memories,” turns away from alt-rock, to glossy electronic. With less than a year separating his pivot from LVL UP to The Glow, it will be interesting to see where Caridi takes listeners next. — KG