The best albums of 2019— Si Sharp -
Music might get better every year, but not every year is a great one for album releases. 2019 has been a great one, and one factor has been artists exploring the format. For years albums had been getting longer and longer with ‘special edition’ releases and poor track editing aimed at producing ‘value for money’ over quality. The trend may have reached its height in the 00s when record labels were desperate to make physical formats more enticing, but it continued until relatively recently.
In 2019 artists have found formats which better suit their genre or narrative. For some artists that has meant quantity. High profile indie acts (Foals and The 1975) released the second parts of two part albums. Elsewhere freedom from major label promotional schedules has allowed some artists to release albums in quicker succession than would have been encouraged in the old days - Brooklyn’s Big Thief being a notable example whose two album releases in 2019 have been featuring heavily in the end of year lists.
Hip hop acts which have traditionally exercised poor quality control and pointless skits have found some freedom with the mixtape format allowing them to knock out 35 minute albums. Some artists have used that as an excuse to exercise even LESS quality control, but mainly it’s encouraged a willingness to release shorter, sharper albums, high on bangers, low on feeling the need to overstretch by attempting a breadth of sound, inappropriate to their gifts.
The other big trend has been towards 5,6 and 7 track EPs, which we’ve still included in our album definition as in 2019 to reflect this progression. It may be near impossible to make money from albums, but that has also resulted in a creative freedom that is challenging a creaky 50 year old format.