All the uncertainty of 2019 has definitely yielded plenty of great music, with artists finding inspiration from visions of the past, present and future for timeless works. Here’s a look at the best albums of 2019 so far:
20. Get Up Kids, “Problems” (Polyvinyl)
The Get Up Kids work through a lot of issues on "Problems," including their own concerns about repeating themselves. Full review
19. Doug Seegers, “A Story I Got to Tell” (Doug Seegers)
Seegers has always been blessed with a gorgeous, distinctive voice, even when he was performing as Duke the Drifter or with his band Angels in Overdrive on Long Island. And that is definitely on display. Full review
18. Madonna, “Madame X” (Boy Toy/Interscope)
This will be one of those Madonna albums that will be hailed years from now, once its subtleties and artistry is recognized. One, two cha-cha-cha.
17. Khalid, “Free Spirit” (Right Hand/RCA)
Khalid establishes himself as one of music's best new artists, following in the footsteps of Frank Ocean and Solange, but creating his own path up both the pop and R&B charts. Full review
16. P!nk, “Hurts 2B Human” (RCA)
P!nk makes references to a tumultuous world, but rather than letting it get her down, she sings about moving through it with help. Full review
15. Billie Eilish, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” (Darkroom/Interscope)
The 17-year-old sensation crafts a musical universe all her own, where she proves that quiet vocals can dominate any rhythm or crafty production technique. Duh.
14. The National, “I Am Easy to Find” (4AD)
All the great female guest vocalists - Gail Ann Dorsey, Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten among them - make Matt Berninger's vocals even more poignant than usual.
13. Faye Webster, “Atlanta Millionaires Club” (Secretly Canadian)
Her combination of '70s pop, classic country and neo-soul filtered through a modern sensibility creates a new definition for what Southern music can be.
12. Maggie Rogers, “Heard It in a Past Life” (Capitol)
Rogers' work gets stronger with each risk she takes. You can almost hear "Overnight" as a folk song, but the pounding beat and glitchy samples and choral snippets turn it into something all her own. Full review
11. Charly Bliss, “Young Enough” (Barsuk)
The Brooklyn quartet delivers '80s-tinged power pop that helps Eva Hendricks' quirky, beautiful vocals charm you.
10. Jamila Woods, “Legacy! Legacy!” (Jagjaguwar):
The Chicago R&B singer pays tribute to her influences, writing songs in their styles or about their styles. That means a bluesy guitar riff drives "Muddy" and playing up the sultry, jazzy side of her voice in "Eartha."
9. Patty Griffin, “Patty Griffin” (PGM/Thirty Tigers)
Griffin steers the album toward broader topics, where she examines how we can try to move forward together in a world that currently seems to thrive on people tearing each other apart. Full review
8. Tyler, The Creator, “IGOR” (Columbia)
The stunning moment when Tyler harnesses all his creativity and bold innovations to serve a single idea that still surprises as it pushes hip-hop forward.
7. Justin Townes Earle, “The Saint of Lost Causes” (New West)
Earle tries to capture the anxiety that has set in on America, regardless of where you live, and offer a bit of hope, as he does in "Mornings in Memphis." Full review
6. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Dedicated” (Schoolboy/Interscope)
She delivers another stunning album - this time, less about "Boy Problems" and more about healing from heartbreak enough to fall in love again. Full review
5. Cage the Elephant, “Social Cues” (RCA)
The Grammy-winning rockers process grief and loss with David Bowie grandeur and The Clash's edge.
4. Gary Clark Jr., “This Land” (Warner)
Clark makes an artistic quantum leap, writing potent songs that are even more powerful than his fiery solos. Full review
3. Bruce Springsteen, “Western Stars” (Columbia)
Springsteen pairs the orchestral grandeur of early 1970s greats like Harry Nilsson and the collaborations of Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb with tales of men trying to cope with lives, knowing they are past their prime. Full review
2. James Blake, “Assume Form” (Republic)
Applying his futuristic mix of EDM and hip-hop to a pile of great love songs, including the gorgeous "I'll Come Too," has given Blake the strongest, most-polished album of his already-impressive career. Full review
1. Lizzo, “Cuz I Love You” (Atlantic)
Even if her bubbly combination of funk and self-empowerment catchphrases didn't provide the perfect soundtrack for this summer's parties, as well as millions of TikTok videos, the power of her "Juice" would have made her the year's breakout star regardless. Truth hurts. Full review