2019 was a long year full of excellent music. It is always difficult to remember what music was released in which year, but in 2019, there was something exciting being released every single week.
We loved so many of the albums and EPs that came out this year, and it was difficult to narrow the list down to just 15; that said, these 15 are not listed in any meaningful order, as we also felt it impossible to rank these releases.
And so, without further ado, Indientry’s Top 15 Albums of 2019 (in no particular order):
Harmony Woods – Make Yourself At Home
Philadelphia indie rock group Harmony Woods has long been a favorite at Indientry, but 2019’s Make Yourself At Home went farther than imagined. Musician Sofia Verbilla’s voice is unique and, backed by grungy guitar and resonant bass, feels like both characteristic indie rock and something more vulnerable. Arguably the album’s best track is “The City’s Our Song.” Only the third song on the album, it is driving and low, but despite its rich guitar tone, the track is shockingly tender as Verbilla sings a sweet, poetic love song (“Tell me, do you wanna go out dancing?/Do you wanna feel the weight of the world”). Make Yourself At Home is a wonderful follow-up to 2017’s Nothing Special, and it shows both growth and promise of even greater things to come.
Listen to Make Yourself At Home:
Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow is polished, vulnerable and authentic; Van Etten blends warping synth and warm piano into a wonderful, spacey sound. “Seventeen” shows this well: it’s driving and energizing, reminiscent of youth and packed full of synthesizer and nostalgia as Van Etten croons, “I used to be seventeen / Now you’re just like me.” Other tracks add new flavors to the musical blend on the album: “Stay” feels fluid, while “Jupiter 4” is winding and “I Told You Everything” shows off Van Etten’s vocal harmonies. Regardless, the songs come together in a mature and decadent sonic composition filled with synth, piano and powerful vocals in a moving narrative of growth and love.
Listen to Remind Me Tomorrow:
Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center
Indie musicians Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst collaborated to form Better Oblivion Community Center and release a self-titled record early in the year, but the album stuck around nonetheless. Better Oblivion Community Center is an impressively vulnerable, intimate alternative album, and both Bridgers and Oberst shine. Bridgers’ distinctive vocal timbre is smoky and meshes well with Oberst’s rich voice, and the two sing beautiful melodies and harmonies on top of mellow guitar and percussion. Some songs feel grungier, with lower guitar (“Exception to the Rule”), while others are softer (“Didn’t Know What I Was in For”), but Better Oblivion Community Center is an emotional, tender indie record overall, and it shows the beauty that can result when two talented individuals decide to collaborate.
Listen to Better Oblivion Community Center:
Ames – My Name Is Ames
Songwriter Ames released her debut alternative pop EP this year, and My Name Is Ames is both remarkably catchy and intimate. Its six tracks are clean, featuring upbeat synth melodies and polished, near-flawless production, yet the EP is also moving and cinematic. “Old Hero” draws on loss and feels theatrical, but “Hold On” is shimmering and gauzy, and “Mama It’s Me” features a more intimate, acoustic sound. Ames addresses life as a queer woman throughout, dealing with parents on “Mama It’s Me” and speaking to her younger self on “Hold On.” It’s difficult to pick a standout track on the personal, powerful EP as Ames layers seemingly endless nuggets of shining synth with her own smoky vocals in a wonderfully rich sound.
Read Indientry’s full review of My Name Is Ames.
Listen to My Name Is Ames:
no stars – Ripping Off The Tags
Athens indie musician no stars’ Ripping Off The Tags is a strong debut; its gorgeous harmonies, lo-fi guitar strumming and steady drum beats form a consistent base for each of its six tracks, though they range in tempo from subdued to bouncy. It’s a beautiful release with a light yet dynamic sound, and musician Emma Schultz croons boldly about love and loss. Schultz’s clearly ringing vocals, in fact, bring the entire EP together with her pure, simple and gorgeous voice, and the EP’s tender nature is matched only by its self-accepting nature: its title symbolizes “just going with what you have and owning it, regardless of whether or not it’s perfect,” according to Schultz.
Read Indientry’s full review of Ripping Off The Tags and listen to the episode of The Nextwave Sessions featuring no stars.
Listen to Ripping Off The Tags:
Trying – I Won’t Let You Lose the Rhythm and I Just Can’t Feel the Rhythm
Columbus indie band Trying released two companion EPs this year: I Won’t Let You Lose the Rhythm and I Just Can’t Feel the Rhythm. The former typifies support, featuring four dreamy, tender tracks with just enough grit to feel like they belong to the band, and uses jangly bits and frontman Cameron Carr’s unique vocals to create a charming bedroom-pop musical blend. The latter release feels more like struggle, and its four songs are noisier and harsher, combining jewel-toned clarinet melodies with squealing guitar and frenetic drums to create tension and dissonance. Regardless, both releases are mature and stunning. The two EPs will merge (with the help of some additional material) to comprise Trying’s sophomore full-length record in 2020, so there will be more wonderful music to come.
Listen to I Just Can’t Feel the Rhythm:
Infinity Crush – Virtual Heaven
Infinity Crush tackles joy, loneliness and love through the dreamy bedroom-pop soundscape that is her second album, Virtual Heaven. The music is dreamy, filled with shimmering keyboards, mellow guitars and velvet vocals, and though the album is intricate, it feels hazy and lush, not overwhelming. Still, the record feels mature as musician Caroline White tackles complicated song structures with ease and highlights the dualism of humans and relationships, because while the music often feels idyllic, White sings both saccharine love songs (“Misbehaving”; “Minnesota”) and realistically confused tracks (“Car”). Virtual Heaven is a surprisingly complex record and a gauzy, poppy exploration into vulnerability and humanity.
Read Indientry’s full review of Virtual Heaven.
Listen to Virtual Heaven:
hidden places – the circle is not round
the circle is not round, the latest from Columbus post-punk musicians hidden places, maintains the band’s characteristic angst and classic punky indie-rock sound. Its eight tracks are a little heavier than hidden places’ uh’s, but frontman David Fuller’s wonderfully dry vocals balance well with crisp, deft percussion and rich bass melodies. The music is mesmerizing, though each track brings a new element of post-punk: “separator” feels frenetic while “mundanity” moves more slowly; “in stasis” is low and grungy, yet “mood ring” is eerie. But the two contenders for the best track on the album, “baby tracy” and “baskin 3,” are highly rhythmic and clean, exemplifying hidden places’ percussive, punky sound.
Read Indientry’s full review of the circle is not round.
Listen to the circle is not round:
Sigrid – Sucker Punch
Norwegian pop artist Sigrid shines on Sucker Punch; the record is a wonderfully shiny pop release, featuring catchy melodies and bold vocals and shimmering synthesizer. One standout track is “Sight Of You,” a synth-filled, electrifying bop of a love letter to Sigrid’s fans (“Sometimes it’s like nothin’ is going my way/Even though I know I’m getting up on that stage/But now that I’m here, I got reason to believe/Just the sight of you is getting the best out of me”). And still, that is only one song – each of the twelve tracks on Sucker Punch brings its own flavor, coming together to build an impossibly captivating pop record.
Listen to Sucker Punch:
Field Medic – fade into the dawn
Each of the ten tracks on bedroom-folk artist Field Medic’s fade into the dawn is a bite-sized study in vulnerability. Though tracks vary from thick and hypnotizing (“hello moon”) to dark with harmonica (“mood ring baby”) to lighthearted and harmonic (“i was wrong”), honest guitar picking and musician Kevin Patrick’s drawl maintain the same folky sound throughout. Still, fade into the dawn is an intimate record, and its sparse instrumentation (primarily Patrick’s guitar and vocals) allows listeners to focus on its more intense lyrical content. All of this builds fade into the dawn into a beautiful folk album, examining heartbreak and love through ten largely straightforward songs.
Read Indientry’s full review of fade into the dawn.
Listen to fade into the dawn:
Miss June – Bad Luck Party
New Zealand quartet Miss June rips their way through the red-hot alternative rock record that is Bad Luck Party. The band uses ragged guitar riffs, unapologetically bold vocals and startlingly frenetic energy to build a set of eleven irresistibly punky tracks. They wail and pound and roar throughout, using gritty guitar chords and a definitively rocking energy to build a healthy grunge-rock sound. Somehow, though, Bad Luck Party is only Miss June’s debut; regardless, it is a magnetic and punky album. Stay close to Miss June in the coming years, and not just because the band demands attention – because Bad Luck Party seems to promise more electrifying music to come.
Read Indientry’s full review of Bad Luck Party.
Listen to Bad Luck Party:
King Princess – Cheap Queen
King Princess arrived to the music scene in 2018 with “1950,” a beautifully languid ode to queer love in history, and ever since, her music has not disappointed. Cheap Queen, her debut full-length, is no exception: its 13 songs move through love and heartbreak in a series of beautiful ballads and more upbeat, hooky tracks. It is truly a modern pop album, and King Princess uses both rhythmic moments and drawn-out ones; harshly percussive sounds and dreamy, smooth ones; deep, husky vocals and boldly strong ones. Still, Cheap Queen has a low-key energy that meshes well with King Princess’s swagger; it’s a wonderfully chill record perfect for lounging around with friends or listening on long night drives.
Listen to Cheap Queen:
Seratones – POWER
Soul rock has never come in a purer form than Louisiana group Seratones’ POWER, a massive, grungy rock album full of strength and featuring bold vocals, modern melodies and classic R&B tones. The music is both rich and groovy, showcasing unique background textures layered underneath rocking guitar melodies and powerful vocals. Two tracks stand out: “Gotta Get To Know Ya” is an electrifying and buzzing dance track that feels warping, fluid and groovy, while “Power” promises strength in the face of oppression (“We take two steps forward/They take one step backward/We take each step to lift us up higher”). All of this is to say that POWER is appropriately named; the record is grand, confident and thrilling without barreling out of control, and Seratones’ rich soul-rock sound is unique and irresistibly cool.
Read Indientry’s full review of POWER.
Listen to POWER:
Spartan Jet-Plex – Resurrected
Nancy Kells, perhaps better known as Spartan Jet-Plex, a dark experimental folk musician and a collective member and facilitator of Grimalkin Records, created a remarkably eerie record with Resurrected, an album that falls somewhere between electronica and folk. Resurrected explores social and political themes throughout as Kells spins spine-tingling music; Kells weaves together warping, whispering vocal samples, distorted guitar, pretty piano and witchy interludes, and they create a truly mesmerizing musical tapestry. Each song is unique, yet they all feel unearthly in some manner, and the record is surprisingly accessible in its clear melodies and powerful vocals. Kells’ warbling voice tethers the tracks together in a haunting record perfect for its Halloween release.
Read Indientry’s full review of Resurrected.
Listen to Resurrected:
Maija Sofia – Bath Time
Political and protest music are nothing new, but Irish art-folk musician Maija Sofia’s Bath Time feels inventive and fresh regardless. The album primarily features Sofia’s lo-fi vocals and folky guitar, and it is wonderfully lo-fi and DIY with a surprisingly bold attitude. Sofia’s indignation and anger are evident through her layered, intricate vocals and swells of thick stringed instruments. It is a decadent album, but the album’s narratives are the true focal point: through Bath Time, Sofia aims to provide a re-imagined voice for women who have been silenced and misrepresented throughout history. And so, while the musical content of Bath Time is made accessible through its light, folky sound with a bit of a lilt, it is backed by the powerful punch of Sofia’s depictions of strong women throughout history.
Read Indientry’s full review of Bath Time.
Listen to Bath Time:
And so ends Indientry’s coverage of 2019 music. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about each of these albums and EPs, but more importantly, we hope you’ve enjoyed listening to them.
Following this list, Indientry will be on holiday break until January 7, 2020. Have a great holiday, and we’ll see you in the new year!