Summer has finally arrived, which means that the year is halfway over. That makes now a good time to compartmentalize the first half of the year and evaluate how the previous few months went. How long did you manage to keep up your New Year’s resolutions? Have you put as much money aside as you hoped to? Are you sticking to that diet? Most importantly, was the music any good?
The answer, at least to that last question, is yes.
2019 has been kind to music fans so far. Ariana Grande released an earth-shattering album. Folks like Billie Eilish and Lizzo have emerged as full-blown stars. Acts like Steve Gunn, Hand Habits, and The National are keeping indie rock alive. Of all the great albums, though, which ones were the best? We have our opinions, so below, check out our rankings for the best albums of the year so far.
50. Karen O And Danger Mouse — Lux Prima
Karen O and Danger Mouse aren’t exactly two artists that seem like natural fits for collaboration, but Lux Prima argues that this marriage was a long time coming. More polished and refined than most of Karen O’s solo work, while not settling for the radio-ready production style that has typified Danger Mouse’s last decade, Lux Prima is an example of two artists bringing out the best of each other, while maintaining their own celebrated identities.–Philip Cosores
49. Gary Clark Jr. — This Land
Gary Clark Jr. is the unmistakable torchbearer of modern blues-rock, and it’s not difficult to see why. Clark by no means betrays the genre, but he does find ways to make it appealing to contemporary interests. Perhaps the finest example of that is album opener “This Land,” an outraged critique of Donald Trump’s presidency that’s influenced by electronic music and hip-hop.–Derrick Rossignol
48. Tayla Parx — We Need To Talk
Tayla Parx’s colorful debut borrows all the glitz of the popular hits she’s penned for close friend Ariana Grande like “7 Rings” and “Thank U, Next” and teases out even more of the soul-drenched, hip-hop rooted attitude those songs evoke and draw upon. Tayla’s own singles, “I Want You,” “Easy,” and “Slow Dancing” drip with the sensual swagger of a Prince or Beyonce, but are effortlessly light and bouncy like the best pop songs can be with the right writer behind them. It’s clear from her first effort that Parx is exactly that.–Aaron Williams
47. Rosie Tucker — Never Not Never Not Never Not
On Never Not Never Not Never Not, Rosie Tucker sees everything. The LA singer-songwriter writes songs with an astute eye for detail and wry humor. Colors (and observations) bleed, descriptions of infomercials find their way into a song about an argument. Every song on Never Not Never Not Never Not is rich with metaphor, as endlessly complex and rearrangeable as the tangled yarn on the album’s cover.–Chloe Gilke
46. Offset — Father Of 4
Offset’s Father Of 4 is undoubtedly the best of Migos’ solo albums because the Atlanta rhymer stepped outside the realm of braggadocious bangers that the trio has mastered and challenged himself. He explores his past trauma, infidelity, and come up on tracks like “Father of 4,” “Red Room,” and “Clout,” which offer real insight into who he is and how his upbringing has shaped his perspective on life.–Andre Gee
45. The Japanese House — Good At Falling
Amber Bain (aka The Japanese House) is Good At Falling, and is equally good at crushing it on her debut album. There aren’t really any moments where she falters, and there are a ton of highlights to be had, like the rhythmic indie pop of “We Talk All The Time,” the road trip-ready indie rock of “You Seemed So Happy,” and the strong groove of “Maybe You’re The Reason.”–D.R.
44. Flying Lotus — Flamagra
Flying Lotus pushed the boundaries of hip-hop production on Flamagra, which weaves jazz, electronic, funk, and soul influences into a bold, skillfully-crafted soundscape. Flylo takes listeners on a ride with energetic instrumentals such as “Post Requisite” and “Pilgrim Side Eyes,” but he also put together stunning canvasses for artists like Denzel Curry on the fiery “Black Balloons Reprise,” Tierra Whack on the quirky “Yellow Belly,” and Solange on the lush “Land Of Honey.”–A.G.
43. Alex Lahey — The Best Of Luck Club
Alex Lahey establishes herself as a personal, vulnerable storyteller on her latest, especially on “Unspoken History,” which is among the most lovely songs of the year so far. Lahey’s tender voice atop a gradually swelling instrumental is raw beauty, and the emotional chorus — “I, I don’t want you to go / But you, you won’t ever know” — is so vulnerably relatable that you can’t help but get swept away by it.–D.R.
42. Steve Lacy — Apollo XXI
The Internet member Steve Lacy has had a helping hand in the work of acts like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Vampire Weekend, and Solange. On Apollo XXI, he takes flight all on his own. The project finds his sterling musicianship and vocal work at their most brilliant. “Playground” is reminiscent of early Prince and “N Side” sees Lacy’s sexy, R&B songwriting rise to new heights.–Jordan Coley
41. Cass McCombs — Tip Of The Sphere
This veteran singer-songwriter has been putting out great records since the early ’00s. But Cass McCombs has never made an album as immediate or affecting as his ninth release, Tip Of The Sphere. While McCombs remains a master of enigmatic lyricism, the main selling point of Sphere is the abundance of backyard guitar jams, which unfurl lazily like a beloved bootleg Grateful Dead tape.–Steven Hyden