Sure, maybe this list seems late, but I would suggest that everyone else was just early. Last month, when some outlets were starting to publish their end of 2019 lists, I wrote this article about why I love list season and wanting to bring Natural Music back to its former glory. In just a month's time I’ve managed to recruit an incredible team of contributors from across the globe, redesign this website from scratch, and put together all of this incredible year end content [see Top 100 Albums - 2019, Top Electronic - 2019]. With that being said, we’re always looking for writers, designers, or anyone with a passion for music to join the team.
But I know you’re not here for a long-winded intro. You’re here for the music, so I present to you the Top 100 Songs of 2019 according to the Natural Music team. This isn't to say that these albums are necessarily the best, technically or however else you may wish to construe that word. It means they’re the ones that we enjoyed the most, and we hope you will too. The list is un-ordered and we tried to represent artists that didn't make it on our Top 100 Albums of 2019 list.
Listen to selections from this list on our Spotify playlist or Apple Music playlist (and share them with your friends!)
There is no pain like the loss of a child. Each parent believes from the moment their child is born that they will pass from this earth long before their children. Funerals are for the elderly after all, and while all passings are tragedies in their own way the loss of a youth is particularly potent. There are those that believe suffering is necessary for great art, a vile idea that is unfortunately reinforced by the hundreds of artists who have gone on to take their lives or produce their best work after a tragedy. Ghosteen does nothing to dispel this myth, but it recontextualizes it in a heart shattering way. This record is true agony, but hope whispers in its walls, the aching, longing strings and angelic choruses serve as reminders that “peace will come.” Though it may take forever. [Drew Pitt]
Earlier this year, when I told my friend to listen to the new Cate Le Bon album, he didn’t like it at all. I told him half-jokingly that he probably wasn’t depressed enough. There’s a real loneliness to the Welsh musician’s fifth album, despite it being her most sonically extroverted album to date. Opening cut Miami yawns with space, Le Bon sketching out a minimal lyrical scene of modern discontent and lovesickness, occasionally harmonizing with the deep tenor saxophones in melancholy, wordless sighs. Lead singles Daylight Matters and The Light both adhere to pop structures, but both are also based around bittersweet major seventh chords and a strange feeling of loss, made all the more upsetting by its vagueness. Still, songs such as Mother’s Mother’s Magazines and Magnificent Gestures provide balance by retaining the playful post-punk spirit that has made Cate Le Bon such a favourite in the British music scene. - [Paul Ray]
Building up a persona and diving into a character is hard enough in the context of a movie role. Some take the commitment too far: it killed Heath Ledger. It's even more farfetched to imagine a character that extends beyond a single movie role: a decade's worth of songs, live performances, and interviews. It reads as an impossible feat in a culture where every tiny slip-up is broadcasted to the world as a reason to shun an move on -- but Elizabeth Woolridge Grant has nailed it. Lana Del Ray has stood as a perfectly imperfect icon: never feeling stilted, successfully dodging a whirlwind of fast-paced media trends, and truly living in the character to the point where the very presence of an ulterior persona is in question. This isn't her best record because she's changed her sound and given in to the culture, but rather the other way around. It took a few years of shitshow America, and ever changing zeitgeist to reach a place where we're finally ready for what she can offer at her best -- and she happened to deliver her most polished effort right when we needed it. Working with Jack Antonoff, who seems to know how to bring the best out of female cultural icons (Lorde, Taylor Swift, St. Vincent), every track, every lyric, every production choice feels incredibly organic. Nothing feels forced, and I'm finally ok with a 70 minute lust-filled, retro inspired art-pop character study. Because it's just that perfect. [Nick Delgaudio]
In a masterful feat of eccentricity, House of Sugar is a treasure chest in indie-rock experimentalism. There’s much to glean from (Sandy) Alex G’s restrained yet robust songwriting, with each fresh-eared listen providing a deeper take on Alex Giannascoli’s ability to create music that is mysterious, dreadful, and unequivocally beautiful. The album comfortably jumps from rustic, folk-like sensibilities to heavily affected vocals layered in dark, synth heavy tracks such as in album standout “Near,” and the moody, atmospheric, electronic-driven “Project 2.” Arguably his most prolific and exciting record to date, House of Sugar is as adventurous as it is emotionally striking. [Morgan]
Earlier this year, when I told my friend to listen to the new Cate Le Bon album, he didn’t like it at all. I told him half-jokingly that he probably wasn’t depressed enough. There’s a real loneliness to the Welsh musician’s fifth album, despite it being her most sonically extroverted album to date. Opening cut Miami yawns with space, Le Bon sketching out a minimal lyrical scene of modern discontent and lovesickness, occasionally harmonizing with the deep tenor saxophones in melancholy, wordless sighs. Lead singles Daylight Matters and The Light both adhere to pop structures, but both are also based around bittersweet major seventh chords and a strange feeling of loss, made all the more upsetting by its vagueness. Still, songs such as Mother’s Mother’s Magazines and Magnificent Gestures provide balance by retaining the playful post-punk spirit that has made Cate Le Bon such a favourite in the British music scene. [Paul]
Angel Olsen’s fourth album as “All Mirrors” is one of the most intimate and showcase of evolution as an artist this decade. “All Mirrors” is as it title suggests, and introspective and sincere album which draws from the intimacy of orchestral composition. Olsen changed up her sound and added another classic album within this sug-genre. There’s a strong bleeding and beating heart hanging onto every word in her lyrics and the orchestral approach complements this beautifully. While every track carries its own relatable message about heartbreak to self-growth, a few stand out tracks are “Spring” and the title track “All Mirrors.”
“I never thought heartbreak could be so all-encompassing. I never thought that my body could stop working to the point that I couldn't express myself physically in the ways that I have always loved and found so much solace.” Through this press release and the heart-wrenching single, “Cellophane,” FKA twigs cued listeners in to just how vulnerable her long-awaited sophomore album would be. Following uterine surgeries and a breakup, twigs obsessively dove into pole dancing and martial arts as a way to reconnect and rebuild from intense physical and emotional pain––she brought this level of intensity and practice to MAGDALENE as well. twigs and multiple co-producers created 9 tracks which range from incredibly complex and bouncy electronic beats, to simple, repeated hooks. Every sound on this album is delicate and intentional. Lyrically, she explores her own heartbreak, wrath, healing, and strength through the lens of the biblical story of Mary Magdalene. She manages to compress a millennia of women’s rage and emotional fatigue into tracks like “Mary Magdalene” and “Fallen Alien.” Her signature voice is more open and stronger than ever, often echoing the theme through gothic, medieval-sounding melodies. MAGDALENE is a deeply feminine, dramatic, avant-garde album which pushes the boundaries of music. Anyone who appreciates artistry and tireless perfectionism will enjoy this album, but it helps if you are heartbroken.
Natalie Mering’s fourth album as Weyes Blood is one of the greatest albums of the decade. Titanic Rising is an art pop album which draws liberally from the 70s, essentially adding another classic into the lush, melancholically orchestrated pop canon that we tend to assume reached its natural end a long time ago. There’s a confidence to its compositional and songwriting approach which radiates pastel colours, pillowy clouds of ennui which sound decidedly not-of-this-time. Of course, music in the 2010s has been no stranger to ennui, but the ennui of Titanic Rising feels of a different origin. It’s the ennui of a world which is still enchanted, or where the possibility of enchantment and wide-eyed wonder is still very real. From Something to Believe’s crisis of faithlessness and meaninglessness to the elegiac climate change paeon Wild Time, Titanic Rising encodes the very soul of the contemporary human subject into an album of timeless grace and craftsmanship. [Paul]