Top 89 of 2019: Best Albums

Top 89 of 2019
Top 89 of 2019 - Best Albums of 2019 (MPR)

The Current's listener-curated Top 89 countdown is the main attraction among our year-end lists. We'll air the whole countdown from 5 p.m. to midnight Central Time on New Year's Eve and again on Jan. 1 from 12 to 7 p.m. Central.

That said, there's more to the story. For instance, here are the picks for Best Albums of 2019, as determined by The Current's staff and listener input.

Lizzo – Cuz I Love You

They're calling 2019 the Year of Lizzo, and for very good reason. The artist born Melissa Jefferson has been making waves across the globe with her infectious music and positive messages. Lizzo's album, Cuz I Love You, released April 19, and as host Jade described, "Every song is infused with Lizzo's high-voltage personality, making each song feel like a secret message sent just to you. Lizzo is here for you and wants to make sure you know it."

Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

The preternaturally talented teenager released her debut studio album on March 29. "Billie Eilish is the latest among trendsetting alternative pop artists to disrupt the music industry through a meteoric rise to fame," wrote David Safar. "While many artists making their debut hold back, waiting for their moment to grab the spotlight, Eilish just simply took it through hyper-creative expression and being willing to insert her deepest emotions into all of her work."

Jenny Lewis – On The Line

Released March 22, Jenny Lewis's On The Line "is an album of growth and finding peace for Lewis," Jill Riley observed. "It's clear her songwriting has transformed from songwriter to storyteller." Lewis further endeared herself to the Minnesota audience by describing her connections to Minnesota both in interviews and in her song lyrics — notably, in "Heads Gonna Roll," Lewis describes traveling with "a narcoleptic poet from Duluth." And if that wasn't enough, Lewis gave Minnesotans an additional gift by playing a Microshow in the Clown Lounge under the Turf Club back in April.

The Highwomen – The Highwomen

Amanda Shires told Bill DeVille she wanted to start the band the Highwomen to make music "like country — like you would hear on the radio — and maybe we could tell stories that are different than the ones we're allowed to tell currently on country radio." With that mission in mind, Shires recruited Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby to make that vision a reality. The resulting self-titled debut by the Highwomen is "an instantly classic sounding blend of Americana, folk and country music," David Safar said. "The album is twelve tracks of perfectly constructed country hooks and Americana harmonies."

Lana Del Rey – Norman F****** Rockwell!

Lana Del Rey released her sixth studio album on August 30. "Although the folk-flavored arrangements don't break Del Rey's well-established melancholy mold," Jay Gabler wrote, "it's an inviting and often witty effort."

Brittany Howard – Jaime

The Alabama Shakes frontwoman released her first solo album on September 20 of this year, gifting The Current's audience with a live video stream of her September 19 show at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul where she performed the entire album. Of the solo record, Howard said, "I'm a 30-year-old woman now. My identity is very clear to me and I don't have to make it clear to anyone else, because I don't think that's important — what anyone else thinks about me, or what box they want to put me in. But I will say, for myself, making this record definitely was just a declaration of who I find myself being."

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

It had been six years since Vampire Weekend released a record, and in that time, the band signed to major-label Sony and, as we all tend to do, did a bit of growing up. "Vampire Weekend's Father of the Bride is a coming of age album for thirty-somethings," David Safar wrote. "It delves into the emotional turmoil of adulthood and paints pictures of contemporary life through the perspective of an artist who has grown restless after finding success during the first part of his career."

Bon Iver – i,i

On Bon Iver's latest release, Justin Vernon worked with a number of collaborators, including Bruce Hornsby, James Blake, Velvet Negroni, Naeem, and Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner. Not only was this an artistic step forward, but Andrea Swensson sees i,i as a very in-the-moment album. "After listening to i,i several times and thinking about Vernon's journey, I can't help but see the parallels between mental health and community action," Swensson explained. "It's a beautiful thing to be able to get outside one's own head. Self-care isn't selfish; in fact it can empower us to be better friends, partners, organizers, and leaders. By opening himself up, Vernon opened up his band to countless new possibilities. Even though i,i is being marketed as the end of a season cycle of albums, I can't help but hear it as a new beginning."

Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

"Love is a horrible, wonderful, tragic, and hopeful thing," Jade writes. "In Sharon Van Etten's latest album, Remind Me Tomorrow, her empathy overflows as she tries to explain a love story in all its hideous beauty."

Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won't Hold

About Sleater-Kinney's August 16 release, Mac Wilson wrote, "There are two major plot threads that have enveloped The Center Won't Hold, and while the music certainly has merits all its own, it would seem disingenuous at this point to not at least note these factors surrounding the release." Those plot threads, of course, being the signing of St. Vincent as the album's producer, and the departure of longtime drummer Janet Weiss. That said, "it's an album that bears out several hidden treasures," Wilson continued, "and seems destined to wind up on future lists of Albums That Were Underrated At The Time" — or here, on the Top 89 list of albums of the year.

Related Stories

  • Top 89 of 2018: Bonus Categories The Current's Top 89 countdown is our main year-end event, but we're supplementing the song list with some fabulous bonus categories: Best Artists, Best Albums, Best Local Artists, Best Sessions, and Best Concerts.
  • Top 89 of 2019: The Current Staff Picks Selecting your votes for Top 89 of 2019? Get some inspiration from The Current staff, who've put together their own lists of favorite music of the year.