“So Much Fun” by Young Thug
One of rap’s most celebrated underground heroes dropped his first studio album, and it immediately went #1. This was a coming-out party for Thugger, and although he’d been dancing around the peripherals of the mainstream for a while, this felt more official than before. An A-List of guest star features on what is no doubt an iconic work in the discography of rap’s favorite oddball.
“All My Heroes are Cornballs” by Jpegmafia
I wrote this in the Torch a few months ago about this album: “This is an album built for 2019. It’s frantic, reflective, witty and loud -- sometimes all at once.”It still holds up now. Jpegmafia had a brilliant 2019, and he’s poised for an even better 2020.
“Norman F***ing Rockwell” by Lana Del Rey
Standard fare for a Lana Del Rey album, but nobody does sad pop music better. One hour and 17 minutes of beautifully done torch songs. Lana’s best work since 2014’s “Ultraviolence.”
“Bandana” by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
If 2004’s “Madvillany” and 2014’s “Piñata” have taught us anything, it’s that teaming super-producer Madlib up with a talented lyricist will result in an instant classic. This album proves that formula right. Pusha T, Black Thought and others make cameos on what serves both as “Piñata”’s spiritual sequel and as an excellent standalone album.
“Here Comes the Cowboy” by Mac Demarco
Slow-paced, oftentimes meandering, and minimalist to a fault, “Here Comes the Cowboy” is an album that might not have worked out with any other artist. Mac Demarco, however, makes being lost sound so good. “All of Our Yesterdays” and “Nobody” are high points in this meditative album. 46 and a half minutes of blissed-out calm is much needed in a year where things seem to move exponentially faster every day.
“Thanks, Sorry” by Jeff Rosenstock
Putting a live album on this list feels like cheating, but Jeff Rosenstock earned the spot. The show, recorded in New York, brings out the best in Rosenstock and his catalog--the smooth mid-album transitions, the singable choruses, the grinding guitar solos, all of it feels perfect for a live album. Rosenstock’s on-stage banter adds a lot to the album as well. He’s a genuinely likable guy, and in between mosh pit anthems we get a strong glimpse of his personality.
“Care Package” by Drake
Again, it almost feels like cheating to put this album on because it’s technically a collection of Drake loosies that never got released with an album. However, “Care Package” does well to showcase Drizzy’s talent for an audience that might not have been along for the ride at this stage in his career. Old favorites like “Girls Love Beyonce” and “Draft Day” hold up well to this day, and demonstrate exactly why Drake has enjoyed the longevity that he has.
“In League with Dragons” by The Mountain Goats
John Darnelle’s band of grizzled veterans puts out another solid album. “Doc Gooden” and “Waylon Jennings Live!” are all about aging, gracefully and otherwise, and there might be no person who can better encapsulate that feeling that Darnelle, arguably the best singer/songwriter of this century.
“Nothing Great About Britain” by slowthai
Up and comer slowthai delivers grime rap custom-built for the Brexit generation. Politically slanted and to the point, “Nothing Great About Britain” takes its place among the greatest grime albums in recent memory along with “Godfather” by Wiley and “Konnichiwa” by Skepta (who are featured on the album).
“Igor” by Tyler the Creator
For a generation that has grown up with Tyler -- young enough to be transfixed by his “Odd Future” days, and old enough to appreciate his maturation with 2016’s “Flower Boy”-- this album is iconic. From the Jerrod Carmichael interludes, to the lovesick vibes of “Puppet” and “Are We Still Friends?,” to Playboi Carti’s verse on “Earfquake”, all of it just goes together perfectly. We’ve seen Tyler grow from rough-around-the-edges provocateur to wannabe art rapper to...well, this. His “Odd Future” work showed flashes of brilliance, “Flower Boy” demonstrated incredible depth, but “Igor” solidifies Tyler’s place in the pantheon of rap. One of the best albums of this year, or any other.