It seems as though our favourite bands have all been trying to get one last album in before the end of the decade, and some have fared better than others. Honourable mentions go to Catfish and the Bottlemen, Tame Impala, and Foals, who just slightly miss the list due to either a lack of originality (looking at you Van), or personal taste.
10. Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles
Our countdown starts with Sam Fender’s average release. This album is making our list purely due to the sheer number of people that have fallen in love with it. ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ and ‘Will We Talk’ have become indie anthems with around 37 million plays between them; it’s hard to argue that the tracks aren’t well loved by fans.
‘Play God’ is also an expected, yet technically well-written track that keeps the album relatively alive among the other filler tracks. All considered, Hypersonic Missiles has had a larger impact than the albums released by most other well-known and loved indie bands and artists.
9. Two Door Cinema Club – False Alarm
Two Door Cinema Club have given us a retro, sightly electronic indie album with False Alarm; a work that only really has 10 tracks, but can be forgiven due to its quality. ‘Talk’ has been picked out by indie DJ’s as the standout, and although you could imagine it on a Homebase advert, the song is undoubtedly a Two Door Cinema Club classic.
‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ is more difficult to listen to, but is, like many of the tracks, full of so much energy that it is still perfect for a background tune to dance around to. ‘Break’ elevates and potentially saves the album. The softer track is a nice rest from the mania of the other songs, and the beautiful lyrics are finally able to be appreciated. Unfortunately, it is only just over two minutes long.
8. Circa Waves – What’s It Like Over There?
Circa Waves put themselves in high regard with both critics and fans upon the release of their 2017 album, Different Creatures. Consequently, many wondered if the pressure of topping their successful second album would be too much, and if the band could put out another album that was just as nuanced and comprised of such high-quality tracks.
However, What’s It Like Over There? has proved that Circa Waves haven’t lost an ounce of their song-writing skill. We’ll gloss over the eponymous first track, which appears to be included for the sake of it and holds almost no substance; it’s only purpose seems to be to build tension towards the second ceiling-raising track, ‘Sorry I’m Yours’. This second song, however, is an anthem that immediately shows a continued trajectory of growth for the band, from first to third album. The dark tones remind us of ‘Fire That Burns’, but the tune is older and wiser than it’s predecessor.
‘Movies’ is a quintessentially Circa Waves track, and ‘Be Somebody Good’ proves that the album doesn’t dwindle in energy. As a body of work, the album is comforting to fans, yet offers them something refreshing in the style that they are familiar with.
7. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Billie Eilish has had an astounding year, seeing her fan base grow and expand across the world. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? deserves the attention it has received. The album includes tracks that have been played over and over again on radio as well as fans’ phones, and that have held impressive chart positions since their release. ‘bad guy’ isn’t an anomaly; ‘when the party’s over’ and ‘bury a friend’ have similarly blown up and proven Billie is not yet bored of her signature style.
Though the album is occasionally repetitive, there are enough jolts and innovative moments in the production to make up for it. Many artists would have fallen under the pressure placed on Billie, but she’s delivered a unique album that has sound-tracked many listeners’ years, and will likely continue to do so.
6. Charli XCX – Charli
Though Charli XCX has recently talked of her status as a commercial flop, her 2019 album is anything but a failure. Charli includes the hugely successful hit ‘1999’, which has been perfect for house parties and sing-alongs alike, and an impressive variety of songs that illustrate her musical diversity. While ‘Blame It On Your Love’ shows us why Charli XCX shows are such sparkling instances of effervescence, ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ proves that her high-energy isn’t masking any lack of talent, in singing or song-writing.
She has more features than the other artists on our list, but these artists only enhance the variety of tone within the work, and this is undeniably the case with not only ‘1999’, but also ‘2099’. A seemingly odd closure to the album, the eccentric pop track plays with the banal expectations we might hold towards a mainstream song. Charli is fun, refreshing, and engages you throughout; the body of work is highly revered by fans for a reason.
5. Jaden – ERYS
Jaden’s album opens on an eerie note; you don’t immediately presume that you’re listening to a rap album at all. And the entire album continues on along this experimental note: Jaden challenges the usual tone and content of his genre throughout the mammoth 20 tracks.
The lyrics are at times cheesy and stuck in the past, and his voice itself often altered till it is unrecognizable. ‘Summertime In Paris’, however, is the shining beacon of the album, with WILLOW’s more uncomplicated voice making us feel exactly how the title would allude towards. Though the tracks at large perhaps fail to make much of a lasting impact, ERYS shows creativity and passion that most other artists have been too lazy to stray towards this year.
4. Loyle Carner – Not Waving, But Drowning
Not Waving, But Drowning has thrown Loyle Carner into an even higher state of regard among fans and critics. The album captured British culture with ‘It’s Coming Home?’, offering us all a nostalgic 37 seconds even when 2019 was at its bleakest. ‘Angel’ and ‘Carluccio’ are standouts, and the title track is also brilliantly done.
‘Not Waving But Drowning’ is an example of a spoken interlude done well; the voice chosen is perfect and holds your attention whilst a younger voice would have seen immediate skips. The album led students in particular through summer with its easy-going tracks that lull you without boring you.
3. SPINN – SPINN
SPINN are known for their cascading dream pop and sun-soaked aesthetic, and their self-titled album continues this easy-going vibe. We’ve discussed parts of the album here, and the tracks still haven’t lost their magic; ‘Believe It Or Not’ and ‘Notice Me’ are still very fun to sing along to, and ‘Heaven Sent’ is still stunning. Unlike many other bands who released albums this year, here are no filler tracks that you rush to skip. The entirety of the work is fun, easy to listen to, and never monotonous.
2. Cage The Elephant – Social Cues
Cage The Elephant‘s Social Cues proves that although the band have years of music-making experience behind them, they haven’t yet run out of tricks. Matt Shultz’s distinctive style of singing offers a cohesion and familiar tone to the tracks, and the laziness of voice works particularly well in more playful tracks such as ‘Black Madonna’.
The band don’t stay stuck in the past as many others have done; they play with production on tracks such as ‘Night Running’, and don’t do it for the sake of it – ‘House of Glass’, and the fore-mentioned track, are both successful if challenging. There are moments of pure softness and beauty (look to ‘Love’s The Only Way’), offering a gentility to listeners who might be more familiar with the band’s manic performances.
I could frankly list almost every track on the album and explain why I love it; ‘The War Is Over’ and ‘Goodbye’ are two more distinct favorites that show the skill and affection that has gone into Social Cues.
1. Harry Styles – Fine Line
Harry Styles has ended the year, and decade, on a raging high. ‘Watermelon Sugar’ was an instant hit when it came out, staying on repeat for days on end as fans awaited the rest of the album. The first four tracks are all brilliant indie-pop tracks; you want to put each one on repeat and sing along. ‘Golden’ tells us from the get that Styles’ team still knows how to put together a popular melody; a track that blazes open an album and prepares us for more.
‘Cherry’ hints back to the days when singer-songwriters were still writing simple, lyrically skilled tracks that were effective due that very simplicity and stripped-back nature. It proves styles hasn’t stuck to the same safe formula, but finally found the confidence to experiment with his music and tell us who he actually is. ‘To Be So Lonely’ shows instrumental experimentation and an addictive chorus that further proves Fine Line’s dissimilitude.
Each track continues to offer the listener something new, and yet there are no jarring moments where obscure effects are implemented for the sake of it. Harry Styles, with his huge name and fan base, easily could have released an album full of ‘Sign of the Times’ and ‘Kiwi’ replicas, and yet, this album is far more inventive, catchy, and beautiful than we could have ever hoped for.