Ah, 2020 is nearly here -- but 2019 is not getting away without me getting a little nostalgic. As I’ve become PACIFIC’s unofficial music writer this year, my editor tasked me with rounding up a few of my favorite albums from the past 365 days.
So if you care what’s been playing in my AirPods this year, or just looking for some new music, listen up. Here are the 9 albums that got me through 2019 (listed in order of release date).
1. ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ by Maggie Rogers
Release date: Jan. 18, 2019
Genre: Art pop, folk-pop
Queue up: Overnight, Fallingwater and Back in my Body (But honestly, every song is perfect.)
Listened to when… dancing around my apartment alone, usually in my PJs with a glass of wine.
Spotted in San Diego: Though Maggie Rogers didn’t make a stop in our city during her 2019 tour, she performed at Observatory North Park in 2018 to a fiercely loyal crowd. In addition to playing hits from her EP, Rogers took a chance on the audience and performed a lot of her new songs off her then-unreleased record, which were well-received by the audience.
Why I love this album: I’ve been following Rogers since I first wrote about her in 2016 after she released her music video for Alaska -- her first single that went viral via Pharrell Williams -- which I begged my former editor to cover. She was reluctant, but I was right in my assumption that Rogers was going to be big. Her debut album, Heard It In A Past Life, is a ballad of heartbreak and hope, a deeply personal narrative of the breakthrough singer-songwriter navigating life, love, fame and everything in between with impressive melodies and unexpected beats. Rogers’ album is a must-listen that kicked off a great year of music -- so if you haven’t heard it in the past year, put it in your 2020 to-do list.
2. ‘Ventura’ by Anderson .Paak
Release date: April 12, 2019
Genre: R&B, soul, hip-hop
Queue up: Come Home, Reachin’ 2 Much and King James
Listened to when… I felt like getting dressed up -- ideally in bold sunglasses and a brightly colored outfit -- and just get my groove on.
Spotted in San Diego: Anderson .Paak killed it at CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theatre this past June. When my college roommate offered me a last-minute ticket, I decided to go without knowing much about him -- and the high energy, vibrant performance did not disappoint.
Why I love this album: Ventura will make you wanna move in every which way. For me, there’s really no other way to describe it other than it is the Groove Album of 2019. Lyrically it approaches serious topics like politics (King James) and the loss of intimacy (Make It Better), but the beat of every song will still make you want to get up, jump around and dance your heart out.
3. ‘Cuz I Love You’ by Lizzo
Release date: April 19, 2019
Genre: Pop, hip-hop
Queue up: Juice, Cuz I Love You and Heaven Help Me
Listened to when... I was getting ready to go out with my girls.
Spotted in San Diego: Like Anderson .Paak, Lizzo performed an outstanding show at the Open Air Theatre in October. I went to the concert with The San Diego Union-Tribune‘s music critic George Varga, and the experience seeing Lizzo live was every bit as magical as you would expect.
Why I love this album: PACIFIC’s October cover queen slayed this year with her debut album Cuz I Love You. It’s the ultimate self-love, pump-up record to blast before, at or after a night out. From powerful flute solos to powerhouse vocals, Cuz I Love You truly made Lizzo the unofficial “It Girl” of 2019. Make sure to listen to the deluxe version of the album to not miss hits like Boys, Water Me, and of course the song that started it all, Truth Hurts.
4. ‘Jinx’ by Crumb
Release date: June 14, 2019
Genre: Indie rock, psychedelic rock
Queue up: Nina, Ghostride and Part III
Listened to when… I wanted to be transported to another time and place.
Spotted in San Diego: Crumb put on a low-key show at Music Box back in October that put me in a pleasant haze.
Why I love this album: Obsessed with Crumb’s 2017 EP Locket, I was very much anticipating its new release. The truly indie band (despite a wave of recent success, the band decided to not sign to a record label) has remained true to its sound on Jinx, which is both hypnotizing and haunting. As I wrote back in October, the album is “characterized by hallucinogenic beats and lyrics that delve into anxiety, fear and the unknown.”
5. ‘Foam’ by Divino Niño
Release date: June 21, 2019
Genre: Alternative indie, garage pop
Queue up: Quiero, Coca Cola and Melty Caramelo
Listened to when... my ears needed something different.
Spotted in San Diego: Divino Niño opened for Crumb at its Music Box show, where the four band members proved they were stars in their own right.
Why I love this album: I’ll admit that when it comes to music, I don’t listen to a lot of non-English singing bands. But Colombia-born Divino Niño delivers a beautiful bilingual album Foam, a dreamy release influenced by its Central American roots and love of psychedelics. Though expertly produced, the album’s sound has a lazy feel that exudes love and will make you want to sway, preferably with a friend.
6. ‘III’ by Banks
Release date: July 12, 2019
Genre: Alternative pop, goth-pop
Queue up: Till Now, Contaminated and Gimme
Listened to when… whenever I was dealing with some sort of loss, whether personal or professional.
Spotted in San Diego: Unfortunately Banks’ show at SOMA in October was canceled day-of, but her album (mostly) makes up for it.
Why I love the album: Jillian Rose Banks, professionally known as Banks, exudes power through pain. She’s the definition of badass, and III is the third time she’s proved it. In my opinion she takes the most musical risks out of the other picks on this list, giving us a haunting sound with lyrics that expose her many scars and mistakes. On first listen, the sound may come off a little eeire or creepy, but after a few streams I bet you’ll be addicted.
7. ‘Immunity’ by Clairo
Release date: Aug. 2, 2019
Genre: Lo-fi bedroom, electropop
Queue up: North, Bags and Sofia
Listened to when... I needed to slow down and reconnect with myself.
Spotted in San Diego: Unfortunately I wasn’t able to snag tickets to her sold-out show at House of Blues in October, but from what I’ve heard, Clairo blew the house down.
Why I love this album: Clairo, aka 21-year-old Claire Cottrill, is a lo-fi dream. The singer-songwriter rose to fame in 2017 with the release of her bedroom pop hit Pretty Girl, a DIY song/video literally shot in her dorm room. Her full-length release Immunity takes the production factor up a notch, and features songs that explore same-sex sexuality, coming-of-age anxiety, and the push and pull of dependency. To me, her voice is more soothing than ASMR, but paired with beats that push me to think about the intricacies of life rather than doze off.
8. ‘Lover’ by Taylor Swift
Release date: Aug. 23, 2019
Queue up: I Forgot That You Existed, I Think He Knows, and Death By A Thousand Cuts
Listened to when… I was moving out of and deep cleaning my old apartment. (Seriously, try vacuuming to the chorus of I Think He Knows. It makes the experience a thousand times more enjoyable.)
Why I love the album: T-Swift gets a lot of heat, but I can’t deny this woman has some serious songwriting prowess and an uncanny knack for catchy hooks, which she proves yet again with Lover. Though I am not going to claim love to this entire album, I do feel passionate about half the songs on Swift’s 18-long track list, so I feel obligated to include her on this list. What can I say: I’m a sucker for her meet-cute slash breakup ballad with lyrics I just can’t get out of my head.
9. ‘whatevernowiscalled’ by maxime.
Release date: Dec. 6, 2019
Genre: Alternative, lo-fi electronic
Queue up: empty, pneumonia and mariuh
Listened to when… in the car -- it’s the perfect, chill album to stream while staring out a window and driving around town.
Why I love the album: Just released a few weeks ago, I’ve had the least amount of time with maxime.'s debut album whatevernowiscalled, but I’ve had it on repeat all month. The album is an extended version of his five song EP pity party from earlier this year, adding new favorites like the apathy song and shruggie. The indie artist is definitely most underground out of the artists on this list (it’s hard to find much about maxime. online, just try to Google him), but I find his sound intriguing and emotional -- blunt lyrics scored by lo-fi and electronic beats, delivering a depressive yet enjoyable experience.
And what I’m looking forward to in 2020…
The first three San Diego acts featured in our monthly print and online Local Band Spotlight -- Baby Bushka, Twin Ritual and MOANS -- all have albums in the works with (tentative) 2020 release dates. If you haven’t already, catch up on PACIFIC’s coverage on these local bands, and stream their 2019 singles to get ready for the new year.
And of course, I am (impatiently) awaiting Tame Impala’s next masterpiece The Slow Rush, coming out in early 2020. The psychedelic rock/pop band’s performance at Observatory North Park back in 2015 is still in my top five favorite concerts of all time, so you better believe I bought tickets to San Diego’s next show at Pechanga Arena -- happening on March 9, 2020 -- the minute they went on sale.