Cy’s 100 Favorite Albums of 2019
60. Daniel Caesar – CASE STUDY 01
I’m ashamed to say that Daniel Caesar is another I just didn’t follow up on when I first heard him. He’s always piqued my interest, his voice and lyricism so earnest. Musically CASE STUDY 01 is a FEAST! It’s just gorgeous, understated but undeniably emotional. I’ll always be grateful for the reemergence of one Ms. Brandy Norwood. She’s got a timelessness to her voice that lends itself like magic to any album she’s featured on. As always, John Mayer is a welcome contribution wherever his guitar lands. But beyond the features, CS01 is gorgeous without trying too hard to be relevant or on-trend. It’s simply emotion-laden music for the sake of shaking loose hard feelings. Frank Ocean without the utter heartbreak.
59. Dawn Richard – new breed
Dawn Richard truly is a goddess. She’s got range and scope in her voice and musical identity that’s just incredible. She’s deeply in touch with who she is, her roots, her flaws, failures, and triumphs. Her self-confidence is inspirational to someone like me who oftentimes struggles to find herself in a world constantly trying to tell her who she is. Much love To Ms. Richard for expressing and celebrating both her Creole and First Nations heritages! A beautiful piece of work.
58. Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
So much soul, truth, history, fearlessness in this piece. Jamila Woods has always been so open about her blackness… and everything that encapsulates. Heritage. Fear. Pain. Self-acceptance and self-love. A never-ending question of when we as black women will be loved. Hell, will simply be treated as human. This is a testament to her adoration and reverence to her elders and ancestors. A tribute to the strength of spirit and unwavering love of life of men and women who’ve defined the lives of all our brothers and sisters, whether they know it or not. This is an album that is almost like required listening to those who want a raw and unapologetic peek inside the existence of black womanhood.
57. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
I can honestly say no album has ever given me self-confidence. It might seem a trite thing to say. But honestly, doing my afternoon walk, trying to get myself healthy in 2019. There’s really no better album to listen to give you the motivation, the ganas, the absolute I’m the baddest bitch in these streets attitude than Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You. It’s more than just the emotion one feels when so overwhelmed with the need for someone else (though, don’t be fooled, it is also that. But more on that later). This album is about the urge to weep because you’ve suddenly realized how much you love yourself. That’s what this album is ultimately about: love. Love of self. Love of those around you. The romance of love. The crazy craze of love, as Jill Scott penned. Lizzo is an icon not because of what she does or says, but because she stands for the beauty of loving and living in that love. Brilliant album.
56. Heather Victoria – Boutique Hotel
Damn! I didn’t realize how thirsty I was for a Heather Victoria album until she actually released one. Turns out I’ve been waiting for her to give me more original work since I heard her on Rapsody’s The Drums. She’s everything I love about the transcendence of R&B, the overtly sensual, baby-making candlelight of the genre. It’s a blessing to be part of the Jamla stable. With 9th Wonder as your guru, the music you release is bound to touch something deeper in the spirit. Add to that the classic elegance of Victoria’s voice… Boutique Hotel is timeless. I want more, dammit!!!
55. Little Simz – GREY Area
Listen, if you don’t know Little Simz, you better educate yourself! Home girl is arrogant in a way that makes you believe her. Lyricism for days. Unstoppable flow. Little Simz is full of fire and fearlessness. This is a piece of music that needs so much more shine than it’s probably gotten. Oh, and production to the GAWDS!
54. So Yoon – So!YoON!
Okay, so wow. From the album’s intro you get a sense of the eclectic eccentricity of the So Se Neon frontwoman. So Yoon‘s range is astonishing. A pleasant surprise, though perhaps not wholly unexpected. She’s dipped in the echoes of ’70s blues-rock and folk. It’s natural that she could find her place among a variety of genres, especially with that raspy second soprano/first alto adding texture and timeless beauty to each track.
53. Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness
The Voice. The undisputed Queen of Funk. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Chaka THE Khan! Her voice is just as powerful and enigmatic as it was when she was spending her days grooving with Rufus. She’s not to be denied. The only complaint? WHY, AUNTIE, IS THIS AN EP? WE NEED MAWR!
52. Dreamville & J Cole – Return of the Dreamers III
*deep inhale* BAAAARS!!!! That’s it. That’s the whole review.
51. BewhY – The Movie Star
BewhY continues to prove why he’s one of the best in the game right now. Loud. Bombastic. Arrogant. Powerful. It’s the type of work most newer artists struggle with when it comes to making narrative pieces. In The Movie Star, BewhY created an album that flows effortlessly from track to track, breaks between songs almost nonexistent, as he tells a very captivating story. While most would suffer from making the album just sound like the same song over and over again, ad nauseum, BewhY offers us a work of art that’s a true representation of the namesake. This is an auditory film, and BewhY is its star.
50. Tank and the Bangas – Green Balloon
The effervescent nature of New Orleans oozes through this album. Tarriona “Tank” Ball and her Bangas are the epitome of the spirit, jazz, blues, pain, beauty, and resilience of a city still buried in the watery hurt of Katrina. But there’s not a hint of that sadness here. Just an expression of life and all its ups and downs. Explorations of love and freedom. Playfulness and pensiveness. There is heartache. A great deal of introspection and self-revelation. But certainly no real feelings of regret or even unbreakable sadness. Just humanity. It’s all here and all beautiful. Such a gorgeous album. And, yes, it does in fact BANG!
49. MFBTY – Dream Catcher
You can never, ever go wrong when MFBTY decides to release music. As their own entities, they’re legendary. Put them together and something special is bound to happen. Tasha once again proves she’s the undisputed Queen of Hip Hop in South Korea. No one’s touching her in terms of sheer skill, lyrical prowess, and delivery. Tiger JK is as ruthless as ever, his cadence something to behold when he really gets going. And Bizzy just lights a track the hell up. He’s got so much energy, so much grit it’s like he’s attempting to tear the beat apart. As a unit they traverse genres while staying grounded in their truth, staying true to the essence of hip hop. What more could you ask for?
48. moonweather – Overgrown
moonweather is mystical music. Pink Floyd in the wonder of their dreamier fare. Elliott Smith with less inherent heartache. This was a surprising bit of psychedelic dream rock. I’m so lucky I stumbled upon this band. What lush music from a snarky band of bandits.
47. clipping. – There Existed an Addiction to Blood
Where was I when clipping. first happened?! Why did no one TELL me? Sharp, frightening, electric storytelling. This is rap at its best. When it evokes visceral imagery. When it makes the listener feel like they’re inside the psyche of the artist. It’s dark. It’s haunting. The feeling of unease is palpable. Lyricism is straight to the point, and the delivery is sharp. The conceit of the album is thinly veiled, but that’s sort of the point. Blunt like a bullet to the back. Stark like existing in darker skin. Black and white like the indelicate balance of human nature. There’s little room for interpretation. Bleak darkness. Blood-red precision. And you know what? I’m here for it!
46. Jimmy Brown – Re:
Okay, so I’m mad I waited so long to acquaint myself with Jimmy Brown. This man’s voice… Easily one of the smoothest voices I’ve heard come from South Korea. It comes out his mouth like a next breath. This EP is definitely one of the more impressive simply because it seems so effortless. And, hello, falsetto! Wow. Truly unexpected but everything I could’ve asked for from an R&B release this year.
45. Snoh Aalegra – – Ugh, those feels again
Ummm! Okay, Sweden! The country has a knack for R&B, and damn if I didn’t see it coming. First with everyone’s Techno Queen, Robyn. Then with songstress Giovanca. Now Snoh Aalegra comes through with this hearty soul music straight out of a New York City nightclub. I was not prepared for all this glorious soul. It’s the same shock I got when I first heard SAAY! I wasn’t searching for a voice so deeply linked to my affection for honest-to-goodness R&B singers. But here we go. There are no tricks, gimmicks, or attempts to fit into a trend. This is just a woman with an incredible voice and a soul meant for classic R&B. Damn!
44. Dennis Jin/the orchard – Dfmo
This young man and his voice just cracks something inside me. Truly, it’s a rare creature that can drum up the same painfully beautiful emotions of Jeff Buckley, but he’s done it so easily. This EP is a work of art, so pure and full of eager rawness. The single Question is a multilayered vocal masterpiece. Simple in construction, but the simplicity gives the song its power. Yes, it’s clear that Dennis Jin is a student of the likes of Jónsi and Jeff Buckley. However, what we have here is someone so deep within his own natural element vocally that he can maneuver within a song, highs and lows, with great ease and stunning execution. His own variation on the now famous Flying Buckleys is tempered in lieu of giving us a stirring rendition of the human condition.
43. DAMYE – Life’s a Loop
I had the distinct honor of chatting with Samuel Seo last year. During our conversation, he told me about an artist he’s been scouting named DAMYE. So obviously I had to give him a listen. Let me tell you something. When one of South Korea’s genuinely great artists gives you a music rec, you best listen! This kid is startlingly good. Musicality to the gods! Incredible musicianship. Honest lyricism. Life is a Loop is one of those albums that just surprises you when you listen to it. It’s truly a journey, an honest look at the life of a young man becoming an artist. Amazing piece of work!
42. Lucky Daye – Painted
I can’t implore you enough. If you’ve missed the utter elegance that is Lucky Daye, rectify that problem POST HASTE! The vibe on Painted is pure nostalgia. Vocally Lucky has the kind of tone that hearkens back to a smoother time in R&B when artists were simply concerned with making love to a listener’s ears. It’s pure R&B groove reminiscent of artists like New Edition, early DeBarge, and Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson. Simple. Smooth. Grown folks music at its best. Please do not sleep on Lucky Daye. (Also, I appreciate his reimagining of Ginuwine’s Pony. Throwing it all the way back for ’80s babies with ’90s childhoods!)
41. Van Hunt – TRIM
Van Hunt often takes pages out of the Prince Bible. With his reimagining of his debut self-titled album, he goes the way of Prince’s Third Eye Girl reincarnation. He takes work that already has an emotional core and adds a few different dimensions to what’s there. It’s a brilliant piece of work that takes the idea of reflection a step further to actualization. As gorgeous as he’s usually wont to be, TRIM just brought a bit of lightness to my heart upon its first, second, third listenings.