2019 In Review: Day 3 – Album of the Year

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2019 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

We continue the series with a look at the best overall albums of 2019. Starting tomorrow, we’ll delve into eight days of genre-specific discussions before resurfacing on Day 12 with Best Collaborative Work.

Album of the Year is perhaps our most important distinction, recognizing the best overall body of work held in a coherent collection of songs. We think these albums were some of 2019’s most ambitious, important, and enjoyable; many are lesser-known, but no less deserving.

Again, there’s no rank-ordering of the next-best ten to avoid genre category spoilers. Alphabetical order instead! (Most of these contending albums will get more detailed treatment in the genre category posts.)

Album of the Year 2019

9 and the Numbers – 서울시 여러분 (Many Minutes in Seoul)

It’s probably the best narrative album of the year. Frontman and writer Song Jae-kyung published a series of self-contained short stories, each featuring a different anonymous protagonist “A” (sometimes a “B”) and all taking place in some everyday corner of Seoul, and translated those stories to the nine songs found in this album. The resulting lyrics were lively and poignant, and their often oblique relationship to the stories raised interesting questions about the medium itself.

But even apart from all this, Many Minutes in Seoul was such a raw joy to listen to. From the anthemic escalation of “24L” to the very differently danceable rhythms of “Mom’s Frontline” and “I.DUB.U” to the welling sentimentality of “Pisces”; the album is overflowing with such unique expressions of vitality and understated strength. These compositions turned out to be just as powerful as the stories, imbuing them with character that spoke without words.

The Runner-Up


Cacophony – 夢 (Dream)

Much like Cacophony’s charged and often brittle debut (one of our favorites last year), Dream was an album that embraced the full range of emotion associated with its subject matter. And to be sure, the raw power of Cacophony’s bleaker compositions proved potent still: some of the album’s most memorable moments include the glitching, speaker-blowing synths of “X” and “Believe”, the throat-curdling register of “Tu Me Dis”, and the fantastical waltz of “Return”.

But in shifting from Harmony’s grief and loss to this album’s themes of love and parting, the artist also expanded her palette towards gentler pastures; then, through the last quarter of Dream, the idyllic bliss and tender longings of “Tahiti” and “The Whole Night” are finally reconciled – sonically and narratively – with the emotional depths characterizing the album. It was a masterful display of both beauty and intricacy from one of the fastest-rising young musicians around.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

AkMu – 항해 (Sailing)

BewhY – The Movie Star

Black String – Karma

Jambinai – Onda [read our review]

Ravie Nuage – 새벽녘 (Dawn)

Rock N Roll Radio – You’ve Never Had It So Good

Room306 – 겹 (Layer)

SB Circle – Topology

Soma – Seiren [read our review]

Soohyun April Jang – Inscape

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review