Well, what a month it’s been. As we really start to get our teeth sunk into festival season, including the first major 50/50 gender split festival in Primavera Sound, the bar for what constitutes a strong album is, yet again, raised. A veritable smorgasbord of musical delight was released into the ether this month, and it’s my job to try and pick some highlights from the wondrously overcrowded talent pool. For those of you who don’t have time to read the whole thing, there is a shortlist at the bottom, including my Best of May 2019 playlist, to give you a little musical taster.
Nothing Great About Britain – slowthai
Starting the list off is an incredible debut effort from Northampton-born rapper slowthai. It’s often a promising sign if an artist can get a “big name” to feature on a debut album, so when you see some of the artists who were queueing to work with slowthai on this record, you can’t help but take notice. From UK rappers Skepta and Jaykae, to producer/multi-instrumentalist Mura Masa and punk group Slaves, it seems the entire music industry was holding its breath for this creation, and it did not disappoint. The passion and energy dripping off each track mirrors the strong no-holds-barred lyrics and banging background beats. The future of rap is here.
Standout Track: Doorman
Amyl and The Sniffers – Amyl and The Sniffers
A blistering white-knuckle ride from the newest punks from down under. When listening to the album, it’s hard to think that this is, in fact, a debut creation. The welcoming “noise” of fuzzy overdriven guitar and crashing drums compliment the roaring Australian accent of singer Amy Taylor, moulding into an energetic tornado of an album. Amyl and The Sniffers are out to prove once and for all, that punk is by no means dead.
Standout Track: Got You
I Am Easy To Find – The National
The subtle, solemn sounds of The National return with a stripped back and bare album, displaying the mastery of quiet that this group possesses. Not relying on volume or countless layers of different instruments to grab attention, instead, this album is content to remain in the realm of calm but haunting minimalism. An enthralling display of hushed splendour. Enough said.
Standout Track: Not In Kansas
- U.F.O.F. – Big Thief
As one of several representatives of New York to feature this month, Big Thief provides further evidence that the Big Apple is certainly doing something very right with regards to its music at the moment. U.F.O.F. is the third album from Big Thief, and is an intimate and carefully-crafted creation, a balance between intrinsic beauty and extrinsic oddity; the abstract lyrics accompanied by the soothing beauty of the instrumentals.
Standout Track: Cattails
Omoiyari – Kishi Bashi
Since his first album in 2012 Kishi Bashi, real name Kaoru Ishibashi, has gone from strength to strength. His newest venture keeps his unique blend of vocals with beautifully intricate stringed instrumentals and merges them together into a sublime musical experience. The title of his fourth album, Omoiyari, refers to a Japanese concept of human interaction, containing factors such as compassion, empathy and consideration to fellow humans – certainly a concept that the world could do with right now.
Standout Track: Angeline
LEGACY! LEGACY! – Jamila Woods
The powerful second album from the Chicago-based singer, songwriter, poet, and all-around badass Jamila Woods packs one hell of a punch. From the start, the album is full of passion and strength, and Woods keeps this intensity up for the duration. Whilst the backing tracks may feel relaxed and chilled, the lyrics are incredibly visceral; fuelled by the fire of the struggles that she has faced throughout her life, and a refusal to be silenced or ignored. Add a few sure-fire dancefloor-filling bangers, and you’ve got a fantastic record.
Standout Track: BALDWIN
Young Enough – Charly Bliss
A wonderful follow-up to a promising debut, Charly Bliss have brought a real level of credibility to their name with a very strong second album. A sublime combination of refreshing summer hits shadowed with a very real level of melodramatic angst, the Brooklyn-based group have produced something nostalgically beautiful from the very first note. Easy to listen to, easy to enjoy.
Standout Track: Hurt Me
Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent – Lewis Capaldi
An explosive breakthrough year resulting in a UK number 1 album, not too shabby for Scotland’s newest favourite singer-songwriter. Capaldi more than delivers on the hype surrounding his debut release in fantastic style, producing a heart-wrenchingly open take on love, heartbreak, vulnerability and loneliness in the modern era. The future certainly looks very bright for this young star.
Standout Track: Someone You Loved
End Of Suffering – Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Upon first listen to this album you may just be drawn into the excitement and passion of the music, the atmosphere generated by the more anthemic tracks or the beauty of some of the slower soundtracks. But take a glance beneath the surface and you witness the honesty and emotion thinly veiled behind the powerful lyrics, of a person struggling to come to terms with the war taking place within themselves. A passionate and powerful creation that solidifies the Rattlesnakes’ position among the modern Rock ‘n’ Roll elite.
Standout Track: Crowbar
Father Of The Bride – Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend seem almost incapable of under-delivering on an album, no matter how much hype or expectation there is in the build-up to its release. Father Of The Bride, by all means, delivers on the expectations raised after the band teased the release of six of the tracks in advance, but still packed the necessary punch to blow us away. Ezra Koenig’s incredible vocals combined with some gorgeous instrumental performances and that special Vampire Weekend sprinkling of strange assure that the band continue from strength to strength. Some wonderful collaborations with Danielle Haim and Steve Lacy add fantastic dimension to an incredibly well-rounded album.
Standout Track: Harmony Hall
- Nothing Great About Britain – slowthai
- Amyl and The Sniffers – Amyl and The Sniffers
- I Am Easy To Find – The National
- U.F.O.F. – Big Thief
- Omoiyari – Kishi Bashi
- LEGACY! LEGACY! – Jamilla Woods
- Young Enough – Charly Bliss
- Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent – Lewis Capaldi
- End Of Suffering – Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
- Father Of The Bride – Vampire Weekend