Some of the best albums of 2019 (so far)

khalid free spirit

Limelight Staff

We’re not even halfway through the year, but we’ve already seen some amazing music come out in 2019. Whether you’re in the mood for some chill R&B, psychedelic rock or aggressive hip-hop, here are a few of Limelight’s picks for the best albums of the year (so far).

“Free Spirit” – Khalid

Khalid’s April 5 release, “Free Spirit,” is the perfect album to kickstart your summer after finals. “Free Spirit” sees Khalid return to the 80’s-inspired synth and infectious choruses. After a disappointing 2018 release in the form of “Suncity,” “Free Spirit” is a breath of fresh air to the blossoming R&B artist’s discography. The album finds its strength with a host of talented producers such as Disclosure and Murda Beatz.

Disclosure offers help in the production of the catchiest song of the album, “Talk.” Other highlights of the album come in the form of “Bad Luck” and “Saturday Nights.” Khalid’s newest album gives listeners a view into how his life has changed. Since his 2017 debut album, “American Teen,” Khalid has since went on to win an MTV Music Award and a Billboard Award. In addition, he was nominated for five Grammys at the 2018 Grammy Awards. If you’re struggling to find motivation during finals week, Khalid’s breezy 17-song tracklist is more than enough to play through a study session and offers listeners a brief taste of summer during a stressful finals week.

– Tanner Owens, [email protected]

“Fishing For Fishies” – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

One part psychedelic rock, a little bit of blues and a dash of boogie, “Fishing For Fishies” stands out in King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s extensive discography. Their fourteenth album since their first in 2012, it would be reasonable to expect King Gizzard to have run out of creative steam by this latest release. Against all odds, somehow the Australian rock group keeps things fresh with their creative and fun songwriting.

Eschewing their typical in-your-face, noisy garage rock sound, “Fishing For Fishes” is crystal clear. With King Gizzard’s cleanest-sounding production, this album is one of their most accessible for new listeners. Songs like “The Bird Song” and the title track are light and easy to listen to, with “Real’s Not Real” having the band bust out some heavy, bluesy fuzz. “Acarine” takes them to an entirely new sound, the sinister microtonal guitar riff fading into a house/electro-pop outro.

King Gizzard’s shift to a cleaner sound is with purpose. By “Plastic Boogie’s” first verse of “F*ck all of that plastic,” their message should be clear: Our planet is being destroyed and they’re not happy about it.

– Alexander Gray, [email protected]

“Dog Whistle” – Show Me The Body

In 2016 New York hardcore trio Show Me The Body released their first full length album “Body War” an album which combined punk and hip-hop to create a unique blend of satisfying aggression. The band’s emerging sound stood out as an inspiring creative effort in an expanding experimental age. Instead of exploring their newly trademarked style further, Show Me The Body reverts to their roots with 2019’s “Dog Whistle.”

The band lays their hip-hop influences beneath the surface in a largely hardcore punk album with various influences from adjacent rock genres. While this stylistic choice is at first somewhat of a head scratcher, it comes with quality and purpose. On “Dog Whistle” Show Me The Body takes the listener on a trip back to where they started. The album is a cohesive personal commentary on the city of New York enveloped in raw noise and gnarled vocalism.

Conceptually the band is at its best on “Dog Whistle,” powerfully invoking doomful imagery with aggravated lyricism on a problematic home. The most impactful track, “Now I Know,” climaxes in an ear shattering emotional peak leaving a lasting feel of an important musical moment for Show Me The Body. While “Dog Whistle” doesn’t boldy style bend like their debut, it stands as a significant and memorable thematic statement.

– Trevor Babcock, [email protected]

“Ventura” – Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak is one of R&B’s greatest (almost) hidden treasures. .Paak has maintained a relatively low profile to his peers, even after massive critical successes like 2016’s oceanside slow-jam, “Malibu.” His last release, “Oxnard” brought some greater attention with high profile features like the funk-fueled “Tints” with Kendrick Lamar, as well as tracks with J. Cole, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dawg. “Oxnard” kicked up the tempo turning .Paak into a more “traditional” rapper, rapping about drugs and sex with the cockiness and swagger one would expect.

“Ventura” brings Anderson .Paak back down to earth, taking a more personal look at his life and career. The album opens with “Come Home,” a grand overture for .Paak’s California homecoming. Led in by a glittering choir and crystalline piano, .Paak gives way for a feature from Outkast’s André 3000. “Make It Better” is classic .Paak, a slow R&B ballad featuring legendary Motown singer, Smokey Robinson. Tracks like “Reachin’ 2 Much” and “King James” delve further into his funk background, accompanied by hints of disco danceability. “What Can We Do?” closes “Ventura” on a poignant note, trading verses with one of .Paak and rap’s icons, the late Nate Dogg.

– Alexander Gray, [email protected]

“Hiding Places” – Billy Woods & Kenny Segal

Underground New York rapper Billy Woods teams with producer Kenny Segal on “Hiding Places,” a beautifully abstract yet darkly personal album that lands among the top hip-hop releases of this decade. Listeners unfamiliar with Woods do not require knowledge of his packed discography to receive the full effect of his bizarre and sinister personality. The album is filled to the brim with dark, self-deprecating humor and ear worm bars.

Woods’ effortless flow and sometimes borderline spoken word approach to rapping makes for a purely satisfying listening experience on its own. Segal’s production sets a backdrop with raw instrumentation complimenting the context Woods raps in.

“Hiding Places” sounds like a creation from a long isolated poet with a greater understanding and perspective of our grim world than we who live in it. While Woods’ lyrics are often masked in stunning poetic crypticism, the subtle emotion in his complexion and delivery places a handful of pieces in a complex puzzle the listener ultimately must finish alone. Woods makes his thoughts mostly clear, but his insight on these subjects inspires heavy analysis through the imagery, metaphors and poetic prowess he presents. “Hiding Places” is a lot about laughing in the face of trauma embedded in our reality, but Woods’ masterful lyrical nuance implores revelations for long after 2019.

– Trevor Babcock, [email protected]