Top 89 of 2019: Jim McGuinn, program director


Top 89 of 2019
Top 89 of 2019 (MPR Graphic)

Top 10 Songs of 2019

Lizzo – "Truth Hurts"
Sharon Van Etten – "Seventeen"
The National – "Rylan"
Lana Del Rey – "The greatest"
Billie Eilish – "bad guy"
Fontaines D.C. – "Boys In The Better Land"
Brittany Howard – "History Repeats"
Pedro The Lion – "Yellow Bike"
Sports Team – "Fishing"
Sleater-Kinney – "Hurry On Home"

Top 10 Albums of 2019

Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Lana Del Rey – Norman F—ing Rockwell!
Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Bon Iver – i,i
The Comet Is Coming – Mystery
Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
J.S. Ondara – Tales of America
Brittany Howard – Jaime
Yola – Walk Through Fire

An eclectic year for favorites, discoveries, and celebrations. But mostly, the Year of Lizzo. In Minnesota, we've known about her for years. But 2019 turned out to be the year that Lizzo became the pop star she seemed destined to be, going back to her days when The Current's Andrea Swensson began to spin The Chalice on The Current's Local Show. Suddenly, she was everywhere, and it seemed that the entire world fell hard for her songs of determination, strength, empowerment, and joy.

Beyond that, two of my favorite albums this year came from Lana Del Rey and Sharon Van Etten — it's not easy to reinvent and re-energize your audience after several years and releases, but Norman Rockwell! and Remind Me Tomorrow felt like career albums, driven by perfect singles like "Seventeen" (Sharon) and "The greatest" (ok, the Sublime cover opened the door, but "The greatest" is... "The greatest"!).

Besides Lizzo, the biggest artist to emerge in 2019 was Billie Eilish. Working out of her house with her brother and collaborator Finneas, they crafted an album that spoke to millions while being truer to herself than anything else that hit pop radio this year. Sonically bonkers, the songs are what make her music so engaging.

Two of the artists I absolutely fell in love with first with live shows than on record in 2019 were both from the UK: The Comet Is Coming and Sports Team. Brittany Howard made a strong artistic statement stepping out from the Alabama Shakes, Yola delighted with her British take on Americana, and J.S. Ondara came out of Minnesota via Kenya, with a grace, style, voice, and clutch of songs that captured the alien feeling of transporting oneself to America into the weirdly wonderful times we live in.

There were great shows — historic gigs like IDLES at First Avenue, The National at Rock the Garden, Brandi at the State Fair, and witnessing Grisalappalisa at Iceland Airwaves, an indie rock band that was breaking up upon the release of their third album and playing their final shows during the festival — I had no idea what they were singing (all their lyrics are in Icelandic), but was captivated by their music, the audience, presence, energy, and the style with which they brought it to the stage. It was a reminder in the power of discovery in rock and roll, cutting across language to sound and emotion, and another reason to keep striving and falling in love with new music every day.

Vote now: Top 89 of 2019

The Current Staff's Top 89 of 2019

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