There’s a lot of snootiness these days about end of year polls, as if serious critics are somehow above them. You find people pontificating that ‘all opinions are subjective’ and ‘rankings are so reductive’. We say, get over it. It’s just a bit of fun to see out the year.
With that in mind, we invited every writer on The Wee Review to vote for their favourite albums of 2019. Our voting system allows writers to spread their votes thinly across lots of albums or stack them high on one or two special ones. Here’s what the votes threw up…
10. Tool – Fear Inoculum
After more than a decade’s wait, Tool did not disappoint with their fifth album, which saw the iconic band ‘go beyond their own frontiers’ (Kerrang) with nearly 90 minutes of epic rock.
9. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
Since he emerged in the early part of the decade, the London singer-songwriter has seemed to take a leap forward with each album, and this third one saw him reach new artistic and critical peaks. ‘Everything here feels like it exists as one unified, harmonious body, like the very current of Kiwanuka’s identity has come alive,’ was The Line of Best Fit‘s effusive conclusion.
8. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost
The Oxford band delivered this two-parter in 2019, their first output since they split with bassist Walter Gervers. The second part gave them their first UK number one and their unannounced Glastonbury set had some debating whether they may be future headliners.
7. Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Masked metal overlords Slipknot earned a round of applause beyond their usual fanbase for knocking Ed Sheeran off the top of the album charts back in August with this, their sixth album. ‘How much they’ve grown,’ proclaimed Consequence of Sound, about a group of men in their late 40s wearing scary clown masks.
6. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
The LA teenager’s debut swept charts everywhere, but also won plaudits from unexpected quarters. The dark-edged pop was clearly a recipe that worked.
5. The National – I Am Easy To Find
The band’s eighth album had a sprawling guest list, including string sections, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and guest vocals from artists including Lisa Hannigan and Sharon Van Etten. Seemingly unable to do wrong among some critics, they once again qualified for ‘universal acclaim’ on Metacritic.
4. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
‘Proof that slower burners are often the best,’ wrote Get Into This, about Natalie Mering’s fourth album under the Weyes Blood moniker. Lush and deep, it seemed to tap into the golden age of 70s singer-songwriters, but via a thoroughly modern sensibility.
3. Lewis Capaldi – Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent
It’s fair to say there are differences of opinion on Capaldi within the Wee Review team. Those who love him, though, really love him. ‘A highly polished work, beautifully produced with fairly austere arrangements,’ said our reviewer Geoff Ford in his five star review at the time. ‘He is set to become a part of our lives for a long, long time to come.’ Promise or threat? You decide.
2. Fontaines DC – Dogrel
Ireland’s new golden boys topped a lot of end of year polls but fell just one short here. Heralded as the new voice of angry, working-class Ireland, there have nevertheless been murmerings about their authenticity – that they’re just another bunch of rich kids. What’s not in question though is the primal power of tracks like Big and Too Real. ‘These guys aren’t pissing around,’ said Gary Sullivan in his five star review. ‘Music to contemptuously yank at the tail of the Celtic Tiger.’
1. Fat White Family – Serf’s Up
Finally, the Fat Whites served up an album that delivered on their potential. A ten-song set of genre-skipping variety showed what they’re really capable of when they expand their palette. ‘They’re prowling sleazily around the usual neighbourhood, but they’ve had a wash and brush up,’ said Robert Peacock on its release. ‘The Fat Whites’ most expansive and fully realised work to date, as well as album title of the year’. Well, it’s also our actual album of the year.