The Best Albums of 2019

  • Publish Date: December 20, 2019
  • Comments: ↓ 2 user comments

Nick Cave has the best-reviewed major album of 2019

2019 96 Ghosteen
by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
2018 93 Room 25
by Noname
2017 95 DAMN.
by Kendrick Lamar
2016 95 Skeleton Tree
by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
2015 96 To Pimp a Butterfly
by Kendrick Lamar
High Scoring Albums by Year
(Minimum 15 Reviews)

For the second time in four years, Nick Cave has topped our final list of the year's highest-scoring albums. He joins Kendrick Lamar as the only artists in Metacritic's 19-year history to be repeat winners of our album of the year honors.

Cave's previous top-ranked album, 2016's Skeleton Tree, was recorded around the time of the death of Cave's teenage son. This year's double album Ghosteen deals in part with that loss, and finds' Cave stretching his legs musically into more electronic and minimalist territory, forgoing percussion on many of its tracks (and even music altogether on the spoken-word "Fireflies").

Overall, it was an especially strong year for women. Cave, whose album is our highest-scoring release since 2015, is actually an outlier; eight of our 10 highest-scoring albums of 2019 came from female artists.

You'll find their names along with the rest of the year's top artists below. Our final ranking of the best full-length studio albums (in Metacritic's database) released during 2019 is determined by their Metascores, which represent an average of all reviews by professional critics at the time of each album's original release. Note that live albums, reissues, EPs, box sets, multi-artist soundtracks, and other compilations are excluded from this chart, though they are listed separately a bit further down this page

The 40 best-reviewed albums of 2019 (min. 15 reviews)

Album cover#1
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
96 Ghosteen (self-released)

Buy From Amazon

Critics had nothing but tremendous praise for Cave's haunting album upon its release in October. But Ghosteen is currently only in fourth place in our combined list of critic year-end top 10 lists, suggesting that it may not actually be reviewers' favorite album of 2019.

"Yes, it can be painful, but there’s a beautiful catharsis contained within Ghosteen that makes it one of the most essential records of recent times – a lifejacket for anyone surfing that dreadful wave of grief."

musicOMH More reviews...

Album cover#2
Weyes Blood
91 Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)

Buy From Amazon

Natalie Mering's Sub Pop debut and fourth overall LP as Weyes Blood is her best release to date. Mering co-produced the album (titled, presumably, after the fake Titanic sequel from Homecoming) with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen.

"Like all the best musicians and songwriters before her, she’s plumbed the depths of her imagination and brought forth a masterpiece from the depths."

The Line of Best Fit More reviews...

Album cover#3
Little Simz
91 Grey Area (Age 101)

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The year's best rap album comes from London artist Simbi Ajikawo. Her third LP features appearances by Little Dragon, Michael Kiwanuka, and Chronixx.

"At turns both acerbic and unguarded, GREY Area feels like the grand culmination of everything Simz has been puzzling out to this point. She’s a preternaturally gifted lyricist, a prodigy who recorded her first raps at nine and released her earliest tapes in her teens; it simply took a while for her to apply that acuity to her songcraft."

Pitchfork More reviews...

Album cover#4
Michael Kiwanuka
89 Kiwanuka (Interscope)

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The third and best-reviewed record from the genre-melding British singer-songwriter (though, oddly, his only LP not to be nominated for the Mercury Prize) was produced by Danger Mouse and Inflo.

"It’s very easy for a reviewer to play armchair warrior and forward claims for all sorts of nonsense for music they like. But this is a glorious, heart-stopping, essential album. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by it."

The Quietus More reviews...

Album cover#5
Jamila Woods
89 LEGACY! LEGACY! (Jagjaguwar)

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The second LP from Chicago-based singer/songwriter/poet Jamila Woods (following 2017's also excellent HEAVN) features 13 tracks, each a tribute to a legendary black artist.

"Quite frankly, LEGACY! LEGACY! is one of the albums of the year. It’s a confident and self-assured project that affirms Woods’ own place alongside the historical greats she praises."

NME More reviews...

Album cover#6
Angel Olsen
89 All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar)

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The singer-songwriter's first studio album since 2016's My Woman is produced by John Congleton and features a 14-piece orchestra. It's her highest-scoring release to date.

"Her newfound embrace of violins, violas and cellos elevates her shadowy, often synth-infused rock to extraordinarily goosebump-inducing heights, making All Mirrors her third consecutive (and likely best) masterpiece to date."

Paste More reviews...

Album cover#7
89 When I Get Home (Columbia)

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Released in March with little advance warning, the fourth solo album from Solange Knowles matches the career-high score she established with her 2016 set A Seat at the Table. Subject matter revolves around Houston, her hometown, and guests include Playboi Carti, Sampha, and Gucci Mane.

"Remarkable... a lovingly assembled production that rarely goes where you expect it to — but, like Solange herself, always puts across a clear sense of place."

Los Angeles Times More reviews...

Album cover#8
Aldous Harding
88 Designer (4AD)

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Frequent PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish produced this third LP (and follow-up to 2017's Party) for the New Zealand singer-songwriter.

"Highly eccentric and blisteringly beautiful--a record destined to worm its way deep under the skin."

Q More reviews...

Album cover#9
FKA twigs
88 Magdalene (Young Turks)

Buy From Amazon

It may have taken five years, but singer-songwriter Tahliah Barnett finally returned last month with a full-length successor to her Mercury Prize-nominated debut, LP1. Another triumph, the mostly self-produced set spans nine tracks and includes contributions from Skrillex, Future, Jack Antonoff, Nicolas Jaar, and Oneohtrix Point Never.

"It’s beautiful, inventive, catchy, heartbreaking, addictive, and bursting at the seams with ideas. It captures a performer truly at the top of their game, throwing everything into a project so that not one second is wasted. It’s a record that makes you fall in love with music again, a record you feel privileged to experience and a record that imparts fundamental human truths."

No Ripcord More reviews...

Album cover#10
Brittany Howard
88 Jaime (ATO)

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Frontwoman for the band Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard struck out on her own for the first time in 2019 with her solo debut, Jaime, titled after her late sister. Howard received two Grammy nominations for her work.

"It’s an album which documents a fierce imagination at play; a truly invigorating piece of work that pushes her songwriting forward."

DIY Magazine More reviews...

... and the rest of the top 40:
Album/Artist Score Stream It Buy It
by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
88SpotifyPrime Video 
12CoverShepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
by Bill Callahan
88SpotifyPrime Video 
by Big Thief
87SpotifyPrime Video 
by Cate Le Bon
87SpotifyPrime Video 
15CoverPurple Mountains
by Purple Mountains
87SpotifyPrime Video 
16CoverNorman Fucking Rockwell!
by Lana Del Rey
87SpotifyPrime Video 
17CoverRemind Me Tomorrow
by Sharon Van Etten
86SpotifyPrime Video 
18Coverthank u, next
by Ariana Grande
86SpotifyPrime Video 
19CoverHouse of Sugar
by (Sandy) Alex G
86SpotifyPrime Video 
by Fontaines DC
86SpotifyPrime Video 
21CoverLife Metal
by Sunn O)))
85SpotifyPrime Video 
22CoverTwo Hands
by Big Thief
85SpotifyPrime Video 
23CoverMiss Universe
by Nilüfer Yanya
85SpotifyPrime Video 
24CoverOn the Line
by Jenny Lewis
85SpotifyPrime Video 
by Julia Jacklin
85SpotifyPrime Video 
26CoverAny Human Friend
by Marika Hackman
84SpotifyPrime Video 
27CoverIt Won't Be Like This All the Time
by The Twilight Sad
84SpotifyPrime Video 
28CoverEton Alive
by Sleaford Mods
84SpotifyPrime Video 
29CoverThe Practice of Love
by Jenny Hval
84SpotifyPrime Video 
30CoverThe Book Of Traps and Lessons
by Kate Tempest
84SpotifyPrime Video 
31CoverWestern Stars
by Bruce Springsteen
84SpotifyPrime Video 
32CoverQuiet Signs
by Jessica Pratt
84SpotifyPrime Video 
by Thom Yorke
84SpotifyPrime Video 
34CoverThanks for the Dance
by Leonard Cohen
84SpotifyPrime Video 
35CoverCuz I Love You
by Lizzo
84SpotifyPrime Video 
by Sudan Archives
83SpotifyPrime Video 
by Danny Brown
83SpotifyPrime Video 
38CoverA Bath Full of Ecstasy
by Hot Chip
83SpotifyPrime Video 
by Shura
83SpotifyPrime Video 
40CoverAt the Party with My Brown Friends
by Black Belt Eagle Scout
82SpotifyPrime Video 

What about albums with fewer reviews?

Here is a look at the albums that received extremely positive reviews, but not enough of them to qualify for our list above. (In other words, consider them the year's best under-the-radar releases.) Albums on this list received 7-14 critic reviews. (Titles with fewer than 7 reviews are excluded from all year-end charts.)

Album/Artist Score Stream It Buy It
1CoverGold & Grey
by Baroness
91SpotifyPrime Video 
2CoverJimmy Lee
by Raphael Saadiq
90SpotifyPrime Video 
by Rapsody
90SpotifyPrime Video 
by Dave
90SpotifyPrime Video 
5CoverWe Are Not Your Kind
by Slipknot
89SpotifyPrime Video 
6CoverWar Music
by Refused
88SpotifyPrime Video 
by Lingua Ignota
88SpotifyPrime Video 
8CoverMidsommar (Original Score)
by The Haxan Cloak [Bobby Krlic]
86SpotifyPrime Video 
by Chai
86SpotifyPrime Video 
10CoverThere is No Other
by Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi
86SpotifyPrime Video 

Albums released between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019 with 7 or more reviews (15 or more for the first chart) in Metacritic's database were eligible for inclusion. Reissues and other older material, EPs, live albums, holiday albums, greatest hits albums, multi-artist soundtracks, and other compilations are excluded from the above lists. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Albums are ranked by Metascore prior to rounding. All scores on this page are from December 19, 2019.

More bests and worsts

If you read the fine print under our list of high-scoring albums above, you noticed that reissues, compilations, live sets, and other album types were excluded from our best-reviewed albums charts (which are intended to include only new full-length studio albums). Here are the highest-scoring "disqualified" albums of the year:

Best-Reviewed Reissues, Box Sets, and Compilations of 2019 (Min. 7 Reviews)
Album/Artist Score Stream It Buy It
1Cover1999 [Super Deluxe Edition]
by Prince
100SpotifyPrime Video 
2CoverAbbey Road [50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]
by The Beatles
99SpotifyPrime Video 
3CoverTunes 2011-2019
by Burial
96SpotifyPrime Video 
4CoverNo Other [Deluxe Edition]
by Gene Clark
94SpotifyPrime Video 
5CoverRolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings [Box Set]
by Bob Dylan
90 Prime Video 
6CoverDead Man's Pop [Box Set]
by The Replacements
89SpotifyPrime Video 
7CoverKankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990
by Various Artists
88SpotifyPrime Video 
by Prince
88SpotifyPrime Video 
by Laurel Halo
86SpotifyPrime Video 
10CoverEverything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon
by Spoon
84SpotifyPrime Video 

Thousands of albums are released each year, and most of those don't even make their way to reviewers; as a result, the vast majority of the awful albums recorded each year do not show up on Metacritic. However, there are always some major releases this year that fail to impress critics, and we now share with you the 10 disappointing albums receiving the worst reviews in 2019:

The Lowest-Scoring Albums of 2019 (Min. 7 Reviews)
Album/Artist Score
by Liam Payne
2CoverHarverd Dropout
by Lil Pump
3CoverWeezer [Black Album]
by Weezer
4CoverJesus Is King
by Kanye West
5CoverHead Above Water
by Avril Lavigne
6CoverCloser Than Together
by The Avett Brothers
7CoverWhy You So Crazy
by The Dandy Warhols
8CoverCalifornia Son
by Morrissey
9CoverNo. 6 Collaborations Project
by Ed Sheeran
by Hollywood Vampires

What do you think?

What were your personal favorite and least favorite albums of 2019? Let us know in the comments section below, and don't forget to vote for your favorite albums of the year in our Best of 2019 User Poll. And for more of 2019's best albums, see which titles critics are including on their year-end top 10 lists, or view our list of this year's best debut albums. We also have a round-up of the best albums of the entire decade.



Comments (2)

  • RagAndBoneMan  

    Man, the metal whiners online are the least metal thing I've ever seen. Metal fans ruin metal.

  • benjameshodges  

    The 2 metal albums (Baroness and Slipknot) on this list conveniently only have 14 reviews each. Just 1 short of the required 15. What does Metacritic have against metal?

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