The best music of 2019: NOW’s critics’ picks

Here is what our music writers picked as their personal best albums of the year, from Toronto and beyond

NOW’s best albums of 2019 and best Toronto albums of 2019 lists were compiled of personal lists from a number of our critics. There was no easy consensus this year, so we decided to publish our critics’ picks here, full of gems from the year in music. 

Richard Trapunski


1. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor

2. Orville Peck: Pony

3. Ice Cream: FED UP

4. PUP: Morbid Stuff

5. Clairmont The Second: Do You Drive? 

6. Charlotte Cornfield: The Shape Of Your Name

7. TRP.P: 2TRP.P

8. TOBi: Still

9. Daniel Caesar: Case Study 01

10. Just John x Dom Dias: Project

Everywhere Else

1. Purple Mountains

2. Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell!

3. Danny Brown: uknowhatimsayin¿

4. Kim Gordon: No Home Record

5. FKA Twigs: Magdalene

6. Thom Yorke: Anima

7. JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs

8. FET.NAT: Le Mal

9. Kaytranada: Bubba

10. Jai Paul: Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)

Samantha Edwards


1. Ice Cream: FED UP

2. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor

3. Deliluh: Beneath The Floors

4. OBUXUM: Re-Birth

5. Quaker Parents: Our Drawing Club

6. Rapport: In The Dark

7. Young Guv: GUV II 

8. Luke Lalonde: The Perpetual Optimist

9. New Chance: Hardly Working 

10. Ducks Unlimited: Get Bleak 

Everywhere Else

1. (Sandy) Alex G: House Of Sugar

2. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising 

3. Big Thief: U.F.O.F

4. FKA Twigs: Magdalene 

5. Better Oblivion Community Center

6. Solange: When I Get Home

7. Angel Olsen: All Mirrors 

8. Kaytranada: Bubba

9. Hovvdy: Heavy Lifter

10. Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Kevin Ritchie


1. Nathan Micay: Blue Spring

2. TR/ST: The Destroyer

3. Daniel Caesar: Case Study 01

4. New Chance: Hardly Working

5. Lydia Ainsworth: Phantom Forest

6. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor

7. Lil Berete: 1 Way Out

8. TRP.P: 2TRP.P

9. TOBi: Still

10. Ice Cream: FED UP

Everywhere Else

1. Tyler, The Creator: Igor

2. Charlotte Adigéry: Zandoli

3. Shura: Forevher

4. Solange: When I Get Home

5. Octo Octa: Resonant Body

6. Little Simz: Grey Area

7. Jayda G: Significant Changes

8. Charli XCX: Charli

9. Mim Suleiman: Si Bure

10. Channel Tres: Black Moses

Michael Rancic


1. Badge Époque Ensemble

2. Ice Cream: FED UP

3. LAL: Dark Beings 

4. Tomb Mold: Planetary Clairvoyance

5. Smoulder: Times Of Obscene Evil And Wild Daring 

6. OBUXUM: Re-Birth

7. Robin Hatch: Works For Solo Piano

8. ANAMAI: Dream Baby

9. Triples: Big Time

10. Iris: Slowly, Forever

Everywhere Else

1. Pom Poko: Birthday

2. Kim Gordon: No Home Record

3. Denzel Curry: ZUU

4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!

5. Pelada: Movimiento Para Cambio

6. anaïs: darkness at play

7. Lungbutter: Honey

8. Spirit Adrift: Divided By Darkness

9. Debby Friday: Death Drive

10. Yu Su: Roll With The Punches

Michelle da Silva


1. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor

2. Tony Price: La Vie 

3. Jacques Greene: Dawn Chorus

4. TRP.P: 2TRP.P

5. OBUXUM: Re-Birth

6. Just John x Dom Dias: Don III

7. Pursuit Grooves: Bess 

8. Ciel: Why Me?

9. New Chance: Hardly Working

10. Tony Price: 86’d

Everywhere Else

1. FKA Twigs: Magdalene 

2. Octo Octa: Resonant Body

3. Angel Olsen: All Mirrors 

4. Jayda G: Significant Changes

5. Tyler, The Creator: Igor

6. Blue Hawaii: Open Reduction Internal Fixation

7. Solange: When I Get Home

8. Priori: On A Nimbus

9. James Blake: Assume Form

10. Buttechno: badtrip

Chaka V. Grier


1. TRP.P: 2TRP.P

2. OBUXUM: Re-Birth

3. Amaal: Black Dove

4. Lydia Persaud: Let Me Show You

5. Daniel Caesar: Case Study 01

6. Clairmont The Second: Do You Drive?

7. HMLT: Need You

8. OKAN: Sombras

Everywhere Else

1. Emily King: Scenery

2. Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe

3. Wild Belle: Everybody One Of A Kind

4. Tyler, The Creator: Igor

5. Riit: ataataga

6. Sunny War: Shell Of A Girl

7. Julia Jacklin: Crushing

8. Kimmortal: X Marks The Swirl

9. Digawolf: Yellowstone

10. Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Trapline


1. Lizz Wright and Catherine Russell at Koerner Hall, October 30

2. Santana and the Doobie Brothers at Budweiser Stage, August 6

3. Heart and Sheryl Crow at Budweiser Stage, July 14

Jesse Locke


1. Badge Époque Ensemble

2. Ice Cream: FED UP

3. Matthew “Doc” Dunn: Upper Canada Blues 

4. New Chance: Hardly Working

5. José Contreras: At The Slaughterhouse

6. Just John x Dom Dias: Don III

7. Protruders: Poison Future 

8. Ducks Unlimited: Get Bleak 

9. Shabason/Gunning: Muldrew

10. Doomsquad: Let Yourself Be Seen

Everywhere Else

1. Purple Mountains 

2. Sunwatchers: Illegal Moves 

3. Cate Le Bon: Reward 

4. Mourning [A] BLKStar: Reckoning 

5. Pelada: Movimiento Para Cambio

6. The Mountain Goats: In League With Dragons

7. Mope Grooves: Desire 

8. Danny Brown: uknowhatimsayin¿

9. Bill Callahan: Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest

10. Mount Eerie and Julie Doiron: Lost Wisdom pt. 2 


The Mountain Goats at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, May 5

Guttersnipe at Monarch Tavern, May 25

Wu-Tang Clan as part of Mattyfest at Echo Beach, September 7

Kelsey Adams


1. TOBi: Still

2. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor 

3. MorMor: Some Place Else

4. Just John x Dom Dias: Don III

5. Jacques Greene: Dawn Chorus

6. Clairmont The Second: Do You Drive?

7. Garçons: Be Human

8. OBUXUM: Re-Birth

9. Airef: Kintsugi

10. Ralph: Flashbacks & Fantasies 

Everywhere Else

1. Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain 

2. Little Simz: Grey Area

3. FKA Twigs: Magdalene

4. Toro y Moi: Outer Peace

5. Mark Ronson: Late Night Feelings 

6. James Blake: Assume Form

7. Doja Cat: Hot Pink

8. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse

9. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever

10. Sudan Archives: Athena


1. FKA Twigs at Rebel, November 17

2. James Blake at Sony Centre, February 27

3. Slowthai at Velvet Underground, September 12

Sarah MacDonald


1. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor

2. Drake: Care Package

3. Broken Social Scene: Let’s Try the After, Vol. 2

4. Amaal: Black Dove

5. Orville Peck: Pony

Everywhere Else

1. Angel Olsen: All Mirrors

2. Stella Donnelly: Beware Of The Dogs

3. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever

4. Clairo: Immunity 

5. Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

6. Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated

7. Caroline Polachek:  Pang

8. Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow

9. Jenny Lewis: On The Line

10. Better Oblivion Community Centre 


Stella Donnelly at the Drake Hotel, March 24

Orville Peck at Monarch Tavern, January 5 (can you believe that was this year!!!!!)

Soccer Mommy at the Opera House, July 13

Sumiko Wilson


1. Tory Lanez: Chixtape 5

2. Daniel Caesar: Case Study 01

3. TOBi: Still

4. Waycool: This Album Was A Burden 

5. Chris LaRocca: Suadade 

6. SAFE: Stay

7. Tasha The Amazon: Black Moon

8. Jon Vinyl: Dangerous

9. Just John x Dom Dias: Project

10. OBUXUM: Re-Birth

Everywhere Else

1. Solange: When I Get Home

2. James Blake: Assume Form

3. Lucky Daye: Painted

4. Burna Boy: African Giant

5. Tyler, The Creator: Igor

6. Dreamville: Revenge Of The Dreamers III

7. Hope Tala: Sensitive Soul  

8. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever

9. Mark Ronson: Late Night Feelings 

10. Kanye West: Jesus Is King


Burna Boy at Rebel, August 18: A memorable concert for me was definitely the Burna Boy show that I reviewed because of how well he recovered after his chaotic no-show! I wasn’t the *biggest* Burna Boy fan before the show but seeing him live totally converted me to super fandom.

Claudia McNeilly


1. TOBi: Still

2. Puffy L’z: Take No L’z

3. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor

4. Donnie: From The Beginning To End

5. Friyie: ANF: Ain’t Nothing Free

6. Clairmont The Second: Do You Drive?

7. Why G: Mr Vanishyah

8. G Body: Project Cat

9. Killy: Light Path 8

10. Lil Berete: 1 Way Out

Everywhere Else

1. DaBaby: Baby On Baby

2. Boogie: Everything’s For Sale

3. 2 Chainz: Rap Or Go To The League

4. YoungBoy Never Broke Again: AI YoungBoy 2

5. Summer Walker: Over It

6. Rick Ross: Port Of Miami 2

7. Rod Wave: Ghetto Gospel

8. Young Thug: So Much Fun

9. Baby Keem: Die For My Bitch

10. Dreamville: Revenge Of The Dreamers III


Sean Leon at the Drake Hotel’s Headlines New Year’s Eve party, December 31: New Year’s started with a bang as the soon-to-be Kanye West prodigy performed to a sold-out crowd inside the Drake Hotel. It was one of the last times the city would see Leon before he re-emerged as a star after writing for West on Jesus is King.  

Max Mertens


1. Badge Époque Ensemble

2. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor

3. E-Saggila: My World My Way

4. Sandro Perri: Soft Landing

5. Black Dresses: Love And Affection For Stupid LIttle Bitches 

6. Jacques Greene: Dawn Chorus

7. MorMor: Some Place Else

8. Ice Cream: FED UP

9. Various artists: Parallel Minds Vol. 1

10. Keita Juma: Young Zen Mode

Everywhere Else

1. 100 gecs: 1000 gecs

2. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising 

3. Jayda G: Significant Changes

4. Boy Harsher: Careful

5. Erika de Casier: Essentials

6. Rico Nasty: Anger Management

7. Young Thug: So Much Fun

8. CFCF: Liquid Colors

9. Debby Friday: Death Drive

10. 2 Chainz: Rap Or Go To The League


1. Rosalia at REBEL, May 2

2. Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington at Roy Thomson Hall, August 6

3. Laraaji & Joseph Shabason at Toronto Spiritualist Temple, April 12


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