The Undertow: My five favorite albums of the year


It’s the end of the decade, and that’s huge! So big in fact, that we’re having a wonderful end-of-decade special edition this Friday for our final print of the semester, including a special “decade wrap-up” music column from yours truly. Flip to the Life section at the end of the week to find what will likely be a wrap-up of what made this decade special in music. That or 2,000 words on why Bobby Shmurda is the most significant artist of the past 10 years. It’s a coin toss. Here’s my five favorite albums of 2019 (through publication). 


5. Have a Nice Life – “Sea of Worry” 

I’m not a hardcore guy, but this album makes me want to spray anarchy symbols on the side of the Student Union. Have a Nice Life, straight out of Middletown, released their first album in five years and third total last month with “Sea of Worry.” Like a baby elephant, it’s beautiful and surprisingly heavy if you’re not careful. The album ends with “Destinos,” one of my favorite tracks of the year, but it’s not a track at all. It’s a 13+ minute epic that starts with a droning monologue from a pastor about god and hell, with some cacophonous musical background. This album completely caught me off guard, even as someone who appreciates HANL’s previous output. Looking forward to spending the 2020s as a post-hardcore groupie! 


4. The Scary Jokes – “Burn Pygmalion!!! a Better Guide to Romance” 

Wrote about them already! In short, this is a lovely third project from New Jersey-based The Scary Jokes. It’s theatrical, orchestratic masterfully and combines so much about how music brings creativity out of people. Give it a listen! 


3. Weyes Blood – “Titanic Rising” 

With “Titanic Rising,” Weyes Blood arose from the endless indie landscape and planted her flag as one of the best artists on the rise out there right now. “Movies” is a transcendent synth-driven ballad that may end up by favorite track of the year. The oscillating pattern behind Weyes Blood’s soothing vocals push the song forward through the near six-minute runtime, and you lose yourself in her words. I have it on right now, and it’s hard to write and not just swirl around my room like a scarf in a blizzard. This entire album is an aural massage.  


2. JPEGMAFIA – “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” 

Getting ahead of myself here in terms of talking about the decade, but if there’s any way that rap (and music, really) has transformed since 2009, it’s how the internet transformed the genre. No more is rap contained to one “moment” or one person leading the genre towards the future – it’s anyone’s game. Baltimore’s JPEGMAFIA, for my money, holds the torch in the experimental indie-rap scene right now, and “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” will serve as the moment he lit the flame. Each song on here shows immense vision in production and thought, and sounds nothing like anything you’ll here on Billboard right now. “Free the Frail” is a heartfelt anthem that anchors this project as my favorite rap album of the year.  


1. Lana Del Rey – “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” 

One of the biggest comeback albums of the decade, let alone the year. I, as well as much of the greater pop community, wrote Lana off an album or two ago, as she refused to evolve and insisted on retreating into familiar territory. This album slapped me in the face for thinking that for a second. “NFR!” puts Lana’s always phenomenal vocals on her most stunning and glamorous production yet, making for a listening experience that hasn’t dulled in the slightest in the months since its release. I cannot pick a favorite song on this album, it’s just that good. It’s almost harder to pick a least favorite song, as this is one of the cohesive pop projects I’ve heard in quite some time. The tracks flow from one to another more like an opera than a modern pop project, yet they can stand on their own as must-haves to your next playlist. This is easily the album of the year.  

Thumbnail photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Daniel Cohn is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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