It’s list-mas. We’re busy giving our two cents about the best projects of the year but, as always, there are some that get left behind. Below are the records that we feel deserve a brighter spotlight.
Jessie Ware - What’s Your Pleasure?
When it comes to critics lists this year, What’s Your Pleasure? was not left without accolade but Ware deserved to rule the radios this year. Her fourth album is a sleek, expensive disco record that creates its own dancefloor even though they were absent this year. From the pulsating, club beats of Save A Kiss to the Donna Summer cheek of Ooh La La, she moves through the decades of disco with spark and passion.
Roisin Murphy - Roisin Machine
Speaking of disco, Roisin Machine is another album that revived the genre this year. Roisin Murphy has been doing things on her own terms for years, pushing the boundaries of pop and this album is the perfect example of it. It’s a transcendent, hypnotising dance record that allows you to get lost in 8-minute mixes. For every experimental moment (Kingdom Of Ends), there’s a straight-up pop moment (Murphy’s Law) to balance it out.
Tayla Parx - Coping Mechanisms
Tayla Parx has written some of your favourite songs by Ariana Grande and Troye Sivan this year but she’s also made bangers for herself. Coping Mechanisms is a genre-twisting record that makes R&B and pop as malleable as possible. She dazzles on the disco-flavoured Dance Alone and then goes in with the production on the liberating System.
Ziggy Ramo - BLACK THOUGHTS
Ziggy Ramo wondered whether he would ever release his powerful LP BLACK THOUGHTS but as the Black Live Matter movement grew, he dropped it with little warning. It’s an incredibly moving set from the Indigenous artist that considers his heritage and his future, spotlighting the injustices of Australia. “I don’t give a fuck if you ain’t ready to listen,” he raps on Stand For Something, confronting everyone with the injustices we need to hear from the failings of the justice system to basic equality.
Allie X - Cape God
Allie X has been quietly proving herself as one of pop’s most valuable players but she made an ace play this year. Cape God is her most challenging record yet. A dark, elongated LP that situates her in a fictional town allowing her to explore notions of displacement and belonging. She duets with Troye Sivan on the brooding Love Me Wrong, gets soulful with Mitski on Susie Save Your Long and goes pristine pop on Sarah Come Home.
KeiyA - Forever, Ya Girl
It’s likely you’re going to hear a lot more about NYC-based artist KeiyA in the years to come. Her debut project Forever Ya Girl continued to enamour people as the year went on and more ears were drawn to it. It’s a raw, at times challenging, soul record that pieces together futuristic beats with weightless vocals. It’s so easy to get lost in the world she draws you into.
Amaarae - The Angel You Don’t Know
From Burna Boy to Tiwa Savage, Afropop had a great year but it was Amaarae’s The Angel You Don’t Know that really tested the limits of the genre. The debut album from the Ghanaian-American artist interpolated an array of genres, tying them together with her intoxicating voice and undeniable charisma.
Fireboy DML - Apollo
Speaking of Afropop, here’s a project that just radiated energy and positivity this year. Fireboy DML’s second album came through with feel-good rhythms and unavoidable melodies. Every song carried an effortlessness that encouraged movement whether it was the lovelorn New York City Girl or the triumphant Champion.
Kali Uchis - Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)
Kali Uchis’ 2018 debut Isolation made her a global favourite but her second, all-Spanish album Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) was slightly more challenging. It’s slower moving and, at times, more experimental but it might actually be her greatest output to date. Those elongated, airy vocals lend themselves effortlessly to the spacious, steady production that graces this project.
Miiesha - Nyaaringu
Miiesha is now an ARIA Award winner but Nyaaringu deserves to keep collecting accolades. The 20 year-old Indigenous artist dropped her debut project earlier this year, spotlighting her community and heritage with power. Her soulful voice is an instant show stopper and it’s elevated by boundary-pushing production defined by thick synths and palpitating percussion.