This list was made by writers, editors and producers at NPR Music operating under two rules: Albums had to be released during 2019 and no lead artist was allowed to appear on both this list and our list of the 25 Best Songs of 2019. You can find the rest of our picks for the best music of 2019 here.
Tyler, The Creator
Generally speaking, breaks-up are trash. But what if you’re not even allowed to call it a break-up?
IGOR, the fifth studio album from Tyler, The Creator, mourns a love that was never really allowed to flourish in the first place. Across 40 minutes, IGOR draws, erases and redraws emotional lines in the sand, smudging up Tyler’s self-esteem with each new boundary crossed. The pining of “EARFQUAKE,” the short-lived euphoria of “I THINK,” the feeble negotiation of “NEW MAGIC WAND,” the obvious lie of “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE,” the diluted compromise of “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” Think of these tracks as the face muscles that construct the dead-eyed, sanguine smile you flash during that first unexpected run-in with your ex. Even with a supporting chorus of Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, La Roux, Solange and more, the true magic of this album is Tyler’s ability to let his guard down just enough to give you symphonic slivers of his heartbreak. —Sidney Madden