Pitchfork’s editors have independently selected albums and tracks as their
“Best of 2019”

The Best Rock Albums of 2019

Black Belt Eagle Scout: At the Party With My Brown Friends

Katherine Paul, aka Portland’s Black Belt Eagle Scout, creates rock music in delicate soft focus. Her second album, At the Party With My Brown Friends, offers a serene glimpse inside her world—or at least a serene-sounding one. Led by a majestic vocal melody, opening track “At the Party” celebrates the strength inherent to Indigenous peoples while still mourning the marginalization that makes it so. “You’re Me and I’m You” pays homage to her mother’s open heart and Native Alaskan heritage, with close-mic’d vocals and brushed drums adding to the intimate feeling. Not every song on the album is as clear in its intention—Paul’s half-finished thoughts provide a dreamy sense of stasis throughout—but all are deeply felt. –Eric Torres

The 100 Best Songs of 2019

25. Jenny Hval: “Ashes to Ashes”

Sacred Bones

Jenny Hval’s work is always moving closer to the essentials: pleasure, creativity, nurture; reproduction, death, survival. Again and again, she ventures into dank places and emerges with observations that are striking for their lucid originality and humor. On “Ashes to Ashes,” she tills the sediments of sex, art, and mortality, dragging ash from a cigarette into a grave and equating penetrating fingers to the double-digit swipe of a phone screen to a frantic drowning kick. The song takes place in a dream and preserves dream logic, psychologically cogent yet somehow logically inexplicable. Hval threads it together with a trance pulse that buffets these ideas across the wake-sleep divide like marbles in a Newton’s cradle. Yet it’s featherlight: Hval’s euphoria and divine hooks transform scholarly thought into pure pop. –Laura Snapes

The 50 Best Albums of 2019

7. Helado Negro: This Is How You Smile

RVNG Intl.

The most striking aspect of Helado Negro’s This Is How You Smile isn’t the dreamy production, with its lush acoustic guitars wound around intimately rendered drums. It’s not the field recordings that populate interludes like “November 7.” Nor is it the album’s introspective closer, “My Name Is for My Friends,” which splices ambient sounds with brief, cryptic dialogue. Amid all this wonder, what stays with you most is Roberto Carlos Lange’s comforting voice: It’s resonant and entrancing in both Spanish and English as he narrates meditations on resilience and the Latinx experience. Fresh hells rear their ugly heads every day, and Helado Negro reminds us that we can care for our communities as we seek to improve a world determined to beat us down. This Is How You Smile effortlessly illustrates the kind of quiet rage that has come to feel increasingly common in our current reality; for that reason, it might be the finest political record of the year. –Noah Yoo