NPR Music has published its year in review of the best music to have been released in 2019, and among the artists featured across its lists are Caroline Shaw, Attacca Quartet, Vagabon, Yola, The Black Keys, Brad Mehldau, Gaby Moreno, Van Dyke Parks, and Daniel Wohl.
NPR Music has published its year in review of the best music to have been released in 2019, and among the artists featured across its lists are several artists familiar to readers of the Nonesuch Journal: Caroline Shaw and Attacca Quartet, Vagabon, Yola, The Black Keys, Brad Mehldau, Gaby Moreno and Van Dyke Parks, and Daniel Wohl.
Vagabon's new album, at No. 11, "expands her sound still further, most notably landing on synth-smeared electro-pop in masterful, appropriately fluid songs like 'Flood' and 'Water Me Down," writes NPR's Stephen Thompson.
"With help from the expressively agile Attacca Quartet," writes NPR's Tom Huizenga of Orange, at No. 7, "Pulitzer-winning composer Caroline Shaw takes inspiration from the old masters but makes the music shine in her singular way ... From the album's compact spaces to its expansive vistas, Shaw excels in the evocative power of the pluck—formally termed, pizzicato ... They say the mark of a great artist is a smart, distinct and identifiable voice. If that's true, Shaw has arrived, speaking loud and clear."
Orange is also on NPR's list of 10 Classical Albums to Usher in the Next Decade. It's "an object lesson in how to steer the 250-year-old formula of the string quartet deftly into its next chapter," Huizenga writes. "Shaw, still in her 30s, looks back to master practitioners such as Mozart and Haydn—sprinkling traces of them into the mix—to create her kinetic, forward-looking music. The six compositions on Orange are rigorously constructed and presented with precision and utter joy by the Attacca Quartet."
Daniel Wohl's État is also among those 10 Classical Albums to Usher in the Next Decade. "The song on État titled 'Dream Sequence,' with its mysterious, symphonic layering of acoustic and electronic instruments, is an apt descriptor for much of this resourceful composer's music," says Huizenga. "État remains a wonderfully twisted house of mirrors, where electronic gear and traditional instruments are treated as equals and often rendered indistinguishable from each other." Another track from the album, "Melt," has made NPR's year-end list of 30 Songs for our Age of Anxiety.
Yola's album Walk Through Fire, is among the Best Debut Albums of 2019, per NPR. "When she made it to Nashville a couple of years ago, she immediately won over the Americana music community, dazzling with her radiant vocal tone and brilliance at modernizing country soul," writes NPR's Ann Powers. "Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Yola's solo debut evokes the sophistication of classic albums like Dusty in Memphis without pinning Yola to the past: this spirit could not be confined."
The Walk Through Fire track "Faraway Look" was named among the 25 Best Songs of 2019. "'Faraway Look,' from Yola's stunning debut album Walk Through Fire, simmers at the edges of uncertainty with a flickering out-of-time quality," writes NPR's Lars Gotrich, who calls it "an unnerving lullaby that rattles the soul."
Yola also finds herself on NPR's list of 12 Times Women in Country Gave Sexism the Boot in 2019 for her performance with The Highwomen at the Newport Folk Festival—"a joyous celebration of female collaboration, made even sweeter by appearances from honorary Highwomen like Yola, Sheryl Crow and none other than Dolly Parton," says Brittney McKenna.
Two songs from The Black Keys' new album, "Let's Rock," have made NPR's Heavy Rotation: Public Radio's Most Popular Songs of 2019. Coming in at No. 9 is "Go," with which the band "nailed it again, writes Jefferson Public Radio's Dave Jackson. "It's a classic idea: hitting the road for new horizons with a driving back beat and a snarly guitar. It should join the ranks of great, inspirational power pop anthems like 'American Girl' and 'Don't Stop Believin'.'" At No. 2 is "Lo/Hi." "The melding of low and high—fidelity, complexity and vibe—has always defined the sound of The Black Keys," writes The Current's Jim McGuinn. "On 'Lo/Hi,' Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney give new meaning to their classic aesthetic."
Brad Mehldau's song "The Prophet Is a Fool," from his new album, Finding Gabriel, is among 11 Jazz Songs That Spoke Truth to Power in 2019, per NPR. "These days, it can feel like din is everywhere. On the centerpiece of his stunning album Finding Gabriel, keyboardist and composer Brad Mehldau recreates that mayhem and offers lucid guidance through it," writes Ann Powers. "A direct response to gun violence and the conflicts at the Southern border, Mehldau's jeremiad is unsparing and inspiring."
¡Spangled!—a collaboration between Guatemalan-born singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno and American musician, songwriter, arranger, and producer Van Dyke Parks—has made NPR's list of the best Latin music of 2019, or A Survey of the Year in 'Latin Music,' Whatever That Means. As Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras writes: "Guatemalan blues diva Gaby Moreno collaborated with a genuine rock and roll legend for an lushly orchestrated trip through the Latin American songbook."
To see all of NPR's year-end lists of the best in music, visit npr.org.