What’s This Called? 100 Favorite Albums of 2019

DJ Ricardo Wang

By Ricardo Wang

While my show has featured end-of-year shows and lists off and on throughout the 25+ years of What’s This Called?, it has not been an annual tradition. Some years the show focused more on experimental music rather than on the sounds of the current moment. Oftentimes that is because the given year didn’t feature enough new releases to fill a show, or the interest of your host.

This was NOT the case with 2019. Your host, Ricardo Wang set out to do a top ten for the year and found quickly that ten was not a reasonable number to list, even for the most played and enjoyed 2019 album releases from the show. Twenty quickly was not enough either, and when it became clear that a list of 100 albums was imminent, research ensued into as many records that had been missed as possible.

Perhaps it was because artists wanted to get a great album done for the end of the decade. Perhaps the insane global political climate has made artists want to do something in the only way they know how. Perhaps 2019 was the year artists started to realize that technology and crumbling economics had now made them able to produce and share “professional” quality albums without having to kowtow to the dying music industry.

What follows is a list or albums that What’s This Called? host Ricardo Wang has listened to and ranked arbitrarily. The ranking is not based upon airplay or popularity, or anything other than DJ preference. The order would probably change tomorrow and would certainly do so in another week.

Any record on this list is a great listen, and believe it or not, keeping this list at 100 was next to impossible. Already I have found several albums I feel like should have met this list. But you can start anywhere and it will all be amazing.

Top 100 Albums of 2019

  • Negativland – True False (Seeland)
  • Kim Gordon – No Home Record (Matador)
  • Nick Cave – Ghosteen (Ghosteen Ltd.)
  • Thurston Moore – Spirit Counsel (Daydream Library)
  • Iggy Pop – Free (Loma Vista)
  • Keiji Haino & Charles Hayward – A loss permitted to open its eyes for but three hours And there glimpsed, finally in focus a mystery That begs earnestly, “ask me nothing” Now, once more the problem is yours alone (33 33)
  • Glenn Branca – The Third Ascension (Systems Neutralizers)
  • Fennesz – Agora (Touch)
  • Sin: Ned & Uneasy Chairs – 時代精神 Zeitgeist (self released)
  • The Caretaker – Everywhere At The End Of Time: Stage 6 (History Always Favours the Winners)
  • Kronos Quartet – Terry Riley: Sun Rings (Nonesuch)
  • Sunn O))) – Life Metal (Southern Lord)
  • Legendary Pink Dots – Angel in the Details (Metropolis)
  • John Zorn – Tractatus Musico-Philosophicus (Tzadik)
  • Future Sounds of London – Yage 2019 (FSOLdigital)
  • Various Artists – Stain, Crack, and Break: Music from the Nurse With Wound List Volume 1 (Finders Keepers)
  • Disxiple 113 – Sidraw (Obsolete Staircases)
  • Lee Ranaldo, Jim Jarmusch, Marc Urselli, Balazs Pandi – Self Titled (Trost Records)
  • Bill Callahan – Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (Drag City)
  • Amy Denio – Eureka (Spoot Music)
  • Mini-Mutations – Society’s Standards (WTBC)
  • Ashtoreth & Grey Malkin – Hermit (Reverb Worship)
  • Sudan Archives – Athena (Stones Throw)
  • Mecca Normal – Brave New Waves Session (Brave New Waves)
  • Flying Lotus – Flamagra (Warp)
  • Amon Tobin – Fear in a Handful of Dust (NoMark)
  • Fischkopf Sinfoniker – To the Bone (self released)
  • Somsurprises – Some Candy (Crash Symbols)
  • Various Artists – Anthology of contemporary music from Africa continent
  • Floating Points – Crush (Ninjatune)
  • Clark – Kiri Variations (Throttle Records)
  • Juniana – Ordinary Devotions (self released)
  • Galactic Protector – Evening (Burning Witches Records)
  • Taraban – How the East Was Lost (self released)
  • Yann Tierson – Portrait (Mute)
  • ISON – Inner-Space (Avantgarde Music)
  • Diploducus – Slow and Heavy (self released)
  • Weird Owl – Wet Telepathy (Little Cloud Records)
  • Laura Cannell & Polly Wright – Sing As the Crow Flies (Brawl Records)
  • Blake DeGraw – Music for Hollow Voices (self released)
  • William Henry Meung – Anagrams of Love (self released)
  • The Utopia Strong – Transition to the Afterlife (Rocket Recordings)
  • Like a Villain – What Makes Vulnerability Good (Accidental)
  • Ras G & the Afrikan Space Program – Raw Fruit Vol. 3 & 4 (Leaving)
  • SONOLOGYST – Phantoms (Unexplained Sounds Group)
  • Neil Campbell – CLOUD DRAG 1979 (self released)
  • Lightning Bolt – Sonic Citadel (Thrill Jockey)
  • Noriko Kadama – Abyss (Accretions)
  • Erin Jane Laroue – CHALANT (Trail of Breadcrumbs)
  • Nonconnah – Dead Roses, Digged Up Zombies, Broken Pieces of Diamonds, Live Cats (Hickory Withe)
  • Goh Lee Kwang – Avalanche Herbal Concrete Disc 1902-1 ((Herbal Records)
  • Zan Hoffmann & Hubert Heathertoes — “The facets of serendipitous occurrence (Boiro saga​)​” (Astipalea)
  • Misanthrop – Analog (Neosignal Recordings)
  • International Experimental Music Compilation Volume 2 (Broken Tape)
  • Bios+a+ic – This Jazz Not Is (self released)
  • Otoboke Beaver – ITEKOMA HITS (Damnably)
  • Stuart McLeod – neuropera (self released)
  • Abronia – The Whole of Each Eye (Feeding Tube)
  • Black Midi – Schlagenheim (Rough Trade)
  • Buildings – Negative Sound (Gilead Media)
  • Feedbacker – XII (self-released cassette)
  • Noisepoetnobody – Arson is Always an Option (self released)
  • Telefon Tel Aviv – Dreams Are Not Enough (Ghostly International)
  • We Free Kings – Live at Avant Vespers (Comprovise Records)
  • Lazerkaat – Electric Scratches (self released)
  • Monikaze – Chicken Wings (self released)
  • Temples – Hot Motion (ATO)
  • Various Artists – Anthology of contemporary music from Middle East (Unexplained Sounds Group)
  • My Burning Bush – Sublimation (self released)
  • Tearpalm – To the Happy Few, Volume 1 (93 dot 93)
  • Forrest Friends – choc.429 (Chocolate Monk)
  • Various Artists – Witchcraft & Black Magic In The United Kingdom (Eighth Tower)
  • Spirit Duplicator – Duplex Cremes (Tape Mountain)
  • Majestic Horses – Away from the Sun (Kasumen)
  • Reality Cyst – At One With Nothing (Automation Records)
  • Production Unit Xero – Hedge Magic (Aether Tapes)
  • Search Ensembles – Prescient / Legend (either/OAR)
  • Rosalie Cunningham – Rosalie Cunningham (Spinefarm Records)
  • Dominik Eulberg – Mannifaltig (K7 Records)
  • Column Shifter – Congregation (Shift)
  • Taylorshit – Orion (self released)
  • Serpent Worship – Serpent Worship (self released)
  • Bob Bucko Jr. – Junior Nuclear (Lurker Bias)
  • Kadaver – For The Dead Travel Fast (Nuclear Blast)
  • Greg Segal – Ahead/WISPREVI (self released)
  • Lance Austin Olsen – Look at the Mouth That Is Looking at You (Infrequency Editions)
  • Tom Dyer – 1+1=? (Green Monkey)
  • Various Artists – Om Unit Presents: Cosmology – Dark Matter (Boomkat)
  • Portico Quartet – Memory Streams (Gondwana Records)
  • Tipper – Jettison Mind (Tipper Music)
  • Jesse Koolhaas – Organized (Urban Waves Records)
  • Skekz – Bokeh (Kwai Music)
  • The Lord Weird Slough Feigh – New Organon (Cruz del Sur Music)
  • Neuroq – Spacephoria (Beatport)
  • Brunt – Ataraxy (self released)
  • A Winged Victory for the Sullen – The Undivided Five (Zen CD)
  • Under Nihilo – Tropical/Mall.Exe (self released)
  • Spaceslug – Reign of the Orion (BSFD Records)
  • Leth – Kalergi Aquarius (self released)
  • Bryce Miller – Monochrome Daydream (Spun Out of Control)


Ricardo Wang has hosted What’s This Called? at various radio stations since 1993, with over a year now at Freeform Portland! He drew from two radio programs to compile the #Top100Albums2019 list above:

  • https://whatsthiscalled.net/2019/12/08/7-december-2019-2019-the-year-music-broke-back-part-1/
  • https://whatsthiscalled.net/2019/12/21/21-december-2019-the-year-music-broke-back-part-2/

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