I know most of you are looking at this list and thinking one of two things. One, who is Dayna? Or two, these aren’t all indie artists and this is an indie blog… what’s the deal?
Here’s my truth.
One, hi! I’m Dayna. I’ve been writing for this blog for over a decade and as much as it pains me to admit my age, I am of it. My love for music started from initially being a musician, songwriter, etc. and when I realized I enjoyed discovering and writing about new music slightly more than being hungry, I decided to do that instead. I am the go-to around here for harmonies. I’m a sucker for them. I literally CAN’T with harmonies. I’m also the go-to for a good old-fashioned story. (Song-wise and you know… normal stories, too.) I am a true, genuine lover of all genres, but I do tend to focus on the singer-songwriter and pop/electro for this blog. However, the below list runs the gambit of all genres, as my schizophrenic taste in music is what both excites and moves me.
Now… two, yes. This is an indie music blog and this list includes some of my favorites of 2019, but it also includes the big timers. Why? Well, Greg said I could and also… I can’t do an accurate “Best Of 2019” list and not include ALL of the albums I had on repeat over and over again. Forgive me, just this once, for going bigger. But remember, all of these artists were once indie. Some found success and thus “made it,” but they plugged away, submitting their songs to blogs all over the world, trying to be heard and seen. So… I leave this intro with some hope – to all you indie artists, struggling and hoping and wishing to be the next Lizzo, Sara, or Billie, keep going. Keep pushing. It can happen for you. And I sincerely hope that we can be an outlet to help push you into that stratosphere!
Now… onto my list.
10. Jonas Brothers – “Happiness Begins”
Don’t you DARE judge me. I was a bit too old for them when they first came out, so I wasn’t a big fan of their earlier stuff. But boy did “Sucker” sucker-punch me in the earworm gut and become my summer bop, baby! The whole album is pretty solid and they’re maturity and level of musicality grew leaps and bounds. You can tell they took more risks and it paid off. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good hook. (Yeah, yeah… I went there.)
9. John Paul White – “The Hurting Kind”
I covered John Paul’s newest album back in April. As a huge fan and general lover of music, I will always proclaim that he is one of the most talented songwriters in the business. Everything about the album was flawless and he really took some risks by pushing genre’s and taking us on a deep journey. As with many of us, The Civil Wars introduced me to his many talents and I stuck around… even after the worst day of my life. (The day I read that they broke up.)
8. Billie Eilish – “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
Billie gets a lot of heat for not being a great vocalist, but if you listen to her non-radio hits… you’d be swayed. This album is full of tasty treats and some of the best lyrics in the music world right now. Beyond the gimmicks and the look, she is a true artist and full of surprises. “When the Party’s Over” is one of the best songs ever written, in my opinion.
7. The Highwomen – “The Highwomen”
Wanna know what would be totally wild? I mean, complete bonkers? Putting four of the most talented women in music together to make a supergroup? AND THEY DID IT. Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires are powerhouses in their own right and then put them together and you get convulsion-inducing perfection. The country/bluegrass/gospel-esque album has so much greatness, that I can’t even accurately find the words for it right now. So I will leave you with a taste of the delicious joy that is The Highwomen.
6. Maggie Rogers – “Heard It in a Past Life”
Oh, Maggie… you glorious temptress, you. You are everything and then some. This is such a great pop album full of anthems and power. This is the perfect example of blending genre-lines and mixing it up for the listener. This includes electro overtones, heartfelt songwriting, and lovely vocals. I just love how this album made me feel. Good and bad and everything in between!
5. Sara Bareilles – “Amidst the Chaos”
What? Like I’d make a best-of list and NOT include my go-to shower songstress? Please. Sara B is the heart and hearth of ALL THE FIRE. This album had it all and then some. Some of the best songwriting from someone who may be the best songwriter in the history of modern music. (Yeah, I said it… and I’m never taking it back!) The album had so many ebbs and flows and emotional ups and downs that, it’s genuinely hard to pick one song to share. This, I leave you with the song that made me most excited after first listen. (And home to one of the best lines, “you think I am high and mighty, mister? Wait till you meet my little sister.”)
4. Lizzo – “Truth Hurts”
Lizzo is everywhere. She’s probably on one of your playlists right now. Or in your car. (I mean, not literally… but on the radio.) Lizzo is all of us. (And yes, I’m a white woman and I’m aware that it’s cliche and the joke that white women love Lizzo, but why is that a negative thing???) Lizzo is not Hollywood. Lizzo is grit, determination, and proof that if you stick to the grind long enough, it can happen for you. Lizzo was making independent music for so many years, but 2019 sparked the rise of our Queen and the most influencing artist today. She’s positivity and self-love personified and my 5-year-old jams so dang hard to “Truth Hurts” that I’m one proud mama. (Minus the cussing, of course. I think…) The whole album is amazing, but I’ve got to give it up to the jam of all jams!
3. Lily and Madeleine – “Canterbury Girls”
I reviewed Lily & Madeleine’s amazing EP back in March and it still sits with me. I couldn’t stop streaming this important and harmonious celebration of talent and beauty. Folk, pop, singer-songwriter, acoustic, whatever genre you want to put them in (if that’s even possible), you know you’re getting excellence.
2. Joy Williams – “Front Porch”
For Joy NOT to be #1 on my “Best-Of” list tells you a lot about who is #1. But that does not discredit that ABSOLUTE GENIUS that “Front Porch” is. Joy is, hands down, the best out there. I will die and on my gravestone, it will read, “Dayna Duncan. Mother, lover of music, and Joy Williams is perfect.” (Or something like that.) Joy could literally sing a middle C for 2 minutes straight and I’d be convinced it’s the best song I’ve ever heard. But do you want to know one of the best songs I’ve ever heard? This one.
It’s so sad, it’s so true, it’s so lovely. I’ve gone through some very trying times and life experiences over the last few years and this is one of those songs (and albums) that moved me to my core. The whole album is full of home, melancholy, love, joy, sadness, and anything and everything in between. This album celebrates Joy’s folk lineage and returns her to the genre that makes her shine the most. I will never stop singing Joy’s praises and this album is utter perfection.
And now… the moment you’ve been waiting for.
My favorite album of 2019.
1. Bailen – “Thrilled To Be Here”
I WISH I could take credit for discovering them on my own but that honor goes to my sister who texted me, in ALL CAPS, to listen to this song. My sister and I are basically the same human, so I knew if she sent me the link, it would be amazing. So… I did. I listened. And my life was forever changed.
But it’s true.
Bailen is a family band that not only has raw talent but has ridiculously stupid, amazing songwriting skills that make me want to punch something or cry. Harmonies? Check. Musicality? Check. One of the best bass playing I’ve heard in ages? Yes. (The bass guitar, such an underrated instrument, ya’ll. #basslivesmatter) This album evoked such a visceral and emotional part of my being that I had to make them my #1. I’ve listened to their album more in the last 3 months than I have to Christmas music. (Yeah. They beat Christmas. And that hasn’t happened in the history of my life.)
So, firstly, I’m going to post the song that started it all.
And secondly, I give you this piece of genius.
There you have it. The albums I couldn’t stop streaming this year. Here’s to more gems in 2020!