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Chad Whitehead's Top Ten Albums of 2019

Toro y Moi

Chad Whitehead, host of About What You’d Expect, breaks down his top 10 albums of 2019.

How does anyone choose top albums in a single year? There’s so much great music out there and we have access to almost all of it. Thanks to Ryan LaCroix and The Spy and KOSU for letting me bother people with my taste. - Chad


  1. I like your playlist.
  2. My list is music I like. I’m a talent buyer, but I’m also just a hipster doofus whose eight-year-old says of him: “Dad, you just have bad taste in music.”
  3. And Bon Iver’s new one should be on my list, but I forgot until it was too late.
  4. Ranking art is kinda silly. This is all subjective, get it?
  5. My 2019 list is stacked by how much I personally listened to these albums. So No. 3 isn’t better per se than No. 8, I just listened to it more.
  6. I am incredibly biased by seeing artists live. Nine of my Top Ten I saw in concert this year.

10. Vandoliers - Troublemaker

If you haven’t seen Vandoliers tear it up in person yet, that’s on you. In an alternate universe, the soundtrack to Office Space is Troublemaker by Vandoliers. Sometimes life just needs the right soundtrack when you’re taking it out on TPS reports and a wayward printer.

9. PJ Morton - PAUL

If PAUL by PJ Morton would have come out earlier in the year, it would be my top album. Go listen. Since The Grammys added an R&B category, PJ Morton is the only artist to have three straight albums nominated for Best R&B Album.

8. Paul Cauthen - Room 41

Paul Cauthen’s a star. He is. If you don’t know it yet, just catch him in concert or go listen to this album. Are you in Dallas? You’ll bump into Paul Cauthen tonight. Are you in Nashville? Paul Cauthen abides. In Austin? Look over your shoulder, a big boy in a big hat named Paul just sauntered in and is eyeing the room above his Ray Bans.

7. Beau Jennings - The Thunderbird

The Thunderbird by Beau Jennings is a very fine album. Everything is in its right place in a way that makes you appreciate how hard it must be to write significant lyrics, set to good music in a time and place that really needs both. Has anyone ever asked you about music in Oklahoma? All respect to the Red Dirt genre, but this is album you need to send their way.

6. Jay Som - Anak Ko

I’ve always been about two things: indie music and everything Jay Som releases. To that you reply: well, if you like her so much, why haven’t you booked her? Good question, fair question. I’m going to get a tattoo in 2020 that reads: “Jay Som is my white whale.” Go check out Jay Som and let me know if you want to carpool to her show in Dallas next year.

5. Walker Lukens - Adult

Austin has many great songwriters, most of them would say that Walker Lukens writes better songs than they do. That’s not braggy, because, that’s just that people are saying in Austin. And I agree. I’m not a “lyrics man,” you know, those men who listen to lyrics. But even I can sit back after spinning Adult on vinyl on my home hifi and recognize that Walker Lukens can write.

4. Joshua Ray Walker - Wish You Were Here

I’ve grown to really love the right kind of country music, and Joshua Ray Walker is a big reason why. Every time I get to watch him perform, I’m sucked in and can’t get enough. Happy to see him winning awards and selling records, plan on him being around and in your ears for a long time.

3. Fruit Bats - Gold Past Life

Why do good bands slip through the cracks? Sometimes it’s because a band is a “band’s band” which is a generic compliment for every band that should have been more successful. Fruit Bats aren’t that though, their yacht-rock indie is commercially viable and should attract even the most causal music fan. Go check them out, Gold Past Life is exactly as great as all previous Fruit Bats releases.

2. Toro y Moi - Outer Peace

Toro y Moi, aka Chaz Bear, doesn’t break the rules, he just makes music that doesn’t seem to need rules. It’s loose, nothing is over-produced. Outer Peace is an incredible album to study to or party to, how rare is that?

1. Broken Social Scene - Let's Try the After (Vol. 1 & 2)

If you know me, it’s not exactly a surprise that BSS is high on my list. I had a realization at SXSW this year: I prefer watching bands who are happy to be performing and enjoy making music. Both parts of Let’s Try the After still show a band that by all appearances, still enjoys making music together. And even for BSS, these two EP’s show a playful experimentation with their music that I found really interesting.

So there you go. Happy 2020, let’s be as good to each other as we can.

Tune in to About What You’d Expect on Saturdays at 9 p.m.

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