NPR Music’s Top 10 Albums of November

Photo courtesy of Michael Kiwanuka.

Republished courtesy of NPR Music.

We’re just about ready to reveal NPR Music’s Best Music of 2019 package, but before we do, the month of November gifted us new albums by FKA twigsMichael Kiwanuka and Mount Eerie. It’s truly been a great year for music, right up to the final months.

Below you’ll find an alphabetized list of NPR Music’s top 10 albums of November 2019. Be sure to check out our top 15 songs from the month as well.

Arp, ‘Ensemble – Live!’

The music of Arp, the solo outlet for Brooklyn-based artist Alexis Georgopoulos, is a sound of magical suspension. Psychedelia, jazz, chintzy library music, spacey synth textures, minimalism, neoclassical — all are interwoven and sewn up, hung for examination like a spiderweb. In this rich, easy-listening set, Georgopoulos and band go far out and deep in. — Andrew Flanagan


Black Grapefruit, ‘Waist’

Randa Smith and Brian Dekker have had, it seems, a rocky path towards artistic achievement. A move to Brooklyn, and all of the Sisyphean struggle that entails, ended with resettlement in the Catskills — and a fairly uneven catalog of music. But in pursuing a more danceable sound, Smith and Dekker have created an overcast, but emboldening, suite of beautiful, restrained, syncretist R&B. — Andrew Flanagan





Blood Incantation, ‘Hidden History of the Human Race’

With acid for blood and zero-gravity brutality, Blood Incantation is a supreme death-metal creature spewed from outer space. The Denver band not only levels up as master technicians but also builds a sonic mythology of doom, psychedelia and drone, resulting in the 18-minute closer that reveals new mind-warping secrets upon each listen. — Lars Gotrich


Cecilia Bartoli, ‘Farinelli’

Loath to follow an opera star’s routine career path, Cecilia Bartoli unearths rarely performed baroque music written for a virtuoso named Farinelli, who was castrated before puberty. Bartoli unleashes blistering fusillades of notes and long-spun lines of aching beauty, marshaling the superstar castrato artfully into the 21st century. — Tom Huizenga


FKA twigs, ‘Magdalene’

Through the figure of Mary Magdalene, FKA twigs embraces contradictions; she discovers power in vulnerability and revels in her worth when disparaged. FKA twigs’ crystalline soprano is as multifaceted as her production landscape — delicate and beautiful, bracingly sharp and gale force — on sonic epics of transformative pain. — Cyrena Touros


Kate Davis, ‘Trophy’

Kate Davis studied double bass, jazz and the Great American Songbook; quite the unconventional path to making a debut album of perfectly penned rock tunes. Take special note of Trophy‘s “Cloud,” an observation of adolescence on an album filled with wisdom and pain. — Bob Boilen


Michael Kiwanuka, ‘KIWANUKA’

On his third album, this London-born son of Ugandan immigrants fully secures his place as an heir to socially conscious dreamers like Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers. KIWANUKA is a song-suite that employs myriad musical palettes to explore the way culturally inherited trauma can invade the psyche, with love, self-awareness and righteous protest as the routes to soul survival. — Ann Powers




Mount Eerie, ‘Lost Wisdom Pt. 2’

After two gorgeous, wrenching albums written in the wake of his wife’s death in 2016, Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum is joined here by the great Julie Doiron for a gentle but conflicted examination of the longer-term aftermath — particularly his brief marriage to actress Michelle Williams. Like so much of Elverum’s work, Lost Wisdom Pt. 2 reflects on impermanence, never losing sight of the small beauties that render life meaningful. — Stephen Thompson



Rod Wave, ‘Ghetto Gospel’

In a year defined by a wave of gloomy, melodic rappers speaking to generational trauma, none have stood out quite like Florida rapper Rod Wave. On his debut album Ghetto Gospel, he threads styles within the lineage of black music — the heaviness of the blues, the cadences of Deep South rap, the sheen of R&B — to unearth painful memories. — Mano Sundaresan


Sudan Archives, ‘Athena’

Sudan Archives chisels the blown-out, violin stomp of her first two EPs into a mature, R&B-leaning debut album that bears the necessary messiness of a statement of identity. Full of gorgeous soundscapes and biting, sometimes hilarious writing, Athena will leave you with a better understanding of just who Sudan Archives is and might have you researching Iceland moss, too. — Mano Sundaresan






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