Now that I’ve looked at the year’s best singles, it’s time to spotlight the standout albums of 2019’s first six months. It’s been a relatively solid year for albums so far, though not as strong as 2018 at this same point. As usual, minis have been more plentiful than full albums — especially when it comes to idol acts.
Make sure to leave your own picks in the comments!
FULL LENGTH ALBUMS
Astro – All Light
A group’s first full album is always an exciting prospect, and All Light did a great job balancing Astro’s bubblegum pop sound with more mature styles. For me, it’s the most consistently strong full album 2019 has given us so far.
Best album tracks: 1 In A Million, Heart Brew Love
Oh My Girl – The Fifth Season
Full albums from girl groups are frustratingly elusive, but Oh My Girl finally got a chance to show what they could do over the course of nine solid tracks. Lacking huge peaks, this is an album best taken as an enchanting whole.
Best album tracks: Vogue, Gravity
ATEEZ – Treasure: One To All
January’s Zero To One is equally strong in its own right, but I give a slight edge to One To All simply because it leans more heavily toward pop sounds. It’s an all-killer, no-filler affair, bringing elements of rock and hard-hitting dance pop into ATEEZ’s boisterous sound.
Best album tracks: Utopia, Dancing Like Butterfly Wings
BTS – Map Of The Soul: Persona
BTS go full-on mainstream pop here, with a stronger melodic focus than ever before. This results in a glossy, expansive album that sees them trying on new styles (Mikrokosmos) while also hearkening back to the energy that made them great in the first place (Dionysus).
Best album tracks: Mikrokosmos, Dionysus
Cosmic Girls (WJSN) – For The Summer
I LOVE summer-themed albums, and we haven’t gotten many so far this season. With For The Summer, Cosmic Girls stand to have 2019’s definitive collection of summer tracks. It’s one breathless uptempo hit after another.
Best album tracks: Oh My Summer, My Type
NCT 127 – We Are Superhuman
Anchored by the knockout, one-two punch that opens the album, We Are Superhuman‘s b-sides can’t quite match up. But, they’re no slouch, either, offering big-budget pop music like only SM Entertainment can.
Best album tracks: Fool, Paper Plane
ONEUS – Light Us
I could have easily included ONEUS’ follow-up album as well, but Light Us is slightly more memorable, delivering a sample platter of the various K-pop sounds that the group is capable of. It’s an assured, addictive debut.
Best album tracks: Red Thread, Eye Contact
TXT – The Dream Chapter: Star
A pitch-perfect debut album, full of diverse pop styles held together by the same bubbly energy. All of these five songs have been spotlighted in some way (music videos, performances, etc) and that’s a testament to their strength. Each could have functioned as a convincing title track.
Best album tracks: Blue Orangeade, Our Summer
U-Know – True Colors
As expected from SM royalty, TVXQ’s Yunho delivered the most classic K-pop-sounding album of these first three months. A jack-of-all-trades when it comes to performance, he effortlessly skirts between genres, bringing a funky charisma to each track.
Best album tracks: Blue Jeans, Swing (ft. BoA)