This list of best 2019 Taiwanese albums wouldn’t have been possible without my brother, who put me onto these artists in the first place given my minimal knowledge in the genre. So shout out to the little bro.
Every album on here is performed in Mandarin/Chinese.
*All spotify links are in the album titles*
Men Envy Children — 第三個願望 (The 3rd Wish)
Genre: Pop, Rock
Men Envy Children was conceptualized behind the idea of childhood nostalgia that adults yearn for. Their music evokes a sense of youthful exuberance that embraces its angst while also radiating joy. Though lead singer Mify’s grounded voice commands attention, it never detracts from the band’s emphasis on contentment, striking a balance that makes them one of Mandopop’s most exciting bands. And it’s also my favourite Taiwanese album of the year.
Sweet John — 城市小说选集 (Urban Fiction Select)
Genre: Indie, Math Rock
Sweet John have earned their place among Taiwan’s elite bands when they were nominated for “Band of the Year” in 2018’s Golden Melody Awards (Taiwan’s version of the Grammys). Their sound is mellow, often drowning out their vocals to shine the focus on their intricate and very impressive guitar playing. This isn’t to say their vocals are lacking however, as vocalists Genwie and Mandark harmonize and reciprocate off each other, lending Urban Fiction Select a sensation of refreshing cohesiveness.
Shi Shi — 希游记 (藏金版) [Shi’s Journey]
Genre: R&B, Jazz
A re-release of 2018’s Best Mandarin Vocal Album Golden Melody Award winner, this edition only adds a demo but I had to include this album here due to the sheer quality present. Shi’s Journey is true to its name, shining the spotlight on its creator as Shi Shi belts her heart out over luxurious production. Every song is elevated by the true star of the record, Shi Shi’s voice, as she powers through them all with gusto and charisma.
Astro Bunny — 在名为未来的波浪里
Genre: Pop, Electronic
Producer duo Nu and Cha Cha (who also does vocals for Astro Bunny) engages in a brand of pop that’s more in tune with Western influences than their South-East Asian contemporaries. The album is buttery smooth as the production takes influences from the city-pop of old, while mixing in dance-inspired elements that aim for chart success. Though Astro Bunny’s work might not ‘wow’ listeners in comparison to the swift evolution of Western pop, but they are still a force to be reckoned with in modern Mandopop.
Rainie Yang — 刪·拾以後 (Delete Reset Grow)
Genre: Pop, Singer-songwriter
At this point in her career, Rainie Yang is Mandopop royalty. Her 11th studio album Delete Reset Grow sees her falling back on familiar tropes while at the same time perfecting them. Packing the record with ballad after ballad, Rainie’s breathy voice is given ample space to shine. Delete is an album that knows and plays to its strengths, leaving little room for error in its tracklist.
Sugarcat — SUGARCAT 唐貓
A word that summarizes the entirety of Sugarcat’s self-titled album is ‘funky’. Sprinkling bouncy production throughout the tracklist, the band’s brand of R&B fuses traditional, mellow groove of the 90s and recent upbeat dance trends. It’s the most Western sounding album on the list, but it’s delve into the occasional Mandopop tropes still keeps things refreshingly familiar.
吳青峰 (Wu Qing Feng) — 太空人 (Tai Kong Ren)
Sodagreen frontman Wu Qing Feng uses the band’s hiatus to experiment with new sounds in his first solo offering. Though there are still instances of standard Mandopop offerings such as the title track and “太空”, which are through-and-through ballads; much of the album is drenched in theatrical pop aesthetics that would give Panic! At The Disco a run for his money. Allowing the production to breathe (Wu is probably only present for 70% of the record), Tai Kong Ren is an exercise in pop maximalism.