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Favorite Albums of 2019

As we get closer to the end of this year, it’s time for my annual list of my favorite albums of the year. As always, numbers 20-11 will just be title and a video. The top 10 will have some notes from me included. All titles are also links to the album on Apple Music. Let me know what you think in the comments, what albums I missed, etc.

20. Sweet Insomnia – Gallant

19. Help Us Stranger – The Raconteurs

18. I Used to Know Her – H.E.R.

17. Everyday Life – Coldplay

16. Imagination & the Misfit Kid – Labrinth

15. Now, Not Yet – half-alive

14. Labrinth, Sia & Diplo Presents…LSD – LSD

13. Closer Than Together – The Avett Brothers

12. Lover – Taylor Swift

11. Father of the Bride – Vampire Weekend

10. Fine Line – Harry Styles

Ever since he’s embarked on a solo career, the music of Harry Styles has straddled the lines between modern pop and classic rock. A lot of the tracks on Fine Line and his debut album sound more similar to the soft rock and singer/songwriter tracks from the 70s, somewhere around Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. On top of all this, his fashion embraces the flamboyant while his sexuality is as ambiguous as his musical styles. The sum of these parts makes for an incredibly enjoyable career to watch and listen to. Let’s check out “Lights Up”, the first single (and most modern-sounding track) off the album:

9. KIWANUKA – Michael Kiwanuka

More popular in his British homeland, Michael Kiwanuka is probably best known in America for the theme song of the HBO series, Big Little Lies. His husky, calm voice is arresting in its simplicity and reminiscent of Bill Withers. The chilled vibe of his tracks hides the complexity of the instrumentation on first listen. After repeat listens, each layer reveals itself to the delight of the listener. Here’s the video for “You Ain’t the Problem”:

8. Happiness Begins – Jonas Brothers

Six years after a rough split of the band, the Jonas Brothers returned with a fun, new album. Leaving the pop-punk styling of their earlier music behind, the brothers leaned into the pop of Nick’s solo career and funky pop-rock of Joe’s band, DNCE. The album documents their current emotions as they rekindle their brotherhood and friendships and look for new beginnings in love and their careers. The first single, “Sucker”, showcases their joy of finding happiness with each other and their respective wives:

7. Red Hearse – Red Hearse

So Jack Antonoff is reaching the “can do no wrong” status musically for me. Whether it’s with his band Bleachers, songwriting and producing for the likes of Lorde, Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, or his new project Red Hearse, I love it all. This project is with the singer Sam Dew and producer Sounwave and consists of vintage keyboards mixed with modern hip-hop beats and incredible falsetto singing. Their stage performances are just the three guys sitting around a table with Antonoff at the keys, Sounwave at a laptop and Sam Dew just holding a mic. Really chilled vibe. This is their debut album and I’m not sure if there’s plans for more but I really hope so. The first music video they released is for “Half Love” and has a cameo from St. Vincent which was unexpected and amazing:

6. thank u, next – Ariana Grande

Last year, Ariana Grande’s album Sweetener appeared at number 5 on my favorite album list. Six months after that release, she was back with a brand new album. This quick turnaround is unheard of in the modern pop realm where it’s all about era’s with specific aesthetics, etc. Grande pulled it off spectacularly though and proved she can do whatever she wants. This album is more consistent than her last and has some incredible pop tunes to offer. Let’s watch the video for “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” and try to decide if she’s hooking up with the guy or girl:

5. Tales of America – J.S. Ondara

Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about this album so I won’t need to go into too much detail. Since then, he released a “Second Coming” version of the album with a few extra tracks and different versions of some of the original tracks. After months and months of repeat listens, Ondara’s songs have not grown tired but continue to offer more aspects of the music to pay attention to. Here’s a recently released video for “Days of Insanity” that wasn’t out when I wrote my original post. Check it out:

4. Dedicated – Carly Rae Jepsen

I’m not sure if an artist has perfected pop music as well as Carly Rae. Everything she releases is just pure pop, pure fun. It’s just the right balance of 80s influence and modern twists. All of this culminates in the lovely album Dedicated. Jepsen apparently wrote nearly 200 songs during the creation of this album, slowly whittling it down 15 or so tracks for the final product. Her appreciation in the mainstream hasn’t existed since the overplayed single “Call Me Maybe” but she keeps perfecting her sound and pumping out incredible albums. Here’s her playful, pre-date track “Want You in my Room”:

3. Jaime – Brittany Howard 

When I first heard of the Alabama Shakes hiatus and Brittany Howard’s plan for a solo record, I was a little worried because of how much I love the Shakes. I don’t know what the apprehension was for because she delivered a powerful, wonderful album that is so different from Alabama Shakes but so much a reflection of her as an artist and a person. The mix of genres and stories told makes for an album that demands repeated listens. No one track stands out more than the others and they all come from unexpected places. To give you a sense of the full album, here’s her Tiny Desk Concert at NPR:

2. Bank on the Funeral – Matt Maeson

This young dude created a really great rock album. Whether it’s his effortlessly impressive singing or his perfectly crafted songs, something makes me want to keep listening to this album over and over. There’s even one track, “Beggar’s Song“, that I always repeat at least one additional time while going through the album. It’s not even a complex song, somewhat repetitive, but it just sounds like one of those tracks that always should have been written but was waiting on the right person. If you listen to any alternative rock radio stations, you might recognize his single “Cringe“. Let’s start by listening to the opening track, “I Just Don’t Care That Much”:

I want to show you a live, acoustic recording of one of my favorite tracks. This video really showcases how easily he slips between his calm singing and when he’s practically screaming at you. It’s a lot of fun to watch:

1. Cuz I Love You – Lizzo

Here it is, the album I cannot get out of my mind. According to Apple Music, I’ve spent over 24 hours listening to Lizzo this year. This is my most played album and she performs the top 3 listened to tracks of the year (and 11 of the top 20 tracks [Matt Maeson sits in the other nine]). Her personality and performances are just as infectious as her music. Upbeat, self-affirming, and positive, it’s what we all need in 2019. I guess we’ll begin with her first single off the album, “Juice”:

Next, to showcase some of her powerhouse vocals and how she blends it with hip-hop, we’ll check out the title track:

I earlier mentioned her performances so it’s only right we watch one. The two tracks in this performance are actually much older than this album but have recently been rocking the charts. The first song, “Truth Hurts”, appears on the extended version of this album but “Good as Hell” appears on her 2016 EP, Coconut Oil:

 


Alright, that about does it. Hope you have a great holiday season and here’s to amazing things happening in next year… #warren2020

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2019 in Lists, Music, Music Review, MYNIYL

 

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Favorite Albums of 2018

So, last year I somehow did not do my favorite album list. I apologize profusely. I’ll never know how to make up for it. Anyway, here’s my favorite albums of 2018. Number 20-11 will only be the name and a video, the top ten will have a few comments by me in addition to a video or two. Let me know in the comments what’s right and wrong about my list, what albums I missed, etc. Let’s go.

20. The New Respects – Before the Sun Goes Down

 

19. Jason Mraz – Know.

 

18. Florence + The Machine – High as Hope

 

 

16. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – Tearing at the Seams

 

15. Punch Brothers – All Ashore

 

14. The Suffers – Everything Here

 

13. Logic – YSIV

 

12. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born Soundtrack

 

11. The Milk Carton Kids – All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do

 

10. Lucy Dacus – Historian

Yay, I finally get to talk about some music. I listened to Historian solely because of the name while looking at new releases one Friday. It took less than 7 minutes (the length of the first track) for me to realize this was something special. The heartbreak, the darkness, the hope, the light. The whispers and the screams. The loss of loved ones and the escape from others. All emotions, all of life was encompassed in these songs. The album was released in March and even though we don’t deserve more, she released an EP with her supergroup including Julian Baker and Phoebe Bridges: boygenius. Well, let’s hear a song. Here’s “Night Shift”, the opening track I mentioned before. If you have 7 minutes to spare, listen to the whole thing. You won’t regret it.

 

9. Noname – Room 25

I first learned about Noname because of her verses on the last Chance the Rapper record. I didn’t know you could be so understated and calm while rapping some of the most intense lyrics around. I quickly listened to her first album and watched all the live videos on YouTube, especially her Tiny Desk Concert. Her vibe is consistently chilled. Her words are not. Here’s the second track of Room 25 titled “Blaxpoitation”:

 

8. MAJOR. – Even More

This dude is criminally underrated.  Classically trained vocalist for opera and stage, MAJOR. has a powerful voice that would be perfect singing anything. Secretly, I want him to play George Washington in Hamilton on Broadway (call me Lin-Manuel). MAJOR.’s debut album, Even More, is upbeat and poppy. It’s a lot of fun from beginning to end. He borrows influence from soul, R&B, theater, pop and hip-hop. There’s world beats mixed in. He tends to make big, bold statements about himself and what the world needs. For example, here’s how he introduces the album:

Even More is my official statement to the world that hope in love, culture, and our future is not lost. Like my heroes Michael Jackson, MLK, & Stevie Wonder, I’ve accepted the charge to bring fearless love through every lyric, melody, & moment. The world is hurting. Even More is the solution.”

Let’s listen to “Honest”:

 

7. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

Being one of the biggest surprises of 2018, Cardi B’s debut studio album released to impressive critical acclaim and commercial success. Cardi B just has this presence that you can’t explain. Any verse from her is infectious. You’re required to listen. Whether you’re laughing or you’re shocked or even confused, you are still glad you did listen. NPR’s Ann Powers said it best: “She walks into a song and it changes.” It can be Maroon 5’s pop, Bruno Mars’ throwback funk or her own hip-hop. It doesn’t matter, she was meant to be there. The best example, “I Like It”, has her traveling between trap and salsa and R&B and hip-hop:

 

6. St. Vincent – MassEducation

Usually, I’m not a fan of most acoustic or stripped down albums. If you write an album with a full band, I wanna hear it with a full band. More often than not, these types of albums bore me. St. Vincent’s album MassEducation is an impressively lovely exception to this rule. In 2017, St. Vincent released one of the best albums of the year, Masseduction. Dark, sexy and infectiously poppy, I loved it. But when she stripped all the instruments and beats away and slowly sang the same songs over a piano, everything took a whole new meaning. The cute became sinister. The smiles became pain. Levels of emotion and sadness came out of the lyrics that were almost washed away behind the glitzy production of the original. Here’s a live performance of “Savior” stripped down to just a piano and her voice:

 

5. Ariana Grande – Sweetener 

2018 was the year of Ariana for all the right and wrong reasons. She showed strength and resilience after 2017’s horrific bombing at her concert in Manchester. She experienced heartbreak with the end of her relationship with Mac Miller, happiness with her dating and engagement to Pete Davidson then (I’d imagine) indescribable sadness with Mac Miller’s overdose and untimely death in September. The next month her and Davidson’s engagement was called off. In the midst of all the drama, she released an incredible album, Sweetener. This sugary, intimate album is a perfect snapshot of this time. She teaches us how to see the light in darkness, how to breathe during the pain, how to love the unlovable. And none of this touches on “thank u, next“, the sweetest breakup song ever.  But let’s listen to “breathin”:

 

4. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

NPR’s number one album of 2018 and for good reason. This afro-futuristic, pop and funk perfection has everything: catchy melodies, woman empowerment, funky guitars, political jabs, sexual fluidity, black empowerment, anger and harmonies, love and science fiction. And on top of all this, she also released a 50 minute “emotion picture” to accompany the album. Every song on here is damn near perfect so I’m having a hard time picking which to show you. Do you want pop? Or hip-hop? Let’s just keep it sexy with this Prince-inspired anthem, “Make Me Feel”:

 

3. Leon Bridges – Good Thing

I feel like this is the forgotten album of 2018. When the best of lists started coming out, this one was missing from most (if not all). And as you can see from my high placement, I have no clue why. Leon Bridges was able to get everything that made his debut incredible and bring it into the modern world. He brought his unmistakable voice and vibe into today’s R&B, soul and pop. And he did it all while still looking like the 1950s dressed him. I’m mad at all y’all that aren’t listening. Remedy this, quick. “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)”:

 

2.  Rosalía – El Mal Querer

I’m so happy to have found Rosalia this year. This Spanish singer seamlessly combines flamenco and pop music. Her traditional vibrato singing intertwines with trap beats, flamenco claps and Spanish guitars. She samples modern music like Justin Timberlake while telling the 13th century story of a woman accused of infidelity. El Mal Querer is a drastic shift from her debut album, a collection of flamenco classics performed with Raul Refree. I don’t speak Spanish and don’t want to translate songs so I have to guess what the songs mean based on the emotions portrayed by her voice. Frankly, it isn’t too hard. Enough with words, here’s “Di Mi Nombre”:

 

I mentioned sampling Justin Timberlake earlier. The next song has a Spanish version of “Cry Me a River” as the foundation. The song is “Bagdad”:

 

1. Christine and the Queens – Chris

I cannot stop listening to this album. Daily, weekly, I keep coming back to it. Christine and the Queens is the stage name for the French artist Héloïse Letissier. She sings in French and English and her performances are heavily choreographed, taking on a theatrical production. She blurs the boundary of music and theater, male and female, sex and love. Dance tells one story, while words tell another. Her voice is seducing you while her body is pushing you away. It doesn’t matter what language she chooses, her message is still clear. Actually, her album was released as a double album, the first half in English and the second with all the same songs in French. I listen from top to bottom, from English to French, every time I play it. She can sing to me in whatever language she wants.

All that said, let’s hear some songs. In “5 dollars”, she shows hickeys, scratch marks and bondage equipment, all covered up in a 3-piece suit:

 

“It doesn’t matter, does it / If I know any exit / If I believe in god and if god does exist / If I believe in god and if god does exist” is sung over playful choreography in a parking lot. “Doesn’t matter”:

 

The first single off the album, “Girlfriend”, gives serious Broadway vibes. Some 80s musical with a sultry, blue-collar love story or something. I’d watch it.

 

Christine and the Queens performed a 30 minute concert for Apple Music live at the Salle Pleyel, Paris. For whatever reason, it’s no longer on Apple Music but I did find it on some sketchy website. So I highly recommend watching it but can’t vouch for the website.


 

There it is, my favorite 20 albums of 2018. Here’s to a new year of music!

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2018 in Lists, Music, Music Review, MYNIYL

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
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