Top 5 Albums of 2019
Some say that we remember the songs that make us feel sad more than we remember the songs that make us happy. I suppose this list (and this album) is that the hypothesis turned correct. But to say that there is no happiness on this album is a lie.
Sure, there’s plenty of misery in my standout tracks such as “California”, where Lana seems to lament about someone leaving her in LA or in “Cinnamon Girl” where she sings ‘if you hold me without hurting me, you’ll be the first who ever did’.
But there’s charm, (“F**k it, I love you), humor (the title track’s opening line ‘you f**ked me so good I almost said I love you) and even anger, such as in Mariners Apartment Complex specifically written about someone who called her miserable. ‘You lose your way…I’ll command your boat to me’ almost implies the man she is with has a conception of her that isn’t true and that only she can convey who she is to him.
Lana recently got upset over an author who implied that Lana has a character and that the charades are getting old. In part of her response, Lana explained these songs are her: the good, the bad, the upset, the happy. Sure, you might be depressed after you listen to the album (even with the closing track being about hope). But don’t mistake Lana for being some sad queen. She’s just excellent at making you relate and applying your own experiences to her music.
2. Mark Ronson - Late Night FeelingsMark Ronson is not a singer and you won’t hear him vocally on this album. But to say you don’t hear him on this album would be a lie. His recent divorce has given him a bit of jadedness, and his expertise in production work has turned his heartbreak into a disco. With vocals lent by Lykki Li, YEEBA, King Princess, Miley Cyrus and more, Mark Ronson has managed to convey a story that no doubt unraveled over months, maybe years, but feels like one night out at the club after your heart was broken. The album plays like a musical — albeit one with fewer jazz hands and with more disco drum. It’s title track really nails the album’s rallying cry — emotions are not merely one easily defined flavor, but instead bouquets of different reactions bundled up into ‘late night feelings.’
3. Shey Baba - Requiem
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Shey Baba live — back in 2017 while seeing my favorite artist Susanne Sundfør live in Toronto. Back then he had one single and for two years I played the heck out of that song until I discovered purely by accident that there was now an album to accompany it.
A mix of piano, folk, electronic and probably best glossed with an alternative label, Shey Baba really pushes the genre to new heights. You can feel the heartbreak through the lyrics and sounds, as well as the eventual rebuilding that takes place. A requiem involves moments of depression and sadness, but there are births of new colorful emotion among the embers.
4. Still On My Mind - Dido
Similar to the school of Shey Baba, Dido blends her history of folk and sparse-pop with the combination of drum kits, trap, and electronica. In the most upbeat sections of the album, such as “Take You Home” and “Mad Love”, the combination could be added to Mark Ronson’s heartbreak club. At it’s most experimental do we meet a woman through war, such as on “Hurricanes” and “You Don’t Need a God.” Arguably, why some might consider her an elevator artist, Dido proves to why it’s hard to ignore her no matter if on the elevator or by choosing to embrace her album tracks.
5. Banks - IIIThe song “Contaminated” off of III summarizes the album for me: ‘we're always gonna be contaminated.’ We as in one self, in the relationships we make and in the world around us. III, according to Banks, symbolizes the beginning, the middle and the end. And you can see that roller-coaster of emotions as we move through the explosive elements of “Till Now” and “Gimme”, through the grime and build of “Godless” and “Sawzall”, all the way to the end where Banks exudes, ‘I love you’. It’s a good reminder that even in all that contamination, we still want to emulate love.
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