Tag Archives: 2019

2019 Album Countdown: Increasing Enthusiasm (Top 3)

31 Dec

3 Lizzo:  

I didn’t want to like Lizzo, because it seemed like she came out of nowhere and took Grammys from people I really like.  I hadn’t even heard her name out there, and knew nothing of any of her songs (I guess the one pitfall of losing radio who crams hyped things down your throat).  Suddenly, she was a name I heard everywhere.

But her tunes won me over. Like, big time. For awhile I actually thought she was going to be my #1 album for 2019.  I like the female empowerment, the cool-factor within the songs, and the production value.  But my biggest reason was that this album makes you excited to listen to it.  And the feminism and body positivity sneaks in while you’re dancing.  It’s good.

–>P.S. Here’s an unpopular (honest) opinion:  I Judged on the songs, not the red carpet. I acknowledge, like most white, cis women in America (the 1st world?) I have been socialized with certain beauty standards.  I simultaneously hate these standards and sometimes feel pressured to abide by them. I think it’s important to love your body. But also strive for a healthy, toned body.  And I strongly believe you should wear what makes you happy and comfortable. I know I usually do. But I do think the formality of an event should be considered, as should what flatters.  I find her immodest outfits a travesty and train-wreck (not in a prude-way). I think she could dress dramatically and show who she is in a more tasteful way. And I always think everyone’s clothes should fit them properly. 

Saying that, her ‘fuck-your opinions’ attitude is what shines through her music and is exactly why I ranked her album so high. 

-”Soulmate” has a good message, but that percussion is straight out of 2016.  Also, I will never think trilling is edgy or gagsta-cool.

-”Jerome” using ‘juicy pots’ in a lyric is yuck!  I do like the sound of ‘your style and that beard ooh.’  What I love is, ‘Take ur ass home come back when ur grown.’  Yes! Strong woman speaking her mind. 

-”Like a Girl” is my favorite.  Super-empowering. It has a very Karmin vibe with sassy-smart-pop-rap.  “Heaven Help Me” has that sound too.

-”Truth Hurts” hooks you!

-”Better in Color” so that’s where big dick energy came from?!  Also, I normally do not care for screaming in a song, but it’s cute and goes perfectly with the tone (see what I did there?) of the story she’s telling in the song.

-”Cuz I Love You” has an epic background with good singing that hits all the right notes.

-”Tempo” is too repetitive.  I do like Missy’s breakdown.

-”Good as Hell” is catchy and uplifting.

 

2 Set It Off”

I had this tied with Mika for a minute, and this album went above his, because the whole album was strong, with no throw away songs.  This is filed under ‘Alternative Rock’ which I feel isn’t really a thing anymore.  And I wish it was because that used to be my favorite genre-what a relief to hear it (I guess I’ll accept any iteration of it as this point) in 2019!  It sounds like pop with gruff singing to me, but I did like it. They just might be a manufactured band, and you can hear a lot of influences, samples, and possible straight up copying of other bands.  And that sounds like a criticism on my part, but it isn’t. I like that they’ve incorporated a lot of the sounds I like, while keeping things energetic and fresh. The track list is diverse as a result of this, with each song featuring a different artist’s vibe:  Fall Out Boy, Epic (video game), boy band, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Jonus Brothers. . .

Courtesy of Jon Weiner Rock band Set It Off is touring in support of its 2016 album, Upside Down. agomez@abqjournal.com Sun Jan 07 16:55:59 -0700 2018 1515369347 FILENAME: 927584.jpg

-”Go the Bed Angry” Nice pop duet!

-””Hourglass” sounds reminiscent of Fall Out Boy, with slightly more rock.

-”Stitch Me Up” is a boy band song.

-”Unopened Windows” I can tell this song was included to showcase some singing ability.  And it works moderately. I’d say the singing is slightly better than mediocre.

-”Criminal Minds” I like the fast speed

-”Kill the Lights” sounds like Panic at the Disco and Fall Out Boy.  And you know how I’ve been known to like those bitter lyrics!

 

1 Taylor Swift:

I hate how the first thing I have to do is a disclaimer justifying my choice.  Taylor is as successful and rich as she is because she is talented.  And hardworking, and smart, and good at marketing and business and promotion.  And fuck society for hating on that.  And the disclaimer:  Now, now now before you judge me for being too white, too mainstream, too pop–a sellout of a reviewer, let me justify this choice.  Just like the other artists on this list, it’s solely based on this year’s album only.  Fashion, likeability, my personal staple-favoritism, does not factor into the decision of my album countdown.  The art alone is judged. Yes, I’m obsessed with Kaylor in a very real way.  And I love the Easter eggs and videos and marketing genius that is Taylor Swift the brand.  But I chose Lover as top album, because it is the perfect embodiment of 2019.  It’s so many songs.  There is a story of each one, which pretty much sums up the goings on of the year–it’s always something these days…  

-”Lover” and it’s many iterations is beautiful and self-written with introspection and pure romance.  I get heart eyes everytime I hear it.

-”The Man” The political message and feminism is at the forefront of this jam, and it’s refreshing to hear it.  I love how cheeky, yet unapologetic Taylor Swift is as she wonders what her career, finances, and life would be like without the patriarchal chains every woman wears knowingly or unknowingly.  Calling it out is good for her and awesome for gals everywhere to hear.  

-”Paper Rings” All the symbolism, all the romance!  Taylor is really at her best when she’s telling a detailed story using metaphors.  

-”Soon You’ll Get Better” It’s the ‘eat your veggies’ track, that we might not like as much as sugar,but that we need to hear.  It’s very serious and somber subject-matter, but she’s really showing vulnerability and sharing a personal struggle that’s universal.  Also, cool is that the Dixie Chicks were brought back from political purgatory to feature on the song and their country vibe sounds amazing.

-”You Need to Calm Down” political AND fun.  Sing-aloud anthem with a message. It’s fun and important.  It’s the statement we’re hungry for, the inclusion we demand.

-Cornelia Street” Features one of the most emotive moods on the album.  The singing, volume, and production emphasize feelings.

-”Afterglow’ This song is written from the opposite perspective that Taylor usually  takes. I like that it shows introspection, maturity, and accountability. It shows she’s not only grown as an artist, but as a person.

-”False God” I think we can all agree we need to hear Swift singing about oral sex.  And good for her for doing it obviously and unashamedly. And the brass in this song is a different vibe than we usually hear from Swift’s work, and really adds something.

-”Daylight” I’m glad this is a more practical love song.  We do not have the dreamy syrup-love of the early days. It’s an acknowledgment that sometimes (even true) love is messy and imperfect.  Not everything is a fairytale and sometimes strife comes about. It’s a great last track that closes the album beautifully.

-”Archer”  Tay (um we’re on a nickname basis, because her music makes me feel like she and I are best friends!) gets a really bad wrap for talking shit in her songs.  Let’s give her credit where credit is due for showing maturity in showing she sometimes is the archer and sometimes the pray.  

-”Death by a Thousand Cuts” This song tells of a turning point and evokes much sadness.  The bridge (always a Taylor strong point) is A+ here.

-”Cruel Summer”.  So it was a major mistake not to make this the first single and maybe even release it late May/early June–you know as the summer jam.  Also to showcase the album content a little better. And I think “Me!” could still have been released in June as the 2nd single because summer is a time for light content.  And gay pride is accepting of a little campiness that is “Me!” But nobody called and asked me(!). *Read* Taylor please call me or write me anytime, for advice (ha ha) or just to chat.  I’m obviously joking, but for real, contact me.

-”It’s Nice to Have a Friend” It’s a little disjointed, possibly containing more than 1 subject, but what a nice take on love.  Childhood and friendship evolving. It’s a little talked about love that everyone experiences and not that many people sing about.

-”I Forgot that You Existed” I’m ranking these tracks based on what I feel are the strongest song elements, messaging, and critically/technically (judged by people, overall).  This particular track is probably in my top 4 on the album, but I think since it speaks to the haters (yet again, which mind you I love, but critics and the public at large are tired of, and find immature) it’s down here.  I do find it super-catchy, and personally love a bitter song.

-”Miss Americana” A symbolic gesture of a song that shows Taylor is finished with all the high school-type drama.  She’s grown up now and the stupid games aren’t worth the stupid prizes.

-”Me” is the light and fun side.  We don’t always have to take everything so serious.  It’s the shameless spelling and let-loose dancing song.  Also, marketing to the kids?  Smart.

-“London Boy” You have to be clever to write satire.  And Swift’s humor shines through on this gem.

-”I Think He Knows” for me personally, this song has a pronoun problem that I can’t get on board with…  Kaylors know what I’m saying.

 

So there you have my choices for the top (and bottom) albums of 2019.  And if you’re wondering where (my former in my imagination girlfriend) Brandi Carlile is on this list…  Because after all she took on a side-project, The Highway Women.  I like the idea of a female country/Americana group.  But honestly, I would have had to put it in the changed their sound category, and I just don’t have the heart to but Brandi on the bottom of any list.  Mostly, because I have hope she will return to her earlier sound and all will be well again in my fandom.  But for now–it’s omitted.  But the rest is accurate.  At this moment in time.  Hope you enjoyed my list–it’s a year of picking out albums, listening to the songs, comparing elements, and writing–not a small undertaking.  But I love it so I hope you do too.

2019 Album Countdown: Tight Race (11-4)

30 Dec

This is the section I agonized over.  I think each of these albums was number 1 on my list at one point or another, and I really had to listen for fine details to organize them in the best way.

 

11 Tegan and Sara

I have heard so, so, so much hype that these gals are the indie fave.  They are supposed to be like the hipster, ‘too-cool-for-school’ low-key awesome band.  I’ve listened to them many times, trying to understand what it’s all about, and I never caught on to it.  I wasn’t feeling the 80’s vibes and thought it was too light, too poetic. Too hipster, not me.

This record changed my mind.  And at one point I had it ranked 2nd, because despite the 1980’s sound that really describes the band, the sound was varied and diverse.  The stacking of elements, the lyrics, every song sounding different. They play their own instruments, of which many are represented in these tunes.  I had to give some respect for talent. But packaged in a lite-sounding way that belied the depth.

 

11 Goo Goo Dolls:

The entire album had very short songs.  They were catchy and easy to listen to though.  It was a throw-back to their 1990s sound, but updated.  It would have ranked higher if there was longer tracks or if there had been at least one huge stand out single.

-”Lights” low key; good beat.

-”Autumn Leaves” Strong singing with feeling.

-”Money, Fame…” different sounding.  Had a slight Fleetwood Mac vibe. 

-”Come to Me” nice romantic song, I could see played at weddings.

-“Miracle Pill” darker song that’s very catchy and has good piano.

-”Lost” has a gospel touch.  Maybe too much though?

 

10 Rob Thomas:

What I liked most of all on this album was the genuine nature of it.  I felt Thomas was especially earnest in each song.  But it does have a tendency to fall into the ‘trying too hard’ category too frequently.  The clap track and that sweater lyric as two examples. Also, it was just not as catchy or technically good as either Jack or Josh.

-”I Love It” Amped up song!  Totally 1980s breakdown.

-”One Less Day” Good beat that reminds me of a like train chugging combined with a common Cher song.  Good uplifting lyrics. Kind of an anti Peter-Pan thing.

-”Early in the Morning” A stripped down song with thoughtful lyrics and occasional piano popping through.

-”Hold On Forever” It’s nice and chipper.  There’s something I don’t like about it: The ‘sweater’ lyric for one to the skippy tune, which sounds familiar and is taken from something else I think.

-”The Man to Hold…” I slow and forgettable.

-”Can’t Help Me Now” is catchy with deep lyrics that I felt.

-”Pieces “ is my favorite track on the album.  It is orchestral and dramatic with sweeping vocals.  The piano featured at the end is beautiful.

 

9 Jack Savoretti:

This album is probably more technically good then some that I placed higher on my list.  It has deep lyrics and instrumentals that at times made me think of: piano, funk, guitar, disco, accordion, and orchestra-whew!  I like this album a lot because it’s low-key. Also it’s very diverse, sounding like a few different musical influences throughout.  But it’s further down in my top 10 because it just didn’t have the catchiness some of the other albums had. And sometimes the singing is (intentionally?) rough which I don’t really care for in music.

“Dying for…’ Americana style music, but not strong on the singing.

-”Beginning of Us” nice little lyrics (about child-birth?) with sweet piano chords.

-”Going Home” is my favorite song on the album!  It reminds me of that Beatles ‘Wonder Years’ theme song.  Jazzy.

-”Youth and Love” has a disco flair.  I like the fast lyrics and the Queen moments.  It features Mika (who is on my list elsewhere) and a French breakdown.  The instrumentals are key.

-”Love is On” has a disco feel and good string accompaniment.  Extra froggy singing though.

-”Singing to…” The John denver feel must come from the slow pace of the song.

-”What more” A Chris Issac influenced tune with heavy strings.

 

8 Josh Ritter:

First let me get this off my chest;  Oh my goodness, Brandi Carlile would sound so good in a duet!  I like this nice strumming, cowboy poetry kind of lyrical feel.  It’s soft rock with a faster, more energetic beat that made this album slightly more catchy than Jack’s.

-”Ground Don’t Want…” This song has a roots beet somewhat like the chugging of a train or something.  

-”Losing Battles” I like the guitar and I like that the song tells a story.

-”On the Water” It’s a good strum.

-”A New Man” Features heavy guitar (and some violine?) and is more upbeat than typical country.  It starts like Brandi’s song.

-”The Torch Committee” This one also tells a story and makes me think of a Medieval march to storm the castle.  There are smoldering strings and percussion that are quiet enough to give the attention to the lyrics. It increases in intensity throughout the song until the instrumentals become the total focal point at the end of the song.

-”where the Night…” Sure it has rough Spring stein-esque sining.  The upbeat tinkling of the piano makes it good though.

 

7 Mika

First of all, can I just say how happy I am that albums are so track-heavy in 2019?!  And unlike cassette-culture when there were 2 singles, most of the songs are not throw-aways.  Keep this going, music industry! Except Mika started out near the top of my list, but dropped down, down, down because the first half of the album is super-strong with each song making an impact.  But I did feel like the first half of the album was a bit stronger and more diverse of a sound, and the 2nd half kind of faded into the background. I do like the dancy, fun vibe.  And I enjoy deciphering Mika’s musical influences on each song.

-”Tiny Love” had a good beat, spoke of gay love, and was interesting to listen to even after several repeats.  I could hear the Queen influence strongly, and it turned out to be a good thing. And then the stripped down ending, made me listen closely, and I thought it was a good technique.

“Ice Cream” reminds me of George Michael with the almost spoken lyrics and high vocal pa

-”Paloma” I can tell Mika really paid homage to his musical influences throughout the entire album.  This song is piano-driven Billy Joel. It’s a little, quiet song as Dave would say, and I like the singing on the chorus.  The gospel backing is a nice touch.

-”Sanremo” has a very 1980’s Calypso vibe.  There is soft singing, claps, and very subtle Calypso notes.

-”Cry” the repeated ‘cry’ was actually a good sound.  But the rest of the song was forgettable.

-”Platform Ballerinas” Is it an upbeat song about gay culture?

-”Blue” sounds like Bon Iver, but I found it slow and a little boring.

 

6 Melissa Etheridge

This may be the most introspective Etheridge has ever been.  And it’s refreshing to hear.  Sure, there is still plenty of swagger in her rock also.  And some touches even reminded me of her ‘Yes I Am’ album (I’m pretty sure she used the exact same chords on a couple songs) but it was in a good way.  I think the best musical parts of the album was the Native American sounds she included.  It was an unexpected but good addition to her regular rock sounds.  The reason Melissa is 5th when I thought this was her best album since ‘Lucky’ (one of my all time overall favorites) is because she is a little bit sexist in some of the bitter songs.  I like a bitter song, but misogyny isn’t a selling point to me (from females or males) and it won’t age well.

-”Faded…” has almost a powow/native sound to it

-”Here comes the pain” I like that it’s earnest and introspective.  A nice break from all the swagger and pride.

-”Good Lookin” kinda sexist/bitter, about someone who lives in the bubble.

-”The Med Show” Native, but with her hard-rock strong singing.  Best song, maybe.

-”The Human Chain” lyrically weak attempt at political neutrality.  And come on, people with money, power, and fame with nothing to lose–please make a statement.  A real statement!

-”Miss you” catchy, is it about politics or love?

 

5 James Morrison:

It was a really tight race between spots 3-11 this year, with me having to listen over and over for details and subtle differences between albums.  This top 10 has not been thrown together, it was crafted very carefully with many justifications for each spot. This album got 5th place for 2 reasons:  All the influences of music genres make it very eclectic and uplifting of a track list.  I hear: Roots, soft rock, soul, gospel, jazz. Secondly, because of the intricate instrumental layering of each song.  You can tell a lot is going on and there had to be good planning and execution to get to the final product.  There seems to be two versions of each song. One that features stronger singing, then one that is stripped down and almost acoustic.  It’s interesting to hear both versions, even back to back. I didn’t feel like it was double songs, more like–oh I can hear distinct differences.  My complaint is that I did keep having to check if I’d reviewed songs, because the whole album sounds so homogenous.  

-”Feels Like…” This sounds so much like Ray Lamontange with the roots/fold feel and catchiness.

-’So Beautiful” I do like the repeat three times and obviously the high note.

-”Slowly” It’s impactful the way the verse is whispered, but the chorus is loud. Also impactful is the way ‘let it fall’ is repeated.  Nice piano also.

-”Brighter Kind…” I like the ascending words and notes.  

-”My Love Goes…” sweeping gospel flavor.  The last seconds are haunting in a beautiful way.

-”Broken Strings” This song features Nelly Furtado, but she doesn’t really bring her personality to the part.  Honestly, Kelly Clarkson would have been a better match (and has better singing ability).  

-”I Won’t Let…” The orchestral background adds a lot to this song.

-”too Late for…” I like the sentiment that true love isn’t perfect.  Mistakes are made, and you move forward. I think it’s a good message when so many songs insinuate that mistakes and disagreements aren’t part of true or real love.  Interesting instrumentals top it off.

 

  1. Bruce Springsteen

I think this is a theme album or soundtrack.  And those usually don’t factor very high on a countdown list of mine.  But this one in particular feels so right and comes together in a cohesive way that sticks with the theme.  And Bruce never has a good singing voice (in my opinion).  But the scratchiness is actually well-suited for the Western feel of this album.  This album has a very ‘Reno’ casino quality to it-I’m not sure if that was intentional.

-“Rhinestone Cowboy” is catchy.

-“Sleepy Joe’s Cafe” features an accordion and truck stop lyrics, which match the tone of the song somehow.  Also, the jazzy interlude spices it up.

-“Drive Fast” was long, boring, and droning–I needed to get where we were going already.  He mumble-sings and the born to run section sounds very classic ‘Springsteen’ ie, not my fave.

-“Western Stars” tells a lyrical story with a lot of detail that sounds like a good camping vibe.

-“Hitch Hikin’” is a little quiet song with very nice backing instrumentals.

-“Hungry Heart” is older sounding.

-“Thunder Road” has harmonica and in a good way, but the singing is more shout-singing = grating.

-“The River” is another song featuring a lot of nice details and a storyline invoking loneliness and travel.  But the singing is again particularly grating.

 

Tomorrow, on the last day of 2019, I will share my choices for the top 3 albums of the year!