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In Review: Music Of 2019 (10-1)

And now we conclude my top albums of the year that was started yesterday. There are so many albums that I never got around to listening to – if there are any you’d think I would enjoy, please leave a comment below.

#10 – Serotonin II by Yeule

There is a whole in my musical life that has been looking for a Grimes album to fill it. Thanks to Singaporean artist yeule, there is Serotonin II which more than scratches the itch. Every now and then I’ll find great video-game inspired tracks, but never a whole album like this one. My finding this album was pretty much down to chance as well, which just shows how much music is out there what we might love and never find – so thank you TinyMixTapes for giving me the album of swirling Final Fantasy and Grimes style music that made a last minute entry into my end of year countdown.

Top Tracks: Poison Arrow, Blue Butterfly, Pocky Boy

#9 – Time For Us by GFRIEND

The position of this album is probably inflated as this Kpop album became the official album of my trip to South Korea – being played most nights as I was writing up what we did during the day. This isn’t even an album I heard about before listening, I just saw one of the band members acting goofy in a gif on Reddit and here we are. I still contend that ‘Sunrise’ needs to be used in an anime opening sequence, the chorus is just too perfect to not have something fantasy-based like Konosuba or That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime feature it.

Top Tracks: You are not alone, Sunrise, Memoria

#8 – The Practice of Love by Jenny Hval

To call this Jenny Hval’s most accessible album, whilst true, is a very weird sentence to write as this is still pretty out there in places. With ‘Ashes to Ashes’ she made something close to a commercial single – then included the sentence “like how I used to dream of fucking before I knew how”. This album is Hval’s meditation on love it’s effect on the environment around us both directly (in terms of resources) and indirectly. She enlists the help of three collaborators to bring this world to life, the title track being a direct conversation about two of their own perceptions on their place in the world.

Top Tracks: Ashes to Ashes, High Alice, Lions

#7 – i,i by Bon Iver

After 22, A Million, anything less than perfection was always going to show a decrease in quality. At least for me anyway. Bon Iver’s back catalogue is beyond extraordinarily and, thankfully i,i is another worthy addition to the canon – even if I would rank it as his third best album. In his first three albums, There was a definite evolution and deconstruction in sound, but here we have an album where it feels like they’re going to take time to explore and broaden the soundscapes from the previous album. Considering my feelings towards his last release, you’ll hear no arguments from me.

Top Tracks: Hey Ma, Naeem, Holyfields,

#6 – Norman Fucking Rockwell! by Lana Del Rey

Every Lana Del Rey fan has been waiting for this album. Up until now she’s been an amazing singles artist who made good (if a little long) albums. On NFR! everything has finally clicked into place and the promise she made with the release of double a-side ‘Video Games/Blue Jeans’ earlier this decade has been fulfilled. No one else does this melancholy old world California balladry quite like she does, and what’s great is that she’s done it on her own terms and given us plenty of joy along the way to her magnum opus.

Top Tracks: The Greatest, Venice Bitch, Mariners Apartment Complex

#5 – Punk by Chai

I’m kinda thrilled that this year I have more than one non-English language album, and this album by CHAI is a exuberant shade of batshit. According to Spotify, ‘Great Job’ is my most played song of the year – probably because it’s one of those songs that I have to listen to twice without fail. This is one of those albums that just brings you a smile to you face whether it be because of the maniacal laughter on ‘Great Job’, ridiculous brass sampling on ‘This is Chai’ or the bright synths of ‘Future’. Given the end to the year in UK politics, I’ve leaned on this album a lot.

Top Tracks: Great Job, This is Chai, Fashionista

#4 – Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood

When I first heard ‘Movies’ you could have broken a sledgehammer on the goosebumps that erupted. Same for the next few dozen listens as well. It’s beyond atmospheric and that voice. Wow that voice. Listening to this is like if the Carpenters went electronic and attended Julliard – the rest of the album, whilst not as strong as this smashing single, held up to the extreme amount of repeat listens with ‘Everyday’ and ‘Andromeda’ being the other obvious stand outs.

Top Tracks: Movies, Andromeda, Everyday

#3 – My Finest Work Yet by Andrew Bird

This year Andrew Bird, has carved out the top male spot in my (as usual) female dominated top listens of the 2019 and his work has never been too far from the play button. His knowing folk stylings that take on the world as it is today, along with his trademark whistling on beautiful tracks like ‘Bloodless’ and ‘Manifest’ kept me coming back for more and now that 2019 is over I look forward to properly exploring his back catalog in the beginning of the new year.

Top Tracks: Sisyphus, Manifest, Fallorun

#2 – On The Line by Jenny Lewis

As always seems to happen with my albums list, the runner-up slots are the albums with my Song of the Year and this year is no exception. Both ‘Red Bull & Hennessy’ and the title track have had regular plays this year to the point where I have ended up listening to one of them pretty much every day since the album came out. Good thing that it’s surrounded by what is Jenny Lewis’ strongest work yet, which is saying a lot.

Top Tracks: Red Bull & Hennessy, On The Line, Hollywood Lawn

#1 – A Different Kind of Human – Step 2 by Aurora

What I love so much about music is that an album can just come out of left field and set the tone for the rest of your year. When I first listened to this album back int he summer it was to bolster the numbers on my list and yet I immediately realised that this was likely going to end up being my album of the year.

Great music shouldn’t just stay in your head, but it should also be able to make you feel and, sometimes, inhabit something more primal. That’s exactly what Aurora managed to do this year with an album that somehow contains so many multitudes that, like crystal, appears to find new facets depending on the season I listen to it.

Top Tracks: Dance on the Moon, Animal, In Bottles

In Review: Music Of 2019 (20-11)

Well folks, it’s that time of your once again where I look back on the wealth of music that I have listened to over the year and try to separate out a Top 20. Since I spent such a long time deciding on top albums from the rest of the decade, the number of albums that I’ve listened to this year is reduced compared to last year. My diving into the world of podcasts didn’t help either.

This year, as this post takes such a long time to put together and write-up, I am going to be limiting myself to one paragraph an album rather than droning on and on. I’ll still be doing my top tracks though, as that’s always fun.

#20 – U.F.O.F. by Big Thief

So many people have raved about the two albums that Big Thief put out this year and whilst, yes, U.F.O.F. has ended up on my countdown, it still feels like I’m missing out on something that so many other people have found here. As it is I find both of these albums to be beautiful pieces of folk music that are great to reading a book to. U.F.O.F. just happens to do it a lot more for me. Maybe, like Margo Price’s debut, these albums will haunt me and continue to grow in my estimation. I listen to tracks like ‘Terminal Paradise’ and can really see that happening.

Top Tracks: Cattails, Betsy, Terminal Paradise

#19 – Girl With Basket of Fruit by Xiu Xiu

This album is responsible for getting the phrase “my three-legged pig” stuck in my head for a full month. It’s such a clash of noises that, at times, feels like the initiation rites to some sort of rural cult. It’s also an album that is such a mindfuck at times that, if I am in the wrong mood, rubs me completely the wrong way. When I am in the right mood, it’s like a firecracker has been set off in my imagination that cannot help but spin off bizarre and contradictory mental images.

Top Tracks: Pumpkin Attack On Mommy and Daddy, Girl with Basket of Fruit, Normal Love

#18 – Wildcard by Miranda Lambert

I’ve been a fan of Miranda Lambert since she released ‘Kerosene’ way back when (God knows how I came across it) and a new album by her is pretty much guaranteed to end up being somewhere in my Top 20. Wildcard is another solid entry into the Miranda Lambert canon and sees her trying to redefine herself within her present rather than looking to her past. She’s been through a lot of heartache and it does continue to show here. She taps into her fears on the beautiful ‘Settling Down’ and, on other tracks, it feels like she’s getting back to the old humorous that I got to love back in the days of Revolution and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Top Tracks: Settling Down, Fire Escape, Mess With My Head

#17 – Pony by Orville Peck

Gay cowboy music sung by a man with a beautiful classically trained baritone that wouldn’t be out of place in Twin Peaks. I picked this album up as a bit of a curiosity of having an openly gay man sing country music – ended up with mood that has become a meme between myself and one of my co-workers. It’s an example of why it’s dangerous to start with the best track, it took me a long time before I could get to the meat of the album as ‘Dead of Night’ kept having to be played that second or third time.

Top Tracks: Dead of Night, Queen of the Rodeo, Roses Are Falling

#16 – Purple Mountains by Purple Mountains

There are times where you pick up an album as the artist died soon after releasing it and people are sad not only for the death but also because of the promise of the work recently left behind. This is how I came to listen to ‘Margaritas at the Mall’ on a summer day when I was struggling with some R code. I’m a real sucker for this kind of folk rock with Illinois style brass instruments and Purple Mountains is full of it. One day, I’ll need to investigate the back catalogue.

Top Tracks: Margaritas at the Mall, Darkness and Cold, All My Happiness Is Gone

#15 – Proto by Holly Herndon

How many albums can you say are out there by someone with a PhD into their work on the intersection of music and artificial intelligence? On her previous album Platform, Holly Herndon appeared to have a more a view that technology is coming after us, but with Proto comes her embrace as she introduces the world to “Spawn” an artificial intelligence that she’s training to sing and features across the album. It’s such an extraordinary thing to hear and, with tracks like ‘Evening Shades’ we can hear how an intelligence like this can be trained. This woman is a genius and I cannot wait to hear more from “Spawn”.

Top Tracks: Eternal, Frontier, Evening Shades

#14 – thank you, next by Ariana Grande

Whilst Sweetener may not have had much of an impact on me outside of ‘No Tears Left To Cry’, there was an immediate one with thank you, next. I am not sure if it was the internalised homophobia talking, but this because a bit of a guilty pleasure listen for me this year – despite it being one of the highest acclaimed pop albums of the year featuring the track that broke my hear the most from 2019: ‘ghostin’.

Top Tracks: ghostin, thank you, next, bloodline

#13 – All Mirrors by Angel Olsen

Back when I wrote about My Woman I talked about how I felt a bit late to the Angel Olsen support party. Well, I’m well and truly there now – even if the album cover looks like an Adele pastiche. Then again, I get how a new sound requires a new image, and All Mirrors is a definitely departure from her rockier last album (which I rediscovered in a big way earlier in the year). She’s gone and done her take on a dark lady Kate Bush album and it’s such a gorgeous mood as the colder months move in.

Top Tracks: All Mirrors, Summer, New Love Cassette

#12 – Dedicated by Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen is one of the many acts that is proof positive that it is sometimes better to not win that reality show you are on. She has written down and sung some of the best acts of feel good pop of the last few decades, hell her leftover track ‘When I’m Alone’ was what first got me interested in K-pop. Dedicated is her taking a more sophisticated take on pop which, whilst not as immediate, has been a good friend in the kitchen during my long world cooking adventures.

Top Tracks: Real Love, Now That I Found You, Julien

#11 – MAGDALENE by fka twigs

An fka twigs album always takes a while to properly settle in my brain and reveal all its gifts. I know that, a few months into 2020, I will wonder how I didn’t end up placing this album higher. So much has happened to her between this and her last album, from the breakup of her engagement to surgery – and it’s a pain you can especially hear on album finisher ‘Cellophane’. She shattered and managed to get her pieces beck together in a beautiful dark experimental album that only she knows how to make.

Top Tracks: Fallen Alien, Cellophane, Holy Terrain

In Review: Music Of 2015

It’s the end of 2015! What a year it’s been for me. Marriage. Honeymoon in Japan. It’s going to be one of those years I will always remember.

Also, what a crop of music! I guess the older you get, the more artists you love begin to culminate. Still, for my music taste, it has been exceptional. So I figured why not pre-empt future updates on the Acclaimed Albums list, and a possible expansion of that list when I reach 100%, by going through the music of 2015 followed by a Top 20?

Did Not Chart

I listened to a lot of music this year. According to Last.fm, this might be the most varied I have ever been when it comes to sheer number of different tracks. This means that there are quite a few albums that did not crack my personal Top 20.

One I am going to rather obviously point out is Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. This is the album that will appear on the next update of the list.  I know that this makes me some sort of musical philistine, but this is where I am with rap albums. No matter how acclaimed or important it is… I just can’t get to the heart of it. Also, the liberal use of the n-word just makes me plain uncomfortable. I did like ‘King Kunta’ though.

Now, for the main event. My Top 20 albums of 2015!

Platform 1#20 – Platform by Holly Herndon
#19 – Wildheart by Miguel
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper#18 – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper by Panda Bear
#17 – Endless Vacation by Annie
Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit#16 – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
Blackbirds#15 – Blackbirds by Gretchen Peters
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 1#14 – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
#13 – Hairless Toys by Roisin Murphy
Have You In My Wilderness#12 – Have You In My Wilderness by Julia Holter
Natalie Prass#11 – Natalie Prass by Natalie Prass
Currents#10 – Currents by Tame Impala
M3LL155X#9 – M3LL155X by FKA twigs
#8 – In Colour by Jamie xx
Emotion#7 – Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen
Divers#6 – Divers by Joanna Newsom
Vulnicura#5 – Vulnicura by Bjork
Froot#4 – FROOT  by Marina & The Diamonds
Art Angels#3 – Art Angels by Grimes
#2 – Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
#1 – I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty