Tag Archives: Margo Price

In Review: Music Of 2020 (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 – Róisín Machine by Róisín Murphy

In a year filled with disco, it only makes sense that the first album in my Top 10 would be disco-pop done Róisín Murphy style. Despite loving Hairless ToysI never did listen to the follow-up. However, with Róisín Machine there was no doubt that I had to get on this straightaway.

After all, so many amazing tracks from this album had been released over the last 8 years, it was hard to imagine that this wouldn’t end up being her best album yet – and she got there. I’ll always have a soft spot for her solo debut Ruby Blue for introducing me to avant-pop, but I have a new champion now.

Top Tracks: Narcissus, We Got Together, Kingdom of Ends

#9 – Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

Future Nostalgia was one of those albums that I heard very early in the year and knew that it would be a guaranteed Top 10 placement by the end. The fact that an album I enjoyed this much ends up at number eight, shows just how strong a year this has ended up being in terms of music. It was the carefree romp through a number of retro-pop tropes that really would have smashed a year with actual dancefloors. Even some of the questionable tracks on the remix album didn’t manage to dull how cool and fun this album was.

Top Tracks: Physical, Hallucinate, Break My Heart

#8 – Chromatica by Lady Gaga

When I heard the promotional singles and even on my first listen through of Chromatica, I would not have expected that this would end up in my end of year list – let alone this high. However, ‘Sour Candy’ and ‘Sine From Above’ would not stop invading my brain – and here we are. Now I am in love with her electro-pop opus where, at least for me, she’s back at The Fame Monster quality. I may not have loved all the albums in between (although Born This Way got plenty of spins), but I never truly left her – which makes this return all the sweeter.

Top Tracks: Sour Candy, Sine From Above, Chromatica II/911

#7 – Fetch The Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple

When this album came out, I went to bed with my headphones and listened to this alone in the dark. It isn’t every year that Fiona Apple releases an album, so you have to experience it properly. By the end of the first track I had already cried, by the time it ended I knew that it would need a lot of extraction.

Then the rest of the year happened. In a year where I didn’t have to deal with anxiety and depression, I would have given Fetch The Bolt Cutters even more of a dissection and given it the analysis it deserves. Instead, this is an album I had to fit in whenever I felt lucid and stable enough. Means that the positioning here is going to be lower than if I was retroactively talking about 2020 albums in a few year’s time, but it is what it is.

Top Tracks: Shameika, Under The Table, Cosmonauts

#6 – Miss Anthropocene by Grimes

It bums me out that, upon releasing Miss Anthropocene, Grimes more or less disowned Art Angels. It won’t stop me listening to that, or having  ‘Flesh Without Blood’ as my favourite Grimes track. This was also the Grimes album I feel I waited the longest for as I made the conscious decision to not listen to the version that leaked online four months earlier.

In the end, this album’s dystopian aesthetic was oddly prescient of what 2020 would end up being. Sure, this was meant to be more about the climate crisis than a world pandemic – but really the difference pretty much ends there. At least there will be good industrial inspired pop in the future.

Top Tracks: My Name Is Dark – Art Mix, So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth – Art Mix, Violence – Original Mix

#5 – What’s Your Pleasure? by Jessie Ware

I am still not entirely sure why disco made a comeback in 2020. It’s so weird that a number of artists got the same memo, but I am glad for it giving me the first Jessie Ware that I paid attention to since her debut. What’s Your Pleasure? is such a sexy and euphoric album that is exactly the kind of disco music that I can well and truly get on board with. It feels like what I was hoping for with Honey, but hey maybe that is the album that was needed in order to give me this.

Top Tracks: What’s Your Pleasure?, Ooh La La, Save a Kiss

#4 – Bonny Light Horseman by Bonny Light Horseman

Okay, so I never thought that I would end up falling for an album like this – a folk supergroup that reinterprets a number of traditional folk songs. However, there is some real magic in those songs and these three really managed to make an album that balances the beauty and the melancholy. 

If there was an album that was the soundtrack to my terrible summer and actually helped get me through it, it was Bonny Light Horseman. Singing along to ‘Deep in Love’ and ‘Magpie’s Nest’ – I saw singing, I was wailing – was a regular occurrence and it really helped to lift my spirits.

Top Tracks: Deep In Love, Bonny Light Horseman, Jane Jane

#3 – That’s How Rumours Get Started by Margo Price

Silly as it sounds, I still have a slight regret that I didn’t get into Margo Price’s exceptional debut quick enough for me to be able to put in my Top 20 of that year. Well, here we are a few years later and she’s released yet another album that I adore – and this one has been extra special because of how, like Bonny Light Horseman, it helped get me through the summer.

Hearing her first perform ‘Stone Me’ on Full Frontal in Samantha Bee like a zillion years ago made me so excited for the album – which just delivered exactly the country experience I was needing. No matter what happens, she is a true star and one of the few singers who I actually follow on Instagram.

Top Tracks: Letting Me Down, I’d Die For You, Stone Me

#2 – SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama

One of my best friends introduced me to Rina Sawayama last year through the excellent song ‘Alterlife’… and now I think I have become the bigger fan of the two of us. In terms of being a proper pop album, this left all the others in the dust this year. It is such a collision of genres into an album that is incredibly inclusive and is personal almost to a fault. There’s nu-metal, funk, RnB, house, electroclash and pretty much every genre that people have been puzzling over in their Spotify Year in Review.

Top Tracks: STFU!, Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys), Dynasty

#1 – by GFRIEND

This year, GFRIEND have pretty much dominated my listening with their 回 series of albums. For most of my list making, I had their three releases separately and it felt a bit off to have the same artist appear three times. So, I decided to combine them and effectively give them the position of the highest of the three releases – 回:Labyrinth – which was my album of the year.

I have tried other K-Pop this year, but nothing just quite hits the same spot as GFRIEND – which is insane for a group I only listened to because of a funny gif I saw on Reddit. I also love that they have been able to release singles that just end up being repeated ad nauseum for about a fortnight at a time. It has been such a treat seeing their development from their 2019 album (which was the soundtrack to my trip to South Korea). I don’t know where they are headed in 2021, but I will be along for the ride.

Top Tracks: Labyrinth, MAGO, Here We Are

In Review: Music Of 2017 (20-11) + An Honourable Mention

So here we are again at the end of the year. There’s no denying that 2017 has been an ‘interesting’ year all around. But I’m not talking about that today – no, instead I’m using the next two posts to look back on, what has been, an excellent and eclectic year for music.

I know that I had some issues with my final selection back in 2016, but this year has been even more difficult. It came to a point where I even started toying with making this a Top 30 instead because of some of the albums that were starting to disappear down the rankings, but I’m sticking with 20.

In terms of sheer volume and variety 2017 really has been my biggest year in music ever. It has also been a year of discovering some back catalogues of artists like Bon Iver and re-evaluating some of last year’s placements. More on one of those later in this post. 

So before we get into all this…

Honourable Mention: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Soundtrack

It would be so easy to include the latest year of songs in my countdown. However, I don’t think I can easily sort out how much I love the songs themselves from how much I love the TV show (‘Rebecca’s Reprise’ immediately comes to mind). So, I figured it would be fairer to do this.

It’s hard to describe just what makes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend my favourite current show on television. Not only is it a clever deconstruction of romantic comedies, but it is also one of the few shows out there that has provided an honest (and at times unflinching) look at mental illness. The cast are top notch with lead Rachel Bloom being deserving of nearly every award that she could be eligible.

The fact that this is not watched by more people just feels wrong. However, this has given me the joy of spreading the word and finding new converts to the cause. Even if you haven’t seen it, the soundtrack is worth the listen.

Top Tracks: The End of the Movie, Strip Away My Conscience, Let’s Generalize About Men

Right, let’s get into it…

 #20 – Stitch of the World by Tift Merritt

It’s always nice to start this off with an album by someone who I had never even heard off before this year. Stitch of the World was one of the first albums from 2017 that I listened to. As such this album has had a long way to fall as more and more albums have overtaken it. Still, it managed to stick the landing… which is more than I could do if I were standing barefoot in a tree.

This is an album so far off the radar that it still doesn’t have it’s own Wikipedia page. It’s also a real shame that this is an album that faded into the background as 2017 marched on as, in the end, Stitch of the World is a really strong slice of Americana that deserves a chance to be savoured

Top Tracks: Icarus, Stitch of the World, Dusty Old Man

#19 – Goodnight Rhonda Lee by Nicole Atkins

Whenever Nicole Atkins releases an album she is nearly always guaranteed a place in my end of year list. She’s one of those singers who I have followed right from the beginning of her career and where I have e-mail alerts set up to notify me of her upcoming releases.

With this, her fourth album, I would say this is my least favourite of her discography because it is a lot more laid back than what I would expect. Still, to place above so many other albums released in 2017 she must be doing something right! Goodnight Rhonda Lee is a bit of a throwback to Nicole Atkins’ musical roots to make something more intimate and containing a hint of 1950s/1960s glamour.

She really is one of those singers that never quite made it. Maybe her time will come. I hope it does.

Top Tracks: Goodnight Rhonda Lee, A Little Crazy, If I Could

 #18 – DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

Rap is a genre that pretty much passes me by. There are the rare albums that I ‘get’, but usually it leaves me cold. Considering that Kendrick Lamar has likely released yet another album that will be touted at the ‘best of the year’ by most publications, I was ready to just right myself as out of touch again. Then I listened to DAMN.

I hope it makes sense to say that this is the most accessible album that he has done. It feels much more akin to  Good Kid , M.A.A.D City than To Pimp a Butterfly which, for me, is the mark that this is an album that I can enjoy. It isn’t as dense with ideas or as aggressive as Butterfly, instead this feels more like a stripped-back album where Lamar is freer to be eclectic with his influences and put his raps at the centre of things.

So yes, a nice surprise for me there to find a rap album to add to the slowly increasing pile of exceptions.

Top Tracks: DNA., HUMBLE., ELEMENT.

#17 A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie

A Crow Looked At Me feels like the ultimate act of musical voyeurism, an album about singer Phil Elverum losing his wife to pancreatic cancer. It’s one part Devendra Banhart, one part Nick Cave and a million parts devastating. I tried to listen to this at work and found myself crying at my desk… I think my boss figured that I was having some sort of mental breakdown.

It would be easy to compare this to Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree where he sings about the sudden death of his sun in a car. However this is much more stripped back and a lot rawer. This was a drawn out death that left a man as a single parent to a small child. The lyrics deal a lot more with the post-death confusion rather than just complete devastation. It also goes chronologically through his grief and features songs that eschew traditional song structure because, in effect, this is a musical diary.

A Crow Looked At Me is an album where you have to be feeling emotionally robust before attempting a listen. This might have been higher on my list had I been able to listen to this more… but that’s how it goes.

Top Tracks: Real Death, Ravens, Toothbrush/Trash

#16 Visions of Life by Wolf Alice

This is the most recent entry into my top 20 list, spurred on by the number of British publications that featured this highly in their end of year lists. The moment ‘Heavenward’ began to play, with it’s beautifully echoing noise pop/shoegaze influence, I knew that this would be kicking out another album from my list.

Visions of a Life doesn’t stay in one area of alternative rock to get too comfortable. It goes on a bit of a random journey around the genre taking on elements of noise rock, grunge and indie rock. Yet it manages to feel like a cohesive album despite going between beautiful synths and scream tracks. Obviously my preference is for the former… but sometimes you need the latter as a bit of a palate cleanser.

I’m somewhat ashamed to say that this marks the first of only four non-American albums on my list (and the first of only two British albums). I guess I knew this was happening, but then again I’ve never been a big fan of British music anyway.

Top Tracks: Heavenward, Beautifully Unconventional, Don’t Delete The Kisses

#15 Colors by Beck

Okay fine, this isn’t Beck’s best album. However, this it the most positive album that he has released since Midnite Vultures and any year is made better with a Beck album. Considering the political climate it feels a bit jarring to have such a positive pop kaleidoscope of an album coming from him… then again he delayed the release of Colors by a year because it’s original release would have come shortly after Trump won the election.

This is one of those albums where you put it on and it makes you smile. Tracks like ‘I’m So Free’ and ‘Dreams’ are so infectiously happy that it kinda proves that an album like Colors has as much a place in the moment as the more thoughtful albums.

Top Tracks: Dreams, I’m So Free, Colors

#14 – Okovi by Zola Jesus

After the misstep of her previous album, it is so great to see Zola Jesus back at the height of her goth-pop powers. Sometimes it works to go more in a pop direction, and you can’t blame her for trying, but Okovi is really a sign of just how pop she needs to go. Having listened to her albums for years it has been interesting to see how each release has been a further calibration to find her best sound; between this album and Conatus I think she’s found the balance.

Everything about Zola Jesus’ best music is epic in scope. Her operatic contralto, her dark layered production, her inward looking lyrics. This is art pop and proper art pop at that. With Okovi it feels like having gone through her depression, and dealing with a lot of the trauma that her friends were dealing with, Zola Jesus has found her voice. I would not be surprised if her next album is what launches her into the stratosphere.

Top Tracks: Wiseblood, Remains, Exhumed

#13 – American Dream by LCD Soundsystem

It’s rather shameful to say this, but this album was the first time that I have listened to LCD Soundsystem. I know that all their previous albums are heavily acclaimed, it’s just that I’ve never had the urge to discover what all the fuss was about. I figured it would be like that time where I tried listening to The National and was completely underwhelmed.

With American Dream I have to admit that is has been a slow burn. On the first listen the only track that really grabbed me was ‘tonite’ with it’s dirty synths. Now that I am further into the listening I am finding more beauty and more things to dance to – on the most recent listen I just had the titular track ‘american dream’ click into place for me.

As albums go it’s very self-aware in a way that is very much needed in the English-speaking world this past year. It’s also the album that I really wish Arcade Fire could have released instead of Everything Now. I know that’s a bit much to ask for, but they’d have it in them to deliver an album like this.

Top Tracks: how do you sleep?, tonite, american dream

#12 – No Shape by Perfume Genius

One of the themes for a bunch of albums that found their way into the upper part of my list this year is queerness. 2017 marked the first year where I began to take more of a note of albums within the LGBT+ community and No Shape is the first of 5 albums in my list (would have been 7, but a last minute surge of listening managed to knock Arca and Trixie Mattel’s albums out of my Top 20).

If you listened to Perfume Genius’ previous album (Too Bright) you would not be surprised to know that No Shape is continuation in his efforts to make soulful brand of chamber pop. What’s different, however, is that his attention is more fixed on the positivity he has gained from being with his long term partner.

It’s still a rarity to hear music about one man’s love and devotion for another man, which makes No Shape all the more special. Where many artist’s who previously drew on their dark side to music only to falter when something good comes into their live, Perfume Genius has found a way to make happiness work for them by producing some of their most beautiful music ever.

Top Tracks: Slip Away, Wreath, Alan

#11 – All American Made by Margo Price

The biggest omission from last year’s list was Margo Price’s exceptional debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. With her debut she showed up to the country music scene ready to slay and with this second release it’s abundantly clear that her talent means she won’t be going anywhere fast.

All American Made is a more polished album than it’s predecessor (as she now has the money to do so) and deals with some more political messages, where her debut had a more autobiographical bent. This is also an album where she is able to get the legendary Willie Nelson to sing a duet… and then completely outshine him.

If you’re an American conservative there are tracks on this album that are not to your taste. Then again if you manage to listen to ‘Pay Gap’ and still think it’s a myth and/or okay… then jog on, this album is not for you to enjoy.

Top Tracks: A Little Pain, All American Made, Pay Gap

The countdown will conclude tomorrow with #10-#1. If you have any predictions or thoughts on the countdown please comment below.