What is it with English women who look like they belong in a rose garden but sing like the restless spirit of a Victorian madwoman? Freya Ridings has earned comparisons to powerhouse vocalists like Florence Welch and Adele on the strength of her debut album. … Continue reading Still Have You
You may have forgotten all about India.Arie in the years since her debut album was a pop sensation way back in 2001. Her low-tempo brand of R&B sold millions of units, but it also got her dismissed by some critics as music for coffee shops … Continue reading Steady Love
It’s been a long time since anyone could dismiss Solange as just Beyonce’s weird sister. Her fourth album When I Get Home was one of the most acclaimed releases of 2019. Just about ever media outlet agreed it was one of the year’s best, and … Continue reading Stay Flo
I listened to Sharon Van Etten for the first time in 2019. As usual with my new discoveries, she is hardly new. She’s had a ten year career and Remind Me Tomorrow is her fifth album. It’s a fine time for intimate singer-songwriters, so that … Continue reading Stay
A new breakout star for the new year, I give you, Pronoun. Her web-search proof name belies her appealing electropop sound. I keep waiting for the tides to turn against this kind of effervescent synth-pop music, but the genre has proven surprisingly durable, and still … Continue reading Stay
Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors was one of the highlights of last year. Olsen pretty much never disappoints. Every few years she comes out with a deeper, richer record that the last, both in music and in writing. Angel Olsen makes the kind of records that … Continue reading Spring
Where do Nick Cave’s death songs and murder ballads come from? Besides life? Why, from folklore. One may not easily think of Nick Cave, the gutterpunk become man of taste, as a student of folk music, but there’s no older narrative than the cautionary tale, … Continue reading Spinning Song
Mark Ronson is a superproducer known for having a hand in some of the most memorable records of the past 20 years. (He helped launch the careers of Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Adele, among other luminaries.) His work as a solo artist hasn’t made … Continue reading Spinning
Here’s a band I’ve never heard of before. Hot Chip formed in 2000, and I’ve never heard of them in all of that time. Apparently, though, their album A Bathfull of Ecstasy was one of the most acclaimed records of 2019, at least in the … Continue reading Spell
I skipped out last week – I was busy! – but I haven’t skipped out on finishing the rest of this list. There’s so many more records left to discover and enjoy!
1. Norman Fucking Rockwell! – Lana Del Rey
Remember when Lana Del Rey was an ingenue with lousy stage presence who bombed on SNL? Neither do I. Lana has slowly been accruing accolades as her work has matured, and now she’s made the most acclaimed record of her career. She’s become one of those rare artists who can maintain an aesthetic without impeding creative growth, and she’s finally getting the respect she’s always deserved.
2. Oklahoma – Keb’ Mo’
Kab’ Mo’ has been quietly keeping the blues alive since the 80’s, and he’s seen interest in roots music wane and ebb. Blues-based music may be at a bit of a low tide right now, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fresh and relevant in the hands of a master like Mo’ – and this master still has a lot to say.
3. On the Line – Jenny Lewis
This has been one of those records that everyone and their dog seemed to have been listening to all year. Jenny Lewis, of course, has been an indie rock darling for a solid two decades. With this confident and accomplished record, it’s pretty clear why.
4. Only Things We Love – Blaqk Audio
There’s no lack of bands ambitiously trying to recapture the magic of 80’s New Wave, but not many of them actually do. Blaqk Audio is one that actually does, with a sound reminiscent of Human League at the height of their glory. It’s ‘reminiscent’ without sounding apish, and consistently fun, stylish and, uh, very gay.
5. Outer Peace – Toro y Moi
6. Pony – Orville Peck
“Orville Peck” is an anonymous masked cowboy who croons like the second coming of Roy Orbison. With an image that makes reference to the iconography of mainstream Americana AND to the leather-daddy underground, Peck is camp of the highest refinement. Gay cowboy jokes aside though, he’s the best throwback crooner since Chris Isaak seduced Helena Christensen.
7. Remember the Future – Ionnalee
The Scandinavian contingent continues to dominate the electronic music spectrum. Like her peers Karin Dreijer and Aurora Aksnes, Jonna Lee uses her haunting voice and ice-wraith image to create atmospheric music that is both chilling and soothing, and ever so slightly surreal.
8. The Return – Sampa the Great
The future of American music is being shaped by artists all over the world. R&B, soul, & hip-hop music, all as American as fortune cookies and fried chicken, can seem stagnant if you listen to what’s on the top of the charts. Maybe it takes an African woman living in Australia to make those genres sound alive again. Sampa the Great is a Zambian-expatriate who raps about life as a border- and identity- hopping citizen of the world.
9. Rouge – Yuna
In a global world, we want our pop singers to be as international as our fusion cuisine. There’s a thirst for pop music that’s both exotic and accessible. Malaysian sensation Yuna is a cool fresh drink for everyone who’s been parched waiting for the next Kali Uchis. Yuna has Top 40-friendly pop chops, alright, with an eye on the global market too. She can collaborate with major-name rappers one minute and be singing in Malay a minute later.
10. Solutions – K. Flay
K. Flay comes off as your trainwreck bestie, the one who always fucks up the hardest but always manages to land on her feet. She might not be a very good singer, or a very glamorous person, but she’s a writer and performer who projects wounded tough-girl attitude. Each one of her records has been relatable, dirty and funny.