1.”Norman F*cking Rockwell” – Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey released her sixth studio album in August of this year, titled Norman Fcking Rockwell. Even from her earliest records, Lana has embodied moods of the American Dream and living in America, and this album is no different. Named for the American author and artist Norman Rockwell, Lana shows off her own artistry on this record. Lana Del Rey notably stopped performing in front of patriotic imagery in her performances after the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States, but NFR combines both her criticisms of the current state of the country and her undying belief in its history, people, and even herself. The album itself reflects upon Norman Rockwell’s paintings: it’s simplistic and to the point, with an edge that is displayed in her title— the addition of fcking. In songs like “The greatest” her lyrics reveal the national state by singing, “L.A.’s in flames, it’s getting hot / Kanye West is blonde and gone / ‘Life On Mars’ ain’t just a song / Oh, the livestream’s almost on”. Not only does NFR reflect upon America, but it also deeply personal. Lana has never been distant from her emotions in her music, and on songs like “Happiness is a butterfly” and “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it”, her haunting voice recounts the troubles that plague her while still holding hope for herself and the world, and it is an elegant conclusion to an album that full of both light and dark moments.
2.”I Am Easy To Find” – The National
“20th Century Women” director Mike Mills came to The National in 2017 with the vague idea of collaborating on a music video. By the time the collaboration actually came to fruition, Mills ended up producing an entire new National album, “I Am Easy To Find,” one which happens to be their best album to date. Under the guidance of Mills, both a fan of The National and an outsider to their recording methods, they’ve made an album that’s at once familiar and brand-new.
The National can be a very melancholy band, and this is their most melancholy album to date, a collection of dirges about how hard it is to maintain relationships. The title turns out to be a sad joke, with song after song being about lovers who don’t even know each other. This all might sound like wallowing if just left in the hands of singer Matt Berninger, so Mills and the band bring in a roster of female vocalists to trade off lines with Berninger. This way, each song becomes a tragedy of two people only connecting through their shared inability to connect with each other.
It’s not all dire. “Not in Kansas” promotes Annette Bening movies and early R.E.M. albums as relief from the existential dread of modern living, and “Rylan” tells the story of a teenager’s righteous escape from the boredom of living in California. But the sadness is what lingers, “‘til death do us part” never sounding more harrowing a prospect.
3.”All Mirrors”- Angel Olson
4. “Igor” – Tyler the Creator
5. “When We All Fall Asleep”- Billie Eilish
In March, Billie Eilish changed the music game with her debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Eilish, only 17 years old at the time of this album’s release, proved to the world that though she is young and still a relatively new artist, she is in the music industry to stay. In “When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?” Eilish shows off her strong, yet gentle voice and plays with audio and sounds to create an album unlike anything the music industry has heard before. The creepy and gothic, yet beautiful mood that Eilish creates with this album is a nice breath of fresh air from a lot of the bubblegum pop that plays on the radio, and I hesitate to even put her music in the pop category. Eilish manages to create something completely new, fresh and almost weird with this album while still making it an album that listeners can connect with and listen to. Every song on the album is different and has its own unique personality, but for me, some standouts on “When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?” include “all the good girls go to hell,” “xanny” and “listen before I go.” Each song fits into this album perfectly to create what I consider to be a musical masterpiece, and if you don’t agree with me, simply look at the the way this album was received by the public. “When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?” is nominated for two Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, and Eilish picked up five more Grammy nominations as well. She is not here to play, and I can’t wait to see what else she has up her sleeve.
6. “Lover -Taylor Swift“
7. “7” – Lil Nas X
8. “GINGER” – BROCKHAMPTON
9. “Ghosteen” – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
The Nick Cave who made his name cackling and screaming profanities over tales of gruesome murder is no more. In his place is a Nick Cave who’s experienced death far too closely to be so flippant about it. “Ghosteen” is the second album Cave released after the death of his teenage son, and if 2016’s “Skeleton Tree” saw him too numb to feel, “Ghosteen” is where he really lets his sadness out.
It’s a beautiful record to listen to, with swirling electronic textures mixed with Cave’s typically pretty piano balladry and the occasional towering string arrangement. But even if you don’t go into the album with the context of Cave’s life, it’s easy to tell just from his vocals that something went terribly wrong. His normally authoritative baritone is reduced to a whimper, and he delivers even semi-hopeful lyrics about his lover returning to him and Jesus returning to Earth with an unshakable air of defeat. The Bad Seeds largely sit the album out, as if they’re merely observers for Cave’s therapy session.
If that makes it sound unlistenably sad, well, that might be the case. But it builds to a three-song suite that shows Cave maybe finding serenity at last, or at least believing that serenity is coming. As the last song says, it’s a long way to find peace of mind, but at least there’s the chance that it gets found at all.
10. “Father of the Bride”- Vampire Weekend
11. “Heard it in a Past Life”- Maggie Rogers
12. “Happiness Begins” – Jonas Brothers
13. “Western Stars” – Bruce Springsteen
14. “Wasteland, Baby!” – Hozier
Hozier is an artist who is not the most mainstream, but he has definitely proven his talent over and over again. Rising to fame after the release of the single “Take Me to Church” off of his self-titled album Hozier, his second studio album was released earlier in 2019. It is aptly named Wasteland, Baby! and the album cover itself is a statement. It is Andrew Hozier himself submerged underwater, in such a manner that it looks like a Renaissance painting. Not only is the album artwork eloquent, but his voice and singing excellence are also on full display this album, with songs that take elements of what made “Take Me to Church” such a hit, and a newer, maturer sound to create the folk-soul record that is Wasteland, Baby!. The album also includes nods to his Irish heritage by including songs that sound similar to that of traditional Irish folk music. Hozier additionally gets political on this record. In the song “Nina Cried Power”, he echoes voices of past revolutionaries, and on the song the album is named for, Hozier refers to impending nuclear war in “Wasteland, Baby!” It is clear that the album is rightfully deserving of a spot on our top albums of the year because it the type of album one can both relax and study to, while also reflecting on their own personal feelings and the affairs of the world. Hozier’s powerful voice and excellent songwriting demand his voice be heard, and we are lucky to hear it.
15. “Pony “- Rex Orange County
Released on October 25, “Pony” by Rex Orange County exemplifies the struggle of young adults trying to find their place in this world. Alex O’Connor, the voice behind the pseudonym Rex Orange County, uses this album to showcase the pitfalls of being famous and its effects on his mental health. In general, 2019 has been the year of cancel culture and this idea is portrayed through O’Connor’s song “10/10,” where he playfully reveals he had to cut people out of his life in order to preserve his mental health. Similarly, “10/10” described O’Connor’s attempts at self improvement and his path to recovery from dealing with mental illness. “Pony” embodies the emotion of attempting to overcome psychological barriers in order to surpass one’s expectations for themselves.
Overall, “Pony” is an album which highlights how external influences affect one’s self-perception. 2019, along with emphasizing the highlights and pitfalls of cancel culture, has been a year of becoming aware of the importance of self-care. “Pony” portrays O’Connor’s introspective thoughts on his battles with mental illness. As we look to 2020, there remains a desire for change and renewal. “Pony” acknowledges this desire and provides a safe haven for listeners who are struggling with overcoming mental illnesses and hardships in their lives. This album is noteworthy due to its lack of stigmatization of mental illnesses and its plea for listeners to seek help for problems they are dealing with. “Pony” is an influential album as a result of O’Connor’s portrayal of the importance of taking care of oneself first, and dealing with the world’s problems after.
16. “Cheap Queen”-King Princess
17. “Outer Peace” – Toro y Moi
This isn’t Chaz Bear’s first rodeo. The artist, also known as Toro y Moi, has been releasing music since 2009 and is considered a bedroom indie artist as he got his start by making bedroom recordings. It wasn’t until 2019’s “Outer Peace” was released when people started paying more attention to him. The idea for “Outer Peace” was conceived when Toro y Moi didn’t tour for his last album, “Boo Boo”, which came out in 2017. Toro y Moi wanted to make his new album filled with club sounding music, but with a Toro y Moi special touch. It really shows through “Outer Peace” as its overall sound can be classified as indie club music with sprinkles of future pop, house, R&B, and chillwave here and there. Ultimately, its many vibes make it the perfect soundtrack for everything from dancing to studying. Fans site “Freelance” or “Ordinary Pleasure” as being their favorites on the album. My favorite track, however, is “Laws of the Universe.” The song sounds relatively repetitive and simple. However, listening with a critical ear reveals that Toro y Moi is talking about how it’s okay to fail at things sometimes. The failure only makes you stronger and makes for a great conversation starter at parties. An interesting fact about “Outer Peace” is that Toro y Moi uses auto-tune with almost every song he sings, but it doesn’t stupid like Travis Scott or Lil Uzi Vert (no offense). Instead, the autotune compliments his voice throughout “Outer Peace” and adds on to its futuristic feel.
18. “Cuz I love you” – Lizzo
19. “Center Point Road”- Thomas Rhett
20. “Thank U, Next” – Ariana Grande