For a second straight year I am unsure I should be writing this because my backlog from 2018 is still quite extensive. However this year I made a point to prioritize listenings based on recommendations, acclaim and personal preference so I do FEEL better equipped than last year and if the the last two years have taught me anything it's feelings are more important than fact so here we go.
Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
This is the only album I am going to write about this year because it transcended all other music and not just because of the accompanying emotion picture. This is the album that future generations will look back on and think “rapping Elvis Presley outsold this?!” The fact that this was not the most talked about album of the year is both discouraging and inspiring. I'm not sure if the disproportionate amount of buzz is from lack of notoriety or taste but given Monae’s tremendous talent either is not a good look for society. On the other hand think of all the people that will discover it out of the blue, years down the road, what kind of arts will this masterpiece inspire?
I'll have two anecdotes for Dirty Computer, both end with me in tears.
The first time I heard Django Jane was against my will because it was only a single at the time and I was not ready for it. To hear possibly the only ever-righteous, braggadocious rap by an intelligent and beautiful woman floored me. No “started from the bottom” disingenuously sang by a TV star, she gets into specifics on her working class family and goes on to list real accomplishments like her box office success and Oscar award followed up by her ongoing goals to EGOT. By the time she got to the lyrics below my slow stream of tears wouldn’t hold back. It is the best rap of the year and anyone who says otherwise has not heard it.
“We gave you life, we gave you birth
We gave you God, we gave you Earth
We fem the future, don't make it worse
You want the world? Well, what's it worth? “
The second track that made, and continues to make me tear up is the closing the track, Americans. Just listen to it. The interspersed speech (quoted below) of the vision of American I hope to one day see backed with incredible music from someone who could be considered one of our most vulnerable is awe inspiring. Dirty Computer came out around the time of this bullshit and my American pride and spirit were at their absolute lowest and this was a rallying cry that reminded me good people outnumber the bad and eventually so will the days.
Until women can get equal pay for equal work, This is not my America, Until same-gender loving people can be who they are, This is not my America, Until black people can come home from a police stop without being shot in the head, This is not my America, Until poor whites can get a shot at being successful, This is not my America, Until Latinos and Latinas don't have to run from walls, This is not my America, But I tell you today that the devil is a liar, Because it's gon' be my America before it's all over
Other Albums I Thoroughly Enjoyed: Lost & Found - Jorja Smith, YOUNG&DANGEROUS - The Struts, Clean - Soccer Mommy, Time & Space - Turnstile, Black Panther The Album - Various, Ruins - First Aid Kit, Eat The Elephant - A Perfect Circle, KOD - J. Cole
Make Me Feel - Janelle Monae: After highlighting Django Jane in the previous section this one is just as amazing.
Rebel Heart - First Aid Kit: From the opening notes to the melody change this song is captivating. The Swedish sisters trade and harmonize vocals in a hypnotizing way.
Pressure - Muse: There is no denying those guitar riffs and heaven help me if I have something in my hands when that snare kicks in at 1:33 because I will never not air drum that with both arms.
All The Stars - Kendrick Lamar, SZA: One of the biggest songs of the year performed by two of the biggest names in music. There was no way this song wasn't going to be great and they delivered on stellar expectations.
Borders - St. Beauty: Running to the Sun was the first album I reviewed on here and I fell in love right away, this track was a large part of why. These talented ladies and their producer(s) knew exactly what they were doing when they trusted this haunting and relatable track to be the opener on their debut album.
Shallow - Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper: I wrote last year that A Millions Reasons was a master course on how to write a pop song. On Gaga’s next hit, Tom Elmhirst followed that up with a song mixing clinic. I'm normally not a big fan of venue/crowd noise, however in context knowing this was the hit from a movie and that movie is A Star Is Born it makes perfect sense. He even got the venue reverb in the last verse (around 3:11) to fit in a perfect place. I only wish I could hear all 18 supposed final mixes.
Your Dog - Soccer Mommy: Soccer Mommy is badass. She's seems like a displaced act from the 90s. She partners a gritty lo-fi sound with bold lyrics and a fantastic ability to not give a shit. There is no way I'm the only person who regrets not paying the Kacey Musgraves mark up price to hear her open.
Summertime Magic - Childish Gambino: It’s midsummer release was perfectly timed and the song is a chill tune that you can't help but groove to, something that Glover and Ludwig have seemed to formulate at this point.
Scary Love - The Neighbourhood: I don't know that I heard a catchier hook than “your love is scaring me…” this year.
Real Thing - Turnstile: I can't remember a time when a band caught my attention through their energy from a recording but Turnstile's album Time & Space. did that from start to finish.
I Gotta Weapon - Cut Chemist: I'd been waiting for this album for almost half my life. I also loved Work My Mind but the cuts on this tracked were what I was waiting for. I hope it's not another 12 years until we hear more from him again but it if it is Die Cut will more than hold me over until then.
Psycho Star - King Tuff: This song perfectly describes itself, “beautifully bizarre.” If there is any way to get me to love a song it’s to have an organ in it.
South of the River - Tom Misch: I love this track because it reminds me a lot of my first recording project which I will post if I can find it. It’s a groovy song with talented musicians seemingly just having fun.
MOOO! - Doja Cat: Sure it’s an odd song but I can't think of a track that brought me more pure joy than MOOO!. The lyrics are hilarious, the video is even better. We need more music that is this carefree and ridiculous.
Due to its importance I'd be remiss if I didn't include this video here: