BY: Chris Haise
It might be slightly early, but we have enough incredible content this year to give you our look at this years best albums.
An always subjective task, this writer looked at melody and composition, lyrics, critical acclaim, popular success, and one indefinable quality that might be boiled down to “does it slap?”
If anything, we hope you find something new to enjoy.
- Lizzo – “Cuz I Love You”
Lizzo was impossible to escape this year – and for good reason. Her album was full of instant classics, soul filled ballads, and tracks that require you to sing a long without shame.
Her Summerfest show was one of the best of the year, and surely will be talked about for years to come. Whether it be the absolutely packed crowd, the barrage of hits, or the flute solo, no one will forget the powerful display the Minnesota singer put on.
The album has the same tour-de-force feel as a Lizzo live show. Infectious tracks like “Juice” next to turn-up-the-volume bangers like “Truth Hurts” make this one of the most entertaining albums in years.
2) Brittany Howard – “Jaime”
The Alabama Shakes front woman is stepping out with her debut solo work. Her vocal prowess has been clear since she stepped onto the scene, and “Jaime” continues to showcase her as a generational talent.
There are some intriguing and sometimes experimental passages, like the aggressive “13th Century Metal”. But you can always lean on the deliciously warm and vintage “Stay High”.
Whatever side of Brittany Howard you enjoy, “Jaime” has a bit of everything that makes her one of the best voices in music today.
3) Big Thief — “Two Hands”
When I started compiling and writing this list, I had the Big Thief release from earlier this year, “UFOF”, in the list at number five. Then the Brooklyn band released “Two Hands”, yet another gem in their growing catalog.
Equal parts intimate and dreamy, the raw directness of singer and poet Adrianne Lenker’s floating voice provides an album that is approachable in its imperfections.
The powerful “Forgotten Eyes” is surely one you’ll keep listening to, but “Two Hands” as a whole is a great record cover to cover.
4) Michael Kiwanuka – “Kiwanuka”
The latest addition to the list. I’m still wrapping my head around this masterpiece. For an artist who has always been a throw back, Kiwanuka delivers an absolute message for the times.
Classic production with modern influences back Kiwanuka’s signature, unmistakeable voice. His genre-blending style and premier songwriting is evident everywhere on this 50 minute record that plays longer than it is.
From the swirling “I’ve Been Dazed” to the brooding anthem of “Solid Ground”, this record stays true to Kiwanuka’s challenge; “Rolling with the times / Don’t be late.”
5) Vampire Weekend — “Father of the Bride”
Vampire Weekend continue to explore the seemingly endless boundaries of what they can accomplish as a band. From “Contra” to “Modern Vampires of the City”, the band has shown a staggering array of influences and directions.
This 18 track record is bursting with variety. Songs like “This Life” and “Big Blue” recall the early Vampire Weekend bright and catchy catalog. “My Mistake”, a minimal, almost haunting ballad, and singer/songwriter piano based “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin” provide a striking artistic contrast.
Without picking one of their traditional lanes, Vampire Weekend made one of the best albums of the year, and for me, their best album to date.
Weyes Blood – “Titanic Rising”
Kanye West – “Jesus is King”
Solange – “When I Get Home”
Tyler the Creator – “Igor”
Billie Eilish – “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
L’Resorts – “L’Resorts”
Tight harmonies and perfect arrangements makes for surf-pop gold.
Cullah – “Spectacullah”
The prolific artist continues to find new and exciting sounds for his powerful voice on his 13th(!) annual album.
Klassik – “QUIET”
Always experimenting, always engaging, the neo-soul songsmith never fails to impress.