From feminist power-pop to brooding goth ballads, some of the GG team share their favourite musical offerings from what has been a tumultuous year.
Holly Jennings – Views Editor
Thank U, Next feels like next-generation Ariana: an artist who is finally creating music for herself. Following her experimentation with RnB and Blues in her previous album Sweetener, Grande carefully curates her most recent album with an interwoven experience of different music genres, all whilst sprinkled with the theme of girl power. Emotional transparency from the artist can be seen in tracks such as ghostin’, one that deals with her grief over the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, whilst being engaged to her now-ex-boyfriend Pete Davidson. Ariana is putting herself first in this album, and we can only hope to see more of this in her future releases.
Hannah Patterson – Views Editor
Taylor Swift was named Artist of the Decade this year at the American Music Awards, and listening to her seventh studio album, it’s clear that she’s continuing to earn her title. This album has a very different feel to her last album, Reputation, and in an interview Taylor Swift stated that she “was in a much better mood when she wrote [Lover]”. It is the classic Taylor Swift mix of love songs and heartbreak power ballads, and no matter what mood or what stage of my break up I was in, Taylor had the perfect song to carry me through – I think around 50% of the Spotify hits on Death By a Thousand Cuts might have come from me personally.
Tara Gandhi – Editor-in-Chief
Lizzo has got to be one of the stand out stars of 2019. Following the release of her single Juice at the start of the year, she rapidly rose in public consciousness, and by the time summer rolled around, her VMA and Glastonbury performances had cemented her as a true performer and vocalist. Lizzo is exactly what the world needs in 2019 – her unfaltering message of self love and acceptance is slowly trickling into the minds of the masses and making us all feel better about ourselves. Cuz I Love You, while not her first album, is the perfect album for the world to be introduced to Lizzo. With ballads featuring long vocal runs and feminist pop anthems, it’s not only a showcase of her musical ability, but one of those albums that you can listen to over and over again, no matter what mood or situation you are in. Lizzo has become the world’s self-love guru, and I would be surprised if she doesn’t become one of the defining artists of the 2020s. We’re not being insecure in the new year – we can’t disappoint Lizzo like that.
Katrina Williams – Deputy Culture Editor – Books
Since their debut in 2015, Seventeen’s titular tracks have been marked with cheery synth-pop tunes and catchy lyrics. 2019, however, seems a total evolution from their old sound – something that is encapsulated perfectly within their end of year offering that is An Ode. Each of the 11 songs on the album have their own attractions, making up parts of the whole that explores Seventeen’s both new and old musical styles. There’s peppy ear candy in Let Me Hear You Say, soft, dreamy notes in Second Life, and energetic hype music in HIT. My personal favourites are Network Love, an electronic galaxy of a track complemented by distorted vocals and gorgeous breakdowns, as well as Lucky, a bouncing upbeat song motivating its listeners to live in the moment. With an Album of the Year award already under its belt, An Ode makes it clear that there should be nothing to fear in trying out something new – so if you’re at all unnerved for any reason about K-pop’s rising popularity in the West, perhaps this album should be your first exploration into the scene.
Rebecca Scott – Culture Editor
In the six years that have passed since their last release, indie-rock darlings Vampire Weekend have seen a fair few changes – lyricist and lead guitarist, Rostam, left the band, singer Ezra had a baby with Rashida Jones (yes, as in Ann Perkins from Parks and Rec), and the buzz surrounding the band dwindled to almost nothing but faded throwbacks to Grammy-winning greatness. But as 2019 arrived, so did Vampire Weekend, with their release of a staggering 18 track studio album in the form of Father of the Bride. While once known for their overindulgence in preppy clothes, literary references and Afro-pop drum beats, the band have now refined their musical identity to showcase gorgeous piano flourishes and even some neat saxophone solos nestled amongst deeply nihilistic lyrics. The album doesn’t feel the need to stick to a genre – and why should it? – instead bouncing from country to choral to Latin like it’s just discovered that there’s actually life outside of appropriated percussion and harpsichord runs. It’s a wonderful example of what a band can achieve once they step outside their comfort zone – and with the record having received three Grammy nominations, it’s clear that the critics agree on Father of the Bride’s shining success.
Rafe Uddin – Features Editor
Following on from their 2016 debut, Light Upon the Lake, the Chicagoan band melded indie-folk and indie-rock to deliver a truly soothing 10-track album, perfect for a season where you’re likely spending several hours travelling home or visiting friends that you’ve long missed. The themes of the album certainly track with this, beginning with Giving Up, a song characterised by the melancholy brought on by wintery blues. Much of the album could be defined by recollection, and a desire to tap into the intimacy that we’ve felt in the past and continue to feel. Rhodendrum is a truly wonderful interlude, relying on the strumming of bass accompanied by a reverberating timbre delivered by the band’s trumpeter, Will Miller. It follows on from my favourite track on the album Valleys, which leans on the fading nature of some relationships and the rekindling of others, which I’d say is a nice way to look into the New Year. Think of this album as a continuation of Whitney’s last, rather than a drastic key shift in genre and style. Of course, this doesn’t negate the range and talent of the artists here, there’s a beautiful lyrical flow and a harmony between the ensemble rarely found. Best enjoyed looking out of a frosty train window onto rolling hills and terrain as the sunset falls.
Chloe Waterhouse – Deputy Culture Editor – Music
The longevity of this gothic guru continues, taking a haunting turn with Ghosteen, the first album recorded entirely after the death of Cave’s teenage son in 2015. The first time I listened to Ghosteen, it was 4am in the morning after a night out, remnants of alcohol fizzling out of my system as I gazed at the cracks in my living room ceiling. The album punctured my soul with its unsettling beauty, immersing me into the fractured psyche of a “man mad with grief” as he questions the foundations of his sanity. The tracks have little structural value, as Cave mirrors the overwhelming disorientation that comes with grief. My personal highlights include Waiting For You, as the lyric “your soul is my anchor, never asked to be free” encapsulates the album’s overarching theme, with Cave’s voice breaks channelling Hurt era Johnny Cash. The fairytale chimeras of an envisioned afterlife are present on Bright Horses and Sun Forest, where I’m drawn into Cave’s allusive fever dream. With glistening new-age synths, throbbing basslines and sampled violin loops, Ghosteen’s instrumental integrity is truly sublime – I have not been so emotionally invested in an album since Jeff Buckley’s Grace. Far from the robust charisma of his Peaky Blinders theme tune, Ghosteen is Nick Cave at his most vulnerable… and compelling.