This post consists of reviews for my two favorite 2019 albums so far, plus an autumn preview of upcoming albums.
Norman Fucking Rockwell! by Lana Del Rey (2019)
Her new album is arguably the singer’s best since 2014’s Ultraviolence. Hardly any filler despite a 67 minute running time. Judging from the profanity in the album title you might think she is out to shock but don’t let that fool you as her lyrics have improved and Lana seems more mature as a songwriter. Lots of piano and beautiful instrumental details. There were signs on the second half of Lust for Life (2017) that her style was going in a less pop friendly direction and on the 2019 LP the singer is less interested in catchy tunes and goes for music with a longer shelf life. I’ve read she got some help with the lyrics and probably that was for the best. Produced and co-written by Jack Antonoff of the indie pop band Bleachers who also produced Taylor Swift’s 2019 album Lover. Be sure to check out the official video for Doin Time which even if you don’t like the music is worth a look, a homage to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958).
and the other main contender is…
Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood (2019)
Natalie Mering (who goes by the name Weyes Blood) describes her new album in the press notes as Enya meets Bob Seger. The first 5-6 tracks of her ten song album are especially gorgeous, creating an ethereal atmosphere that exudes a calm and introspection, with lyrics that feel both personal and universal. Besides the great songwriting, what stands out the most is the lovely vocal performance, she reminds me of Aimee Mann and I mean that as a compliment. On the song Andromeda she sounds like Karen Carpenter. The weakest moments are Picture Me Better and the second half of Mirror Forever where the lyrical content became a bit bland, and the closing instrumental felt slightly undercooked with its sudden fade out ending, but minor complaints. I could imagine Titanic Rising becoming a classic that is listened to 50 years from now.
Are there any other albums that could match them in the rest of 2019?
ANIMA, Thom Yorke’s new solo album impressed me this summer. Certainly has a chance of moving higher up my list. Possibly too bleak to put on often, for now it’s in the top 10. Seeing Other People by Foxygen (released April 26) has a legitimate shot as well with the amount of tasty hooks despite portions of the lyrics which don’t hit the mark. Not forgetting Springsteen’s welcome return Western Stars which I like yet if I’m honest doesn’t hit me in the gut like his classic work. Same with Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated, it’s good, but not THAT good.
The Cure plan to release a new album allegedly this autumn, word is from 60-year-old Robert Smith that it’s very dark and not stadium friendly. Michael Kiwanuka put out a catchy single in You Ain’t the Problem albeit I find his albums usually are not as strong as the individual tracks. His latest is simply called Kiwanuka and is out October 25. I loved Currents (2015) by Tame Impala though his 2019 singles are unexceptional. That said, I’m still cautiously optimistic as the new material appears to go in the same sonic direction, no word on a release date yet. Then we have Grimes whom I have a love-hate relationship with, Visions (2012) was brilliant but I couldn’t get into Art Angels (2015), she is expected to have an album out soon titled Miss_Anthropocene. Besides those, Alex Cameron drops his follow-up to the fantastic Forced Witness (2017), his new singles don’t light me up but I’ll definitely give Miami Memory a try which is available September 13. Angel Olsen might be ready to deliver her best album (True Blue with Mark Ronson was my song of the summer, Sisters from MY WOMAN (2016) floored me, and the self-titled lead single from upcoming All Mirrors (2019) is promising, the album hits October 4. I’m a fan of Metronomy and judging from the info on Metronomy Forever (September 13) it’s a collection of outtakes and not a proper album, the promo tracks I was lukewarm towards and maybe they are tapped out at this point. Hot Motion by Temples (September 27) could be good, again, I’m not super excited based on the early tracks. I think they peaked with the neo-psychedelia on Sun Structures (2014). Canadian singer-songwriter Patrick Watson is an artist I like for his authenticity and he has a new LP titled Wave available October 18, the lead single Dream For Dreaming is good yet sounds too similar to Creep by Radiohead. Charli XCX is sure to appeal to those who love modern pop on Charli (September 13), I doubt it’s for me. Bat for Lashes’ Lost Girls arrived on September 6, I listened to the promo material and did not fall in love with it. I’ve been recommended U.F.O.F. by Big Thief (released May 3) and will get to that soon. I’m expecting a few surprises which is always the case each year!
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome